Sunday, January 29, 2012

So... about that post

You know, the one I keep meaning to write.

Well, it's tough when you only have one free hand.

Get your minds out of the gutter, people! :p

Why only one free hand?

This would be why.

Lately he has decided that he will only take decent naps (2-ish hours as opposed to 10-15 minutes) if he is held the entire time.  Otherwise the mid-nap gas pains wake him right back up.  If he's being held, I can rock a little and shush a little, maybe toss in a quick chorus of Baby Mine, and he stays down.

And if I don't get at least 2 good solid naps out of him before 6 pm, he is a CRANKY BEAR in the evenings.

Happy baby with calm evening bedtime is totally worth being trapped on the bed holding him so he stays asleep.

So... yeah... about that post...

Monday, January 23, 2012


Okay, I'm crossing my fingers and hoping little man stays asleep long enough for me to post...

There he is... been down for a whole hour!!!

Nipple confusion, over-supply, under-supply, bottle preference, colic, reflux, all these and more have been bandied about between my husband and I over the last few weeks.  Somewhere around 3 weeks old, little JJ went from the most laid-back baby I've ever seen in all my born days to screeching banshee child.  Every waking moment, if he wasn't inhaling his milk, he was screaming.

We tried everything.   For a solid month.  All the doctors could say was "It's colic, he's fine, he'll grow out of it."   ARGH!!  Not what a mother wants to hear!  My baby was in pain, and the only thing I could do about it was try desperately to get him to either eat or sleep, neither of which he had any interest in doing.  

I've never been so stressed out & miserable.  

About two weeks ago, we discovered that the child who had been fighting and sometimes flat out refusing the breast for two weeks would take his milk just fine from a bottle.  In fact he did better with the bottle than at the breast... didn't swallow nearly as much air, burped easier, and slept better too.

Fantastic.  I'll pump.  I can do that.

Except I couldn't.  My little Medela Harmony is a wonderful tool, as is its heftier cousin, the Medela In Style Advanced.  Neither of them allowed me to express enough milk to keep JJ fed long term.  I kept up with him for the last two weeks, but just barely, and he was steadily gaining ground on me.  My production was coming up, but not fast enough, and the dreaded Formula was looming on the horizon... we even bought a box of Gerber Gentle as backup in case I couldn't get production up far enough.

I felt like the world's worst mother EVER.  

Then suddenly, three days ago, JJ decided he wanted to nurse again.  No warning.  I just woke up Saturday morning to find the little sucker (pun intended) firmly latched onto the milk bar, sound asleep.  I must have helped him, he's not even two months old, but I don't remember doing it, so yay for sleep-nursing!  Since then, all he's wanted to do was nurse.  Nurse nurse nurse nurse nurse.  To the point where he was literally sleeping at the breast.  I spent Saturday and Sunday sitting on our bed watching the first season of Ghost Whisperer (yes, I know it's cheesy, sue me, it's entertaining), and just swapping sides every time I started a new episode.   He's still a bit gassy, but the all-afternoon-&-evening attacks of the screeching banshee child have not yet resumed.  *crosses fingers*

He was bidding fair to do the same today, but finally went down about an hour ago and seems to be taking a decent nap.  If I get two hours of sleep out of him, I'll dance a jig in the living room, I swear.

The title of today's post?  No matter how loud the kid was screaming, if he tasted milk and that's what he was after, he would instantly lock onto whatever was in his mouth, be it tit or bottle, and go to town.  It's amazing how fast silence can descend in a house with a newborn.

Hmm... there has been cute stuff lately I've been meaning to post about....

Oh, right!  

All parents know about baby firsts.  Baby's first smile, birthday, cold, snowfall, etc.  Well, around six weeks we got baby's first "conversation".  He has been cooing and gurgling more and more lately, discovering new sounds almost by the day it seems, and one day when he cooed and I cooed... he cooed BACK!!!  He actually responded!  We went back and forth for almost three minutes that first time, and believe you me I squealed like a school-girl when he was done.  I picked him up and danced his little behind all around the living room.  His daddy thought I had lost my ever-loving mind.

Until last week when he did it for John too.  Then I got to stand there and grin while my husband did goofy things and made silly faces trying to get the baby to "talk" with him some more.

I don't expect I'll be letting John live that down any time soon.

Folks, I tried really hard to get it on video for y'all, truly I have, but little man sees that camera come out and he just stops whatever he's doing.  I did finally get him to smile on camera for me though... 

Whattaya think?  How handsome is my little dude!

Monday, January 16, 2012

I swear...

I was going to post today, because JJ has done some super cute stuff recently, but today has seen the return of the screeching banshee child, so I'm somewhat... occupied.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Norman Rockwell Family


Everyone's seen it. Everyone imagines it. Everyone wants it.

Parents and children and uncles and aunts and brothers and sisters and cousins, all gathered around the big table while Grandma and Grandpa serve a beautiful, crisp, juicy turkey surrounded by all the trimmings. The perfect family.

Everyone is smiling, some are even laughing. No one seems at all tired from cooking all day, or irritated because little brother put tacks on sister's chair, or puffing up to hand down the paternal edict that everyone will BEHAVE. It's not necessary, because this is the perfect family.

All clothes are clean and all faces are fresh. There are no elbows on the table, and all children are waiting respectfully until the adults have finished speaking before adding their two cents to the conversation. And of course all this congeniality is absolutely genuine, no one is pretending to be nice because it's Thanksgiving and we only see these people once or twice a year, no. Everyone really is that into each other, because this is the perfect family.

There's only one problem.  This family doesn't exist.

Oh, a good number of families, I would even venture to say "most", get along as a general rule. But nobody gets along all the time. Nobody's family is this perfect, and if they look this perfect to an outside observer... well, just wrinkle a few doilies or let the cat get into the dining room and shed all over the place settings, and watch how fast somebody loses their sh... ahem... composure.  And the addition of extended family members, whether for holidays or just Sunday Dinner at Grandma's, tends to be a breeding ground for monkey wrenches, leading to further losing of the calm and collected exterior. Sister makes a comment intended to be funny, but it flops, and brother takes exception. Brother kicks sister under the table, so she yelps, upsets her glass, and starts to cry because she's spilt her first grown-up glass of wine all over her pretty new dress. It's not a disaster, though. Someone takes sister to calm down and find something equally pretty to wear (discussing the sassy comment that got her kicked in the first place at the same time), while brother is quietly taken to task for kicking his sister.  Everyone pitches in to quickly and laughingly reset the table and clear away the mess, and momentarily both siblings rejoin the table and life goes on.

In my family, the above scenario would rapidly spiral completely out of control.  More under-the-breath commentary, by the elders this time, would include intimations that the children probably staged that little scene on purpose to disrupt all the grown-ups' hard work. And by the way the children's posture is terrible and the wine wouldn't have been spilled if sister hadn't been propping her elbows on the table. Mother at this point is humiliated because her children are behaving like hellspawn and Father has joined in the disapproving looks and judging words, and of course sister is furious because her dress is ruined and everyone seems to think she did it on purpose, when she was just making a joke. Brother is equally mad, because after all he didn't mean for sister to spill her stupid sour grape juice all over her stupid dress, and he didn't kick her that hard anyway, she's just being a drama queen. Grandmother has already managed to whip the stained cloth off the table, mop up the mess, and reset all the plates without any help from anyone, all the while muttering about how lucky it is that nothing had yet been served. Grandfather is trying to quietly remind everyone that this is a day of thanksgiving and we should at least try to get along, but pretty much nobody hears him over the glaring and blaming and muttering going on.

In short, there's a lot of embarrassment and bad feelings all around, with nobody considering anybody else's position. By the time everyone settles back down to eat again, nobody's looking at anybody, at least two sets of elbows (and occasionally Grandpa's as well) are defiantly planted on the table, and conversation has been reduced to "Please pass the cranberry sauce" and "Would you like white meat or dark?" All crisply enunciated and ever so polite.

There's a reason I pretty much dreaded holidays with family, infinitely preferring those years when no one could afford to travel, so we got together with friends and spent the days of gratitude and celebration with people we actually got along with anyway. It always seemed to me that as a whole, our family took things far too personally, seeking any opportunity to take offense over the most insignificant infractions.  Misunderstandings were denounced as lies, mistakes as deliberate misbehavior, and legitimate upset was generally dismissed as "being dramatic". The hierarchy was very clear in that house... and your feelings mattered in direct proportion to how close you were to the top. Holidays were, unfortunately, the year in microcosm. Phone calls to extended family were exercises in giving up as little information as possible, so that it couldn't come back in mutated form and bite us from another source six months down the road. Thank you cards were conveniently forgotten, because really... what were we thanking people for? Gifts that felt more like bribes or judgments, and always came with strings attached, was what. Every visit was surrounded by tension and stress for weeks before hand, and the final trip to the airport greeted with unseemly enthusiasm. After my parents divorced, at least the insanity was largely reduced to holidays, but it never settled into anything I would consider a healthy family scenario. By that point we were all a little too messed up.

Fast forward to now.

That picture was taken 10 days before JJ was born. I remember, because I was forty weeks on the dot that day and grumpy about it.  I was pretty tired of being pregnant, stressed out, and generally wanted to just be done with it and holding my baby boy. It was, as you can see, gorgeous outside. 70 degrees, not a cloud in the sky, and feeling more like June than mid-November. John had decided to rake the yard, since most of the leaves were down, and I had taken it upon myself to document the occasion while making a mess of his leaf pile.

What? That's what leaf piles are for, sweetheart! Jumping in!!  

I enjoyed myself thoroughly, and it quite took my mind off the "WHEN is this kid going to come out already?" stress for the afternoon. My mother in law took most of the pictures for us, and in the end, the yard got clean.

Ten days later... baby boy arrived.   And there was much rejoicing.

*cue Monty Python villagers*  "Yay."

Seriously though, it was awesome.

Now, I had some lingering fantasy that a new baby would somehow wave a magic wand over my frilled-up family (points if you can name the show that kid-friendly not-a-swear-word is from) and convince them all to forgive me for not fitting into their wax-work museum mold of the iconic Norman Rockwell Turkey Day. Shockingly, I actually got to hold onto that pipe-dream for a whole month and some change. Everyone was being welcoming and polite, even nice.  

A recent email interaction shocked me back to reality. My family is still the family they were when I was fifteen and too smart for my own survival interest. People still take small things personally, I still apparently go out of my way to hurt and shame folks with my emotionalism, and my feelings are invalid when measured against everyone else's concerns. I am, all told, quite the selfish little minx.

The most disgusting part is that it almost worked.  I almost slipped back into believing that I don't have a right to be spoken to as if I possess intelligence, as if my feelings matter, and I'm probably going to Hell for daring every now and then to take care of my own needs first. Expecting that others abide by the rules they set for me?? Shameful.

Enter my amazing husband, who tolerates teh crazeh because he loves me, God knows why.

And there's the little squish!  3 days old and still scrunched up.

John reminded me that he's been around for going on eight years (holy freaking cow, has it really been that long???), and not only has he heard about my father and extended family from people he generally considers to be sane and well rounded, but he's met Bill and some of the extended relatives, enough to judge their behavior for himself.

He told me I'm a great mom, even when the baby won't stop crying, and that a little selfishness is healthy, helps keep a person sane. He reminds me that the people who want me to believe that I'm being childish and mean are the same people who called me a thief when I got a bagel from the kitchen without asking, who visited with the expectation that our family would adhere to their rules at all times, and generally behaved as if they were rulers of creation... or at least their little corner thereof. He made me remember that "being selfish" isn't the same thing as "taking care of yourself", because if you don't take care of yourself, you won't have the energy to take care of others.

*sigh*  You're right, dear.  Wait... who said that???

I still have a deeply ingrained habit of assuming I did something wrong. It sucks, because I'm more than willing to accept the blame when things go pear-shaped, even if (maybe especially when) there was nothing I could have done to prevent it.   

I have this amazing other person to take care of now.

So I have to take care of myself, because this little dude needs his Mommy to be at the top of her game. 

I figure that means occasionally I need to call people on their bovine excrement, stand up for myself, maybe even open up the can of worms that is the past and say "No, sorry, that's not how it happened."  

It also means that I get to hand the baby to somebody else now and then and sneak off for a long hot bath with a book and some chocolate.

I get to ask for help, and have a reasonable expectation that said help be forthcoming.

I don't have to do it all by myself, I don't have to get it right every time, and most of all, as a parent, I now get to be the person who decides what is good enough.

If that makes me selfish, then so be it.

I will not barter my son as currency to buy myself a Norman Rockwell family.  

There ain't no such animal.

And "perfect"... well, perfect is what John and I say it is, for us.

And this is perfect.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Blessed, blessed silence.

Gentle readers, it has happened.

For the first time in just about two weeks, it's 10 pm and my precious baby boy is asleep.  Peacefully, without having screamed himself hoarse since roughly 5 pm.

My skin is positively a-tingle with bliss.

Oh, wait... that would be my over-achiever boobs having a secondary (tertiary??  quadrary????) letdown.

Enter my trusty Medela Harmony.

Cheery, ain't it?

Now, mind you, it IS a manual pump.  It will never be as efficient as an electric (and I hope to get my hands on one of those in the near future), but this little beauty does the job when used and cared for properly.  Is it the most comfortable process in the world?  No.  But honestly, baby in his biting mood hurts more, and while I can and have gotten more milk by hand expression (*glares at the peanut gallery*... one single solitary cow joke and you're all toast, mates), the Harmony consistently delivers a full ounce from a moderately full breast in 15 to 20 minutes of patient pumping, easily two if it's first thing in the morning and the milk bar's loaded.  This is me, of course, every woman is different, but for me, it works, and has calmed this first-timer's worries that there was a lack of supply.  

I do this about 4 times a day, usually, depending on how many storage bottles are empty and thus available, and I have yet to note my hand getting tired (or hurting later) from the pumping action.  This is a big deal, as I have a connective tissue disorder (big fancy name, don't ask) which means I hurt pretty easily sometimes.  The trick is to put on something interesting, feed the kid on one side, and pump on the other.  Get distracted enough, and I occasionally find I've pumped through most of an episode of Doctor Who (GO, TEAM GALLIFREY!!!), and have thus nearly filled the 5 oz attached bottle.

It's easy to clean, there are only 4 parts, five if you count the itty bitty white diaphragm (handle with care, it's delicate) at the bottom of the pump assembly.  I just pull the whole thing apart, drop it in a fresh sink of HOT soapy water, let it sit for a few minutes, rinse thoroughly, and let air dry.  The two-phase expression feature is probably awesome for some folks, but I find I can get the same effect as the small end (Stimulation Phase) by using shorter, lighter strokes with the regular handle (Expression Phase).  

There is only one solitary down-side for me.  All parts involved in creating suction must be absolutely 100% dry before use.  Not 98%, not 99%, not 99.999999999999999999999999999%.  It must be devoid of even the tiniest most miniscule trace of subversive moisture, or it will not maintain suction for more than a few minutes.

As a complement to the block-feeding that is making significant strides in improving JJ's gas issues, the Harmony is a welcome and much loved tool.  

As glaring evidence of masochism... well...   *shifty eyes*

I don't know what you're talking about.  I am a boring, white bread, thoroughly vanilla housewife.  

*dons pearls and hums the theme from I Love Lucy*

Not buying it, huh?

Smart people.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The reason they're so darn cute

So we don't strangle them at 2 am when they won't stop screaming.

Instead we cuddle, change, rock, feed, bounce, burp, cuddle, rinse & repeat until they finally pass out.  Do I know that sometimes babies just cry because they need to cry?  Yes.  This isn't that sort of situation.

Little man has developed a severe gassiness issue that has him screaming bloody murder through the late afternoon-evening, and none too comfy the rest of the time.  Poor little guy whimpers in his sleep, when he does sleep.  Mornings & early afternoons aren't too bad, but once he gets rolling around 4 or 5, he won't go down to nap, he'll only sleep if I leave him at the breast, and then only for 15 - 20 minutes at a time.  Screams and curls up, thrashes all over the place, fights at the breast & yet is obviously ravenous... Makes for long evenings, lemme tell ya.  And then somewhere between 10pm and midnight, it just shuts off like somebody threw a switch, and he passes out until morning.

Having tried the "He's not getting enough" route for a week & a half and getting nowhere (ie, nurse, nurse, nurse, and when in doubt, nurse some more), researching like crazy, and passing out from sheer exhaustion one too many times, I'm starting to think we're actually dealing with an over-supply problem.  Apparently too much foremilk doesn't just make for green poos (yeah, when did you ever think you'd see THAT in print), the excessive amounts of lactose not balanced by the fatty hindmilk cause stomach discomfort and intestinal gas for baby.

Ouchie. :(

Having hit the La Leche League website and quite a few other places, I'm trying "block-feeding" for the next several days to see if that makes a difference.  Means that from the time he gets up for the first feed in the morning, the day gets divided into four-hour blocks.  Each block, he gets fed from one breast only.  Every time he goes to the breast during a given block, he goes back to the same breast.  From what I've read, this results in successively lower volume - higher fat content feedings during each block.

Yes, we've been to the doctor.  No, the medicines don't help.  They actually make it worse, because they're so thick & syrupy that he swallows more air in the process of taking them, which then has to be burped, & that syrupy stuff makes that harder too.   = Shrieking baby.  Not good.

What does help is a very small dose of mint tea.  Small, as in a quarter to half a teaspoon.  It settles his stomach, calms down or even preempts the screaming entirely, and seems to make it easier for him to burp, meaning less air gets into his stomach & guts in the first place.  It's gotten to where he recognizes the dropper and knows he's supposed to get that before the breast, since it makes him feel better, so he scowls and yells at me if I forget.  Yes, I know about the menthol in mint and babies, but I watch him like a hawk and he doesn't seem to be sensitive to it, so I'm going with what works.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaand passing on my obsession with herbal teas.  Yay!

On the flip side, about a week ago he started to noticeably smile.  And I mean GRIN, people.  Experts be damned, it's not just gas, he specifically reacts to our voices and faces.  It's cute as heck, and as soon as I get him to hold it long enough, I'll take pictures, I swear.