It is possible to feel so many things at once. Sobby rage at pain that won't go away (fuck thrush), exhaustion, and simultaneous overwhelming fullness. I feel like that fullness, more than anything, is what's keeping me afloat, even when at night I'm in tears (again: fuck thrush). I'm beginning to balance all of these emotions a bit better. Two weeks ago I felt like I was falling. apart. Pain = huge factor there...still is, but the last two days have been better so even while I wait to get an appointment with my midwife *again* it's at least maybe improving?
I digress. Anyway --
So so much about motherhood has not quite been how I'd hoped (mostly thrush, who the fuck invented this torture??!!) but this feeling of complete-ness has over-delivered on all of my expectations. I feel like a missing board was nailed into place with the arrival of my daughter. I feel whole. And in feeling whole, I feel like the number of fucks I give about other things has decreased and increased. That is, the stupid shit feels more stupid and 'whatever', and the important shit feels way more important. I feel freer. I feel like I want to be better.
Countless times I've read and heard about the overwhelming wave of parental love people feel. I don't know if this is that feeling. I think this is separate. Feeling whole feels less like an emotion and more like a lighter state of being, a different way of breathing and moving. It's as though a rock was lifted from my chest, or a pebbly choking hazard removed from my throat. Love is some other thing, something apart. Not better or worse, it is stitched to this feeling but still is a different patch of cloth. This wholeness is more about who I am than what I feel, more about me than about us. I don't mean that in a narcissist way. Just in a 'I didn't know how broken that Hayley was until she got patched up with that board' way.
I hate to put that kind of 'you complete me' pressure on such a little person. It's not quite like that. It's not quite like, well, anything. This wholeness simply is.
Monday, September 8, 2014
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Welp, things are things around here. THINGS. I've been dealing with increasing pain for the last 5 or 6 weeks, which I *finally* got to see my midwife about, and for which I got a prescription. That was on Friday afternoon. Friday evening, I came down with a terrible fever, on-top of not having eaten enough that day because I took my lunch-hour time to go to my midwife appointment (I am not smart!) so I was a total shaking basket case, and thus began my mastitis experience (which is ongoing, though no more fever at this moment). Just as I got some initial relief for Ailment A, Ailment B showed up. Cue the tears.
After talking to my midwife, I do think my feelings of woe, exhaustion and fatigue are due in part to my Ailment A making me so, so miserable while trying to balance work and everything that comes with new motherhood, plus a low supply. I'm hoping that if this prescription heals it, my mental health will also improve. I also need to make sure I'm eating and drinking enough. I really suck at that. It's like I'm trying to function on the terms of my pre-baby experience (skip lunch to go to a doctor's appointment, it'll be ok as long as you eat shortly thereafter! NOOOOPE BODY IS NOT OK) and that is just not working for me. No truer "duh" statement was ever probably written, but there you have it.
Then there's breastfeeding. I want so badly to make exclusive breastfeeding work, but...
I want to at least make it to 6 months. The low supply I have is a downer (god forbid I forget to take those Fenugreek pills) and the fact that my daughter still can't latch without extra help is frustrating (it's not her fault, I just wasn't made to breastfeed...same as I wasn't made to have kids or something, apparently...great!) and it's attaching a feeling of anxiety and, frankly, bodily-failure to breastfeeding for me, which sucks. And I know that things would be okay if I didn't exclusively breastfeed. Logically, I know this. Formula (whether fulltime or supplemental) would not kill her. In addition to my friends (sincerely, thank you) even my crunchy MIDWIFE was even like, 'hey, do what you can, and don't feel bad if you can't continue' which was flat-out shocking considering the pressure I felt from their office + all the pro-breastfeeding signage everywhere there. But I don't want to have this be another instance of my body massively failing me. Different battle, same war. I just want to win this one.
It's hard right now. But I feel like if I didn't push through, I'd beat myself up about not trying hard enough forever (regardless of the merit of that self-accusation*). Whatever "hard enough" even is. It's hard but I am still feeding her and getting enough to freeze bit by bit, so I know it could be worse. The latch difficulty is disheartening and frustrating, but not a brick wall. The mastitis won't last forever and I don't think it's supposed to impact my already-low supply forever either. It's a bunch of difficult things that aren't individually horrible, but taken together are stressing me out (and who knows, maybe that's impacting my supply too -- a Ouroboros of a problem) . But I feel like on some level, I signed up for this willingly, and therefore just have to roll with the punches (which admittedly may not be the most self-kind/self-forgiving outlook).
But, onwards and upwards, as they say. If I allow myself to wallow in melancholy for too long, it's just going to get harder to tighten my laces and keep hiking on. The important thing to remember (and this is totally a pep-talk to myself here) is that my ailments will not last forever. Breastfeeding will not last forever. Maybe it will even get better! This is the longest shortest time. I am so grateful for this little one. It's hard. I expected it to be hard -- just not in these ways. But still, so grateful. Struggling, but grateful.
And just to even the tone out here, I was able to wrap Freddie up in the Moby yesterday evening and Patrick and I got some basil ice cream with rainbow sprinkles at Bev's, exchanged pleasantries with another family of a ginger baby (it's like a cult, you guys -- a secret club), and then strolled lazily around the VMFA sculpture/fountain garden as the shadows grew long.
And hey, my dog hasn't led another poop-puke fest, so it could be worse.
*There really is no way to talk about this without it seeming like a judgement on formula feeding, is there? Ugh. The dialogue about it all is so fraught. It seems like there's this concept that you should have to show a punchcard of all the ways you tried "hard enough" to make breastfeeding work before turning to formula. Ugh. Fraught, I tell you. Fraught. In more ways than I can even attempt to articulate.
Sunday, August 24, 2014
I have the cutest baby, and also my house is a wreck. That pile used to be my desk! What am I doing about it? Lounging on the bed with my laptop and baby instead. Sometimes you just have to lean into the mess, right? It'll get clean again someday.
I started back to work on Thursday which was okay. On Thursdays my library system is closed at the branch level so librarians have an admin day at our big main branch where we can have our all-day meetings with everyone present. So as far as transition days go, it was the best choice for a day to go back. The big main branch is also significantly closer to my parents' house, which made dropping off/picking up Freddie a fairly ok piece of cake (box mix cake if you will). Friday, however, was a more accurate picture of what the majority of my workdays are going to be like: 5:45 alarm clock (though really I was up at 4 to nurse and never got back to sleep), yet STILL found myself rushing to get out the door at 7 so I could get Freddie to my mom at 7:45 so I could then drive from there to get to work at 9. It's a driving triangle, with every point 45 minutes away from the other two points.
I'm driving 90-100 miles a day if I don't make any other stops. Of course I knew this all in theory before when planning this out, but the functioning-on-4-or-5-hours-of-sleep factor wasn't quite as.....real then. That commute when you're exhausted and already massively anxious about driving with the baby = perfect storm for a truly beaten-down Hayley by sundown Friday.
It's tough because right now, most stuff falls to me by default, whether by nature (nursing), geography (commute), or bad luck (I'm having some supply issues, which means Patrick giving the baby a bottle at night isn't a good solution right now). Patrick could take Freddie to my parents in the morning, but somehow I keep thinking this is less than ideal because he has to get to work at 8:30, whereas my job starts at 9, and he'd have to drive with the worst traffic in the morning headed back towards the city after dropping her off, whereas I drive against traffic for all of my morning. Would him taking the morning drop-off some days wear me out less? Yes...in theory. But if I'm already waking up that early, then I come back around to "is it really worth it having two people up this early instead of one?" argument. So, once again I fall back on me driving being the best option. He's going to pick her up whenever I'm at the branch that's less close to my parents' house, so that'll be helpful on a two-weeks-on/two-weeks-off schedule based on what branch I'm working at certain weeks. And he'll pick her up every Tuesday when I work late. And Thursdays are easier because I'm at the branch that's close to my parents.
So I just have to keep reminding myself that not every day will be as grueling as Friday was. I just have to keep remembering that this will get easier. I will try to trade my car in this winter for something that is a little less scary to drive a baby around in (I have a tiny Chevy Aveo hatchback right now...think Geo Metro and it's pretty close to that; I desperately miss my Volvo station wagon from my college years and want to go back to something like that). And eventually Freddie's happy/sad mood schedule will shift (I hope). Right now, she's usually happy during the day, and then epically sad around 7 or 8...so right when I get her back from my mom. I miss having some time with a happy baby! So I hope this shifts and I don't just get a sad baby for all the time slots I have her during the workweek :'(
This too shall pass. I am so lucky to live reasonably close to family so that my mom can take her during the day. I know it's quite a shift for her too to suddenly be taking care of a baby all day! And everyone has been so kind in helping us out and bringing us meals and understanding when I leave a library program craft item in my car by accident because I'm a bit loony right now (see: commute + lack of sleep!). I know this is a transitional phase right now. It has to get better. It will get better. The problem is that it's very, very hard to see this rationally at 6AM when I've been up for 2 hours already.
This will pass.
Until then, nachos in bed with SNL are a great balm. That's the problem with giving up on regular TV watching. When I fall off the wagon I fall hard. Full-on nachos-in-bed hard. Oh well. Again...leaning into the mess here!
*snuggles babe* Worth it.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Words you never ever want to wake up to, especially not with a baby who needs to be fed in the mix: "You're gonna want to swiffer all downstairs because the dog just barfed and pooped everywhere."
"Not again" is also not a reply you want to give, because of the repeat-performance implication.
I was looking for a crying-sob gif, but son-of-a-bitch turns out to be just as, if not more, appropriate. Anyway, if you tuned in yesterday, you already read about the wonders of the crying baby + vomiting dog fiesta from the other night. Today, let me be your ringmaster in a whole new show I like to call the Crap Circus.
There's not much to tell really. My inlaws are visiting and staying in the guestroom where Neville is normally happily crated for the night, but heaven forbid we mess with his pwecious schedule, because he decided to unleash unholy things from both ends in what I only assume is revenge (or, you know, eating something that didn't sit well...for several days). Around 4:30 he started whining and the next thing you know, the Crap Circus had rolled into town. After a few horks we thought it was over, but it turned out...not to be the case, as Patrick discovered three hours later when he was up for work.
I eventually banished him (Neville, not Patrick) to the patio long enough to clean everything up and nurse in peace and ensure -- knock on wood dear sweet god -- that he's pretty emptied out of his concentrated evil. Luckily texting exists so I can get some good laughs in. Better to laugh than sob uncontrollably, right?
I will say, Freddie's definitely earning some major points in all of this, just in terms of comparison. Kid, you're the hands-down winner in the house. Apparently the bar is set at "not puking and pooping on the ONE CARPET we owned" (note the past tense).
I will not reenact Old Yeller, I will not reenact Old Yeller, I will not reenact Old Yeller...
Monday, August 18, 2014
The baby was mostly happy as a clam all day Sunday, riiiight up until one of the dogs started puking everywhere.
I can understand her upset. I was upset too, as was Patrick who got the task of mopping up while I tried to soothe the sad baby while listening to new horks from afar and hoping they weren't on the ONE CARPET WE OWN (spoiler alert, he totally nailed it). I'm sure Neville wasn't having that great a time either, although it's hard to tell with him since as far as he's concerned those horks were extra dinners he was putting out for himself.
Happy Monday! I go back to work later this week! Horks all around!
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
It's been over a month, and things are -- what are they? They are blissful and tearful and sleepy and all those other things that come with having a newborn. I'm horribly behind as far as the actual baby book is concerned, and I have thank-you cards that need sending (running low on stamps though, so that may have to wait until I can fit that errand into the mix -- I feel awful since I try to get those out lickety-split).
I just realized that the top picture combined with the post title makes it look like the family of three is me + Freddie + Neville. That's obviously not quite right. Pull it together, Hayley.
There we go. The goober-iest family photo of all time (at least so far). Life as a small family really has been great though. It's been rough some days, to be sure. Patrick finished his two summer grad classes, thank goodness. He's starting some minimal band practices back up, but as far as time commitments go, summer school was WAY more of a thief, so I'm happy to sacrifice him to the weekly doom metal gods at least a little. Of course, he's got more fall classes coming up, so we'll see how things go then (*shifty glance at the doom metal gods*).
It's one of those things where I suppose I could choose to be a bit grumpy about the way guys get it easy and it's easy for him to pop out for two hours of drumming while it's hard for me to eat a sandwich...but then I get texts from him saying he wants to make sure I get time to myself too, and to please take some time on Saturdays or some other times when he's around to get out of the house (and to do my freelance work). So it's all evening out on paper, at least. I'm not saying everything has to be cut right down the middle. But the intention of giving me some time too is there, so that's fair enough for now. Right now, I expect to be doing more of the heavy-lifting, but it's good to know he's not taking that for granted, and that when I need time to get a haircut (so desperately needed, I'm starting to get that Bieber look again, yikes) and write, it's already been noted. And he's followed through. I've gotten myself out of the house, and have gotten zero frantic texts (so far). He discovered she could be soothed by walking around the back yard instead of alerting me to sad-baby-times, and that was that.
I'm always a bit squeamish about praising dudes for essentially pulling their end of the yoke in terms of partnership or parenthood responsibilities (soothing her on his own instead of like this guy who's afraid to pick up his own baby, WTF). It's not that I take it for granted that Patrick will sit with Freddie for hours like he did last night when she was inconsolable and I'd been trying to soothe her for hours prior while he was at work. I don't take it for granted. I'm very thankful. That said, I expect us to be roughly equal but I don't think expecting equality means praise and thanks for making that happen aren't merited. I'm still going to thank the guy. It's just polite! I just don't think a parade is warranted. A simple "thank you" on the other hand...yes! All the time!
That's probably my biggest take-away at this point in parenthood: keep thanking your partner. Thank them for doing stuff that you expect of them. Thank them for doing things they do normally (cooking dinner etc). Compliment them on doing a great job and being a great parent, even when changing a diaper at 2am isn't something that should warrant a Best Parent Ever Parade because it's just something that has to be done. A little thanks still just feels good, dangit, and people should do it often.
And I should really, really get those thank-you letters mailed...
So that sums up the last month...except oh, right, this little cutie and I have started reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe a tiny bit every night before bed. Reading is important (obviously, *tips librarian hat*) but by golly, I really prefer reading books I enjoy. And yes, there are some WONDERFUL baby books out there. Gobs and gobs of cute baby books...if you like patting bunnies and saying goodnight to moons. Which I do, sometimes. But I wanted our first big read to be special too, and since this is all rather the same to her at this point, I figured why not start with the best? Plus, thus way I can make sure she's exposed to the series in the correct order (that's publication order, not the soul-crushing order Lewis preferred, which has The Magician's Nephew first, UGH). I really can't wait until we get to the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, though. That one's obviously the best. Narnia holds such a dear place in my heart ("Courage, dear heart" is going to be incorporated somehow into another literary tattoo -- I've already got Tolkien & JM Barrie, so Lewis seems perfect to shore things up) and of all the things to introduce my daughter to early on, this is one I've been so waiting eagerly for. I know it's mostly all for me right now but someday she'll understand them, and hopefully she'll love them too.
What book(s) did you pick as your first-read(s) to your little one(s)? Alternatively, what books are you looking forward to experiencing together?
Friday, August 8, 2014
So, baby stuff.
Now that I've got almost a month (as of tomorrow...oh my god) of baby-having under my belt, I'm a total expert on all things baby. Insert a sage nod here. ... Okay, maybe not. But there have been a handful of things that, were someone to ask me, I would suggest to have on hand for the first weeks. Nobody's actually asked me, but what else is a blog for, but for writing about the things nobody's asked about? Some items are just self-care/self-preservation-related, while others are more directly for baby, but both are important for survival/sanity. I've tried to keep the majority of the list in the $10 range -- there are a few exceptions, but no boutique bouncers here.
None of these products are sponsored items, I did not receive any of them for free, and I'm not being compensated by their makers for their inclusion in this list. I am utilizing Amazon affiliate links for some items.
So, here we go.
+ Podcasts! When I'm pumping or nursing I'm often listening to The Longest Shortest Time, a blessedly non-judgey podcast that is "a 3:00am bedside companion for new parents" recommended by my library colleague Nathan. The episode that has most impressed me so far was one in which the host Hillary Frank interviewed THE Ina May Gaskin to tell her how let down she felt by the legend's natural birth literature. Gaskin was so receptive in the interview, as well as kind and thoughtful with her responses, and Frank was equally kind and frank with her critiques. It was everything an interview should be when it's something emotional and hard for the participants, and as I've listened to other episodes I've been repeatedly impressed with the level of reporting and the variety of stories. Episodes are also the perfect length for a nursing/pumping session. I highly, highly recommend adding it to your library. Best of all, it's free!
+ Sprout Baby app for the iPhone/iPad. Sprout lets me track sleep, feeding, diaper changes and consistencies, pumping, height/weight gains, doctor appointments and questions to ask the pediatrician, medications and immunizations. I can set alarms (for feeding), and (my favorite) it will format certain data into charts and graphs. If there's one thing I'm a sucker for, it's the graphic representation of data. Sprout Baby's design is easy on the eyes and the app overall is user-friendly. I also like that I can add "missed" items later so I'm not tied to my screen lest I miss tracking something when it happens. Free trial available/$4.99 after that
+ Burt's Bee's pink grapefruit facial cleansing towelettes. These are light and fast to grab for a quick tide-over until a full cleansing routine can be undergone if I'm short on me-time. They smell bright and freshly cheerful without being cloying which is good early in the morning (or late at night, depending) when I might be feeling less than cheerful. $5.39
+ Summer Infant Swaddleme velcro wrap (organic dots model featured in Instagram above). At first, Freddie haaaaaated being swaddled. "Happiest baby on the block my butt" was my initial review of swaddling. But suddenly, after an episode of someone sad-sniffling in the rocking chair at 1:30AM (hello -- that's a motherhood rite of passage right?) I decided to try the swaddle method again. Magically it worked, and she's happily settled down with the swaddle since, knockonwood. Because she's small, swaddling with other blanket-type wraps has been harder since it ends up being too bulky -- the velcro on these ones helps keep things compact and contained. You can get these in sets, but I recommend buying a singleton and if at first you don't succeed, try try again (and if it really doesn't work out, you're only out one instead of a set). These range in price -- try this bumblebee print one for $7.99
+ Earth Mama Angel Baby Organic Milkmaid Tea & EMAB Bottom Spray. They're worth it if you need them (consult your doctor regarding herbal supplements/milkmaid tea and your supply, as I am not a medical professional). Some medicinal teas can taste absolutely terrible, but this blessedly isn't one of those. As for the Bottom Spray, I highly recommend ordering it online so you can avoid the oh-so-fun experience of checking out at the cool-person hippie store with something called, well, BOTTOM SPRAY. Learn from me, possibly-pregnant padawans: get that stuff delivered to your door. $10-range for both
+ Wee Gallery art cards. I love a good mobile and by the time Freddie was imminent there were a LOT of cute colorful mobiles on my to-buy list...but ultimately I put them on the back burner in favor of more close-up black-and-white images, since those are most stimulating to babies (and having her in the cosleeper = no place for a permanent mobile anyway). What better way to spend a day than cooing "Look at the ring-tailed leeeemuuuur!" $12.95
+ Nursing scarf from Oliver & Lucy Designs. I haven't been too fond of the nursing cover styles out there, so when I found these infinity nursing scarves, I was sold. They look more regular-clothing-like than a lot of nursing covers because, well, they are exactly that: regular clothing...with a twist of being big enough to nurse with. I haven't used it a bunch yet, but I've been glad to have it the times I've gone out. $35
+ Bamboobies. I know the name is a bit silly, but look past that and get them anyway! I've had some epic cluster-feeding going on, so woohoo softness -- and they seem to get softer with each wash. The cream is nice, too -- it's safe for ingestion & non-greasy. The unusual heart shapes of the pads also contour better than round pads for me. I got the Breastfeeding Bundle (6 regular pads + 6 overnight pads + cream) for $44.99
+ Kindle Touch. I know I said no boutique bouncers and such but hear me out on this one pricier item. There are a few reasons this device has been wonderful (more so than my pre-baby days with it). First, it's hard to read a regular spined book with only one hand while nursing or pumping. With the Kindle I can set it on my lap and tap the pages with ease. Secondly, my vision has gotten worse, and being able to change the font size is great, and reading on an E Ink display with a matte screen instead of a glossy screen is also way easier on my eyes (for this reason avoid the pricier Kindle Fire...it has a glossy tablet screen). Finally, having instant access to titles through my library's OverDrive system is great (OverDrive is essentially a free version of Oyster/Kindle Unlimited -- see if your library offers this service...they probably do!) I wish I had a Paperwhite since it includes a built-in light, but I bought my Kindle prior to that model (which shows that at least they have a good shelf life). A new Paperwhite is $119, but used and refurbished Kindles run in the $45-$80 range, from what I've gathered in my searches.
This post took me a laughably long time to compose. Yay little spurts of sleepy-times!