Yesterday morning the lactation consultant came by our house to check on Harve's progress. This particular nursing consultant also attended our birth in the capacity of midwife #2, and I was excited to see her again and show her how far we've come since the first time Saturday evening when she laid Harvey against my chest and I said, "I don't know how to do it. Am I allowed to pet him?"
The good news is that Harvey has been nursing very well, amazingly well even, a champion eater. I had been concerned about his short nursing sessions, but the consultation revealed that he's just eating really fast, and his 7-day average of 12 diapers a day shows that he's getting plenty of food. And since his parents have the unique ability of polishing off a dinner date at a restaurant in 20 minutes (the bottle-neck is ordering and paying) I'm not surprised by Harvey's above-average rate of consumption.
During the consultation Harvey ate for 45 minutes straight, a new record for him. He must have been spurred on by the captive audience... either that or by the fact that he had slept the majority of Tuesday in preparation for a major milk binge. Either way, the morning's professional nursing session jump-started something, because for the rest of the day he took to nursing like a professional, sucking to beat world records and howling every moment he was removed from the breast. By the time our friends came over in the evening for dinner and bible study, I was nursing the baby non-stop, going from the right side to the left side and back again without any pause. I was white as a ghost, my eyes looked sunken halfway into my brain, and I presented Harvey to our visitors at arms length, as if to say YOU hold this demon vacuum pump. There go our plans for trying to convince the rest of our friends to have babies. We may need to find some new, less rational friends.
To put the day's events in statistical perspective, the average daily nursing time for newborns is 140 minutes per day. Since my milk came in, Harvey has been averaging just under this, at around 130. Yesterday he nursed for 304 minutes. 304 minutes! This is 2.3 times the average, or over a third of our waking hours... OUR waking hours, not HIS waking hours... when our waking hours go to 11pm.
After a difficult evening, Harvey is now sleeping comfortably. I took a turn with the little night-terror last night, and I'm now convinced that the movie Gremlins was 100% based on the experiences of new parenthood. (They're cute, but DON'T FEED THEM AT NIGHT! DON'T LET THEM GO IN THE WATER!)
A repeated character on the Style Network's What Not to Wear program is that of the over-stressed mother. She spends so much time taking care of everyone else's needs - her kid's, her husband's, her co-worker's - that her wards eventually stage an intervention to remind her that the last time she bought clothes was in 1995 and she really needs to start combing her hair. Viewers at home watch the hidden camera footage going: "Is she really wearing pajamas to the grocery store? What would it take for her to put on a little mascara?"
Today, I am that woman.
The past week opened my eyes to the grueling nature of motherhood. Now that I am back on my feet and we've kicked out of our house all judgemental helpers ("Do you REALIZE there's DIRTY LAUNDRY on the STAIRS?"), every second that I'm not rocking or feeding a screaming baby finds me in the laundry room running through load after load of poop-covered diapers (and onesies, and blankets, and bed-sheets) or in the baby room processing said laundry, or in the kitchen unloading and reloading the dishwasher. Or sleeping, or rather more likely stuffing inserts into diapers while daydreaming about sleeping.
It's a big battle to try to take care of yourself while taking care of a newborn. The other day I took an hour and a half to eat one piece of toast because of constantly needing to nurse and rock and nurse and rock the baby. Dan asked me if I wanted dinner, and I was like, "No, eating that piece of toast was already a big production." Last night after the 4th hour of over-tired fussiness I sat upstairs with Harvey in the rocking chair, my eyes barely keeping open, the oxygen draining out of my brain, and all of a sudden I though, "Oh my God,In the process of trying to calm this baby I'm going to starve to death."
Dan has approached sainthood many times this week by taking the baby away from me when it looks like I'm crossing over my breaking point. But he's tired too. It makes no sense evolutionarily that two adults on vacation shouldn't be able to handle one 9lb baby. I mean, I can't see a clear benefit that fussing provides. The other day Dan pointed out that "If a baby monkey screamed this much, he'd be dead!"
It goes without saying, however, that between the pauses in open-faced crying, the baby is very cute when he yawns or sneezes (or sleeps!!!) and in anouther month or so he'll even make smile at us!
I find this post from Garden Rant to be a reasonable summary of my own garden thoughts the past couple weeks. Especially points 7, 6, 5, 3, and 1. Even worse, the few baking hot sunny days we had early this week showed two things: that everything in the garden is so accustomed to constant moisture that it will begin wilting the moment the sun comes out, and that three or four weeks of downpour has washed all the nutrients out of our soil and left it sterile and gray. Baby Harvey has only had sun for four out of the eighteen days he's seen so far, which doesn't seem particularly sporting. Still, since we're so tired from babying we can't do anything, it's nice to have the additional justification for sloth of terrible weather; a beautiful day we weren't able to enjoy would be just too sad.
It's funny to reflect on what I think about Harvey's personality. When I picture him, what comes to mind is a grumpy-faced eating machine; which is pretty much what he is at this point. Sometimes he sleeps, I suppose. I'm told there's more to look forward to, which is exciting, but even if he stays like this I don't mind, because even grumpy he's awful cute. I did last night speaking to friends compare him to a guinea-pig, in that we like him alot and we assume he likes us, but he doesn't really have much ability to show that. The only difference, perhaps, is the volume; that and you can't bring guinea-pigs into restaurants.
Having never owned a newborn baby before, it's hard to say what aspects of this particular infant's behavior signify specific personality traits, and what displays fall under the umbrella of normal human larva behavior. We notice, for example, that Harvey absolutely hates waking up; that waking is a 15-minute agonizing process of moaning and grimacing and clawing at the daylight. We notice also that he loves eating, voraciously attacking the breast each time as if he'd just crossed the sahara (as opposed to his actual afternoon itinerary: eating 40 minutes prior and indulging in a light nap.) But is it premature to say that our son hates change yet attacks life with great enthusiasm? I mean, don't all babies like eating and sleeping?
It's embarrassing how much emotion and intelligence we try to project onto the baby, when in reality there's really not that much going on in his little brain yet. Yesterday I thought it was just darling when Harvey pulled my hair before breast feeding. Like: "Oh look! He knows I'm his mommy and he's pulling me closer to him! How darling!" But then this morning I caught him trying to extract milk from the nose of a stuffed dolphin that happened to be positioned next to him in the bed, and I'm all, "Hey! Can't you tell the difference between my hot fragrant tit and bright blue plush fabric?"
Thankfully for Harvey's sake, the endowment affect makes us love him no matter how much shame or annoyance he inflicts on us... he does after all share our genetic material, which counts for something! We just look forward to liking him too for who he is... whoever he is.
Our farmers markets are Monday and Tuesday: Monday for Bedford, around the corner from our house, and Tuesday over in Lexington, accessible by bike. We have to go to Lexington because the Bedford market, which started up last year, is still a little sparse. So today I did. The problem, though, is in knowing what to get. You can't make a shopping list for the farmers market, because of course you can't be sure what will be there and look good. But without a list you need to have the mental acuity to make an on-the-fly decision about what to buy, something which I don't necessarily possess at the best of times and especially not when I was trying to distract a howling baby between the hours of 6:30 and 11:00 pm yesterday evening. So I stood around and looked stupid, and then bought some blueberries and cherries and new potatoes and tuscan kale, which is all well and good, but I really should have gotten some cucumbers as well. Next week.
There would be market pictures, because they are always lovely, but the camera is out of batteries. I rummaged and rummaged and finally found the rechargables, and then finally found the charger, and then charged the batteries for several hours, and then I took one shot and they died. Not even enough charge to retract the lens. So... another time.
It looks like Heather, who's annoying blog I DON'T READ, was convinced to try natural childbirth by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein's book Your Best Birth. For our part, Dan and I were convinced that homebirth by midwife was our only option after reading the book Pushed by Jennifer Block, which I picked up last summer on a whim from the new nonfiction section of our local library. It should be encouraging to activists and journalists everywhere that books-length exposes still have the ability to blow people's minds and completely alter people's behavior. That, or maternity care in the US is just THAT BAD.
As big hippies, (and Christian hippies at that) it wasn't a huge leap for us into the homebirth polemic. We are suspicious of doctors, we hate hospitals, and we think that God has a pretty solid plan for making more people.
Still, the decision for me was more based on stats based than faith. For low-risk mothers, the home is a safer place than the hospital. 8% of home births end in C-section, while 30% of hospital births do. There are other benchmarks to compare: episiotomy rates, length of labor, etc. But or me, the risk of C-section was the kicker. This is an intervention that decreases the safety of each subsequent child, eventually leaving the size of your family up to a doctor's judgement. Many of these procedures happen as precautionary safety measures, but I wasn't interested in mitigating microscopic risks with one-in-ten-thousand occurrences by taking on a three-in-ten risk of abdomen surgery. For me, that's a dumbass way to play the odds.
People's first major argument against homebirth is fear of complications that can't be managed in the home. In terms of medical preparedness, I have in my mind this image of stepping out of the tub immediately after giving birth and seeing the baby's changing table covered with rows and rows of labeled syringes, all at the ready with blood clotting agents and adrenaline and who knows what else. I looked around the room to see trays of sterile instruments and oxygen tanks, and all I could think was "When did this get here?" While I was closing my eyes and biting a towel it was like a staging crew from NBC's ER flooded the place.
The second sticking point that makes woman smile and back away when I mention homebirth is the pain issue. Yes, birth is painful. As someone with a very low pain threshold, I firmly agree that birth is painful. It's very very painful. But then it's over. I compare it to the experience of passing the worst Mexican food you ever ate; just as you think you are about to die from discomfort, the whole thing is done and you think, "Glad that's over with! I'm so happy to no longer be on the toilet!" Well, that was what birth was like for me: uncomfortable, and then done. And then I wasn't in the hospital, I wasn't all drugged up, and I had my baby right with me ready to bond. Also, I had the vindication that my body really did do what God created it to do, but that's a personal matter.
So I'm glad that crazy people like Heather are following the lead of crazy hippies like us. Who knew we could unite over something?
Not a fantastic morning in the squibix household today. I either got some sort of stomach bug or got poisoned by my portion of apple cake last night. Either way, I had a rough morning digestion-wise, and I'm all "Hold the baby while I go throw up," and then I come limping out of the bathroom to find the baby throwing up all over Dan. This is kind of amusing in an over-the-top sitcom sort of way, like: Look at this! Everyone's vomiting! Look how our troubles have intensified with children!
Thankfully we're out of the Exorcist stage of this illness now, so we'll all be okay after significant napping.
Yesterday all the human members of the squibix family headed out to the berry farm to pick raspberries and blueberries. Well, Harvey was pretty much there just to take in the sights, since he doesn't walk much yet—nor, in fact is he capable of the hand-eye coordination or motor control necessary to grasp a berry. Sadly, we forgot the Baby Bjorn, so we were reduced to carrying him around in our arms like primitive savages. In fact, I think they did better than us by rigging up slings of animal hide. Needless to say, this cramped our picking style—or rather, it cramped Leah's, since I quickly dumped the baby on her and settled down to the serious work of picking raspberries. Then we went home with the blueberries unpicked, due to maternal and kidernal tiredness. I was pretty hot too. Blueberry season is just starting though, so we'll have another chance, and this time we'll be properly prepared!
I wanted to write this post right away when we got home, but something came up. Probably extreme laziness on my part, justified by tiredness due to taking care of the baby. The same prevented us from making our raspberry jam today, so hopefully the berries are still doing alright in the fridge. It also prevents me from writing all the totally awesome posts I think of; there's one about strawberries I want to do, even though strawberry season's been over for weeks! Ah, the sacrifices we make to assure the survival of our genetic material.
Yesterday marked Harvey's one-month birthday. He celebrated by mostly sleeping all day, while I stayed in bed alternated hot sweats and chills. It looks as though I have a breast infection, with pain and fever and the whole 9-yards of breast infection, a condition I had never considered fearing before Friday night. Who knew this whole nourishing your child thing could be fraught with such hazard!
In the past month I have experienced varying levels of discomfort in areas usually left out of polite conversation. It poses a challenge when relating the conditions of my health; folks want to know what's going on, but I'm not eager to jump into a technical discussion of the behavior of my milk ducts. Or swelling in my coochipop. Or how it hurts to poop.
Concurrent with the health crisis the weekend, our baby has started to smile real smiles that don't involve the expression of fecal material. Goodness, that little boy is cute. And if he can continue to smile up at me while I sob all over him due to the pain of breastfeeding, well, it just goes to show that I'm his real life mom.
This week has been rather trying, medically speaking. The worst part of the mastitis was not the pain or the fever, but the fact that it required antibiotics, which required going to the doctor, which required another lecture on why my choice of midwife care is just about the most irresponsible thing next to delivering a child into a vat of snakes and sharp objects.
To complicate matters, I recently changed primary care physicians, as a result of a particularly annoying incident three weeks ago. You see, a week after the birth I wanted to come in to the office for a cortisone shot which the midwife recommended but could not administer. So I called my PCP's office, and spoke with the receptionist who after consulting with the doctor told me which that they didn't keep cortisone on hand, but nevertheless wanted me to come into the office for triage appointment because they did not trust the diagnostic skills of my midwife. The conversation went something like this:
*Doctor's receptionist: The doctor says that swelling in that area could mean a lot of things, so she want's to see you to make sure it's not more than just swelling.
Me: I know. That's why I got checked out by my midwife yesterday.
Receptionist: The doctor would still like you to come in today so she can see you.
Me: But you can't treat me in the office because you don't have the cortisone.
Receptionist: Yes but we can triage you here and refer you somewhere else for treatment.
Me: Somewhere else in the building?
Me: Thanks, but I don't want to spend the afternoon driving around the city with a week-old baby.
Receptionist: Yes but the doctor wants to see you because swelling in that area could mean a lot of things.
Me: I understand that. That's why I was seen by a midwife yesterday. She determined I need a cortisone shot, which you can't do. Thanks for your help, but I'm going to try to find somewhere that can do it.
Receptionist: The doctor would really like to see you today. Swelling in that area can be a lot of different things. Can you come in at 2:00?*
Repeat *to* 4 times until conversation exceeds 20 minutes or your brain explodes.
The receptionist actually refused to let me get off the phone without making an appointment. In the end, I had to end with a sentence like "Thanks for all your help but I'm really not going to come in for a triage appointment if you can't do anything there" and immediately hung up the phone. The office called me back five minutes later. "We've moved around some patients; can you come in at 11?"
Needless to say I quit that doctor. I signed up with a new PCP, registered the change with Blue Cross, and made my first appointment for this coming Wednesday. Unfortunately, my health didn't fall in line with my appointment timetable, and I called them on Monday with a need for antibiotics. After answering the same five questions to three separate people (Who's Your OB? What hospital did you deliver at? and other similar questions to which the answers exploded their brains!) I was told the nurse would phone me back. My new doctor's office is so elite that you can't even make an appointment; you have to wait for them to call you!
A nurse did call me back half an hour later, and the specifics of the conversation are too disturbing and un-humorous to repeat verbatim. Suffice it to say that she was very angry I was calling her office for this sort of thing, since they don't ever see women until after 6 weeks postpartum, and what on earth was I doing with some sort of charlatan midwife who can't write a prescription. (Note: no home birth midwives can write prescriptions. If you have a prescription-writing midwife, she's a nurse midwife and you deliver in the hospital.) The verbal dressing-down was so severe that I found myself saying things like: "Im sorry I called, I just thought that because you guys are my primary care office..." and "I understand if you don't feel comfortable treating me."
Now I'm no doctor, but isn't that somewhat f-ed up?
In the end, the nurse just wanted to feel like Mother Theresa for scheduling an appointment ("I wouldn't want you to go without care!") and I got my antibiotics after all. Although the whole incident made me want to stockpile drugs ordered off the internet. Did you know you can get a full bottle of erythromycin from India for twenty bucks? I do now.
I never wanted to be this sort of... what's the right metaphor... lightening rod? poster child? whipping boy? I just wanted a better birth for my family, and now I would also sometimes like prescription drugs for legitimate medical issues. I don't want to seem greedy, but can't I have both?
Before I had a child I thought the most embarrassing part of parenthood was the slow slide towards smelliness. And not just any smelliness. That smell smelliness. You know, the smell of a kiddy play corner in the doctors office. Or the pull-down changing table in a public restroom. Or your friends house when you go over and it looks like a spit-covered fisher price catalog exploded in their living room. It smells slightly like babies, but also slightly dirty. And it's very off-putting.
This week I have come closer to this olfactory nightmare. Me, the baby, and everything in our house have an oder. A slightly unpleasant oder. It's dried milk.
Oh I have excuses. It's not so bad because it's human milk. It's organic and natural. It's the beautiful bounty of my womanhood...
It's no use. I smell like the dairy farmer mated with the cow, and I know it. In any other circumstance a person would change a shirt covered in wet milk. I'm just too lazy.
The good news is that the real reason doctors corner and messy baby houses smell bad is not the poop or the milk, it's all that hard plastic emitting vapors. So maybe there is hope for us after all.
We finally managed a vacation, even if it was only for a single day (about all we can handle given our current state of fatigue). Not a beach house, perhaps, but a marsh house, where—given the damp and fog, and lack of sun or blue sky or any other markers of the beach vacation that might have made us feel we had to enjoy ourselves with particular energy or vigor—we played a board game on the porch, let other people hold baby Harvey, and let Rascal run miles and miles over the cobble-y beach. Also we watched the tide, and the swallows.
Leah has many more pictures on her camera, and I'll put em up when I get them.
No, not Harvey; he sleeps a fair amount, although less than comparable models I suppose (check out his stats to see). The problem is with me. I am congenitally unable to nap, and I'm also bad at going to bed when I'm tired—much less when Harvey decides it's bedtime, if that happens to be 8:30. Also I wake up every time he makes noise, such as every five minutes between, say, 2:00 am and 7:30. But we're working it out. He's getting a bit of a schedule, and I'm getting so tired that I fall asleep the second I close my eyes. Equilibrium!
More pictures from Scituate the other day.
Rascal played in the ocean:
Mama and Harvey watched:
It was perfect weather for a day at the seaside!
We're high-tech now.
The Tour de France ended today, and what a good one it was. I have complained before about previous tours and the "doping scandals" they involved; I don't care at all about doping, I just want to watch some racing. This year no one pretended moral outrage, and there was a fair amount of drama both in the individual stages and overall. Also I wasn't doing anything but watching the baby, and we have the DVR, so I was able to watch almost every minute of the US coverage (much of it, admittedly, in fast forward). Also Bradley Wiggens, who I picked as a favorite in the first third or so (mostly because of his name and nationality and because I wanted to support Garmin as the non-Columbia US team and Christian Vande Velde seems something of a tool) did quite well indeed. So it was all good, and now I never have to watch television ever again.
Also, I mentioned back in 2007 that I was going to become an Astana supporter; from what I can recall that was in response to them getting kicked out of the tour that year for doping. Needless to say, I was not supporting them this year.
It turns out that going without air conditioning is all the rage these days; even the New York Times says so (via Path to Freedom). The article suggests that passing up artificial cooling can save households $2000 or more, help people get thin, and bring families together... pretty good! It turns out that by using fans at night and closing up the house during the day life can actually keep things livable, and when the interior temperature is closer to what you have outside it's actually possible to go outside on a summer day without immediately dying or, you know, melting or something.
Unfortunately, we've been AC-less for some time now, so I guess that means we're as thin and family-unified as we're likely to get. Maybe the electric company could send us that $2000 as a gesture of thanks for our sacrifice?
...from the ball and chain of the computer.
That's how Leah describes her liberation from having to track Harvey over the next couple days, as we journey to Maine for the little baby's first camping trip. The lack of blog posts and real-time Harvey tracking will be made up for by pictures and videos on our return on Sunday (if we make it that long!)