Thursday, January 30, 2014

Stress and relief

I am back at work. Dammit. As of Monday, I'm now a working mother. Well, I guess I was always a working mother, since I didn't give up my job, but now I'm actually doing the working part. And it sucks. My job is predictably boring, and I would much rather be at home with my baby. It's hard, sometimes, not to be resentful about the stupid lack of maternity (and paternity) leave we have in this country. Yes, I could have taken 18 weeks. But how many people can really afford to take 18 unpaid weeks? Add in the fact that I'm the family breadwinner and 10 weeks was all I could manage. (I was paid for almost all of that time, thanks to the combination of sick leave, annual leave, and holidays.) Yes, Shane's working but one very part-time student job (I think about 10 hours each week?) and one even more part-time weekend job (4-6 hours) do not bring in much money. In fact, all of that should just about cover what we pay for his student loans each month. (Which is, admittedly, more than the minimum.)
I did, in the last few weeks, ask if I could come back part-time at first. This was partly because I realized how hard it was going to be to leave her for 9 hours each day (including my 1ish hour walking commute) and partly because we found out that the person we intended to ask about babysitting three days a week was out of the country for 6 weeks. Eek!
Unfortunately, the powers that be at work denied my request for part-time. And they gave me half a week of notice to get my shit together and find a babysitter. !!!! So we did the only logical thing and called for grandparent help. Shane's mom, who would be the more logical choice since she's usually closer, is in Hawaii visiting her aunt right now. So we called my mom (who recently discovered that she has a ton of airline miles from her days traveling for work) and made arrangements for her to come up. That left Monday as the only day we needed to find a sitter for, but luckily a friend of ours has recently found a job but hadn't yet started work, so she was available. Phew! It's been a mad scramble and changing of all kinds of plans, but at least I know that Baby Girl is in good hands for my first week of work. My mom keeps saying that Baby Girl reminds her so much of my oldest brother, who was also a high needs baby. (She fits 8 of 12 features on this list, and a couple of them I don't think she fits *yet*, like "hyperactive"--she still loves being held all of the time if possible, but when we do lay her down for play time she's rarely still. People remarked at one month old how well she could already hold her head up and now at two months she already loves to stand, with the person holding her mostly acting as a support so that she doesn't tip sideways. However, the very first thing on the list? Intense? Yes, that is exactly the word I would use to describe my child.) My mom said that, when she's older, she'll be so easy because she'll be a self-motivator and will easily entertain herself. Also, "any other kids you have will seem ridiculously easy after her." When I joked, "Unless the next one is the same way!" my mom pointed out that, even then, we'll have experience with a high needs baby and know exactly what to do.
Thankfully, she's regulating herself into a bit of a routine, so life is easier now than it was in the first month. Naptime is basically non-existent--she catnaps unless she's being held. Even then, she doesn't usually sleep all that long. My mom got her to sleep for an hour and a half in her cradle yesterday but "it took some doing, and some tears". She was relieved to know that it wasn't just her having trouble getting a nap out of Baby Girl. I confessed that Baby Girl sleeps with us most nights (a little nervous, since my mom had a younger brother who died of SIDS and I worried she'd freak out about the slightly increased risk--which apparently is only risky if the parents are smokers and/or abuse alcohol and drugs, none of which we do, obviously). My mom nodded, saying, "Yeah, that's what we had to do with your brother, too." But nights are easy that way. She tends to sleep a ten hour night and, unless she's going through a growth spurt (like right now) she only wakes up once in that time to eat. I actually have to poke her awake sometimes because my boobs are full and I really need to feed something.
Breastfeeding also finally turned from something that was wonderful but still a bit fragile into an easy thing. Thanks, in part, to the pump I not only produced enough for her but also a bit extra to store in the freezer for my return to work. I had 8 bags of 3-5 ounces stashed in the freezer, two fresh in the fridge for my first day of work, and 2 bags of 1 ounce (in case she needs more after a meal, or to tide her over until I get home at the end of a work day). Considering how long it took to get my milk supply up, I'm incredibly proud of that. It was a little overshadowed when my friend said that she had over 20 bags in her freezer, despite how much her son eats (he's gained 8 pounds in 3 months!), but this is also her second baby and she said it was so, so much easier for her this time around.
My new work routine is this: wake up at 6:30 and get ready for work. Sometimes Baby Girl wakes up then, and sometimes not. Regardless, I make sure she wakes up so that I can feed her. Most mornings she goes right back to sleep and I have her snuggle up with Shane, who will hand her off to my mom when he needs to leave. At work, I pump twice during the day, on my breaks. That's been enough so far, with feeding her before I leave and then again as soon as I get home. I haven't been able to pump in the evenings so far (not only is she growing, but I think she's missed me during the day and wants to be close to me) but on weekends I'll continue to fit in a pumping session or two and continue adding to my stockpile. Since breastmilk loses a little of its nutrients in the freezer, what I've pumped on Fridays will stay fresh in the fridge for Monday's workday feedings.
My pumping area at work is a space that's mostly used as a supply closet. I brought in a sheet to cover the doorway and made a sign, brought one of the extra chairs in, and voila! There is a dedicated lactation room on campus, but I'd have to go to another building and it would be a pain in the ass. So I talked to my coworkers and everyone agreed that this will work well. Since I'm just pumping on my breaks, this is close enough that I'm not going too far over my 15 minutes (and I think I'm the only one in the office who watches the clock anyway). It's a bit dim, but I can relax back there, oddly, and I generally end up standing, which I find more relaxing than sitting. The only awkward part is having to carry the milk through the public part of the library back to my office (and the fridge) but I'm as discreet as possible so I don't think anyone else notices. My coworkers are all cool about the breastmilk in the fridge too. I may be biased, but I think it helps that it's an office of exclusively women.
Finally, I'm trying to lose some weight and get back in shape. I was worried at first that it would affect my milk supply if I cut calories, but things are going so well that it should be fine. Especially since I'm not doing anything extreme. Three days a week I'm going for a short run (20-30 minutes) with the dog (who has calmed down a lot, but still gets jealous of the baby and I want my old lady dog to know I still love her!). Another 2 days per week I'm trying to do some yoga or other exercises in the house. It's helpful that Baby Girl enjoys sitting in her bouncy seat watching us exercise. She kicks and smiles and I coo at her as I'm getting into downward dog or whatever. It's great, and relaxing which is exactly what I need.
I'm very conflicted about my postpartum figure. On the one hand, I am awesome! I made a human being! If I have a few stretch marks, a shiny new scar, and some loose skin around my tummy, that is a small price to pay for the amazing little person I birthed. On the other hand, I do want to be healthy so exercise and a good weight are important. Not only that, but my husband is important as well, and what he thinks of me. I sent him a link about what new dads should know about new moms, and the appearance aspects of it really resonate with me. He didn't seem to get it. I was getting dressed for my run last night and he poked my belly, laughing a bit. I said, "Thanks, because I really don't feel ugly enough." He answered, "Well, you're doing something about it." I don't think he realized quite how hurtful his words were. This wasn't exactly the "you're still beautiful" I was hoping for. But, I know he meant it as, "you're unhappy now but you're doing something about it and that's awesome and I want to support you no matter what!" But it didn't sound that way. This is one of the problems of an English major marrying a non-English major. I can pick out all of the nuances in language, which Shane doesn't think are that important. So where I hear "yeah, you're pretty unattractive after having our kid and I'm looking forward to you getting into better shape again", he doesn't mean it that way. And I know it, but the phrasing still hurts because, in my head, what I hear isn't his intent.
When I mentioned last week that I was going to get serious about losing some weight now (and I don't just mean the few pounds leftover from being pregnant and from my enforced inactivity during the cold weather, but back down to the weight I was at just after high school, so another 8-ish pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight) Shane asked, "So, how can I support you in this without sounding like a dick?" I told him honestly that I didn't know, I just thought it was important to tell someone else so that I was held accountable. But he's back into an exercise routine as well, now that the holidays are over and my brothers (who visited for a little over a week) are gone. We've been making sure to stock the house with healthy snacks. My "treat" the past few days has been these "German chocolate energy bites", which taste decadent but are really good for you. I've been eating a lot of oats, making overnight oatmeal as a snack (oats are a galactogogue, so they support breastfeeding--important as I start pumping more, since that can decrease supply--AND they're high in iron, which will help me get out of the anemic range quickly) and I made baked oatmeal (with wild cranberries that I picked last summer) for breakfast for the week. I've also been making sure that I get some nuts (usually walnuts but sometimes almonds) every day, and I'm trying to drink one glass of organic whole milk every day. This weekend I'll probably try to make some boiled eggs to have as another snack, since I've noticed that my milk supply is higher when I've been eating a lot of protein. Plus, eggs are delicious, help with building muscle (important as I start exercising regularly again) and they're overall a really healthy food.
As far as how I'm planning to lose weight, I do terribly with diets. Just really awful. For one thing, most of them advocate cutting out at least some of the foods that I love and I can't do that. And I hate counting calories or weighing my food to make sure my portions are all correct, etc. We eat a really healthful diet, but most of the time I eat in such a way that it maintains my weight. So to lose weight, I'm simply going to bed a teensy bit hungry. Not starving, not really truly hungry, but just a bit peckish. Feeling like I could have another small snack and just not having it. I don't feel deprived this way and I'm still getting enough calories to (hopefully) keep my breastmilk supply up. (I'll reassess as time goes on and I've been at work for more than a week.)
I really didn't intend to make most of this post about baby-related stuff, but it's hard not to when most of my thoughts each day revolve around Baby Girl and what's best for her. So,

Thursday, January 9, 2014

2014 is

The holidays are over, finally. I say it that way, but I love the holidays. Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, and ringing in the New Year does, of course, lend itself to thoughts of what I want in the upcoming year. 2013 was pretty damn fabulous, and 2014 is going to have to work hard to beat it.
Unfortunately, we started with more of a bang than anyone wants. On January 2nd, my dad had a heart attack. A big one, according to my mom (and his doctors). He's alive and recovering, but it's been scary for us all. Every time I talk to my mom she still sounds shaken by how close she came to losing him. My dad sounds a bit sheepish, like he's ashamed of scaring us all so much. He's young, still in his early 60s, and he apparently had a treadmill test in September that looked good so no one's quite sure where the blockages came from.
They told me not to come home, but it's frustrating to be so far away. The first time I got to talk to my mom (the initial contact was with my brother) I asked how my dad was doing and she said, "Oh, well, we can talk about that later." NO, WE FUCKING CAN'T. (I did not say it that way to her.) But she put my dad on the phone, and that was a bit reassuring. They both keep trying to ask me how I'm doing, as if that matters right now. So when they do I've been cheering them up with stories of their granddaughter.
So, that's what's going on with me right now. Pardon me if I don't write much. Between the baby, the concerns with home, and an upcoming visit from two of my brothers, my life is a bit chaotic right now. I don't even know what to write about. In comparison to all of the family stuff, being excited about my consignment shop sales (so I only had to pay $4 for a pair of jeans there, jeans that actually fit my post-pregnancy, post C-section self) seems pretty lame.
Baby Girl grew out of the newborn size of clothing over the holidays so I washed them all and put away the ones we want to keep and took the ones we didn't like (pink freaking cheetah print) to a children's consignment shop. While I was there I bought a (used) bouncy seat so that we can get small breaks. It worked. She took a long nap in the seat after I got it home, and I was able to use two hands when making my breakfast today. Of course, I then had to nurse her as soon as breakfast was actually made, so I ate cold oatmeal a while later. :)
In other positive news, breastfeeding is going much better. I used the pump a lot over the holidays, both to try to build up my supply and to have some milk on hand so that Shane and I could have some baby-free time. We actually got to go on a date to see "The Hobbit"! It was lovely. We dressed up a little bit, went out to dinner, then went back to the house for a short while since the deli we wanted to eat at (Jersey Subs--go there, it's amazing) closed early and the movie didn't start until almost 10:00. So when we left for the movie Shane said, "Um, I'm pretty sure my shirt has a pee spot on it." (We discovered just before we left that she was leaking out of her diaper--the cloth insert got moved around a bit and she, apparently, peed a ton in the 45 minutes since we'd last changed her.) I said, "That's ok. She spat up on my shoulder after I fed her and I forgot to change my shirt too." Ah, parenthood.
I've been driving Shane crazy by doing exactly what I said I didn't want to, which is second-guessing him when he's with the baby. I finally had to explain the other night that when she's not in my arms it's like I have phantom limb pain. Part of my brain is constantly freaking out and it doesn't feel right until I'm holding her again. Even when I'm happy that I've put her down, because now I can get shit done, I check on her every minute or two because having her so far away from me (even if it's just a couple of feet, or if she's with someone else) doesn't feel right. I have to work very hard to restrain that instinct. But I'm working on it. I took the dog out for a jog the other night, my first one since just before I found out I was pregnant last March. It sucked. My legs are so out of shape, and I was getting over a (24 hour) cold so my lungs weren't in the best shape. It was cold, and I didn't wear anything over my face, which was just stupid. But, it was glorious too. My iPod died at Thanksgiving so I didn't have any music, just the crunch of my feet in the ice and snow reminding me that every step is one that I couldn't have made just 7 weeks ago. I'm going for another run tonight.

So, what am I looking forward to about 2014? I'm not even sure, other than a general excitement about seeing Baby's development, and getting closer to my husband, spending time with family and friends.
Because the darkest part of the year is finished, I'm once again looking forward to gardening. I won't be pregnant this year, so I have no excuses to neglect my garden and while I'm certain I won't fulfill all of my grand plans, it will still be a garden. I will grow food for my family and it will be glorious.