Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Week's Happenings


So what's been going on here for us in the past week?  Some good, some not so good, some icy icy coldness.

For starters, Violet has kept up her crazy pooping habits.  This tiny girl is going 2, 3, or 4 days between bouts of pooping.  This is quite unusual for her age and it's a bit unnerving, I must say.  She is obviously gaining weight, even without a fancy pediatric scale to tell us quantitatively how much, so I suppose there's nothing to worry about.  On the plus side, I have fewer poop-filled diapers to change and Violet has not the slightest hint of diaper rash.  Let's just say that WE KNOW when she finally has a bowel movement so she never has a chance to sit in a dirty diaper.  In less scatological and more doleful news of Violet, she has started to have crying jags in the evenings.  She started last week and they have escalated through this week, with just one evening's break here or there.  It's kind of upsetting to see her cry so much and be nearly inconsolable.  I guess that's not quite accurate because if we put her down, she wails with even more misery and force, so I suppose we are consoling her at some level.  It's forcing me to be more creative in thinking of comforting mechanisms because with Grace, I always just stuck her on a boob and she was happy; if sometimes she wasn't honestly hungry, she would do some comfort nursing and calm down.  Anyway, I've pulled out the baby/parenting books and started to think of other routines and coping mechanisms to try.  Violet's colic-style crying is confined to the evening hours so I'm sure it's nothing medically or physically wrong with her--  poor little thing is just overly tired or overly stimulated or flipping out or whatever.

In happier news, I got a smashing haircut last week.  Hooray!  One day when Grace was at school, I convinced my mom to accompany me to the salon and hold Violet while they chop chop chopped my hair off.  It's a lot shorter and lovely and chic and I'm very happy with it; I'll work on getting a picture to post.  Actually, now that my hair is shorter and not pink, I need to get new pictures for my profiles on everything from Facebook to Twitter and everything; those pictures are not quite accurate anymore.  Also last week, I started running again.  We had some beautiful days and I was feeling so squashy and lumpy and lethargic that it sounded like a lovely thing to do.  It went quite well and I managed to go running 3 times last week.  I have a lot of weight I'd like to lose so I feel pretty motivated to start in with the exercise and healthful eating and whatnot.  I don't feel comfortable putting Violet in the childcare at the YMCA for another month or so, leaving me with options of getting outside or doing something at the house.  The icy weather this week threw a bit of a wrench in my new exercise plans, but I plan to get back to it.  I have such a love/hate relationship with running.  Well, let's be honest-- it's mostly hate.  But it's one of those exercises that I want to like, and that I sometimes do like, but sometimes I turn on it and cannot stand the monotonous putting one foot in front of the other.  Having children has changed my attitude toward exercise and running and whatnot.  I remember hearing people talk about exercise as something you do for yourself, i.e. some "me" time, and mostly this has made me think that those people need to discover such things as books, movies, TV, the internet, and the like to make their "me" time actually enjoyable.  I kind of get it now, though; going running feels like getting away from the demanding job of caring for two tiny people for a little while and doing something just for me.  Let's hope this thought lasts...

The icy weather came even to Texas this week and has caused us to hole up in our house and play the hermit.  Grace's preschool was cancelled on Wednesday so we stayed in and watched the icicles melt, after staying in the house on Tuesday while the ice actually came down.  Then today we stayed home too because I didn't have any errands I particularly needed to do and it seemed too cold to go for a walk.  The end result is that Grace, Violet, and I have not left the house for 3 days.  Violet and I are fine with this, but Grace finally fell victim to cabin fever the middle of this afternoon.  She went kind of crazy, running and yelling and being insane all over the house.  Life had been quite pleasant and relaxing and comfortable with the two girls up until that point, but then Grace lost her ability to be entertained by anything in the house and succumbed to slightly claustrophobic madness. Mental note: 3 days is her limit.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Now that Grace is older, there are parts of her life that we are not directly present for, and her life at preschool or Sunday school is pretty opaque to us.  Sometimes we pepper her with questions, trying to elucidate what she does, but these efforts are most often met with failure.  If I ask her what she did at school after I pick her up, her pat answer is, "I played with the other kids."  If I ask her leading questions about playing outside or eating lunch or reading books, she usually responds in the affirmative but I'm never sure if she's not just humoring me.  At times, we do get tiny tidbits of information about her life away from us.   Yesterday at dinner, Rob and I were trying to extract some information about what she did at school and she told us that she had music time when she sang songs with flags.  "Flags?" we thought.  "Maybe like scarves?  They were dancing around with scarves perhaps?"  No, Grace insisted, they were flags.  "With stars and stripes."  Oh, right, THAT kind of flag.  We hypothesize that they were doing some kind of patriotic song because of the inauguration.  When we tried to figure out what song they sang, all we could get out of Grace was her warbling, "No one no one no one no one no one no!"  Such a conundrum...

The riddle that Rob and I spend the most energy trying to solve is the enigma of puppets at Sunday school.  This past autumn Grace moved up from the nursery at church to the preschool area there; she seemed perfectly content about her new class but didn't really tell us anything about it.  We would ask and again, her standard answer was always, "I played with the other kids."  After multiple weeks there, one of our friends from church who has a daughter in the same class as Grace mentioned that she was really rushing that morning to get her little one to Sunday school in time for puppets.  "Puppets?" we asked blankly.  "They do puppets?"  It seemed like something that would have merited a mention, but such was not the case.  Now we always ask Grace about the puppets, but still we know next to nothing.  We ask her what the puppets do-- do they sing? do they tell stories?  And we ask what they are-- an animal? a person?  Grace sometimes answers vaguely in the affirmative but most often she says, "Shhhhhhhh.  We can't talk when we go to puppets."  We really don't know anything about the puppets except that Grace is very aware that you are not to talk.  She did tell us one time that there were boys who WERE talking but that they had to stop.  So now I mainly picture puppets involving a sort-of scary Brad Pitt telling the 2- and 3-year-olds that the first rule of puppets is you do not talk about puppets.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Decline and Fall of Me

One day near the end of Robert's paternity leave, I turned to him and said, "You know-- I don't feel that tired.  I think I'm doing really well."  Famous last words, right?  The two weeks since he went back to work have seen me not quite so chipper as my energy and good spirits have ebbed a bit.  Rob worked that first weekend so it was 12 days in a row of just me with the two lovely girls.  I am fortunate that he was able to come home every evening in time for bedtime routines, that friends have been bringing us meals several times a week, and that my mom was able to help out with some shopping.  Still, this past weekend found me calling people the wrong names and not quite able to string words into sentences and desperate for naps.  I'm a little surprised that I'm so tired because Violet is sleeping quite well for her age, going almost 5 hours overnight between nursing sessions, and is easy to return to sleep when she does wake up to eat.  I guess the tiredness isn't all about waking up to nurse, but also about the demanding daytime hours and just still healing from childbirth.

I am not about to tumble over any postpartum precipices or anything-- just more tired and stretched thin than I was two weeks ago.  It's somewhat discouraging to feel worse and worse as the days pass, but this past weekend with Rob home did a lot to halt my decline and surely soon life will get easier and things will start to turn up.  I remember the six-week mark being a big milestone with Grace when things started to feel a lot easier; that's only two weeks away!  Surely I can manage until then, staying even-keeled and content and just a bit worn out.

This morning I rubbed olive oil all over Violet's head and eyebrows in an effort to banish the cradle cap. She doesn't have a terrible case of it or anything; it's not even bad enough to really show up in pictures.  However, I have olive oil so I thought, "Eh, why not?" The general idea is to rub some olive oil on the flaky bits, let it sit to soften things up for 30 minutes or so, use a fine-tooth comb (like what comes in those baby toiletry kits) to loosen and brush out the flakiness, then give the baby a bath and shampoo out the olive oil and everything. I have to say that the process was quite dramatic in its effects when I started in with the comb.  A TON of gunk came off her, although I think I'll have to do it a few more times to really clear up the bit of seborrhea she's got. And as an added bonus she smelled like a delicious salad for a while. She is delicous, you must admit:


Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Stolen from my grad school friend Amanda

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I am wavering in my resolve to not buy any clothes right now. I mentioned previously that I bought a pair of jeans about 4 weeks postpartum with Grace and how I later viewed it as a mistake purchase since I only wore them for a month before I could pull them off without undoing the button and zipper. Well, now I am full of uncertainty because from my current perspective it does not seem like such a dreadful thing that I had SOMETHING to wear for that month. Right now it is yoga pants or knit skirts for me; warmer days are fine because I look halfway decent in the skirts. On colder days, though, I pull out the yoga pants yet again and YET AGAIN look like I should be heading to the gym. Sigh... My maternity pants and skirts won't stay up and none of my regular clothes will zip or button. I just might cave and go buy some kind of inexpensive pants that I can wear for the next month when it's too cold for my skirts.

Our two little ones have fallen under the influence of a little cold.  What a dreary and annoying and messy thing a minor cold is...  The blue bulb syringe and I have spent some quality time together, and I can now share with you that it works much better on almost-3-year-old nostrils than wee tiny 3-week-old nostrils.  Fortunately no one has a fever or is too miserable and Violet is not so stuffed up to have trouble nursing; I just get to deal with lots of Kleenex and runny noses and snot.

In other bodily function news, Violet has not pooped since midday on Friday.  This would be freaking me out a lot more if this were my first baby; I had a few friends with babies right around Grace's age who would sometimes go multiple days between bowel movements.  Apparently it isn't too out of the ordinary for some breastfed babies to do this.  It does concern us a little bit, though, because it's more normal for a 3-month-old than a 3-week-old.  Tomorrow I'm going to break down and call the pediatrician for reassurance, with Rob's blessing.  Dealing with pediatricians is always somewhat complicated when you are married to one; on the whole, it's made me realize what they are trained for and what they're not trained for.  (Let's just say I won't be asking my child's pediatrician for advice on breastfeeding problems or sleep anytime soon.)  It is always good to have a neutral party to bounce ideas off of, though, so I'll call tomorrow to hopefully get reassured that this is within the normal range of pooping situations.

Violet's face has started bursting into those first fleeting sleep smiles pretty frequently these days.  It's so lovely to see her face break into a dimpled smile as she finishes nursing and her eyes flutter closed in sleep. It has made me realize that it will be just a few weeks before she is smiling for real, and this realization has in turn made me contemplate how soon Violet will be alert and awake and ready to play and interactive and a fuller version of the person she will eventually be.  It's magical and transfixing.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I Have 2 Children!

Who would have thought it possible? It is blowing my mind a little this week. This week has seen Rob's return to work and Grace's return to school so it feels like we are coming out of a introspective family/newborn time and re-entering the world at large. Except now there are TWO tiny creatures in our house and when Rob is at work they OUTNUMBER ME. I will be honest and admit that this week has been kicking my butt a bit. Probably the most challenging bit has been getting us all out the door when that is required, and getting Grace to preschool was the most prominent example from this week. One of the main reasons we signed Grace up for Mothers' Day Out/preschool/I-never-know-what-to-call-it was to give me some time alone with the new baby this spring, but I did not foresee just getting her there to be such a challenge. The time when Grace is there is great, of course; it is quiet and I get to gaze into Violet's dark eyes and eat a bit more regularly and sleep. Getting all three of us breakfasted and dressed and out the door on time is just much more difficult than I thought it would be. It's only the first week and will get easier, right?

Some of my parenting/breastfeeding/baby books talk about how other cultures treat the newborn days, and apparently there are a lot of traditional cultures where the first 40 days are set apart as a special, separate time for the new mom and baby. There is much "mothering the mother" and the mama's regular responsibilities taken over by other women in the community and the new mama/baby couple living somewhat secluded away from the regular life of the community. I feel pretty lucky to have gotten 2 weeks with help at home, and we are also really grateful for people bringing us some meals, but this week of reemergence into the real world has made me think longingly about postpartum life in one of those traditional cultures. Six whole weeks... On the other hand, I would miss Tivo and indoor plumbing and the internet. Can't have it all, can we?

Getting out and about more has made me keenly aware of my clothing situation (SO FEW clothes that fit...) and thus the general state of my physique. My attitude toward eating vacillates from wanting to eat nothing but vegetables and legumes and whole grains when I contemplate all the clothes that don't fit and/or how I look in the mirror to wanting to eat something with CALORIES PLEASE GIVE ME FOOD when I get struck by that intense breastfeeding hunger after not having enough time to eat well all day. Every time I see a health care professional from my midwife to Violet's pediatrician they tell me to eat enough and drink enough and not worry about losing the baby weight right now, and I'm trying to follow that advice for now. I know the weight came off with Grace and not-quite-3-weeks-postpartum is not the time to worry about this. I'm also trying to hold off on buying any clothes. I pulled the trigger way too early on that with Grace and ended up with jeans in a huge depressing size that fit for less than a month. So it's time for some patience and a moratorium on clothing purchases, which leaves me wearing... what? I haven't quite figured that out yet.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Violet's Birth Story

Nice to meet you

Disclaimer: Well, telling how someone was born with any level of candid detail is unavoidably TMI, I think, so consider yourself forewarned.

At my 38-week visit to the midwife, we were talking about plans for help at home after the baby was born and when I half-jokingly bemoaned the lack of help I would have if I didn't have the baby until after Christmas (because of Rob's schedule at the hospital, etc), she not-jokingly-at-all suggested that we schedule an induction for right before Christmas, a few days before my due date.  I was scheduled on December 22 at 10am for something that was not technically an induction but rather "cervical ripening" where they would put prostaglandin gel on my cervix to get it ready to dilate and efface.  I felt a bit conflicted about not waiting for my body to go into labor on its own but this option seemed like a low-key intervention unlikely to spiral into other interventions I didn't want, so we decided to give it a try.

In the early morning hours of December 22, I started to have contractions that were painful enough to wake me up but were still 7, 8, or 9 minutes apart.  As the morning got going, the contractions sometimes spaced out a bit more but I never went longer than 15 minutes without one.  In hindsight, I think I was in early labor at that point.  We talked to my midwife on the phone and decided to go in anyway for the prostaglandin as planned; if I was in the early stages of labor, the drug should be just that much more likely to work and if not, my reasons for trying to jumpstart labor still stood.

Rob and I arrived at L&D with our bags and chipper smiles and all at 10am sharp; it felt kind of strange to be arriving with my packed bag when being sent home if the prostaglandin didn't do anything was such a real possibility.  I was put in the L&D triage area, changed into a gown, got monitored for a while to see how the baby was doing, and then at 11am my midwife arrived to do the deed.  The Friday before (this was a Monday) I had been dilated 1 cm when checked at the office, and she said that now I was 2 cm and put the prostaglandin gel in my dilating cervix, using double the dose the nurse originally brought out.  Yikes! Within 15 minutes, my contractions had really intensified and eventually were coming every 3-4 minutes.  After sitting in bed on the monitors for an hour, they let me get up and walk around so Rob and I circled the hallways, our slow walk punctuated by ever-intensifying contractions that I couldn't walk or talk or stand upright for.

The deal that you apparently strike with this hospital when going in for this kind of cervical ripening is that they will give you 2 hours from when the drug is placed to show some cervical change.  If there is no change, then you get sent home; if there is, you get sent from the triage area over to "real" L&D.  By the time my 2 hours were up, my contractions were every 2 minutes apart and intense and I was having quite a bit of gastrointestinal upset.  Thankfully, when my midwife came back and checked me at 1pm, I had also progressed to 3 cm so we were bundled off across the hallway into L&D where we had our own room (with my own bathroom, which was becoming important to me, given the GI upset).  My memories of the next period are somewhat hazy-- I know we played Bach on the CD player in the room, I know I changed positions about every 2 contractions, I know that I was in a fog of pain only penetrated by Rob comforting me and helping me cope.  I sat on the birthing ball, I labored on all fours, I stood and leaned on Robert, I tried lying on my side.  My contractions were 60 to 90 seconds apart by this time and I felt like there was barely time to rest before the next one came.

A little after 3pm, I started feeling nauseous.  I didn't have an IV so I had been drinking a lot of juice all morning to stay hydrated, and all of the sudden ALL the juice started coming back up.  I was sitting on the birthing ball at the time and as I threw up, my membranes ruptured.  My first thought was actually, "Oh great-- not only am I throwing up everywhere, now I am peeing all over myself too!"  It turns out that no, it was my waters breaking, although that isn't any less gross, really, is it?  Anyway, I started feeling kind of crazy at that point and out of control (yes, those of you following along at home are right if you have guessed that I was in transition), asked for the nurse, and when she was in the room, I started to feel like I had to push.  Apparently, those are magical words in an L&D room because there was a mad scuttle of activity when I said them.  The nurse checked me and I was practically complete, they paged my midwives, they started rearranging the bed and furniture in the room, and various people started coming in and getting dressed in baby-catching gear and whatnot.  I was just overwhelmed with the need to push but everyone from Rob to the nurses kept saying, "NO! Pant! Blow!"  It was TERRIBLE not to push and I was crying; each contraction I had during these (very brief) minutes) was really dreadful as I saw my belly solidify into this rock-hard, perfectly-round shape as my body tried to get the baby out on its own.  (Well, that's what it felt like, anyway...)  There was some trouble finding either of my midwives so an OB/GYN resident came in and started getting ready to deliver the baby, but then one of my midwives finally made it and I FINALLY was allowed to start pushing.  This whole sequence from feeling nauseous to finally starting pushing felt very eventful but it all happened in, oh, less than 10 minutes or so.

I pushed less than 10 times (Rob claims it was more like 5) and Violet was born at 3:33pm; this was the screaming part of labor.  I am not normally a screaming, raise-your-voice type of person but the situation seemed to call for it, so there you go.  I was hoarse for almost 2 days afterwards.  Violet turned a little blue during and right after being pushed out (which you can totally see in her video) but got to a nice healthy pink color pretty quickly.  It HURT to push her out, of course, but it was amazing how the pain subsided immediately after she came out.  The cord came out and the nurses and my midwife all commented on how long it was.  I thought, "Um-- yay me?"  Then the placenta, which hurt more than I thought it would, just like with Grace.  (And do you know that you have to push the placenta out, sort of like pushing the baby?)  And all of this was happening concurrently with Violet having her first cry, the cord being cut, being taken over to the other side of the room to get rubbed down and weighed and gunk put into her eyes and whatnot.  I did tear during pushing, in the same place where I had an episiotomy with Grace, so the next thing that happened was my midwife repairing the tear.  By this time, I was coming down off the endorphin/adrenaline/who-knows-what high and I was all jittery and trembly and jumpy at every touch; my poor midwife had to give me two shots of Lidocaine to repair my tear without me jumping off the bed.  It was sometime during the repair that Rob brought Violet back over to me and I immediately felt calmer and less jittery.  I got to hold her pretty much the whole rest of the time we were down in L&D; we stayed there about an hour, mostly without a lot of other people around, before being pushed up to our postpartum room.  It was during that hour or so that the whole ocean of motherhood and love and devotion washed over me and I started to realize that I have another person who will call me "Mama", another human being linked to me forever, another little girl to carry and raise and love.

So that was that!  It was just 4.5 hours from when the prostaglandin gel went in to when Violet was born, which still stuns me a little.  And hey-- I had a baby without an IV or an epidural or pain medication! (Unless you want to count the Lidocaine for the tear repair at the end...)  I certainly don't think it is a morally better choice or anything but part of me feels, "Wow. I did it."  I don't think I could have coped with much more labor of that intensity, though.  When I was in the puking phase, I was thinking in my head that when the nurse came in and checked me, if she told me I was still only 5 cm or something, I was going to weep and then go for the epidural.  Of course, I was in transition at the time, the famous hallmark of which is feeling like you can't go on and are going to give up, so maybe everyone feels like that during transition.  Anyway, it was just the right balance of short and intense for me to be able to cope with.  All in all, it was a really different experience than Grace's birth.  Kind of shockingly different, actually.

  • I'm glad I didn't get an epidural, because it was so nice to be able to change positions during labor and use lots of different coping mechanisms.  And not have an IV (which I hate with the fire of a thousand suns).  And not have a catheter (which meant that the peeing situation was much less crazy postpartum).  And after the birth be able to get up and do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.  It's kind of funny, because after Grace's birth I was glad I DID get the epidural, and I still think I would in the same situation (slow long labor on pitocin, stuck in the bed hooked up to lots of monitors).  I'm obviously not a die-hard natural childbirth spokeswoman or anything, but I do think it is all-in-all a more comfortable and pleasant option if the situation allows you to cope in other ways.
  • This labor was so short that we felt a little abandoned by the nurses and midwives and whatnot during the most difficult part of the labor.  I think a nurse must have come in to monitor the baby for a few minutes at least once while I was in L&D, but I have no memory of it.  I don't blame them; I had just taken 2 hours to go from 2 cm to 3 cm, so how was anyone going to predict that it would be just another 2 hours to go from 3 cm to 10 cm?  I think my midwives were annoyed that the nurses didn't page them earlier (to tell them I was in active labor) because they plan on one of them being there to help coach.
  • Speaking of coaching, Rob had a much more active role this time around and did such a good job supporting me and helping me cope and believing in me and generally being present and involved and whatnot.  There was no one else in the room so he was it as far as support for me, but he did a really fantastic job.  I did the whole stereotypical thing where I snapped at him for touching me wrong or too hard or whatever there at the end, but he was wonderful throughout it all.
  • I really liked how our hospital set up the postpartum time-- all the immediate procedures on the baby are done in your L&D room, a relaxed time in your L&D room without a lot of other people around, and then the postpartum floor was all shiny and new and freshly remodeled.  Does that make me shallow?
  • I do wonder when I would have gone into labor if I had turned down the prostaglandin, or if things would have been easier if we'd gone with the lower dose, but overall I am very happy with how things went and the decisions we made.  It has been really wonderful to have 2 full weeks with Robert at home, definitely worth whatever risks there were in trying to cheat Mother Nature a little.  All's well that ends well, and this definitely ended well:

A very good present