Friday, December 19, 2008

A few notes for Valerie's baby book

On December 12, Valerie was 15lbs 13oz and 25.5 inches. That puts her in just about the 90th percentile for a four month old. Pretty good for a baby that stayed in newborn diapers for six weeks.

We upgraded from the bucket car seat to the convertible car seat this week, which should last her until she is old enough to drive. It was getting too cumbersome to carry such a big baby in a bucket seat, anyhow. Much easier to just carry her or pop her in the sling.

She's got a runny nose right now, and it is making her miserable. She's a bit better today, so hopefully we're on the home stretch.

On the way home from shopping yesterday, Valerie was crying in the back seat. In an attempt to comfort her, I reached back and touched the only part of her I could reach - her shoulder. She reached up with her hand and grasped my hand, and calmed down.

She is starting to use her hands to put things in her mouth. On Wednesday, she put a little toy that was attached to her shirt in her mouth, and today, she grasped the handle of a teething toy I was giving her, pulled it out of her mouth, kept holding onto it, and a few seconds later, put it back in her mouth all by herself!

Today, while I was changing her diaper, I said "Hi" to her and she said it back to me! Well, she made a noise that started with "H" and mostly ended with "i". I know it's not "talking" but I still think it's pretty cool that she's repeating sounds.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Four Months Old!


Dear Valerie,

You are four months old today! Four months! Wow. That's how old the other walking group/playgroup babies were when we started meeting together, back when you were two months old and looked so tiny next to them. It's hard to believe you're that big now.


One year ago this week, I started to get really bad heartburn, and I stopped liking coffee. That was how you made your presence known in this world. My taste for coffee still hasn't returned, which makes me somewhat sad, but I'll take you over coffee any day.


You're developing such a personality. You love music, and you love laughter. I sing to you all the time; sometimes real songs, sometimes made up songs, and frequently real songs with the real words replaced with things like "burpie" and "poopie". You're going to be very disappointed one day when you discover that the chorus to The Happy Wanderer is not actually "Valerie, Valerah". But I like it better my way. And so do you. You find the world a very amusing place. You especially like listening to adult conversation, watching flashing television shows (like Doctor Who and Highlander), and people laughing at you. It's very easy to make you laugh: All I have to do is laugh at you, and you laugh right back.


People used to tell me, during those early weeks of your life, what a good baby I had. I wanted to punch them. You were a happy, quiet baby in public, but then as soon as we came home, you turned into a screaming, inconsolable baby. Now, when people tell me I have a good baby, I smile, and say, "Thank you". Because you are a good baby. You do have your fussy times, like most babies. You've been acting like you have teeth coming in for a while, and everyone keeps telling me that you're too young for teeth, and after three or four days of drooling and gnawing and sudden shrieking and other such very teething-like symptoms, your teeth will suddenly decide that it's too early after all, and the teething symptoms will go away for awhile. You also fuss if you are tired, but the adults in the room are not asleep. You have no trouble going right to sleep if I'm going to sleep, too, but if it's the middle of the day, and there are things going on in the world around you, you will fight tiredness like it's the most painful torture ever. You will scream and cry, and I will be at my wit's end trying to figure out if you're gassy or hungry or temporarily teething again, and then, all of a sudden, you will be fast asleep, and I will feel dumb for not thinking of it earlier, because you did the same thing yesterday. I can't blame you, though, for wanting to be a part of the adult world. I was the exact same way when I was little. I remember when my parents used to have adults over for a visit, and they would just be sitting around talking about boring adult things, but I would still cry and cry when I was sent upstairs to bed. Once, I stopped on the bottom step to listen for a few minutes before continuing upstairs, and I fell asleep right there on the stairs, only to be discovered at the end of the night when my parents' friends were getting ready to go home. Note to self: always check the stairs after sending Valerie to bed during parties.


I mentioned before that you managed to find your thumb, and I was all excited about it, and even took a picture, but then you seemed to have promptly forgotten about it. Until a couple of weeks ago, when you suddenly remembered about that thumb of yours, and started to be able to plug it into your mouth with very little effort at all. And, like I said before, I will probably find it less cute when you're older, but right now, I just love watching you suck your thumb. There is something very mature about it, because you are deliberately taking action against a perceived problem, and meeting your own needs. Whether it's your indecisive teeth hurting, or simply a need for comfort, you're starting to be able to calm yourself down with your thumb, and it's really neat to watch.


You've become very interested in the feel of things this month. You're always reaching out with your hands and stroking or grabbing or scratching whatever you can get your hands on, whether it's me, or my clothes, or your car seat, or even, once in a while, a toy. You don't care for toys very much, yet, which I think is due to the fact that you are so much more interested in people's faces. You only have a few toys that you care even a bit about, and those are your maraca and the little jingle toys that hang over your car seat. Both, it should be noted, are musical toys. You have always loved music, since before you were even born, and you used to listen to me sing and play the djembe in church, then kick in rhythm after I stopped playing.


This month has been a very interesting month in the sleep department. Before I went back to work, you were spending about half of every night in your crib. I would try, and try, to put you down, and you would never stay down until about 2:00 a.m. Then you would sleep on your own until about six, at which point I would bring you into bed with me, and feed you, and we would doze together until I had managed to get enough sleep. This worked well for us, until I went back to work. And, in order to get up at 3:30 a.m. with even remotely enough sleep to get through a shift of work, I needed to get to sleep well before 2:00 a.m. So, I tried taking you to bed with me at 9:30, nursing you, and seeing if you would stay asleep. Lo and behold, it worked! Everything I have read about cosleeping and sleep training has now been thrown out the window, because you know what the best rule to follow in parenting is? Do what works. This works for us, this works for now. You nurse several times through the night, but I barely notice, because you have mostly overcome your reflux issues and you can nurse lying down while I sleep. And I get so much more sleep, now, with you in the bed all night, which is really my number one "me" priority if I am going to function at work. And, in spite of what people kept telling us about how babies who cosleep don't sleep through the night as well as crib babies, you know what? This week, you started sleeping for five to seven hour stretches of the night. Well, of the morning, actually. I think you finally figured out that when I wake you up at 3:30 to nurse, it's the last, proper boob feeding you're going to get until 10:30 or 11. Which you have demonstrated to me in two ways: first, by being extra snuggly and comfort nursing for sometimes an entire hour during the 3:30 feeding, and, second, by sleeping peacefully with your dad through the rest of the morning, and only taking a few ounces of pumped milk if you do wake up, so that you can nurse for a solid hour or more when I get home from work. But that was this week. The week before, you would wake up early and eat five or more ounces before I came home. So who knows what you will do next week. You like to keep us on our toes.


This past week was a very special week for our family, because it was the week that you were dedicated to the Lord at our church. It was such a special event that Grandma came all the way from Canada, and your aunts and uncles and cousins and Nana and PopPop came to our church to be there with us. You wore the same white dress that I wore when I was dedicated as a baby, and we stood in front of the church, and we promised to raise you in a godly manner. This means that, while my politics are very liberal, and my stance on public morality is very liberal, I hold myself and my family to a different standard because I believe strongly in the choice we have made in the God that we worship. I want to raise you to be a smart girl who thinks for herself and makes her own decisions, but I also want to arm you with the same strong, moral fiber that I was raised with that allowed me to stand up against the immorality that it always seemed like "everyone" was doing. I don't expect that finding the balance between the two will always be easy, and I don't expect that I will always do it right, but I will do my best to equip you to be a strong, Christian woman, as my parents did for me.


Then, after the service was over, you pooped all over that beautiful white dress. Because you're a baby, after all. And babies poop.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I could have sworn there were supposed to be 24 hours in a day

It seems simple. 24 hours in a day. I work for 5, sleep for 8, and have 11 remaining hours to do other things. But for some reason, it never seems to work out that way.

I get up at 3:30 am to feed the baby. I work from 5-10 am, then I come home, and the baby eats for a very very long time. Then I have to eat. Then I need a nap. Then I need to eat. Then it's bedtime again. Interspersed, of course, with more feedings and diaper changes and laundry.

So, if you come to my house, and see my sink full of dishes, and wonder, like I do, why I can't get to them during the 11 free hours I have every day, please be gracious. Those 11 hours don't exist.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Let's get controversial

I tend to avoid discussing controversial topics on this blog. But lately, I haven't been blogging much at all, so I thought, why not go all out and talk about something really controversial? I've had this post bouncing around in my head for a really long time, and I think it will do me some good to get it out. And, maybe, just maybe, it will do someone some good to read it.

Let's start with marriage. Marriage is an ecclesiastical concept. In most Christian denominations, marriage is a sacrament, like baptism and communion. I believe in marriage. I believe that it is a sacred bond, not to be entered lightly. I believe in staying married for life, and I believe in saving sex for marriage. In this day and age, very few people share my definition of marriage.

My church does share my definition of marriage. That is part of why I attend my church. My church also shares my definition of communion and baptism. This matters to me, because I am part of this church body, and I care about how it administers the sacraments.

I believe in separation of church and state. I don't want the government to tell my church who we can baptize or how to serve communion. There are many different Christian denominations, as well as many different religions, all of whom have different ideas about things like baptism and communion. And marriage.

Here's where this leads me: I don't think the government should marry ANYONE. To me, this is just like the government trying to baptize people. It's not their place to baptize or marry people; it's the church's place to administer sacraments.

But the government does marry people. It started marrying people, because there were legal implications to being married, and they wanted atheists to have access to those rights and responsibilities. I wish they had used a different word. Called it a "civil union" from the get-go. Because that's what most marriages in this country are. A legal arrangement with certain rights and responsibilities, based on a love relationship. Not a contract with their god of choice, and definitely not a covenant with my God. Most "marriages" in this country are not "marriages" by my definition of marriage. We're using the same word to mean different things, just as Catholics and Baptists use the word "baptism" to mean two different things.

But I'm okay with that. My decision to be a Christian is my decision. My decision to embrace Christian morality is based on my relationship with Jesus Christ. I don't expect the rest of the world to choose that morality any more than I expect everyone else in the world to do my husband's laundry. I do it because I love him, not because I think I'm supposed to. The same goes for my morality. I choose it because I love Him, not because I think I'm supposed to.

I don't think the government should be marrying anyone, but since they are offering a civil union contract and calling it marriage, I don't think they have the right to deny that contract to anyone. It baffles me that the Christian right clings to the issue of gender, and wants to deny government-issued marriage to same-sex couples, when so few of the other "Christian" requirements for marriage are being met. How is a heterosexual celebrity marriage that lasts four days any more "Christian" than a homosexual marriage performed in an Episcopal church?

If I lived in California, I would have voted "No" on Prop 8. I believe in freedom of choice, equality, and the right to embrace whatever morality you choose, for whatever reasons you choose (barring, of course, choices that directly injure others). I believe that a homosexual couple has as much of a right to be married in this country as an atheist couple. My church's doctrine should not define the government's actions.

When I attend a Catholic church, I am not allowed to partake in Holy Communion, because I was not baptized Catholic and confirmed in the Catholic church. They have the right to exclude me, because that is their doctrine. I don't think the government should force them to include me. I don't think they ever will, because it's none of their business who the Catholic church serves communion to. Likewise, I hope that the government will stay out of churches' administration of the sacrament of marriage. Many churches require engaged couples to go through premarital counseling, won't marry couples who are living together, won't marry divorced couples, won't marry couples who don't regularly attend their church, etc. They have the right to do that. What they don't have the right to do is deprive those engaged couples of their rights, under law, to all of the legal ramifications of being married. When a church refuses to marry a couple, they can always go to another church, or to City Hall. If the government refuses to marry people, they can't go anywhere (except maybe Canada).

I am interested to hear your comments on this, because in all of the arguments I have heard on both sides of this issue, I have heard very little that fits what I believe. You may disagree with me, but please keep it civil. This is my blog, and I don't want any mudslinging here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Pocketful of Partial Posts

Some stuff that's on my mind that didn't make it into my monthly letter...

Valerie is asleep on my legs right now. It's cozy and warm. She doesn't sleep as much as she used to, though.

Sometimes, Valerie laughs in her sleep. It's adorable. Sometimes she cries in her sleep. It's heart-wrenching.

Typing on my desktop/couch configuration is awkward and annoying. This is a big part of the reason I have not been updating lately. But my brother-in-law is awesome, and is sending me his old laptop. Can't wait!

Valerie turns her head to the right more than the left. I think it's because that's the side she has to turn to when she nurses lying beside me on the bed. Coincidentally, my left breast makes more milk than the right. Jer and I have traded sides of the bed to test my theory.

Because of stupid, annoying insurance issues, Valerie didn't have her two-month check-up until she was three months old. We ended up getting her three of the vaccines on the schedule, skipping two, and delaying one. Which, some of you will read, and wonder how I dare skip any, and some of you will read, and wonder why I dare gave her any. Suffice it to say, I did my research, weighed the pros and cons, calculated the risks, and came to this conclusion. I appreciate the good discussions I have had with people in trying to decide what to do about vaccinations.

I cried when the nurse gave her the shots. Fortunately, they let me nurse her while they did it, which calmed her down quickly. It was hard, though. And then she didn't feel well for two days. And by the end of the second day, I felt so drained, because she was eating so often, and I was fighting her sickness through my milk. Which is an awesome thing, when you think about it, to literally be able to take on your child's suffering. But still exhausting.

You know, I'm a semi-. Partial vaccinations. Partial co-sleeping. We feed Valerie breastmilk exclusively, but I do pump, and we give her bottles when I am at work, or want a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. I babywear when we are out walking, but we do own a stroller, and it comes in handy on occasion. We use cloth diapers, but we used disposables for the first six weeks. Parenting is not religion, you CAN pick and choose what works for you.

Speaking of which, here is a cute picture of me wearing Valerie:

Valerie Jeanne 201

My house is a total mess. I was just starting to sortof get the hang of having a baby and taking care of the house, and then I went back to work. Yesterday, I was feeling so exhausted and overwhelmed, it felt like the first weeks all over again. I guess you can never really stay on top of life; it changes too often.

Please click on my ads! It honestly makes a difference. And this Christmas is going to be tight. My sister suggested that we all make things this year, which is a great idea, except for that whole not having time/energy to clean the kitchen, let alone engage in creative activities. I'm hoping that, once I get into the swing of working, I will rediscover time and energy for nice things like making my own jelly. I really want to make apple cider jelly.

A few things I do manage to regularly have time for: church every Sunday (I'm back to drumming again!), games group every Wednesday evening (my character just promised to join the pirates for a short-term contract!), and once- or twice-weekly walks with a group of new moms whose kids are all only a few months older than Valerie. All of these things are much more interesting than cleaning my kitchen.

There was frost on my windshield this morning.

Three Months Old!


Dear Valerie,

Today Yesterday Almost a week ago, you turned three months old. There are many reasons that this month's birthday letter is late, most of which have to do with too much to say and not enough time to sit down and do justice to saying it. Then I had to remind myself that I am doing this for you and for me and not for a Pulitzer Prize. So, here is a fumbling attempt at sorting out an extremely momentous month.

First, we took a trip to Canada, and you got to meet your cousins, April and Nicholas, for the first time. You barely notice your cousins at this age - you are much more interested in the funny faces that adults make at you. But in your interactions are glimpses of the future. Even though we live so far apart geographically, I am glad that your aunts and uncles and your daddy and I all conspired to have kids so close together in age. I'm looking forward to watching how the three of you develop the unique, cousiny, long-distance friendship that I can already see forming in your baby-love. Founded, at least in part, in a shared embarrassment of what huge geeks your parents are.


You get to see your cousin, Trevor, slightly more often, and I hope you will have a great relationship with him, too, as the two of you grow closer in size and mobility. Trevor is an active kid, and I would love to see you kicking a ball around with him, but I will understand if you inherit your mother's sports-ineptness. He loves you to pieces, even if you won't play with him yet, and he can just about say your name (although it comes out "Allery"). You're a lucky girl to have three awesome cousins, so close to your age.

Trevor is proud of his cousin

Oh, and I would be delinquent if I didn't post at least one picture of you with your dog-cousin, Reggie (Nana and PopPop's dachshund). Your dad loves forcing the two of you into many a photograph, and maybe if I post one, he will stop torturing the poor dog into posing with you.


Your biggest developmental milestone this month has been holding your head up. It happened all of a sudden, after our trip to Canada. You had been lifting your head before that, but now you just keep it up most of the time. I hardly have to support your neck at all anymore, unless you're feeling sleepy. But then you usually get snuggly, too, and I don't mind a little bit of regression when it gives me such a cuddly baby in return.

Valerie Jeanne 029

I'm slowly realizing that you're starting to grow up. Sometimes it takes a milestone like that to make me notice. Sometimes, it takes a doctor telling me that you have suddenly jumped to the 75th percentile, when you used to be in the 15-25th. And sometimes, it takes opening up my wallet to show someone a picture of you, and nearly dropping my wallet because I am stunned by how little you look like the picture in my wallet anymore.

This month, as I mentioned, has been ridiculously eventful, in our house, our city, and our country. It started with your father losing his job, which threw all of my plans for us, and my naive ideas about how our family was going to function, into a tailspin. The bottom line was that I ended up having to go back to work.

I work for Starbucks. It's a good, honest job, and I enjoy it immensely. And we needed health insurance, and me going back to work was the easiest, most logical way for us to get it. But I am a worrier. It's one of my biggest flaws. And I worry that I am sending you the wrong message. I don't want you to think that I value money over spending time with my family. I don't want you to think that being a mommy isn't a fulfilling or valuable job on its own. And I worry, on the other hand, about sending the message that mothers can't work or shouldn't work. And I worry about sending the message that mothers can't be lawyers, because I stepped down from that career. I worry about a lot of things, and I don't suppose you think about any of those things. You probably wonder where mommy's boobs are, and why you have to drink from that weird bottle thing instead. But one day, you'll have questions about all of those other things. I hope I have answers.

For now, you are enjoying the quality time you are getting to spend with your daddy. And, when mommy and her boobs get home from work, smelling like coffee, you giggle and grin and smile at me for several minutes, then you latch on and nurse for two straight hours. Seriously. You eat like a maniac lately. It's a good thing that you're a breastfed baby so you're allowed to pig out all you want. And it's a good thing you're too young to stop me from posting photographs of your adorable pudginess. Just look at those rolls!


This month was also your first Hallowe'en, which during a less eventful month would have merited its own post. But alas, I still have a lot of things to get around to in this letter, so here are two pictures from Hallowe'en to tip the cuteness scale of this post.

Valerie Jeanne 175

Valerie Jeanne 144

This month was the World Series, too. And, although I don't normally care much for baseball, your father does, and it's easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of rooting for the home team. This was the first championship a Philadelphia team won in 25 years, or something like that. It was thrilling to watch them win, and to hear our quiet little suburb go wild with horn-honking and fireworks. I think they won because you were wearing your Phillies booties.

But the most exciting thing of all came on the very last day of your third month of life, when America voted for their new president. Even though I'm 30 years old, this was the first time I was living in the United States during an election, and it was the first time I was able to vote in a presidential election. Near the end of the campaigning, I was almost ready to lose hope. I had never seen such an outpouring of hatred as I did coming from supporters of both candidates leading up to election day. I deliberately avoided political discussions because, although I knew I had given my choice a lot of thought, just mentioning my political affiliation brought all kinds of false accusations down on my head. This was doubly hard because, for the first time in my memory, there was a candidate that I genuinely wanted to support. A candidate that I genuinely believed could carry America through this financial crisis and into better days. And I'm a little ashamed that I kept my mouth shut during the campaign, but I saw so much anger and hatred being thrown around, I didn't think it would have been productive.

I voted for Obama. Twice, because I voted for him in the primaries, too. And I am proud of my choice. I am proud of my country for choosing him as their president, not because democrats are better than republicans, but because he is the right man for the job. McCain's dignified concession speech made me cry. Obama's inspiring acceptance speech made me cry. And, as excited as the city of Philadelphia was in the days following the Phillies' World Series victory, the mood was even more celebratory the morning after the election. I am optimistic about this country for the first time in years, and am finally starting to think of it as my home, rather than just "that place I live that's not Canada." And I'm excited for you, that you were born in the same year that America elected Barack Obama president. And I'm hopeful that maybe some of those difficult questions that I worry about having to answer someday will be a little easier to answer, because when you ask me about what you want to be when you grow up, I will be able to answer, truthfully, "Yes, you can even be president."


Your Mommy.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Road Trip: the Miniseries (5,6,7)

The network has unceremoniously dropped the miniseries currently in progress, and will be playing all of the remaining episodes back-to-back during the night of the basketball finals. They figure no one was watching anyhow, so no one will miss it.

Episode Five:

Sunday night, we had our big, family Thanksgiving dinner. I can't remember exactly how we managed it, but we somehow actually played the game of Settlers we had set up the night before, and finished it in time to set the table for dinner. Unfortunately, we did not finish in time for me to make my salt-free white sauce for the green bean casserole, so we ended up just having plain green beans with dinner. Which was just as well, because we had picked up fresh green beans the day before at the farmer's market, and they were delicious without being smothered in sauce. Dinner was incredible, although my mother dubbed it "simple" because of the lack of green bean casserole, even though it had all of the other beloved Thanksgiving fixings. (And yes, for all my American friends, we eat pretty much all of the same things you do at a Canadian Thanksgiving, we just do it six weeks sooner without any pilgrims.) I have a photograph of the set table after Benjie opened the can of cranberry sauce and left it in the can-shape on the serving dish, but before Alana was a party-pooper and sliced it up. Unfortunately, that photo is still on my laptop, which theoretically still works, but has no screen to confirm that fact to me.

So, we woke up on Monday morning, and decided not to go home just yet. I wanted to go shopping at Bulk Barn, my favorite store in the world, of which there is no equal where I live in the United States. And I had a gift card to Value Village, but neither store was open on Monday, because it was a holiday. So we decided that we would leave on Tuesday after I made those two, quick, shopping trips. I was glad we ended up staying, though, because it gave Valerie some quality one-on-one Grandma time.


We said goodbye to Alana and Eric and Nick on Monday, then spent the rest of the day recovering a bit. It was nice.

Episode Six:

Tuesday morning, I went shopping. I have been a thrift store shopper for most of my life, and I have mastered the art of finding things on a rack that will fit my size and style. Then I got pregnant, and I grew a belly, but I still did pretty well at finding things that I liked, and fit, at thrift stores. Then I had a baby, and my weight returned mostly to normal, and my belly returned mostly to normal, but other, um, bits of me did not return to normal. And I can't seem to find things that fit me at thrift stores anymore. I tried on 30 or 40 shirts that morning, and anything that looked like it might fit me was either too tight in the chest, too short to cover my belly, or baggy and hideous all over. I had been hoping to find five t-shirts, but I only managed to find one. I finally gave up and headed over to the long-sleeved shirts, where I had a little more luck, but I really prefer short-sleeved shirts, and left more than a little disappointed. I have a large collection of clothing, an eclectic mish-mash obtained over the years through a shopping theory that basically consists of, "Hey, this fits me and is unique/fun/silly/nice, I should get it," and then never getting rid of anything. And now, I am slowly realizing that 90% of that stuff will probably never fit me again. But I'm not quite ready to purge my wardrobe just yet. I'm in clothing limbo.

I had better luck at Bulk Barn, because other than still not liking coffee, my tastes in munchies have not changed. I bought all of my favorite snacks, and a whole bunch of spices that I was running low on. (Seriously, if you can ever find a bulk store to buy spices, it's the best. I can refill my jar of bay leaves about 5 times over for 19 cents.) But my lengthy shopping trip, and our continued putting off of packing, and one last stop to say goodbye to Benjie and Trish and April, and we weren't on the road until dinnertime. Which, for those of you keeping score, is awfully late to start an eight hour trip.

We stopped for dinner just over the border, at a diner chosen in part because I have stopped there in the past and know it's good, and in part because of its proximity to the town where two of our college friends, Ben and Michelle, had recently moved. After ordering, I called 411 and managed to get a phone number for them. Michelle was ecstatic to hear from us. She said that she'd be right over and would let Ben know to meet us there when he was done work. We had a really nice visit over dinner, and sat talking afterward for far longer than we should have. Ben mentioned that their guest room was still full of boxes from moving, but that we were more than welcome to stay with them if we wanted to. We were relieved to not have to finish the trip at that late hour, and happy to be able to spend some more time visiting with friends that we had not seen in far too long.

Episode Seven:

After a leisurely morning, we hit the road again, and the trip home went significantly better than the trip up. I stopped trying to use bottles while we were on the road, and stopping to nurse her when she needed it made for a much less stressful trip home. Lesson learned. (Although we have since switched bottles to Dr. Brown's, which she seems to take a whole lot better than the Medela ones we had been using, so I might try again on another trip in the future.)

So, we were home again on Wednesday evening, just in time for our Wednesday night game night. We had a nice relaxing evening with friends, although we found that we were a little too tired to actually play in the end. It was a nice way to round out a nice almost-week-long trip, and it was really nice to come home to a mostly clean house. (I love when I clean up before leaving, it's such a nice treat when I get home, and I've forgotten by then how frazzled and stressed I was trying to get it all done.)

The end.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Station Break

We interrupt the miniseries currently in progress to bring you this special announcement.

The management apologizes for any delays you may have experienced in the delivery of the Road Trip story. It's just like when there was that writer's strike, except in this case, there's only one writer, and the laptop that she always used to write while nursing her baby comfortably on her couch went on permanent strike. We are seeking creative resolutions to this problem, which currently involve pretending that a desktop computer is a laptop and setting it up in the living room. Unless anyone wants to give me a laptop. Anyone?

Hopefully, the couch/desktop configuration will be up and running soon. Until then, you can always cheat and peek at Flickr to see what I am hoping to eventually blog about.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Road Trip: the Miniseries (4)

Episode Four:

At the rate I'm going, it will be American Thanksgiving before I manage to finish posting about Canadian Thanksgiving. And in the meantime, we've done other stuff, too, so Thursday night through Sunday will be presented as a montage. Imagine appropriate music.

Thursday night, surreal. Very odd being a mommy in a house where I was a baby. Didn't sleep much.
Friday morning, family love.
Cousin Love
Walk to the park wearing the baby. Alana climbed on the kiddie climbing wall. Someone else took pictures.
Visit with Jenn and Rob and Dom, who was still in the womb when I last saw him, and Andrew, who was born a week before Valerie but is gestationally a month older and it shows.
Grandma, Valerie, Jenn, Andrew
Awesome time catching up with old friends. Yummy homemade macaroni and cheese.
I think we did something Friday night. Lack of sleep catching up, so it's a blur.
Saturday, more fun with family and friends. Katie, Mike and Isla came over. Katie should be having her baby any day now.
We watched UHF. We set up Settlers, but didn't play. Alana and I made pies.
Sunday morning, church. April was dedicated.
We took a billion family pictures.

To be continued...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Road Trip: the Miniseries (3)

Episode Three:

I had wanted to leave my house on Thursday at noon, but it took me a lot longer to get ready than I had anticipated. I've never traveled with a baby before, and man, do you ever need a lot of stuff to travel with a baby! We eventually got on the road at 3:00 p.m., which was actually the estimated departure time I had given to my mom, so, in a way, we actually left on time. (Although my cover will be blown as soon as my mom reads this post. Darn.)

Before this weekend, the longest trip Valerie had ever taken in the car was 45 minutes. And she was pretty good for about the first 45 minutes of this trip. Unfortunately, my mom's house is an eight-hour drive. First, she got hungry. I was completely prepared for this eventuality, having packed some pumped milk, my pump, extra bottles, and an AC adapter so that I could pump in the car. Unfortunately, I forgot to pack "not being stuck in the car seat." Valerie is normally pretty good about taking a bottle, but we just couldn't seem to get the angle right in her car seat, which led to much mess and frustration. Which led to crying. Which led to her overheating, because she was so worked up. That was the worst. When she was completely miserable, but I could do nothing to help cool her down, because I couldn't take her out of the sweaty, plastic car seat. Whenever we would finally stop, I would take her out, her back soaked with sweat, and comfort her as she tried to comprehend why it took so long for me to tend to her needs. Then I would put fresh, dry cloth diapers behind her back and we would be okay for a few minutes as we started back on the road.

By 9:00 p.m., we had only made it halfway to Ottawa. When the sun set, overheating became less of an issue, but it was replaced with fear of the dark. Remember how I made myself a mental note to bring a battery-powered light with me on this trip? Well, I didn't. My mom called my cell phone about this time, and I told her I was sure it was going to be 2 or 3 a.m. by the time we got there. I wasn't feeling optimistic.

Fortunately, Jeremy had brought a little LED book light with him, which I clipped to the baby-view mirror. Then Valerie fell asleep. Worn out, no doubt, from all the crying she had done in the past six hours. And she stayed asleep until we arrived in Ottawa at 12:20 a.m., having stopped only briefly for gas and pee breaks. I was so relieved, I almost thought we might be able to make the return trip.

To be continued...

Road Trip: the Miniseries (2)

Episode Two:

Two weeks ago today, Jeremy lost his job. I've been hesitating to write about this, because he's a much less public person than I am, but I can't really tell my own story without including at least some bits of his story as well. Besides, when I get to the part of the road trip story where we keep adding another day onto the end of the trip, someone was bound to wonder why we had the freedom to do that.

The same week Jeremy lost his job, Valerie had her two-month check-up with the pediatrician. Except when we got to the doctor's office, we found out that Valerie didn't have health insurance, because her paperwork hadn't been submitted to the insurance company in time. After a long afternoon on the phone with my insurance company (who can't add Valerie unless they add me, and can't add me unless I lose my insurance coverage somewhere else) and Jeremy's insurance company (who can't cancel our coverage unless we get coverage somewhere else), I ultimately submitted an appeal with Jeremy's benefits administration to appeal the denial of coverage. (I just found out this morning that our appeal was allowed, so, yay!)

Anyhow, it's been a rough couple of weeks, and we're still not sure what's in store for us. I'm trying to keep my spirits up, and we put worrying mostly on hold for the weekend so we could enjoy time with my family in Canada.

To be continued...

Road Trip: the Miniseries (1)

Episode One:

I have a lot to say right now, so I've decided to break up what is inevitably going to be a very long post into smaller chapters. I'll try not to go on too many tangents.

Whenever I see the word "miniseries" written out, I read it wrong in my head, like it's all one word and the only stressed syllable is the "ni". (Just kidding about that no tangents thing, by the way.)

I'm going back and forth between starting this post out with some precious Valerie milestones or with why the Wakeman household had a lousy week last week (as mentioned in my last post). Aw, who am I kidding, cute baby always wins.

First of all, she has been growing like a weed. I switched to cloth diapers about three weeks ago, and at that time, she was only just growing out of her newborn clothes. Cloth diapers do add a bit of bulk, so some of the 0-3 onesies were not big enough around the bum, but the other 0-3 stuff seemed to fit fine. For about a week. As of this weekend, Valerie's legs are too long for almost all of her 0-3 sleepers, which were each worn a grand total of 0-3 times. Time to dig into the "too big for her" box again (which will soon be smaller than the "too small for her" box).

She is also becoming more playful. She has started noticing things like her mobile, and even laughs on occasion. The funny face game has expanded a bit. For a while, she had been sticking her tongue back out at me when I stuck my tongue out at her. But recently, I noticed that she was smiling and cooing back at me, instead. I wondered why she wasn't sticking her tongue out anymore until I realized that I make an "mmmm" noise when I stick my tongue out at her, and she was making the noise back at me, instead!

Oh, and while she is not yet "sleeping through the night", she is spending longer and longer stretches of nighttime asleep, and she will occasionally go right back to sleep after eating only once. Many mornings, I actually wake up having had a relatively normal amount of sleep. Hooray!

To be continued...

Monday, October 06, 2008

Two Months Old!

two months old

Dear Valerie,

You are two months old today! This is what I should have said to you yesterday, except that I thought that today was the fifth until I uploaded pictures from my camera just now and couldn't figure out why I already had pictures saved under tomorrow's date. I have a tendency to forget what day it is. I'm lucky if I remember to eat.

This has been a pretty lousy week in the Wakeman household, but I'm going to ignore that for the moment, because this letter is about you. There will be plenty of time for Mama to whine about her life later.

You're becoming more and more aware of your surroundings. You love to be walked around, and look out windows. You love to stare at faces. You recently discovered that if you move your hands just right, you can knock the dangling ducky on your car seat and make it move. I thought it was accidental at first, but then you kept doing it, and I realized that you were doing it deliberately. Smart girl.

first thumb-sucking!

You've also been struggling to find your thumb, and have been getting closer and closer. You usually just end up sucking on your knuckle, but this Sunday, you actually managed to get your thumb in your mouth, and it made you very happy. I suppose, in four years, I will be begging you to stop sucking your thumb, but right now, I am very proud that you managed to figure that out. I am also glad that you are starting to find ways to soothe yourself. Because if you can keep yourself happy for five minutes, Mommy can eat a bowl of cereal. You're not a terribly fussy baby... as long as I am quick to meet your needs. You just have a lot of needs. It feels like, sometimes, the narrow window of time when all of your needs are met lasts for about seven seconds, and then you fill your diaper, and it starts all over again.

You still don't seem to have worked out the difference between night and day. I blame the fact that there was no night and day in the NICU, and you scream if the room or car you are in is dark. (Note to self: pack a battery-powered light for next weekend's long drive to Canada.) Your "day" seems to be about four to six hours long. You will eat three or four times within a period of a couple of hours, and then you will conk out and sleep for and hour or two, or sometimes three, and, much to my sleep-deprived joy, you have recently taken to sleeping for four hours on occasion! Although you don't want to spoil me, so if you sleep for three or four hours two nights in a row, you'll make sure to wake me up every hour all night the next night. That's very thoughtful of you.

ready for church

Your happiest time of day is right after waking up. If I hadn't been there when I gave birth to you, I would seriously doubt your maternity. How can a child of mine be a morning person? You'll wake me up with all your normal hunger cues, but once I have you in my arms, you will decide that eating can wait, because Mama is here to look at! You'll smile at me, and make kissy faces at me, and if I try and nurse you right away, you'll often squirm away, because you'd rather put off eating for a couple more minutes to play the funny face game with me. In this way, you are totally my daughter. I've frequently gone hours beyond hunger without eating, because I wanted to finish whatever fun thing held my attention at the time. In fact, I should probably eat something now, but I'd really like to finish this blog post, first.

You hear moms say, all the time, that they can't remember what life was like before they had kids. I'll tell you what: I remember. I remember being able to sleep for eight hours, and ten on a weekend. I remember being able to sleep through anything, and not waking up at the slightest sign that I'm needed. I remember being able to take a long bath without worrying that you would get hungry before my bath was over. I remember being able to drive to the store without having to pack a bag. I remember. My life has changed irrevocably, and I haven't forgotten what it was like before. I remember life without you, but I don't want that life anymore. Now, I'm a logical person, and I've spent a lot of time thinking about what, exactly, it is that you add to my life. What is it about you that makes me happy to give up such treasures as uninterrupted sleep? Is it the way my heart melts at seeing your peaceful, sleeping face? Is it the surge of joy when you smile at me? Is it the intense bond I feel when I watch you blissfully suckling life from my breast? I'd have to be a pretty sappy person to say that it was any one of those things, but I can't seem to pin down anything more tangible. You know, I remember when I wasn't so sappy. But I don't miss it.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

On sleeping and diapers and orchards

This past week was an eventful week. First, there was that night when Valerie refused to be in a horizontal position, and I sat up with her until 10 a.m. Then, the very next night, she decided that she liked her crib, and slept for two stretches of three hours each in her own crib in her own room. (Aside to non-parents: three hours is a long stretch of sleep. Really.) Then, the next night, she slept for a solid stretch of FOUR hours, her longest sleep ever. With two more stretches of two hours each, I actually got EIGHT HOURS OF SLEEP that night. But, lest I get cocky, she didn't let me sleep at all the next night. I dozed occasionally, 20 minutes here, 40 minutes there, but no real sleep. And the world seemed very dark that night, but I don't think you're truly a parent until you've seriously thought about throwing your crying baby out a second-story window. Sleep deprivation sucks.

We also switched to cloth diapers this week. Valerie passed the ten pound mark this week, and has outgrown her newborn-sized clothes and diapers. That was my personal deadline for switching to cloth. A new mom-friend gave me her prefold diapers and small covers, which I added to my stash of various shapes and sizes and styles that I had picked up at a garage sale. Over the next few days, I figured out a lot of things. First, I figured out that about half of the diapers I had were homemade by someone who didn't realize that diapers needed to be absorbent, and therefore made them only one layer thick. (I think I might still be able to use them once I make some inserts for them.) Second, I figured out that prefold diapers need to be washed before using in much hotter water than my washing machine is capable of. So I've been boiling small batches of diapers on my stove, which amuses me tremendously for some reason. I also figured out that the prefolds are much easier to fold into place if they are hung to dry instead of dried in the dryer. Unfortunately, I figured this part out on the last sunny day before rainy season hit. (Fortunately, I have a nice, long banister upstairs that is perfect for hanging things to dry.) Third, in doing some reading that I probably should have done earlier, I figured out that neither of the detergents I had in the house should be used on cloth diapers, which necessitated a quick, late-night trip to the store to buy the only enzyme-free detergent they had, out of about 20 different enzyme-with brands. Fourth, I figured out that my baby had absolutely no idea what it felt like to be wet, and therefore did not know how to communicate that feeling to me. It took us a couple of days to work out the "change me please" cues. Cloth diapered babies need to be changed much more often than disposably diapered babies. I think realization number four is directly related to lousy night number four, described above.

A few more diapering comments, and then, I promise I will tell a story that includes pictures. There is a lot to learn, but I'm mostly enjoying learning it. I'm looking forward to doing more creative things, like making wool or fleece covers. I like the prefolds more than I thought I would. They aren't that hard to use after all. And my conscience feels so much better about throwing a diaper in the wash than it did about throwing a diaper in the trash. (Aside: Did you know that one baby creates an average of one ton of trash during her diapered years?)

Last weekend was a lot of fun. We went to a La Leche League mini-conference on Saturday, which was informative as well as fun. I met some great people, including one who is fluent in French and knows several other moms who speak French, too. It would be so nice to have some people to speak French with - I feel like every day since I've lived here, I've forgotten another word of my second language. On Sunday we went to an apple orchard with Jer's parents, Jer's brother, and our friends Phil and Rachel. Unfortunately, their u-pick prices were almost as inflated as grocery store prices, so we skipped the apple-picking part of the trip. Fortunately, the orchard that we had chosen was more like a county fair, and had lots of fun things to do that did not involve picking expensive apples.

Like laughing at ducks with silly hair-dos:


Or propelling apples at scarecrows (while trying to avoid the dumb kids who thought that retrieving their apples to fire again was worth venturing down range of 75 mph projectile fruit):


We got lost in a scary corn maze:


Fortunately, we didn't have to starve to death, because the maze was made of corn:


There were pumpkins to lean on:


And pumpkins to sleep on:


And dorky cut-outs where you pretend to be American Gothic:


All in all, a fun day. And they had cider slushies and pumpkin funnel cake, so I'll definitely have to go back!

(More pictures on Flickr.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Six weeks

As I was heading to bed last night, I couldn't shake the feeling that there was something on the agenda for today. I racked my brain, but came up with nothing. In the end, I decided that, if it was that important, I would have written it down.

When I woke up this morning, it hit me: today, Valerie is six weeks old. Which means that I am now six weeks postpartum. That's the magical number when I am supposed to be fully healed from childbirth. I've been so concerned with Valerie's milestones that I haven't been really paying attention to my own. Unfortunately, I think I'm behind the healing curve. I'm pretty much done bleeding, but I still have some reddish, sore spots, and it still hurts to sit, and sometimes to pee. I probably shouldn't be worried, I know six weeks is an average, not a magic number. But it's disappointing to reach the end of a countdown and discover that you have not yet arrived. My postpartum visit with my midwife is tomorrow - I guess I have a few questions I'll need to ask.

Six weeks is a magic number if you're an insurance company, however. Today's the day my paid leave runs out. I'm not going back to work yet, but the insurance company has dubbed any more time I take off "bonding" time, and therefore not eligible for paid leave. I told myself, before the baby came, that I would treat the paid leave as a license to not feel guilty about not getting anything done around the house. I was being paid to sit at home and heal, so anything I accomplished above and beyond that was a bonus. That resolution didn't stop me from occasionally getting frustrated and overwhelmed at the heaps of dirty dishes, but it also didn't wash them for me, so something had to give. I did give myself a pass on all the big projects, however, not the least of which is sorting through and putting away or throwing away all of the crap we moved from the old house. There is a lot of it. And after today, it's going to start taunting me every time I walk by it. Or rather, it will continue to do so, and I won't be able to tell it to shut up anymore.

Some days I really miss living in Canada. Nine months of leave would be really nice.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Photos and milestones

It's always interesting for me to see what ends up on my blog when I log in with no particular post in mind, but I wanted to post some new pictures of Valerie, and I prefer to put some context around them.


We spent the afternoon at Jeremy's parents' house yesterday. I derived more amusement than I probably should have at how the pattern of her sleeper camouflaged her against the pattern of the blanket. So I took a lot of pictures. Because I am silly like that.

It had been a week since I took any pictures of Valerie. She had a stomach bug this week, and she wanted to be held constantly. Which I was happy to do for her, most of the time, but it meant that I had very few opportunities to photograph her. I did my best to catch the bug from her, but it took me until Friday to do so, in spite of kissing her constantly. I never thought I would try to get sick before - motherhood is a funny thing. Once I caught (a very mild case of) the stomach bug, we were both over it by the next day. Breast milk is an amazing thing.


Valerie has been growing a lot this week. I don't know how much she weighs or how long she is, because I don't own a very accurate scale and I can't find the tape measure. But her legs are now too long for her newborn sleepers, although the newborn onesies still fit, so I think she is all leg. There is potentially a modeling career in her future, if the whole E.S.P. thing turns out to be simply a coincidence. Or, she could possibly make a career of projectile pooping. Two blowouts in one day! Hooray!


Twenty minutes after this picture was taken, Valerie pooped her way through the diaper, the tights, and the adorable, little, blue dress. That's what I get for trying to play dress-up.

This week was also punctuated by several non-poop-related milestones. She had been sortof smiling for a while, but this week, she started to really, for real, smile. She smiled at me for the first time three or four days ago, then she smiled at Jeremy the next day. Today, she has smiled at me at least three times, and every time is still extremely exciting. I have yet to capture her smile on film, but I can assure you that it is big, and bright, and beautiful.

She is also getting stronger every day. She holds her head up really well, and actually held it up for almost an entire minute the other day. She pushes with her legs so much that she has almost propelled herself off of my lap on several occasions. And just now, as I was holding her against my side, she pushed down on the couch, raising herself briefly to a standing position.

Oh, and this is very exciting, for the past three nights, we have spent more nighttime hours asleep than awake! I know it might not last, but it sure has been nice! Besides, she is so beautiful when she's asleep...


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Cuddle memories

At one point this evening, Valerie started to nurse furiously, gulping desperately like someone who had been wandering the desert for days and then finally found an oasis. Then she coughed, and back up it all came - an entire boob-full of milk all over me and her and all of our clothes. All I can think is that her tummy was hurting, and she thought she could make it feel better by drinking more milk. Poor little girl; most people don't learn until college that drinking until you get sick won't make your troubles go away.

We peeled off all of our wet clothes and climbed into the tub to clean up. Once we were washed, dried, diapered (one of us), and dressed, I picked her up and carried her back into the living room. As I did, she clung to my shirt, and her weight sank into me as I sat down and wrapped my arms around her.

In that moment, a wave of memories washed over me. I was a little girl, waking up in the night with a bad dream, or a tummy ache, or simply feeling alone. I would wander downstairs, rubbing my face as my eyes adjusted to the lights outside my bedroom, to find my mom. I would tell her that I needed a cuddle, then I would crawl up into her lap on the big, orange chair and sink, comforted, into her arms. There is no place like a mother's arms for a child who needs comfort, and something in the lingering smell of sick and baby soap, and the soft, but deliberate, weight of my daughter sinking into my arms brought that feeling back like I was a toddler all over again. And as I wrapped my arms around my child, rocking her and singing to her as her body started to relax, I wondered that, even though I'm now the mommy, the feeling of a comfort cuddle is remarkably the same.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

I blog because I'm lazy

I think I know when I started blogging. I had just come back from a road trip to Niagara Falls, where we had been caught in a crazy, freak hailstorm. I had welts on my shoulders from golfball-sized hailstones. I knew I had a good story on my hands, and I knew that if I told it enough times it would get watered down to, well, something along the lines of the two sentences above. So I sat down and took my time writing out the whole thing, deliberately and elaborately, and emailed it to everyone I thought might care. I received an amazing response, both on the "Wow, what an experience!" side of things as well as on the "Hey, that was well-written!" side of things. It was a thrill. I love to tell stories, but I loved being able to take my time, polish my story, and share it multiple times with the click of a button even more. It's an extrovert-perfectionist's dream!

When I sent that email ten years ago, I don't know if blogs even existed. So my original "blogging" was really more "mass emailing". But it was a start.

A couple years after that, Jeremy proposed to me, and I discovered a new use for the internet. I made a wedding website, primarily for the purpose of information sharing (directions to the church, etc.) as well as to share pictures after the fact. Then I didn't even need to email people, they could just go find stuff for themselves! I did a bit of writing for the wedding site, but it still wasn't much like blogging. As months passed after the wedding, having a "wedding" website no longer seemed appropriate. But I had grown accustomed to having A website. So I started a personal website, and I started to spend more time writing things for the site. Mostly non-fiction narratives, but I occasionally branched out and wrote more introspective-type things, and once I even wrote a choose-your-own-adventure story.

In 2003, I found my way onto an online journal site. Once again, I found this to be the ideal tool for someone who is lazy. I never needed to keep track of what I was doing and when - if I wrote about it, I could always go back and look through my archives and say, "No, I haven't been back to Canada since April," or, "Actually, it was raining during that parade." But there was something about the community site that discouraged my best writing. I stopped using capitals, which didn't change the content of my writing, but made it look less polished, and, I think, made me more lazy about the quality. That's when perfectionism won out over laziness, and I started this blog in 2006.

Enter baby Valerie, and a whole new era of blogging for me. I guess this is officially now a "Mommy Blog", but I don't know that the blog itself will change in many ways other than content. It's still my means of being lazy, I just happen to want to tell everybody about a baby now instead of about a road trip. (Coming in October: story about a road trip WITH a baby!) I never made a wedding scrapbook, and I doubt if I will fill more than a few pages in a baby scrapbook. This is my baby scrapbook. And its text is searchable!

And while I'm thinking of this blog as baby book, here are a few things I've been wanting to put in Valerie's baby book:

When she's nursing, she makes cute little squeaky noises. And she's starting to use her hands deliberately, using one hand to stroke my side while she's eating, and the other hand to push away when she's done. She gets the hiccups almost every time I change her diaper. She still doesn't generally sleep for more than about an hour and a half or so at a time, and she tends to cluster feed (she'll eat every 20 minutes for an hour or two, then sleep). When she's in a good mood, she will lie happily on her back and stare at nothing at all for 20 minutes or more. But some days, like yesterday when she wasn't feeling well, she won't let me put her down at all. She loves to listen to music, especially rocky/happy music like the Barenaked Ladies. Sometimes, when she wakes me up to nurse, I really don't feel like it, but when the milk lets down, it's like my body sighs with relief, and all of the tension melts away. Until she gets gassy and starts squirming off my nipple, twisting it in every direction. Dang, that hurts.

She went on a bit of a growth spurt this weekend - sleeping for unprecedented three-hour stretches, and eating (if possible) even more often than usual. But yesterday, she squawked and screeched all day, and didn't let me put her down for even a bathroom break. (I think she might have picked up a bit of a stomach bug somewhere, since her poops were less seedy than usual.) She's doing better today, though, and I actually managed to get us out to a La Leche League meeting, go grocery shopping, and do the dishes. That's like a week's worth of productive for me right now!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

One month old!


Dear Valerie,

You are one month old today! I've been going through various options in my head regarding what to do on this blog to celebrate your one-month-old-ness, and I ultimately decided that I wanted to write you a letter. I had originally decided against this, because my blogger heroine, Dooce, writes a monthly newsletter to her daughter, and I hate to be a blogger copycat. But, then again, a good idea is a good idea, and I'd like to think that this is an idea that I might have come up with on my own, even if I hadn't seen it on someone else's blog first.

Actually, I suppose you turned one month old yesterday, since I am delinquent, and didn't get this thing posted until after midnight. You may want to start getting used to that: I can be less than punctual on occasion. On our very first outing with you, which was your one-week check-up with the pediatrician, we planned to leave 20 minutes early to make sure we would get there on time. But then you needed a diaper change, and then I needed to grab a few more things to throw in the diaper bag, and then, once we were all bundled up and out the door and halfway to the doctor's office, we realized that we had forgotten your diaper bag, and had to turn around and get it. We ended up being 20 minutes late.

There have been some very difficult parts of this first month of your life for me. I think the hardest part was that day that they sent me home from the hospital without you, because they needed to keep you in the NICU under the jaundice lights. I cried that night. For nine months I had carried you inside of me, and I had grown used to feeling you move around in my belly. And then I delivered you, and they took you from me, for your own good, to help you get better. But at least you were just down the hall, and I was in a foreign place, myself. But driving home in my own car, and sleeping in my own bed, without you, inside of me or beside me; that was the emptiest feeling I have ever felt.

You spent six days in the hospital, and already, that first week has faded into the background of your life, and it feels like water under the bridge. And I know that, in time, the sleepless nights and constant feedings will fade into that same background, although, I have to admit, I'm finding this whole motherhood deal pretty exhausting at the moment. But just when I think I can't take anymore, you will fall asleep in my arms, and my exhaustion melts away as I gaze at your peaceful, little face. Or you will wake up and start to make faces at me, and whether you are aware yet, or not, I name your faces and mimic them back to you, and we might spend five minutes happily making faces at each other. Or, after you've been screaming with gas pains for an hour and I am at my wit's end because I've tried every trick in the book to get you to burp, you'll suddenly let rip the most amazing belch that would put a trucker to shame, and I can't help but laugh.

I know I'm not the world's best homemaker, and I'm sure that there will be many days in your life when we'll eat take-out in the living room because there were no clean dishes in the kitchen and no space on the dining room table to balance a plate. But I pray that I can provide two things for you in your lifetime, even on the days when nothing else is working out: A lot of love, and a lot of laughter. And when you grow up, I hope that your memories of an imperfect home will at least be filled with joy.


(More pics on Flickr)

Friday, September 05, 2008

My baby has E.S.P.

She may have been asleep for five minutes, 15 minutes, or 45 minutes. She may look like she is completely out. But if Mama decides to take advantage of her sleeping time and squeeze in a nap, she is completely awake the minute my head hits the pillow. It's not just my imagination, either, I have had guests witness this happening!

She may have eaten five minutes ago, 15 minutes ago, or 45 minutes ago. She may refuse to eat when I try to feed her. But if Mama decides to make myself something to eat, she starts asking to nurse before I get to take the first bite. I currently have a pan of semi-cooked bacon and a burnt pancake sitting on the stove, with their respective pans turned off until some unknown point when I will be able to finish making my breakfast.

It's like she has a sixth sense. I wonder if she sees dead people?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Lest you think I have a perpetually contented baby...


This is the face I get to look at a lot of the time. Somehow, captured on film, even that face is strangely beautiful, but let me assure you, when it is 3 a.m. and that face is accompanied by shrieking, it's less than idyllic.

I've been blessed with an incredible non-sleeping, un-burpable baby. And no, I don't want your advice. I have plenty of advice, some of which occasionally works, but ultimately, I have resigned myself to the fact that this is the baby I have, this is how she is, and this is how it will be for an unknown period of time. My life now revolves around feeding and burping my baby, which is one more axis than my life had 3 weeks ago, so I guess that's an improvement in some ways.

Of course, she is an angel in public, or when company is around. Everyone tells me I have such a good baby. And who am I to argue? Sometimes I even agree! But anyone who looks at my little one and waxes nostalgic about this period of their own child's life has some form of selective amnesia. Which, I suppose, is biologically necessary if people are going to have an average of two children per family and maintain the population. And I'm sure I will eventually develop that ailment as well, as Valerie grows out of this difficult stage and into her personality. Because there are oh so many amazing parts of being the mother of a newborn as well, and sometimes, I just sit staring at her with love in my eyes, or kiss her head repeatedly as she looks at me with her big, bright, slightly perplexed eyes. I'm sure it's not difficult for those amazing bits to ultimately grow to overshadow the dark bits. But, while I still have the memory of the screaming, let me just say: This gig is hard.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled, "Aw, isn't she cute?" programming. Which is ironic, since she stayed quiet through the typing of this entire post, right up until I got to this paragraph, at which point she promptly started screeching. My baby has a literary sense of humor. (More cute pictures on Flickr.)



Friday, August 29, 2008

Birth Story

I wrote this up for myself more than anything, but I thought it might be interesting for some of you, so I decided to share. If you don't feel like reading a labor and delivery story, I really won't be offended. Here is a picture for you to tide you over until I post again; the birth story will follow for those of you who are interested.


About a month before my due date, my skin started to itch. All over, all the time. It was the most intense itching I've ever experienced. I had experienced itching with the pregnancy before this, but it had always been confined to the normal places that stretch during pregnancy, like my belly and ankles. This seemed weird, so it raised some red flags, and I called my midwives.

The midwives told me that it could be a liver condition, and they wanted to do a blood test to rule it out. I wasn't surprised, because I am one of those people who goes to the Internet before my doctor, so I knew that there was a small chance that it could be something serious. But I also knew that it was much more likely that it was just another weird pregnancy symptom that I would just have to deal with, like losing my taste for coffee.

It was a Monday when I called the midwives, and I went in that day to get my blood drawn. I was 36 weeks along at that point. That Friday, as I was getting ready to leave work, my cell phone rang, and my midwife informed me that my bile count was really high, that I had obstetric cholestasis, and that they wanted to induce me as soon as I was 37 weeks. That would be Monday. As in three days away. And three full weeks before my due date. I was in shock. I'd had such a normal pregnancy, and I had been fully expecting the blood test to be negative, and for the midwives to tell me to take cold showers and Benadryl.

The next thing to cross my mind was what am I going to do about work? My manager was on vacation that week, and my maternity leave wasn't going to start for another week. Fortunately, my coworkers really stepped up to the plate, and managed to cover all of my shifts for me for the next week. I still offered to come in on Saturday night to complete all of the closing manager responsibilities and to give one of the other girls who had covered a shift for me a ride home. It was the least I could do, because everyone was being so awesome to help me out.

I went in to the hospital for a non-stress test on Friday afternoon. I called Jeremy, and he was able to leave work early and come into the hospital with me. I was still in a state of shock at the whole thing, and I was so glad that Jeremy could be there with me. Everything looked fine on the monitors. Auggie's heart beat was steady, and she was really active. It took a while to get the three heart rate spikes they were looking for, however, because whenever she moved, she would squirm away from the monitor, and they would only catch the tail end of the spike.

The good news was that, since everything went fine with the non-stress test, they didn't keep me in the hospital for the weekend. The even better news was that the contraction monitor was actually registering somewhat regular contractions, even though I wasn't feeling most of them. When the midwife checked me out, I was 1 cm dilated and about 50% effaced. That might not seem like much, but considering I was only 36 1/2 weeks along, any progress was great news. I had wanted, still wanted, a natural birth, and if my body could go into labor on its own, even partially, then maybe I could still have a natural birth. It wasn't likely, but there was a chance.

The weekend passed in a surreal haze. I took a lot of walks, and Jeremy's chiropractor was kind enough to come in on his day off and give me an adjustment and teach me a few acupressure points to trigger contractions. (Aside: They really worked; I could actually feel contractions start right after pressing on the acupressure points. It was cool.) I was feeling more contractions, now that I had seen them on the monitor and knew what they were. Nothing painful yet, but at least I could feel something going on, which gave me hope.

Sunday night, Phil and Rachel brought a movie over to keep us company and keep us distracted. I couldn't focus on the movie, and used the time to pack a hospital bag and write up a revised birth plan. I don't think I really slept Sunday night.

We went in to the hospital early Monday morning, August 4. They hooked me up to the monitors and stuck an IV in my hand so that they would have easy access to my veins in case some vampires showed up, or something like that. We had a discussion about how things were going to proceed, and I assured the midwife that I wanted to be patient and give the prostaglandins the chance to do their job as long as possible. At this point, I was still only 1 cm, so I took my first dose of cytotec and settled in for the wait. It tasted like chalk.

Not much happened with my first dose or my second dose of cytotec. I was mostly immobilized by the monitoring equipment, and I was only allowed to get up to use the bathroom. The fetal heart rate monitor kept slipping off the heartbeat, and the contraction monitor pressed painfully on my belly. We watched a lot of Animal Planet, because every other channel I put on seemed too stressful for me at that time. Every once in a while, the blood pressure cuff on my arm would tighten, and I learned to relax myself enough when this happened that eventually, I stopped setting off the high blood pressure alarm. My blood pressure fluctuates dramatically from one minute to the next, and it never concerns me, but the nurses didn't like it very much.

After the second dose of cytotec wore off, I begged for some freedom from the monitors before they put any more drugs in me that would require me to be strapped down again. They let me walk around for an hour, and it was a nice break. When I got back, it was time for cervidil. Cervidil is like a tiny tampon with a really long string that the midwife took what seemed like a very long time stuffing up inside of me. Unlike the cytotec, which immobilized me for 3 hours at a time, the cervidil would be immobilizing me for 12 hours. Yippee.

Almost immediately after I started on the cervidil, I started having cramps. The cytotec had been giving me nice, regular, painless contractions. The cervidil, instead, gave me one, long, horrible, uninterrupted, painful cramp. It was awful. Looking back, this was actually worse in many ways than the full-blown labor contractions, because at least, with those, I got a little break in between them to catch my breath. I called for the midwife at one point, because I didn't think I could handle 12 hours of this. While I was waiting for her to come, I started throwing up, over and over and over. I hate throwing up. In fact, including the one time I got morning sickness from taking my prenatal vitamin on an empty stomach, this was only the fourth or fifth time I had thrown up since I was seven years old. Not a pleasant experience, although it did relieve the cramping a little bit. When I talked to the midwife, she encouraged me to press on by simply asking me, "Well, what's the alternative?" I really did want to be able to deliver naturally, and, if this horrible cramping was getting my cervix ready for labor, then I could make it eight more hours. The nurse brought me ambien to sleep and put something for the nausea in my IV (which, come to think of it, now had a saline drip going, too, because in spite of my constant water-drinking, I was starting to get dehydrated).

I have to admit, I was glad I accepted the offer of ambien, because I felt much better in the morning for having slept the night before. I had now been in the hospital for 24 hours, and the midwives checked me out to discover that, after 24 hours of prostaglandins, I was only 2 cm dilated. I almost started crying. All those miserable, horrible cervidil cramps had accomplished nothing! They gave me another, short break from the monitors to take a shower and walk around before starting the next round of drugs.

The plan was to try one more dose of cytotec, because my body had responded fairly well to that, to see if it might make a little more progress. Then, we would probably move onto the pitocin. I was really dreading pitocin, because I've heard that pitocin contractions are unbearable, and almost everyone who gets pitocin ends up getting an epidural (and, statistically, a large percentage then end up getting a c-section). I really didn't want to start the pitocin, but if the prostaglandins couldn't get labor started, then we would have no other choice. So, the midwives gave me one more dose of cytotec, and told me they would be back in 3 hours to check on my progress.

Two hours and 45 minutes later, I had a fairly strong contraction. Not extremely painful, but strong enough to capture all of my focus. This was at 11:45 am on August 5. A few moments afterwards, I felt a huge twitch, like the baby was kicking or possibly like another contraction was starting. There was a pressure, then a "pop", followed by a gush of water. I had been worried before that my water might break without me noticing, and I almost laughed at this point, because there was absolutely no doubt in my mind about what had just happened. I paged the nurse, who was a little confused at first since she had just been in my room five minutes prior to check my blood pressure, and I had been fine at that point. I told them my water had broken, and the midwives were by my side shortly thereafter. My lunch had just arrived, and they told me to go ahead and eat if I wanted to, because it could still be a long time, and I might not feel like eating later. They told me to take an hour to walk around and see if gravity might get things moving without having to resort to more drugs. The midwifery intern checked my cervix, and when she found that I was 7 cm, she asked the midwife to double check, just to make sure. She confirmed it - I had gone from 2 cm to 7 cm in three hours. Something was finally happening. And the best part was that I was finally free from drugs, and monitors, and IV drips, and everything.

After my water broke, I started to really feel the contractions. They still weren't incredibly painful, but they started to capture all of my focus. I ate my lunch between contractions, shoveling as much as I could in during the breaks, and then breathing through the contractions. Jeremy wanted to go get lunch, but I didn't want him to leave at that point, so he ate what I hadn't been able to finish of my lunch. I went to the bathroom, and while I was in the bathroom, the contractions made the leap from "Okay, I'm definitely feeling that" to "Oh my goodness, I have never felt anything like that before in my entire life." Jeremy could tell that things were moving quickly, so he downed his lunch in record time, and by the time I was done in the bathroom, he was ready to be my labor partner.

I was pretty much screaming (yelling? groaning? moaning? crying? some combination of all of the above?) through the contractions, now. I never called the midwives, but somehow, they figured out that I was in labor and came to the room. I have no idea how they figured it out. They must be psychic. Or the door might have been open.

I was still standing at this point, leaning my head against Jeremy's chest, and hanging with my arms around his shoulders. I wasn't trying to push, but I found myself bearing down in spite of myself. I said something to my midwife about this, and she responded, "Yeah, that's transition for you." I remember being so completely relieved when she said this, because it meant that THIS was IT. The contractions were so incredibly painful at this point, and all I was able to think of before she said this was, "Holy crap, if this is what 7 cm feels like, I don't think I can handle 12 more hours and 10 cm." I don't know if any other woman would have been happy to find out that she was in the worst pain of the whole ordeal, but for me, it was such a relief to find out that THIS was the worst pain, and I was dealing with it. Without drugs. Once my midwife said those magic words, any thoughts I might have been entertaining about pain relief were completely gone.

I started to worry about dropping the baby on the floor, but my midwives assured me that they would not let me drop my baby. The nurse (for her own reassurance or my own, I'm not sure) put a blanket on the floor under me. I wasn't sure I wanted to give birth standing up, though, and the blanket somehow made me think twice about my laboring position. I could tell that I was going to need to open my legs wider in order to push the baby out, and I didn't think my leg muscles could handle the squatting position that would require. So I started trying to get onto the bed. I really, really did not want to be on my back, however. I don't know why, but I knew that I would not be comfortable on my back. The bed was still raised in the sitting position from when I had raised it to get out to go to the bathroom. I climbed onto the bed backwards (I think it took me two contractions to get there), and leaned over the back of the bed in a kneeling position. I was kindof in my own little world, and had been since the painful contractions had started, since I had been facing Jeremy at first, and now was facing the back wall. I know there were at least three other people in the room, but there could have been 30 for all I was aware of what was going on behind me. I knew the midwives were there to catch the baby, and I knew Jeremy was there, and that was all I cared.

At no point in time had I been timing contractions. They were close together, and I was obviously in labor, and it didn't exactly seem like a priority. Shortly after I climbed onto the bed, however, there was a slightly longer than normal pause between contractions. It was a nice break, and although I was afraid to jinx it, I said something about it to my midwife, and she said sometimes your body just knows when you need a break. She didn't mention that it probably meant my body was gearing up for something big - I guess she knew I would figure that out when the time came. She calmly encouraged me to try not to scream so much, because I was going to have a very sore throat afterwards, so I made an effort to moan more than scream, although I was only somewhat successful.

The next bit is a little bit blurry. I remember the midwife mentioning that my baby would have hair. I remember the nurse asking when she should get the nursery nurse (who witnesses every birth at this hospital), and my midwife answering "now". I remember feeling the baby's head crown, and being surprised that it didn't hurt more, because I had heard from so many people how painful the "ring of fire" was supposed to be. The baby's head came out either on that push, or the very next one. The rest of her body came out in one more push. There was a huge gush of fluid, and I heard someone say "1:06 pm" (which, for those of you who are counting, is 1 hour and 20 minutes after my water broke, and only about an hour after the painful contractions started). Jeremy told me it was a girl.

My midwife helped me pass my leg over the baby and turn over onto my back, and I wriggled the rest of the way out of my tousled hospital gown. They placed the baby on my hip. Her cord was too short to reach any further, so the midwife said we were going to have to cut the cord right away. She asked Jeremy if he wanted to cut the cord, and although he hesitated at first, she assured him that there was no medical reason for him not to, so he did. They handed me my baby and asked me what her name was. I said "Valerie" without hesitating, then called over and said, "Right, Jeremy?" He confirmed it. (Valerie was one of two girl names we had picked out, but I think we were both leaning towards it before she was even born.)

Somehow, when I was in the middle of labor, Jeremy had managed to surreptitiously send a text message to his dad that we were in labor, and they might want to hurry to the hospital. Within the first few minutes after they handed Valerie to me, a nurse came in and told me that my mom was on the phone, and she was really panicky, because she couldn't give her any information about what was going on. I told her she could put my mom through to the room. I answered the phone, told my mom that we had the baby, it was a girl, come to the hospital. Then I hung up.

I had been a little surprised when the midwives were in such a hurry to cut the cord, and I was more surprised when they started pushing and prodding almost immediately to get the placenta out. Someone came in and gave me a shot of pitocin in my leg to stimulate more contractions, and the midwives kept asking me to push to get the placenta out. It wasn't until later on that I figured out that they were rushing things along because they were worried about my bleeding. Once I passed the placenta, my midwife told me that I had a third degree tear, and that they had to call the surgeon to do the rectal stitches, and then she would do the vaginal stitches. The nurse told me that they had to take the baby, for her safety, while they did the repair, and I asked her if Jeremy could hold her, then. She handed Valerie to her daddy. My midwife asked me if I wanted anesthetic for the stitching, and I was starting to feel too out of it to make decisions anymore, so I asked Jeremy if I wanted anesthetic. I think he grasped the severity of a third degree tear more quickly than I did, and he told me I should get the anesthetic. They stuck something in my IV (I didn't catch the name, but it sounded like "bradol"), and the room started to go black. I was surprised, and asked if I was supposed to feel like I was blacking out, and they said yes, so then I let it take over.

I could still feel what was going on, and I could still hear people talking, but it took a lot of effort for me to say anything in response (and even more effort to open my eyes). I could feel them stitching, and I could feel them stabbing me all over my tender bits with a needle (the local anesthetic), and when the stitching started to hurt too much, I was able to respond enough for them to ramp up the local. At one point, I heard a nurse make some kind of comment about the baby getting pale because daddy was holding her too tight, and I think it was supposed to be funny, but it concerned me enough to open my eyes for a split second to see her getting passed over to the bassinet with all of the measuring equipment and everything on it. The stitching took about 45 minutes, and when they were done, I asked if I was going to be able to nurse the baby. My midwife said she would at least let me hold her again and get some skin-to-skin time, so that she would have smell association with me, even if she wouldn't nurse. I said, "Okay, that's worth fighting the drugs for," and I started trying to shake off the blackness and wooziness from the anesthetic. They gave Valerie back to me, and we tried to breastfeed, but I wasn't with it enough to really focus on getting her position correct, so she only managed to latch on briefly. Then they told me my mom was here, and that they wanted to get me into the post-partum room right away. I had thought they would let me stay in the labor room a little bit longer, but maybe they thought that it wouldn't be nice for people to come visit me there, since there was blood all over the place and it looked like a war-zone. I was still too out of it to care about much, though.

The nurse wheeled me into the post-partum room, where my mom was waiting for me. Then the nurse kicked my mom out of the post-partum room while she unloaded me onto the bed, which I thought was a little weird. They gave me percocet, and told me to sleep. I asked where the baby was, and they said something about having to go to the nursery first because of the sensor thing they had put on her belly button that would set off alarms if they wheeled her past the elevators. Jeremy showed up at some point and told my mom that his parents were watching the baby through the nursery windows, so everyone left me to go look at my baby while I slept.

Except that I couldn't sleep. I laid in bed awake, wondering what was taking so long, and why they hadn't brought my baby to me yet. After about an hour, I called the nursery to ask when my baby was coming, and they told me that someone was on their way to talk to me. Someone needs to give that nurse a lesson in things you DO NOT SAY to a new mom. My drug-addled mind was racing as much as it could, trying to figure out what went wrong between "We'll be right there with your baby" and "Someone is on their way over to talk to you." The nurse explained to me that Valerie was having some rapid breathing issues and had some fluid in her lungs, but they thought they would be able to bring her to me in about 45 minutes. An hour later, still no baby, so I called the nursery again. "They're on their way to talk to you right now." Are you kidding me? Not once, but twice, I get this ridiculous, fear-inducing response, and now, whatever is going on is bad enough that it's going to take multiple people to explain it to me?

They explained that they were going to have to keep her in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), because her oxygen levels were not high enough. At some point later, they brought me a breast pump and told me to pump every two hours, and maybe they would let me breastfeed in the morning. Eventually, they let me scrub my hands and come into the NICU so that I could look at my poor, little baby with a million cords and hoses coming out of her, in her little isolette. I sang to her, since I couldn't hold her. But, they took the nasal cannula out the next morning, and they let me start breastfeeding her. Shortly thereafter, they took her off the IV, and before too long, she wasn't on any monitors at all. They kept her in the hospital for six days total, because she was jaundiced, but they finally let me take her home with a portable UV blanket, and the rest is history.