Bionic Mamas

you're not losing a vagina, you're gaining a son


Bionic Family Newsletter

Hey, y’all, she remarked sheepishly. I am sorry it has been so long. I thought I remembered about this phase, how it means just nursing 27 or 28 hours a day, but I crucially forgot that nursing a newborn requires, at least for me, both hands. Also, by 28 hours a day I mean 40.

But anyway, here I am. Mostly because how many places am I free to talk about my nipples and hooha hurting? Y’all are a special group, internet. I don’t have real hope of managing a narrative post in the next two years, but I will indulge myself in some categorized items. (Spoiler: my nipples hurt. Also my hooha.)

[Several hours later….]

Where to begin?  Jackalope, I suppose, since she’s the most novel:


Item: She’s marvelous.  Disregard all the time I spend begging her to go the hell back to sleep at 3am.  She’s healthy and growing and sleeping more than the Bean did, even if I could frankly use a lot more hours.  She seems to be that proverbial easier baby that some people have.  Now I understand the magical beliefs that persist about babies — how they give explicable cues before screaming that they are hungry, for instance, and how they like things like swaddles and pacifiers and soothing.  I imagine some of this is our being more experienced parents, but mostly I think she’s just a wildly easier baby than the Bean.  (Knock wood, knock wood.)

Item: She’s huge!  She was almost two pounds heavier than the Bean at birth (7/13 to his 6/1), and she’s growing much faster.  She was over eight pounds at her last appointment, at age 2.5 weeks.

Item: She’s tough.  At five days old, she reached down during a clothing change, took hold of her umbilical cord stump, and tore it off.  No crying.

Item (related): She nurses well!  This, I believe, is both cause and consequence of being larger (and born two weeks later).  Consequence, because her mouth is larger, her stomach holds more, and she is just more coordinated and, well, finished than the Bean was.  She latched on and nursed better in the delivery room than he did for a month.

Item: I have SO much more milk than last time.  Funny, it’s almost like a person is healthier when she keeps most of her original complement of blood.  Someone should study that.

Item: Nursing a baby who is into it while yourself making adequate amounts of milk is SO MUCH EASIER than nursing a weak, tired, young baby while making not enough milk.  It still takes forever and wears me out and hurts my nipples and drives me a little crazy, but really, not at all in the same ballpark.  I did have a small nervous breakdown at her first out-of-hospital doctor’s visit, when she had lost still more weight and I imagined us spiraling into the same nightmare we had with the Bean.  I took home formula samples and cried and refused to use them, which confused poor Sugar badly.  I couldn’t decide whether it was more irrational to begin supplementing a baby I knew didn’t really need it yet, or to dig in my heels, the way I did last time, and allow us to go back down the road of failed exam after exam, needlessly starving baby, etc.  (Side-item: I really wish we’d been able to see our preferred pediatrician for that visit instead of her young partner.  I think she might have been able to calm me down.)  But then, like in the books, my milk came the rest of the way in, and at our next appointment, she’d regained her birth weight.  Just like they say happens!

Item: As much as I like the lactation consultant we ended up eventually seeing with the Bean (as opposed to the ones we saw before her, who were various flavors of useless), I like not having to see her even more.  And even more than THAT, I like having a baby who can just be fed when she’s hungry and gain weight, without my having to go through routines of timing and facial exercises and diaper changes to wake her back up and horrible teas and pumping and crying and guilt.  Funny.

Item: At the second weight check, when she’d regained her birth weight, I also had my first experience of really feeling like an experienced parent.  The NP we saw that time, who had repeatedly praised her weight gain, asked about her sleep.  At the time, she had been sleeping a 4-6 hour stretch at the beginning of the night, which, I’m sure you can imagine, was heavenly.  (I mean, the Bean doesn’t even always do that, and he’s THREE.)  Oh no, she said, you can’t let her go that long.  You need to be waking her up to eat.  And I thought, lady, you just said this baby is gaining weight and looking great; like hell I’m waking her up.  But what I said was, “We’ll see.”  Because I realized in that moment that not only did I not have to do that, I didn’t even need to tell her I wasn’t going to.

Item: We don’t always get that stretch anymore.  Or it isn’t always at night.  Sugar generally ends up in the Bean’s room, and I am alone with Jackalope, who likes to have a couple hours of being awake for no earthly reason sometime in the 1-5am stretch.  I am tired.

Item: On Monday, my first day home alone with both kids, she stayed awake from 5am until 10:30, napped for 40 minutes, was back up for a couple of hours of continued, constant nursing, took another cat nap, was up again, etc.  There was a period when all three of us were wailing.  It was precious.

Item: On Tuesday, Sugar came home from work early and I took Jackalope to a department meeting at adjunct-institution-community-college.  I had written to ask permission and not heard back, and I need brownie points over there.  No idea if I scored them with the right people.  I missed half the meeting, including the topic I’d come to hear about.  A woman next to me was snide at me while using FB on her phone.  It was one thousand degrees and packed; turns out my comfort level with public nursing does not extend to the front row of such a setting.  I had the unsettling experience of realizing that the woman I thought was the chair of the department isn’t.  But several people said kind things on their way out the door, and I reminded the person who hires adjuncts that I’d like work in the fall.

Item: Poor Jackalope is a second child when it comes to pictures, I’m afraid.  We remember to take them, sometimes, but then they are stuck on the camera.

The Bean

Item: The Bean is THREE.  How in cheese’s name did that happen? We got him a tea set.

Item: He turned three the same day Jackalope turned three weeks old.  I tried to get a cute picture of them near each other.  Ha.

Item: We had a tiny little party and a cake with trains on it.  My mom tried to send the trains for his last birthday, but they arrived too late. He liked it.


Item: Still not eating many foods or sleeping through the night or reliably using the potty. But he can do a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle with almost no help. (Still figuring out how to work that “but” into his doctor’s appointment on Monday.)  I am an unabashed puzzle pusher, and am beyond thrilled that he likes them, too.

[There’s Jackalope waking up….]

[And then the rest of the afternoon and the evening and the night happened, and most of the next morning.  There was an interlude for an unexpectedly early first brother/sister bath, which damn near killed me with the cute.]


Item: The Bean is so much better with Jackalope than I thought reasonable to expect.  He likes to put his nose against her toes.  We failed utterly to move him to a big bed and decommission the crib/toddler bed in time that he wouldn’t associate the loss of his familiar spot with the arrival of the baby, but as soon as it was converted back to its baby configuration (he helped), I heard him stop mid-sentence, correcting himself to call it “Jackalope’s bed.”  She was fussing in there one afternoon, while I was stuck on the toilet.  I was a little concerned when he went in to her — he is a lot larger than she is and unaware of her comparative fragility — but he sat down on the floor with his legos and said, “don’t cry.  I am making you a tower to make you happy.”  Melt.


[Whoops, there went the whole weekend.  My dad visited.  There’s a lot to say about that, almost all unbloggable.  He is charming with babies.]

Rotten Things

Item: Our older cat, Michaela, died.  She was diagnosed with kidney failure right before Jackalope was born.  Sugar learned to give her sub-cutaneous fluids every night.  There were supplements but no real hope of recovery.  She seemed okay for a while, and then suddenly wasn’t.  We all miss her, and of course this has started another round of questions and pronouncements from the Bean about his dead grandmother and great-grandmother, with lots of crying from me especially.  I know these questions are a typical part of being his age, but really, the last four months have been over the top for our family.  I am so sick and tired of death.

Item: Michaela came to us as a teeny kitten found in the woods, so dirty we didn’t know she was white.  (Really, she was a secret calico, with a smear of grey and buttery-tan on her head as a kitten.)  She lived with us in Massachusetts and Chicago and New York.  She nearly died of hepatic lipidosis in 2005 and after recovering, slept on our feet every night.  Despite being standoffish with strangers (“Michaela has boundaries,” said an approving friend, comparing her to our more dog-like Orson), she turned out to adore babies, both ours and others’.  We called her the Bean’s nanny.  Here she is with the Bean, in 2011, and with Jackalope:

A Boy and His (Very Patient) Cat

Great Minds Think Alike


Item: Yesterday morning, Sugar’s paternal grandmother died.  (Her maternal grandmother died in December.)  It wasn’t a surprise, but it is awful.  I am so tired of death.

Item: Sugar is going to Chicago for the funeral for the first part of the week.  I’m not ready to be alone overnight with both Jackalope and the Bean, but, well, I guess I’m about to be ready.

My Addled Brain

Item: Despite everything, I don’t seem to be depressed.  At least, I don’t think so.  It’s almost weird.  I am sometimes sad and sometimes overwhelmed, but yeah, not depressed.  I do still cry about my mom a lot, but I have a hard time categorizing that as pathological; crying seems pretty rational to me, and naturally I think of her all the time, especially looking at this baby, whom she would so have wanted to know.  There’s not much I can do to make that not awful.

My Body, Upper

Item: Remember that Cold of Filth I was complaining about before Jackalope was born? (COF is trademarked to either May or Mrs. Hairy, not sure.) I had this fantasy that somehow the intensity of labor would drive it out like a demon.  Yeah, no.  Instead, I was sick for a solid month, coughing my brains out.  (Other things also coughed out, too, thanks to an enlarged uterus and a pelvic floor that went on strike altogether.)  The Bean and Sugar were sick, too, but luckily Jackalope was not, nor does the codeine cough syrup I was living on seem to have bothered her.  Still, I do not recommend the experience of being that sick immediately postpartum.

Item: Dateline: NIPPLES. The Reynaud’s is back.  For new readers, this means that my nipples are spasmotically seizing up in response to breastfeeding, and if that sounds horrifically painful, well, it is.  I got on the nifedipine in short order this time around, following some minor difficulties getting my OB to prescribe the extended release version in place of a “take as needed” regime of regular capsules.  (Let me tell you, you take one of those at the same time as a slug of cough syrup and WHOA, good luck standing up.)  Unfortunately, the nifedipine isn’t working quite as completely, though things are a great deal better than they were a few weeks ago, when many tears were shed.  Now I mostly have spasms at night, and they aren’t so terrible.

Item: I can’t try a higher dose of nifedipine, apparently.  I called the OB office a couple of weeks ago, when things were getting very bad, to ask about that and about some renewed locchia.  The nurse insisted I come in to see a midwife.  On the one hand, it was nice to feel they were concerned about my health, in marked contrast to Dr. Russian’s nurse.  On the other, schlepping into the city is not easy, nor was there a point.  As I had suspected, the bleeding was normal.  Meanwhile, they are afraid my blood pressure will bottom out on a higher dose.  I suspect that’s not right — my understanding is that, while nifedipine does lower BP in people with pathologically high pressure, it doesn’t have much effect in someone like me, whose body doesn’t have difficulty maintaining a steady BP.  Certainly my BP while I was taking it last time was at my usual level every time it was checked.  But, since my usual level is on the low side and I don’t want to pass out all over the place, I guess that’s how it is.

Item: I started taking some extra B6, on the advice of the internet.  Hard to say whether that helped, but  I already had it in the house.  At least I won’t get pellagra.

Item: The Reynaud’s has new tricks.  Several times a day, associated with let-down, I have what I think must be massive spasms in my milk ducts.  (This happened sometimes with the Bean, but not this early or this fiercely.)  The only reason I’m not weeping over this is that it doesn’t last that long, just a minute or two each time.  It is more of a sore feeling than a sharp one, but it is intense, like each duct suddenly has a fist inside it.  Not recommended.

Item: It was an act of purest optimism to have ordered that breastpump, wasn’t it?  Sigh.

My Body: Lower

Item: I know y’all mainly read this blog for hooha news.  It’s cool.  I mainly write it to talk about my hooha.

Item: Ouch.

Item: In so many, many ways, my recovery from Jackalope’s birth has been nothing at all like my recovery from the Bean’s.  Thank whatever it is you like to thank.  I am healthier and happier and in much, much better shape.

Item: My pelvic floor is shot, but recovering.  For a while there, advertising algorithms were chasing me across the internet with ads for protective undergarments.  Depressing.  Now I am mostly okay as long as I go to the bathroom a lot and, I discovered yesterday, don’t attempt any hopscotch games.  Bad idea.

Item: The hemorrhoids are likewise retreating, like big, ugly glaciers.  Butt glaciers.  Thank God for witch hazel.
(Gratuitous witch hazel shot because I also love the plant, mostly because it blooms so early.)

witch hazel

Item: Stitches still beasts.  The proverbial they say you don’t tear as much the second time, and I guess I didn’t, inasmuch as I’d already, erm, resected my vaginal septum and it’s hard to tear more than that.  Nevertheless, I was fairly shredded, inside and out.  My new vocabulary word is “sulchal.”  That all hurt in a predictable way at first, then got worse around week two, when everything got irritated and the lines of stitches felt like they might rip right out every time I coughed.  Or God forbid sat up.  Things improved again, with a delightful interlude of suture ends poking me in personal places.

Item: Except now I have these hard spots I suspect are scar tissue, and nothing is stretchy enough.  As in, it hurts to sit again, in sharp little ways, and then there is blood.  Not a whole lot of blood mostly, but I think I am tearing a little bit every day now, just from sitting.  I am so not into this, I can’t even tell you.  I have my postpartum appointment on Tuesday, and I sure hope there is something to do about this problem.  I’d like to, um, use that part of my body again someday, for one thing.  Ahem.


Item: Sara started blogging again!  Check that OUT.

Item: I have spent an absurd amount of time giggling at this, featuring drawings the Bean describes as “some funny folks!”


Optimism, Ahoy!

Hi, internets. Thank you for your many kindnesses in response to my last post. Progesterone and blogging really don’t mix.

I am feeling more optimistic today, and felt I should tell you that, so you at least see that these are mood swings, not just an endless sea of despair. I’m nervous to even post this, because, as some of you have pointed out, insisting I am not pregnant is partly a protective measure: if I admit I might be, I’m just opening myself up to be crushed when [grits teeth] IF I’m not.

Reasons for optimism:

  • am endulging myself in rereading Patrick O’Brian books, in celebration of summer’s arrival. (Hence the maritime metaphors all over the place.) This has nothing to do with pregnancy, but it’s cheering, all the same. I read most of the series during the Bean’s earliest days, and they saw me through some tough times. Stars in the heavenly crown of the intrepid librarian who snuck out an emergency exit and climbed in the window of a room closed for construction to get me my fix.
  • My nipples have been feeling funny, and maybe looking a little funny, too. I have not been pinching them. Very possibly this is just because progesterone has me so…figurehead-esque that my bra is hard-pressed to contain its inhabitants, but hell, at least my rack looks great.
  • My uterus feels funny. Okay, the progesterone gave me cramps all along, but there’s a steadiness to the aching that is maybe different? It just feels increasingly…full. I don’t think it’s constipation….
  • I’m drinking milk. I drank a lot of milk when pregnant with the Bean. In general, I drink more milk in the second half of cycle, and I might just be casting about for beverages to replace wine, but still.
  • Today, I can see (at least sort of) that this cycle’s not working is not the end of the world. It’s possible we could manage our travel to allow a July cycle (though if that means not getting to see my mom — the last leg of our upcoming trip — I’m not sure it’s worth it). It would cost a bit more to do a cycle after that, because my insurance will change, but not, as far as I can tell, an insurmountable pile of money. And it’s always been my theory that September is a terrific time to get pregnant, because then you never have to be pregnant in the summer. Or something.
  • Stay tuned! I will doubtless change my mind about all of this tomorrow! Beta Sunday*, after which point, I may be happier or sadder, but I will almost definitely be more sane.

    *I don’t plan to test early, because if it’s negative, I can’t stand the thought of going in for the beta. I tested early only the first cycle or two we tried, because even without a beta to attend, the “is it just too early?????” Is more mindfuck than I can handle.


    Weaning is Winning

    Hey there, internets. Hope you are having lovely weekends and not getting trampled in a stampede of people fighting over discounted Chinese electronics or anything. Black Friday is maybe not really my favorite thing about contemporary American culture. To say the least.

    But that’s not what I logged in to say.

    The Bean is mostly weaned, it seems. Let’s blame those pseudo rhymes on the item pictured below. Ahem. Anyway, he now nurses every few days in the morning, and not otherwise. He doesn’t always ask, even on the days that I’m home. I think it’s mostly about feeling close, because if i end up sleeping in his room in the second part of the night — and boy, there are some sleep posts I could write these days — he doesn’t ask. It’s only if I am in my own bed when he gets up, and even then, it is sometimes possible to say no (like today, for instance, when I was in bed for a nap, having been in his room, intermittently sleeping, from 3:30 to 5:30). I think he’s about ready to be done.

    I’m feeling pretty great about it. My mood is generally better (I always have thought the nursing hormones don’t agree with me, probably because I am a terrible mother/person), and my appetite has dropped so precipitously that I find my dreams of fitting in pre-pregnancy dresses a rekindling. (Weight is another topic for another day, but suffice it to say that I have not found breast feeding the miracle solution it’s advertised as being.)

    I’ve noted on other occasions how bad I am at refilling my prescriptions in a timely manner, and I am too loyal to my local pharmacy to do mail order. Last month, I went without nifedipine for a couple of days and was soon spasming away on the bus, which did not improve my mood or commute. One of my big fears about all this Reynaud’s business has been that it won’t go away when I stop breast feeding, leaving me stuck taking nifedipine forever. But this month I messed up again, and what with the holiday it’s been days and days since I’ve had a dose, and…NO NIPPLE SPASMS! Wheeeee! Apparently three sessions a week is about the amount of nursing my nips are built to withstand. Thank God for nifedipine for getting me through the last 19 months.

    I celebrated properly, with my first taste of grapefruit in almost two years, done up proper, with rosemary/brown sugar simple syrup, vodka, and Cointreau, plus fresh-squeezed juice. Cheers!



    Quickly Thursday

    Internets! I keep thinking I’ll find time for real posts, but the semester is kicking my ass pretty hard. So. Let’s see what I can speed-type before the Bean wakes up (and God, heap blessings on the head of his babysitter for taking him to the playground to get worn out). ETA: He’s peacefully reading his Donald Crews truck book from the library (OMG it is such an awesome book), so you get pictures, too.

    Item: Naptime nursing session is done! And pretty painlessly, at that, if you don’t count this weird engorgement kick my boobs went on about two weeks in, who knows why except to continue their tradition of driving me nuts.

    I’m away from the Bean at nap time Mondays through Thursdays, so on week one, I nursed him down on Friday and then made Sugar do naps on the weekend. The following Thursday, we were on a train to Virginia, it was hours past nap time, and he was a wreck, so I did nurse him. I thought this would be bringing us back to square one, since he would still have the pattern of nursing before naps when I am available, but I gave putting him down with a bottle a try for the two days (Friday and Sunday) that I had to handle naps in Virginia, and it worked! It was the wildest thing, and I am certain it is due to the magic of Starr Hill and starrhillgirl in particular — he slept through the night with almost no problem there, despite our sharing a room, and woke up happy, every time. Who wouldn’t be happy to wake up in starrhillgirl’s bedroom, though, I ask you?

    On that Monday, we were back on the train, and I did nurse him, but that’s been that. Woo!

    Item: I haven’t started doing anything about the next feed to go, partly because being down to two is such a relief. I have a lot more patience for the whole business now that it is only two, short sessions, neither of which is supposed to end in his falling asleep. I’m even finding I don’t mind going without a book or iPad to look at, which is saying something. (I know there is a school of thought that it’s Terrible to do anything but Gaze Adoringly at a nursing child — I have recently been admonished by one book that even talking while nursing a newborn is an inappropriate distraction — but frankly, I have been grateful for distractions that let me at least feel like a milk cow with a brain. Clearly, I don’t hate nursing, or I’d have given it up long ago, but as miraculous as the whole thing is, the moment to moment…. It gets a little dull, and I get stir-crazy.) Anyway, it’s a nice way to be winding down with the whole business.

    Item: I imagine bedtime makes the most sense, although it’s true that he is already going without the morning session two days a week. Hmmm. We’ll see.

    Item: Bedtime is becoming baroque. For a week or two, he was refusing to go down for me at all, but when we tried making it Sugar’s job, he balked at that, too. So now the deal is that Sugar gets him pajama’d and brushed and so forth. Then I try to read him a story, while he alternately demands to nurse (Guess who started saying “nurse? Nurse?” the very week I started weaning him? Dab hand at guilt, this one) and to have his bottle with Sugar. I nurse him for a few minutes, sometimes while Sugar plays the piano, then I leave and she takes over with a bottle, and then (if all goes well) he goes down pretty peacefully.

    It’s a Bit Much, but oddly it still takes less time than it used to for me to put him down, so there’s that. I’m also hoping that adding elements will mean there is still some routine left to follow when the nursing part goes. We’ll see.

    Item: we visited starrhillgirl! It was The Greatest, as I bet you can imagine. Bourbon was had, as was gin. Country ham made its way into biscuits. Classrooms were visited, as was the local grocery I am terribly fond of, what with their house-label canned goods and their county ham and their canning aisle.

    The Bean read his first Dykes To Watch Out For book…


    …and seemed to love it.




    There was chicken watching and boudin-eating (thanks to shg’s terribly generous friend) and almost enough just sitting on the porch swing and talking. Sugar did more work on her long-running photo series of houses inhabited by the same family for 20+ years. (shameless plug for Sugar here. Any of you have family or friends she should visit around NYC?)

    Item: So much talking! I feel like the Bean adds three words a day. God, I just love it. He’s also playing with language in different ways; for instance, he spent a couple of weeks adding “ie” to the ends of words he uses a lot, such that walk became walkie and book, bookie (heh), and so forth. I ask his babysitter if he got it from her, but apparently it’s just something he thought was fun. Probably because it makes everything sound more like a cookie.

    Item: The word of the day is pee. For a few weeks now, he has been saying “pee” to us when we are in the bathroom, but it has not at all been clear to me that he knows what the word means, except that it’s something we talk about in there. But today, he was saying it, and after we wrestled off his diaper, he peed in his potty. I am shocked. And pleased. And apparently now a person who talks about pee on the Internet. Other people’s pee, I mean; obviously mine has been fair game for some time.

    Other bathroom skills:


    Item: Night sleep is rocky again, and now he only settles for Sugar. Poor Sugar. I will say again that the smartest pre-baby parenting decision I ever made was to insist on buying an Ikea chaise so that there was an adult sleeping place in his room.

    Item: Eating is still picky as all get, but at least his caloric needs seem to have dropped enough that failing to eat a big meal doesn’t ruin the whole day and night. I still rather want to stab people — including my former self — who smugly believe that raising a child with a broad palate is just a matter of confidently offering the foods you want them to eat. I’d love it if the Bean would steal things off my plate or even open his mouth to taste a new thing, but it’s not happening. (I know it takes 15 or whatever tries to get used to a flavor, but how many sightings does it take to get a try?) His doctor says his diet is okay and that the pickiness could be worse, and that in the long run, children eat like their parents. I sure hope she’s right.

    At least he will touch brussels sprouts.


    Item: I ran out of nifedipine for a couple of days (yes, I’m bad at this), and even only nursing twice a day, the nips still need it. Sheesh. I am really, really, really hoping they aren’t just going to be like this for the rest of my life, as I don’t like the idea of taking this pill forever. Nor of giving up grapefruit forever, especially if that means no sea breezes with May.


    Wean-y Thoughts

    Oh, internets.  Can you help me with my boobs again?

    I’m pretty done with this nursing business.  I know Brooklyn moms aren’t supposed to wean before kindergarten, but even so.  I think I’ve done what I can do.  I’ve persevered through Weightgate and the Very Bad Months of untreated Reynaud’s.  I’ve kept at it despite the early return of my period and its attendant supply-plummets.  I’ve eaten oatmeal (a food I do not love), drunk gross teas, and dutifully taken my blessed nifedipine every day or felt the consequences.  Nifedipine is the kind of drug whose metabolism is sensitive to the presence of furanocoumarins (you’re welcome, vocab nerds), so I have dutifully avoided grapefruit, grapefruit juice, and more to the point in this trendy town, cocktails containing either.  Okay, okay, that’s not a big sacrifice, but I really could use a drink.

    Breastfeeding is hard for lots of people, but I think it’s fair to say I am in the “worse than average” category.  Frankly, it still hurts most days, at least some of the time.  I hear it’s “not supposed to,” but them’s the breaks, I guess.  I’m grateful that I was able to do it at all, but the Bean is a big, strapping boy these days (a whopping 7th percentile for weight at his last visit, but holding his curve more convincingly now) with his very own immune system, he seems adequately bonded to me, and I’m unconvinced there’s much more he has to gain from all this.  As for me, one reason I didn’t want to wean sooner was in order to soften some of those early, horrible memories.  I’ve now nursed back over the seasons that were so hard for me in 2011, and I’m not sure what’s left for me to gain, either.  If I am to try to get pregnant again in the spring or summer, the Baby Factory will want me to have weaned, and anyway a few months’ break from supporting another human with my body doesn’t seem like the craziest idea ever.

    Meanwhile, see below, the Bean has lately decided he doesn’t want to go to sleep at night for anyone but Sugar, so there’s one big boob advantage all blown to hell anyway.  Which brings us to issues of practicality.  Weaning all at once seems more than I can handle, intensity-wise, but I’m not sure what method does make sense.  Dropping one feeding at a time, right?  But which one?  And how to avoid being clawed to death by tiny little fingernails when I say no?

    Assuming I am available all day, the Bean nurses three times: when we first get up, when he goes down for his nap, and at bedtime.  Because my Monday-Thursday schedule varies, none of these things happens every day, and on some days, only one of them does.  On Mondays, for example, I leave before he gets up and miss his nap, so he goes 24 hours between nursing sessions (Sunday night to Monday night).  Friday-Sunday, I usually do all three, except Jess sometimes puts him down for naps, in which case he gets a bottle.

    (Yes, I have been nursing him to sleep for some months, despite being quite proud of not doing that early on.  Frankly, it has been the least of our considerable sleep problems, and a girl’s got to triage sometimes.  He’s not always asleep when I put him down, but it is always the last thing we do, and sometimes he is asleep.  He is never asleep when Jess puts him down after a bottle, and he does not take the bottle to bed.)

    The morning nursing is, I think, the Bean’s favorite.  If I am not there, he is reportedly quite unhappy, and if I am only sleeping in, he usually wants to nurse whenever I do get up.  It’s not my favorite.  I like that it buys me a little more time in bed, but it always hurts, quite aside from the climbing and scrambling and feet-to-the-eye maneuvers typical of toddler-nursing.

    The nap-nursing is the one I was ready to drop at the end of the summer, after months of being home with him every day.  (I didn’t, because we were about to go on that epic train trip, and I was not interested in establishing new routines just in time to blow them to smithereens.)  Increasingly, he doesn’t go to sleep from it anyway, and it’s the time he’s most likely to be tiresome about the whole process.

    Bedtime is the nursing session I like best.  It’s the least likely to hurt, and by the end of the day, it’s nice to have a job that is mostly sitting in a dim room reading my email. However, it’s increasingly not working as a means to get the Bean to sleep.  Even if he falls asleep during the process, he wakes up the second I move him, springs to his feet, and starts screaming.  If he’s not asleep, he skips the waking up part.  This continues as many times as I go through the cycle, so Sugar ends up having to go into him after I’ve left.  She sometimes gives him a bottle and sometimes just sits by him, he is quiet, and the whole thing is over quickly.  (This, perhaps unreasonably, pisses me off.)  On Wednesday night, she wasn’t home, so he just screamed after I left.  For twenty-five minutes.  (Have I mentioned the household austerity measures that include no longer drinking on weeknights?)  Last night, I nursed him while she played the piano, at which point I left, she gave him a bit of a bottle, which he didn’t finish, and was out of the room in five minutes.

    So it seems like the bedtime session, my favorite, might be the easiest to drop.  This would also stretch my non-nursing periods to over 24 hours (Sunday afternoon until Tuesday morning, for example).  I may have to sleep with cabbage in my shirt.

    Then there is the issue of what to do instead of nursing during these times.  I suppose I will just give him bottles, despite our pediatrician’s request that he be done using them by 12 months.  She didn’t seem too horrified at the idea, just said we’d have to deal with that later.  In fact, she looked quite sweet when I told her how fondly I remember my own favorite bottle, which I used occasionally up until age five or so.  It was shaped like a dog, with blue ears.  I called it Freddy.

    …your thoughts?


    Back In The Saddle

    …or the stirrups, anyway.

    No, no, not in the TTC sort of way, not yet anyway. I won’t spring that on you without some high-octane angst first, promise.

    But I did go to the OB/Gyn, for the first time since my postpartum appointment, which some of you may recall ended with me wandering the avenues of Midtown, weeping so hard people were forced to break the NYC taboo on talking to crying people and the one on stopping strangers in the street. (In case you’re wondering, it does take some doing, especially in the blocks around Grand Central.) I was, erm, a little nervous. Related: what is it about filling out those medical history forms that makes me afraid I’ve forgotten my own name, let alone whether I have kidney disease?

    You will not be surprised to hear that I did not return to Dr. Russian, as punching her in the face would open me up to more court and jail time than fits my schedule. I stacked the deck a bit by going to Sugar’s doctor, whom I have met before. (In fact, I tried to go to her practice when I got knocked up, but they weren’t taking new OB patients.) Nevertheless, I was feeling pretty shaky as I sat there on the table waiting, gripping my notebook of questions. I fetched my journal out of my purse, for the sense of enhanced safety only another book can provide.

    And…she was wonderful. She listened to my slightly quavery explanation of why I was switching practices and said it all sounded pretty traumatic. She said that lots of women push for four hours with a first baby and that it doesn’t mean they aren’t trying, and that they give nifedipine if they even suspect Reynaud’s in the nipples of a breastfeeding mother, because Reynaud’s is so awful and nifedipine is so safe. (See here and here for contrast.)

    I haven’t written about this, but one part of labor that I have felt increasingly upset about in recent months is the part where I was bleeding heavily for days at home and Dr. Skinny said it was nothing and then was such a bitch about my calling back when it hadn’t stopped, twelve hours or more after my first call. I’ve talked to many, many women since then about their experiences of labor, and I have yet to hear anything that reassures me it was normal. I suppose it’s possible that it really was just a particularly determined (and large — this was a lot of blood) broken vessel in my cervix, but it’s also possible it was a placental abruption, and there is no way Dr. Skinny could have known it wasn’t via phone. I didn’t think it seemed normal at the time, and I shouldn’t have let her intimidate me out of that. Things turned out okay for me and the Bean, of course, but it’s not a comfortable feeling, thinking that I could have let my baby die — oh, and potentially died myself — because I was too chicken to argue with a doctor. I told the new doctor that, and she looked very serious. That does not sound normal, she said, and no one at this practice would have let you stay at home if you called bleeding that much. That will not happen to you here.

    Ultimately, she said that while she couldn’t ethically say things about Dr. Russian to a patient, she was — I think the word was “horrified” — by what I had told her. Then she said so again.

    So. Maybe it wasn’t just me.

    If this doctor has a fault I am aware of, it is that I find her a little happy to cut, as surgeons tend to be. On the other hand, as much as I don’t want to have surgery for the endometriosis I’ve thus far fail to cure with denial or pregnancy, I’m not sure she’s wrong that I should have it. Things are getting worse, and most months I now spend three out of ever four or five weeks in some amount of pain. In particular, pain in the week before my period is getting out of hand, such that I’ve been dipping into my hoarded Percocet stash to sleep. Nothing else does a thing. The question in my mind is whether surgery is worth the pain of recovery, given that it doesn’t always help with endo. Somehow I didn’t get that question in, but I am being sent back to Dr. Demure, the man who did a transvaginal ultrasound without so much as seeing my legs, to see how my garden of ovarian cysts grows. Well, I imagine, from the way my back feels half the month. I’m also to see a rehab specialist about the way my hip joints fall to pieces and leave me so weak once a month, though she seems unconvinced that isn’t somehow also endo.

    If I am going to try to get pregnant again in the spring or summer, I’m not keen to have surgery first. I’m hard-pressed to come up with a rational excuse for that — besides that I have no idea what I would do with the Bean for two weeks if my recovery were anything like Sugar’s — but she said it did not sound crazy. Should have asked her why not. In the meantime, I have a legitimate prescription for Percocet now, though she said several times that we couldn’t just carry on like this until menopause. Other than pain medication and surgery that might not help, there is no treatment. Birth control pills help some people, but are a bad idea for people like me, who get migraine with aura and don’t like the idea of having a stroke.

    The pelvic exam itself was not much fun, though I think she was as gentle as possible while hunting around for cervix number two. Righty seems to have done the job at delivery, for those who were wondering. The worst part, though, was the groping around for uterus and ovaries and such like. I was doubled-over after and am still in a fair bit of pain, though some sangria left over from our party on Sunday did take the edge off last night. She may have a point about this situation not being tenable.

    So! On balance, a win yesterday, I think. Let us hope for another one tomorrow, when I have a job interview at a college in Staten Island. I am hoping that my scanty publication record’s including a book about a forgotten corner of our most ignored borough will give me an edge.


    Cutting Back

    Hi, Internets.

    When I sat down to write this post, I found one I’d started on Friday.  I’m too sleepy to write that one now — it’s a rant about the sanctimonious label on the Bean’s formula package, and rants require pep — but you’ll get it someday.  Meanwhile:

    I’m worn out partly because of ill-timed insomnia (is there any other kind?) and mostly because the Bean hit no fewer than four destructive and dangerous developmental milestones just this morning, continued to polish up some he picked up this weekend, and then melted down for most of the afternoon.  Bedtime could not come soon enough, yet when I finally popped him off my breast, instead of his usual routine of crying and scrambling to find it again (despite having looked asleep seconds previously), he sort of rolled over on my lap, looked up at me, and smiled.

    So he lives to fight another day.  They are fiendish clever, these creatures.

    He’s done lots of cool new things in the past week, too.  After months of merrily climbing up any stairs he sees, he has finally learned to go *down* them, too, carefully turning around and lowering his legs first, rather than pitching headlong off of them and face-planting.  He realized very quickly that he can use the same technique on slides, which means he can now go down them alone.  He is extremely pleased with himself.





    On Sunday, we observed a crucial NYC rite of passage: Baby’s First Dim Sum.  It was an unqualified success, possibly because the Bean loves the friends who invited us, possibly because there were chopsticks and a booster seat that looked like a throne, possibly because countless waiters and waitresses and hall managers came by to flirt with him.  He ate a ton, attacking the unfamiliar food with a gusto generally reserved for small rocks.  (That’s right: the child literally prefers rocks to my cooking.  A mother weeps.)



    All of that was a great deal more fun than the previous weekend.  Saturday a week ago, I pretty much lost my shit.  While attempting to recover some semblance of composure (read: whimpering in the shower), I came to the conclusion that the step that would most improve my life and temper is partially weaning the Bean.

    Prior to the Bean’s birth, I had no particular designs on nursing past one year.  Then the first two unmedicated months were so horrible that I could barely imagine gritting my teeth through six months.  (I had this vision I knew was insane but needed to believe that the Bean would somehow go from no solid food to 100% solid food in, say, six hours.)  I laughed bitterly at the very idea that people were less than thrilled to be done breastfeeding; if it hadn’t been for native stubbornness and a healthy dose of Earth Mother guilt, I would have given the whole thing up at six weeks.  (Which would perhaps have been wiser, I thought once blessed nifedipine showed me how much better and more patient a mother I am when not in excruciating pain day and night, but that’s a story for another time.) Even once things were better, the Bean nursed so very, very much of the time (always far more than the books said) and breastfeeding carried such power to provoke anxiety in me (Why is he so skinny?  Is it because I don’t make enough milk?  Is my milk not rich enough?  Why does he need to eat so often?  Am I starving him?  et cetera)  that I wasn’t exactly sorry to think of being done.

    But a funny thing happened after six months or so, when he started eating more food: I started to like it more.  I still don’t feel blissful or existentially fulfilled the way some people describe, but as a year got closer, I realized that I didn’t especially want to stop.  For one thing, I’d like to build more of a store of pleasant memories to offset the others.  The Bean, who had seemed fairly wean-able at nine months (which was right before we were traveling for Christmas and Hell, No, I was not about to lose that magic pacifier quality) had regained interest, too, and since my breasts seem to do fine with my not pumping when I’m at work, there wasn’t any reason to stop.

    But.  For the last month or so, the Bean has been adding and elongating nursing sessions, such that, left unchecked, he will soon be nursing more than some newborns.  Until that started, he was nursing 4-6 times a day, for something like 30 minutes each (more for some, but less for 5 and 6, when he added them).  That was fine with me, but suddenly he started demanding more and more sessions, and it would often be more than an hour before I could remove him without wailing.  We joked that he had heard a rumor that something called “weaning” existed and was making damn sure he didn’t become another statistic.

    I started remembering why I hadn’t liked nursing.  It’s exhausting, physically and emotionally.  I don’t like feeling like my body never belongs to me, that I can’t decide what to do with it when.  The hormone surges make me feel out of control, and making all that milk just wears me out.

    So.  I’ve decided that while I’m not ready to wean, I am ready to lay down the law.  Four sessions a day: first thing in the morning, before each of two naps, and before bed.  No more “more.” He already eats tons of food, but I guess he’ll just have to replace those calories with more of it (and/or rocks).

    But it turns out that I don’t know how to do that: everything I’ve heard and read about breastfeeding is all about how you always have to do it on demand, which obviously is more about the first few weeks than my situation, but I’ve nevertheless internalized that mindset and am having trouble shaking it.  I’ve gotten some advice that seems very sound — about giving him milk in a cup when he asks to nurse, making sure there’s still lots of cuddling (which he’s more into now that he’s older), distracting him with trips out of the house, and so on — but the past week’s battle of wills has been neither fun nor pretty.  Naturally, I also wonder if I’m being horrible, though the Bean’s nascent toddler-ness does harden my heart a bit: I do NOT like being yelled at.

    So far, he’s resisting the whole scheme pretty hard.  I’ve only given in a couple of times, but not for want of being yelled and grabbed at.  Non-stop party over here.  The first day of the rest of I-don’t-really-want-to-know-how-many years, I realize.

    Any advice, commiseration, moral condemnation?


    Watch Your Language Acquisition

    One plagiarism case documented, at the cost of two days of my unpaid vacation.  Two to go.  Unless I decide to pursue a couple of sketchy ones I haven’t reported yet….

    Meanwhile, back at the phoneme ranch:

    After Christmas, we visited Sugar’s family, including her almost-94-year-old grandmother, who wanted to play with the Bean, though she is too stiff to get down on the floor.  She gave him a set of blocks, and at one point, he was playing with them by her chair.  “Give me your toy,” she said.  “Give it to me.”  And the Bean looked at her, squatted down to pick up the nearest one, and put it in her hand.

    Guess we’d better work on the cussing.  If you don’t start young, they never learn how to do it properly.

    Sugar said this weekend that the Bean was saying Mama in a way that definitely meant me, not just as part of his near ceaseless babble.  I had thought he maybe was, but I hadn’t mentioned it because I didn’t want to sound like…that mom.  But within a day, it became undeniably true. This makes me so melty I almost forgive him for having now, in possession of 6 teeth, completely forgotten how to unlatch from the boob short of just scraping his way off, jaws mostly closed.

    It’s possible “mama” also means “muffin.”  We made a batch of pumpkin muffins, because Sugar and I were sick of eating banana bread, which has been the Bean’s obsession this past month.  He liked the muffins, too, but now we are out of them.  So we took the last loaf of banana bread out of the freezer, and he is overjoyed.  I handed him a piece this morning — while talking about it, because as you might suppose, I talk a blue streak — and as he grabbed it, eyes alight, I swear he said, “nana!”


    Just In Case

    Just in case you were afraid this was becoming one of those smug blogs where we only write about how awesome our lives are, I thought I should tell you that, after two days of solid Freak Out on my part about whether my milk was suddenly running dry, I’ve realized that the latest nighttime hell is most likely the infamous 8-month sleep regression.

    Silly me; I thought maybe we would somehow get to skip that, SINCE THE BEAN HAS NEVER FUCKING SLEPT the way I keep hearing about other babies doing.

    Special thanks to the folks across the street, who are paving the g-d parking lot during his “oh fuck, I forgot to sleep last night” nap, meaning I am stuck awake with eyes that feel like gravel.


    P.S. Why do I read the comments on Ask Moxie? They only ever make me weep with hopelessness and bitter envy.