Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Massive Problem

I have always found it difficult to pay attention during Mass, especially during the homily. I struggle with it, but never seem to get anywhere.

Then I had a baby, and this problem got ten times worse. I am the default baby holder, and keeping him quiet and happy so everyone else can pay attention saps a fair amount of my own attention.

I spent most of Mass last Sunday in the cry room, where the closed-circuit TV was not working for some reason. It was foolish to go to the 9am service when I KNOW that is CJ's nap time. He was pissed. I was even more pissed. There was not much sanctifying going on.

Afterwards I moaned to my mom, "What is the POINT of going to Mass anymore, if I'm not going to hear it?"

To which she replied something about getting CJ in the habit of going to church and it being my job to get him into heaven.

Which made me wail in a very self-centered fashion, "But what about MEEEEEEEE?"

It is easier to keep CJ happy during daily Mass, but the priest has perfected the 90-second homily, and if I pause to clean up some spit or blink, it's over and I've missed it again.

Sigh. Am I destined to never comprehend a homily?

Monday, November 28, 2011


Several years ago I saw a rheumatologist to determine whether or not I had an autoimmune disorder. I had a lot of symptoms such as fatigue and aching in my joints, plus I had a family history on both sides. I had a lot of blood work, MRIs, and other tests done. All that we found out for sure was that I had antinuclear antibodies, which is typical of people with autoimmune disorders but doesn't confirm it. Dr. D told me to call if there were ever any other symptoms, which there hadn't been until recently.

Recurrent pregnancy loss. That's a symptom. Then when I was pregnant, I felt great. Dr, Google told me that people with AI disorders can experience an alleviation of symptoms during pregnancy. Also, my shoulder joints were absolutely killing me. I couldn't stir a pot of soup, that's how much my movement was limited by the pain. So I decided to give Dr. D a call.

I had an appointment last week and we discussed the new developments. I told her that the reason I wanted an AI disorder ruled out is because we want another baby in the near future. I wanted to know if I just got lucky with CJ and that miscarriage is going to be my default.
She, of course, looked at me like I was bonkers for wanting another baby so soon. I can't help it. They just smell so good!

I had nine vials of blood draw for different tests, and everything came back "perfect". Nothing that would suggest that I have an autoimmune disorder. Even my antinuclear antibodies were gone.

And for the first time in my life, I wasn't borderline anemic! This is cause for celebration.

Dr. D solved another mystery that day. When I explained about my shoulder she felt it and announced that I had bursitis, an inflammation of the sac of fluid around the joint, most likely from lifting a plus-size baby all the time. She injected steroids into the sac and voila, two days later I was pain free. I gleefully stirred things to my heart's content.

So all appears to be well. Thank God for that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Breastfeeding: My Epic Tale of Woe

When I was twenty years old I underwent breast reduction surgery.

I had a lot of reasons for doing it: I couldn't exercise comfortably, my bra straps made deep grooves in my shoulders, and I had an absurd amount of back pain for someone who was just this side of her teen years.

The biggest reason was vanity. I couldn't wear "cute" clothing. I thought other people judged me. I felt ugly, sloppy, and self-conscious. So, full of desperation and covered by my father's insurance, I went to see a surgeon.

She warned me that this surgery could jeopardize my ability to breastfeed in the future. I had no thoughts of marrying or having children. After all, how was I supposed to get a man to marry me, as unattractive as I was? I told the surgeon that I didn't care, and the date was set.

I remember waking up from the surgery and feeling that a weight had been lifted from me, literally and metaphorically. Looking down at my new, smaller assets I cried with relief.

Five short months later, I found myself dating Nemo and realizing that marriage and children were not as impossible as I had thought. I started to feel the tiniest hint of regret for what I had done. I began to research, even before we were thinking of starting a family. I surfed the web and read Defining Your Own Success: Breastfeeding After Breast Reduction Surgery. Due to the method used during my surgery, the length of time that had passed, and my level of commitment, I convinced myself that I was going to be able to exclusively breastfeed my children.

And then I had CJ, and it soon became clear that things were not going as well as I had planned.

Though I had a natural birth unaided by epidural, CJ was born very sleepy and was completely uninterested in nursing for the first 12 hours of his life. Then he woke up at 6pm the day he was born, latched on as best he could on my pathetically flat nipples, and proceeded to nurse like a wild beast for the entire night. I would periodically unlatch him and put him in the bassinet, but within 10 minutes he was acting hungry again, fussing and smacking his lips. The longest bit of sleep I got that night was when they took him for some routine tests. Thirty minutes, tops. I told the night nurse about this and she chuckled and said that he was just using me as a pacifier. When she brought him back though she told me his current weight and he had lost quite a few ounces (more than normal for a newborn). And that's when I knew there might be a problem. He didn't need comforting, he was HUNGRY, and I felt absolutely terrible that I wasn't providing enough for him.

We had written that we needed to see a lactation consultant as soon as possible in our birth plan, because we foresaw some difficulties. They took their time sending someone up to see us the day after CJ was born, and though we explained the special situation to her she did nothing more than show us the football hold. We called them again the next day, and it was the same story.

The constant nursing went on and on, frustration looming over me, until the day we were set to be discharged and we called the lactation consultants one last time. I explained about the surgery and what we had done so far, and she was absolutely appalled that I had not been pumping from the get-go. I was similarly appalled that all of the consultants we had seen previously had neglected to mention this. This consultant got me set up with a pump, a Supplemental Nursing System, and renewed enthusiasm. Then we headed home, confident that all would be well.

The next few weeks were critical for building supply, and everything went wrong. The SNS they gave us at the hospital broke. We later learned that it was a temporary system and wasn't meant to be used for more than 24 hours--something the lactation consultant who gave it to us didn't mention. After that first week it became apparent that my milk wasn't coming in late; it wasn't coming in at all. Unluckily for me this fell during the holiday weekend, and though I called every consultant in the book in a panic, I couldn't get one on the phone. And so we started supplementing with a bottle.

For the next month I struggled with breastfeeding. I had a strenuous schedule of breastfeeding with or without the SNS (we finally managed to get a new one), supplementing with a bottle if he still seemed hungry, and then pumping for 15 minutes after each and every feeding session. My hands became chapped until they bled from washing the pumping equipment and SNS so often. Once we started the bottles, CJ preferred them and started to refuse to nurse for more than two minutes, and I had to work very hard just to get him to do that. I saw other lactation consultants who were optimistic that I would be able to breastfeed for the most part and supplement with a bottle a couple of times a day, but when it started to look that it wasn't going to turn out that way, despite all of my best efforts I became very depressed. CJ slept very well at night, just waking up every 3-4 hours to eat, but with all the pumping and washing up I was only getting an hour and a half of sleep at the most. I was tired. I was discouraged. And soon, I was skipping nursing sessions. By the time he was five weeks old, I wasn't nursing him at all.

I continued to pump, first 8 times a day, then I went down to 6, and when Nemo started his new job I started pumping only 4 times a day. I was getting maybe 8 ounces of breast milk a day--barely a third of what my baby needed. Two weeks before I went back to work, I made the abrupt decision to quit pumping all together. It was eating up 3 hours out of my day, and I wanted to spend all the time I had left at home with CJ, instead of watching him fuss in the swing while I prayed for the 15 minutes to pass quickly.

That was over two months ago, and I still feel like a failure. I am not a person who takes failure well (vanity, again). I schedule my day so that I never have to feed him outside the home, because I think that people judge me when they see the bottle. Really it is just me judging myself. Rationally I know that there is nothing wrong with formula. CJ is fine and will be fine. But I want so much to have that physical connection with him that other mothers enjoy with their babies. I want to do what mothers have been doing for thousands of years.

Plus, formula is freakin' expensive and cleaning bottles is a royal pain in the tush.

More than anything I want another chance. I think, if we are blessed with another child, things might turn out differently next time. I know I will probably never be able to exclusively breastfeed, but now that I have more knowledge and experience I have hope that I will be able to nurse longer and with less frustration than I did with CJ. That's all I ask.

See, he's fine!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wow, it's been a while.

I've been a stay-at-home person for three weeks now. It feels like much, much longer for some reason. I've been trying to stick to my goals. Some days are a lot better than others. I've scaled back "get dressed first thing in the morning" to "get dressed at some point before lunch", because CJ has taken to waking up at 5:30am no matter what time I put him to bed. That is practically still the middle of the night, and I refuse to wear anything but jammy pants in the middle of the night. How I miss the old days when I had to go in and wake him up at 7:30am.

We've been enjoying storytimes at the library and I am learning how to grocery shop. This involved an epic fail of spending over $30 on ingredients for Greek spinach cheese pie. Delicious, but not exactly budget friendly.

I am also pretty busy trying to keep the house tidy for when people come over to look at it--one woman has come twice, and the last time she brought her parents! I'm really hoping that she's the one! I want to move, already!

Other than that, lately I have been having a lot of fun sewing and crafting. So much so that I thought I would give Etsy a shot. I'm mostly just enjoying the hobby, but some extra money would be welcome, of course!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thankful Thursday #4

1. I am thankful that younger sister is coming to visit this weekend. I haven't seen her since CJ's baptism back in July! She was supposed to come a few weeks ago, but her travel plans fell through and we were all very bummed out. She is going to spend time with CJ while I go to a "baby sprinkle" for a friend who is expecting her second child.

2. I am thankful for my in-laws. This past weekend they drove up and helped Nemo install ceiling tiles to replace the 30-year-old ones that were in the basement. They even paid for the tiles! All in an effort to help us sell the house. This project has completed the basement's transformation from icky dungeon to completely bearable hanging out space. I love it and I love them.

3. I'm thankful that our realtor doesn't think we need to reduce the price on the house (yet). We are still getting a showing a week and are hopeful for a good offer.

Thanks to Rebecca for hosting!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Bigger Person

CJ was a relatively easy baby for the first three months of his life. At the beginning of October, when Nemo and I made the decision that I would quit my job to stay home with CJ, he was sleeping 12-13 hours at night and taking three 45 minute naps per day. The naps were short, but they were a sure thing so I couldn't complain.

Since making that decision, CJ has very abruptly turned into a high-maintenance baby. The root of the problem is the naps. I used to put him down awake after 5 minutes of rocking in the rocking chair, and he would very obligingly go right to sleep and stay asleep for 45 minutes. Now, He fusses or screams for long periods of time, and has never once put himself to sleep that way. I always end up going to him and either get him up or do more rocking and soothing until he is fast asleep. When I DO get him to sleep, I'm lucky if he sleeps for 45 minutes. It is usually 30 minutes, and sometimes less. But still I struggle to get him down for three naps a day, because if he doesn't, he wakes up at night and then gets up absurdly early the next morning.

The internet is being characteristically unhelpful. Most websites just say that some babies are short nappers and I should just suck it up. I was willing to believe that when he was taking full naps and was a cheerful baby, but with these even shorter naps he is cranky as all get-out. He clearly needs to sleep longer, but for some reason he can't. I'm at the end of my rope, here.

Anyway, the whole point of this story is that yesterday, the worst day to date, when I felt like all I did the entire day was listen to him scream, listen to myself cry, and try to force him to nap, I had a thought that I'm not proud of. I thought, "I wish I was at work right now, so someone else could be dealing with this crap".

Now, don't misunderstand me. I am where I am supposed to be, and I want to be here. But having that thought made me think about things and I came up with this theory that CJ was always a high-maintenance baby, but he was disguised as a little angel up until a month ago because God knew that I am weak. If CJ had acted like this a month ago, I'm not sure I would have been a big enough person to make the decision to quit my job. It would be so much easier to let someone else take the helm when it comes to the unpleasant parts of parenthood. I might not have made the right decision, so I am very grateful that the circumstances were such that I did.

As I was writing this he was crying in his crib, and then fell asleep after *only* 25 minutes. That's never happened before! There is hope!

Also, I wanted to ask if you could spare a prayer for Older Sister's family. She is struggling with postpartum depression, a high-strung two-year-old, and a colicky six week old, all of which is putting an enormous strain on their marriage. More specifically, please pray that my BIL will agree to a Retrouvaille program. Thank you so much!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Morning Person

I have never liked mornings. Everyone has to have a hobby, and mine happens to be sleeping. Most adults can get by on 7-8 hours of sleep, but I really need about 9 to feel normal. I used to arrange my schedule in order that I would never have to be up before 7am. Weekends I was known to sleep in until 10 or 11am.

Now things are different. CJ may be good at sleeping at night, but he is rubbish at napping. He wakes up between 6am and 8am, fresh as a daisy and a sheer joy to be around. I feed him, play with him a little, then he entertains himself on his play mat while I get some chores done.

Then he takes his first nap about two hours after he wakes up, and at 45 minutes long (if I'm lucky) it just isn't long enough. He takes about three or four of these short naps a day, and it is clear that they aren't restful. His mood gets worse and worse as the day goes on. By 3pm he is a complete mess, doesn't want me to put him down but also doesn't want me to hold him. The hours between 3 and 6 (when the bedtime routine starts) are extremely trying for me.

Today I found myself wishing that it could be morning ALL THE TIME and I shocked myself. Me? Mornings? Friends? Ha ha ha! A year ago the idea would have been absurd.

I blame this little monster.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

First Day at Home

Yesterday was my first official day as a stay-at-home mom. I actually think that is a misnomer. I prefer "household manager":) Nemo has been teasing me, telling me that I will be bored at home all day. Ha. That most certainly was not the case. Anyway, here is how it went:

Wake up, get dressed (not in yoga pants!), start a load of laundry, unload dishwasher, make breakfast. Nemo has already fed the cats, how sweet of him!

6:50 Eat breakfast, check email, & read blogs

7:10 I have to finish this book because it is due today and as I no longer work at the library I can't give myself unlimited extensions anymore!

7:35 put in load of diapers to rinse, make bottle, wake CJ and give him his breakfast.

8:00 Playtime!

8:30 Get CJ dressed and head off for 8:45 Mass

9:10 Get home, read to CJ from my book to kill some time before naptime.

9:25 Diaper change, rocking, and put CJ down for a nap.

9:30 He stops fussing, so I run outside to put the diapers on the clothesline, then return to my book.

10:05 Oh my goodness, really? He's awake already. Finished the book just in time.

10:15 Head out to the library to return some books, look for some cookbooks, and pick up another season of Friday Night Lights on dvd, but they are closed! I leave the books in the dropbox. We'll be back tomorrow for baby storytime, anyway. Instead we go to daycare to pick up some things we left there and then to the drugstore to buy Halloween candy and baby formula. It's on sale and I have $15 off coupons that I bought on ebay for $6.33 each, so all in all I got it for about 50% off. SCORE!

11:00 Home again and time for CJ to eat

11:15 CJ plays on his play mat and exersaucer while I work on knitting him a hat. It's getting a bit nippy and we don't have one that covers his ears adequately!

12:05pm Naptime for CJ, lunch and internet for me. Then I start deep cleaning the microwave and fridge. Yuck. I have let that go for far too long.

2:50 CJ takes another nap while I peel potatoes for dinner and finish cleaning the fridge

3:30 ARGH! These naps are short, even for him

3:30-5:30 fussyfussybottlefussy

5:30 I stuff a protesting CJ into his monster costume and take him around to the neighbors to say hi. He is subdued, but not crying. The poor guy is just tuckered out. He really needs to nap longer tomorrow, but I don't know how to make that happen!
6:00 Nemo is home just in time to help with bath and bedtime.

6:45 CJ is ASLEEP

7:00 Clean the garage. Because we're showing the house we have stashed a lot of stuff in there, but I rearrange it so that we can just squeeze a car in there. If its going to snow again, I don't want Nemo to have to scrape ice off the car at 5:30am!

8:00 We have a late dinner because Nemo had to do most of the cooking--I didn't get as much prep done as I thought I would due to CJ's uncharacteristic fussiness. We watch a couple of sitcoms while we eat.

8:45 Kitchen tidying

9:15 Get ready for bed and lay out clothes for tomorrow. Oh my goodness, tomorrow?

So it didn't go precisely how I thought it would. There were mishaps. There were things learned. There were moments of panic. But I got through it, and I'm pumped to try again tomorrow.