Thursday, December 6, 2012

Goodbye Chicago

About six and a half years ago I sat in the living room of my dad's townhouse with a few boxes and suitcases and waited for my future brother and sister in-law to pick me up and move me and the last of my things to Chicago.  Danny had already moved out there a couple weeks prior while I finished up my job at the United Way.

Even though I'd told my dad I'd be moving it hadn't seemed to sink in for him until that moment. He stood in the doorway of the living room looking at my packed belongings quietly.  "So, you're really moving?" He finally said.  My sister, who was keeping me company while I waited, rolled her eyes impatiently, "Yes, dad! Are you just now figuring it out?"
"Well.." he paused, thinking of what to say or do in response.  And he offered his best show of affection.
"Do you need any spices?"
And so, five minutes before my ride to Chicago arrived, my father quickly and thoughtfully packed an assortment of spices from his collection for me.

In Chicago I lived in 3 apartments, had 1 job, visited hundreds of bars and restaurants, a hand-full of churches before becoming a member of one for the first time.  (One I grieve leaving, avoided my last Sunday because I was too scared to say goodbye).  I got one broken ankle in Chicago, spent many days and nights learning and rehearsing at Second city, was proposed to in front of a statue of Shakespeare by my soul mate and a few years later, just around the corner I gave birth to my other soul mate.

Last week, as I hurriedly packed the last of the kitchen items I found some of the spices my dad had given me that I hadn't used and paused before throwing them out.  Six-year-old Tarragon would not help anyone out.   I knew my dad would look down on stale spices- even if they were from his own cupboard and held for sentimental reasons.  Also, I was excited to know that I would see my dad more often now that I was moving back to Michigan- and even better- that Penelope would know her chef grandpa the same way I'd always known my grandparents.  And maybe he could tell me what to do with Tarragon.

I know in about 10 years, maybe sooner, I'm going to have a lot of 'splainin to do when Penelope realizes she was born in an exciting, fun city like Chicago, and her father and I had made the choice of moving her back to boring old Michigan.  Even if she read my blogs about how hard it was to have a family in the city, so far away from our families, she still might not understand.  I'm hoping I can point out to her all the memories and fun she would have had had over the years with her family- "remember that time we went to the waterpark with all your cousins?"  "You know your grandmas? Or your crazy aunt Julie Jo?" I would point out, "You would only have seen them once or twice a year if we'd stayed." Maybe that will appease her.  Or maybe she'll roll her eyes and stomp off.  But either way, she'll probably have more room to stomp off in, since we will hopefully be living in a house with a yard, instead of a small city apartment.

It's hard to believe it's already been a week since we moved back.  Penelope seems to have adjusted well so far.  She's happy and obsessed with the Christmas tree.  She grabs the branches and pulls with all her might, truly believing she can fit the whole thing in her mouth.  She gets frustrated that she's not allowed to pull all the ornaments off.  I have to admit it is a weird thing- that we hang up all these fun looking toys on a tree and dont allow her to play with each one.  "No, honey, all those toys are just for you to stare at." I tell her.  But it brings her no consolation.  She loves all her grandparents, and is already getting to know her cousins.  She's babbling more and more.  She says 'bahbahdablahbahada' while she jumps in her jumper.  She'll stop whatever she's doing- even if she's crying- if you sing her a song- any song, but especially the ABC song.  She laughes when you blow raspberries on her belly, and she hates peas.  I mean she REALLY HATES PEAS.  But she's happy and content.  And as much as Danny and I have to accomplish to still get settled back in our home state-- so far we are too.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Obsessed (like the Beyonce movie)

Penelope is like a new baby every week.  Her progress and growth is really astounding.  She is more aware and alert every day.  Sometimes when I get home from work and am going on a rant about my day, I'll look down to see her big eyes  staring at me, her forward wrinkled with curiosity, as if she's really trying to follow what I'm saying.  It makes me nervous to hear that humans learn the most the first five years.  Here I am complaining and rolling my eyes, doing less than flattering impressions of my fellow man, and here is Pea absorbing every tone and inflection I put out there, to put into practice her first day of kindergarten.

She's obsessed with screens.  The computer, the television, but especially our cell phones.  And she's really trying to perfect her grab.  She extends her hand in a claw shape toward all objects-- my lips, empty Dr. Pepper cans, glasses of water, her own feet.  Once she grasps the object, the next step is to attempt to put it in her mouth.  What follows is confusing.  Danny and I aren't sure what she expects, but when she finally gets the object to her mouth, she always seems disappointed.  Not just slightly, either.  But despairingly so.  As if she's lost the lotto.  She cries with her eyes shut as if she expected chocolate mousse and got steamed broccoli.  After a few minutes of her going back to putting it in her mouth and taking it out with frustrated cries, we usually take the object away, and she gets even more upset.  Maybe she's teething.

Last week we attempted 'sleep training'.  Our doctor recommended that it was time.  Sleep training, also known as 'neglect' to some parents, is where you let your child 'cry it out'.  The purpose is for her to learn to sooth herself, and not depend on helpless schmucks (her parents) to rock her, walk her, sing her songs, stroke her face, etc, at her every beck and call.  I've heard once you get past the initial crying, your baby is independent and everyone wins.  We had heard you should try at 6 months, but the doctor said the earlier the better.  So last weekend, we gave it a shot.  After 45 minutes of straight up screaming, with her head turning purple, Danny threw in the towel and went and got her.  Even after we picked her up she didn't instantly stop crying, but continued for a while.  After she fell asleep she was still gasping and swallowing every now and then to catch her breath.  I think we'll try again in a couple months.  For now, we have weaned her off sleeping in her swaddle and nighttime feedings.  Sometimes she sleeps through the night, and other times she cries until you pop her pacifier back in, and she goes right back to sleep.  So, I consider that progress.

She's making some amazing sounds these days.  She does some raspberry type affects, but lately she's also been screaming and shrieking like how I imagine a pterodactyl would.  My favorite is when you're in dialogue with her, either mimicking the noises she's making or answering as if she's speaking in actual words ('Yeah? Is that right? You never told me THAT before'), and she pauses as if she's choosing her words carefully before saying 'ssJJJAAAAAAAbllllf!', coupled with a facial expression as if she's giving you the gossip on the neighbor.

This video is for sound only.  (If I let her see the camera, it interrupts the natural environment and she tries to grab it and put it in her mouth.)

Baby girl is now starting to hold her own bottle! Sometimes she holds with both hands in the shape of a gun, which is not always very effective, but we're working on that.

And another huge milestone is her first solid food! We have given her baby oatmeal for the past few days.  Her first bites are always tentative and followed by a shudder, as if the taste is jarring, but she always leans forward for more.  Because she wants to put everything in her mouth, this is an activity that finally liberates her. After a few times of rolling her tongue around, and pushing the oatmeal out she starts to swallow.  She usually only ends up with half on her face, which we consider a victory.

Overall, I'm madly, deeply, insanely, what seems unhealthily, in love with her.  Even when she's scream-crying, I think she's so adorable.  I follow coworkers around the office showing them pictures of her on my phone.  I stare at her while she's sleeping, I look at her pictures every second I'm away from her.  I love the smell of her breath, I've memorized the rolls on all her extremities.  I even like changing her diapers.  Danny and I figure she must get a minimum of a million kisses a day between the two of us.  I can't imagine this kind of obsessive love can last, but people have warned me that it will.  When she's a teen, will I still want to kiss her belly?  Will I follow her around and congratulate her on successful bowel movements? Will I disapprove of her friends, once she branches out of her current circle? (Gerry the giraffe and Gordon the bear).  This might become problematic.

In closing,  here she is with her posse (Gordon bear) flashing a 'peace out'.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bring on the Awesome

Here is my life as a working city mom: waking up in the morning, getting myself and beautiful Penelope ready, loading us onto a bus at 7:30 (or closer to 8, as it usually ends up), during the height of morning rush hour, walking to daycare, dropping off my child with people who may or may not be somewhat incompetent, walking back to work, where I try to care about budgets and middle donor segments and office politics, all while pumping milk 3 times.  Then getting on a bus without the beautiful Penelope, but in the height of afternoon rush hour traffic, and getting home after 6 pm, which is usually when beautiful Penelope is ready for a nap.

Yesterday my cute pink stylish hair dryer busted and I left the house with wet hair.  Everyone else was wearing jackets, but I was wearing a baby with a very slight fever, so I guess it evened out.  I thought I smelled throw up on the street again and wondered what drunk zombies had been wandering around in my neighborhood on a Wednesday night.  When the bus arrived at the stop, 3 or 4 people quickly boarded ahead of me, obviously not phased by the infant strapped to my chest, and they grabbed the last of the handicapped seats.  I slowly walked toward the back of the bus, silently pleading for someone to offer me a seat but no one did.  Luckily I was able to grab the last seat toward the middle, where the bus looks like an accordion, crammed between two people, one of whom would receive a constant baby kick all the way to work.  The commute was typical--I sat perched uncomfortably, with my knees squeezed together, holding one bag between my legs. My left hand juggled another bag and Penelope's head as she drifted off to sleep.  I used my right hand to feed her a bottle, and cling to a burp rag.  I used my soul to pray that today wouldn't be the day that my fears would become reality and she will projectile spit up on everyone around her.  A man standing in front of me smiled as if to say Penelope was cute.  This is not cute, I wanted to correct him.  This is harder than Pilate's.

Today, (with dry hair this time) Penelope and I headed out to the bus stop and there was that puke smell again.  We got on a bus and even managed to get a seat.  A nice lady smiled at us and asked how old Penelope was.  "Do you smell throw up?" I asked, sniffing.  Maybe I'd stepped in it.  "I keep smelling it, and now I'm paranoid that it's me".  She smiled sweetly, "Maybe a little." she confessed, "maybe she spit up?" she offered as an explanation "..but she's really cute." I could tell she was a nice person trying to soften the blow.  Sigh.  So the whole time I was the throw up smell.  I tried to think back to how long I'd been smelling it in the mornings-- a week? two?  maybe that's why no one offers me a seat.  I started sniffing myself, my baby, and decided it must be the baby carrier, but I still haven't found the source. 

Today while I juggled bags, baby and bottle the nice lady wanted to talk. She has a son named Conner and is expecting her second in March.  After she got off a guy with very broad shoulders took her spot, so I scootched over to a now open seat and found myself next to my neighbor who also has a young baby.  (She doesn't bring hers on public transit like a lunatic).  We talked about our babies (hers is also named Conner, it turns out), then she got off the bus and we continued on.  Finally at our stop, I carried sleepy baby under an El train track, liquid dripping on us, Penelope cringing as the train drummed over our heads.  Then we walked past a trumpet street musician who seemed to play his song directly into our faces.  We passed Mr. Street Guy who composes his own songs as he sings them, then through a very long construction period.  A large truck was pouring rocks onto a conveyor belt, while another section contained a jackhammer.  I tried to cover her ears.  We passed the fire department, where today, luckily there was no fire alarm.  And we continued on.  The daycare loomed ahead, looking like the tower of Mordor.

I dropped her off, which, needless to say, is never my favorite part of the day, and walked all the way back to work- another 20 minute walk through the same obstacles mentioned.  As I got back into the building the daycare called to tell me they didn't have any bottles for her.  "Yes there are," I insisted "They're in the freezer there filled with milk."  The lady said she'd check and call me back.

When I got to my desk, they were calling again.  This time it was my least favorite worker-- the one Danny had witnessed accidentally giving another baby my breast milk a couple weeks ago-- she was telling me there weren't any bottles.  When I told her they were in the freezer she insisted there weren't any, just milk. 
"What is holding the milk?" 
"Skinny tubes."
"Those tubes are bottles."
"Oh.  Well there still aren't nipples"  Ah.  I lose.

So I turned around and made the trek again, this time with a nipple I happened to have in my purse. 
I got to give Penelope extra kisses when I dropped it off.  She was sucking on four of her fingers and didn't seem to notice me or my kisses. 

I rushed back to work to start my day, about one hour later than intended.  When I went to open my bag to pump, I found yesterday's milk.  Apparently I hadn't left it in the fridge, instead it had sat out all night in my bag.  That's 15 ounces of milk I had to throw away.  To put this in perspective, that is a day of food for Penelope.

I took a coffee break and came back to my desk.  This day is now going to be awesome.  Up to now it has been somewhat not awesome.  But that is going to change, I can just feel it.  Starting right now.  11:51.  I take a sip of my coffee and realize it's not what I ordered.  Okay, starting NOW.  11:52....

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Separation Anxiety

I've been putting off writing this post until I could type it out without crying. 

I started back at work last week.  I knew it was going to be hard, but had no idea I would be this broken hearted.

I can't remember the last time I felt this way but its a familiar feeling, only this time it's stronger than I've ever had it. Its similar to the feeling that comes from a severed relationship, or grief. Pain in my chest, something big and heavy sitting in my stomach. I can't eat, I can't sleep, I have a lump in my throat and I'm constantly on the verge of tears. Even as it gets easier and I cry less, I miss her so bad it feels like I'm without a vital organ like a lung or a kidney. Last week I lost 4 pounds.  I'm calling it the Daycare Diet.

The hardest part of the first day was in the morning when I had to wake her up at 5 am. It was still dark out but instead of crying in protest she kept grinning at me. I thought I would die of guilt. You have no idea what's going on, I thought, trying to hold back the crying until after she left with her daddy. And when I closed the door I let it rip, sobbing while holding a breast pump to my chest, expressing milk before going to work. The rest of the day wasn't as bad.  I was distracted by the adrenaline of being back to work after 3 months- the longest I'd gone without working since college- and the renewed joys of getting ready in an empty apartment, putting in hair product and using lipstick. But at the end of the day, seeing my baby's red eyes, knowing she'd spent the majority of her day confused and crying, I felt like everything was broken. When I'd called to check on her earlier the staff said she'd been pretty upset and was just starting to calm down and take a bottle.  Apparently she refused food at first, which--if you've seen her chubby cheeks you know-- is so unlike my daughter.  I felt trapped. I couldn't quit my job even if I wanted to- but felt so guilty knowing she was so unhappy.

I barely ate dinner and couldn't sleep. My friends at work tried to distract me.  Danny did an impression of one of the other kids in the center to make me laugh.  Apparently the little boy was lying on his stomach with his arms and legs out straight and up in the air as if he were sky diving.  To add to the image, the boy apparently was screaming at the top of his lungs but trying to make eye contact with Danny as he walked around the room carrying Penelope.

The second day the plan was for me to take her in later and Danny to pick her up early so she wouldn't be at the center as long.   I knew I had to be brave enough to drop her off.  We got on a crowded bus in morning city traffic, and rode for an hour, the majority of the time with me kissing her sleepy face.  I got off the bus with three bags- one filled with bottles and bottle parts, another with a breast pump I was taking to work with me and a third my purse, and carried my sleepy girl another 10 minutes to the daycare.  As we walked in I felt only slightly reassured seeing other mommies and daddies bringing their babies into the center.  Some of the moms had the exact same breast pump as I did.  I tried to tell myself other families were doing the same thing as me and it didn't make me a bad mommy.  I tried to recount some good things I'd done that morning or night before.  I clipped her fingernails, I fed her, I gave her a bath, I told myself.  When I got to her daycare I set her in her crib and I kissed her.  I tried to tell her I loved her but my voice cracked. I rushed out, putting on dark sunglasses and waving to the daycare staff as if I was fine, trying to save my cry until my 20 minute walk to work. I tried to remember the sky diving kid to make myself laugh.

The staff at the center said she cried even more the second day and they had a hard time getting her to take a nap.  But when she got home she didn't seem too traumatized.  In fact, she was so happy to be home and be with her parents, she kept smiling and laughing.  I was physically and emotionally exhausted. 

By day three Penelope seemed to have adjusted. When I took her in I decided I didn't care about being late to work and would spend some time with her.  I put her on the floor to swaddle her, so she might be able to nap.  She turned her head and faced a little girl crawling and to my surprise, broke out into a huge smile.  She had a friend! For some reason, seeing her smile, was a huge relief to me.  She hadn't started to scream seeing the room, it wasn't as though this were torture for her.  Instead, she just looked around curiously, her eyes landing on a little boy with his arms, legs and chin up in the air, lying on his stomach screaming as if sky diving.  One day I'll explain to her about adrenaline junkies.  When I left she was still looking around, curious and alert, no longer tired.  And when Danny picked her up she was smiling and being held in a circle with all the other babies happily.

Today is day 6.  Every day the staff say she's getting much better. She talks with them, as she does at home, she smiles, she actually takes naps.  But even though I'm spending less time crying, and able to fall asleep a little faster at night, a big part of me still feels missing every time I'm at work.  I'm not sure if I'll ever adjust to something that feels this wrong and unnatural.

Penelope lives in the here and now.  She doesn't see the daycare and remember yesterday when she cried and couldn't sleep.  When she gets home, she's not still remembering the daycare, or fearing that tomorrow she'll have to return.  She's just enjoying our company right then and nothing else matters.  I'm trying to be more like Penelope.  While I'm at work, I miss her, but I try to bury myself in my projects and know that she's fine where she is.  And then when I'm with her, I try to ignore the nagging feeling that I'll have to be without her again the next morning.  I try to ignore how trivial my job feels now, compared to taking care of my child.  I just keep telling myself it's temporary.  One day my dreams will come true and I'll only work part time. 

To end on a positive note, and to record Penelope's latest progress and achievements, she's progressed so much with tummy time! She can now lift up her head and her chest, and she's rolled over three times!  She continues to become more and more vocal, and loves when you imitate the noises she makes back to her.  She smiles more and more frequently, and is obsessed with television already.  She goes into a TV trance, as if she really understands what's happening in the baseball or football game, or as if she's seriously considering purchasing that Audi.  Her cheeks continue to be chubby and she's still extremely irresistibly kissable.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Nighttime Feedings

For three straight nights Penelope slept for 7 hours, uninterrupted.  We'd carefully put her in her crib, swaddled up tightly and tip-toe to bed, unsure of when she'd open her eyes and make her demands.  Every night as I'm drifting off I go through the plan for when I hear her cries, as if I'm in a race, preparing for the gunshot to signal the start.  First, I'll grab my glasses, I remind myself.  Then I'll grab her, take her upstairs, change her, feed her, maybe pump, walk her around until she's tired enough and try to get her back down.  I rehearse in my mind.  There's always an internal debate as to whether I should change her first and risk her getting more and more upset, and crying and waking up Danny-- or the entire apartment building-- or feed her first and risk her falling asleep and having to wake her back up to change her.  Other than the past three glorious nights in a row, typically she wakes up just once- sometime between 2 and 4 am.

Once I've gotten her upstairs and changed, we land on the couch, mostly in the dark, to send her the message that we're all still in sleep mode. And as she's feeding peacefully, my imagination starts to run wild.

I've always had an overly-active imagination.  And scary movies or ideas plague me in the middle of the night.  Once, I overheard someone discussing the plot of a supernatural movie, and without ever having seen it, I would lie awake thinking about it.  After I actually saw the movie, it wasn't nearly as scary as my own imagination.

Sometimes when I'm rocking her to sleep, the shadows of the trees outside moving on the ceiling of her bedroom remind me of the movie Drag Me to Hell, and my eyes dart nervously, ready for an old decrepit gypsy to burst out of her closet and gum me with a toothless mouth.  Other times I stare at the blackness of the bathroom doorway, waiting for the girl from The Ring to crawl out of the toilet.  (Does she ever actually crawl out of a toilet in the film?  I doubt it).  Our wooden stairs creak on their own as they settle and I wonder if it's the creepy girl from The Grudge crawling up toward me and Penelope.  Before bad last night I made Danny remove a white baseball pillow from under the baby's crib.  "Why?" he asked puzzled.  "Because in the dark it looks like a person's face under their hiding." I confessed, embarrassed.  "You're so crazy!" he laughed, but removed it to appease me.  And then there's the 'M'am?' story.  But I won't go into that just now.

How can I be a parent while still afraid of monsters??

Last night, staring into the darkness of the bathroom, as Penelope suckled sleepily, I thought of Harry Potter, and how they used the Riddikulus charm on boggarts.  What this means--in non-dork language-- is when you see something scary you transform it into someone ridiculous, or funny, so that you're no longer scared.  Ron Weasley is scared of spiders, for example, so he gives the spider roller skates, leaving the spider harmless as it can't even stand upright.

I tried to think of the least scariest thing that could come out of the dark bathroom.  My first thought was Woody Allen.  What if Woody Allen just walked out of the bathroom suddenly at 2:30 am on a Wednesday night while I was breastfeeding my infant? What would he say? "Why are you so scared?" He might ask in his New York accent, throwing his skinny arms up in nerdy frustration.  "Is it because you're wrestling with your own fear of mortality?"

For some reason, the second least scary person to come into my mind was Kurt Russell.  I pictured him coming out with a smirk, scoffing at my fear and calling me something sexist like 'babe'.

Or what if Denzel Washington just walked out of the darkness?  I imagined he'd be really intense and dramatically accuse me of being a racist.  "No, Denzel! I'm SO not a racist!" I would insist.  "I LOVED Remember the Titans!  Danny hated it, but not because we're racist, just because it was cheesy."  "Oh, yeah?" He would counter, so angry that spit was accumulating at the corners of his mouth. "Danny loves football and it's a football movie!"  "Yes, but there's a scene where everyone sings and dances to a Motown song, can you blame him?" I reasoned with imaginary Denzel.  "And besides, he hated Rudy too-- and that was technically a football movie."

As I put Penelope into her crib, I felt a little less scared.  There was no scary person under the crib waiting to grab my ankles (and do what with me? bite my Achilles heel??)..  There was no creepy ghost kid from Sixth Sense wanting to show me his father's guns.

But it will be a lot easier if tonight, my baby just sleeps straight through until morning and we dont have to fall back on the Riddikulus charm to get rid of one of these:Photo: Like in 5 sec or else she will be in your bedroom tonight LOL

Monday, August 27, 2012

How my Roommate pulls her weight

Penelope turns two months today.  She continues to grow and change crazy fast! Today I weighed her and she's already 14 pounds!! That's size 2 in the diaper world.  I've already filled a storage container with clothes that no longer fit her extending belly and chubby thighs. Some she never even got to wear, and some she only wore once.  I felt sentimental packing away some of the tiny outfits- like the flamingo one her daddy insisted we buy that she wore home from the hospital.

Taking care of her by myself during the days and middle of the nights is still the hardest job I've ever had.  But I've finally started to get somewhat of a grip on it.  And now I'm trying to savor as many of the moments as possible before I go back to work and she has to spend a few hours a day in a daycare center.  I'm praying she wont be scared or cry all day, and I'm also praying that I wont be scared and cry all day.  Although I know I will be scared and will cry at least part of the day.  Hopefully my unique coworkers will distract and amuse me.

My roommate doesn't pay rent, help with the dishes or even wash her own laundry.  But I think she pulls her weight with her cuteness.  Here are some of her current rent-paying behaviors:

Sometimes when she eats, she holds her arm behind her back as if she's under arrest.

She continues to make awesome fun hand gestures

She's learning how to hold objects now

She's talking and smiling more and more

And from 6 am to 8 am we have a morning ritual of taking a nap together.

In a few days she'll go on her first of many road trips to Michigan to see the rest of her family.  I'm sure she'll find some creative adorable way to chip in for gas.

Friday, July 27, 2012

It was the best of times, it was the messiest of times

I stopped myself from posting this blog Tuesday because it would have just been an inventory of all the times Penelope pooped on me.  (One of which was after I'd managed to fit a shower in during her power nap, which made it especially insulting).

I was solely responsible for a newborn from 3 am to 4 pm and I thought I might go crazy.  Twice I cried, one time I let out a sustained moan as if I was giving birth.  It was during one of the baby's cries.  She must have had a tummy ache but there was nothing I could do to help her.  She was also so tired but wouldn't go to sleep. She probably wanted to be walked around but I was tired and a little sore still and all I could do was stare at her and say "Why? Why won't you sleep? You're so tired." 

The times during the day when she would sleep, she was very particular about location.  If I set her down, she would soon wake up, demanding to be held.  Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE holding her.  She's my perfect angel sweetie cupcake honey bunny baby.  But I'd also like to get something done.  Like clean the oven that I'd recently burned a cake in, for example.  (The remains of this burnt cake incident had led to a fire in the oven when we'd tried to use it so it was imperative that it be cleaned that day in order to make dinner.)  I'd finally managed to set her down long enough to take a shower which was especially critical since she kept having mustard-seed-poop blow outs, getting some on my shirt and pants.  And in addition to the slight fussiness, and frequent bowel movements she WOULD NOT STOP EATING.  And the times I offered her the breast she went at it like a Yorkshire Terrier gnawing a recently caught animal of prey.

Now, all of this sounds like classic baby behavior.  Stuff I knew I'd be dealing with when we decided to enter parenthood.  But by 1 pm I had shed a few tears myself, closed my eyes and asked Jesus if he could please babysit while I took a nap or screamed.  When I opened my eyes she had spit up on my shoulder.  I was eventually granted a slight repose, but before long she was at her tricks again.  Making this weird gremlin growling noise to communicate her unhappiness with me, even while she was sucking down some fresh breastmilk.

Danny came to my rescue at 4, rushing in from work, anxious to hold his baby.  Of course by then she was sleeping in an angelic pose, with no evidence of her prior misdemeanors.
And as soon as he took her out of my arms I was flooded with guilt.  How could the best treasure God had given me gotten on my nerves so bad?

Wednesday was a new day.  As psychotic as it sounds I was euphorically in love with her again.  Everything she did was adorable and I was happy to change her diapers and smile while she cried.  She continued to have poop blowouts, and was constantly starving, but I felt refreshed, which is probably thanks to the shift change with Danny coming home to relieve me.   How do single people raise babies?? I'm baffled, astounded, in awe by their strength.  Single moms and dads, my heart goes out to you.

She is one month old today.  I can't believe how cute she is.  And I can't believe how fast she's growing! Everyone says that all the time about kids, but I think she's already 10 pounds! She's outgrown some newborn outfits already, and I feel sad about it.  Sometimes I get scared of how fast she grows, I already miss how small she was the first week.  But I'm trying to stay calm, thinking about all the things she has yet to do.  And how exciting it will be when I get to make her laugh, brush her long hair or show her a movie.  These future plans keep me from cutting off her food supply so she'll stop growing.  Happy one month, baby! You and your daddy are my favorite parts of life.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Birth of a Mommy

Although I read about the recovery of child birth in all my parenting books and websites, it's still been extremely challenging.  In fact, I would say the recovery has been harder than the labor itself. 
Immediately after Penelope was born Danny and I were starving and exhausted.  We hadn't slept or eaten in 24 hours and had just gone through the biggest, most important, beautiful and hardest ordeal of our lives.  Two nurses came in with a wheelchair to take me to use the bathroom.  Weak and tired,  and seeing all the blood  I started to warn them I was feeling dizzy.  I must have passed out because when I came to there were 10 nurses bustling around calling out to each other, poking me, asking me questions.  They wheeled me back into the room and Danny was pale with worry, standing close to the baby.  My glasses were askew and the ponytail I'd had since before birth was half undone. He told me later I was smiling like a mental patient.  In my mind I was trying to smile to reassure him that I was fine.  But apparently it wasn't a very reassuring picture.
That night we didn't get to catch up on any of our rest.  Penelope did cry a bit, she was confused and cold and I imagine really hated gravity.  But the real issue was the hospital staff coming in once or more an hour to check on us, take blood sugars, blood pressure, give shots and ask us the same questions over and over again. 
When day broke we were finally drifting off to sleep, and I was trying to breastfeed when that same awkward medical student guy came in to ask more questions.  "heh.  hi.  How.  heh.. um, how are you feeling?" he started.  I tried to smile and whisper so as not to wake up Danny who had finally passed out on his cot.  "I see.. you are ..heh.  you're breastfeeding." he commented awkwardly amid the questions.
For two days we got terrible hospital food, and the same repeated questions with each nurse starting her next shift.  When we were finally released from hospital jail, I was wheeled out of the hospital to the van where Jack and Angela were giving us a ride.  To  their horror, and my amusement, after we piled in, the van wouldn't start.  Jack and Angela were so apologetic and embarrassed, but it really was very funny.  A storm was brewing outside and I knew I didn't want to take this new baby in a taxi cab.  Fortunately, someone at the hospital gave us a jump start and we made it home laughing at our luck and taking pictures of our new baby in her first car ride. 
When I walked into our apartment, the place had been cleaned and a sign welcoming the baby hung off the chair that her grandma had made for her.  There was a tall chocolate cake frosted, a bag of Godiva chocolates and some champagne in the fridge- all due to my amazing mommy in law.  I felt elated, shocked, happy and also sore, confused, overwhelmed and scared.  Who was I now?  I knew I was being reborn as a new person, but it was still unclear who that new person was and how she was going to manage to care for such a tiny, perfect, frail little girl.
Over the past two weeks I've had many meltdowns.  Maybe on average- one a day.  I start to cry, either for no reason or because I'm so sore on so many parts of me.  For days I felt like I'd gotten into a bad hockey fight.  The only part of me that wasn't sore was my face, though, so maybe hockey is a bad analogy.
While I knew breastfeeding would be challenging, I never realized how much time it takes.  I mean it's pretty much all I do.  At first, I was so sore, every time she'd cry with hunger, I'd deny it.  "No!" I'd tell my family when they'd hold her out toward me, "She's not hungry! She's not! I just fed her! She just wants to sleep.  Make her sleep!" "No", they'd shake their heads, gently "She's sucking on her hand."
But while it still takes up the majority of my time, leaves me and the baby covered in milk, requires both of us a lot of costume changes, and demands careful planning even to limp down the street to get an iced decaf, it really has gotten easier. 
At baby P's first Dr. appointment they weighed her and told us her weight was already picking up.  "The breastfeeding must be going great!" The pediatrician said.  "Wheatever you guys are doing, keep it up!"  This assurance strengthened me and has helped me keep going, making it through the roughest patch.
A few days after birth I got some sort of pregnancy/new mom rash that hits 1 out of every 200 women.  Tiny itchy hives covered my stomach, arms and legs.  They prescribed two tiny tubes of steroid cream which I used that same day.  My refill isn't good for another 5 days!  But these hives are starting to go down.
I won't go into the details of the main source of soreness, but all I want to do is go see the light of day and walk outside, and I really can only make it for a few minutes before I have to hobble home and lay on the couch.  They really need to make a stroller for new moms.  Then Danny could push us both around.
Through all of these pains, getting to know my daughter and myself as a mom has fueled me forward and given me so much joy.  So far Penelope rarely cries, sleeps a lot (sometimes five hours at night!) and on the rare occasions when she's awake and not eating, looks around with curiosity and hangs on our every word.  When she sleeps she goes through a range of entertaining facial expressions, sometimes even a smile, which she has yet to do awake.  She makes these really cute noises- sometimes like a gremlin, sometimes like a cat or a bird calling.  She moves her arms and hands like she's trying to stir a batter or put a spell on us.  Yesterday at 5 in the morning I was explaining to her my limited knowledge of the sun and moon.  These moments are so precious and perfect it hurts to know that they're also fleeting and that we'll look back on these times and wish we could relive them.
Adding to the list of my sore parts you can add my heart, it feels like it might burst sometimes.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sharks and Giving Birth

Before I gave birth my two biggest fears were sharks and giving birth.  I am proud to say that I've faced the second fear and can honestly say sharks are probably worse.
June 26th I started to get a new kind of contraction-- they didnt feel like the Braxton Hicks/false contractions (or "Carlton Banks" contractions, as Danny named them) I'd been feeling for the past few weeks-- these ones were different-- not painful but "uncomfortable"-- I was calling them, because I knew only once I was in the throes of labor would I understand true pain.  These new contractions would last a second, or 15 seconds and then would vanish.  But by that night they started to come every 12 minutes and always lasted 1 minute.  I started writing down the times for each one, pacing for the minute long contraction and then lying down in bed again.  I tried not to disturb Danny who slept peacefully.  But when I was getting out of bed at around 5, he woke up.  "You've been up all night??"  He was alarmed, jumping out of bed.  But we knew we weren't supposed to go to the hospital until the contractions were 4 minutes apart for an hour.  So we got out of bed, continued to time the contractions, and Danny started nesting-- racing around the apartment cleaning toilets, wiping counters, mopping floors.
After a few hours they were about 8 or 9 minutes apart and now were stronger.  I started to get a little fearful, realizing that the slow yoga breathing I'd been practicing wasn't.. well it wasn't going to do shit to help me once these started coming quicker and harder.  I'd always planned on going for a walk during this early labor stage, like the couples in the birth videos we watched in our class.  We walked to the Jewel Osco, but it was a painful journey and just went immediately home. Danny called to alert Angela-- my other labor coach, so she could make the five hour journey from Michigan. 
By this time the contractions felt strong, and instead of deep breathing I was breathing in through  my nose and out with a sustained vocal moan. "Ahhhhh.."  Yes, it sounded a bit insane, but it was the only thing I could do.  On the return home from the store I had to lean against a brick apartment building breathing out the slow 'Ahhh'.  Danny later told me the window to that apartment was open.  I picture now the residents of this building at 7 or 8 am going about their business when a large pregnant woman leans against their home moaning and then walking along.
By 9:30 they were 4 minutes apart and very intense.  The pain was strong in my back and Danny would massage for the minute of the contraction and I would let out my sustained vocal 'ahh'.  When we called the doctor- (Dr. Favorite was on call!!!)- she seemed skeptical.  "This is your first, right?" She asked, unsure if I was ready to go to the hospital.  Her doubt made us think we should wait.  So at about 11:30, they had been going strong four minutes apart for 2 hours, we decided to go to the hospital.
Our plan had been to take a taxi, since we dont have a car.  We knew Danny's parents would be driving us back from the hospital with the carseat, so we just had to take our suitcase and hop in a cab.  Although at this point I realized I didnt feel like doing my sustained "ahhs" in a wild cab ride.  And what if my water broke in the backseat? I know Chicago cabs charge $50 for vomit, what was the amniotic fluid charge?
So we booked a zip car and Danny ran to pick it up.  I walked down the hall of my apartment, with my sustained moaning, and we drove to the hospital, with more sustained moaning.  Danny dropped me at the door and sped off to park the car, and I made it through the elevator ride to the maternity waiting room, sustained moaning every four minutes despite the looks of the surrounding strangers.  After a check, they found I was dilated to five, so I didnt have to go home, as we'd heard so many others have done when they found out they weren't ready for hospital care. 
Before they wheeled me into the room where I would labor, deliver and then stay in for the duration of the care, an awkward gangly young man came in.  Looking highly uncomfortable, as if he'd been given lines to memorize and recite in front of an audience of hungry bears he stood at the end of my bed and tried to ask me questions.  'uhm.. hi, heh..I am a medical student and i'm here to ask a few heh.. questions' his stunted questions were punctuated with uncomfortable giggles.  'have you had any complications. uhm.  during this pregnancy?' he would ask, trying to smile.  Even though the contractions were very strong now, as I was dilated to 7, I tried to be kind and respectful and answer his questions without irritation.  In the middle of one a contraction came on and i started my sustained moaning- which by this time was a little louder and more desperate.  Danny went into what was by now our established routine-- he would massage my lower back and count down the contraction, cheering me on with encouragement, "you can do it, honey, you're doing great! 40 more seconds! 30 more seconds, you're halfway there!"  (Later he confessed he was just making up the times, but it was what got me through all the contractions).  Through my half shut eyes I saw the young medical student standing in the same spot, frozen, looking even more frightened and uncomfortable.  Why was he still there?  The contraction ended and I took a deep breath.  He stood, trying to keep the weird smile on his face, staring at me.  'Ok. What else?' I asked him.
By 5 pm I was hooked up to an epidural catheter, had two IVs in each hand- one with insulin-- my blood sugar got out of control when I didn't eat all day.  Jack and Angela had arrived and we were all waiting for the baby to drop as I was dilated to 10.  We watched my contractions on the computer monitor next to me, noticing when they were strong and smiling because I couldn't feel them.
At 7 they came in and said it was time to push.  By this time I was feeling very exhausted.  I hadn't eaten or slept in 24 hours.  Dr. Favorite came in to tell me how it would go.   They told me we'd push three times for every contraction.  "You're my favorite." I told her.
Danny and Angela each held one of my legs and like cheerleaders on the sidelines, delivered encouragement.  Between each push I tried to take a 30 second nap.  Then their cheers started to get more excited as they saw her coming.  I was so tired and my eyes were closed through most of the pushing and the resting between.  But 45 minutes later our baby was born. 
I'd always imagined they'd throw her on my chest, covered in goo, but in my hazy memory Danny kissed me, his eyes with tears, they offered him the chord to cut and then they rushed the baby to a warmer next to my bed and started conducting tests, suctioning out fluid from her lungs, trying to get her to cry and then giving her a bath. 
Meanwhile, three doctors-- two of whom were more medical students-- hung out around me for the last stage of labor.  Dr. Favorite was teaching them how to deliver the placenta and then stitch up the tears.  At this point I was so ready for it to be over I think I was getting a little snotty.  "does this hurt?" they were asking me.  "No, it doesn't hurt, but I got three people peering into my crotch, so it's not exactly comfortable." I was saying between demands to hold my baby.
I always imagined when she finally came out, and I heard her cry I would break down into an emotional mess, I would feel the significance of the whole world-- I'd feel one with all women who'd given birth.  Instead, though, I felt very sleepy and irritated that three doctors were still hovering around my private parts, forcing me keep my legs open for too long. 
But in the days following, and now, over a week later, I feel total awe and shock when I stare at my baby.  I can't believe how perfect and beautiful she is.  And how lucky I am to have had such an uncomplicated delivery. For the past 9 months I've been gifted by/subjected to the birth stories of almost every mother whose noticed my bulging belly-- stranger or not.  And now I finally have my own.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Dr. Poop

My OB-GYN practice has four doctors.  Depending on when my labor progresses for delivery, any of the four doctors who happens to be on call at that time will be the doctor to deliver.  So the office policy is for the pregnant patient to meet with 3 of the 4 doctors so we can feel comfortable and familiar with  them all.  (The fourth doctor is a mysterious man from Poland who they say is never in the office and so I won't meet unless he wins the delivery lotto).

I love my doctor.  I've been going to her since I moved to Chicago six years ago.  Other than one incident where she decided to bring up the priest molestation scandals arm deep during an exam, I had never had one negative incident with her.     But she is scheduled in the mornings, and we've been saving our paid time off of work and going in the afternoons.
Of the two remaining-- one has grown on me-- the other, for the sake of anonymity and respect-- I will call Dr. Poop.

We've had three apointments with Dr. Poop.  At first, Danny and I were impressed.  She seemed compassionate and thorough, taking measurements that the other doctors hadn't.  She didnt seem as rushed or robotic as the other (non favorite) doctor.  But at the second apointment we changed our minds.  The compassion seemed more like phoniness or condescension, and the thorough measurements hurt.  At this time, the other doctors started taking some of the same measurements but when they performed them, they didnt hurt me.  Then I started noticing where the other doctor seemed robotic- was really just her being professional.  And where she seemed rushed was just being upbeat and enthusiastic.

In Dr. Poop's defense, I could also have some negative psychological associations with her- she's the one who told me initially that I needed to take the second diabetes screening.  She's also the one who wouldn't make time to see me when I was in some pain, which turned out to be a cyst which ruptured at home.  And she's also the one who has put the most emphasis on my weight.  Once she said, "I'm just a liiiiiitle teeny bit concerned with your weight." She held up a finger and a thumb to the size of a delicious Starburst which I wouldnt be able to eat again for the remainder of the pregnancy.  She said it the way you'd speak to a child about their behavior.  "Well, little Becky, I'm just a liiiiitle teeny bit concerned about you never wearing pants at the dinner table..."  I looked down embarassed.  "yes, I know." I knew I'd been letting myself eat whatever sounded good.  Instead of salads for lunch I was eating big puffy bready sandwiches with melted cheese.  I was eating chocolate fudge sundaes at night and ham and cheese omeletes for breakfast.
"So what are you eating?" She asked.  I sighed.  "I dunno...carbs or something." I just wanted the conversation to end.  I'd cut back, I silently vowed, just please dont lecture.  "What kind of carbs?" she pressed, transporting us to a courtroom scene in an episode of Law and Order.  She was the prosecutor cross examining the defense.  I was the young woman about to break her web of lies and confess that yes, she'd been eating gyros and pizzas every Thursday at Michael's bar.  "uh.. crackers?" I suggested, my face red.  "hmmm.. well, maybe instead of 'crackers' you could eat...broccoli?" She glanced at Danny and shrugged as if to say, "I dont know how else to help this sad case of obesity"  She turned to me, "It's crunchy.." She offered as incentive. 

So when I scheduled my apointment last week, and switched to a Thursday because of a work meeting, and the receptionist told me it was with Dr. Poop, I didnt want to be rude and obvious and change it as soon as I heard which doctor it would be with.  Instead, I thought, maybe she's not as bad as I remember. 

But yesterday, Dr. Poop started off on the wrong foot.  Every week they have me hooked up to an NST test to monitor the baby's movements.  The test measures heartrate and makes sure baby's moving enough and that her heartrate excelerates at the appropriate times.  Well, for the first time in probably this whole week, baby sweet Pea decided she wanted to take a nap and only move a few times.  So we were hooked up for double the time.  In order to stimulate movement Dr. Poop called out to the nurse-- "Get her some water! And some chocolate!"  CHOCOLATE??? I perked up excitedly-- Doctor's orders, right?? She glanced at me and remembered,
"oh, wait you have gestational diabetes, right? Nevermind."  In my mind I shook my fist at her as she walked away. 

The test turned out fine, just had to poke and prod poor baby P for a few minutes to get her to angrily kick her little limbs enough.  Then it was on to the examination room.

I was a little nervous that Dr. Poop would be a little rough with the exam, since just measuring my abdomen seemed to hurt with her.  And unfortunately I was right.  I'll spare you the details but she wasn't quick about it.  Instead she was very thoughtful as she lingered and felt around giving me a play by play of texture and detail.  Danny theorized she was trying to figure out what type of salad I'd eaten for lunch earlier that day.

When Dr. Secondfavorite reviews my blood sugar scores she always tells me "These look great! Keep doing exactly what you're doing!"  Whereas Dr. Poop frowned and bit her lip in contrived worry and said "They're not terrible. ."   
"There were two high scores here this week." She continued "It may have been something you ate before bed. Do you eat before bed?" The gestational diabetes diet calls for a bedtime snack. 
"Yes, but I've had the same snack every time, it's just cereal."  (Cereal that I literally use a measuring cup to carefully dose out). 
"What kind of cereal?" And we were back at the Law and Order interrogation. 
"Bran flakes." I tried to remain calm and not scream my answers.  I've had to go over everything I eat with both a Diabetes educator and a nutritionist. 
"What kind of milk?" she asked. 
"Unsweetened almond milk, it has no carbs." I said impatiently.
Maybe she sensed my agony because she moved on.  "Well, sometimes toward the end of the pregnancy the numbers will go up for no reason.  We'll just keep watching it."  OHHHHHHH--Should we? I didn't realize this whole time while I've been counting out my wheat thins to dip into my 35 calorie low fat cheese, and staring at blueberry muffins, moving my mouth in pantomime chewing that I should be "watching it".  The four times a day I prick my finger and write down the score and scrutinize every strawberry I eat doesn't qualify as "watching it".
"Any questions?" Dr. Poop smiled cheerfully.  "No..don't think so.." Danny and I glanced at each other and shrugged.  "Are you sure?" Dr. Poop prodded.  "Because I feel like you have questions but you're not answering."
"Nope, we're good." I said.
Then Dr. Poop was suddenly filled with concern.
"Are you okay? You everything okay?" 
"Yeah, I'm just tired," I said, irritated.  She seemed unconvinced but moved on to the ultrasound.  I tried to ask questions during the ultra sound so I wouldn't seem so sad, but she didn't seem to want to answer. "What's that?" I pointed at a shadowy blog on the monitor of the ultra sound machine thingy.  "Just fluid." she said dismissively.  "Okay," I said, giving up.
She seemed to feel bad about not answering in more detail so she focused in on a body part.  "Do you see this? Did you know it's a girl?" she said smiling.  Looking back, I wished I'd jumped up startled and hurt, "WE WANTED TO BE SURPRISED!" I should have shouted, using all my acting training to squeeze some tears out.  But instead we just smiled, and said yes. 
"Here, I'll print a picture!" she said excited, and printed a picture of our daughter's genitals.  Is that weird to anyone else?  (Also weird is that in the picture our daughter's genitals look like a seagull)  I'll treasure any picture of our baby, but maybe a facial profile or a hand or foot might be more baby-book-appropriate...
Finally the appointment was complete.  On the way out Dr. Poop congratulated me "By the way-- Good job on your weight!" she smiled.
Knowing how hilarious God is, I'm sure Dr. Poop will be the one to show up at labor.  In the mean time, I'm scheduling all my appointments-- (which may only be one or two more!!!) with my Dr. Favorite or Dr.Second Favorite.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Things I want to ingest the week of July 4th (post delivery)

Starbucks blueberry scone

Iced coffee sweetened with half and half

Starbucks cookie drink thing


 i love you too, cake.
Chocolate Cake or cupcakes

or any other cakes

Brownie Fudge Sundae
or even just the brownie


Sandwich made on Challa Bread

Godiva Chocolate

Rich macaroni and cheese (more than a 1/3 cup serving size)


fries from The Bagel Restaurant (more than a 1/2 cup serving)

an eclair

soft chewy cookies

gigantic burrito from Chipotle or Tarascas