Thursday, June 27, 2013

On nursing

Writing about breastfeeding is like writing about Moby Dick. It's well worn stuff and the best insights have been down on paper for generations. So what's here isn't news to anyone, except, perhaps,  me. 

 I read a whole lot about breastfeeding while I was pregnant (Martha Sears, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding,, lots and lots of blogs). I was worried, as I'm wont to be, about finding a rhythm with Augie. I was concerned about my breasts and I was nervous about the infamous underproduction problem. I wanted to be well prepared and so I bought everything I thought I might need (a shield, breast pads, "booby tubes," etc.) and assembled myself a little nursing kit. As it turns out, I've hardly needed a thing. 

As prepared as I felt, the first days in the hospital did little to assuage my worries. I had Josh call an independent lactation consultant within hours of giving birth because I was terrified of the hospital giving him a bottle and the recovery nurses were utterly unhelpful. Our birth instructor warned us that all Kentucky hospitals automatically stick bottles in newborn mouths, and so I felt like I needed to be on guard and proving to the nurses that I could do it. I thought nipple confusion was as virulent as malaria--there'd be no recovery. 

This is not a good way to begin nursing. 

I also struggled with a very sleepy baby and a body less ready to start nursing. C-sections before natural labor pose all sorts of challenges to breastfeeding: it takes longer for your milk to come in,  you have to negotiate your incision, you're on industrial-strength narcotics and dull the senses. 

But Josh was patient. The hospital lactation consultant who appeared on day two was an angel sent from the breasts above. A friend showed me how to put Augie in the crook of my arm. And he eventually woke up and figured it out. In all the early struggles, I never once thought about throwing in the towel. If I couldn't have the birth I wanted, I was damn sure I'd have the nursing. 

 For the first five weeks or so, I obsessively tracked Aug's feedings on an iPhone app. In those early weeks I was nursing 14 or 15 times a day and for long stretches. I'd check my app at 9 pm and he would have already spent 7 hours nursing that day. He'd "dine and doze" or "sip and sleep" or "nurse and nap" for hours and hours (alliterations littering my head the whole while). Those days all felt really long. My body was sore from the c-section and the cracked rib. I was exhausted and it took a month before I felt halfway normal again. My body still feels like a foreign territory. 

Now looking back, I think it was the breastfeeding that slowed down the days. Usually I'm thinking about the twenty things that I want to get done. I'm making lists in my mind and reordering them continuously. I multitask and floss while driving (that's gross, right?). But when I'm nursing Aug, the lists dry up and the urgent need to get anything done goes silent. Nothing feels as pressing as it normally does, and I've relished that new calm. 

I like the feeling that when I'm feeding him, I'm the one being nourished. 

Of course he's being nourished--fattened, really--too. We're both being calmed, immediately and profoundly. And that calm feels like the best thing I've ever produced. Which is fortunate because one of the most obvious changes since his birth is my utter lack of normal productivity. 

I haven't been working, of course, but I also haven't been doing anything with my hands. This is probably the longest stretch since my childhood when I've been without creative projects. In fact, when we were flying last week, I realized that in place of knitting in my hands, I had a baby. And I actually didn't feel the urgent need to knit in order to calm my mind, even during the take-off and the turbulence. 

My garden is overrun with weeds and the whole mess desperately needs to be trimmed and tamed. But even that urge has been quieted in these first months of mothering.

 I relish the proficiency I feel in nurturing Augie. It feels like the first thing in a long while that has come naturally and automatically. I know there are challenges ahead, but for now, I'm just deeply grateful that we figured the nursing thing out. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Eyes, an update

Augie saw the pediatric ophthalmologist from UK today in Richmond. We waited for over two hours: enough time to feed three times, take two catnaps, change three diapers, and if you're my husband, contract pink eye. Argh. When we finally saw the doctor, she examined Augie and found him to have normal visual cues and a healthy looking optic nerve. This is all good news. The less good news is that intermittent nystagmus is extremely rare. It just doesn't usually present that way in infants and so she was basically puzzled by his condition. After speaking with the doctor, we decided to give it another six weeks to see what happens. If it's still happening in August (the month and the baby), we'll go ahead with the MRI, but we're all hoping that it might instead spontaneously disappear. 

By the end of today, each of us saw a doctor in Kentucky. Three appointments in three cities. We're all exhausted and Josh has a contagious, oozing eye. Let's just hope the rest of us don't wake up with it. Someone is sleeping in the guest room tonight.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Napping nightmare

Your eyes aren't deceiving you. That black picture is really my selfie for the day, any day. You see,we  have a little situation on our hands. August is a great nighttime sleeper. He mastered sleeping through the night and hasn't looked back since, though he's outgrown his cradle and needs to move to his crib soon. That could occasion some regression, I'd guess. But no, the problem is napping.

Augie seems willing to take a good nap, just as long as I'm lying right next to him in the bed and he can nurse whenever it pleases him. Right now I'm calling this a "situation" and not a "problem" because it's summer and I just read as he sleeps. We both enjoy the closeness and I get to read for the coming semester's new class (African American lit). But I don't imagine his daycare will be quite so accommodating. Today I was able to stealthily remove myself for the last half hour, but that took a lot of work. So how do we get Augie to nap the way he sleeps at night?

I've thought about trying a modified "cry it out," but then I almost start crying just thinking about it. It seems that I've been totally persuaded by the Dr. Sears' rationale that says that cry it out hurts, confuses, and potentially scars babies for life. Ok, maybe he doesn't go that far, but almost. I hate the idea of little Augie crying because he knows that I comprehend that message and will comfort him and instead finding me nowhere in his tears. I hate the idea of him confused and alone and unable to grasp this turn of events. I really hate the idea of him silencing himself because he's found no response to his pleas. Is "self soothing" just a virtue adults invented so they could keep sipping their martinis in the den?

But if I can't stomach cry-it-out, where do I find myself (besides in bed at noon with a baby hooked up to my breast)? I checked the No-Cry Sleep Solution out of the library, but I read it in a fog of sleeplessness and had to return it. Any wisdom from you parents who either got over the guilt of cry-it-out or found any alternative path to the merry world of zzzzzzs?

Friday, June 21, 2013

3 months along


They say that babies have a 4th trimester outside the womb. I was skeptical. But they're right. Augie really came alive this week and today on his 3-month birthday, he's a different creature altogether. He cries much less now and when he does, it's with a real purpose: a wet dipe, a slightly empty tummy, a tired body, a sudden lonesomeness (okay, maybe that last one is pushing it). He's gotten up to a respectable fighting weight, nearly 15 lbs (he jumped from the 17th percentile to the 77th in one month). He loves eating and will happily spend hours on the boob. He babbles with us nonstop, but especially when we talk about animal sounds (and Daddy sounds). He holds a toy and puts his whole fist in his mouth (left preferred). He just seems to have really, truly woken up, which is fitting for the solstice and all. 

less fun

While we had a great, refreshing trip, we returned to an unsettling development for Augie. At first I thought my own eyes were fooling me. I'd seen his eyes flicker and jump a couple times, so fast that I wasn't really sure what I was seeing. I tried to explain it to Josh, but without any ability to get Augie to do it on command, he was left wondering what in the world I was talking about. When I googled "eyes jumping back and forth" (I resisted the urge to search "signs that my child is possessed by an evil spirit"), I ended up reading all about nystagmus, a rather unsettling condition without many treatments and with little real understanding. When Josh finally witnessed an episode on Monday evening, he agreed that we should take Augie into the pediatrician on Tuesday. And the pediatrician—whom we really like—confirmed my internet diagnosis. Unfortunately, he's unable to guess at the cause for Augie's condition. It could be an issue with his optic nerve. It could be a sign of a larger neurological problem. It could connect to a problem with his ears. It could be a benign neurological blip. We just don't know at this point. We're seeing a pediatric ophthalmologist on Monday and we've been told that she'll likely order an MRI to check the optic nerve. Over the last couple days, I've realized that his nystagmus is predictable. It happens just when he starts nursing and especially when he's tired. I'm not sure how to interpret that,  but it's reassuring that there's a discernable pattern. A friend has suggested that maybe he's just really excited to eat (and as the pediatrician said, "doesn't look like that kid's missed many meals"). 

No matter the diagnosis, this episode has been my first real foray into maternal worry. There have been two nearly sleepless nights in which I've tried to think of career options for a wobbly-eye guy who can't read very well. Pretty quickly I decided that Augie would have to be a musician...but then I remembered that he's almost guaranteed to be tone-deaf like his parents. So then I tried to think of careers in which sunglasses are permissible: surfer, movie producer, west coast loafer, turf grass maintance man, beatnik, flaneur. Then I realized that most of those aren't careers and was really worried. I had visions of him wandering the streets. It wasn't pretty. 

So I've tried not to let myself go there. Instead, I'm focused on his smiles and his babbling. We've also perfected the side-lying napping & eating combo (we call it "getting hooked up to the IV"). We'll have answers soon enough and we'll take it from there. I have no idea how I'll survive his teenage years. Valium, maybe. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A first trip

We survived our inaugural airplane trip. Actually, we more than survived it. We enjoyed it. Augie was great on the plane, eating and sleeping the entire way. In retrospect, I think 3-months is a great age for a first trip. I wouldn't have had the necessary confidence earlier and soon he'll be too big for the soft wraps that made it all so easy. 

We spent one night up at Mt. Riga with my high school friend Sarah and her family. It was cold and raining, the ground completely saturated and muddy. Augie slept in a pack n play for the first time in a cabin with a wood stove. The fire went out some time in the night and when I went to pick him up to nurse in the middle of the night, he was frozen. I felt horribly negligent, but he didn't seem to mind a bit. It was lovely to see old friends and feel that perfect kind of familiarity.

On Friday, we drove up past my high school in Sheffield, MA. We had sandwiches in one of my favorite spots, Great Barrington and then drove on to meet a gaggle of college pals for a wedding in Lenox (at Edith Warton's house "The Mount"). It was totally relaxing. In fact, I kept telling Josh that I was more relaxed than I'd been since Augie's birth. We needed to get out of town, have a change of scenery, and reset our patience. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Measuring up

We're doing laundry, getting haircuts (not for Aug, of course), and packing our newly enlarged bags. We're headed to my old neck of the woods in the berkshires for the wedding of a good college pal and her Sri Lankan husband. We'll spend tomorrow night up on a mountain top without electricity but with a high school pal whom I haven't seen since 1998 or so.  We just have to survive two flights, a layover in Atlanta, and an hour-long car ride on both sides with the little mister. Pray to the travel gods for us. And let us know if you have any brilliant infant travel tips...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

More objects, fewer relations

Today I put a bigger object in Aug's hands to see if he could handle it. It was a rousing success, but I realized that he still doesn't understand that he can control whatever he holds. So he kept this crazy toy in his grasp for ten minutes, but he never seemed particularly aware of it, which is weird because he kept bonking his forehead. Silly man. On the other hand, he has started intentionally putting fingers in his mouth, which I'm hoping is a step forward toward self-soothing. Right now he's a major comfort nurser and while that's okay for the moment, I don't have a wet nurse lined up for when I go back to work. Maybe my dreams will be answered and a live-in nanny with wet nursing capabilities will magically show up between now and August 15th. Anyone interested in the job?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Object relations

In the last week or so Aug has begun to interact more with objects. I'm still not convinced that he understands those fleshy pincher things are his hands, but now if we fill them, he'll hold on and waggle whatever is there. A hand-carved bean-filled rattle is his object of choice, that is until he starts banging his forehead. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Look who's "talking"

AEB1 from Anne Bruder on Vimeo.

Aug seems to be changing by the minute. He's slept all night three nights in a row. He's been generally happy, smiley, and content to lie in his big boy crib and study his mobile. He's also started babbling or squealing or whatever you want to call it. He seems to love vocalizing this way, pitching his arms and legs in furious circles and cooing at us. Sometimes he seems to be imitating our sounds, but this is probably wishful thinking. While I know we have a long time until it happens, this makes me super excited to hear him talk, even though I mostly want him to stay a little baby forever.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The light

This guy finally graduated to the big leagues: the 8-hour sleep. I guess there really is something to the 12lb. mark. Now I just need to figure out what to do with the engorged boulders on my chest at 3 am. It seems a shame to pump in the middle of what could be uninterrupted sleep. I guess this is a chance to build my freezer stash for daycare.