Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving

A few days ago we celebrated our last Thanksgiving as a law student couple, away from family, here in chilly Boston. The trees in our neighborhood are looking a little cold themselves, as they've shed most of their leaves. I can smell the snow coming. And soon we'll be celebrating our last white Christmas, it's bittersweet but mostly sweet.

Like every other year, Jose and I decided to stay here for Thanksgiving. Sometimes it can get a little lonely during the holiday season, when it seems like everyone is traveling to visit loved ones, but this year we really couldn't complain.

Two days before Thanksgiving, our new sitter was supposed to come over to watch Mirabel so I could cook. As a result of some unfortunate miscommunication, she ended up not coming. So Jose played babysitter that day, and I'm so glad he did because I couldn't have done it without him. We celebrated our first Thanksgiving completely together on Wednesday night. I don't want to say that it's our first official family Thanksgiving, because we were a family before then, but now we feel more complete. While I was sitting on the living room couch waiting for the ham to finish warming up, it occurred to me that even if we're not able to have any more children, I am very content with what we have, or I should say with who we had at our table this year.

...And I guess I shouldn't say table, since we had to celebrate Thanksgiving outside of our real home this year, and we didn't exactly sit at a table for dinner. We live in one of the university's oldest grad student apartments, and just a few weeks ago they checked our place for lead. Apparently, our apartment wasn't de-leaded properly, so they decided to go forward with the process the week of Thanksgiving. Harvard has a few extra furnished units so they put us up in one for the time being. I guess they don't expect students to eat, because they gave us everything except for a kitchen table :P. So we enjoyed our Thanksgiving dinner on the living room floor, watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and taking turns stuffing our faces with one hand and holding Mirabel with the other. She is normally pretty giggly, but that night I caught her laughing at a TV character for the first time; she laughed out loud during the scene when Chevy Chase falls through the floor of his attic while wearing an eclectic outfit and tearing up over old family videos. It was cute.

Thanksgiving morning, we watched the parade, and Mirabel got a kick out of the Rockettes. She has so much energy, I think she wanted to join them. For lunch, we had turkey sandwiches with stuffing, and I was able to enjoy a gluten-free turkey/cranberry sauce/mashed potato sandwich for the first time, thanks to Udi's delicious gluten-free bread (they didn't pay me to say that, promise ;).

A friend invited us over for a Thanksgiving potluck, so that's where we celebrated the evening of Thanksgiving. It was a lot of fun, and we enjoyed stuffing our faces even more then. It was nice to celebrate with friends, since our family had their own celebration back in Texas and we couldn't join them. After the potluck, we came home; Mirabel and I watched the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving movie while Jose sat next to us glued to his laptop, watching UT lose (yet again) to Texas A&M (sadness for us!).

Most years, Thanksgiving comes and goes and I'm left a little sad when it's all over and done with. It's easy to go back into work mode and forget about the things we were thankful for just the day before. 2 days have passed and I'm still feeling thankful this time around.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Finding the right balance

This summer Jose started sleeping on the couch so that he wouldn't be tired for his internships, since Mirabel was waking up quite a bit. She still isn't sleeping through the night, but on the weekends in the past he would sleep in our room and was actually able to sleep through Mirabel's wakeful periods. Now he's sleeping on the couch because it's so hot in our apartment from the radiators, and his body heat makes me even hotter. Sounds funny, but I've gotten used to having the bed to myself. I feel really bad about this, so last night I didn't tell him anything until almost 1 in the morning, when I'd been laying there for 3 hours unable to sleep because I was so hot. He ended up sleeping in the living room again.

This wouldn't be an issue if I was averaging more than 4 hours a night, but lately (I think it's due to a growth spurt) there's no such thing as a good night's sleep. That's actually been the case for 6 months, but it's just now taking a toll, with migraines and exhaustion. There are days I feel too tired come 6 PM, when Mirabel is also starting to get sleepy and wants to be carried around for the remainder of the evening. The other issue is work. Yes, working from home is definitely nice, but I mostly work during nap times, so I'm pretty much going, going, going all day and all night. I'm a food blogger for a company; I have my own personal food blog, but I also blog every day on another site. I cook quite a bit, that's my work. I love cooking, so I can't complain. But lately I've had to resort to cooking with a baby on my back...which is definitely not safe. So I'm looking into getting a part-time sitter to watch Mirabel while I cook so that I can sit down and take a break while she's napping.

But this isn't easy, for many reasons. Before Mirabel was born, I had my own idea of what it meant to be a successful mother. I thought I could easily balance it all without a problem. I have to be honest, when I am well-rested it all seems very doable. But the days are a lot longer and seem a lot harder when sleep-deprivation takes its toll. I've done some reading, and the doctor even suggested that I try the cry-it-out approach. But I can't do that. For Mirabel and myself, it just isn't the right thing to do. I think when she can talk I can certainly leave her alone and let her put herself back to sleep, because at that point I'll be able to reason with her a bit. But she is a very emotional/passionate baby right now, and I can see how her personality clearly changes after a bout of crying. She only cries inconsolably in the car seat; she is a very happy baby who spends more time smiling and laughing than whining and crying. That's why I don't think the cry it out method is for us.

This is why I'm willing to ask for help now. I realize now that I can't work, keep up the house, and be a mom without some help at least. I'm mad at myself for feeling guilty about this, because I know I shouldn't. A part of me feels that I should be stronger, suck it up, and just roll with the punches. But I'm struggling, and that's ok. One reason why I'm having such a hard time hiring someone is because I'm concerned about letting someone who doesn't love my child take care of my child. That sounds over-protective, but I've been hearing quite a few terrible stories about sitters who seemed legit, until the child they were caring for suddenly had to be rushed to the hospital because of something careless or heartless done to them. I know that the chances of that happening to us are slim, considering many kids (including myself) have/had sitters and are happy/healthy...but now that I have this baby that I wanted so badly, I'm finding it hard to let go. And I'm wondering if I'm just using my concerns as an excuse to not let go? I'll stop psychoanalyzing myself for now, but I'm just trying to understand where I'm coming from (funny as that sounds) because I don't make very much sense to myself these days.

But this is the reality: I'm trying to be the main breadwinner (at least until Jose graduates), the mom, and the housekeeper while waking 3-5 times a night. Eventually, something's gonna give, whether it's my health, job, or sanity...I haven't failed, I'm just a human being. Ok, I think I feel a little better after this self-talk. If you're still reading, bless your heart and thank you for hearing me out! :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My little girl's growing up! Almost 6 months...

"You know you're a busy mom when you look forward to 'relaxing' on the dentist's chair while they're filling 2 cavities at once." That's how I jokingly responded to Jose when he asked how I felt about going to the dentist, a few hours before my appointment yesterday.

Of course, "relaxing" is the last word I could use to describe how I felt when I actually got to the office. I was a little nuts. The last time I left Mirabel alone was about 4 months ago, and that was just for 15 minutes. All hell broke loose, she screamed her head off and Jose had a panic attack. I wasn't worried at all about the pain from the fillings; in fact, I asked if I HAD to get Novocain shots, because I was doing everything I could to speed up the process and I figured the injections would slow it down. I know, I'm nuts. Surprisingly, they ended up giving me 4 shots, despite my efforts. And, coincidentally, the day I leave Mirabel alone with her dad is the day that they are running 1/2 hour behind. So I ended up spending 2.5 hours out of the house!

Turns out I had nothing to worry about. Mirabel had fun with her dad. I left her a little bit of milk, and...this is where it gets exciting: She DRANK out of a bottle! I kid you not. This means I might actually get to go on a date with my husband soon! For the first time in 6 months!

I have to admit, I am a little sad. Mirabel is at the age where she loves to play rough. Jose tickles her and she loves it, he bounces her on his knee, and rough-houses with her (in a baby-safe way, of course). I'm the more mellow mom. I just feed her and occasionally tickle her, and read to her, that sort of thing. But my little baby is growing up. She doesn't need her mom that much anymore. That makes me happy and sad at the same time :(.




Thursday, November 4, 2010

What I wish someone would've told me

A friend posted this on Facebook. Interesting title. I had to check it out. What caught my attention was the word "success" in the same line as "breastfeeding". I'll be the first to tell you that I didn't feel very successful at all the first 6 weeks. This post is dedicated to all the soon-to-be moms who plan on breastfeeding, and moms that are scared of it, or even people who think it's strange. It's also dedicated to those who think it's completely natural (which it is), so it should come naturally and with ease.

Before I had Mirabel, I belonged to that last category. I figured it had to be easy. If kangaroos could do it without any problem, why couldn't I? But no one told me about the pain! And how it would make me jump off the couch like a kangaroo! The similarities end there; I certainly couldn't breastfeed as easily as one! For some it isn't so bad, for me it was horrendous. I think that's an understatement. I didn't post the entire experience on here, because I didn't want to just focus on how bad it was. But now that I'm over that hump, I'll explain all the obstacles. I honestly feel like I can do anything now!

If you're not a fan of TMI, then don't read on. You can't say I didn't warn you! But I have no problem discussing this openly. In fact, I wish more people had discussed it with me this openly beforehand, so I'd know what to expect... Books just weren't enough.

Chapter I: Oh, Colostrum!
I remember it. Thick and almost syrupy, but more opaque. It can cure any ailment, right?! ;) I remember only pumping 2 ounces and being oh-so proud! I was shocked that my body could even produce anything. I made sure none of it went to waste; I worked hard for every single drop!

And that massive breastpump. I have to be honest, it intimidated me. The plastic from the shileds irritated me so much that I had to lather them in lanolin and wrap tissues around myself before using it! I can look back and laugh now. I still pronounce Medela wrong, probably from the trauma ;).

Now on to the story...

Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to feed Mirabel right after she was born because they whisked her away to the NICU. I was sad, but I figured I'd be able to feed her later that day. I was wrong. Because she wasn't breathing very well on her own, they said I wouldn't be allowed to feed her at all that day :*(. Poor little 6 pound tiny baby wasn't allowed to eat, and my body wasn't making very much anyway. So from the beginning, it was a struggle.

Finally the second day I was allowed to feed her. But the nurses had already given her formula. I was bothered at first, then I was told she had jaundice so they had to push fluids. At that point I thought she would inevitably be a formula fed baby, because I still wasn't producing milk and the baby needed fluids and food. She was so tiny and looked so helpless, I just wanted her to eat. Again, I felt like a failure.

Let me just pause here to say this: If you formula fed/formula feed your baby, YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE. Your baby will still be a genius! I know many grown adults who were formula fed and scored much higher on the SAT than I did, and I was breastfed until age 2 ;).

Also, a lot of breastfeeding moms use formula at one point or another. I supplemented quite a bit in the beginning, because I would literally cry from the pain of breastfeeding. The only reason why I didn't give up was for personal reasons. The pain was an obstacle I was determined to overcome. Anyhow, everyone has their reasons, so please don't see this as a condescending post from another breastfeeding warrior. I understand. Been there, done that. And yes, I did take home the free formula from the hospital, and I even happily accepted the formula that the doctor gave me later on. Not ashamed.

One thing I've learned is that pain thresholds differ from person to person. For instance, I thought I was going to have a drug-free labor/delivery. I didn't. AT ALL. And guess what? I don't regret that in the least bit. After 21 hours of labor and 2 tears, I'm glad I got that dang needle in my back. In fact, I plan on asking for it as soon as possible, when the second one comes around. Mirabel is fine and so am I.

Then again, some women are able to birth their children without an epidural. I'm very happy for them. My mom did it with me and she was in labor for days. I don't know how she did it; I've come to conclude that it's possible my mom can tolerate pain better than I can. That doesn't make any of us inferior, it makes us individuals.

And for the record, I did try. I bought a $150 Hypnobabies CD, for Pete's sake. Every.Single.Day I practiced my hypnosis techniques. I devoted an hour to it on a daily basis, no lie. But when the time came for this baby to come out, self-hypnosis just wasn't enough. I didn't even feel the needle go into my back at all. The epidural only worked on half of my body and they didn't give it to me until the last 45 minutes (because my doctor was terrible), but I'm still glad I got it. I actually got to enjoy pushing Mirabel out. Maybe enjoy isn't the word, since I felt like puking pretty badly, but at least I wasn't in pain!

Chapter II: I wish they made epidural for THIS kind of pain...
I have to agree with one of the doctors I met with after I had Mirabel when she said that next to childbirth, breastfeeding can cause some of the worst physical pain a woman will experience. I went back to see that doctor 3 times. Each time for a different prescription for the pain. No, not pain meds, let me explain. Because Mirabel and I had to be on 2 doses of antibiotics before leaving the hospital, I was convinced yeast was the culprit. Who knew you could get a yeast infection up there? You can. After taking a dose of diflucan and still experiencing quite a bit of pain, I knew that wasn't it. Then the doc told me that I might have an infection, maybe mastitis, but I didn't have a fever. Then she said it could be MRSA and a yeast infection. Goodie. I made an appointment with an infectious diseases doctor, and later canceled because I decided that the doc was as clueless as I was.

I then spoke with 3 different lactation consultants. They all were convinced it was a latching issue, until I showed them my skillz :D. Then they thought Mirabel was tongue-tied, but that wasn't it. Then they thought I had raynauds! I knew it wasn't that, so I returned the $250 breast pump I purchased and bought another one, because I thought maybe the suction was too strong. Gosh, folks, the list really goes on from there. That list grew and grew for six weeks, until one day I happened to notice that I was no longer cringing during Mirabel's feeds! One of the best days of my life!

Chapter III: What does THIS little (or not so little) GIRL EAT?!!
I said goodbye to the formula. Eventually the breastpump found a home under my bed, and it's covered in dust now because I don't use it much these days. And that lovely nurse from a certain breastfeeding league who rudely chided me, then told me that my supply would go down because I was supplementing with formula? To her I say this: My daughter is in the 95th percentile for height and weight. She is bigger than all the babies her age that I've met so far. People actually ask me what I feed her. I smile, knowing the long story behind my breastfeeding experience, and I just say...MILK. My MILK. I feel like a superhero, people. I feel so good that my body can produce enough milk to feed my gentle giant of a baby! :) I call her Cuddles for a reason. I'm so glad I stuck to it!

Stick to it if you can! If you can't, don't feel bad. Breastfeeding, next to childbirth, is the hardest thing I've ever done. Even though I gave my daughter formula and took home the stash that they gave me at the hospital, I still consider our story a successful one--even if others don't.


Eating-posted for family :)

 

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