I want to thank everyone on their fabulous breastfeeding/pumping advice. You know that I want to email all of you and thank you personally, but I've got this window of time, and there's only so many things I can squeeze into the rapidly disappearing space before there's an unhappy kid on my hands. I so appreciate everyone's stories and thoughts. I love reading the varied experiences you've had. Right away I called up the health food stores and purchased some fenugreek and nettle tea. I've taken the fenugreek and now smell like the stinkiest of stinky cheese. Or something like that.
I'm feeling a little overwhelmed, this week before work truly starts again. Today, the tears spilled over, and I indulged in an good, old fashioned pity party. I find myself resenting the stupid necessity of work, and hating that I have to leave Thomas at all. Yet, I'm lucky, because I am working part time in both places, and it's not even close to working full time hours - but it leaves me feeling pulled in many different directions. I feel sure that once I get into the swing of the routine, it won't seem so crazy - it just looks that way from where I'm standing, in my paint stained scrubs and milky tank top. I think what's stressful is the preparation before work - the meetings, the organizing, all those things that I'm not good at, especially when I try to take my baby along and then I can only think with a quarter of my brain. Or when he has a meltdown in the middle of the store and I just want to GO HOME ALREADY and eat chocolate chip muffins. I've also got two doctor appointments this week, including one with a dermatologist. When I got my epidural, the nurse anethestist noticed a mole on my back and said, "Wow, you need to take care of this." So I am. I'm doing everything I should do, and need to do, and it's damn exhausting.
Most of the time, I feel like I'm doing this whole motherhood thing really well. I've had a lot of help, but I've also created a space for figuring it out on my own terms. Today, I'm just on the downward swing of the pendulum. I know I will be a better mom for getting out, for continuing to love and instruct kids and people who need encouragement and help. I just don't want to miss out on my own kid, along the way.
It hasn't been my intention to go a week without posting. But you know, stay-at-home mothering has never had so much not-staying-at-home, Sam-style. I always joke that whenever I find myself not working, I grow exponetially busier, or more busy, or whatever the correct English might be.
We kinda overdid it this weekend here at the Rebel household. Of course there is no sleeping late anymore, which is fine, when you have a hilarious baby who grunts you awake. Saturdays hold a whole new joy these days, because Beaux is home, which means there is another pair of hands that can hold the baby - glory! I nearly lose my mind with the possibilities. Okay, so I take a shower, and maybe go to the bathroom alone, in blessed silence. Yes, several times I have peed while still breastfeeding, which I notice they don't mention the joys of such an experience in the La Leche League breastfeeding book.
But back to the overdoing it: there was a wedding that I felt Beaux and I really should attend, and so my mom came up to watch Thomas. The wedding ended up taking a total of twenty whole minutes, and so we topped off our outing with a visit to Toys R' Us, purchasing a wipes warmer for our son, who screams holy bloody murder every time we dare to wipe his poopy booty. It was a good outing, and just the right amount of time of being away. I didn't feel anxious or panicky once, knowing that Thomas was with his Lovie, with a bottle of pumped milk ready if he got hungry. When we arrived home, we found my mom and Thomas (who refused to nap the whole time I needed to get ready for the wedding) napping on the couch.
On Sunday, we made it out the door for Thomas's first church service. We'd planned to put him in his sling (to discourage people wanting to hold him or touch him too much) but by the time we got to church, he was wide awake, and definitely not interested in going in his sling. We sat on the back row of the balcony, and Beaux held him until he fell asleep. Everything went fabulously until Thomas's diaper leaked on Beaux's pants, and so Thomas and I spent the rest of the service in the ladies' room, which has a very comfy couch just right for feeding your ravenous child. It was so good to see our church family. The sweetness of song and prayer, not to mention hearing a really good sermon, being in the midst of our loving community - I can't express how good it was.
After church, we headed down the highway to my parents' home. I've been having this longing to take my son home, and then the perfect opportunity presented itself. My one and only cousin(okay, first cousin, I have several second and third cousins, but they're all much older and I call them Aunt Whoever) got married, and as he lives out of town, there was a post-wedding shower to meet his bride, etc. Mom and I discussed it at length, and decided we would go and take the baby towards the end of the shower. Thomas was uncharacteristically fussy for much of the afternoon, and I ended up spending a lot of time upstairs in the playroom, nursing and dealing with exploding diapers. (Word to the wise: dried fruit and breastfeeding DO NOT MIX.) It was a good day, especially when we went back to my parents' front porch, but I learned a lesson: less is more. On paper, it didn't seem like a lot, but we completely turned our low-key schedule upside. I went to bed on Sunday completely aching with exhaustion, and Monday was conducted from the couch, in my pajamas. I'd also fallen off the wagon of taking my prenatal and iron pills, which I think definitely contributed to being so tired, not to mention I'd not had a chance to nap all weekend.
Tuesday, I got a call from my old work, and ended up packing up the baby and spending most of the day training the new prayer minister. There's a whole new cast of characters on staff now, and I am excited for the future of the ministry. Thomas was an angel, but we ended up being gone all day. Yesterday I had a meeting for my new work - teaching 2 year old preschool, three mornings a week - which, once again, I took Thomas along. Rookie Mama (who had dropped the Green Bean Kid off for her first day of preschool!) came to hold him during the proper meeting. He awoke hungry, and my paltry one ounce of pumped breastmilk didn't do much to tide him over. I could hear his cries all the way down the corridor, and it was all I could do to keep from bolting from my chair. Thankfully, she was able to distract him with his pacifer until the meeting ended and I could nurse him.
Today, the only plan is to hang out and enjoy these last days of doing nothing. My main goal is to start freezing as much breastmilk as possible, as I start teaching preschool next week, and GED classes (only two nights a week) start the first week of September. In each case I'm only gone a few hours at a time, but I do want to ask any breasfeeding veterans for advice on this: how to increase my supply. Everything I read says that demand increases need, but I am so anxious that as I try to bank for the week ahead, I won't have enough for the present. He doesn't really keep to a schedule, though he definitely eats more in the mornings and early evenings. Of course I know to hydrate - but I can barely keep up with my kid's healthy appetite as it is. I plan on calling a lactation specialist if we run into any problems, but the wisdom of your collective experience has never steered me wrong.
So, advise away. I'll be over here.
You are now one month old. I'm writing this with you sprawled out across my lap, sleeping. We've spent a lot of time, just like this, your first month here on Earth. If you're not sleeping, you're eating. This is pretty normal, mundane baby behavior, and I think it's fabulous. I hope to emulate your schedule one day.
Your start in life was a little stressful and scary, not that you should feel bad about these things. I'm sure it's just the way parenthood is: you expect the ordinary sort of experience, or maybe a slight variation on what is considered textbook and normal, and your kid scares the crap out of you, just because they can. Your first day was a very long one – I began feeling contractions around four on a Sunday morning, and you were born nearly twenty four hours later. Giving birth is absolutely one of the hardest, scariest tasks I've ever done. In in the middle of it all, I became convinced that I would be unable to give birth, lost in some sort of limbo land. Thankfully that didn't happen, and you came with just an hour and a half of pushing. That was honestly the longest hour and a half of my life.
When your daddy handed you to me, I felt I was on the edge of something holy, some ancient ritual, joining this infinite line of mothers. Amazingly, I didn't cry – me, who cries over commercials and when people win stupid reality TV show competitions – but simply touched your face and started talking to you. We barely had any time together before your daddy walked you to the nursery, but they promised me that you we would have you all to ourselves in four hours. There was no way of knowing that we wouldn't see you again for around twelve hours, that you would soon be in a helicopter and I would be in a speeding, screaming ambulance. I will never forget being so hungry, and tired, and yet just wanting to see you, waiting for those four hours to be up and for them to bring you back to me. Instead, the doctors came and told us what they thought was wrong with you, and how we had to go somewhere else to take care of the problem.
As I rode in the ambulance, the realization that I had carried you for so many months, and now you were very far away from me, high in the sky. I felt many things, angry of being robbed of the "normal" post-birth experience, hopeful that you would be safe and well. My heart was like a bowl of emotional gumbo, with joy and fear and hope all stewed together. Of course at that point the only thing I could do was pray, and pray I did, as Anne Lamott says, “desperate, beggy prayers” that God would protect you, and that Jesus would be with you in that helicopter. And Mother Mary, I threw that request in for good measure. I figured Mother Mary would understand how I felt at this moment, and would be very tender with you.
And I don't know about you, but imagining Jesus riding in a helicopter, it makes me laugh.
I was never afraid that you wouldn't be okay. I always knew in my heart that you would be well, that you had one tiny issue that needed a solution, and then we could move on with our lives. I believe in the power of focusing on health, not illness, and I refused to dwell on the possibility of anything but complete and utter health for you. There were many, many people praying for you, and I remember telling Auntie Sara, "This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where I choose to have faith, one way or the other." I will never think of you as a sick child. You are healthy, and strong, and everything I could have dreamed of in a son.
In the hospital, you were surrounded by people who love you - me, and Daddy, who was frantic with worry about you but so strong and loving, and Lovie and Gramps, and Auntie Sara - there was pretty much always someone there to hold you and sing to you and tell you about how much fun we were going to have, just as soon as we could get you disconnected from all those wires. In fact, we were often gently scolded for having more than the approved two visitors by your warmer. We had such a good experience in the hospital, such kind doctors and nurses and lactation consultants. The fact that we were in a teaching hospital, surrounded by faces that looked just as young as your daddy and I, made me feel as though I'd landed into an episode of Grey's Anatomy or Scrubs. I kept expecting J.D. and Turk to slide around the next corner, singing - a tiny fantasy that always made me smile.
I will never forget setting my alarm every three hours that second night, going down to the NICU in my pajamas, just to feed you, and having you all to myself. It wasn't too hard, except for those first few minutes where I longed to hit the snooze and then realized that you were probably HUNGRY, three floors away, and crying - and then I couldn't move fast enough. I remember being the first person to sign into the NICU book early that Wednesday morning. When I would get to your row, my heart would pound so, the jungle drums beating in my ears. There you were: my baby. I was too emotional to sing anything with words to you, so I sang scales, over and over again.
Another thing I never want to forget: pumping out colostrum in my hospital room, and having just the tiniest amount of liquid in the bottom of the bottles. I was afraid to try to transfer this liquid gold, and so your daddy unflinchingly carried those two bottles down to the NICU, without a hint of embarrassment. Then he filled up a a slender syringe with the colostrum, which we fed you, and felt so relieved to know that you were undoubtedly getting all these wonderful nutrients. Let me tell you, him carrying those bottles is one of the most loving things your father has ever done for me, and an expression of how committed he is to this family of ours. Going through that first week of your life with him being so emotionally available and supportive made me fall in love with him all over again. He is such a good daddy to you.
Having you home and beginning the everyday (and night) together has been a lot less stressful and difficult than I expected. I think you're a dreamboat of a first kid, and fairly easy. Of course, at first we struggled with the night and sleeping, but we all get more sleep if you sleep on me, so that's what we do. You are entranced by the thick black shelf over the couch, and will spend a good ten minutes gazing at it, adoringly. We call it "your shelf". You are snuggly and love to be sweet talked. You really hate to have your diaper changed, and can scream like we are the worst parents ever, because we insist that you not sit in your own poop. And speaking of poop, you poop so loudly that it's frightening, but hey, at least we know what you're up to. You eat, all the time, and I'm so thankful that we had such an amazing lactation consultant, who taught me how to breastfeed you with confidence. When you're hungry and I start making motions to feed you, you get this hilarious look on your face like you can't believe it, how wonderful is your life, that you get to drink down this delicious milk. AGAIN.
People had fun warning us, while I was pregnant with you, that our lives would never be the same. While that is true, I truly feel that our lives have changed for the better. I wouldn't trade being without you at this point, not even for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. If you want to know something crazy, I have a sense of being reborn. I feel like I get to experience life with a fresh pair of eyes. There's so much to look forward to, and this is just the beginning of the adventure.
You are the son of my red star dreams. I love you, all the time.
I feel these first precious days of his babyhood sliding away. I inhabit them wholly, and if I write them down, I won't forget, sure as if I wrote them in the corners of the summer sky. The nights are both short and long. I fall into sleep as he eats and find him asleep on my tummy. cradled in my arms, a privilege, a treasure. We can't bear to make him sleep alone, besides, we get more sleep if he snuggles with me. I'm just beginning to figure out how to snatch bits of time for myself. Household chores are welcome, a break - I get unnaturally excited if I manage to unload the dishwasher, fold a load of towels. We snuggle on the couch, under the Navajo blanket, and I'm reading more, quietly turning pages as he churns sleep from milk, growth from the sweet oblivion of sleep.
I love the way he does the tiny things. From the first, he's turned his lip up like Elvis, which I also have the talent of doing. He waves his arms in the air, casting his magic, his index finger pointing. There's a secret in this. He has no way of knowing that touching pointy fingers is something his daddy and I do all the time, a silly thing that I believe binds our hearts together, our love bound with laughter, like a crimson leather cord.
He gazes up at me, one eye looking past my breast, and I swear with all that is holy and true, he smiles. His black hair grows past his ears and I smooth it, my little Indian boy, my baby Kicking Feet. When he gets sleepy, he does a sideways sort of dance, feet and arms swimming, and I hold him close. He is a waking dream; he is unbelievably, my very own child.
And still, I can't sing to him without crying.
The news is good on our Green Bean Kid. The doctors think she's got something called Kawasaki disease, which is very well explained over at WebMd. Fortunately - if this is what she has - it's very treatable and non-contagious. There's no way to prevent catching it, which is always good for mama bears to hear. I just got the morning update from Rookie Mama, and she reports that the GBK had no fever (for the first time in many nights and days) and has managed to eat a little. She received an IVIG treatment (immunoglobin, part of the blood) and that's finished, and today she'll have an echocardiogram. They will probably be in the hospital for a few more days. Rookie Mama's instincts were right on - they would have been transferred to Jackson if she had taken the GBK to a local hospital - and everything is becoming a little less scary.
Once again, we're exhaling over here. Thanks for all your sweet words and thoughts, as always, they really do help.
UPDATE ~ Tuesday, August Somethingth, I can't see the calendar right now -
The GBK had a great night and a good day yesterday - no more fever, no more nausea. She's being an awfully big girl about all of this. Her rash is also gone, hip hip hooray! Last night her IV was really hurting her and so they ended up taking it out. They haven't heard "official" feedback from her echocardiogram but they are hearing that everything looks good. Here's some stuff that Rookie Mama asked me to write down so we don't forget:
Everytime they come to get blood from the GBK and she starts screaming (ouch, my heart) Rookie Mama whispers to her that there is a baby down the hall, just like baby Thomas, and do we want him to be scared? Immediately the Kid calms down and stops screaming. She is so brave and strong.
Also, when it's time to take her medicine, her mama tells her to take it so she can get better and go home soon to see baby Thomas. More than once, the Kid has said, "I'm ready to go home and play with Thomas." She's also been receiving lots of happys, balloons and stuffed animals, and she told her mama, "It's almost like a birthday!"
Last night I was on the phone with Rookie Mama and I heard the nurse come in with some of her medicine. There was a discussion on how best to crush it up so the Kid could get it down, and the nurse suggested to put it in some ice cream. They asked her, "What would you like, orange or strawberry ice cream?" Very clearly the Kid said, "I have to have white ice cream." She has been well trained to tell everyone she's allergic to chocolate, and that's what she was telling the nurse.
I'm thinking when she comes home, cupcakes are DEFINITELY a must. With sprinkles, of course.
Most of y'all know how dear this kidlet is to me, our very own Green Bean Kid. She is our godchild and the child of our hearts - and has embraced godsisterhood with aplomb, singing to Thomas when he's crying, watching him eat with wide eyes and plenty of questions. (Also, realizing that my mama is the source of all good snacks.) There just aren't enough words in any language to describe how much we love her and of course, her mama, Rookie Mama.
She started feeling bad and running fever last week. What they thought was an ear infection turned out to be an infected lymph node, accompanied by a lot of vomiting. Next came a rash. She hasn't been able to keep down her antibiotics, which is always scary. Last night, Rookie Mama decided to take her to Jackson to the Children's Hospital, and that's where they are now, with the GBK hooked up to an IV and awaiting lab results and doctors to make their rounds. It just breaks my heart to think of that little rascal in a hospital bed and of course I can't go and take care of Rookie Mama like she took care of me, which is really frustrating. Of course we know she's in the best place, and so familiar, with lots of kind people to take very good care of her. I know she'll be charming the pants off of all the doctors and nurses. So please, send your good thoughts and prayers to our sweet girl, and let's hope that we can stop all this talking about sick kids soon here on this blog, because enough already, right?