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The Whatever Works Club

21 Feb

Any of you who are mamas or have mama friends know that there are two main, and diametrically opposed, parenting philosophies: attachment parenting (babywearing, co-sleeping, breastfeeding) and…actually i don’t know the name of the other philosophy, but it endorses crying it out among other things.  When I was looking for a Mommy & Me group, I specifically avoided one (even though it is located less than a mile from my house and came highly recommended by a friend of mine) because the description was very attachment parent-y.

Now, don’t get me wrong — I am all in favor of parents doing whatever they want to do, and have absolutely nothing against people sleeping with their babies, wearing them 24 hours a day strapped to their bodies, etc.  (I actually wish Lucy liked being worn, but she seems to feel too constrained.  I hope she’ll change her tune when she’s older and we can forego the infant insert.)  I just don’t want people judging me for my choices, and I get the sense that attachment parenting enthusiasts tend to be more judgy than the average mama bear (is that me being judgy about them being judgy?  Ok, now I’m making my head spin).

I love discussing all things mamahood with my dear friend T. because we don’t ascribe to either of these camps and rather share the same general philosophy, which is a hybrid best described as “whatever the hell works for you.”  Yesterday T. sent me this blog post with the comment, “finally a moms’ club we can join!”  The author shares our viewpoint and eloquently describes her club as the “I think I’m doing this ok but I might be wrong, but that’s ok too and maybe you’d like to join me group.”  I loved this paragraph so I’ll just paste in the whole thing:

Whatever happened to just being a middle-of-the-road mom? Can you try to feed your kid organic food, but still let them have a Nutter Butter? Can you insist on bedtime routines, but occasionally let your kids stay up late and or let them sleep in their superhero costumes? When did the rules become so rigid and extreme? I’d like to start a new club called the “I think I’m doing this ok but I might be wrong, but that’s ok too and maybe you’d like to join me group.” We meet every Wednesday night after the kids are asleep. And if you’re late because your kid was on a sugar high and you caved and read her 10 stories instead of two because you didn’t have the strength to argue, that’s ok. We’ll save some wine for you.

A couple of things:  First, I totally want to have a glass of wine with this author, based on this post alone.  Second, I ended up looking up this author’s bio because her tagline says “Lawyer/Mother,” and I thought, “I’m a lawyer / mother!”  It turns out in addition to having her J.D., she also has an M.S. in Human Development and Family Studies (which explains why she’s qualified to blog for HuffPo and I’m qualified to blog for my enormous audience of 27 followers — no offense, I love all 27 of you, by the way!).  I have a close friend who also blogs for HuffPo (also one of the most impressive people I know), so I think I will try to find out how one gets that kind of gig.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go get my crying child and feed her a bottle of pumped milk.  Don’t judge!

Paparazzo

19 Feb

Before Hubs and I met, he took photos as a hobby.  I’m not sure if it’s because he had less free time after we started dating or some other reason, but he has done much less photography over the past 4 years since we met than he used to.

But now, Hubs has found the perfect subject for his photography:  Lucy!  And while I snap photos all day long on my iPhone, Hubs actually has a nice Canon for which he recently purchased a new lens.  In the past 3 months, his photos of Lucy have been getting progressively better, and now some of them look almost professional.

Yesterday I decided to pick up Hubs’ camera and start snapping a few photos.  Hubs commented that there are tons of high-quality shots of me with Lucy, but very few of Hubs, since most of the photos of him to-date were taken with my phone.  So now, I am making a concerted effort to get comfortable with the camera so that Lucy can have great photos with her daddy too.  I took one photography class in my senior year of college and found it to be very difficult — I ended up with nothing but a lot of blurry prints (despite many hours in the darkroom), so lucky for me (and Lucy) Hubs’ camera is still basically a point-and-shoot with autofocus.

Here are my favorite photos of Lucy from yesterday (I got some great ones with Hubs too but I am leaving those out to protect his privacy on the internets):

Hmmmm....

Hmmmm….

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Challenges

11 Feb

This weekend was pretty mellow.  On Friday Hubs and I discovered that one of our favorite local restaurants delivers (oh the little things!)  On Saturday we took Lucy out for a quick shopping trip and then celebrated my dad’s 64th birthday with dinner out.  And yesterday we mostly laid low and watched a DVD at night.

Admittedly, my main preoccupation continues to be with feeding Lucy.  After hearing from a couple of friends that nursing really does get easier and less painful over time, I decided to persevere.  Now I am doing a combo of nursing, pumped milk and a little bit of formula.  We decided to add back in the formula when we realized that Lucy was starting to fuss shortly after nursing, even when it seemed like she had nursed long enough to have gotten a full meal, so we’ve started bottlefeeding her 2 more oz with each nursing session.  When possible this is pumped milk, but that’s not always available.  It’s a little disappointing to realize that my milk supply is still inadequate, but Hubs and I also suspect Lucy may be going through a growth spurt.

I’m happy to be nursing Lucy at least part of the time, but it’s definitely not making my life any easier.  I had this vision that I would have less bottles and hassle to deal with, but since we are supplementing it’s just become a longer process.  I am still getting up once or twice a night to pump in order to keep my supply up, even though Lucy is sleeping through the night.  And now when we go out with her I have to figure out how and where to nurse, as well as bringing milk or formula too.  I know that most nursing moms go through this and worse, so I shouldn’t complain so much (wah wah wahhhh…)  I think it’s just growing pains and I’m sure in a few weeks it will be a much smoother process.

Nobody said it was easy / No one ever said it would be so hard… -Coldplay, “The Scientist”

In more cheerful news, Lucy’s new favorite thing is looking at herself in the mirror and “talking” to her reflection.  Who can blame her for wanting to talk to this cutie?:

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Hello, me!

Awesomeness

6 Feb

Ok, I admit it — I’m going to be doing a little bit of mama bragging here.  This has been an awesome 24 hours for Miss Lucy!  Here goes:

1.   As I wrote about at length before, Lucy and I had a lot of trouble with the whole nursing thing.  After many failed attempts with latching and my low milk supply, I switched to pumping and formula feeding.  At first I was doing about 50-50 but lately my milk supply increased to the point that I was only feeding Lucy one 4 oz. bottle of formula a day, if that.  However, I was still reluctant to try nursing again because it had been so painful and so stressful.  But then yesterday evening, Lucy was about ready to eat again, I didn’t have a bottle of milk pumped, and I was not excited about the idea of sitting down to pump again.  I said to myself, “OK, tonight’s going to be the night that we make this work.”  I sat down with Lucy, and after just a little bit of squirming and fussing, she latched on perfectly.  I was able to nurse her for 30 minutes total!  I was astounded.  We had three successful nursing sessions today, too.  I think I want to continue to pump some to give me flexibility, and I am definitely a bit sore, but it made me SO happy to be able to nurse Lucy.

2.  After I nursed Lucy at 7 pm, I was afraid she’d want to be fed late at night or in the middle of the night.  But instead, she fell asleep at 8 pm and didn’t wake up again until 7 am!  This is by far the longest stretch of sleep she’s ever had.

3.  Lucy rolled over, tummy to back, for the first time this morning!  The first time I was so surprised I thought it might be a fluke, and after the second time it finally occurred to me to grab my camera.  I’m having technical difficulties loading the video but I will keep working on it!  Here is the still shot of the “before” pose:

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Tummy time – about to roll over!

Lucy and I also attended our first Mommy & me class on Monday.  There were only 3 other mamas and babies, but we learned some interesting information about baby sleep and other issues, and I discovered that Lucy loves to play with colorful rings (I bought some immediately on Amazon and they arrived today).  I can’t wait to see what happens in the coming weeks.

Tomorrow, Lucy and I are going to my office so that she can meet everyone and I’m having lunch with one of my colleagues.  It is slightly giving me hives, thinking about being back there, but at least I know I don’t have to do actual work.

And in non-Lucy news, I am continuing to work on a short story (that may end up being a not-so-short story!) and making some good headway.  Stay tuned…

Out On the Town

31 Jan

Today I went on my first real outing with Lucy, without Hubs!  I met up for lunch at the Grove with a fabulous fellow mama who I met on a Facebook group for mamas who all went to our same college, and her beautiful daughter who’s a few months older than Lucy.  When we got to talking today, we realized that we had known each other a little bit in college too through a volunteer project at a local school.

I admit I was nervous this morning getting ready to leave the house.  I was super paranoid about whether I had everything I needed in the diaper bag (which I checked about 5 times — mind you, I was only out of the house for about 2 1/2 hours!) and I get a bit skittish driving with Lucy.  On top of that I felt a little like I was going on a blind date (will she like me?!)

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Lucy getting ready for our outing

Luckily, all my worries were unfounded and we had a lovely time.  I also learned a couple of great tips:  1) There is an awesome “family room” at the Grove on the 1st level of the parking structure, complete with an actual padded changing table!  (Thank goodness because the restaurant had nothing resembling a changing table…)  2)  When Lucy starts melting down because she’s tired, she will stop fussing and zonk out when placed back in her stroller and rolled back and forth in place for about 5 minutes.  It was an amusing meal because both of us mamas were doing one-handed eating while taking care of our little ones.  How quickly we adapt!

Overall, today was a complete success!  Next Monday is my first Mommy & me class, and I’m looking forward to it and also glad that I got over the hump of going out with Lucy today.  Now she is zonked out after all the excitement!

Motherhood with a side of guilt (Part II)

29 Jan

I sent a link to my blog to one of my high school friends whose wife is pregnant.  He wrote back half-jokingly that he might have to stop reading my blog after his baby is born if all I’m going to talking about is what an easy baby Lucy is.  Now, I don’t think that’s what the blog is about so far, but just in case, I feel compelled to clarify that I’m not just going to be writing about puppies and rainbows and adorable pictures of Lucy.   (Okay, yes, so I will be posting lots of adorable pictures of Lucy–can you blame me??)

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Token cute Lucy photo

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Mini-meltdown — no one is immune!

I was in a bit of a funk earlier today. I haven’t been sleeping well the last few nights, so I’m generally exhausted. Then I had the boring breakfast meeting I already wrote about. The creative juices just haven’t been flowing today like they were earlier this week. And I haven’t even have the energy today to focus on Lucy as much as I would like. This, in turn, makes me feel guilty (yes, this again). I am blessed to have a long maternity leave with my baby, who I love to pieces. Shouldn’t I be able to muster the energy to spend all day talking to her, playing with her, and singing to her? She certainly deserves that. But sometimes, all I can do is lay her on her activity mat, jingle the dangling birds for her, and do some halfhearted baby talk while I drink my tea/check my email/etc.  Today when Lucy fell asleep in her swing I fell asleep on the couch, and it was all I could do to motivate for our daily neighborhood walk (but I did — this is why I put that resolution on the blog, to hold me accountable!)  It was just one of those days.

This made me think of a great article I read on Huffington Post a couple of weeks ago by Amy Morrison (of Pregnant Chicken, see my blogroll)- “Why You’re Never Failing as a Mother.”  Basically, the article says, the standard for parenting used to be much lower. As long as babies were fed, clothed, and bathed, that was enough:

As for the past generations that like to tell you that they raised six kids on their own and did it without a washing machine? Well, sort of. Keep in mind child rearing was viewed pretty differently not that long ago and you could stick a toddler on the front lawn with just the dog watching and nobody would bat an eye at it — I used to walk to the store in my bare feet to buy my father’s cigarettes when I was a kid. 

Now, Morrison says, we are expected to teach our children sign language and Cantonese, cook organic baby food, go to Mommy & me, etc. on top of all the basic baby care tasks.  Not that I think we shouldn’t want to teach and interact with our children as much as we can – but I also agree with her that if some days are better than others in that department, it doesn’t mean that we’re failing as mamas.

This was just what I needed to remind myself of today.  And tomorrow is a new day.

My Tiny Muse

27 Jan

 

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Those of you following my blog over the past couple of weeks are probably wondering by now what the heck is going on.  I started off doing a basic mama blog and now I’m posting poetry and writing about writing and… ????  I guess the best way I can explain it is like this:

When I was younger (starting in elementary school) I wrote all the time — poetry, short stories, journaling, you name it.  My parents love to tell me (and everyone else) that we’d be in the car and I’d ask them for a piece of paper (which would sometimes have to be a brown paper bag) because I’d “feel a poem coming on.”

At some point, around the time I left for college, I mostly stopped.  I would occasionally still feel inspired to pen a poem or a journal entry — in particular, I remember journaling in Spanish during my semester in Madrid — but for the most part I was focused on other things.  (Studying?  Or, more likely, guys and going to parties?  Sigh.)  Then I became a lawyer and I think my lawyer brain just took over my creative brain.  I may have still been using the creative juices somewhat for lawyering, but there wasn’t much energy left to apply them elsewhere.

But now, post-Lucy, I find myself struck with an overwhelming inspiration to write (yes, even poetry!) that I haven’t felt since high school.  I think part of it is being free from school and work and other things that might usually sap my energy and my attention.  And I think part of it is that mamahood is such a hugely intense, emotional experience that in some ways mirrors being younger, when everything is felt so deeply and on such a grand scale.  Drew Barrymore had a daughter, Olive, a couple of months before Lucy was born, and when interviewed she’s said that she feels like she has a crush on her daughter, butterflies and everything.  (I really think Lucy and Olive could be BFFs if only I could arrange a playdate…)  I totally identify with that.  The way I feel about Lucy (and, I’m sure, the way most mamas feel about their babies) is so raw and makes me feel so vulnerable that it’s like being sixteen all over again, when I was constantly experiencing the highs and lows of (what I thought at the time was) love and heartbreak, before I developed a thicker skin.  Maybe it just took my skin getting a little thinner again to get here.

In any event, I recognize that this blog hasn’t quite found its voice or its tone, and it will probably continue to be all over the place.  But I hope that you’ll stick around for the ride!

Parenting Fail Of the Day (Chapter 1)

24 Jan

So I’m working on another more substantive post, but first I just had to share this anecdote, even though it makes me look like kind of a total moron.

Lucy woke up in a great mood, I fed her and we had our morning “conversation.”  (She has started doing all sorts of awesome “ahs” and “goos,”  Sometimes she even strings them together into what sounds like a complete sentence!)  Anyway, then we moved to the nursery for some play time on her activity mat.  Lucy loves being on her back and looking up at the dangling animals.  Tummy time, not as much.  I’m supposed to be putting her on her tummy at least twice a day but it doesn’t always happen.  So I decided that I may as well try it when she’s in a good mood and hope for the best.

What I didn’t think about — hello, Captain Obvious — was how little time had elapsed since her meal.

Lucy was doing a great job, lifting her head off the mat and not fussing, and I was laying next to her rubbing her back, when — BLECH! — out came the biggest spit up I have ever seen onto the activity mat.  Then, before I could stop her, Lucy dropped her face smack into the middle of the giant spit-up puddle.

I immediately turned Lucy onto her back and was horrified.  I didn’t stop to take a photo because I was in too much of a hurry to clean her up, but let me just say the scene resembled Lucy having just taken a cream pie to the face.  There was spit-up all over her cheeks, nose, eyelids and eyelashes!  Luckily babies can be surprisingly more resilient than adults, because Lucy barely seemed to notice.  (You can bet that if I faceplanted into my own vomit you would see some serious tears.)

Evidence of Lucy’s nonchalance: this photo was taken right after I cleaned her up.

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Approximately 3 minutes post-incident

I, on the other hand, remain somewhat traumatized.  I won’t be making that mistake again!

Motherhood, with a side of guilt

22 Jan

People always joke about growing up with “Jewish guilt” or “Catholic guilt.”  I’m technically Jewish, since my mom is culturally Jewish and my ancestors on my mom’s side were all Russian / Eastern European Jews, but my mom wasn’t raised religiously and neither was I.  We grew up celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah just because of their proximity to each other (it wasn’t until watching The OC that I realized “Christmukkah” was more common than I thought) but never went to synagogue, had Passover seder, or observed the high holidays.  (Nor did we go to Christian church, though I ventured with certain friends from time to time — including to Mormon church, much to my parents’ dismay.)  So my mom was not the stereotypical Jewish mom and I didn’t experience the stereotypical Jewish guilt.

That being the case, I’ve been a bit shell-shocked by the amount of guilt that comes along with being a parent.  This begins even before the baby is born and I imagine continues indefinitely.  As a mom, at every stage of Lucy’s life I will be presented with a dizzying amount of choices that could have a real impact on her life and her future.  The first guilt-inducing issue, which for some people seems more controversial than gun control or the Middle East peace process, is feeding: namely, whether to breastfeed or bottle-feed.

If you’re a parent, you’re well aware that the current medical/cultural opinion is that “breast is best.”  I heard or read this refrain many times during my pregnancy and I fully intended to breastfeed exclusively.  When my OB’s office offered me a free tub of formula, I turned my nose up at it and said “No thanks, I’m breastfeeding.”  Hubs and I attended a breastfeeding class at the hospital and became well-versed at how to properly position the baby doll at the breast and the mechanics of latching.  We watched an extremely cheesy video picturing a beautiful blond woman in front of a tropical setting, touting the magic of nursing.  Even though I stocked up (and perhaps overstocked) on baby items, I didn’t think about buying a breast pump because I figured I wouldn’t need it till much closer to the end of my maternity leave.  And — I’m ashamed to admit — I was secretly kind of judgy about people who didn’t breastfeed.

Fast forward to the hospital.  I’m in bed, in pain from delivery with a giant ice pack on my hoo-ha, and every few hours the nurses and/or lactation consultants come in and try to help me nurse Lucy, which basically consists of them manhandling and squeezing my boobs and trying to force them into Lucy’s screaming mouth.  Where was the beautiful blond woman, the tropical locale and the peaceful, angelic infant?  Still, I was determined to make it work.  At that point, my milk had not yet come in, which I assumed was the problem.

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Beautiful Lucy taking a rest from nursing attempts in the hospital.

But at home, things didn’t get better.  Lucy lost too much weight in the first few days, so the pediatrician told us to give her an ounce of formula as a supplement at each feeding.  I had also been told by the lactation consultant at the hospital to pump with each feeding.  And we were supposed to feed Lucy every three hours (counted from the beginning of the prior feeding).  As you may imagine, between trying to nurse, feeding her the formula, pumping and feeding her the pumped milk — all every three hours — we were basically constantly feeding her.  And whenever I would try to nurse, Lucy would either not latch at all; scream and cry; or else latch on and fall asleep, rendering it near impossible for me to de-latch.  We could spend hours like this, all night, and I came to realize that my milk supply was just too low, notwithstanding all my pumping, so basically I had turned into a giant human binky.  (I hadn’t thought to give Lucy a real binky, since we were told that could cause nipple confusion.)

After two weeks of both Lucy and I being in tears over the feeding situation, I finally met with a lactation consultant.  She informed me that Lucy has a “high palate” and she said that nursing would be a real challenge, though she thought I could do it.  But after trying repeatedly for a few more days and experiencing lots of screaming, crying, and failed latching, I gave up.

Now, I feed Lucy a combination of pumped milk and formula, about 50-50.  In any given day, I pump about 10-15 ounces of milk and she drinks between 20-25.   The first few days after I stopped nursing, I was depressed about it.  It’s hard to have your heart set on the way something’s going to be and not have it work out, and I was feeling guilty about not being able to exclusively breastfeed.  But as the days went on, I have come to mostly like our arrangement.  The moment we switched to just bottle-feeding her, feeding Lucy became such a pleasure.  Hubs is able to feed her and he enjoys the bonding time with her.  My parents and Hubs’ parents can also take turns feeding her when they’re here.  Lucy is a great little eater and she’s healthy and gaining weight well.  And a side perk is that selfishly, it gives me freedom to go out and do things without worrying about always needing to get back super quickly for Lucy’s feedings.

I didn’t really realize it till I experienced it, but a LOT of people have trouble with breastfeeding.  And a lot of people feel like they are judged when they formula feed.  Luckily, no one has ever said anything overtly judgy to me, but people do ask questions with implied judgment (like “how’s nursing going?  Are you pumping?” etc.)   Right now I’m reading a book called Bottled Up: How The Way We Feed Babies Has Come to Define Motherhood, and Why it Shouldn’t.  It’s “part memoir, part popular science, and part social commentary,” and very insightful about the history of “Breast is Best” and womens’ experiences.  It is not an anti-breastfeeding book, as the author makes clear.  But it sheds light on something that is a common issue and which hadn’t been written about in this way before.

The author of this book also has a website called Fearless Formula Feeder.  I can’t say I’m yet “fearless” about anything involving motherhood, including formula feeding.  I do still wish that I could feed Lucy only breast milk.  But I’m trying to work on at least not giving myself a guilt trip about it.  There are enough people out there judging…I don’t need to be one of them.