Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Angel Fire 2009

Where we were:



What we did:








... a wonderful week.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Oh hey look! A blog!

Yeah. So... um. It's always difficult to come back to something more or less abandoned but I shall try, regardless. My friend Becca is staying with us right now, and somehow having a person to do things with (like yard work, or baking*) really cuts down on computer usage. So does this current stage of babyhood, in which Robert both notices and intensely dislikes being left on his own for any amount of time. His mantra seems to be, 'hold me, play with me, feed me, dance with me, just don't put me down!' On the bright side, he is so much fun right now, what with the giggling, making faces, and overall responsiveness. His sense of object permanence is developing right on schedule, so that when Don leaves the room, Robert stares at the doorway for awhile; or if I remove a non-suitable toy from his hands (like the DVD remote), he cranes his head to see where it went. Further complicating matters is the fact that his average nap is about 45 minutes. If he sleeps an hour, I feel lucky; more than an hour and I get worried. At night, he is still up to nurse every 2-3 hours. We haven't exactly started him on solid foods yet, but have tried giving him little bits of a few things-- some sweet potato on Thanksgiving, some avocado, and banana. I think once he's fully able to sit up on his own, we'll get a high chair and begin the solid foods in earnest; that will probably happen by the time he and I get back from New Mexico after Christmas. To be totally honest, I'm kind of hoping that as solids begin to make up more of his diet, he'll start sleeping longer.

We had his six-month pediatrician visit at the end of November, and he is still absolutely perfect in every way, as well as still hovering at the very top of the growth charts for both length and weight-- 20 pounds some ounces, and 28.5 inches. So much for my confidence that, as a fully breast-fed baby, he would gradually stop being so big for his age! Nope. His vaccines have all been fine so far, bolstering my decision to space them out across more visits.



*What, you didn't know vegans can bake? They can. They make wonderful cookies, and cupcakes...**

** hint, hint.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Quick catch-up

Parenthood does not create much time to blog, it seems. Lately, Robert sleeps very lightly, and not for very long at a time. He might nap for twenty minutes or half an hour, then be up again. Regular noises like the kitchen faucet running, my cell phone ringing, the vacuum cleaner, or even typing are enough to startle him awake again. Don and his mother have suggested that I keep it too quiet in general, that we need more background noise*. I think it's probably too late to really change that, though. I'm a quiet person by nature, and he's been experiencing that since he was in utero. Even if I have the radio on, it's generally NPR or classical. If I lay down and take a nap with him, he'll sleep for much longer. Since he's still up every few hours at night to nurse, I need the rest too. When he's awake, he doesn't like to be alone anymore, or to sit by himself. I used to sit him in his car seat, on a kitchen chair while I would make dinner or clean up the kitchen; he doesn't like that now. Now he craves movement, motion. Wants to be tossed around, bounced, jostled. He's on the verge of being able to crawl, and his inability to move on his own seem to frustrate him.

I feel more than a little frustrated, myself, by my inability to get anything done. Don says not to worry about it-- who cares? I'm home to be with the baby, not to keep house. But I do. We have a friend coming to stay in a few days, and my 'to-do before she gets here' list is shrinking dramatically: not because I'm finishing tasks but because I'm having to pare it down to what I can actually get done. I'm at the point right now where I'm pretty sure I can vacuum the guest room and change the sheets before Thursday... On the bright side, once she's here we'll be able to do all kinds of things just by virtue of having another pair of arms to hold him.

That said, we've had a few really great days lately. Don took a Monday off, and for some reason Robert decided to take a two-hour nap that afternoon. I was able to help with the yard work and rescue all the grass clipping and leaves in the front yard.** And on Halloween, Robert and I went apple-picking with some friends, and he was absolutely perfect; just fell sound asleep in the carrier for pretty much the whole time. Gee, baby, is that all it takes-- me carrying you up, around, and down a mountain-side for a few hours, in the fresh, cool apple-orchard air? I'll try to fit that into our daily routine somehow.

All in all, it's hard to do more than throw a photo up here. This short post has taken me all morning!
It's okay to eat the apples.
**************************************************

*Mother-in-law: when Don was a baby, I'd always have the radio or TV on, just for the noise!
Me (under breath): and it just did wonders for his attention span, huh?
Don: Hey, what are implying, that...wait, what are we talking about, again?

** We bag the back yard for the compost heap. The front yard, though, is up a hill and far away from said heaps, so it takes too long to bag and haul. Its clippings just gets mulched. But we have built raised beds that I'm filling lasagna-style for next spring, and I wanted that good stuff to fill the beds. Don would empty the bag into the wheelbarrow, I'd run it down to the backyard. I've also been stealing bags of leaves from all over our neighborhood. It's not really stealing, since they're on the curb for pickup already...

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Announcement:

The world's most wonderful, loveable, amazing baby is now five month old.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Granola Cost/Benefit Analysis

I made this granola recipe today, with a few changes: left out the sunflower seeds (because trail mix is trail mix, and granola is granola!), replaced the wheat germ with ground flax seed, used half coconut oil, half butter for the specified "vegetable oil", left out the brown sugar. I was hoping that making it from scratch would prove cheaper than buying the boxed stuff. It isn't and it is, depending how you look at it.

Notes for next time: add cinnamon to the dry stuff, not the syrup. Use food processor to chop the nuts. Buy already-ground flax. Lining the sheet pans was overkill. Use something besides raisins-- dates, maybe. Think about getting everything set up and prepped, but not baking the granola until the evening when Don comes home; it was really difficult to keep an eye on it in the oven while taking care of the baby.

Overall, it turned out delicious, and it made a lot. I'm probably set for breakfast for a month. I added up the cost of everything as best I could, and compared it to the cost of boxed granola, it actually came out more expensive, bowl-for-bowl. This is disappointing, BUT. The problem with the comparison is that there isn't actually a comparable product on the market. Or, if there is, it's probably in the bulk-bins area of Whole Foods, and not in a box with a picture on it. For one thing, this recipe is really, extra nutty. Three cups of nuts total, a mix of pecans, walnuts, and almonds. Nuts are expensive, pricier than anything else in the cereal, but are really healthful. No prepackaged cereal that I looked at has as much nuttiness. Butter and coconut oil are more expensive (and again, a lot healthier and yummier) than, say, sunflower oil. Same thing with the maple syrup and honey: pricier than sugar, healthier than sugar. If there were a cereal for sale made with the ingredients I used, in the same proportions, it would probably cost the moon.

There's a real comfort in knowing exactly what's in what I eat, which is why I generally make oatmeal or eggs in the morning instead of cold cereal. Why, in the example cereal, is sugar the second ingredient? Second? Really? The proportions in the recipe I used are like this:

Oats-- 8 cups
Other grains/seeds (oat bran, flax)-- 3 cups
Nuts (pecans, almonds, walnuts)-- 3 cups
Fruit (raisins)-- 2 cups
Sugars (maple syrup, honey)-- 1 cup
Fats (butter, coconut oil)-- 1 cup
Flavorings (cinnamon, vanilla, salt)-- 2 1/2 tablespoons

Even so, it was plenty sweet, almost too sweet. I guess having so much fruit and nuts adds its own sweetness, too. As the MasterCard commercials would say, making your own cereal: $18.29 per batch. Knowing that there's no vegetable oil, no white sugar, and--God forbid-- no soy protein isolate: priceless. (I'm looking at you, Kashi.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Stress-- or lack thereof

(obligatory baby picture)


A little while ago, my dad asked me whether I found motherhood to be stressful, and if I was handling it OK, or something like that. It reinforces this theme that I've noticed again and again, in books, magazines etc; that adding a baby to the family creates major stress. I'm sure this is true in a lot of cases, maybe even most cases. But I haven't found it to be true in mine. Certainly, the baby itself makes a difference; Robert is a fairly easy-going, manageable baby. We've had a few bad days here and there, maybe even a bad week or two. And those first six weeks or so of breastfeeding were pure hell, no doubt about it. But if he were an intense, high-needs, colicky baby, I'd probably be writing a different post... assuming I'd have time to write at all. As it is, I have to say that I feel less stressed right now, than I have in years.


One overlooked factor in this equation has to be, what came before? What did life pre-baby look like? Maybe it's the couples living their ideal lives who-- poof!-- add a baby on top of it, that have their ceiling fall in. Their lovely relationship that had never been severely tested, suddenly is. Their happy, not-too-stressful lives, changed forever. But I am coming to motherhood from two years of infertility, four miscarriages, and a job that really stressed me out. In a way, I traded two very stressful things (my fertility/miscarriage saga and the job) for one, much-desired and much-less-stressful thing: Robert. Seems a good trade in my book. The major questions that used to keep me awake in the wee hours, like: Are we ever going to have a baby? Is this ever going to happen? What's wrong with me/us? How many miscarriages is too many? How many am I willing to go through before saying, 'enough, no more'?, are gone. Their offspring are smaller and quieter. I worry a bit about the next one, but having one successful pregnancy under my belt makes it so much easier. (I can do this. Look, we did it. It may not be easy, but there's a precedent now.) I used to know, without even trying to think about it, exactly where I was in my cycle. Four days until I ought to be ovulating. Three days. Nine days ago. Too early to take a test? If I was pregnant, I knew exactly how many weeks and days along I was, even as I knew that it didn't mean anything. Really, the first fourteen weeks of my pregnancy with Robert was probably the most stressful time of my life, as I could do nothing but wait helplessly as the days ticked along, waiting for the inevitable cramping and bleeding to start. If I start thinking too much about how I felt then, it still brings tears. Honestly, compared to that, how stressful is waking up to feed a baby, or pacing the house with a crying infant, or changing a poopy blow-out diaper? Not at all, that's how. It's not life-and-death.


Of course, I didn't experience all that alone, and Don and I have been tested hard. The guilt and self-blame, trying to comfort one another when so miserable ourselves, the endless doctors' appointments and rounds of tests... Not to say that we're iron-clad and that nothing can affect us now, but I would have a hard time envisioning that the daily stresses of parenthood could damage our relationship when the major trauma of losing our babies, again and again, didn't. To use the old cliche, it didn't kill us and so we're stronger.


Not working, after working in a job that didn't suit, is of course a smaller matter than having a baby after dealing with infertility. But in its own way, it's also a big relief. Those small things-- the sales goals not met, the endless meetings, the corporate double-speak, the coworkers one likes well enough in small doses but that drive one nuts with constant exposure-- they all add up. I hadn't liked my job in a long time, but didn't feel able to leave. It was dreading Monday morning, hating the alarm clock, never having enough time to do the things I wanted to do, always holding my tongue. A little baby is a whole lot less demanding than a corporate job, and I'm lucky as hell to be able (so far) to stay home with him. I get more sleep now, than I did then. If Robert keeps me up during the night (or even if he doesn't, but my old friend insomnia does), I can sleep late in the morning, or take a nap later. I eat better, too. Partly this is because I had fallen into the deadly cycle of I'm stressed, I deserve a Snickers bar. After that customer, I need another Starbucks. What a day-- we need to go out to dinner. I'm too tired to pack a lunch; I can buy one at work. With a convenience store across the hallway, a coffee shop next door, and the student cafeteria nearby, temptation was close at hand and I had the cash to indulge myself. Now that I think about it, probably some of the weight that I've lost since having Robert is simply the effect of not having multiple caramel macchiatos, candy bars, fast-food lunches, and restaurant dinners every week. I've not been making a special effort to cook healthy meals (working more on the look, isn't it nice to have a partner at home? aspect, which involves more butter) but pretty much any home-cooked lunch and dinner is going to be better than Pizza Hut for lunch or Chili's for dinner.


This is not to say that I am never stressed out, or that being a stay-at-home parent doesn't have its own challenges; rather that, given where I was before, I personally am experiencing much less stress now.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Good grief, 4.5 months old already!

Amazing: no matter how much I try to slow down time, Robert keeps getting older at an astonishing rate. Despite my best efforts, he is already four and a half months old. Not a newborn anymore... not even still in the "fourth trimester". This rate of change is impossible to adapt to. As soon as I think I have "it" down, it changes. For example, Robert used to be able to sleep pretty much anywhere, any time. I didn't have to worry about whether he got enough naps because he could nap in the stroller, in the car seat, in the Mei Tei. He also slept fairly soundly, once he got to a certain point. Now, for the most part, he sleeps much more lightly and it's much harder for him to fall asleep. I didn't realize how much of what I did was dependent on that sound sleep until it changed! Our routine used to be that we'd put him down to sleep in the middle of our big bed, then (usually) move him to his bassinet when we went to bed. I used to trim his fingernails during his naps, and do the dishes. For the last week, though, he's spent every night in the bed, his nails are terribly long and scratchy, and the kitchen is a wreck.

People keep asking me "how he's sleeping", and I don't know how to answer that. He usually goes to bed around 7-8pm, and stays in bed until 8-9 in the morning. During that time, he gets up to nurse three or four times. So, he's certainly not "sleeping through the night", but it's not very disruptive, either; it's not as though I have to haul myself to the kitchen and make up a bottle four times a night. If he's in bed with me, I don't have to get up at all.

Robert learns something new practically every day. Actually, it probably is every day; most likely some of the things he's learning aren't obvious to us. He's so interested in everything around him, even stuff that seems trivial to us, like the red numbers on the alarm clock. Nursing during the day is becoming difficult as well, because he wants to stop every thirty seconds and look around. For one thing, he doesn't really "unlatch" to do this-- he stretches me to the breaking point instead and suddenly 'pops' off, which is painful. Also, this is impeding my fledging efforts to feed him outside of the house more often (to facilitate our being out and about), since it leaves me rather suddenly exposed. More importantly, though, his distractedness is keeping him from eating enough at any one time, so he's hungry again very quickly. I think I'm nursing him more often during the day now, than I was when he was a newborn.

The most obvious new things right now are his interest in his hands, and the new squeak. He's transitioned from batting impotently at interesting objects, to actually reaching for and grabbing at them. He can hold his rattle, bring it to his mouth, and only occasionally smacks himself in the head with it. He can grab our faces, to scratch us with those sharp little fingernails. He reaches for the cat and dog. The squeak is basically awful. He's replaced all of his previous noises with the new one he's discovered, which falls somewhere between 'bats leaving the cave' and 'nails on chalkboard'. Sometimes it's a happy squeak, sometimes demanding or fretful. Don and I are hoping that it's a short phase.

For the record: at his four-month doctor visit, Robert weighed 18 pounds and was 27 inches long, which puts him in the 95 percentile for weight, and "officially off the chart" for length, according to his pediatrician. She also declared him the picture of health, and was very impressed with him overall. I like her. At four and a half months post-partum, I've lost all of the 50 pounds that I gained during his pregnancy, plus an extra few. Being the sole source of nutrition for a baby this size is a better fat-burner than any workout DVD: most breastfed babies don't get to this weight until they're closer to 6-8 months old, at which point solid foods would most likely be a part of their diet. I am, however, expecting him to slow down pretty soon, based on this quote from Kellymom:

For comparison, a picture of Robert at four months, and a very early one taken on the same pillow:

Monday, October 05, 2009

Grandma's Visit



I know they're all blurry. I need to learn to better use my camera. But the scenes were cute, even though the documentation sucks.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Aaaaack!

Mother-in-law coming here less than two weeks' notice must clean house. (Breathe. Breathe.) Also, must think of things to do besides sitting around staring at baby, running errands, and similar. Nothing strenuous. Must unearth and display various gifts from same. This blog will probably suffer in between now and then, for obvious reasons, as one cannot dust and write simultaneously, or take boxes of stuff to Goodwill and post photos. Goodbye, sweet computer. I will miss you for awhile.

Here's some pictures, in the meantime.


Sometimes, when the baby is napping, I try to spend quality time with the dog and tell her I still love her. I don't think she buys it though. And yes, I seem to take all photos lately on the same unmade bed.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Random Observations

On the bottom of my sugar bowl is a sticker that says, "dishwasher safe, microwave safe". Since I have neither appliance, it is of no matter to me, but I do want to know WHO is microwaving their sugar bowl, and why. Is one supposed to remove the sugar first?

Looking at my stove, I realized that it would make much more sense for the pot to call the kettle "stainless", since they're both steel. I don't have a black pot. I don't have a black kettle. All I have is one black cast-iron frying pan, and it doesn't communicate much with the rest of the cookware.

Because Don can still eat only soft, mushy things, we've been on a pretty weird diet lately. Pea soup. Mashed potatoes, as entre. Canned soup. Pudding. Pea soup again. The invalid diet is making him grumpy; he craves steak or a pork chop. I'm rounding mine out with salads and such, but I can't wait until chicken is back on the menu. Tonight, I'm baking some winter squash.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Eating My Cake

When Robert was younger, it was easy for me to read while he slept or dozed. At three months, he's a bit more awake and interactive, and it's harder to justify ignoring him to read a book. So, I've been reading whatever I'm reading, out loud to him. He seems to enjoy it: he seems to like just watching my face make words. It's good for me, too; reading aloud forces me to slow down a little and pay attention to words rather than paragraphs. So far we've read quite a bit of the Earth's Children series (skipping the smutty parts), and a lot of Dorothy Parker, although I can only read her in small doses without getting depressed. I know that in not too much time, we'll be reading children's books, Sandra Boynton, Dr. Seuss. I'm making time with adult literature while I still can...

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Tooth

For three weeks, he thought it was a sinus infection. Don gets those fairly frequently, and deals with them in the time-tested way: wait it out and maybe it will just go away on its own.

For the last two weeks or so, I've been telling him-- gently, at first, then less gently-- that his breath was bad, that something was wrong with his mouth, and that he might need to see a dentist. It was that sickly sort of halitosis that lingers even after brushing.

For about the last week, he noticed what felt like an earache, but contributed it to the sinus issue.

Tuesday evening, he came home with his face all puffy, and said that it seemed to be a tooth, after all. I agreed and called him Ed for the rest of the night, because with his chubby cheek he looked a bit like Ed Norton. He decided that he would try to get to a dentist Friday morning and asked me to find one for him the next morning. Preferably one of those that specialize in anesthesiology* and are willing to put patients under for any and all procedures. See, Don, who is afraid of basically nothing, has a fear of the dentist. Although details are scarce, this seems to stem back to his service days and the removal of his wisdom teeth by an unkind army dentist. I think it's safe to say that he hasn't been to a dentist since, and that was twenty years ago.

Yesterday, Robert, Alice and I took our usual morning walk and when we returned, I started my search for a dentist for Don. I had only gotten as far as bringing up the Google page when his truck turned into the drive: he had been sent home from work with instructions to go to the doctor that day. His cheek had morphed from cutely chubby to scarily swollen, and the pain had become unbearable**. I found a dental surgery place, loaded the baby into the car, and we spent the rest of the morning driving and waiting, breastfeeding and waiting, walking about the waiting room, and waiting, while they did who-knows-what to Don's mouth.

Needless to say, after being neglected for so long, the tooth was not salvageable and had to be 'extracted'. There is also quite a bit of other work that needs to be done ASAP in order to keep this from happening again soon. So let this be a lesson to you procrastinators and those fearful of various doctors and dentists. Go. Just go. Otherwise, you will eventually be forced to go while in tremendous pain, and it will be much worse.

Don insisted that I drop him back off at work after the procedure, instead of taking him home. I'm not sure if this was sheer stupidity, badass-ness, or some combination. I reminded him not to lift anything heavy, climb ladders, or operate machinery, and to call me when he was ready to come home. He's actually in a very good mood... I'm not sure if this is because he finally did what he'd been dreading and got through it, or because for the first time in almost a month he didn't have a bad headache, toothache, or earache, or simply because of the hydrocodone he's on.

*****************************************************

*I spelled that right on the first try. Am so proud.
**Don bears pain incredibly well, so that is saying something. Unbearable for him means "anyone else would have passed out by now".

Saturday, August 29, 2009

She's Lightning McQueen, I'm 'Mater

Last night I tried to make one of Rachel Ray's "30 minute meals" for dinner. The pasta was yummy (yum-o?), but the timing... 30 minutes MY ASS. I guess cooking is like getting your tires changed. Technically, your tires could be replaced in like 30 seconds if you were a race-car driver with your own pit crew. But most of us have to go to Sears and wait at least an hour. Rachel Ray is the race-car driver. Her Food Network set kitchen is the pit crew. I'm the poor shmuck wandering around the mall, waiting for Sears to call me and tell me my car is ready. I mean, in my kitchen it takes 20 minutes just to bring enough water to a boil to cook a pound of pasta, not to mention the 10 minutes to boil the noodles themselves. That's half an hour right there, not including mixing it into the sauce, pouring the whole shebang into a casserole dish, topping it with the Special Crunchy Topping, and putting it into the oven for awhile. Assuming that you have everything together enough to get the sauce and the topping done while the pasta is cooking, it's still more like a 45-minute meal.

I think her water must be pre-heated, because she turns on the stove and-- BAM!-- water is boiling just like that. She chops her veggies, but the onions and garlic are already peeled, everything is washed, and somehow she magically takes exactly the amount of everything she needs from the fridge-- no searching for a Tupperware to house the leftover frozen spinach or the other half of the chopped onion. Little things, but sure makes a difference when you're trying to replicate her results.

I don't know whether to be annoyed at her efficiency, or to try to turn my kitchen into my own speedy pit crew...

On a similar note, I made a banana-cream pie from scratch, that I'm very proud of. I haven't made a pudding not out of a box since maybe high school. The eggs came from our own back-yard flock-- all three of the non-lame girls are laying now. The yolks were bright orange and made the filling the same color as the additive-filled Jello stuff. Kind of makes me think that if those folks used higher-quality eggs, they wouldn't need to add yellow food coloring to their vanilla pudding. Anyway, it was easy, and delicious. If I could find a way to nix the Nilla wafers and their evil ingredients, I'd be really happy, but apparently it just isn't a banana-cream pie without either a wafer or a graham-cracker crust...

Friday, August 28, 2009

I don't even own an apron

It's official: I no longer have a job. I quit the bank last week, turned in my keys and alarms. I am now, for lack of a better description, a stay-at-home mom. Really, you'd think the house would be cleaner. A few people have expressed interest in how we can afford to make this decision, but to be honest, with what I was making and the cost of daycare, it wouldn't put us that much ahead if I kept working. (It would be different if I were in a job that I loved, that spoke to me or fulfilled me in some way-- in that case, it would be worth it to go back to work even if we just broke even with it. But that is not the case.) The real bank-breaking decision is not my staying home, it was to have a baby in the first place. Since having a baby was non-negotiable, we'll make this work out, somehow.

In other news, Robert is three months old as of yesterday. Three months feels significant to me, not least because it marks three successful months of breastfeeding. Successful, as in, we're still doing it. Robert has had nothing but the boob-juice (as Don and I so elegantly call it) since coming home from the hospital, and it seems to be working OK as far as keeping him alive and growing, as he's still resting comfortably on the highest line on the growth charts. I've grown a prize pumpkin, or perhaps a lumberjack. Breastfeeding is better than it was, almost to the point of being good. The last bout of thrush seems to have cleared up, although I'm still doing the vinegar rinses, pro-biotics, and garlic supplements to keep it that way. We don't have a feeding pattern, the way we did earlier when he would nurse every two-three hours. Now, sometimes he goes five or six hours between feeds, only to make up for it later by nursing every hour for awhile. It's unpredictable. Word has it, though, that everything regarding breastfeeding is easier after three months. Here's hoping! At the very least, I hope it will never again be as awful as those first six weeks or so.

(I want to sell him to Gerber or Pampers, but Don won't let me.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Farmers' Market


Tying Robert into the Mei Tei carrier, in the parking garage. I wish this picture were clearer (and not taken into the light) so that the pretty pattern on the Mei Tei showed up better.

This is a crepe stand across the street from the market. You'd basically never know it was there unless you knew it was there, if you know what I mean. Or, if you just happened to see a long line of people waiting for crepes, and walked over to investigate.


I don't think the French look like this when they eat crepes... It's hard to imagine an elegant Parisian doing this. I'm not including the photos Don took of my face all covered in the Nutella filling.

Sometimes, he doesn't LIKE being in the carrier.


Most of the time, though, he's fine with it. His hair makes a funny pattern on the back of his head-- it's all in the middle! Note the mandatory Farmers' Market iced mocha.



Contrary to what it looks like, I am checking out the tomatoes in this picture, not the ass of the girl next to me. Honestly, they have a dozen different tomatoes!
I think next time, I'll make Don wear Robert so that I can take pictures, instead. Not that I'm a great photographer (far from it), but he takes point-and-click entirely literally.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Loving Hands

Most kids have some kind of 'lovey' object, a stuffed toy or a blanket that they won't sleep without. My sister, brother and I each did, certainly. So far, Robert seems to feel that way about my left hand. When he's fussy and over-tired, this is how he finally settles down:




Part of me looks forward to the inevitable transfer to some special toy. Most of me, though, does not. It's such a short period of time when we are everything they need and want...

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Hospital Experience, Part II

The things I didn't care for regarding the hospital can be divided into two categories: the systemic and the organizational. By systemic, I mean those things that are done because... that's how they are done;that, to get around them, one would have to sign an "against medical advice" waiver. By organizational, I just mean those times when it seemed like the left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing.

To be admitted to Labor and Delivery, one should be at least three centimeters dilated, or with water already broken. This makes sense in theory, since it keeps women from coming in too soon. My issue was that I had a scheduled doctors' appointment the morning I went into labor. My contractions started about 5:00am, and I was at the OB's office by 11. At first they freaked out a bit, because I happened to have a contraction right as the nurse was taking my blood pressure, so my BP readings, which had always been in the low-normal range, were way off. The doctor rushed in and started rapid-firing all of the Pre-Eclampsia questions: headache/ blurred vision/ vomiting/ etc?-- but I assured him I was fine, had merely had a contraction right at that moment. He re-checked it and it was back to my usual 110/68. I asked for a cervical check, to see if this was "real labor" (as I mentioned previously, I never did lose my mucus plug and my water never broke), and my doctor determined that I was three centimeters dilated, with the baby totally posterior. He asked about the timing of my contractions, which at that time were all over the place, and said that once they became regular, 3-4 minutes apart, I should call back in. Well, they became regular during the five-minute drive back home. I timed them: every three minutes. I hung out at home for maybe an hour, called Don home, called the doctors' office. They made me come back to the office for another "check" before sending me to the hospital. I pointed out that I'd been there not two hours ago, and had already been declared 3 cm, but apparently there was nothing in their protocol that allowed for such inconsistencies in the routine. So, even though I'd been checked at 11:00 by The Bad, I had to go back at 1:00 to be checked by The Good, since he was the one who'd be delivering me, and THEN drive from there to the hospital. (Which, OK, is basically across the street, but still. In the three minutes it took to find a parking space, I had two contractions in which the baby turned completely around*, and it hurt like hell.)

Robert's extra time in the Special Care nursery was pure CYA on the hospital's part. They held him until they were absolutely sure that he didn't have an infection of some sort, particularly Group B Strep. From what I understand, the antibiotics I was on during labor, while drastically reducing the odds that he would contract the strep, also made it very difficult to diagnose an infection should he get it anyway. The doctors never said this explicitly, since it would make the antibiotics look questionable, but its what I pieced together from their explanations. Since Robert was breathing very fast and had a somewhat elevated temperature, the doctors weren't taking any chances. I understand why they do that, but it was pretty obvious after his first day in the nursery that Robert was perfectly healthy-- his breathing had dropped to mostly normal, no fever or anything-- and his being there wreaked havoc on my post-partum emotional state and on our breastfeeding relationship.

The organizational problems were things like nobody being able to come up with a breast pump for me during the time that Robert was not able to eat (breathing so fast that it was an aspiration risk; IV only); a nurse forgetting to bring me my (desperately needed) Ibuprofen; my previously-described hospital-discharge fiasco; and the three-hour bath. A few hours after the birth, as I was rolling from the delivery room to maternity, my nurse offered to take Robert to the nursery for a bath. I agreed, mostly because his hair was still caked with dried blood. I didn't see him again for three hours. If I'd known that ahead of time, I would have kept his grotty little head with me, instead. Apparently, newborns have to be 'warmed up' under heat lamps to a certain temperature before the nurses can strip them down and bathe them, then re-warmed before being returned to their mothers. I ended up calling for him repeatedly on the little intercom: "Yes, this is Room ___, the nurses took my baby for a bath? But that was ninety minutes ago? Can you tell them to bring him back?" Had I been able, I would have simply marched down to the nursery and retrieved him, or hung out there while he was bathed and warmed, but I was still totally bed-bound at that point.**

So, there it is: the less-than-pleasant aspects of giving birth in the hospital. The whole experience is still tilted in their favor, all things considered.

*************************************************
*I could tell partly because up until then, all of the contraction pain had been in my back; these two were all over the place, and from then on the pain was much more "in front". Also, the next time I was checked at the hospital, the baby was no longer posterior.

**Three hours later, with Robert safely at my side, I got out of bed and went to the bathroom all by myself. This is something I never thought I'd have to be proud of, but it took heroic effort and planning.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Hospital Experience

Yes, I'd say that, overall, I am happy with the care that Robert and I received at the hospital. I say this as somebody that originally wanted a midwife-attended homebirth, one fairly suspicious of the whole hospital methodology; a lot of publications imply (or say right out) that in order to have a 'natural' birth in a hospital setting, you have to fight hard for it. I did not find that to be true. There were a few things that were irksome, but they seemed mostly a matter of organization. So, the things that were good, in no particular order:

--The nurses are very pro-movement during labor; there's no tendency to try to keep the laboring woman on the bed. "Do whatever helps" seems to be their mantra. My nurse suggested walking around, squatting on a birth ball (they did seem rather inordinately proud of their birth balls, I wonder if they're new or something), kneeling, and going to hands and knees near the end, when I was almost fully dilated but still had a "lip" of cervix in the way.

--The jacuzzi tub. This is probably what made the difference between being able to get through the first stage of labor with no painkillers, and needing an epidural. I spent more than four straight hours in that tub. (And, they never run out of hot water...) The nurse came by periodically to check on me and on the baby (with a hand-held Doppler), but other than that just left me alone, which was what I needed. If I have my next baby at that hospital, it will be because of the tubs more than anything, probably.

--I was asked on arrival whether I thought I'd be wanting an epidural, and I said no. Nobody ever offered me one again. My nurse explained afterwards that she knew that I knew that I only had to ask should I change my mind, so why offer? There was simply no mention of painkillers until after Robert was born, when I needed some for the stitching.

--Nobody ever suggested speeding up the labor. This seems to be the biggest complaint against hospital procedure, that they push the Pitocin too much. I don't know if it's because I was progressing nicely every time we checked, or because my water hadn't broken, or if my timing was just particularly good: I arrived shortly before a mid-afternoon shift change, and delivered well before that shift was over. Robert was born somewhere around 8:00pm, so it could just be that we were being convenient. Or maybe this hospital just doesn't have a policy of pitting patients that haven't truly stalled. All I know is that I came in expecting to have to defend myself against the Evil Pit, and it never came up.

--Every procedure done prior to the birth was framed as an option, not a requirement. The nurse never said, "We're going to check your dilation now", it was always, "If you like, we can check to see how you're doing, but it's up to you". Once I got to transition, she went over with me what I wanted to happen immediately post-birth: place the baby on my belly, delay cord-clamping, all that. (Did I mention that my carefully crafted Birth Plan was still in the car, with the rest of The Bag?) Of course it all went out the window with the shoulder dystocia-- the cord was cut immediately and Robert rushed away-- but from talking with other women who've delivered at this hospital, I don't doubt that without that circumstance, it would have happened as discussed. I do like that they never took the baby from the room or out of my sight, even though he couldn't be with me immediately.

--My obstetrician was fine. The practice that I use has three OBs, which I think of as The Great, The Good, and The Bad; he is The Good. I do think that he was getting a bit frustrated or annoyed with me towards the end, since I basically screamed non-stop for the better part of an hour while trying to avoid the pain (and therefore not progressing)-- I remember thinking at one point, "who cares, dude, this is MY party"-- but Don said that he seemed chagrined once he saw what I had been dealing with. I have to take his word for it, I neither noticed nor cared. The doc did what he was there to do, left the touchy-feely part to the nurse, and did a meticulous job sewing me together again.

--The way the dystocia was handled. Had I not already known what it means for shoulders to get stuck (and what it can lead to), I might not have even noticed what was happening; they were so calm, focused, organized, and fast. Anti-drama. I can easily see how somebody in my situation could have missed it entirely, up until the rest of the baby was born and the pediatric team took over.

--The nursery nurses were amazing; they deserve their own post, or some brownies or something. Actually, all of the nurses-- labor & delivery, post-partum, and baby nurses-- were fantastic; they're kind of a local legend here. The baby nurses really seemed to understand just how special MY baby was*. Since Robert spent an extra two days in the hospital as well as the last day of my stay, I think I saw more of the nurses than one usually would, and they were so nice to me.

--Every nurse except one was able to help me with the breastfeeding, in addition to the hospital's lactation consultants that came by periodically. This was good since it did not seem to come naturally to either of us. I didn't get any bad advice from them, nor were any of them pushy or invasive, which I understand to be the main complaint against hospital nurses and LCs in regards to breastfeeding.

*************************************************************
*I also think that they liked him because he was an anomaly; every other baby in the Special Care Nursery was premature-- tiny, red, and in need of a lot of care-- while he was this big, chubby, mellow guy that was clearly healthy and merely needed observation. He was literally twice the size of any of the other babies there, happily basking under his heat lamp, equally OK with breastfeeding or taking a bottle. They kept playing with his hair, styling it into a little baby-Hawk...

I'll outline what I didn't like about being in a hospital next time...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Birth Story, from the moment of crowning.

I really want to hear your birth story. Shoulders rarely truly get stuck. --
ayla


I was answering in the comments, but it got ridiculously long. I still don't seem to be up for writing the whole birth story, but I can jump to this part:

I'd been pushing for about half an hour, maybe forty minutes. The nurse had positioned something called a squat bar over the bed and tied a sheet to it, so that I could pull on the sheet in a way that repositioned me a bit. It really seemed to be helping to bring the baby down, which had been the obstacle so far. She was very excited, and told me she could see "lots of hair"* and that I was almost there. I couldn't tell her that at this point, the baby felt like an afterthought and I just wanted the pain to be over. I got to the point of the famous 'ring of fire' and was actually, literally afraid that I was getting ripped in half. (The nurse told me later that it was at the moment of crowning that she realized Robert was a larger-than-average baby.) Somebody-- the nurse? Don? the doctor?-- exclaimed that the head was out! I remember wondering, why the pain hadn't lessened at all yet. Then my doctor said, "shoulders stuck". Suddenly, everything seemed to stand still and speed up, at the same time. My focus snapped back from myself to the baby. The doctor or nurse must have hit an emergency button, because a team of medical personnel rushed into the room. The room felt very quiet, and very focused. The doctor asked me to stop pushing for a minute-- he repositioned my legs slightly-- then told me to push as hard as possible-- simultaneously, the nurse sort of pushed on my abdomen from the outside-- it was this kind of rolling motion-- while the doctor reached inside me to reposition the baby (felt about as pleasant as it sounds, but I wasn't caring)-- then the whole baby rushed out. He was covered in blood (mine, but for some reason I thought it was his) and they rested him on my stomach for an instant, just long enough for me to try to grab at him-- my hands were all bloody for some time afterwards. The nurse exclaimed that he was huge, I asked "so he's a boy, then?", she said that she actually couldn't see and asked the doctor, who confirmed, a boy. Just as quickly, before I could do more than touch him, the baby nurses and pediatrician hurried him to the back of the room and started checking him over.

The whole time elapsed between Robert's head emerging and the rest of him being born was easily less than a minute, and yet I can remember each fraction of that minute as though it were an hour, like a car crash. It was probably less than another minute later, that the baby team on the other side of the room confirmed that he was just fine, no nerve damage or anything else. Robert was bawling by this point, and I was too.

Everything after that point was clean-up. The nurse added some Pitocin to my IV (I was on intravenous antibiotics for Group B strep); I delivered the placenta; the doctor called for the materials he'd need to start the stitches. He informed me that I'd suffered third-degree lacerations and that it would take him some time to get me "put back together". Gave me two shots of a local anaesthetic since I hadn't had an epidural and started sewing, but for some reason when he got to a certain point I could feel it. I was still screaming and crying, partly because I was still in tremendous pain, partly just from being totally overwhelmed. I could hear Robert crying from his end of the room (they never took him out of the delivery room, everything was right there) and was irrationally worried that they were going to do something to him that I hadn't authorized (I don't know what-- a quick circumcision, maybe, or the Hep B shot?-- but I was not exactly rational at this moment.) I kept asking Don to go over to that side of the room and be with Robert, but he wouldn't leave my side, said that the baby was in good hands. At this point, I got the shakes and realized that I was freezing-- my hospital gown, pillows, everything was drenched in sweat, but I hadn't noticed; thankfully, the nurse did. She tried to change my gown and pillows without moving me too much, since the doctor was still parked at the other end of the bed with the needle. The baby team finished up with Robert, bundled him up in a blanket, and handed him to Don. Don brought him over to the bed, but there was no way I could hold him, I was shaking like mad. The nurse tentatively offered me a general painkiller that could go in my IV-- something morphine-like-- that was very fast-acting, would warm me up, and leave my system just as quickly. I accepted, explaining that the baby was out and it was only him that I didn't want drugged. I'd take whatever she had! Almost as soon as she added the opiate to my IV, I could feel it take effect; it was as though the room had suddenly gotten much warmer, as though I were under a warm blanket. I could still feel the very weird sensation of the surgical thread being pulled through the stitches, but not any pain. I relaxed, stopped shaking, stopped crying. I noticed Don in a chair holding the baby; they seemed to be in deep conversation.

Finally, after about forty minutes, my doctor finished sewing. He put the end of the bed back on so that I could stretch out, and Don brought the baby to me. The nurse asked if I wanted to try to put him to the breast, since he was awake, and we tentatively tried nursing for the first time. Somewhere during that time, the doctor shook my hand and Don's, and left. The nurse went to try to find me some real food, since the cafeteria had closed by then. She brought back a salad, talked about the labor and birth with me a little bit (post-game analysis, you know); mopped up some of the blood on the floor, brought the placenta over for me to see, walked me to the bathroom. After all this, she said that we could try moving from the delivery room to the room I'd be staying in until we left.

Shoulder dystocia occurs in 0.6 to 1.4 percent of births of babies between 5 pounds 8 ounces and 8 pounds 13 ounces. The occurrence jumps to between 5% to 9% of babies in the 8 lb 13 oz-- 9 lb 14 oz range**. Robert was 10 pounds. While his head circumference was in the normal range at 14", his chest circumference (14.5") was both larger than average, and somewhat unusual in that it was bigger than his head. I didn't have any of the risk factors for shoulder dystocia (gestational diabetes, maternal short stature, past-due pregnancy), nor any of the labor risk factors, like a forceps delivery, but Robert's size alone made us susceptible.

His size was also a big surprise, to everybody. My obstetricians had estimated a birth weight of about eight and a half pounds at our last ultrasound, three weeks before the event. I had no trouble believing it. There is no history of big babies in our families. Looking back, I don't know whether or not I would have wanted to know ahead of time, that he was going to be that big. It may have affected my belief in whether or not I could do this natural-no-drugs delivery; it may have affected my doctor's treatment of the birth. I suppose it could be argued that the doctor would have been better prepared for dystocia had he suspected a big baby, but I don't see how the process could have been any smoother: they worked like a machine as it was, with no notice at all. I think it was for the best that we all went into the birth expecting an eight-pounder, and getting the other two pounds as a bonus, so to speak.

Robert only ever lost 8 ounces of his birth weight, and had already started gaining it back by the time he was discharged from the hospital. (The pediatrician looks from the scale to me and says, "Well, I guess I don't need to ask you if your milk has come in yet!") At 11 weeks, he is still at the very top of the growth charts for both weight and length, so it doesn't seem to be a fluke so far; he is just a big dude.

*This is Robert at two days, so she wasn't kidding!

** I read somewhere that the average head circumference of ten-pound babies is not any larger than the average head circumference of eight-pound babies; the extra weight is all in the body. This is probably why the potential for problems during delivery of the chest and shoulders increases with larger babies.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Placentas and Mucus Plugs

Supposedly, there are several ways to know for sure that labor has started and the baby is finally on the way. I guess they're just a loose guideline, though, because none of them happened to me before Robert's birth. The obvious one is The Water Breaking, that's the event in every movie and sitcom featuring a birth. It's always shown as the very first sign, even before a contraction, although that's hardly the way it really happens for most women. Losing the mucus plug is the other Big Sign of Impending Birth, although that one is rarely mentioned in media, probably because it sounds so gross. Well, my water never broke, and I never lost my mucus plug; I just had contractions. That was my only indication that the baby was on his or her way. When I was about eight centimeters dilated, the doctor offered to break the amniotic sac for me, to 'speed things up a bit'. Don says that the doctor asked me several times about the 'plug', although I don't remember this. (I think there's probably a lot that I don't remember about the birth, to be honest.) He says that they asked me a few times, I kept telling them that it never came out, and then (apparently) they found it... I still don't know why they needed to know.

After the birth, once Robert had been thoroughly examined and I'd been stitched up and we were finally back together again, the nurse offered to show me my placenta. Generally, I despise trying to divide populations into neat groups, but in this case I think it's safe to say that people can be deposited into one of two camps: those that do not want to look at or even think about the placenta-- throw it into the medical waste bin and be done with it-- and those that are curious and want to see it. (Then there are those that want to take it home and eat it, but that's a whole 'nother category, I guess.) I definitely fall into the wants-to-see group. I mean, I grew this thing; it was the bridge between me and my baby for the last six months. To think that women grow this entire organ, in such a short time period, and it's disposable. It amazes me. For a long time, I seriously doubted my ability to grow a healthy placenta. One of the pregnancies that I lost (August 2007, AKA "the one with a heartbeat") went wrong right about the time when the placenta should have started taking over, and that was after we'd seen an embryo with a beating heart. The odds of miscarrying in those circumstances are very low, so I suspected a bad placenta or cord. This is pure supposition on my part, not based on anything the doctors told me, so it could all be in my head. But all through my pregnancy with Robert, I worried about our placenta and cord. The ultrasound techs probably thought I was a bit odd, because at each ultrasound, after determining that the baby was developing perfectly, I'd ask about the placenta and the umbilical. I'd ask them to show me where they were, confirm that they were perfect, too. Naturally, I wanted to see it afterwards.

It was interesting, larger than I would have expected, but then Robert himself was larger than expected. What really took me by surprise, though, was the amniotic sac, the so-called "bag of waters" that breaks-- or doesn't-- during labor. It was so much stronger and thicker than I expected. I guess I was expecting plastic wrap, and it was more like a zip-top freezer bag. The nurse showed it to us, actually lifted the whole placenta (which seemed to weigh a couple of pounds) by the sac, it was that strong. I think that if the obstetrician hadn't sliced it, the sac wouldn't have broken until the moment of birth (or, in our case, several long, terrifying minutes of birth), and that if we hadn't had the additional complication of the baby's shoulders getting stuck, he might have been born in it.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Can't Deny Him

Robert bears a great resemblance to Don. It's in the shape of his face, his eyes, his fair coloring, even at times in his expressions. Don says, poor kid. I say, rubbish. After all, why would I reproduce with someone, if I didn't want to see their genes represented? Naturally, everybody that sees Robert and knows Don, feels the need to comment on the similarity, which is fine. What I don't get-- what really bothers me-- is this: "Well, Don, there's no denying this baby!" and its many variants. What the hell?


First of all, how is my baby's parentage up for discussion, in any way, shape, or form? Is it my faithfulness that you're questioning, or Don's virility? Do you routinely speculate along these lines about babies who are born into happy, monogamous marriages? It just boggles my mind that this is considered an appropriate comment for casual conversation. Second, what if Robert didn't happen to be Don's doppelganger? What if he looked nothing like Don; if he looked, for example, more like me? Does that mean that Don could deny him? Can men look at their new babies and say, "Sorry, he doesn't resemble me closely enough, therefore I do not accept him as my own?" I hardly think so, especially in this day of paternity tests and child support. It's like there's this implication that men have the option of denying their children's existence.


Lastly, for all of those who can only see Don in Robert, check out this picture of my brother as a little boy:
Clearly, some of my family's genes are being expressed, as well, and I strongly suspect they'll get more obvious as Robert gets older...

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Not a good morning so far.

Apparently, the pediatrician can only treat Robert, not me. This is news to me, since they did treat us both the last time. I did not receive a call back from them, and by the time I called again and got through to somebody, it was too late to call my OB's office (they close a lot earlier than the pediatrician). So now, I'm waiting for a call from a doctor's office, AGAIN, having left a message requesting the prescription. It's so much like yesterday, it may as well be the same day. My nipples hurt. Robert's mouth is a disgusting mess, and he's off his usual sunny form. I can't start him on his prescription until I get mine, since they should be done concurrently.

Last night, Robert would not sleep. Usually, he falls right back to sleep after (or during) a feeding. Not last night. He wasn't crying, really, just fussing: whimpering, grunting, kicking and waving. Just enough to keep me from sleeping, either. Not nearly enough to keep Don up, of course. Because of that, I stayed in bed longer than I meant to this morning. Having no air conditioning in my car to speak of, if I want to get out of the house at all during the day, I have to go early, before the car heats up too much. (It's not so much the outside temperatures, which I can handle pretty well as a born-and-bred Texan, but the added green-house effect of the car itself. I worry for the baby.) We had to skip our daily walk (sorry, Alice) and trip to our favorite coffee house. I decided on a route that would take us to Shenandoah Joe's instead (another great coffee place), then Whole Foods, then Harris Teeter. (I know it's fussy to use two different grocery stores, but that's how it is. I like getting produce, fish, and meats from WF; paper goods, pet food, and stuff like that from the other.) The problem with Joe's is that their parking lot is very small, and there is no other place to park. We drive there, find no place to leave the car, so I have to go on. Decide to hit up Starbucks instead, as it's quite close to Whole Foods. Finally reach Starbucks, park the car, and... realize that I left my purse (wallet, money, drivers' license, everything) at home. Swear copiously. Turn around and head for home. Have I mentioned that it's like 90 degrees out? Because it is.

Drive all the way back home, run inside, grab stupid purse. Since we're starting from scratch, now, decide to try Joe's again. This time, there's a parking spot, thank goodness. Things start to look better with an iced mocha. (Have I mentioned that I haven't, at this point, had any coffee or any breakfast yet?) Decide to scratch HT's and just do Whole Foods as quickly as possible. Hope that they have something called Gentian Violet, a topical remedy for thrush. They do not. Robert, who has been a model citizen up until this point, loses it in the checkout line. I'm carrying him in the Mei tei, and he's having no more of it. Aside: you know what's funny? There seems to be an inverse relationship between how much help somebody needs, and how much is offered. I've had people offer to let me cut in line ahead of them, ("because your hands are so full!") when Robert is sleeping peacefully in the Mei Tei. Checkers and baggers offer me help out to my car when I only have a few items. But when the baby is screaming, or I have a forty-pound bag of kibble to wrestle with, everybody seems to look the other way. I don't get it.

Anyway. Whoever had been in line front of me had apparently left to grab something, leaving her goods on the conveyor belt. Three little things: a candy bar and two tubs of convenience food. For some reason, the check-out guy is dithering and worrying about where she went and what to do with her foodstuffs. Have I mentioned the screaming baby in my arms, yet? For God's sake, man, just set her little purchase aside, and ring me up! She left the line, that's her problem. It's not as though we're talking about a cart full of food, here.

Now we're back home, obviously, and I'm trying to regain some kind of good mood. Robert is already there. The poor little guy is such a cheerful one by nature, that he tries to smile even when he's upset. Now, recently fed and cool again, he is smiling and having a discussion with the ceiling fan. (I do not know whether the fan talks back, or whether it matters.) I am a morning person, and the downside to that is, if I miss the morning or it doesn't go well, then my whole day feels shot. It probably doesn't help that I hate this time of year. August is my least favorite month; all I can do is put my head down and power through it.

I'm giving my OB one more hour to call me back, before I start calling them again.

Dinner last night was funny, because it was non-meat for the second day in a row. Not for any intentional reason, it just worked out that way; pasta with pesto and veggies the night before, then quesadillas with cheese, onion, and peppers last night. Usually I put chicken in the quesadillas, but didn't have any handy. I was a bit worried about whether Don would like them, whether they'd be enough for him*, but he scarfed them down with compliments. Then as we were cleaning up, he mentioned that they could have "used a bit more chicken". I said, "you mean, could use some chicken, period? Because these didn't have any..." It just goes to show the power of suggestion: because Don expected there to be chicken in the quesadilla, he didn't notice that it was missing. And he'd already gone on about how yummy they were, and that he was quite full, etc. Ha.


*Don = carnivore. Me = omnivore. Robert = lactivore. hehehe.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Arrrrgh...

Well, we have thrush... again. Breastfeeding: it is so fun, I don't understand why everybody isn't doing it! I noticed that I was in a good bit of pain again with the nursing, and did what I always do when faced with a possible medical problem: ignore it and hope it gets better all by itself. Unfortunately, it got worse and not better, then the Evil White Spots of Doom showed up in poor Robert's mouth to make him miserable. I can't take the laissez-faire approach with Robert; when he's sick we call the doctor. I'm waiting for the pediatricians' office to call me back regarding medicines... Apparently there is a bit of confusion as to whether or not they are supposed to treat me as well as Robert. They did last time, so I assumed that they could again, but the nurse on the phone wasn't sure. (Thrush is a lovely "shared" experience between a nursing pair; there's not much point in treating the baby but not the mother, or vice versa, because the untreated will simply re-infect the other.) I might have to call my obstetrician, instead. Will they want to see me, or can they simply call in the medication? They'd pretty much have to take my word for it, that it hurts to nurse, and hurts in-between times, too. Why the heck would I want a prescription for a systemic antifungal, unless to treat a yeast infection? It's not as though I'm looking for painkillers or something. What I do not want to have to do: load my unhappy baby into his car seat and drive to the doctors' office on this hot, sunny day, when I don't have air conditioning in my car. I want somebody, anybody, to call in two prescriptions for Diflucan, and for Don to pick them up on his way home from work. For awhile, I was taking probiotics religiously, and garlic pills, but I got lax about them as we started to feel better last time. I think we're both still a bit unbalanced from the intravenous antibiotics I had to be on during labor and delivery; Don doesn't understand this since it was over two months ago, but I tried to explain that if you kill off all of your happy, healthy, "good" bacteria, it doesn't just grow back overnight, and they're the bugs that keep everything else, like yeasts, in check. On the bright side, I don't feel the deep pain in my breasts like I did last time, and I don't see any signs of a yeast-based diaper rash in Robert (indicating that it's in his gut as well as his mouth), so maybe the thrush isn't as established this time as it was before.

Two more television-themed observations: One, I know I'm watching too much TV during the daytime, because the info-mercial type products are becoming more and more interesting. Suddenly, I want to buy a Sham-wow. I want that kit that fixes the dings in my car, and that thingie that cleans the inside of the windshield-- like a sponge on a swivel-y stick. The funny thing is that, until Don gets home, I'm usually only watching about 10-15 minutes at a time, every 2-3 hours (i.e., when the baby is nursing); the Internet tends to be my drug of choice. I guess it doesn't take that much exposure, or else I'm unusually responsive to advertising. Speaking of which, Robert nurses for about ten minutes at a time. The Weather Channel broadcasts local weather every ten minutes. I am always familiar with our local forecast these days. Second, doesn't it suck when, having both a decent DVD collection and cable, a movie comes on cable that you have on DVD, and you end up watching it on TV? Already half over, with scenes left out, words bleeped, and commercial breaks? I hate that! And yet it happens all the time, especially with Don. For some reason, it's fine to watch two-thirds of a movie on cable, but it's too much of a commitment to go ahead and get out the DVD. I don't get it, especially because a lot of our favorite movies play like an auditory Mad-Libs game on cable. Fill in the following blanks: " Up yours, ________!" "You use your mouth prettier'n a twenty dollar _____!" Can you tell that we watched part of Blazing Saddles last night?

Well, I must go swallow a couple of probiotic capsules and stare at my cell phone, willing the nurse to call.

Friday, July 31, 2009

How to Apologize

(a lost art in our society?)

Here's what not to do: don't apologize, while simultaneously rejecting responsibility. Do not say. "I'm sorry about that.... of course, it's not MY fault." For one thing, if you have nothing to do with it, why are you in the position of having to apologize in the first place? Think about that, it doesn't make sense. Second, whomever you are apologizing to likely doesn't care whose fault it is.

I've had this happen twice recently. The first time was upon being discharged from the hospital, following Robert's birth. Now, maybe Don and I did something wrong, didn't follow some un-written procedure, I don't know; I have never been admitted to a hospital before. But somehow, we managed to leave without getting any of the prescriptions my OB had written for me. (I had a lot, because the birth was pretty complicated: an antibiotic, a stool softener, prescription-strength ibuprofen, and Percocet.) I didn't think about it until later, but we were returning to the hospital every two hours anyway, so that I could breastfeed Robert*, so when I saw my OB behind the nurses' station, I said, "You know, I never got those scrips you wrote, could I have them now?" (Basically the only one I really wanted was the stool softener, because I didn't realize it was the same as the over-the-counter ones. I didn't think I needed the abx, and definitely wasn't going to be taking the painkillers.) Oy, the drama that then ensued. Apparently, Percocet is a controlled substance, and now they had a prescription for it floating around loose somewhere. He could only re-write the other ones. He apologized for the inconvenience, but said, very definitely, that this was "not his fault". OK, one, obviously it's at least partly his fault. Otherwise, see above: why are we having this conversation**? Second, I am standing here in the hospital, exhausted, in tremendous pain, an emotional wreck because my baby can't come home with me. I DON'T CARE whose fault it is, do I? I just want the meds I'm supposed to take. If I'd actually wanted the perc, I'd probably have thrown a fit right then and there.

Anyway, I'd more or less put that incident out of my mind, until dinner the other night. Don and I went to Chili's, and got some pretty terrible service. Not that I expect much from Chili's and its peers in terms of service, but still. Right now they have a "two for $20" deal, in which two people can share an appetizer and a dessert, and each get an "entre", for twenty bucks. Not a bad deal at all. So we ordered our appetizer and meals, and waited. And waited. Our cheese fries were very slow in coming, and we were getting antsy because Robert was awake and getting fussy. Then our meals arrive, still with no appetizer. We ask the girl who brought our dinners (not our server) about it. Before she returns, our server shows up (for the first time since she took our order) with the cheese fries. "Sorry about that, but somebody should have ran these out to you a long time ago", she said. No, YOU should have "run them out" before. I don't care what Chili's policy is about food running***, YOU are our server. Don't put this off on the rest of the staff, and by the way, thanks for the implication that these have been sitting under the warmer lights for the last fifteen minutes. I mean, it's going to be obvious as soon as we try them, anyway, but it's a visual I didn't really need. For whatever it's worth, it's Wednesday night, after nine oclock. The place is not exactly hopping. If she had come by our table at some point after taking our order (maybe to refill our iced teas, since we were sucking on the ice cubes?), she may have noticed that we had no app yet, and gone to check on the kitchen's progress.

What's the point of apologizing-- the very act of taking responsibility for something-- and simultaneously trying to distance oneself from it? It just doesn't work. Be big enough to apologize graciously, whether you think it's "your fault" or not. If something is genuinely out of your hands, whomever you are apologizing to will probably, grudgingly, realize this. They may even say so. I had that happen at the bank a lot; somebody's account would be frozen, or they'd have fraud, or be hit with a gazillion fees, and I would have to apologize as I tried to sort out their problems. I never said, "this isn't my fault, you know". Because to the customer, it is. To them, I was not "Mara", I was "The Bank". Just as the OB is not just Dr Zoidberg, he is The Hospital, and the Chili's waitress is The Restaurant. If you are representing an institution, stop worrying about your personal level of responsibility, and step up to it.

Another thing. "I'm sorry..." has two meanings. One, as discussed above, takes responsibility for some circumstance, e.g. "I'm so sorry your steak was over-cooked, let me compensate you in some way, perhaps with a complimentary dessert." The other, of course, just conveys sympathy; "I'm sorry your birthday cookout got rained out", "I'm so sorry to hear about your diagnosis", etc. People, if somebody is using "I'm sorry" in that second way, do not say, "well, it's not your fault!" If I say, "I'm sorry about your car accident", I know it's not my fault (assuming I wasn't there at the time). I am not apologizing for it-- I am not God. I am merely conveying sympathy, and implying that I mean the first kind of "I'm sorry" is kind of stupid, really. "Thank you" is a much more appropriate response.

***************************************************

*Don't even get me started on how they discharged me, while keeping him. That's a whole different rant.

**How was I supposed to get the scrips, anyway, if he didn't hand them to me? He had clipped them to my chart. Were we supposed to "check out" somewhere, instead of just leaving upon discharge? Was somebody else, a nurse maybe, supposed to formally go over everything? Maybe discharge procedure needs to be part of the hospital tour?

***I've worked at restaurants where the rule is, if there's hot food in the window, whoever's available takes it out ASAP. Period. I know other places have dedicated food runners. Whatever. On a night that slow, she should have been running her own food, regardless.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

TV, con't.

There are a few shows on Food Network that involve handing contestants a bundle of random ingredients, then judging what these hopefuls can create from them. "Chopped" is the show that comes to mind, but I think there are others, or at least, it's also a common practice on "...Next Food Network Star". I really don't understand this. How is what one can make from, say, a tin of anchovies, maple syrup, and ground venison in any way indicative of one's culinary chops? In what real-world scenario would a chef be faced with random, mis-matched foodstuffs, and be forced to use them to feed a crowd? In real life, chefs and home cooks alike tend to plan menus ahead of time, shop for the necessaries, and keep a well-stocked pantry for any incidentals. Even if I have a raid-the-pantry-dinner night, it tends to be based on ingredients that were meant to go together. I could be a fantastic cook, and still have trouble marrying raisins to capers, or beef stock to vanilla ice cream, on the fly. I just don't see how these contests reveal a person's actual culinary abilities.

On all of the home-buying shows on HGTV, potential buyers complain about places that are way nicer than our house. This is very depressing. We have 850-ish square feet, in a very poor layout. (I think that is an adequate amount of space for two-three people, IF it has a neat, nifty floor plan. I could design a place smaller than this one, that would work better.) We have two bedrooms and a very small bathroom. It is sad to see a place twice this size, with a BIG bathroom (like, with a counter around the sink), whose residents are exclaiming that they can't wait to leave this dump. Oh, well. It also always cracks me up that they always discuss "entertaining". Seriously, are Don and I the only people who don't "entertain"? We do "have friends over". The difference is that "entertaining" seems to require a formal dining room, a big kitchen, and a big deck outside, while "having friends over" requires a sofa and delivery pizza. And yet, we are entertained, and entertaining. Huh. Maybe someday we'll grow up and suddenly need to throw a fancy dinner party? Or have cocktails on the deck, instead of beer in the kitchen?

Advertisers tend to aim their commercials at the particular demographics watching X show/channel at Y time. Hence, tons of toy commercials on Nickelodeon, none on MSNBC. I think I tend to have "old person" viewing habits, as I see a lot of commercials for prescription drugs, arthritis creams, and the AARP. Since I've been home with Robert, I've noticed that the advertisers seem to think that anybody watching TV during the day is either (a) unemployed, (b) overweight, or (c) both. So, many commercials for educational opportunities, like online university courses, tech schools, etc; and for weight-loss programs. There are also a lot of "hurt? can't work? call us!"-- type ads for law practices. I feel kind of offended by these assumptions, but then, who does watch TV in the middle of the day? If I had a bit more energy, or a son who didn't need to nurse every two hours, I'd probably not turn it on, either.

What really pisses me off-- especially when I was pregnant-- are the commercials for stuff that I can't actually get where I live. This is not something I experienced until leaving Dallas, because Dallas has everything that might be advertised, ever. But here, Sonic is always advertising their yummy drinks and smoothies. There's no Sonic here. Same for Dairy Queen and their darn blizzardy milkshake things. The Olive Garden. Ace Hardware. I could go on, but for God's sake stop teasing me with extreme closeups of a chocolate milkshake when there isn't a Dairy Queen for several towns down the highway! Bad tv, bad.

Note to self: get Netflix moving again.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Two Months Old

Robert had his two-month doctor visit this morning. I was so tired that I almost drove us to my OBs office, instead of the pediatrician-- they're in adjacent buildings. Robert is, of course, totally perfect. The nurse admired his chunky thigh rolls; the doctor, his precocious head control and overall strength. Naturally, once Robert was naked he peed all over his blanket and spit up on the table. We were just covered in unsavoury liquids by the time the nurse came back to measure him. Isn't 'unsavoury' one of those words that just looks better when spelled all British-style? Anyway. My Chunky Monkey is 14 pounds, 7 ounces today, and 24 1/2 inches long. He seems to be stretching out a bit, as his weight came down from "off the chart" to "90th percentile", while his length went from 90th to 95th. Good grief. I guess I really can stop worrying about whether he's eating enough, huh? To think that I've grown all that good baby on breastmilk alone. Speaking of which (or not), Don really likes Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey flavour (going with the theme here), but he doesn't care for Chubby Hubby. It seems to me as though he ought to enjoy Chubby Hubby, out of principle. Or maybe, that's why he doesn't like it? We started Robert's vaccinations today, having skipped the Hepatitis B series so far: we opted instead for a don't-have-sex lecture*, as they're surprisingly effective at this age, although I hear that changes with adolescence, which is when the vaccine starts to actually make sense. So, first shots, very traumatic, no less for me than for him. We have to go back in a month, for more.

ETA: I saw a baby younger than Robert, when we were at the pediatrician's office. It's the first time since he was born, that I didn't have the youngest baby around... it's a tiny little milestone of sorts, like when you start a new job and for some time you're the newbie, but eventually someone else gets hired.

*Don't worry, we also covered "...and don't share your needles!"

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Finally!

Many weeks after I started looking for the first eggs, we finally have these! The chickens are free-loaders no more. Unfortunately, they've become fully free-ranging birds, so it's almost literally an Easter-egg hunt; they're not laying them in their coop but out in the yard. Now that I know we have layers, I'll have to scour the back yard every day; nothing like an overlooked egg in ninety-degree weather!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Watching Too Much TV

... Because "multi-tasking" is still limited to "changing chanels while breastfeeding."

"HGTV" used to stand for Home and Garden Television. When was the last time they had a gardening show? It's all housing, all the time. The most overused phrase on that channel is "Old World", closely followed by "Tuscan" and "Provencal". I don't think anybody should be allowed to describe any space as any of the above, unless they can either locate Tuscany or Provence on a map of Europe, or prove that they've been there. Painting a wall yellow in no way makes a modern, American dry-wall McMansion somehow resemble an ancient stone farmhouse with two-foot-thick walls.

Meanwhile, the most over-used word on Food Network is "caramelized" and its cohorts. Can't we ever just saute or brown something anymore? Cooking something in a pan on the stove does not automatically mean that it is caramelizing. Sometimes I feel like Inigo Montoya: "I don't think that word means what you think it means!"

The Weather Channel is actually a lot more interesting than one would imagine.

I basically understand commercials for products that help people get more vegetables into their diet, like V-8 and its counterparts. I love most veggies, but most folks barely tolerate them, or at least that's their bad reputation. Also, even for veggie lovers, most vegetables have to be prepared in some way, which takes time and effort. But WTF is up with these new "drink your fruit"-type ads? NOT getting it. One, fruit is delicious all by itself. I know very few people that need to disguise their daily fruit intake as something else just to choke it down. Second, fruit is edible in its totally raw state! No prep, no cooking. Just grab and eat. It's literally no more work than opening one of these new juice drinks. My daily fruit intake during this time of year is limited only by the unfortunate effects of eating too much, if you know what I mean. So what, exactly, is the advantage of these pricey, sugary, low-fiber, plastic-bottled beverages?

Still addicted to NCIS. Thanks to a few marathons, Don is too, now. When I find that I like a show, I like to really get into it: see every episode (preferably in order), understand the back story, get the inside jokes. This is why I love to watch TV shows on DVD (besides the commercial-free-ness): to get the additional content, director's commentary, actor interviews, all that. Yummy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tomato Season

Products of the least-worked veggie garden ever. Don tilled it, I planted it, and then we completely abandoned it for about three months. When I finally had enough energy again to go downstairs and take a look, it was covered in weeds, and loaded with tomatoes! I think I've found a new gardening style: "neglect"! The garden itself is visible out the window, the little patch by the fence. (It has since been weeded and mulched, obviously.)