Bionic Mamas

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


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Still here

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I never write. It’s not because I don’t think of it (and you), all the time.

In the last year (and nine days), I’ve slowly regained my ability to speak coherently. I have flashes of being able to think. I hope I’ll be able to write again one day.

(I used to read parts of Virginia Woolf’s diaries in the summers. The most simultaneously heartbreaking and hope-giving part was watching her rebuild her brain after an episode of madness. Short sentence by short sentence. The weather. The natural world. A quick sketch of field workers viewed from a distance, from this woman who see such depth of detail in every social interaction, the history of the world in the path of a snail.)

The kids are fine. We’re fine. The Bean loves school. He and Jackalope plainly adore each other. She has 2.5 teeth, loves eating, can crawl really fast now. Today she napped in her brother’s bed.

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I’m a bit FD, to use Bunny’s parlance. 

How are y’all?

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On the train home from school, wearing my warm things because someone took his home by accident. Eileen Fisher Boys, we call this look.


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Penn Station

Hello from a slow train through the eastern mountains, Internet. We are chugging along on the Capitol Limited en route to Washington, DC, and it’s so beautiful I can’t bring myself to care that we are two hours behind schedule. We’ll miss our connecting train to New York, but meanwhile there is a river and trees, white Queen Anne’s Lace and yellow Mullen and purple Joe Pye Weed. Whatever train they put us on instead will get us home late, with no doubt crying children, but I can’t be upset about that when there are bluffs of layered rock, square boulders in the water, stands of improbably straight tulip poplars, and a hound dog baying in answer to our whistle. Early this morning there was mist dyed sunrise pink, people fishing from canoes and rowboats and their own feet planted midstream. A fat groundhog trundled his way through the greenest grass. By midday the wide river was spangled with floating rafts. Even the yellow splashes down the sides of black tank cars alongside us (HOT MOLTEN SULFUR, they declare their contents) are picturesque, fireflies on a summer night.

We pass through these little towns, and I wonder what it would be like to shop at Confluence Food. In a bigger town, there’s a Roses store near the tracks, and I can smell the rubber soles of the canvas shoes my hometown Roses sold from towering and rickety metal cages, $3.99 a pair. Graffiti is dominated by the not terribly terrible sounding BONGLORDS, and not too blocks away hangs a campaign banner for someone named Bongino.

I do love a train trip. I love watching the miles get lapped, I love the gentle rocking and low grumbling, the distant whistle that, the Bean says he likes because it reminds him of being at the station, waiting for the train to pick him up.

I have no explanation, in light of how happily relaxed train travel is, for what happened at the beginning of this trip, in the lounge at Penn Station. What with the exigencies of weekend subway riding and travel with small children on any day at all, we had allowed more than extra time, such that, even giving ourselves time to walk part of the way to the station (the wait for the shuttle bus replacing our local train having become annoying), we were at the station abundantly early. We checked the luggage and found soft chairs in the lounge; played with Jackalope while Sugar and the Bean bought us a lunch of surprisingly good sushi and a bottle of my preferred iced tea. I was quite tired following a wakeful night, and past hungry. After we had eaten, I walked out into the station to the ATM, looking forward to the tea when I returned.

When I sat back down and reached for the tea, I saw that its seal had already been broken. That’s odd, I thought, I don’t remember opening this — but really how odd is it that, hungry and tired and harried by children, I might have forgotten something so negligible? I took a sip; it tasted perfectly normal. Well, I said to Sugar, I guess it didn’t have cyanide in it, anyway.

What happened next was very strange indeed. First my chest became very cold. I could still breathe, but it seemed hard, all of a sudden. That corner of the lounge is already dark, but I couldn’t see as well as I should have been able to. When the huge waves of dizzy cold started rolling up my legs and body and chest and head, I began to feel quite frightened: WAS there something in that tea? Is this the dumbest way to die on record? Thoughts of Robert Johnson, absurdly. Why is my heart doing that? Or is this my heart? Is this oxygen depravation? Is this what an embolism is like? Thoughts of my mother, of course. What if she had been able to call an ambulance? More terrible waves.

I’ve thought a great deal about how to write this down so that it gives some impression of how terrified I was. You, of course, know I survived all this, but I truly believed I wasn’t going to. Sugar got me to the desk, and they called for help. Someone made me sit down, which seemed like a terrible waste of time, when all I wanted right then was to hold my children. It seemed hugely important that whatever else happened, they know how much I love them.

The police arrived. I wasn’t dead. They asked me questions. How old are you? Have you eaten? When? What? How do you feel now? A very kind Amtrak lounge worker sat in the chair beside me, cane resting on her knee, suggesting that I might be having a panic attack. I tried to nurse Jackalope, hoping that if this was a panic attack, magic nursing hormones might make things go back to normal; she didn’t want to nurse. The sides of my face became very cold. The waves would go away for a while, then return. The paramedics came. I began to feel as much embarrassed as scared. The balance went back and forth between those two, again and again. My blood pressure was its usual, low-normal self. My pulse was fine. Someone gave the Bean a coloring book. It seemed less and less likely that I was dying. I took an experimental walk around the lounge. Everyone was very nice.

When it came down to it, I decided to get on the train rather than the ambulance. (And was immediately separated from my family, which didn’t help a bit. Stars in the heavenly crown of the anxious mother who very graciously relocated her two anxious small children to allow us to be together.) There were a few more minor echoes, but by and large I felt normal by the next day, mostly normal within an hour.

Well, “normal,” maybe. A week later, I still feel very taken aback that my brain would do that to me, for no apparent reason. Or was it my endocrine system? Maybe it was some confluence of exhaustion and caffeine and recovering from previous low blood sugar. I’m certainly an anxious person, and I have felt physical anxiety before now, of course. But always when I’ve been feeling anxious in the first place, I’ve been at least thinking about something nerve-wracking. Being shanghaied by adrenaline in a setting that doesn’t consciously upset me is a new one, even for my addled brain. It doesn’t make any sense to me, and, frankly, it’s scary.


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But Do I Have To Like It?

Hey, internets. Boy, do I have lots to unload on you. But I am also on one of those visiting-family “vacations” where everything is mysteriously more work than it is at home. And Jackalope is teething her brains out. So just a quickie today.

It’s World Breastfeeding Week, apparently. My Facebook feed is all over boobs and babies. Which is lovely, I guess. I mean, yay for these folks. Yay for whatever makes it easier for people who are socially discouraged from breastfeeding to feel they have permission to give it a go. Class and race divisions being what they are, I am just guessing that most people on my feed probably feel more pressure to breastfeed than to use formula, but whatever, yay normalizing, yay boobs, etc.

Somehow, though, I never feel like these events are quite for me.

Some of that is certainly complacency, a complacency that I certainly hope will soon exist for everyone, not just highly educated, middle-class white ladies in gentrified urban areas. No one has ever particularly hassled me about nursing, in public or not. A few women of my mother’s generation expressed very mild surprise at how long I nursed the Bean, but nothing approaching disapproval. The sleeping car attendant on our train here about jumped out of his skin when he poked his head into our room and saw my exposed breast, but he probably thought he was intruding. I did have one creepy guy taking pictures (or possibly using binoculars?) in the early days with the Bean, which was gross as hell, but I was in fact quite covered in blankets at the time. (It was COLD, y’all.) Since I couldn’t pump for the Bean and haven’t yet dealt with returning to work post-Jackalope, I haven’t had to deal with space and time for pumping, either. Breastfeeding has not been easy for me, but the difficulties I’ve had with people (Dr. Russian and pals) have been about crap medical care, not disapproval per se.

Some of my ennui about the whole deal is lingering shame/guilt over my less than picture-perfect nursing relationship with the Bean, since the photographic cavalcade can feel rather like a public parade by members of the Pure And Correct Mothering Club, but the sense that I don’t deserve to say I really breastfed the Bean has faded a bit. I don’t always feel compelled to add the asterisk that our early relationship wasn’t technically exclusive because of that week of formula supplements. Sometimes, but not always. That I didn’t pump for him when I returned to work at six months ended up having the real silver lining of protecting me from way numbers and pseudo-industrial processes can feed an obsessive relationship with The Device, until the pumping itself, odious though it may be, becomes hard to let go of. (Not you, not you. If you pumped until 36 months and felt happy and free about it, cheers. I am not a laidback soul once numbers are involved. Possibly not ever, but at any rate, numbers and records make it worse, and I’d probably still be pumping for the Bean, if I’d really gotten started. It’s easier, in a sense, to wean from actual nursing, since there’s another person directly involved and potentially contributing to the decision.) Heck, the way he eats these days, formula is starting to look like one of the better foods he’s consumed. I feel sympathy for women who do feel excluded by that aspect of WBW, but I no longer feel quite so convinced that I am supposed to feel excluded, myself.

Anyway, my record is far more pure with Jackalope (though by any sane measure, the Bean did okay, too: all-but exclusively breastfed in the beginning, weaned by mutual assent at 21 months). No supplements needed for her, and the way she’s taking to food, we may just have her eat that and drink water during my absences at work. I’ve been able to pump occasionally without pain, so I could give that a go, but really, I don’t want to. She has had one bottle of formula so far, after she’d already begun trying foods. Or rather, she’s had half an ounce, which she threw an almighty fit about, and was then screaming with apparent constipation that night, all because I was having a nervous breakdown and Sugar took her out for an hour. Whole thing made me feel like Mother of The Year, but I digress.

The thing is, even though I am one of the “good” or maybe “lucky” ones according to the boob boosters, one who “succeeded,” I just…don’t like it all that much. I don’t hate it, the way I did when the Bean was tiny and the spasms were at their worst, but neither do I feel inclined to carry on about how beautiful and fulfilling and profound the whole deal is. It’s okay. It’s marginally easier than carrying around bottles and powders, though that doesn’t seem so daunting now that I carry food for my picky Bean everywhere I go. It’s nice that I can feed her without getting out of bed, but that convenience is tempered by the fact that I’m the only one who can feed her, lately every hour all night long. I can nurse her to sleep, but she’s less willing to fall asleep in a carrier on my chest, because I smell of milk. I’m all for sharing my antibodies, but I’m skeptical of many claims of breastmilk’s superiority — except that apparently it doesn’t constipate this particular, easily backed up baby. I suppose it may have slightly delayed the return of my period (though not by much), but I weigh as much as I did a couple of weeks after her birth. My blood sugar remains almost as prone to crashing as during pregnancy, maybe because I forget to account for all the calories I’m losing in the middle of the night.

In a sense, I suppose I am the picture of someone for whom breastfeeding has been successfully normalized. Advantages and disadvantages are pretty balanced for me, but I do it anyway. I am certainly subject to the pressures of my particular peer group, but I’m not consciously impressed by the scare tactics. I can keep nursing without vilifying formula companies, because their existence and marketing doesn’t feel threatening to me. (NB: I am speaking only for my own race/class/education/geographic position. I know the spiel, I promise.)

What I don’t feel especially moved to do is wax poetic about how beautiful it is, because I don’t find it especially more beautiful than other ways of relating to my children. I value feeling physically close to them, but I value it much more when I am sure it’s not just the affection I feel for my refrigerator. When the Bean comes to sit next to me on the porch swing here, when Jackalope, in a recent development, rests the SIDE of her head on my chest, that makes my heart swell. Jackalope latching right on in the delivery room was a great relief, because it suggested she might avoid the Bean’s early difficulties, but I also love watching her chow down on applesauce; she makes this kind of raptor shriek and launches herself bodily at the spoon. Likewise, it does my heart much good to see the Bean eat a pancake I have mangled cut into his requested shape. “I want one shaped like Mama holding Jackalope,” he says, and, calling upon the spirits of Mary Cassatt and Kara Walker and Julia Child, I feed him.

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Three

Yesterday, while polishing bits of the kitchen with baby wipes, the Bean treated me to a short lecture on the importance of cleaning the lid of the garbage can every day.

An hour later, after I had emptied but not yet thoroughly wiped it out, he took hold of the ikea potty he had just pooped in, donned it as a hat, and spun it around on his head, scouring it with his lustrous curls.

Three-year-olds, ladies and gentlemen.

Another perk to having one of these creatures is finding every magnetic surface in your home.

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Mental Notes on Pain

Note: You did not create this pain by acknowledging it.

Note: If ignoring it worked, it would have worked by now.

Note: Treating pain is not encouraging it.

Note: You have taken these drugs for a lot of years without feeling any desire to use them when you are not in pain. The most likely thing is that you are thinking of using them now because you are in pain, not because you have become a terrible addict… NOW!

Note: Being in pain makes you a low-energy, distracted, short-tempered parent. Taking a low dose of your medicine makes you happier (because you are not in pain) and calmer than usual, if slightly distracted. Guess which your children prefer.

Note: Avoiding your medicine never means you have extra energy, because being in pain takes a lot of energy. There is no high-energy option on these days.

Note: Calvinism combines terrible with issues of physical health. You have a number of academic texts on your shelves to this effect. You may be a WASP, but you don’t have to be a Puritan.

Note: You’re doctors prescribe these medicines for you. They expect you to take them. You don’t get a prize for having them left at the end of the year.

Note: Try to remember, as you sit in the waiting room, that your doctors want to help you. That’s why they got this gig. (And if they don’t, they are not the only ones in town.)

This post brought to you by endometriosis, anxiety, and the weird interior design choices at Dr. Joy’s office.

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Eat, Weigh, Fret

Well, it only took two hours to get Jackalope down for this nap. Here’s hoping it lasts more than twenty minutes.

Jackalope is nearly five months old now, though I can scarcely believe it. The usual feels like it’s been no time at all and she’s always been here thing. Brains are funny. At any rate, she had her four-month check up and shots recently. (We got a bit behind schedule trying to be sure we always see our favorite doctor at the practice. I should never have recommended her to so many people.) She did very well, agreeably stretched out for her length measurement, didn’t scream on the scale, and, in the scheme of things, didn’t cry all that much about her shots, at least not at the time. (Thank you, God, for ibuprofen. And also vaccines.) In this she was perhaps inspired by her brother, who was himself due for the jab I had promised him he wouldn’t get at his three-year appointment (never do that), which the doctor agreed to delay so he would not have been lied to. He made nary a peep, and requested that he and his sister have matching bandaids.

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He is going to heartbroken when this thing falls off.

We’re gathering all the paperwork for Jackalope’s second parent adoption, so I stopped at the front desk for the letter attesting her good health, the printed record of vaccines and measurements. Eighty-eighth percentile for length! Down from 90th, but still — do you have any idea how short I am? And 21st for weight. Not bad, right? For a kid whose brother scraped the bottom of the chart for so long? Try telling that to my addled brain.

See, the Bean wasn’t always at the bottom. In fact, he was middle of the road until four months, when he started his drop. The numbers didn’t get very low until six months. And Jackalope was at 60th at her last visit. And her head circumference had plummeted, too, from 25th to 7th. I don’t even know what that means, but surely nothing good. Cue a night of confusing, sublimated panic.

By the time the doctor returned my call, I was calmer. After all, the Bean is fine, he’s always been fine. As my mother pointed out over and over, he always kept growing taller, making hair, making fingernails. These days, he’s not even low on the charts, easily the most shocking news of his three-year visit. I know I’m being ridiculous, I said; I just need to hear as much from you.

The head circumference is almost definitely a mistake, she said. Her assistant does the weighing and measuring, but she usually repeats that one herself because even a half-centimeter error represents a big difference in percentile. We’ll repeat it at six months. As for the weight, she says just what she did with the Bean: this is just the age when my milk is no longer enough and it’s to give her some food. Which is exactly what we’d been talking about in the appointment, after all. She seemed slightly baffled by my concern; I haven’t been a parent who calls a lot. Look, she said, it’s obvious that she’s a healthy, happy, very charming baby. Or maybe that last one was “very smart.” Well calculated to please, at any rate.

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This baby is clearly fine.

Indeed, I was slightly baffled myself by this reaction. She really is obviously fine. Sure, the Bean’s weight caused a fair amount of stress during his first two and a half years or so. It’s a lot harder to shrug off the pickiness of a kid who merrily starves himself into sleeplessness, in whom a slight loss of appetite when sick with a cold results in ribs fairly popping out from his chest. Toddlers aren’t meant to have flat stomachs, let alone concave ones. But we did survive, after all, if not without some hard-earned lessons in humility. I tend to think that, like a lot of things in this parenting gig, it wouldn’t be quite as hard the second time. And he’s in the 40th percentile now! Practically robust!

Part of it, I think, was believing things were different this time (as they may yet prove to be). It’s obvious I’ve been making more milk: witness the fact that Jackalope could have those deliciously fat baby thighs despite spitting up so very much in her first few months. (Seriously, child, it’s downright wasteful.) And she seems to take such a lusty delight in eating that I imagined she might be a bit more like her ol’ Ma in the taking pleasure in food department. But that’s hardly the stuff of teeth-grinding, especially since so far there’s not particular indication she won’t be a different kind of eater from the Bean.

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Sibling resemblance?

It took a few days, but I did eventually figure out where the shaking came from. Not from the Bean’s experience in the period Jackalope is now approaching, but from his early weeks. The weeks of not sucking hard enough, my not making enough milk, all of us shuttling back and forth for all those weight checks, my nearly passing out during the lactation consultant’s talk (two different ones, now that you mention it), the fear that it really wouldn’t all be okay. It was an awful time. But it’s a gauntlet Jackalope has already run. She was fine, just fine. And if we had a third child (not likely), maybe I would eventually stop jumping at shadows that only make me think of it.

Meanwhile, despite nursing my brains out at all times, my own weight remains maddeningly stable, right about where it’s been since a few weeks postpartum. Less than what I weighed at the end of pregnancy, a good deal more than what I think of as my normal weight. Still in the big pants.

This, too, should come as no surprise, since the same was true at this stage in the Bean’s life. In fact, the number on the scale is just about the same, come to think of it, despite my weighing a bit more when Jackalope was born than when the Bean was. And I told myself I wasn’t going to fret over it this time, that I would by God eat oatmeal cookies if my milk supply needed help, rather than wretched, virtuous hot oatmeal.

Easier said than done, I guess. Once again, it feels like everyone loses weight faster than I do. (Who is everyone, anyway? I don’t spend any time with mothers of kids Jackalope’s age, since the Bean’s schedule determines ours.) Sometimes I don’t care or I remember that I didn’t really feel like myself until I stopped breastfeeding the Bean; sometimes feelings of ugliness intertwine with ones of unworthiness, hissing that if I can’t make art or money these days, I should at least pay my rent on the space I take up by being appropriately pretty. I’m tired of the few clothes that fit and allow nursing. And yet somehow, I’m hungry all the time. Go figure.

I’m not sure why I mention all that, except that I’m tired of only reading “success” stories when it comes to losing baby weight. I’m not planning to do anything about it — dieting has an established history of making me lose what few marbles belong to me. But, well, for the record.

In happier news, the Bean has hit a major, major food milestone. Last week, after shall we say expressing extreme frustration with my refusal to get up from nursing the baby to MAKE ME ANOTHER SANDWICH, he marched back into the kids’ room and announced that he was making his own. Great, I said. And, as a lucky afterthought, show me the knives you are going to use for the peanut butter and jelly before you use them.

First knife presented: a butter knife. Enh, good enough. Then the long bread knife. Not so much. Next try: the eight-inch chef’s knife. Good thing we keep that in a blade cover. After more specific instructions on finding the table knives and an assurance that there most certainly was sufficient jam left in that jar, he appeared with this:

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GAME. CHANGER. I have never felt so vindicated in my decision to continue to live by the tenets of my personal parenting philosophy, High Quality Neglect.

After the sandwich, he got down the baby wipes and proceeded to wipe down the furniture, including asking me to move the laundry drying rack so he could do the insides of the wardrobe doors. Sure, he neglected to clean the chair he’d actually made the sandwich on. Sure, we found a cheese knife covered in jam in the drawer later and quite a bit of peanut butter in his hair. Details, details.

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Summitting

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a thought experiment

Sugar here.

On our minds lately:

Should we move to a warmer, cheaper, less hectic place? With a crawl space cleaning space. We might want to, but we’re not sure. At any rate, I am applying to jobs that are, gasp, not in New York. The idea of moving, i.e. the packing, the boxes, the baby and toddler amongst the boxes, the needing to find a place to live, buy a car, etc., is not appealing AT ALL, but the idea of having done those things and being in an actual house, A HOUSE!, is. Also, Bionic has not been having her usual set of anxiety dreams about how I insist that we buy a house without a roof that is teetering on the edge of a cliff because really it’s fine. Which means that maybe she’s ready?

Of course we have qualms. At the top of my qualm list is whether it will feel like giving up my ambitions and turning into a cubicle drone. My ambitions are/were mostly to be able to do art and have people see it. Getting to New York was therefore a sort of life goal. Unfortunately for me, once I got here, I didn’t know what to do or how to do it. Also, my job, commute, and general lack of space makes it basically impossible for me to actually make any art. So my rational self says, go somewhere else, set up a studio, get a little more free time (i.e. don’t reestablish two and a half hours of commute per day) and make some stuff. My irrational self says – AAAAAHHHHHHHh – New York is the pinnacle of something and so I should stay here and continue to suck! Because that makes sense.

Here is a short pro/con list based on recent conversations between me and Bionic:

Pros


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There’s a post, there’s a post, there’s a post on the middle of the sea

Due to a WP app design flaw, I accidentally published a post before I was finished with it the other day. I retracted it and eventually did finish at republish, but at least in my reader, only the first edition ever turned up. So. F your I, as starrhillgirl would say, there is a post up, here. Featuring a baby in a unitard, a soupçon of feminist ranting, and, of course, my hooha.

My phone keyboard corrects “hooha” to “boss.” SASS.


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Fits and Starts (Take 2)

Did this pop up in your reader once already, when it was much, much shorter?  Thank the awkward interface of the WP ipad app!

Hey, look! I got as far as a title for that post I didn’t write on Tuesday! Fancy that!

I was sneezing my brains out, and the state of my pelvic floor is such that I was put in mind of the notion of…let’s say ideas escaping a bit at a time. Then my allergy meds kicked in and I was left with the cognitive skills of a not-so-bright houseplant. So you missed out on an extended pee metaphor, is what I’m saying.

I know. I’m sad for you, too.

Meanwhile, in no particular order:

Item: The mother of one of the Bean’s friends, who also has a six-month-old, says of taking care of the two of them, “it’s really fine. As long as you don’t want to do anything else.” That about sums it up so far. Jackalope, praise heaven, remains about as easy to care for as it is possible to imagine for a baby her age (7 weeks today yesterday). Sometimes I also do one other thing, like some laundry or most of the dishes. We do not always leave the apartment. I shower on the weekends.

Item: I have found this game invaluable for achieving a sanity-sparing trance state while nursing. I have even won, once. If you are troubled by excess productivity, give it a try.

Item: Yes, I play games while caring for my children. I also mess around on the Internet and, in the rare occasion that I have access to both my hands and a source of light, read books. (I have been known to talk on the phone, too, though not so much now that I have lost the one person I could call anytime, even when there wasn’t much of a story to tell, and just…talk.) On Friday I was chided in a faux-friendly way by a (childless) acquaintance for bantering on Facebook rather than giving my children my undivided attention.

Item: I do not give my children my undivided attention at every moment.

Item: I do not feel bad about that. They do not need my undivided attention, most of the time. There are moments when one or, merciful heavens, both need all or most of my attention, and in those moments, I do my best to give it to them.

Item: I am a fully-fledged adult human, with a big brain and wide-ranging interests. No one needs my undivided attention at all times.

Item: Speaking of gender essentialism (because I believe that’s what is in play above), it continues to amaze me how casually it crops up in my life as the mother of a boy child. (I expect the girl child parts will kick in soon.) The mother of the Bean’s friend mentioned above expresses genuine surprise that I am not teaching the Bean to pee standing up. As if the presence of a Y chromosome demands it. (Or maybe it’s the testicles? An issue of airflow?) For the record, the first person to inform him that such an option exists gets to teach him; such behavior will be for outside of the house only until he is able to be in charge of cleaning the bathroom. Meanwhile, another friend — and a butch lesbian, at that — expresses relief that she is expecting another girl, because she knows “what little boys are capable of.” I am baffled.

Item: Our particular little boy is capable of more and more things, lately, almost all of them good. Potty training, pee-edition, is suddenly going much better. (Let us not speak of poop.) He prefaces questions with, “I’m curious,” and tonight at the computer remarked, noticing the connection for the first time, “it’s funny that you guy call that a mouse.” He “imsisted” the other night that I stop doing the dishes and instead eat ice cream. I was helpless to comply.

Item: Jackalope is up to new tricks, too. Last night, age exactly seven weeks, she had her first absolute fit of smiles, cracking up over my singing along to the Mendelssohn and Mozart Sugar was playing. She’s a funny baby in general. For reasons only the gods of hand-me-downs know, we own in her size what amounts to a black unitard. I tried, later on last night, to get her to smile for a camera, but was treated instead of pose after pose of hamming. Method baby, I guess.

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Eyebrow work

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Nathan Lane Impression

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Hitchcock

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Comedy

7 weeks
Tragedy

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Fin

Item: We have all gone to our respective doctors again. The Bean had has three-year check up, passed with flying colors. Suddenly he is in the 40-somethingth percentile for height and, more surprisingly, for weight. This from a child who spent much of his first year clinging to the bottom five percentile points. He weighs in the neighborhood of 31 pounds and is roughly 38 inches tall. He is extremely glad to now be able to reach the green button that releases the lock on our building’s front door. City kid milestones.

Jackalope is huge. At that appointment, at which point she was five weeks and change, she weighed in at 9 pounds 12 ounces, somewhere in the 60s by percentile. Two pounds over her birthweight, three pounds over her lowest recorded weight in the post-birth drop. Imagine what she’d weigh if she didn’t spit up so much! She is deemed otherwise healthy, and now her acne is clearing up, too.

I took Jackalope with me to my six-week OB check-up. It was lovely, really. As different from the postpartum appointment of abuse and despair as can be imagined.  We were thoroughly fussed over by everyone from the receptionist to that very young OB I only met once at my first appointment. I stuck my head into the office of Dr. Joy, the OB who delivered Jackalope, and she was so completely charming in her neon pink lipstick and her exclamations that I wasn’t even annoyed that she had to ask my first name. She clearly remembered me. “Oh! Was it better for you?? You were so traumatized! I just really wanted it to go really well for you!!  And you did so well!” She danced around the room holding Jackalope and praising her and me for ages, even though I know she had a patient waiting. (Sorry, patient, but I did need that.) I just love her. I almost want to see her now for my annual exams, instead of the doctor I came to the practice for. But I also love her! Maybe I’ll let them each do one cervix.

For the actual appointment, I saw the younger of the two OB midwives, whom I didn’t meet before Jackalope was born but who gets a gold star in the birth story I will eventually write, for being the person answering the phone when Sugar called to say I was having contractions. Young Midwife could hear me in the background and, in marked contrast to the bitch of a nurse at Dr. Russian’s, who in similar circumstances told Sugar, “she needs to calm down,” said, calmly but firmly, that we needed to leave for the hospital, even if I’d only just started having contractions that made me sound like that. Thank you, Young Midwife, for your help in making sure our daughter was not born in a cab.

At this appointment, we mostly just chatted. My poor, tattered hooha had started behaving itself again, so no treatment for that. Isn’t it always slightly more frustrating than relieving when symptoms resolve prior to an appointment? My pelvic floor is nothing to write home about, but it does seem to be getting stronger; I kegel every time I think of peeing on myself, which is often enough that I occasionally overdo it and exhaust everything. YM told a story of being invited to the country house of a homebirth client and making an ill-advised decision to get on the trampoline with her kids. My own hopscotch misadventures pale in comparison. She asked about penetration and I said I’d let her know if the children were ever simultaneously asleep; she countered with a story of nursing while…multitasking. (Why is it that they tell you no penetration with anything prior to the six week appointment, and then, at the six week appointment, ask how it’s going? C’mon, people.)  I am cleared to do everything, including sit-ups, but I told YM I’d be much, much to busy attending to my precious children to do anything so selfish as that.  The Bean and I celebrated with a bubble bath.

Item: It’s taken almost a week to write this, and I can’t remember what else I meant to include. Time to wrap it up, perhaps. Good night, y’all.
Visiting monkey and Julia

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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:

Jackalope

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.
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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.
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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.

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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.]

GandJbath

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.

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[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

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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.

Miscellanea:

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!”