Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mommy's Little Helper

Sam is allowed quite a bit of free play time. I realize not every parent is comfortable with their 13 month-old child wandering about the house doing her own thing but our house is largely childproofed and we don't have the radio or television on during the day so even if I cannot see what she is doing I can hear what she is doing. I don't mean to sound as if I am neglecting her. She is very good at entertaining herself and does so while I am cooking, washing dishes, or as in this case, prepping for her bath.

The only "toys" in Sam's room are books and stuffed animals. I want her to associate her room with sleeping so her play area is downstairs. Thus when we are upstairs she finds some interesting ways to entertain herself. Lately Sam has been having a great time in our room, opening and closing our dresser drawers. She takes clothing out of my dresser, puts it in one of J's drawers, and closes it. Sometimes she puts my clothing back, sometimes not. Sometime
s she will come running into the bathroom with an armful of my clothing and start playing with it in there. I have no idea what she finds so fascinating about clothing but since she first gained control over her hands she has been grabbing clothes.

I left her in her room tonight, playing in the bottom drawer of her own dresser, to get the bathroom ready for her bath. Her bottom drawer holds extra baby blankets. She takes the blankets out, one by one, and then puts them all back, one by one. I go about my business, cleaning the tub, etc, and realize it has been a few minutes since I have heard or seen her. Usually she follows me in to the bathroom when she hears the water running so she can play with the water pouring out of the faucet. Not so tonight. I walk into her room and discover this:

These are clothes that I removed from her dresser weeks ago for being too small but have yet to put away. They've been sitting, neatly folded, in the laundry basket in a corner of her room.

She emptied the entire basket of too-small clothes into her blanket drawer, and clapped when she was finished. Sam then turned serious and told me a story that I am guessing translates into something like, "I put the clothes away, Mommy! That basket of clothes has been there forever so I put them away!"

I took Sam for her bath then, and when we returned I shoved all of those too-small clothes into her blanket drawer, and closed it.

My heart swells with love for this amazing child.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Mommy Test

I like to think I am a pretty good mom. Sure, I could be better but there is room for improvement in all aspects of life. One of my greatest strengths as a mom is accepting who my daughter is and allowing her as much freedom as I deem safe. Sometimes this attitude works out better than other times. Sometimes I get tested as a mommy and pass, and sometimes I get tested and fail. Tonight I failed.

Bathtime is a little different in our house. Sam quickly outgrew the infant tub so I started bringing her into the shower with me, until she got too squirmy to safely handle. Squirmy and soapy is a bad combination. By this point we had moved to our new home in NJ with a deep double kitchen sink. I started bathing her in the sink, which worked out well until Sam became fascinated with the shiny faucet. She started turning the water on, and pulling the spout into her half of the sink. Since I always put her in the left side (the dish drain being on the right side) it was only a matter of time before she scalded herself with the hot water. Now what? Sam was sitting up well but still fell over a lot so bathing her in the bathtub was painful on my back and I always ended up soaked so I started getting in the tub with her, and this is the system we stuck with. She sits in between my outstretched legs and we have a nice, relaxing time at the end of each day playing in the water.

At the conclusion of the bath, I wrap Sam in a towel and place her in the bouncy seat while I dry off and get dressed. Lately she has gotten impatient and has been climbing out of the seat to run around naked, squealing with excitement as she goes. She runs to the door and opens it up so she can run around the hallway, overjoyed in her naked glory. When J is home I call him up the stairs and they play their little game through the railing. He stands on the stairs and she runs up to grab his nose, then runs off squealing and giggling.

Is there anything as simple and joyful as a naked baby? Wet hair all a mess, completely secure in her life and our love, Sam runs around giggling in these few minutes of freedom from clothing and diaper. J & I giggle ourselves as she is just so darn cute! How could one not share in her joy?

It's all fun and games until she pees on the floor is what I think. J is convinced she is going to poop on the floor, which I of course will have the honor of cleaning up since it is I who allow this behavior. Since she pees without warning I am still convinced the floors will first be christened with urine, and I'm not wrong. Tonight, as I was lotioning my face I hear her fall and turn to see she has peed on the bathroom floor and then slipped in her own pee. I've already cleaned up the bathroom from the bath so the shower curtain is drawn and the tub mat picked up. I scoop her up (not holding her close - I'm in fresh clothes and Sam is partially covered in pee, after all) and push the curtain in to plop her in the tub. I start the water to clean her off, still not having drawn back the shower curtain, and she starts to cry. Not just her whimpery, things-not-going-her-way cry but a real, upset/hurt cry.

Crap. I start damage control, apologizing and telling her she is a good girl. I wrap her in a towel and throw a used towel on the floor to mop up the puddle of pee, all the while she is still crying.

Somewhere I messed up. Was it the shower curtain, the fact that I wouldn't hold her close, the putting her back in the tub when she was sure milk was soon to be offered? Or was it my failure to reassure her after she peed on the floor, or just a delayed reaction to the fall compounded with lack of cuddles post-fall?

I try very hard to encourage and support Sam in all that she does, bodily functions included. The world is a tough place and insecurities abound but it is my job as her mommy to make sure she doesn't learn those insecurities at home. It is my aim as mommy to build in my daughter a self-confidence and strength that will carry her through those tough times ahead when I can't be with her, cheering her on. Sam is strength, intelligence and beauty and I will do my best to make sure she never doubts these things in herself. This confidence-building starts at birth. I've never said a negative word during a diaper change, instead congratulating her on how well she has filled it. I don't complain when it leaks and I have to change her clothes and bedding at 3 am - I apologize to her instead. An active system is a sign of a healthy body, after all, and healthy and happy is the goal.

Tonight, somewhere in my reaction to Sam peeing on the floor I failed her. Next time I will do better. Next time I will know what not to do, and will try a different tactic. In retrospect I should have thrown the used towel on the puddle first, as my concern was having to rebathe her completely when we had just gotten out of the tub, hence my removing her from the puddle area so quickly. Mopping up and reassuring her all is well before the washing would at least not give Sam any idea that what she did was wrong.

Some would dismiss this incident, saying we all make mistakes, she won't remember it tomorrow or some other platitude. I disagree. It is the little moments that color the big moments. Just like a large painting is made up of dozens to hundreds of tiny brushstrokes so too are our lives. Put a small stroke of black where yellow belongs and the color of the image changes. Whether or not Sam remembers the details of today when she awakens tomorrow is uncertain and irrelevant. Too many black strokes in a field of yellow and it turns brown. Our child is a warm, sunny baby. I'd like her to stay that way.

I failed tonight's test, but perhaps I passed it in a bigger way. Perhaps tonight's incident wasn't so much a test as a quiz, and in failing this quiz I learned enough to pass the real test, to be given at some later date. Like everything else in life it is all supposition. I did learn from tonight's incident, be it test or quiz, and perhaps that is what is really important. I guess we'll find out the next time she pees on the floor.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ten Months and A Birth Story

This time last year I was counting the weeks until Sam was due, waiting, waiting for her arrival. Now I am trying to plan her first birthday party. I can't decide what to do for it, as the yard isn't ready for entertainment, the deck is lacking furniture, the house itself doesn't have enough seating for everyone in one room, and Sam gets rather overwhelmed when there are too many people about. She is used to it just being the three of us, with others visiting a few at a time. I alternate between wondering what to do about her party and thinking about how much she has grown - how much we have all grown - in the course of ten short months. Which then leads me back to thinking about her birthing day, and the birth story I have yet to write.

I have a block, to be sure. Sam's birth is not what I wanted it to be. It didn't go as I had planned or hoped or ever expected. To this day I cry when I think about her birth.

Every year, on the day before my husband's birthday he receives a call from his mom telling him she has gone into labor. He is her firstborn, the one who led the way, the baby who taught my mother-in-law how to be a mom. I love that she calls him on his birthday eve to tell him she has gone into labor. It is a way of sharing with him a grand event that they starred in together yet only she remembers. It is a tradition I wanted to continue with my child, as well as retelling her birth story every birthday, sharing the love and joy that I was sure the day would be filled with.

Instead, I have a story I don't know how to tell. I don't know where to start, what to say.

Being a Goddess woman I knew I would not become pregnant until the time was right, until I was ready. Two months after getting married to the man of my dreams (truly) I became pregnant. We had talked about "trying" for a baby the following year but Goddess had a different schedule. On my friend Jen's suggestion we took a HypnoBirthing class. It is a method of self-hypnosis for labor and delivery to have a pain-free natural birth. I also chose a hospital with a birthing tub, and an excellent team of midwives to assist me in this journey. The tub and the midwives were suggestions my own mom had made years ago. We took the birthing class offered by the hospital as well, to better educate ourselves on this journey.

As first children are generally late and my due-dates were March 31, April 1 and April 3 (depending on who was spinning the little Wheel of Gestation) I decided our child would be born on April 7 or 8 - the full moon. I even entered this date on my calendar. As the day grew nearer and I grew larger and more uncomfortable, I decided that I didn't want to wait until April 7 and wouldn't the equinox make a great birthday? March 21 it was!

My bag was packed, the pack and play bassinet was set up, her room was ready. Every night I went to bed wondering if this was it, and every morning I woke up disappointed. March 21 came and went, as did March 31, April 1, and April 3. On April 8 I awoke still pregnant and went to my midwife appointment, where I was told to get a post-date sonogram to see how the baby was. The heartbeat was still good but I wasn't contracting. At all. April 13 found us in Radiology getting a sonogram, where we were told the baby was measuring to weigh about nine pounds, ten ounces. Excuse me, what was that again? 9, 10? The sonogram tech assured us that there was a one-pound variable. Oh, so she could weigh 8, 10 or 10, 10? I started freaking out. The smallest this baby could be was almost nine pounds?

April 15 I am back at the midwives' and am told that variable aside, they are pretty sure Baby Girl is 9, 10 and growing. Sure, I had gained about 38 pounds and was almost all baby (and some legs to hold up that big belly) but somehow that didn't translate, in my head, to a large baby. More importantly to the midwives, I am now at 42 weeks and they are getting concerned. It is the age of the placenta, you see. It has an expiration date. An old placenta doesn't work properly. It doesn't make enough fluid, it doesn't clean the fluid properly, it will eventually fail to support the life of the fetus, the very life it was created to sustain. The midwives ask me to check into the hospital the next evening, to be induced. I resist. This isn't the birth I want, you see. Induction is not natural. It isn't the wake in the middle of the night in labor take a bath to ease the surges wait until the surges are a few minutes apart and then drive the mile to the hospital where I get into a tub and effortlessly breath the baby down the birthing canal into the waiting hands of a caring midwife birth that I had dreamed of. Induction isn't any of those things.

I ask for an internal, to see how things are. Rachel is my attending midwife this day, and she has the tiniest little hands (to go with her tiny little body). Dilation is measured by fingers of course, with each finger being a centimeter. Never mind we all have different sized fingers. With Rachel's tiny hands I am barely a centimeter dilated, and not at all effaced. This is not good. She checks with the other midwives and reports back that they are willing to give me an extra day, I can wait until Friday to be induced. I want to think about it, talk it over with J, do anything I can to get this baby born on her own.

I start walking more. We walked almost a mile to Denny's that night for dinner. The next night we walked to a fish place for clams. I got evening primrose oil pills. I think there were other things, I can no longer remember. I was in a panic and trying anything I could to get labor started at home. Nothing worked. I gave up and agreed to the induction, for the safety and well-being of our baby. I didn't want to wait until her life was in peril and then be forced into having a c-section.

Friday night, April 17 J & I checked into the hospital with the understanding that we weren't going home until we were a family of three. We were nervous but hopeful. I had opted for the Miso- method in which I took some pills and was hooked up to the fetal monitor for 90 minutes, and then was free for another 90 minutes until the next treatment. During the free periods we went for walks around the hospital grounds, enjoying the warm weather and each other's company. I had three treatments that night, and was contracting mildly. We went to bed, still contracting. I was confident this was the kick-start that was needed, and things would progress on their own from here on.

Saturday morning I woke up and got another pelvic exam. I was now a good centimeter dilated. Not quite the good news I was hoping for. The midwife on duty, Nina, wanted to put in a foley bulb to dilate my cervix more. It was uncomfortable but I was still mobile, and she was hoping this would help my body do its thing. By late afternoon the foley bulb had done its job and I was 3 centimeters dilated. Nina was happy with the progress, I was disappointed. Meanwhile the contractions had subsided. Our next move was Pitocin. I didn't want it. We had learned about Pitocin in birthing class and I didn't want any part of it. But I gave in as there weren't any other options and I was still aiming for a tub birth. Three hours of Pitocin that night, from 7 until 10. Pitocin requires an IV and constant fetal monitoring. Every time I had to use the bathroom (and being so enormously pregnant that was every half hour, if I held it) I had to buzz the nurses' station to tell them, as I had to take off the monitor. Nina wanted me to have a good night's sleep so she talked the OB on duty into letting me off the Pit for the night, with the agreement I would be back on it at 8am the next day.

Sunday, April 19 finds me in a foul mood. I am tired, I am uncomfortable, I miss my home and my bed and my kitties and I don't want to be here anymore. We've been here for 2 days and I am still not in labor and I just want to go home. I changed my mind, I want to wait until Baby Girl shows up on her own. As fate would have it, one of the nurses on staff that day was Luanne, our birthing class instructor. She listened to me complain and talked me out of leaving. I got to sleep for another two hours before restarting the Pitocin, and Luanne dealt with the OB for me. The midwives are Certified Nurse Midwives, essentially RNs with extra schooling in Midwifery, but they still work with and report to an OB as the OB is the one with the medical license.

We are told that on April 19 the previous year one of the midwives had given birth in our room, Birthing Center room 7. The room next to the tub room. Room 7 has a double shower, which we chose as showers can be helpful for contraction pain before one is far enough along to get into the tub. This is a lucky day, then.

Sitting in bed hooked up to an IV and monitors gets old fast. I am so large that once I get up out of bed the monitor slips and we lose the fetal heartbeat. So all I do is sit. Sit and wait. We listen to Baby Girl's heartbeat. 155 and steady. Boom boom boom boom. I can still hear it in my memory. Boom boom boom boom. Steady and strong. In the evening J goes home to feed the cats, as he has done every day. I walk around the room a little, holding the monitor in place. I start doing hip swirls, like I learned in the two bellydancing classes I went to years earlier. And I feel a little pop, followed by liquid pouring down my leg. I had just used the bathroom so I was pretty sure this wasn't loss of bladder control, and call for a nurse. Tanya comes in, takes a look at the puddle (small but clear) and calls the midwife on duty. Today's midwife is Vanessa, one of my favorite midwives. I am typing a text to J when Vanessa shows up so Tanya finishes it for me, and I get evaluated on whether that was in fact my water breaking. A tear, they decided, hence the small puddle. They have a three-test system which I eventually pass and then the contractions start for real. By now J is back and has called our moms to share the water-breaking news.

I try the birthing ball now to relieve the pain but the monitor won't stay on and I need to hear that heartbeat. The pain is almost unbearable now and I am crying. I tell Tanya that whenever it is appropriate I would like the epidural. J is concerned, this wasn't part of our birth plan. Our birth plan included a request that pain medication not be offered, that the word pain not even be used, and a hundred other requests that didn't pan out either. I know he is thinking I am giving up but the pain is too much. I am sobbing now with every contraction, barely able to breathe, trying not to scream. It is back labor, you see. The baby is so big she is on her side instead of posterior, and she is pressing against my spine with every contraction. Tanya tells me of another option, a short-term pain medication that won't prevent me from using the tub. I agree, and she gets the order from Vanessa. The med hits and I am good. Floating good. Is this stuff a street drug, I wonder? It is wonderful! Forty minutes later my haze has worn off and the pain is back. Vanessa is also back and tells J to press against my lower back with each contraction, to help alleviate the pain. I have to wait another twenty minutes for the next dose of pain med. This is too much for me to handle, I ask for the epidural. It will take a half-hour for that to get set up so in the meantime I get another dose of the med. This dose lasts 30 minutes.

I get up to use the bathroom for possibly the last time before getting the epidural and the IV pops off. IV fluid is spraying everywhere. This is the second time it has popped off this day. Tanya tries to fix it and realizes it is faulty. I need a new IV. The epidural is delayed so I get another dose of the other med, which lasts only 20 minutes this time. The nursing shift is changing and Kim is now on duty. She gives me a new IV and I wait for the anesthesiologist to show. J is pressing into my lower back with all of his might as each contraction hits. I am a sobbing mess, trying to deal with this pain, waiting for the hour to be up so I can get the epidural, doing my best to breath through all of this.

The hour is up and the anesthesiologist is here. I have to sit up on the side of the bed so he can insert the epidural. The contractions keep coming but with the promise of anesthesia I deal with it. The epidural is in and the medicine is dripped down into my back. It feels icy cool and I can finally relax. I lay on my right side as instructed and I see Kim running for the wall, to the oxygen mask. I look at Vanessa and she is watching the monitor, as she has been for the past hour and she looks worried. Kim puts the O2 mask on me and I continue watching Vanessa, who then relaxes. I find out the baby's heartbeat, so strong and steady for 3 days, dropped when the medicine hit. I had thought to question the O2 mask before it was put on but my trust in these women is absolute and this baby's well-being is the only thing I care about.

The epidural is only running down one leg so the anesthesiologist pulls it out and takes a look. It is faulty, only has a hole on one side. He puts in a new one and I get another pelvic exam. An internal fetal monitor is put in. I don't remember where I was at this point - 6 centimeters? Something like that.

It is now about 1 am and everything is finally taken care of for the night. The anesthesiologist has packed up his stuff and gone, I have been cleaned up, the room is being tidied and J's parents arrive. They drove from Mt Laurel, NJ to Holyoke, MA when they learned my water had broke, expecting it wouldn't be long now. I hadn't wanted them there yet but when MaF stood by my bed, holding my hand I was so glad for her presence. They left to find a hotel, and we turned off the lights to get some sleep. Nurse Kim stayed in our room for hours, writing up her notes of the night and keeping an eye on me. At 3 am she put in a catheter, as for the first time in my life I couldn't pee due to the anesthesia. I declared there would be no more visitors, now that I had a bag of pee hanging off the side of the bed.

Sleeping was challenging with either one leg or the other being completely leaden and daylight eventually came. The day progressed in a haze, with another dose of anesthesia being administered by a new anesthesiologist. This man was the first medical personnel that didn't seem to have an easy-going rapport with the others. I asked the afternoon/evening nurse (Lisa) about him, as she was the only one who seemed at ease around him. I forget her answer except that she liked him, he was just a little reserved. I tried to get a third dose of anesthesia that day but was finally at nine centimeters and Dr Tim refused, as he was concerned I would have trouble pushing.

It was around 5pm when at long last I achieved ten centimeters, and the baby was in a plus 3 position. I asked J to bring me a soapy washcloth and my toothbrush so I could clean up a bit. I brushed my hair too, and redid my ponytail. It had been 35 hours since I had showered but I wanted to be as clean as possible when we finally met our daughter.

Rachel and Lisa came in to assist me in delivering, and I started my HypnoBirthing breathing. Nothing happened. I was instructed to push, which I first argued against and then gave in. Nothing happened. They brought in a bar for me to brace against, I tried numerous different positions, nothing happened. After an hour and a half no progress had been made. Try as I might she wasn't coming out.

Rachel calmly told me that it was time for a c-section. I freaked. She retells it as me calmly saying I wanted to keep trying. In reality I started hysterically crying. I had agreed to the induction, I had spent three days undergoing all sorts of different types of medical interventions to avoid this very thing and it was all for nothing. I gave up my home labor, my tub birth, and all but two of my wishes on my birth plan and in the end I was getting the most medically invasive procedure? I was inconsolable. I begged for another option. What about the suction thing? Can't we try that? If the head can't make it through on its own the shoulders can't either, and she'll end up with shoulder dysplasia. We tried for another half hour, to no end. I agreed to the section, and the OB was called. J called my parents to give them the update, and went out to speak with his own parents, who had spent the day in the waiting room. I gave up one of the two things from our birth plan that I had been able to hold onto - my own clothes - and was put in a johnny. J was given scrubs and Dr. Tim was back. I was wheeled down the hall to the OR, passing J's parents as they watched me go, and I started crying again. Our hospital has an OR in the Birthing Center so we were still in the same area. I was prepped - strapped to the table, covered in a sheet with a hole in the middle, and pumped full of drugs. J was called in to be with me. Dr. Tim talked me through the entire operation, telling me what I should feel, or could feel, and what was going on.

I felt the incision, and a lot of tugging. And then I heard crying, which lasted only a few moments. And "Look at that hair!" "And those eyelashes!" Then she was out completely, and brought to the warming table. She was crying something fierce! J was talking to me, stroking my head but all I could hear was our baby screaming. So I told him to go talk to her, she knows his voice. Which he did, and she quieted right down. Every night when we were in bed, J would lay his head by my belly and tell Baby Girl about his day. She would be moving and dancing, and wiggling all over the place until she heard his voice, and then she would lay still. Just like she did in the OR that night.

They were putting me back together when I got feeling in my abdomen back. So J was banished from the room and I was knocked out medically. Next thing I know I am getting wheeled back into my room, which I no longer recognize, and I discover the baby is laying next to me. I am in pain and it is overwhelming. I get a shot of something and it feels like nothing. I beg for more but am told they have to wait 5 minutes between doses. It is the same pain killer I received when the back labor started but this time it does nothing. I spend the next four minutes begging for more pain killer, and then get another shot. I continue to beg for pain killers for the next 10 minutes until finally I get relief. During this time I cannot deal with our child, someone else has her, I don't even know who. I cannot even think of anything other than the pain until the medicine finally takes hold and I can begin to relax again.

Now I want our baby, I want to hold her and look at her. She has a mop of black hair over a scrunched up red face, and she looks oh-so-unhappy. I open my johnny to nurse her and she latches on immediately. She is a strong little girl, she even lifts up her head for a moment, showing neck strength I didn't know was possible for a brand-new baby. I have heard of counting fingers and toes but she is swaddled in several blankets and I am sure the nurses have already counted such things so I leave her be and just hold her as she nurses, so glad she is finally here.

I learned the next day, when the Dr. Jones (the OB) came to check on me that Sam was kind of stuck. Her head was wedged in my pelvis and once Dr. Jones finally got that free she had to really tug to get Sam's shoulders out. Sam was born 9, 13 and 23 inches. Physically too big for my body to deliver. She was lying on her side in utero because she couldn't fit in my body posteriorly. Dr. Jones informed me it was impossible for me to deliver Sam, and that had she been posterior the head would have come through but the shoulders wouldn't have made it. Shoulder dysplasia. I have since looked up this term and learned that while we both would have lived, my pelvis would have likely been broken to get Sam out, who would have suffered some serious physical trauma as well. Having a cesarean section seems pretty mild in comparison.

This is our story. Not the story I wanted, but the story we got. It could have been worse, it could have been a thousand times worse. Our story has a happy ending, the best ending anyone could hope for: a healthy mom and baby. I remember saying that after everything that happened Monday, April 20, 2009 was still the best day of my life. And here we are, over ten months later, still happy and healthy and doing well. Sam is walking now, getting into everything, and is eating finger foods. She is smart and clever and very, very strong. When I think of how far we have come in ten short months I am overwhelmed with love and admiration for this little girl who has taken over our lives. And I couldn't be happier.

Friday, February 12, 2010

It's a Beautiful Day

Yesterday I put wall art up in Sam's room, finally. We've lived here almost five months! I should explain that I'm rather lazy about such room details; I'll arrange furniture, paint walls & decorate surfaces but generally the walls & windows remain naked. The nursery is the only room I have put forth the effort to truly decorate as I feel it is important to have a beautiful, peaceful setting for our little one to grow & thrive. I also straighten her room throughout the day so it will be neat whenever she naps. A tidy room allows the energy to flow better, which aids in good sleep.

We are in her room right now, for her late morning milk snack which preludes a nap of sorts, generally in my arms. Sitting here in the corner glider, rocking her as she drinks, I'm admiring her room. The sun is pouring in under the partially lowered shades, extra sparkly
from all the snow we've had this week. The few items I put up on the walls - framed photos, memory board, fairy print - add such a level of visual warmth that the beauty & peace of this moment is washing over me, filling the room.

The world is a chaotic place, full of suffering and hardships: wars are being fought, earthquakes are rumbling the ground, nations are arguing over developing nuclear weapons, battles are being waged over property, money, power. But inside this little house, in this little room, babe in my arms & at my breast I can't help but feel Life is Beautiful.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fleeting Moments of Infancy

Monday marked the beginning of Sam's eleventh week of life. I am having a tough time accepting that she is already eleven weeks old, and at the same time cannot believe that she has only been in this world for such a short period of time. How did I live before her birth? I love her so much I cannot conceive of a world without her although I remember the world before.

At eight weeks she was able to hold her head and chest up, when placed on her tummy. When the pediatrician put her on her belly and she pushed herself up, her dad and I almost started clapping. Actually, I think we did clap, or perhaps cheer.

At this point Sam desperately wants to move. She is no longer content to walk around the neighborhood in her stroller, insisting instead on the Baby Bjorn carrier, facing outward. This is also how I shop these days, which is an interesting way to navigate store aisles as I try not to whack her arms and legs against anything. She gets bored with spending the day in her room and seems to prefer outings that involve us walking around. Most importantly, she is trying to sit up. And stand. And crawl. All at the same time.

We do our best to help her develop these skills. She has been trying so hard to sit up that I thought she would enjoy a "success" and propped her up in the cavity of my Boppy nursing pillow. I bent her legs inward and placed her hands on her thighs, showing her how to hold herself up. Sam managed to keep this pose for a few seconds, and then slowly started leaning forward, as her arms muscles are not yet strong enough to prop up her body for long. I took pictures and shared them with our families and just about everyone thought she was sitting up on her own. She is good but she isn't that good!

When placed on her tummy, Sam makes the motions to crawl, and grunts with the exertion of her efforts to do so. She isn't strong enough to lift her entire body up, so hasn't yet made the big leap from laying there to crawling, mainly because her arm muscles are too weak. I exercise her legs constantly, making them very strong, but she enjoys sucking and chewing on her hands so much that I rarely have a chance to exercise those limbs for her. I discovered this muscular imbalance today and have begun to work on her arm muscles already. My baby wants to move and I will do what I can to help her achieve this goal.

Yet, as excited as I am at the prospect of Sam crawling, of her sitting up on her own, of standing up and eventually walking, I realize that with each new development she makes, she will be less dependent upon me. Right now I am her whole world. I am her source of food, I am her comfort, her home. She sleeps in my arms, totally at ease and confident in her safety. She clings to me as I carry her around the house, smiles with glee when she sees me. Sam loves her daddy, and has a lot of fun playing with him, but many times will transition from playful coos to crying if I leave the room. It is limiting, to be sure. It would be easier for me to get things done if she was happier about spending time with others while I am not in the room. Now I see that it is all part of the package. If she is happier spending time with other people that means she is no longer so dependent upon me. Her world will expand, will grow to encompass so much more than just Mommy. Am I ready for that?

I have really enjoyed her dependency. Every insecurity I have ever felt in my lifetime melts away when my sweet baby girl looks at me and lights up with a smile of pure happiness. She gurgles now, too, and chatters in a language of long sounds. We spend time every day talking - I tell her how much I love her and how beautiful and smart she is and how happy I am to be her mommy, and she tells me her stories, smiling and gurgling the whole time. She has brought new meaning to my life and I am so very grateful not just to be her mother but to be able to leave the working world for a little while so I can spend this time with her, the one time in her life when she is all mine.

As I watch her struggling to move I am excited to see her developing so well. She is a strong baby! Then I realize that her full-time dependency on me is coming to an end. Once she can move on her own it will be the beginning of her flight from mommy's arms. She will be off and running, getting into everything and exploring the world on her own. I will miss these days. I do my best to enjoy them, to soak up the joy and pleasure of this time in Sam's life. We take pictures, record videos, but is it enough? Can it ever be enough? Is it possible to savor this time well enough that it will carry me through?

I think this is the real truth to why people have more than once child. Babies are tough, just as pregnancy is tough. When I was pregnant and uncomfortable for months I wondered how and why people did that more than once. When we brought Sam home from the hospital and spent the next 4-6 weeks barely sleeping and hanging on by sheer will as she cried day and night, I wondered why anyone would want to have a baby once they knew how hard it was. What possessed them to revisit these days? Now I know. Or think I know. Subsequent children are a way of revisiting the early days of pure innocence and love. The days of wonder and awe. Once a child gets past that stage there is no going back to it, they only move forward. Having another baby is having another visit to the days of full dependency and all of the beauty that goes with it.

I don't obsess about Sam growing up and away from me. I am taking a rare moment right now to delve in these thoughts and feelings. I prefer to just enjoy the time while I have it, to revel in each new discovery Sam makes, to have as much fun every day as we can, and to tell her constantly how loved she is. With every diaper she fills and every ounce she gains I take pride in knowing I am doing a good job nursing her. With every motor skill she refines and advancement she makes I take pride in knowing we are doing a good job parenting. I am sure we make mistakes and will continue to make mistakes, but that is all part of the journey. The important thing is to have fun and continue to learn and grow. Enjoy the ride, it is shorter than we think.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The "C" Word

Colic. What a horrible word. It is a curse, a sentence of doom, to both child and parents. And a cop-out, in my opinion. Colic is the label applied to long bouts of unexplained crying. When your child is not hungry or wet, cold or hot, when you cannot find any way to soothe the babe's cries and yet still she cries. When this happens not once or twice but regularly, the doctors and grandmothers will all label your baby as 'colicky.'

I once had a car whose 'check engine' light went on one night and never went off. I took it to the mechanic more than once to discover the reason behind this light going on and was told repeatedly that they could not find anything wrong with the car. According to the mechanics there was 'no reason for the light to go on,' a declaration that annoyed me to no end. There might not have been anything mechanically wrong with my car but there was most definitely a reason for the light to go on - perhaps a short in the wire, a loose sensor, etc. There had to be a 'reason' for the light to go on as it did not magically go on by itself.

This is how I feel about colic. When a baby cries incessantly there is a reason for it. The baby is obviously uncomfortable. The cause of this discomfort may not be easily ascertained but it exists nonetheless. When it gets labeled as colic to me that is an indication of giving up on the investigation. Babies are unable to articulate their feelings, they do not yet have words to describe their emotions and states-of-being. All they have to communicate is their wordless voice. So they cry. Regardless of the cause, an uncomfortable baby will cry. In their first weeks this crying can be largely the same. Sam screamed if she was hungry, wet, cold, hot, gassy, etc. She had two states of being - comfortable and uncomfortable. The former was indicated by silence, the latter by crying.

As she has matured she has expanded her repertoire of emotions to include happy, bored, hungry, lonely, and several levels of discomfort relating to either tummy or diaper issues. When she was six weeks old we were at the doctor for her one-month check up (I failed to make the appointment in a timely manner) and we hadn't yet worked out all of her tummy issues. By that time I had discovered if I consumed gassy foods or dairy Sam would get gas, but there was still something I was missing. We still went through hours of crying at night and couldn't figure out what the problem was. I brought this up to the pediatrician and was told she was probably colicky. Excuse me? That was it? Colicky? This did not sit well with me.

The next week Sam and I were at the Midwives' office for my six-week post-partum check-up. The midwife asked me how we were doing and I described the issues we were still dealing with. She asked about the foods I was eating and I described last night's dinner -- spaghetti, with fresh cherries for dessert. Both foods are highly acidic, and Sam had been miserable. I started reviewing past nights and realized that I regularly ate acidic food. So I cut it all out. Now I am off gassy foods, dairy, acidic foods, and raw fruits and veggies (all being either gassy and/or acidic). The difference is remarkable. Sam is a new baby, happy and comfortable. We no longer suffer through hours of crying a night, every night. I am no longer crying every night, wondering what I am doing wrong and why my baby is so miserable. Eating is now challenging, to be sure, but it is worth it. I occasionally make a bad dietary choice, such as the night we had popcorn, but these nights are rare and the problematic foods are easily identified.

Had I accepted the doctor's - and my neighbor's - diagnosis of colic I would have resigned myself to my fate and given up looking for the cause. But I didn't. I knew there had to be some catalyst to Sam's crying and would not give up looking until I found it.

It wasn't a solitary journey by any means. We had input from friends, family and the midwife, all listening to our problems and giving suggestions. My husband was instrumental in discovering the source of the problem - gas versus acid reflux. My solution to Sam's crying was always to offer a breast to nurse her. It often worked, providing her with comfort even if she wasn't actually hungry. Without this magic tool J had to rely on his skills - observation and analysis. He could tell by her behavior if Sam had gas or some other problem, and then discovered what position brought her comfort when she was gassy. Together we solved the mystery to our baby's 'colic.'

Food isn't the answer to every baby's colic although it is probably a frequent factor. A newborn's digestive system takes several months to mature and become fully functional so a nursing mom's diet choices can have great affect on her baby. However, sometimes the answer isn't that simple. There could be a medical reason behind a baby's constant crying, a problem that could be missed if the parents accept the colic label and stop searching for the real cause. Telling parents that their child is colicky and the problem should work itself out by four months of age is a terrible answer to the colic problem. This response robs both the child and parents of months of potential happiness.

We used to spend our evenings pounding on Sam's back to relieve her gas or walking her around the house while she cried and cried and cried. Now our evenings are spent playing, as Sam is learning to reach and grab at objects. The music of our nights are coos and giggles instead of cries and sobs. Sam is a different baby now, a happy baby, and my limited diet is a small price to pay for this happiness.

I can't imagine coping with a colicky baby for months on end. I couldn't deal with it for a few weeks, and my desperation is what fueled my investigation. We were lucky to find the answer in food, for had we not I am not sure what our next step would have been. I do know there would have been further steps, though, for colic was not a diagnosis I was willing to accept. It is a non-diagnosis at best. Crying takes a great deal of effort and I refuse to believe that any baby will cry for no reason. There is always a reason. It may be physical pain or it may just be loneliness, but there is always a reason. There just has to be.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Our Crowded Bed

Somehow we ended up practicing attachment parenting. I'm not sure how it happened; it certainly wasn't in our plans. This was not a topic I delved into during my pre-birthing research but what little I knew about it didn't appeal to me. How would I get anything done if I held the baby 24/7? I definitely didn't want her sleeping with us - too dangerous. Babies die every year as a result of co-sleeping and it seemed like an all-around bad idea to me. I didn't want to raise a needy, clingy child who was afraid of letting go of my hand.

The reality of parenting is far different from what is presented in books. For one thing, newborns are unable to sit up on their own so unless you leave them in cribs, car seats, bouncy seats, etc, all day long you are holding them. Little Sam had a tough time adjusting to the harshness of life outside the womb, and was very fussy. To calm her we would hold her, rocking her, bouncing her, soothing her any way we could think of or was suggested. And once she was calm, it was natural to continue holding her, reveling in her sweetness, the wonder that is life, feeling the love flowing from our every pore for and to this tiny being. I was frequently nursing her through our own meals and thus we would put her down only for diaper changes and to sleep. Not that we were against putting her down in her bassinet at other times, but she objected to that rather loudly and we couldn't bear for her to be upset. Thus we end up holding her most of our waking hours.

The feeding-on-demand was easy and encouraged in the hospital. When you are breastfeeding and your baby is crying, it is the most natural thing in the world to offer her a meal and see if that is the balm to her discomfort. In addition to nourishing, breastfeeding is very comforting to babies. There were days and nights that she was otherwise unconsolable and I would nurse her for hours - she would erupt into screams if I removed her from my breast. I don't know if she was hungry and I wasn't producing enough or if she was just upset at life and found comfort in this act. Regardless of the reason, I fed her whenever she wanted me to and continue to do so. It can be difficult to schedule activities, or to leave the house, for that matter, but after a while I began to see her eatting pattern. As she gets older it is easier for her to wait a few minutes for a meal, allowing me time to leave a store and find a place to nurse her without her screaming hyserically until the meal is provided.

The co-sleeping took a little longer, and again happened accidentally. We had set up the pack & play in our bedroom, with the bassinet insert attached and ready for sleeping. It was right next to my side of the bed and with our platform bed the height worked out quite well -- the edge of the pack & play is the same height as our bed. I could sleep with one hand on her, so she could feel my nearness without the danger of her sharing our bed. The perfect set-up, or so I thought. To feed her in the night I just had to reach over, pick her up and feed her. We even had the changing table attachment set up so there was no need to leave the room to change her diaper.

Our second or third night home from the hospital found me dead tired during one of those late-night feedings, and I started nodding off. Fearing that I would fall alseep and drop her I laid down to feed her. And promptly fell asleep. When I woke up I put her back in her bassinet, but of course at that point it was time for her next feeding and so I picked her back up and laid down to feed her, again falling alseep. After that I couldn't get her to sleep on her own. Why would she? She spent the first nine and a half months of her existence sleeping next to me and now that she was born, no longer held, fed and kept warm automatically I was asking her to sleep alone, on top of all of the other adjustments she was forced to make. Our little girl has a strong mind and she wasn't having any part of that.

Fast-forward two months to the present day. Sam and I are always together. Always. I have left the house once in her lifetime without her, and that was for a trip to the supermarket. She was sleeping when I left so her daddy stayed home with her. While that trip was quite glorious in its freedom, I miss her terribly when we are apart. She often naps in her swing in the afternoon, which is set up in whichever room I am in, and will sleep for hours in it. I get a lot done during those naps but am always glad when she wakes up and I am holding her once again.

Her bouncy seat is another source of pleasure for her. It is a sling-type chair that vibrates and has an activity bar attachment that plays music and lights up when the dangling toys are moved. This occupies her for about 10 minutes, sometimes longer, and gives me the time to bathe and sometimes prepare dinner, two activities for which I need both hands.

I've done a little online research on the subject of attachment parenting and co-sleeping since Sam's birth and many people feel that the constant companionship and immediate addressing of a baby's needs makes for happier, more secure children. By never making your baby wait for comfort or pushing them to be independent before they are ready they grow up confident in your love and support, and are then free to explore the world without fear or insecurity. Perhaps that is true, perhaps not. I do feel that it can only be beneficial to a child to feel her parents' love and acceptance continually.

I don't hold my baby constantly or feed her when she says she is hungry for the future security some experts say it will provide. I do it because I want to. I hold her because she is the most precious gift I have ever been blessed with and I cherish her very existence. I feed her because she is hungry, no matter that she last ate a few minutes ago. Her body is still developing, her digestive system hasn't learned how to store food yet so she is frequently hungry. As for sleeping with her, it makes for a crowded bed, true, but I miss her when we are apart and don't wish to be parted for the night. I sleep better with her lying against me. I can hear and feel her breathing and it comforts me. I wake up when she is distressed and sleep when she is calm. She was a part of my body for nine and a half months and I am not ready to be separated from her. Not yet.

The day she leaves our bed is coming soon. Once she learns to roll over she will have to sleep in her own bed, for her own safety. We cannot put a rail on our platform bed so have no way of preventing her from rolling out of bed. It will be a tough transition, one I am not looking forward to. My husband would prefer to move her out of our bed sooner, for it is quite crowded with the three of us and the cat, but yields to my desire to keep her with us. In truth, I am paranoid for her safety and worry that she will stop breathing if I cannot hear/see/feel her doing so, and this paranoia fuels my conviction to keep her sleeping with us. I will have to get over it, as she will have to deal with sleeping by herself. It will be difficult for both of us, but necessary for our healthy development as mother and child.

I find my reluctance to remove her from our bed humorous when I recall my original stance on bed-sharing, just as I scoffed at people who spoke of attachment parenting. Thankfully I scoffed silently, to myself, for here I am now happily ignoring my own parenting plans. I've been wrong before, I just hate to admit it.