Wednesday, January 31, 2007

What? Another month gone?

Dear Madame:

I am writing to request a do-over. That is correct: I want the month of January back. I'll do better this time, I promise.

Specifically, I'll learn to write faster. I'll pump more milk in less time. I'll stop eating m&ms. I'll watch less TV. I'll cook dinner more often. I'll exercise more regularly. I'll stop and smell the roses.

Eagerly awaiting your decision,


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Exercise Gives Me Hives

Really. It sounds like a bad excuse to get out of eighth grade gym, doesn't it?

I have exercise induced asthma and exercise induced urticaria. The former is treated with albuterol and the latter is treated with antihistamines (right now Claritin because of breastfeeding, but Zyrtec works best). Unfortunately, I took neither before leaving the house this morning. I'm not sure what I was thinking other than, "I need to get out now before someone needs me."

My lungs didn't get too bad, but about four minutes into my walk, I felt the familiar creepy crawly sensation on my torso and before long the itch had spread down my legs all the way to the soles of my feet. Misery, I tell you.

I pressed on, but I took a shorter walk than originally planned. Still, I logged 5000 steps on my pedometer, which beats the zero I would have logged otherwise. Tomorrow I will take Claritin and albuterol in advance of my departure.

Despite the minor setback, I'm excited to get moving again.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Mama's Got Back

Oy vey.

Today I tried on some pre-pregnancy pants just for kicks. It has been five months after all.




I am turning matronly. There were ripples-- fat bulges-- where my thighs meet my hips. My "touch of stretch" pants are no longer my best friends. They are the enemy.

What did I see today? My butt. Very large. My stomach. Soft. Poochy. My arms. Flabby. Swinging in the breeze. My thighs. Jiggly. My body image. Bad. My spirits. Low.

All this is to say that I have decided that it is time to do something about this. I made a feeble attempt to start a walking program a few weeks ago, but I quit when the temperature dipped and it rained. What a wimp.

But now I've decided that this is war. And I'm going to win.

Truthfully, it should be doable. I'm only about eight to ten pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight, but the distribution of fat around my thighs and tummy have given me a whole new shape that I do not much appreciate. This isn't just about fat distribution and weight, by the way. It is also about feeling better and having some confidence. I used to run marathons. I was strong and toned, and I felt healthy. I want to feel that way again. I don't have to be marathon ready, but I want to feel fit.

I've not been giving myself time to exercise. Everyday feels like a race of sorts: wake at 5:30 with the baby, nurse her, try to get her to sleep with me for a little while, wake with E at 6:30 if J is still out running, fix bottles for daycare, dress children, dress self, nurse baby again, take girls to daycare, drive home, fire up computer, clean breakfast mess, try to write, pump, try to write, throw in a load of laundry, try to write, pump, vacuum, try to write, pump, go get girls, play, nurse baby, fix dinner for E, bath time, reading time, nurse baby, bedtime, try to write*, pump, 11:30 p.m. collapse into bed.

J thinks I should use daycare time for going to the gym, but I feel like daycare time should be work time. I think I'm going to have to get over it once in a while. Mostly I'm going to make myself take a midday walk or run starting immediately. I'm also going to watch what I eat, but not start any defined diet plan as I'm certain I won't stick to it for long, and that will just depress me.

I'm writing this here to keep myself motivated. I hope that by sharing my desire to get fit I will be too shamed to let a little cold and rain dissuade me. I'll post my stats every few days just for the sake of public humiliation.

*Or watch Top Chef, 24, Lost (soon!) or other programs I should really be ignoring.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Five months already

Someone recently told me that the hours go by slowly, but the days pass quickly; that sounds right to me. I find myself longing for a button so I might freeze time and drink her smell, feel that soft skin, and listen to her baby sighs. Of course, there are times I want to fast forward through the bad nights!

What is M doing at five months?

Her gross motor skills are more developed that E's were at this age.* She is sitting pretty well. She flops after a while, but she can support herself well enough to sit by herself (I'm in hover mode, of course). She picks up items and passes them from hand to hand. Last night, she became enraged because I was pumping rather than nursing her (hey! she was the one off schedule!). While I was fumbling with my very sexy and very fancy hands-free-pumping-bra, she managed to get on her hands and knees and actually scooted backward.

She has just started eating a little cereal and fruit. I'm hoping that the addition of solids will keep her milk consumption stable so I don't have to pump more frequently.** So far we have completely rejected rice cereal, accepted oatmeal and happily (just this morning) accepted a wee bit of pears in the oatmeal.

She is still a good humored child. She smiles and giggles throughout much of the day. She babbles to herself. She shrieks in a way that makes me think she is copying her doting big sister.*** She flirts with strangers at the supermarket and grins at cashiers. She laughs at our dogs. She laughs at the birds that come to the feeder outside the kitchen window.

She is not sleeping through the night, and I haven't had the heart to let her cry it out for longer than 20 minutes. It is time, I think. She wakes because she has flipped to her tummy and is mad (yes, she can flip both ways, but she seems unwilling to do this at 3 a.m.), and she wakes and cries for her paci. I'm looking forward to the day she figures out how to get the paci back in her mouth. I will leave them scattered throughout her crib.

I hear her waking from her nap. Must run. The day is going quickly.

*I am guilty of comparing my children to each other and to other children.
**I kept up with her this week. No dipping into my frozen stash!
***Is shrieking in a high pitch hardwired for girls? Did I do this? Did it make my mother a little crazy?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Random Thoughts from the Dairy

I miss the days of being able to drink a glass (or more) of wine whenever I wanted without wondering if I might get the baby drunk.

Nursing bras are pretty comfortable, but not attractive, and certainly not sexy.

I'm worried that the girls are going to look like sad, deflated windsocks when we wean.

I want an apology from all the writers of pregnancy books who cheerily assured this mother-to-be that "breastfeeding melts the pounds away."

I have a fear: what if she uses me as a teether?

I hate pumping.

I'm jealous of the bottle.

I think it is adorable when big sister, E, lifts her shirt and "fweeds" her baby doll.

When M stops nursing long enough to look up and grin at me, I melt.

Sometimes I feel tied down. But I can't imagine stopping.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mushroom Man

I have a talent that is often helpful, but is occasionally just weird. I remember birthdays. For years and years. My best friend in fifth grade who I haven't seen since 1980? December 5. The mother of a friend from second grade? December 24. My first college roommate who I hated with a passion? August 30.

This isn't a bad talent to have--I remember to send birthday cards to friends and family and can be depended upon to send reminders to send birthday cards to my brothers and husband who do not share this talent. However, I have been know to freak people out. Like the clerk at the bank who casually mentioned it was her birthday July 3 one year and who I wished a happy birthday the next year-- I'm pretty sure she thought I was stalking her.

Which brings me to today. Today is the 40th birthday of an ex boyfriend, S, who was the last person I dated before I met J. S was an asshole from the beginning, but it took me a while to figure it out. I thought he was mysterious and worldly. This was probably because I was a senior in college and he was a graduate student, and I found graduate students rather exotic and exciting. It was a short affair: we met at a Halloween party and the relationship was over by the following August.

He criticized everything I did, even the way I put on deodorant. When I had a migraine and said I was nauseous, instead of offering up an icepack he informed me that nauseated was the correct word to use. He noticed when I gained five pounds. He slept with another person and "forgot" to tell me about it until I confronted him. Yes, he was that kind of guy. And here he is intruding on my nice day.

He had one hangup. He didn't want me to look at him while he was disrobed. Actually, he didn't want me to look at it. Maybe he failed to realize that it did not require the sense of sight to realize that he had a wee willy-- just like a little shiitake.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

About the working mom thing. . .

Sometimes I feel like I'm walking a tightrope. On one side, there is family and home. On the other, work and career. There is no safety net; one misstep, and I'll come crashing down. Very rarely do I feel balanced and secure. Most of the time I feel like I do this week, dizzy, bobbling and teetering, about to go over the edge.

On Friday, I decided to keep M with me. Another day pumping and my nipples would never forgive me. I enjoyed that day immensely and even got a small amount done on the next section of the text. That was my last productive day. Here is what has transpired since:

  • The cough E has had for a week started sounding worse over the weekend and she began running a low fever. I decided not to take her to weekend sick child hours because she wasn't acting terribly ill and I don't want to gain a reputation as a neurotic mom. Of course, this meant that by Monday morning she was running a high fever and was on the verge of developing pneumonia. M has started coughing so I'm worried we'll be dealing with this one a bit longer.
  • My mother, while on a church retreat, took ill and required emergency gallbladder surgery. I spent two days talking with my brothers to see which of us would make the trip to be with her during the surgery and take her home. Middle brother had depositions to take and my niece's dance recital to attend, youngest brother was starting a new position that does not involve a uniform, and I was home with a sick toddler. Which meant that my mom had to have surgery with no family present. So which of the three siblings was guilt-ridden over this? I'll give you a hint: if you look up, you'll see her wobbling rather spectacularly.
  • The publisher of the text sent a nastygram disguised as a positive message. At the end of the message, there was a sinister, "Don't forget the April 1 deadline." This is 29 days earlier than I planned for (yes, I knew it was April, but I was thinking the end of April) . This means I am even further behind than thought.
  • I forgot to review a manuscript for a journal. The editor sent me a reminder tonight. I feel guilty because I hate, hate, hate it when I am waiting to hear if something has been accepted.
Tomorrow, I think I should be able to send E and M to daycare so I'll try to regroup, get back on the wire and do my thing.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Focus: Making Every Moment Count

The reason E and M are in daycare is because I have to work.

I have several projects underway, but the main feature is completing an introductory text. I've been under contract for this project for quite some time. In theory, I am already in breech of contract, but they are giving me until this summer to complete it. As I've said in this space before, agreeing to the project was the biggest mistake of my professional life. And yet, I must slog on.

Last week I did very little on it and now I am kicking myself. M was in daycare without me for 18 hours and I barely touched the project. I'll give myself a little slack for Tuesday--I was heartsick and teary--but I spent so much time freaking about the pumping situation on Wednesday and Thursday, that I didn't do much writing. This won't do.

My belated New Year's resolution is to make every moment count. So I can get back to my children and my life.

Specifically, I need to:

  • Work on organization. I spend too much time trying to remember where I am on projects. I forget file names, save everything to the same folder, and do other things that are ultimately time wasters. I need to write myself a note at the end of each work session so I can jump back into things more easily the next. I need to file notes daily so they don't accumulate in a big pile next to my desk.
  • Stop multitasking. M is in daycare because I'm unable to write and care for a baby simultaneously, yet I often find myself trying to write while responding to emails, taking phone calls, and tending to the house.
  • Exercise. I'm a calmer, more focused person when I get some exercise. However, I haven't been getting much exercise because I feel guilty for taking the time. When weather cooperates, I will take a walk or (better yet!) a short run to the river and back. I'll make myself get to the gym once a week for weights or a pilates class.
  • Compartmentalize. Except to stop to pump, I have to stop worrying so much about the children so I can be clear-headed.
  • Remind myself everyday that this project will end.
OK-help keep me honest. I need to get this out of the way so the guilt and vague sense of doom disappear.

Friday, January 05, 2007

A good day

Since there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth around here all week, I thought I should post to say that today was better.

First, I kept M home. I decided that three days the first week in daycare was plenty. My anxiety level is much reduced. While it is true that I wasn't terrible productive, I did get to read the editor's edits of two sections and make comments.

Second, I had a lengthy grudge match with customer service at Greenpoint Mortgage. The company failed to record the satisfaction of our old loan with our county. This was my fourth call to attempt to resolve the issue and this time I was armed with language from the closing attorney (for a HELOC). When I explained to the customer service rep that they were in violation of state law and could be fined $100 for everyday they failed to record the payoff, I was finally connected to someone with a bit of discretionary power.

Finally, although I just nursed today, I threw in a few pumping sessions and was happier with the yield. Maybe, just maybe we can keep going.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Not a resolution

No, I didn't resolve to blog everyday of the new year. It just turns out that this is cheaper than therapy and better than pills.

Today, I lost six months of emails related to my text. The email administrator at my university was able to recover these early this afternoon. He told me that the way they disappeared shouldn't have happened because I don't have rights to wipe them the way they were wiped (I really couldn't follow what he was saying, but I did gather that this probably was not my fault). This just reaffirmed my basic sense that this text is cursed.

I had a slightly better day pumping. Bribing them with promises of new lingerie may be helping things a bit. Then again, the slight increase in output could be the result of the combination of domperidone (I've been on this since I was re-hospitalized after M's birth but I just went up a bit), fenugreek, blessed thistle, oatmeal (which I detest) for breakfast, rescue remedy and breast massage. Anything else I should add to the mix? I've been told that beer is good for lactation, but I truly detest beer. Too bad no one is suggesting tequila. I would jump at that.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

To: Lazy Lefty and Righteous Righty

Dear Girls,

I have to be honest with you. I'm stressed, OK? You aren't keeping up with M's daycare feedings and this frozen stash is going to evaporate in about two weeks at this rate. I spent a lot of time reading about increasing pumping output and I think I'm doing all I can. It is your turn.

I hate pointing fingers, but I must. Lefty, get on the ball, damn it. Righty is exhausted and chafed from all the pumping. She has produced enough for over half of M's daycare feedings. But you? You are not performing up to expectations and every time I open the freezer door, I feel agitated. Shape up, lady.

Righty, bless your heart. You seemed a bit tired today. I know you dislike the pump. Who doesn't? But please, please produce more tomorrow. OK?



Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Mother's Milk

The first day of daycare went as well as it could have. I'll let you guess which one of us did the crying today.

I'm a bit concerned because I did not pump as much as she took from the bottle today. Fortunately, I do have a small stash of frozen milk. It tastes terrible--like soap--but she'll take it.* The stash won't last forever, though.

I've been worried about this. Despite buying a $300 pump, I never get much output. Three ounces is a great pumping session for me. My yield decreases as the day goes on and by evening, I can't pump much.

What is strange is that when I nurse M, she usually seems satisfied. Occasionally, there are nights when I have to supplement her with what I have pumped earlier in the day, but this is not an everyday occurrence.

Perhaps I'm sensitive to this because I've had supply issues related to postpartum preeclampsia with both girls. My milk came in so late (10 days) with E that I was never able to exclusively breastfeed. Mother's milk was the supplement and formula was the main course. By three months she was balking at taking the breast, and by four months, I was reduced to pumping for her. I quit altogether at six months. One day, when she falls in love with a Republican creationist, I'll know it was my fault for not getting more breastmilk into her.

My milk started to come in earlier with M. I still had supply issues, but the preeclampsia was so severe that I was readmitted to the hospital where I had access to an awesome lactation consultant. Using a supplemental feeder, I was able to continue breastfeeding and was able to end supplementation within a few weeks. Being able to exclusively breastfeed her has been hard work, but a joy all the same. Look at this chubby baby! I did that!

My fear at the moment is that I'm not going to be able to produce enough for her. I am not one of those breastfeeding Nazis who condemns women who formula feed, but breastmilk factors heavily in my rationalization of daycare. I feel like if M can't be with me all day that she should at least have a part of me.

I've spent a little bit of time browsing sites about boosting milk production and looking for pumping tips. I'm going to set the alarm to wake up extra early and try a pumping session. If that works, I may just be able to meet her needs. I'm also starting Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle. I'll let you know how it goes.

*If ten years ago, you had told me I would be doing taste tests of my milk, I'm afraid I would have run from the room screaming.

Monday, January 01, 2007

I Miss Her Already

I worried through my entire pregnancy that I wouldn't love this baby as much as I loved my first. That intensity, that awe, that feeling of wonder, of connectedness, the purity of mother love--how could there be more of it? My heart had so expanded with the birth of E that I couldn't quite believe there was room for it to happen again.

Of course, I was wrong.

Even as I labored, it nagged at me. Then, as I entered transition, that pure mother love hit me again like a tsunami. And I went where it carried me. I laughed with pure joy and expectation. My child was almost here! I pushed, watched her emerge, and then held her to me. I didn't want to let go even long enough for them to weigh her.

And in the four months since, I have loved M as intensely, as purely, as completely as I have loved E. There are differences to be sure. My attention is divided between my girls, but that diminishes nothing. If anything, my love has been magnified*. And I still don't want to let go.

Yet, I must.

M starts daycare. Tomorrow.

For four months, I've had her to myself.** I know this baby better than anyone. I know her cries; I know her smiles; I know the secret of her laugh; I know her heft; I know the feel of her on my breast. I've only left her twice--once for business and once for pleasure-- and I've never missed more than one feeding.

And yet, starting tomorrow, I am handing her over. The time has come for me to return to work and finish the text. Or else.

I wish, oh how I wish, that I were one of those women who could multitask her way through life. I would be dressed nicely everyday, have dinner planned ahead of time and be training for a triathlon, all while working from home with two little ones running underfoot.

But I am not that woman. I'm a terrible multitasker. I wish I could focus while caring for M, but I can't and I know it. When she is near she sucks me in with her smiles, laughs, coos, and cries and I just can't think about social theory and constructs.

Tomorrow is going to be a hard day. I hope it is more traumatic for me than for M who I miss already.

*I used to think women who said they were in love with their babies were horrible saps. I suppose I still do, but I have joined their ranks.
**I did have a sitter in two to three afternoons a week for six weeks, but I was upstairs writing (or not) and would come downstairs to nurse or just to get my baby fix.