Thursday, December 16, 2010

'Tis the Season for the Santa Debate

A few years ago, when my siblings and I were starting to have kids, we were talking together about what we would tell our kids about Santa. We all had fond memories of the magic of Christmas morning, waking up to a bulging stocking and a tree littered with presents. We remembered outgrowing the myth, but still enjoying the traditions, first for the sake of our little brother who still believed, and later, just for the joy of it.

We discussed all of the major arguments that are put forward in defense of telling your kids Santa isn't real. Personally, I think, "If I'm going to spend all this money on gifts, I want to get the credit for it," is the weakest reason out there. You should never give gifts to get credit. You should give gifts for the benefit of the recipient, and if they will enjoy the gift more if it comes wrapped in magic, isn't that what matters most? The joy THEY derive from receiving the gift?

To me, the most compelling argument is, "We teach our children not to lie, so we shouldn't lie to them." It makes sense. How can we willingly deceive our kids? And, as a Christian, there is the added, "If we lie to them about Santa, they will think we lied to them about Jesus."

But all three of us grew up believing in Santa, and while we outgrew the Santa myth, all three of us are Christians today. I really don't think being "lied" to as a child shaped our adult belief in Jesus. Really, parents, do you want your kids to believe in Jesus just because you said so? That's a pretty weak basis for faith. Kids will, and should, scrutinize everything you told them as they grew up, and choose to accept or reject your faith on their own terms. The important thing to teach your kids is not facts, but critical thinking.

And then there's the problem of fiction. If we want our kids to grow up only believing true things, do we keep all fiction out of the house? I believed that TV characters were real, does that mean my parents lied to me by letting me watch Sesame Street? Shall we ban theater, like the puritans? There has to be room for fiction, even in the Christian life. Jesus told parables, and while they rang true and demonstrated truths, they probably weren't factually true. Jesus kept secrets, too. In the Bible, he often leaves things hanging, or answers with a question, or flat out says, "You won't understand. Ask me when you're older." (Okay, maybe I'm paraphrasing a bit.)

Our dad "lied" to us all the time. He told wild stories that we knew contained only a seed of truth, but we enjoyed them anyway. And it never affected our ability to trust him with our lives. Part of the joy of fiction and fantasy is the suspension of disbelief. You have to believe that dragons exist and dogs can talk and horses can fly. Otherwise the stories are just dumb. With no fantasy in our lives, we end up like the little girl in Miracle on 34th Street, whose mother refused to "lie" to her, and she ended up having no wonderment, no belief in magic, no childhood, really. Even without the "Wow, he really was Santa," conclusion, I still feel bad for her. Shouldn't kids, I don't know, get to be kids?

Even my mom, the most honest person we know, so honest that if she accidentally told people that her newest grandchild weighed 8lbs5oz instead of 8lbs4oz, she would call everyone back and apologize profusely, even SHE lied to us about Santa growing up. That's when my mom jumped into the conversation from the other room. She had NEVER lied to us about Santa! NEVER! But what about the Santa presents? There were always presents from Mom and Dad, but there were also presents from Santa. Wasn't writing "From Santa" on the label lying? Nope, she never wrote anything on them, "Santa" presents were unlabeled, we just assumed they were from Santa. But what about that time I asked how Santa could get into our house without a chimney, and you gave that really great explanation about being able to shrink down small enough to fit into any crack, even a keyhole? Nope, all she did was ask me how I thought he did it, and I came up with that ridiculous explanation all on my own.

We all sat in stunned silence as we processed this. We thought back over our childhood, and all the subtle assumptions our mother had allowed us to believe, but that we really had made ourselves believe. That note from the tooth fairy that wasn't signed. The time I woke up and caught my mom hiding my Easter basket, and she said nothing, but I decided the Easter Bunny was running late that year, and just dropped the baskets off with parents. Honestly, I think our belief in the myths was stronger because we had been allowed to defend them to ourselves. It's easier to pick apart other people's arguments than your own.

The thing is, none of us cared if we had been lied to about Santa. We were mostly just surprised that we hadn't been lied to, since our belief was so strong.

Something I've come to realize about childhood fantasies, at least about mine, is that kids "know" on some level that they are participating in a fantasy. In the same way that kids can believe in their imaginary friends even though they "know" they aren't real because they made them up. It doesn't stop them from believing it with all their hearts, but when they outgrow the myth, when they are ready to stop believing, it usually is with a bit of a shrug and an "I kinda knew all along." Adults bending over backwards to try and convince them that Santa is real, or to protect them from finding out the devastating truth, is just confusing to kids. We don't need to make up midi-chlorians when the Force is enough. I think it's those kids who end up bitter and angry when they find out that they had been lied to about Santa. Adults being so passionately on board with the Santa myth makes them wonder if maybe it does belong in the realm of non-fantasy. But eventually, someone will slip up, and those kids will feel betrayed.

So, in the Great Santa Debate, I am advocating a middle ground: passive non-resistance. The Santa advocates want their kids to have magic in their lives, and the no-Santa advocates don't want to deceive their kids; this is the best of both worlds. When Valerie asks me general questions about Santa, like "Who pulls Santa's sleigh?" I will happily tell her everything I know about the myth, in the same way that I will happily answer questions about other works of fiction without having to explain, "You know, sweetie, Big Bird isn't real." But if she asks me practical application questions, like "How will Santa get into our house without a chimney?" I will defer to her much more vast imagination. (The in-between grey areas, like "How does Santa manage to visit every child in the world in one night?" I don't mind answering "Magic.") And if she asks me why we celebrate Christmas, I will tell her the story of God becoming man, and being born in a manger. As she grows up, she will separate the true stories from the fictional stories, and she will see reflected in my life which ones I believe.

Thanks, mom, for giving me the gift of fantasy, and the gift of a solid Christian role model. And thank you for teaching me the best trick in the parenting book, "That's a good question, what do you think?"

Friday, December 10, 2010

Favorite Lesser Known Christmas Songs

So, we've been listening to B101 for the past two weeks, because they play non-stop Christmas music from Thanksgiving until I get sick of it. I don't listen to it all that often, only in the car or in the shower. Maybe I listen to about 10 hours a week. And yet it seems like I hear some version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town every single time I turn the radio on. And Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer almost as often. I have nothing against these songs, but it would be nice to have a little more variety. From various free and legal download sites, I obtained 13+ hours of Christmas music this year. Sure, my collection includes 8 versions of "O Holy Night" but by and large, I feel like I have more variety on my computer than B101 has in their rotation.

So, if you're getting tired of the same Christmas music, like me, I'd like to recommend a few lesser known Christmas songs that are tucked away in my memory from such places as school choir concerts from my childhood.

This Little Babe

D'ou Viens-Tu Bergère?

Old Toy Trains

The Huron Carol ('Twas in the Moon of Wintertime)

Petit Papa Noel

Hmm, as I compile this list, I realize that I should probably have titled it, "Favorite Canadian Christmas Songs." I guess that explains why I don't hear them on American radio!

Do you have any favorites you'd like to share? I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Living Nativity

We took Valerie to a drive-through living nativity with real animals this weekend. The biggest hit was the camel, but she also caught on that Jesus was a pretty big part of it, too. The last two stations were an empty cross and an empty tomb, in order to complete the story and leave guests with a salvation message. As we were leaving, Valerie asked me where baby Jesus was. A much bigger question than she realized. I decided to review the story with her, from the beginning, thus delaying an attempt at the theological feat of explaining the resurrection in terms she could understand.

"Well, first he was in Mary's tummy, then he was born, and was in the manger, then he was a little boy, and the wise men brought him presents, then..."

"No, he was a little girl!"

I started laughing. Little-boy Jesus had, indeed been played by a little girl. Nothing escapes Valerie's keen eye. She's as literal as her mother ever was.

I gave up on the resurrection explanation for now.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Christmas Cookies


We made and decorated Christmas sugar cookies tonight.

This was a big event for me. One of the things I was most looking forward to about starting a family was doing activities together, and carrying on family traditions. And decorating sugar cookies is one of my fondest memories of a family activity from my childhood. I've been waiting three Christmases for this night.

I wasn't sure whether Valerie would get into it or not, but we've been reading a story about Christmas cookies every night before bed, and she loves it, so I thought we would give it a try. A friend and her daughter came over, and we let the girls stir the ingredients while I measured them into the bowl. Valerie helped roll out the dough, and she helped press down the cookie cutters. Then she got a little too enthusiastic and started overlapping with the cookie cutter, making all kinds of strange and interesting shapes. I baked the wonky shapes anyhow, because they were part of the fun.


Valerie put too many sprinkles on her cookies, and had a great time doing it. I just let her have her fun, and used a paper funnel to put the extra sprinkles back every time she emptied the shaker.


Babies are great and all, but it sure is fun having a kid.


Aunt Betty's Sugar Cookies

This is an inherited recipe from my mom's Aunt Betty. It is my all-time favorite sugar cookie recipe. The dough rolls out beautifully and, best of all, it doesn't require refrigeration.

  • 4 cups flour

  • 1 tsp. baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp. salt

  • 1 cup shortening

  • 1 cup (heaping) sugar

  • 2 beaten eggs

  • 1 tsp. baking soda

  • 1/3 cup milk

  • 1 tsp. vanilla

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375.

  2. Sift together first 3 ingredients.

  3. Cut shortening into dry ingredients (until mixture resembles small crumbs).

  4. In a separate bowl, beat eggs. Add sugar to eggs and mix well. Stir last three ingredients into the egg mixture. Add to dry ingredients and mix well.

  5. Roll the dough (half at a time) on a lightly floured surface, about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into shapes. Bake for 6-10 minutes until centre bounces back when gently touched (don't let them get brown!).

  6. Allow to cool completely before decorating. Decorate with Icing Sugar Icing, candies and sprinkles.

Icing Sugar Icing

(This recipe is so simple that I don't even have it written down anywhere. I hope it makes sense.) Fill a bowl with icing sugar. Add water, a dribble at a time, stirring after each addition, until the icing is a spreadable consistency. It doesn't take much water (something like a teaspoon per cup of icing sugar), so don't add a lot at once. Add food coloring if desired. This icing will dry fairly hard if you leave the cookies out overnight.

Window-Pane Cookies


This is a surprisingly easy variation that works beautifully. Prepare the dough as directed above. Cut out fairly large cookies (I use a plastic cup or margarine container, or even just a knife, because I don't have any big cookie cutters). Now cut smaller holes out of the middle of the large cookies (4-5 cm diameter). Place the cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and place a hard candy in the center of each. (I also used broken candy cane pieces, and they worked well, too.) Bake as directed above. The candies will melt and spread to fill the holes during the baking time. Allow the cookies to cool completely on the parchment paper before attempting to move them, so the candy has time to harden.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

It's so cut and dry when you're two years old

Valerie woke up an hour early this morning. That might not seem like a big deal to most people, but to a new mom who is just barely getting enough sleep to function until naptime, it's an eternity. I plopped Valerie on the couch in front of a movie, then curled up on the loveseat in a futile attempt to capture a few more minutes of rest.

She came right over and proceeded to poke me, pull me, climb on me, and otherwise completely prevent any further sleep. (Which, of course, she does anytime I have the audacity to try and sleep while she is awake, but I still try it occasionally when the tiredness is especially acute.)

Valerie: Come on, Mom, you're not sore. (After I had Dorothy, I explained my incapacity by saying I was "sore.")

Jule Ann: No, but I'm tired. You woke up too early. It wasn't really morning yet.

Valerie: I said, "Good morning!"

And that settled it. It's morning.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A little too young for the "Little Red Hen"

Valerie dumped out her crayons, then asked me for candy.

I told her she could have one piece of candy, but she had to clean up the crayons first. She started singing the "clean up" song, which gave me hope for a minute that she might actually do it, but she didn't even open the crayon tub. She just wandered back and forth across the floor, scattering crayons in every direction, happily singing the "clean up" song.

I spent about five minutes trying to explain to her that I wanted her to actually put the crayons in the tub, and that no, she couldn't have a candy until she did it. I finally offered to help her do it, and started cleaning up the crayons myself. I kept asking her to help, reminding her that she couldn't have a candy if she didn't help, only people who helped put away crayons could have candy. I cleaned up as slowly as I could, giving her ample opportunity to help.

Then all the crayons were put away, and I was faced with a dilemma. Consistency is key, right? Follow through with promises and threats? So, I got myself a piece of candy. I told her I was having a candy because I had put the crayons away. And I ate my candy, and I didn't give her any. And she started to cry.

I don't think she understood what was going on. So instead of teaching her a valuable lesson, I just ate candy in front of her and didn't share.

I hope one of us learned something today.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

One Month Old!


Dear Dorothy,

You are one month old, now. It's hard to believe it's been a whole month. And yet, at the same time, it seems like ages ago that I was pregnant and waiting expectantly for your arrival. Time is funny like that.

When your sister was a baby, I wrote monthly letters to her. I wasn't sure whether I would find the time or energy to do the same for you, but I'll at least write this one and see where it goes. This is just the first of the many, many injustices that come with being the second-born. Believe me, I know, I'm the second-born, too. When you're seven, and going through the baby albums, and you're upset that your big sister has a whole album to herself, but there are pictures of HER in YOUR album, I'll remind you how awesome it will be to have a big sister to make you feel welcome when you start high school by putting up Wanted! posters for you for Initiation Week. (No, really, it was awesome. You'll get it when you're 14.)


I do feel like you get the short end of the stick in many ways, though. Valerie loves you and wants to hold you and kiss you and hug you all the time, but you also get poked and hit and squished and scratched a fair bit in the process. Up until right before you were born, I always sat in the back seat of the car with your sister, but you don't get that privilege, because the two of you take up too much space for me to squeeze in there with you. I held your sister practically 24/7 at your age, but I have to put you down fairly often in order to deal with her. I hardly ever give you tummy time, and I bathe you and change your diapers about half as often as I did with Valerie. Yup, second-borns really get the shaft.


Although there seem to be many upsides to being the second-born, too. Not only do you get the benefit of having an awesome older sister to be your friend and companion as you grow up, but you get the benefit of having that big sister break your parents in for you. I know a lot more about breastfeeding this time around, and as a result, I'm managing my supply better, so you are well-fed, less gassy, and get more sleep than your sister ever did. When Valerie was a newborn, pretty much all I did for months was sit around the house, but I don't have that luxury this time around because two-year-olds don't deal well with sitting around the house doing nothing. This means you get a lot more fresh air, and get to see a lot more interesting places and do more interesting things at a much younger age than she did.

I've also discovered that having to put you down can be a benefit to you, too. I remember one day, when you had been fed, burped, and changed, but were still fussing and I couldn't get you to calm down. Then I heard your sister getting into something in the kitchen, so I set you down so I could go check on her. Within seconds of being set down, you had calmed down completely, and within a minute, you were asleep. No one ever told me that a baby's cries could mean, "I'm overtired and you are overstimulating me, please put me down so I can go to sleep." Or if they did, I dismissed it as crazy-talk.


You hardly ever cry. You mostly just squeak and squirm, which eventually turns to squawking, and only turns to crying if I couldn't figure out what was wrong during stage one or two. The only two things that you seem to really cry over are being overtired and working on a poopy. Overtired, I can usually help with by swaddling you and either holding you or putting you down (it's a guessing game which). Pooping is a little more difficult. You seem to be moving towards being one of those babies that only poops once every few days. You pee plenty, and your poops look normal when they come, so I know there's nothing "wrong", but the impending poop seems to be such a struggle when it's so long coming. I never thought I would miss those first days when you effortlessly filled ten poopy diapers a day. Yeah, motherhood makes you reminisce about very strange things.


You are a very bright and happy girl. From your very first day on the outside, you were spending long stretches of time alert and looking around. You have big, bright eyes, and you love to look at people's faces. Your favorite position is being held straight out in front, slightly upright, with your back being patted whether you need to burp or not. I think the patting calms you, and this position gives you the benefit of being held while still being able to stare at the face of the one holding you. (Interestingly, this was Valerie's favorite position, too.)

You're also a big smiler. You were smiling at me the very first night in the hospital. I know they say it's just gas at that age, but I think you were really smiling. And it wasn't just a one-time thing, you've kept up the habit ever since. Your smile has gotten bigger, and as your cheeks fill out, I've started to notice that you have adorable little smile creases at the corners of your mouth. Your favorite thing to smile at is Mama. If someone else is holding you, and you start to get hungry, you will completely forget your hunger and smile widely at Mama as soon as you are in her arms. Sometimes, I'm not sure you were even hungry in the first place, but were just pretending to be hungry because you knew it would get you your Mama. Either way, that bright, beautiful smile captivates me, and melts away all the tiredness and frustration.


Not that there is too much tiredness and frustration. Not caused by you, anyhow. (Note to new moms: two-year-olds are more exhausting than newborns. Really.) You're an extremely easy baby most of the time. You let me sleep for at least one 4-5 hour stretch plus another 2-3 hour stretch most nights. It's amazing how much less insane I feel when I'm getting enough sleep.

Physically, you seem to be doing really well. I haven't brushed off my baby books, so I don't exactly recall which milestones you should be meeting right now, but I'm think you're pretty much on target, or maybe even a little ahead of the curve. You hold your head up really well, sometimes lifting it up off of my chest for minutes at a time to get a better look at my face. You've started stretching your legs out when you're being worn in a carrier, and I've already had to transition you from a newborn carry to an upright carry in the ring sling. You have discovered your hands, and you love trying to get them into your mouth. You also love exploring with your hands, and finding things to grab onto, like a finger or a fistful of Mama's hair. You're growing so fast, too. You already look so different than your newborn pictures.

Day 0:

Day 31:

I'm not sure exactly how much you weigh, but you were 8lbs4oz at birth, 7lbs11oz when we left the hospital (thanks to all that pooping you were doing), 8lbs8oz at 6 days, and 9lbs6oz at 15 days. I think it's fair to assume that you are well over 10 pounds by now (the Wii Fit just confirmed this). You're tall, too, but once again, I'm not sure how tall you are. You had outgrown all your newborn sleepers by the time you were 2 weeks old. According to the nurses' measurements, you were 20" long at birth, and 22.5" long at 15 days. (I'm pretty sure one of those measurements is not correct, though, probably the first one.)

Two weeks old, the last time you wore a newborn sleeper:

You were born with a small cleft in your lip. It's a minor cleft, and fortunately doesn't seem to have prevented you from getting a proper latch to breastfeed, as long as I keep you in the right position. I hardly notice it anymore, possibly because your lips are plumper now, or possibly because I'm just used to it now. I remember that it used to make me sad whenever I noticed it. It was hard to look at my perfect, new baby and think that there was anything imperfect about you. Now, I think it's cute, and I almost wish we didn't have to "fix" it. We took a trip to CHOP (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia) last week to meet with the surgeon who will be repairing your cleft. Honestly, I think I'm still in denial about the whole thing, because I keep pretending that it's not a big deal. But you're going to have to go under general anesthesia and spend a night in the hospital when you're only three months old. That's a pretty big deal. I'm sure, when the time comes, I will be much more freaked out, but right now I have peace about it. It helps knowing that you will be in the care of one of the best children's hospitals in the country.

Thanks for a great first month, Dorothy. I love you very much, and I'm glad you're part of our family. I'm excited to see how you grow and change in the months to come!



Saturday, November 20, 2010

Oh, What a Tangled Web!

This blog post is a direct response to a Facebook post. I'm responding here for two reasons: 1. I want to say more than I can fit in a Facebook comment box, and 2. I want to include pictures.

I said:
Which is more cruel: Subjecting Valerie to a tortuous detangling session every morning or chopping off all her hair?

You chimed in with many well-reasoned responses in defense of both alternatives. Here is a little bit more background.

  • I wanted to just let her hair grow until she was old enough to make a decision for herself, but it just got too damaged to leave it alone.

  • This is not styling damage. We hardly ever do pigtails anymore, and when we did, I was super-careful taking the rubber bands out. The problem is that Valerie used to rip fistfuls of hair out. I'm not sure why, I think it was out of frustration. Or maybe she just liked how it felt. As a result, most of her adorable curls are already gone, and the ends of her hair are all split and broken.

  • Her hair grows really slowly. Other than trimming her bangs a little bit when she was about one year old, she never had a haircut until she was two, and when she did get her hair cut, it was still not-very-long, fluffy, baby hair.

  • When she had her hair cut, I asked the hairdresser to cut away as many of the split ends as possible, but keep as many of the long curls as possible. She did her best, but without giving Valerie a mullet, she couldn't get all the split ends.

  • I do use a detangling spray. Copious amounts of it. It makes the brushing merely tortuous rather than murderous. I also brush her hair out after her tubby and it is generally dry before she goes to sleep. And yet, this is what it looks like in the morning:
    Side view:

  • As you can see in the side view, the front/sides aren't really affected, so I don't need to give her an all-out "boy" cut. I was thinking maybe something like a junior version of Kate Gosselin's haircut (which, for the record, I had before she did),

    or even a Chelsea.

    Okay, maybe not a Chelsea. But it would solve the messy back problem while leaving the front AND what's left of her curls at the bottom.

As you can probably guess, I'm leaning towards cutting it. Hair grows back, and hopefully, now that she no longer rips her hair out, once we get past the split ends, it can grow back healthy. And frankly, having one less battle to fight every day when I'm already constantly fighting the, "Don't hurt/wake/squeeze/hit the baby," battle is pretty appealing. I don't think she cares about her hair one way or the other, but she definitely hates it being brushed. I'll wait until after Christmas, though, so she can at least have what's left of her curls in the pictures. After that, we'll see.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Good Days and Bad Days

Last Friday was a rough day. I got to sleep at about midnight, then Dorothy woke me up at 3 a.m. Then, well, let me tell a story in Facebook status updates:

5:22 a.m. Dorothy is asleep, now I'm just killing time until Jeremy stops hitting snooze. Nothing's more fun than trying to go to sleep with an alarm going off every 9 minutes.

6:51 a.m. This grumpy Mama brought to you in a collaborative effort by all the members of her household to keep her awake at non-concurrent intervals.

7:00 a.m. As it turns out, those 45 minutes of snooze button pushing were my last chance to get any sleep last night. Sigh.

8:40 a.m. Anyone want to come hang out? Feeling overwhelmed today.

1:13 p.m. Where do I tender my resignation?

It was a pretty awful day, but what do you expect on three hours sleep? Somewhere in there, I managed to produce a blog entry in an attempt to focus on the positive, but it was only somewhat successful. In the end, a long nap (one that took almost two hours to bring about), a helpful husband (who managed to catch an earlier train home from work after getting off the phone with a sobbing wife), and dinner guests (who were gracious enough to bring dinner and to come late so I had extra time to clean) pulled me out of the fog. And Friday night, I got to sleep from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. and from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. which is double the amount of sleep I had managed the night before. Three more hours of sleep is apparently the difference between hopeless desperation and confidence that I will fumble through somehow.

Caring for a newborn is hard. I knew that from before, and I fully expected it to be hard again. But I had survived it once, so I knew that the darkest nights would be temporary, and that the sun would eventually come up in the morning. What I had "forgotten" was how hard life with a two-year-old was. Because that had crept up on me slowly, over two years, rather than being sprung on me all at once. Before Dorothy was born, I prepared myself mentally for sleepless nights and marathon nursing sessions. But I didn't prepare myself for the things I had been doing every day - the unpredictable sleep patterns, the hour-plus of laying beside Valerie trying to get her to sleep, the constant vigilance lest she get into something she shouldn't, keeping her entertained and attempting to wear her out so she would sleep, not to mention the energy involved in responding to a steady stream of requests, demands, and "Look, Mama!"s.

I had thought a lot about how I would take care of a newborn with a two-year-old around, but I had neglected to consider how I would take care of a two-year-old with a newborn around.

It seems like I talk about, think about, and blog about Valerie more than Dorothy. That's because Dorothy slipped quietly into the cracks of my life that I didn't know were there. But when she came, she brought an enormous spotlight with her and aimed it directly at her sister.

Dorothy has forced us to look at our daily lack-of-routine and create order. A predictable wake-up time helps me to make sure I get enough sleep. If I want Valerie to nap early enough to go to bed on time, we have to eat lunch on time, which means we have to eat breakfast on time so we can fit in a park trip or a play date between meals. I also quickly realized that I can't spend an hour lying beside Valerie at nap time anymore, and we helped her learn how to put herself to sleep. Throw daylight savings time into the mix, and that adds up to an awful lot of life changes for a little girl. I'd be overwhelmed, too. I have to remind myself that, while I've been through this "new baby throws your whole life for a loop" thing before, she hasn't. And if she is even half as overwhelmed as I was the first time around, I'm surprised her head hasn't exploded.

All in all, most days, things are pretty good. Valerie can be clingy and she has been acting out more than usual, but she has adjusted quickly to our new schedule, she goes to sleep on her own without complaining (a feat I thought impossible a few weeks ago), and she absolutely adores her sister. It's still not easy, but we have more "pretty good" days than bad days. Some days, I even manage to wash some dishes or fold some laundry! This blog post has been in the works for about a week, though, so I'm definitely not rolling in free time. (And since I started writing it, about seven more potential blog posts have begun percolating in my head, few, if any, of which will actually get written.) But that's Dorothy's fault for actually letting me sleep at night - I blogged so much when Valerie was a baby because there was nothing else to do at 3 a.m. Speaking of which, Dorothy is asleep, now, so I better get to bed. I'm posting this without thorough proof-reading, since I just want it to be done, so I apologize if it's not completely coherent. Semi-coherent is probably a more accurate representation of the state of my post-baby brain, anyhow.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Big Sister

I should have written this post a week ago. If I had, it would have said:

Everybody warned me that after you have a second baby, your first "baby" will suddenly look enormous. I had braced myself for this, so when she showed up at the hospital, I was expecting her to be huge. I was not expecting her to be so old. Suddenly, Valerie wasn't a baby, or even a toddler. She was a full-blown little girl.


And my little girl is the sweetest big sister I have ever seen. She is so gentle with Dorothy. All she wants to do is sit and hold her hand, or hold her on her lap and touch her face. She is so loving and gentle.


In fact, her transformation into a mature, responsible individual was so complete in my mind that one day, before Dorothy was even a week old, I started picking up some toys while Valerie was holding her, then I wandered off to the kitchen to do some dishes. Then I came to my senses and realized, um, Valerie is still only TWO. I can't leave her unattended with a newborn!


She really loves her baby sister. She doesn't seem to be jealous of the baby getting other peoples' attention. Rather, she is jealous of anyone else getting to hold the baby. One day, when her friend Moira was visiting, I let Moira hold Dorothy, and Valerie threw a fit. She kept trying to wedge in between them and pull the baby away from her friend. And this is where last week's post morphs into this week's post. And my angelic, perfect, little big sister becomes significantly less angelic.

Somehow, the gentle hand-holding became a squeeze, and I have had to pry her enormous two-year-old hands away from Dorothy's poor, little, squashed, red newborn hands on several occasions. Or she'll be sitting, quietly holding her sister on her lap when I notice that her head is pressed tightly against the baby's head, whose face is just starting to contort in tears. And don't even get me started on her inability to comprehend, "Don't touch the baby, she is sleeping!" (Or, if she does understand, her ability to circumvent that instruction by rocking the sleeping baby's little rocking chair violently enough to wake her, and then touch her, because hey, she's awake now!)


At first, it was mostly innocent. Trying to hug her too close, hold her hand too tight. Sometimes she gives her a toy that smacks her in the face or tries to feed her real food. But recently, she's shown more malevolent intent. In fact, she just finished a time-out for hitting her sister in the face.

I realize this is all normal sibling behavior. That doesn't make it any less frustrating. It's especially frustrating because, for two beautiful weeks, she was the model of a perfect older sibling. I think that's still in there, though. She's still a good big sister in her heart, she's just over-eager and impatient and more than a little jealous. I'm trying to make sure she gets my undivided attention for a stretch of time several times a day. Tubby time and bed time are both Valerie and Mommy or Daddy one-on-one time. But when you're used to nothing but one-on-one time, it can't be easy to make that switch. The honeymoon may be over, but the honeymoon is just the beginning of the marriage. And now, we're on to the dirty, daily task of being a family.


Saturday, October 30, 2010


It's amazing to me how different my experience has been so far with Dorothy compared to Valerie. She's ten days old today. When Valerie was ten days old, she had only been home from the hospital a few days, she was just coming off the bili blanket, and we still had ten more days to go until her due date. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Some piecemeal thoughts and observations from the past 10 days:

-Dorothy was allowed to nurse right away, and breastfeeding has been going great. I knew what to do when I started to notice signs of oversupply, and I knew what to do when I got a plugged duct. It's amazing how much of a difference it makes having been through this before and knowing what to expect.

-My milk came in after 36 hours, and Dorothy's poops turned yellow on day three. By her six-day well-baby check, she had surpassed her birthweight by 4 ounces.


-Dorothy was already cluster-feeding and having longer stretches of sleep within the first 24 hours. I actually got a little bit worried the first night because she nursed a bunch of times, then slept for four hours. Since Valerie was jaundiced, I could never let her go that long without nursing, so I struggled with Dorothy for half an hour trying to get her to nurse. She ate for a while, then slept for two hours, then ate, then slept for two hours, then cluster fed for four hours before sleeping for another four or five hour stretch. That's when I realized that her body was doing this on purpose so I could get some proper rest, so I relaxed and let myself rest.

-Even though Dorothy wanted to let me rest from about 6 to 10 a.m., the hospital staff seemed to think that I should be wide awake, then, and even though I had my light off and my door closed, a parade of shift change introductions, papers to sign, breakfast, blood pressure checks, etc., left me absolutely exhausted in the morning. I convinced them to release us early so we could actually get some sleep the next night.

-Dorothy had more of a schedule in her first week of life than Valerie had in two years. By around day four, I was catching myself saying "we usually do X" and marveling that I could even pretend to have "usuallies" this early. But we do. We usually go to bed around 9:30, nurse a few times in the night, spend about two hours awake between 2:00 and 6:00, then snooze again until 7:00 or 8:00 a.m. (Plus a two-hour or so nap sometime between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.) Valerie nursed about once an hour, around the clock, until she was several months old, so this is unheard of for me. I'm actually not a zombie. Weird.

-Dorothy was born a pound heavier than Valerie, and she just seems so solid to me. She barely feels like a newborn in my arms.

-She has really long alert periods, sometimes hours at a stretch, and stares around wide-eyed like she is taking everything in. She gazes into my eyes like I am the most beautiful thing she has ever seen. I swear she was smiling at me the very first day.

Taken at 3:00 a.m. the night after she was born:
3am 102110

-Pooping was easy for her for the first few days, but once the meconium was cleaned out, poops became a huge ordeal. She squirms and squeaks and squawks. Poor girl. I hope she outgrows this soon!

-She always seems to have an extra poop in reserve, no matter how long you wait for her to finish before changing her. Sometimes two or three.

-Other than pooping and gas, the only time she really cries is when she wants to nurse and doesn't get the boob RIGHT NOW! Sometimes she doesn't show any early hunger signs - she'll wake up from a dead sleep, and within 30 seconds be in full-on starvation mode. I'm really glad I'm breastfeeding, and getting her meal ready takes only as long as unsnapping a bra. I can't imagine listening to that heart-wrenching wail for as long as it takes to prepare and warm a bottle!

-Her belly button stub fell off when she was five days old.

-I'm so glad I side-carred the crib for her! She sleeps so much better beside me, and I sleep so much better with that extra square footage of bed for sprawling limbs.

-Maybe this is just the difference between a mild second degree tear and a third degree tear, or maybe it's the extra sleep I'm getting, but it seems like I'm healing pretty fast. I feel better than I did a month after Valerie is born. I have to consciously tell myself to rest, otherwise I do too much without thinking about it. The hardest part, by far, is trying not to pick up Valerie.

-First time at church, four days old:

-She loves being the the sling/wrap, but doesn't like the cradle hold. She prefers to be upright, as did Valerie.

-She likes being swaddled, unlike her sister. Not all the time, but when she gets overstimulated and hiccupy, it's the only way to calm her down. Why on earth don't they make receiving blankets bigger? (I'm hoping to make it out to a fabric store and just get some big squares of flannel, but there isn't one close, so it has to be an expedition.)

I was going to talk about how Valerie is adjusting to becoming a big sister, but this post has taken long enough already (she's 11 days old, now!) so that will have to get its own post later.

Really, the biggest difference I've noticed with baby number two is that I'm already a mom. Taking care of a newborn takes a lot of physical, mental, and emotional energy, but it's a lot easier to cope with all that when you're not also reeling from the "Holy crap, I'm a MOM??!!?" thing. It's still not easy. Like in the middle of the night, when Dorothy is gassy, and I can't seem to muster the energy to sit up and burp her. I'm still lost sometimes, and I still have no idea how I am going to survive the days with Valerie and Dorothy on my own starting tomorrow. Hopefully my confidence and optimism will last through that.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Dorothy's Birth Story

Warning: Frequent mention of poop.

When I was 35 weeks pregnant, I woke up one morning to a belly that was visibly three inches lower than it had been the day before. I thought I remembered that second babies don't usually drop until right before labor kicks in, so I called the midwives to see if I should be worried. They confirmed my suspicion, but told me there is really nothing we could do at that point, just take it easy. Just because second babies don't usually drop until later in a second pregnancy doesn't mean they can't, so it was still just a waiting game.

Valerie had been induced three weeks early, but she was a healthy size (7lbs 5oz) and her jaundice was caused by our differing blood types, not by her early birth. So it seemed logical to me that my second baby could easily come just as early, or even earlier, and be perfectly healthy.

So, I spent the next two weeks absolutely sure that I was going to go into labor any day. I didn't.

Then the magical "37 weeks" marker passed. The time when "normal" women start to get impatient for baby to arrive. But I had done my time, and suddenly, now that I had reached 37 weeks with no early labor and no complications, it seemed like I could go the full forty weeks, or even beyond.

On Friday, October 15, a few days shy of my due date, I woke up feeling awful. Valerie hadn't been sleeping, I hadn't been sleeping, and no one was in a good mood. All I could think was that there was no way I would make it through this day, feeling bleh and trying to keep up with a two-year-old who would inevitably refuse to nap. My friend Wendy graciously offered to take Valerie for the day. I may or may not have burst into tears of relief.

I threw out my to-do list for the day. I felt like I just needed some downtime. I closed all the blinds and settled in for a Buffy and Angel marathon.

For several weeks I had been having painless, irregular contractions, but I had thought nothing of them. Jeremy kept trying to get me to start timing them, but it never really seemed necessary to me, because I could tell they weren't regular yet. But as I sat watching an episode of Angel (the one, coincidentally, where Cordelia wakes up in the morning 8 ½ months pregnant with demon babies), I felt a contraction that, while not particularly painful, seemed to be saying, "It's time to start timing us!" That was 12:45 p.m. The next contraction didn't come until 1:00 p.m., but the next one came in five minutes, as did the next one, and the next one, and the next one. After about 2 hours of having steady contractions about five minutes apart, I thought I probably ought to call the midwives. Things weren't feeling urgent yet, but a 45-minute commute to the hospital, with rush hour fast approaching, meant that maybe I should respond before things got really urgent.

I spoke to Moon, the midwife on call, and she said it was basically up to me whether I came in now, or waited until things started progressing more. I decided to head in, since my labor with Valerie had progressed so quickly once things got started.

My father-in-law drove me to the hospital while my mother-in-law waited for Wendy to drop Valerie off. Jeremy and Erin (my friend and doula) met us there. We got to the hospital at about 5:00 p.m. I wasn't really dilated at all ("a fingertip"), but they hooked me up to the monitors to make sure everything was okay. The baby was responsive and healthy, and for a couple of hours, my contractions were up to every 3-4 minutes. I still wasn't really in much pain, but things seemed to be starting to progress, so I was listening to my Hypnobabies scripts and calmly breathing my way through the contractions. I felt like maybe something was happening.

My blood pressure was high a few times, so they ran the pre-eclampsia blood work, but it all came back clean. I finally figured out a position where I could relax enough to get the BP readings into a good range, and they gave me the choice to go home or stay (and most likely be induced). I was a little worried about going all the way home, but I really wanted to let things progress on their own. I talked it over with Jeremy and Erin, and I decided that I would have them measure me again. If I was more than four cm, I would stay, if I was two or three, I would leave but stay with Erin's grandparents who live close to the hospital, and if I was one or less, I would just go home. I was still only about 1 cm, which was somewhat disappointing, but it was a relief to just go home. I was super tired by that time (about 10 p.m.), and I knew I would sleep better in my own bed at home.

Nana and PopPop kept Valerie that night, and I slept better than I had in weeks, even though the contractions were still coming every five minutes. Nothing really changed on Saturday, and I didn't feel like just sitting around the house waiting for labor to start, so we headed over to Nana and PopPop's house. The cousins were visiting, so we had a fun day of playing at the park and in the backyard and of running around screaming and crashing in front of Disney movies. It was a wonderful day, and even though I was still contracting every five minutes or so, I was mostly able to ignore it and just enjoy my day. I took a long nap in the afternoon, because even if the contractions weren't really hurting much yet, they were obviously doing something because I was completely worn out. I was no longer timing my contractions because, obviously, "once they start coming every five minutes" wasn't a very useful gauge for me. I wasn't exactly sure what I was waiting for anymore, I guess I was just waiting for my body to do something more obvious. I figured I would know it when it happened.

Mostly able to ignore the contractions

We went to church on Sunday, and everything was still pretty much the same. We went out for lunch with some friends after church, and, other than the whole "contractions every five minutes" thing, it was pretty much a normal Sunday. Jeremy and Valerie went over to Nana and PopPop's in the afternoon, and I stayed home to nap and relax a bit. At around 7 p.m. Sunday night, the contractions changed. They suddenly became much more powerful. I don't want to say painful, because it didn't exactly hurt, but they took all my concentration. I focused my energy on channeling the contractions into my cervix, breathing the word "open" with each exhale. I could feel the contractions working. I was in a good place, and I thought, for sure, this was it. I was then overcome by a primal need to be alone. I didn't want anyone around me. I grabbed my cell phone and tried to call Jeremy, to tell him to stay at his parents' house for another hour at least, until I could figure out where things were going. As the phone was still ringing, I heard him and Valerie at the door, and I knew my alone time was over.

Valerie sat down beside me to watch TV, and she was very compassionate when the next contraction came. "Are you okay, Mommy?" I reassured her that I was okay, the baby was just talking to me, telling me she was almost ready to come out. After about another 20 minutes, however, the powerful contractions went away, and things slowed down for the first time since Friday.

Monday morning, I woke up tired. It was a dreary day, and I knew that Valerie and I were pretty much going to just sit on the couch watching TV all day. I called my friend Heather who lives around the corner to see if she was up for a low-key play date, and she said that they were pretty much planning on watching TV all day, too, so we combined our dreary days and made the best of it. It was a great, laid-back kind of day. I was still contracting pretty regularly, but it was down to every 10 minutes or so at this point, and the really strong ones had gone away the night before. Or wait, maybe that was Tuesday. This bit is apparently somewhat of a blur. Let's fast-forward to the part I remember more clearly.

Tuesday night was another rough night. Valerie was restless, and I was crampy and uncomfortable. I got up when Jeremy woke up on Wednesday morning, at about 5:00 a.m., mainly to escape the toddler fists that were being continually wedged and rewedged under my neck every time I tried to dislodge them. When I woke up, Valerie woke up, and she asked to use the potty. I decided to indulge her, even though she often asks and rarely goes, but she sat right down and did a big pee in the potty. I remember thinking how awesome it would be for her to spontaneously decide to potty train right before the baby came, but alas, it turns out that this was an isolated event.

My cramps started to get worse, and I kept trying to go to the bathroom, but nothing came. When Jeremy left for work at around 5:45, it suddenly dawned on me that these "cramps" were coming in rather regular waves. Valerie was still awake, and I knew that if I was going into labor, I needed to get her to sleep, because I didn't think I could deal with her and the contractions at the same time. So I snuggled up next to her, and breathed my way through the contractions as peacefully as possible, so as not to disturb her as she fell back to sleep. She asked to nurse, which she hadn't done in two days, and I let her, because I thought it might be the fastest way to get her back to sleep. As it turns out, it was also a pretty fast way to solidify and intensify the contractions. But, through some act of insane self-control, I managed to labor quietly enough to let her fall asleep. Then I jumped out of bed, because my body did NOT want to labor lying down. At this point, it was a little after 6:00.

I headed downstairs so that I could call Jeremy. I was hoping to catch him before he got on the train downtown, because then he would only be a short bus ride away. Unfortunately, his phone went straight to voicemail, which meant that he was already underground and had no cell phone signal. I left a quick message, then started trying to figure out my next course of action. I called the midwives, and I spoke to Amy. Apparently, I was pretty calm on the phone, because she deliberated for a bit, but told me to go ahead and come in since I lived so far away. She was going off duty at 7:00, so she said she would let Moon know that I was on my way in. I was happy to hear that Moon was on call, because she had been there when I came in on Friday, so she already had an idea of what was going on, and I was comfortable with her, even though she wasn't my "regular" midwife.

I sent a text to Jeremy and to Erin letting them know I was heading to the hospital, then I called Nana and PopPop to see if one of them could give me a ride. Unfortunately, PopPop had some very specific obligations at school that day, but Nana was able to come and sit with Valerie at least, so I didn't have to worry about her. I grabbed my list of church people who had offered rides, and I called Katie. She had told me that she was off on Wednesday, and I had actually called her first on Friday for a ride, but she was on her way out of town to a wedding. I don't think she was expecting a call quite so early, but she was more than willing to help out, and she started getting ready to come over.

I spent the next 45 minutes on my feet, because the contractions were now coming hard and fast, and I couldn't sit down. I wasn't timing them, though, because it just didn't seem necessary. I knew this was it. I found myself starting to sing, which surprised me a little, because I hadn't really thought about the idea of birth song since a year or more earlier when I had watched The Business of Being Born. It worked, though. I started high, and I dropped note by note until I found the one that resonated. I sang my way (okay, maybe singing is the wrong word, maybe a musical groan?) through most of my contractions from here on out.

Katie and Nana both arrived at about 7:00 a.m. I quickly gathered my stuff and moved it to Katie's car, gave Nana a hug, and we started for the hospital. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to sit in the car for 45 minutes (or more, since we were officially into rush hour), but it didn't end up being so bad. I was able to chat with Katie during the rest times, and to quietly breathe and hum my way through the contractions without too much trouble. Katie, who is a physician's assistant, was more worried at this point than I was. She was timing my contractions, and she knew they were coming closer and closer together. She kept asking if she should throw on her flashers and speed past on the shoulder, but I just stayed as calm as possible, and told her to just drive normally.

I was a little concerned at this point that I hadn't heard back from Jeremy or Erin. I tried calling Jeremy again, and finally got him on the phone. He had already arrived at work, and had just finished his briefing with his boss about what he was going to do that day. He quickly got off the phone to tell his boss about the change in plans and hop on the trolley to the hospital. Then I called Erin, and she said she would head right over, too.

We got to the hospital at about 8:00 a.m. Katie tried to drop me off at the main entrance, but I insisted on going along with her to the parking garage. She looked at me like I was crazy, but I told her that, after being in the car for an hour, I really wanted to walk, and once I was admitted, I wouldn't have much opportunity to walk. So we went to the parking garage, and I walked the long hallway back to the main building, and I was so glad I did. Proper walking, not pacing back and forth in a tiny hospital room, was exactly what my body wanted right then.

When I arrived at the Labor and Delivery floor, I was feeling pretty good. The contractions were strong, but I was dealing with them, and in between, I pretty much felt normal. The nurse who brought me to my room was surprised when she saw me, and said that she had expected me to look a lot worse. I laughed and told her she caught me between contractions, and I would look worse in a minute. We got to the room, and she gave me a gown to put on, and said she would be right back to hook me up to the monitors. I changed into my gown, and the contractions were pretty powerful by this time, and I needed to lean on the little tray table for support. I think Katie was mentally scanning the room to see where all the various equipment was, just in case I delivered the baby before the nurse came back.

Jeremy arrived at about 8:10, and Erin arrived a few minutes after him. I said goodbye to Katie, and thanked her profusely for the ride. The nurse came back at about 8:20 to hook me up to the monitors. I really didn't want to be lying down at this point, but I hoped that she could just get a nice, quick reactive strip, and then unhook me and leave me alone. She started to hook me up, and she said, "I understand you want to do things pretty much natural, right?" I told her yes, and offered to get her a copy of my birth preferences from my bag. She said she already had one, and I could tell she had read it, because she really seemed to go out of her way to accommodate me, at least to the extent she was able to. I really need to send her some cookies or something.

I lasted less than five minutes on the bed, because the contractions were yelling at me to stand up. I convinced the nurse (her name was Ginny) to let me stand up, and she said she would try and get a reading with me standing up. I stood up, and things intensified. I remember saying, "I'm going to poop on the floor!" which was the exact same thing I said when I hit transition with Valerie, and as soon as the words left my mouth, I was filled with a confidence that I knew where things were going and I was in control. While Jeremy and Ginny were trying to find the baby's heartbeat with the stupid monitor, I started to squat just a little. Then there was a gush, and I was standing in a puddle of amniotic fluid. I heard Ginny say, "Spontaneous rupture of membranes, 8:25 a.m."

There was no more singing through these contractions. Unless the deep, primal scream from deep in my belly counts as a song. (I'm actually inclined to think it does.) Ginny asked me if I was feeling the urge to bear down. I answered, "I am." By which I meant, "I am bearing down already, leave me alone so I can have this baby." But she must have thought I meant, "I am feeling the need to bear down, why yes, thank you for asking, what should I do now?" Suddenly, everyone in the room seemed to be dead-set on getting me into bed (except for Erin, who I seem to recall was running interference for me). I didn't want to get into bed. I couldn't get into bed. I was in the middle of an extremely powerful contraction, and I just wanted everyone to shut up and let me focus. I kept repeating over and over, "I need it to stop, first." There was no way I could even think of moving to the bed until this contraction stopped. And it just seemed to keep going and going. Erin told me afterward that it showed up on the monitor as two contractions, but from where I was standing, the pressure never let up in between.

I finally got a break between the contractions, and I moved onto my hands and knees on the bed. I was hoping it would stop everyone from freaking out about my baby falling on the ground (and by "everyone" I mostly mean Ginny). Moon checked my dilation (a little unnecessary at this point, but I was ignoring everyone anyhow), and she said, "No cervix left, maybe a tiny lip." I also have a memory of poor Ginny wandering around very flustered, complaining to everyone who will listen that she should never have let me stand up, but that memory is probably somewhat exaggerated (and Moon reassured her at least once that standing up had obviously done its job, and my body was doing what it needed to do.)

I started pushing, but it felt like I was pushing at the wrong angle. I was feeling all of the pressure in my bum, and I was pushing out poop instead of baby. At one point, I felt the head, and something clicked for me. I was able to close off the poop, and move the pressure over to my birth canal. I pushed the head partway out, and then I felt myself begin to tear. I was then able to do what I never thought I would be able to do when I had Valerie: I stopped pushing briefly to give my cervix the chance to rest a little. Then I pushed again, and felt the head come out. I asked Moon why the baby wasn't crying, and she reminded that the baby won't cry until she comes out all the way. Oh yeah. Back to pushing.

My back started to really hurt at that point. I wanted to press a hand on my back, but I couldn't tear either one away from its death-grip on my pillow. I dropped by belly down and stretched my back like a cat, and this took the pressure off my back. I think it also lined the baby's shoulders up to come the rest of the way out, and in few more pushes, the baby was safely on the outside. I heard someone announce the time of birth as 8:36 a.m. Moon asked Jeremy to tell me the sex, and he told me it was a girl. I could hear everyone debating how to hand the baby to me (since, if you recall, I was on my hands and knees facing the wall), and I interrupted and told them that I was going to flip over, starting with my right leg, and they could pass me the baby under my leg and up to my chest. But first, could we take these stupid monitors off?

They handed the baby to me, and we sat snuggling for a few minutes. Moon asked me the name, and I turned to Jeremy and said I wasn't sure. We had two girl names picked out, and I was torn between the two of them. He asked me which one I was leaning towards, and I said, "Dorothy." He agreed. I was shivering uncontrollably at this point, but I was still sweating, and wanted nothing to do with any blankets. Erin got me some damp cloths for my forehead. Moon told me that the cord had stopped pulsing completely, and asked if it was okay to cut it. I said okay.

Dorothy headed to the other end of the room to get measured and weighed, then she came right back to Mama. I offered her my breast, and she latched right on and started nursing. I pushed out the placenta with little fanfare, and Moon started to check me over to assess the damage. She said I had a mild second degree tear, and she offered to start the topical anesthetic now, to give it a chance to work before she started the stitching.


Dorothy was nursing like a pro, and I could feel my uterus contracting already. It hurt a lot. I think it hurt more than 90% of my labor did. I guess that's the breastfeeding doing its job. The breastfeeding was also doing its job of pushing out the meconium, and when Dorothy finished nursing and they picked her up to check her again, she left behind a nice puddle of poop on Mama's belly.

I'm afraid I'm mixing up the order of events here, because once my baby was born healthy, I didn't really care about much else. Moon stitched me up, and I know I was holding and/or nursing Dorothy for most of the stitching. The topical started to wear off when she had about three stitches to go, and she asked if I wanted more, but I said don't bother if it's only three more stitches. The first one hurt a bit, the second one hurt a bit more, and by the third stitch, the topical had completely worn off, and I felt everything. It hurt a lot, but through some weird combination of adrenaline and hormones, I started laughing uncontrollably. Ginny came back into the room, asking what the joke was, because she hates to miss out on a good joke. I kept laughing, and told her it was the pain. If she didn't already think I was crazy, she definitely did then.

This is the part where Ginny deserves cookies. I could tell, from her various reactions to the way I labored and delivered, that I didn't exactly follow her paradigm for birthing. But she tried her best, and when it came right down to it, she did everything I had wanted. She brought all paperwork to me to fill out at the bedside, and had prepared all the documents ahead of time for the procedures we were refusing, which she had me sign without questioning my decisions. She had arranged for the nursery staff to come to my room and do all of the measurements and tests there so Dorothy wouldn't have to leave my side. And then, she had to fill out all of the admitting paperwork for both me and Dorothy because I had delivered her before I officially had been admitted to the hospital. Which amused me greatly, because it meant that Dorothy wasn't "technically" born in a hospital. She came when she wanted, how I wanted, into the hands of a trusted midwife, in the presence of my beloved and a good friend. If I couldn't have a home birth, I am incredibly blessed to have had the next best thing.

Dorothy Ruth Wakeman
10.20.2010 8:36 a.m.
8lbs 4oz 20" long

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

39 Weeks

Okay, I'll admit I was hoping for a 10/10/10 baby, but now that that ship has sailed, I'm finding myself feeling fairly patient. It's a little surreal, though. I think I had subconsciously substituted "3 weeks early" for my due date in my head, so I feel like I'm already two weeks overdue, looking at a theoretical possibility of being five weeks "overdue".

Around 35 weeks, when the baby dropped, I got really impatient for a couple of weeks. I was sure it was going to happen any day. When it didn't, and I passed that magical milestone when Valerie had been born, my impatience was somehow replaced with complacency. It will happen when it happens.

It's making me reinvestigate some of my assumptions about this birth, though. Since Valerie was relatively big and relatively healthy three weeks early, I assumed I must just be a pressure cooker, and make healthy, full-grown babies in less than 40 weeks. Now I'm seeing, instead, how incredibly blessed we were that Valerie was as big and as healthy as she was when I was induced. Six days in the NICU sucked, but it could have been a lot worse.

I also assumed that I would have a short labor again, but maybe Valerie's fast birth was just another blessing. The longer she stayed in, the higher her risk was due to the cholestasis. Her quick arrival may have saved her life. I still need to be prepared in case of fast labor, since my hospital is rather far away, but I need to be mentally prepared for a normal, or even long, labor as well.

The biggest disadvantage of these reinvestigations is that I no longer feel like I know what to expect. Yes, this is my second child, but I really have no idea what the natural, normal onset of labor feels like. I have confidence that I will "know it when it happens", but that's only a partial comfort. I'm constantly on the watch for the "early" signs, so that I will have a bit of a heads-up to arrange rides and childcare and whatnot. And my body is happy to oblige. It's always doing something to make me think it's almost time, at least until I start to be reasonably sure, then it stops everything and goes back to normal. Honestly, that's the only part I'm really struggling with right now. Always guessing and second-guessing. "Surprise, it's early!" was quite an adjustment, but somewhat easier to deal with than, "Sometime in the next month or so, have fun wondering!"

So, to make a long story short, I'm extending the Baby Guessing Game a little bit. So far, only two people's dates haven't already passed, so I'm giving you all another chance, in every category except for "gender" (two guesses in that category is just cheating.) If you're one of the two people whose dates haven't passed, you can still make another guess, you'll just get an extra entry in the contest. Good luck!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Baby Guessing Game!

Well, folks, I think it's time for the baby guessing game! Potentially pertinent facts and/or red herrings follow below. To enter, send your guess to juleannwakeman at gmail dot com with "Baby Guessing Game" as the subject line. Include your guesses for the following categories: Sex, Weight, Height, Date of Birth, and Time of Birth. Bonus categories: Baby's Name and Will We Make it to the Hospital in Time?

Things to consider when making your guesses:
  • My due date is October 18, based on a calculator that seems to have given me an extra day, so it might actually be October 17.

  • Valerie was born at 37w 1d after a 28-hour induction and a 1 hour and 20 minute labor. So far, I don't have any of the symptoms of ICP, which was what led to her induction.

  • Valerie was 7lbs 5oz at birth, 20", and was born at 1:06 p.m.

  • The baby dropped about a week and a half ago, and the head appears to now be fully engaged.

  • I have been in nesting mode for the past two weeks.

  • The hair on my legs is growing more slowly while pregnant.

  • Before I dropped, I was carrying the baby high.

  • You can tell that I am pregnant from behind.

  • I didn't have much morning sickness, just nasty heartburn and allergies.

  • I have been craving sweet things and cheese.

  • The baby's heart rate has been above 140 bpm.

  • This baby seems to move much more than Valerie did, but she had an anterior placenta and a short cord, which could factor into that.

Good Luck!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Local Consignment Sales - Fall 2010

When I posted this list last spring, I didn't realize I was starting a tradition, but several people have been asking me if I was going to post one for the fall, so I guess I had better. Much thanks to Mollie, who did a big chunk of the leg work on compiling this list, since I was dragging my feet on it. Sorry it's so late!

Edit: I'm posting this for now because I am tired and need to sleep. I will work on it some more later.

Local Consignment Sales - Fall 2010

Just4Kids Consignment Sale
Maple Shade, NJ
August 20-22, 2010

Spring Chicken Kids Consignment Sale
Havertown, PA
August 27-28, 2010

Cozy Tots
Bryn Athyn, PA
August 27-29, 2010

Kimberton Bitty Bees Consignment Sale
Kimberton, PA
August 28-29, 2010

Simply Kids Consignment Sale
Pottstown, PA
September 10-11, 2010

Kids Weecycle Consignment Sale
East Norriton, PA
September 11, 2010

Just Between Friends - Western Mainline
Oaks, PA
September 16-19, 2010

As Kids Grow Consignment Sale
Langhorne, PA
September 17-19, 2010

Buttons and Bows
Lansdale, PA
September 18, 2010

Chester County Mothers of Multiples Outgrown Sale
Exton, PA
September 18, 2010

Children’s Village by Doylestown Hospital Consignment Sale
Doylestown, PA
September 18-19, 2010

Kid’s Kloset Swap
Hulmeville, PA
September 18-19, 2010

Lil Angels
Bensalem, PA
September 18-19, 2010

Smart Moms Consignment Sale
Eagleville, PA
September 18-19, 2010

Treasured Twice Consignment Sale
Norristown, PA
September 18-19, 2010

Kidzsignments Consignment Sale
Flemington, NJ
September 23-25, 2010

Second Time Around Kids’ Consignment Sale
Broomall, PA
September 24-25, 2010

Kid’s Kloset Swap
Jamison, PA
September 25-26, 2010

The Clothing Tree Consignment Sale
Richlandtown, PA
September 25-27, 2010

Bucks-Mont MOMs Fall Rummage Sale
Lansdale, PA
September 25, 2010

Pass it on
Wayne, PA
September 25, 2010

The VFMOTTC Fall Clothing & Equipment Sale
Oaks, PA
September 25, 2010

Just Between Friends - Reading
Reading, PA
September 30 - October 3, 2010

All Childrens Sale
Wayne, PA
October 1-2

Best Dressed for Less Consignment Sale
Burlington, NJ
October 1-3 2010

Kids Weecycle Consignment Sale
Ambler, PA
October 2, 2010

Main Line MOMS Consignment Sale
Springfield, PA
October 2, 2010

Just Between Friends – West Chester
Greater Reading Expo Center
October 2-3, 2010

Feasterville, PA
October 9-10, 2010

Kidzsignments Consignment Sale
Edison, NJ
October 15-17, 2010

The Clothing Tree Consignment Sale
Hellertown, PA
October 23-25, 2010

One of those annoying "sorry for not blogging" posts

Sorry about the total lack of posting here recently. I have been quite busy and quite pregnant, and my laptop power cord died so I have to find toddler-free time to hide away upstairs with the desktop in order to spend time online. Needless to say, I have been spending significantly less time online. It's been nice, in a way. I've been outside a lot more this summer than last summer. But I do miss blogging. It just seems like I can always find something better to do with a spare hour, if I manage to scrounge one up. At some point, though, I would like to get around to writing a birthday letter for Valerie, who is now 2, and a baby birth-date-guessing contest. Until then, you will have to be content with a link to Flickr, where you can piece together the many activities of our busy summer in photo form, and, in a few minutes' time, a belated consignment sale list.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Babywearing for the unitiated

I wrote this email as a response to a friend who asked me for some advice about babywearing. I am by no means an expert, but I do think this is a pretty good intro for someone who is coming into babywearing with no idea what to expect or buy. I will preface this by saying two things: 1. Everyone is different. I am sharing my experiences and preferences, but, as they say on the interwebs, your mileage may vary. 2. I am writing this assuming that you already want to wear your baby, so if you are looking for something that answers, "Why should I wear my baby?" you won't find that here. A quick google search will turn up a wealth of information on that topic.

There are basically three kinds of slings: ring slings, pouch slings, and bag slings. The slings that were recalled were bag slings. They are a bad design, and I doubt anyone in the babywearing community would have recommended one to you, even before the recall. They don't mimic the "in-arms" position, but rather, they hang the baby unnaturally down by your hip like a messenger bag. In that position, it is easy for a baby to curl down and cut off his airway, or to suffocate in the folds of extra fabric (made even worse by the unnecessary padding). A good sling should hold the baby in pretty much exactly the same position you would be holding the baby in if the sling wasn't there. All the sling does is secure them into that natural position, so you can have your arms free for other things, and distribute the weight down your back into your legs, rather than putting all the strain on your arms and shoulders.

As for the other two styles of slings, it really comes down to personal preference. I use a ring sling. Jeremy's grandmother made it for me using a very simple pattern, available here: Free Maya Wrap Pattern. If you don't want to make your own, I highly recommend Maya Wrap's Ring Slings. They have a nice weave to them, so they distribute the weight really well.

Both ring slings and pouch slings are quick and easy to use, and can be used in cradle or upright carries for infants, or hip carries for toddlers. Both can be used for back carries with older babies, too, but I have never tried. My friend puts her 5 month old on her back with her pouch all the time, though, so I've seen it done. The drawback of both slings is that they put the weight on only one shoulder, so it will start to hurt sooner than a two-shoulder carrier. I like the ring sling because it is adjustable, so Jer and I can both use it. People who use pouch slings like that they don't have to adjust them, so it's quicker to put them on.

Valerie never liked the ring sling in the cradle position, but she never really liked being held in that position, either. She loved the upright "tummy to tummy" position, though. Here's a picture of her at 2 1/2 months old in the ring sling:
Valerie Jeanne 196

Edited to add: Dorothy likes being upright, too. Here she is in the ring sling at 6 weeks old:

I use the ring sling in a hip carry, now, as my "quickie" carry, say when I'm trying to wrangle several bags and a toddler into the house after a shopping trip. I don't seem to have any pictures of this, because it tends to start to hurt my shoulder after a little while, so we don't use it for extended times, but it's so useful for quickie trips, it's still one of my stand-by carriers. Here's a good picture of a toddler (not mine) in a hip carry: Link.

The next category of carriers is wraps. There are two main types of wraps: stretchy and non-stretchy. Stretchy wraps are awesome for newborns. Once you have tied the baby on, the weight literally disappears, because it hugs your body and theirs so well. Stretchy wraps are good up to about 15 pounds or so, after which the baby's weight starts to pull too much on the fabric, and you find yourself readjusting the wrap every ten minutes. Two good brands of stretchy wraps are Moby Wrap and Sleepy Wrap. Or, you can quite easily make your own by buying 5-6 yards of jersey knit cotton, and cutting it in half or thirds lengthwise to get two or three wraps. Dye the extras different colors, or give them away. (Edited to add: I bought a Moby with baby #2, and I actually like my homemade stretchy wrap more. So brand name doesn't necessarily mean better!) Directions here.

Here's Valerie in the stretchy wrap at three months old:

Edited to add: Here's Dorothy in the stretchy wrap at 5 days old:

The downside of wraps is that you have to learn how to tie them. It kind of looks like complicated origami at first, but it doesn't take that long to get the hang of it. Even once you get it, though, it still takes a little bit longer than a sling, but the trade-off is in comfort. Stretchy wraps are much more forgiving than non-stretchy wraps, because the fabric gives a little, and you can tie the wrap on yourself first, and then slip the baby in after it's all tied. Non-stretchy wraps don't have the same "give", so you have to tie them with a little more accuracy, but even a big baby stays securely where you tied them. Once Valerie outgrew her stretchy wrap, I'd had a few months to figure out the tying thing, and I knew I liked the way wraps fit, so I got myself a non-stretchy wrap. I got it at a consignment sale, but I'm pretty sure it's a homemade wrap, since there are no tags on it. It's a cotton gauze fabric, which is one of the lightest wraps you can get, but also one of the least forgiving. Woven wraps, like Didymos and Storchenwiege, are supposed to be more comfortable, because there is a little more give to the fabric, but they are woven especially for babywearing, and even secondhand, sell for a lot of money (usually over $100). Someday, I'll get me one, and until then, my gauze wrap is still my most comfortable wrap for wearing a toddler for long periods of time. Her tolerance for having to stay in one place usually runs out before it starts to hurt my shoulders, and she is over 25 pounds.

The other bonus to wraps is that there are so many different ways of wearing them, you can really play around and find the best carry for the two of you. The carry I use with Valerie is comfortable for hours, and it doesn't put any pressure on my belly, which will be nice during pregnancy. Here is Valerie, at 11 months old, in a back carry with the wrap:

Front carry:

Oh, and if she falls asleep in the wrap, I can pull the fabric up over her head and make a nice little hood for her. No pics of that, but it's a handy feature of wraps.

Next up are asian-inspired carriers, usually called mei tai's. I have a mei tai by Parents of Invention, and I've tried other people's mei tais and they are much more comfortable than mine. Mine is just a poor design, I think. Still, it gets a lot of use, because it is more comfortable than the ring sling, and quicker than the wrap. I have heard very good things about BabyHawk and Kozy mei tais. A lot of people get their mei tais from etsy, too, and are usually very happy with them. I think there is less margin of error for making mei tais, because it seems like homemade ones stand up really well to the "well-known" brands. I just lucked out and got a brand that tried to improve on the pattern, I think, rather than just trusting tradition. Anyhow, I really do like my mei tai. It does back carries, hip carries, and front carries, and it uses both shoulders for most carries, so it's more comfortable than the ring sling. The straps are padded, too, which is nice, so you don't get pressure points like you can with a poorly tied wrap. I also love that it has a pocket, where I can shove my cell phone and some cash, so it ends up being my carrier of choice for times when I won't have a purse or stroller along.

Here's Valerie in a mei tai hip carry:

Front carry:

Back carry:

Finally, there's the BMW of baby carriers: soft-structured carriers (SSCs). Baby Bjorns (and their close cousin, Snuglis) are sometimes lumped in with SSCs, but I don't think they really should be. They are just about the worst baby carriers on the market. Instead of pulling the baby into you and using your body to carry the weight, they dangle the kid from their crotch, putting all the weight on your shoulders, and potentially leading to poor hip development. When a baby is being worn properly, their knees should be higher than their hips. This is the position that a baby naturally takes when you pick them up, and it's best for their hip development to have their knees up and their legs spread apart. A lot of people go for Baby Bjorns because of the feature of being able to carry their baby in front, but facing out. It seems like a good idea at first, but it's actually not a great babywearing position. First, the way a baby's body fits into a parent's body naturally is front-to-front. When the baby is facing out, it puts extra pressure on your shoulders, because the baby is pulling away from you, rather than into you. Second, it's not good for their hip development. Third, babies get very easily overstimulated, and when they are facing out, there is no escape from the overwhelming outside world. If your baby is old enough to want to face out, it's time to try a back carry position of some kind, because then he can see everything you can see, but still tuck his head down and shut out the world if he gets overstimulated. Besides, for a parent, back carries are far more comfortable than front facing out carries. Okay, end of Baby Bjorn rant. Back to SSCs.

Soft-structured carriers are basically mei tais with adjustable, buckling straps. So, you have all the benefits of many positions and a comfortable carry, but you don't have to spend the extra time tying the straps every time. The straps are padded and comfortable, and there are usually pockets (or you can buy pouches or detachable backpack accessories). They also tend to be ergonomically designed to fit comfortably like a well-designed backpack. We just bought an Ergo (which, along with Beco is one of the top 2 names in SSCs), so my experience with SSCs is extremely limited. I think I'm really going to like it, though. You can use it for back carries, front carries, and hip carries, and it has a sleeping hood to pull up over a sleeping baby (one thing that I miss when I'm using my mei tai). It's very comfortable, and Jeremy and I have both used it with no problems, although I don't like the way it feels over my pregnant belly, and may have to hold off on using it until after the baby arrives. You can also use it with a newborn if you buy an insert for it, but we obviously haven't tried that yet. Here are some pictures of the Ergo in action (not mine): Ergo's Photo Gallery.

Edited to add: Baby #2 is 3 months old, now, and I can totally vouch for the Ergo. It switches easily between Jer and I, and it switches easily between the baby and the two-year-old. We bought an infant insert for the baby, which makes it extremely comfortable, and extremely warm.

Here is a picture of us at the zoo in November, with three-week-old Dorothy happily sleeping in the Ergo:

Here is a picture of us at the zoo in January, with Dorothy tucked snugly in the Ergo inside my coat. The only piece of winter clothing she is wearing is a hat!

I expect it might be too warm to wear a baby in the infant insert in the summer, but once the baby has good head control, you can ditch the insert, and it's no more warm than my other carriers without it. My only real complaint about the Ergo is that it's hard to do up the top buckle by yourself when using it for a front carry. With a little experimentation, however, I discovered that, as long as you loosen the shoulder straps when you take it off, the buckle is easier to reach because it's a little higher up your back, and all you have to do is attach the buckle before tightening the straps.

I think, if people want to get us things for the new baby, I will ask for accessories for the Ergo, like the infant insert and the detachable backpack. Once we do, I will probably get rid of our backpack carrier. I'm really not a fan of our backpack-style carrier. (Edited to add: I got both for Christmas. Anyone want to buy a backpack carrier?) It's a structured, framed backpack, like you would use for hiking. When I was pregnant, I was convinced that this would be the best thing in the entire world, and I had several people go in together and get me one as a shower gift. Ultimately, though, I really didn't like it. It added so much extra weight, and I didn't like the way it distributed it. It put so much of the weight right on my shoulders, and the baby was suspended away from my body, which made the weight seem even heavier. I'm really not a fan. I wouldn't even really call it "babywearing", because it doesn't provide any of the closeness and developmental benefits of the other styles of carriers. Really, it's more of a stroller that goes on your back so you can go off-roading. It has its uses, and some people absolutely love them, but every other carrier I own is more comfortable than it is, and it's been used maybe twice. I do have a picture, though:

Okay, so I realize I just completely flooded you with information, and you're probably more overwhelmed than when I started. Here's my advice/opinions:

For a brand newborn, the best carrier is a stretchy wrap. Mobys cost about $40 new, or $25-$30 used. The fabric for my homemade stretchy wrap cost about $25, and it made two wraps. You can decide later if you love wraps enough to get a non-stretchy one.

For quick and easy, you can't beat a ring sling or a pouch sling. If you and your husband want to both use it, go for a ring sling. Hotslings and Peanut Shell pouch slings are about $40 new (available at Target). Maya Wrap Lightly Padded Ring Slings are about $65 new, or $35-$45 used. Making your own can cost less than $20, and the only sewing involved is two straight lines a few inches long.

For versatility, I recommend mei tais or SSCs. If you can afford it, or if someone wants to buy you something nice, go for a SSC like a Beco or an Ergo.

In fact, this would be a great way of redirecting someone who wants to buy you a big, expensive travel system. In my experience, travel systems are a waste of money for babywearing parents. Instead, you can buy a Graco infant car seat new (you always want a car seat to be new, unless you are borrowing from someone you trust and know that it's never been in an accident) for about $100, then get any old Graco stroller for $20 at a yard sale. Almost all Graco strollers work with their car seats like a travel system, and you save over $100. Or, better yet, skip the whole infant bucket car seat altogether and get a convertible car seat from the start, since you're going to need to buy one within the next year anyhow. The more I fall in love with babywearing, the more I like the idea of "your car seat belongs in your car, your baby belongs on your body". Carting a baby along in a bucket car seat is just about the most awkward and unnatural way of carrying a baby there is, and has a much higher death rate than babywearing. Article. Just something to consider.

I hope that helps you with your decision-making!