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.)