Monday, June 26, 2006

Rock Star Aunties

Over the weekend we traveled to Chicago, where my family is from. We were in town for a wedding and also for my dad's 60th birthday party. It's always wonderfully chaotic to get the whole brood together, and I love giving Muffin a chance to spend time with her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

As it turns out, her aunts got a unique opportunity to, um, get to know her inner workings.

On Saturday morning, we headed to the wedding, and left Muffin in the care of the family. Everyone was very busy getting ready for my dad's party that night but they took good care of her, feeding her a hearty lunch and getting her down for her afternoon nap. At first, they could hear Muffin happily babbling away but soon that gave way to hard sobs. A check on her revealed that she had thrown up a colorful mix of the cantaloupe, banana and Croque Monsieur she'd had for lunch. It was all over the sheets, on her special blanket, on her clothes and in her hair.

Now of course Muffin has spit up zillions of times and even thrown up a little too. But it sounds like I have never been witness to this kind of partially digested carnage. Both my sister and sister-in-law have babies of their own, but this broke new records of grossness. And my sister, like me, has fear of the vomit and will do just about anything in order to not be near it.

And yet they gave Muffin a bath (no easy feat -- see below), washed her hair, lotioned her up, put her in clean clothes, gave her hugs, sang her songs, and made her feel safe until I got home.

The most amazing part is that both of them told me that one of their favorite parts of the weekend was the day they spent with Muffin, getting to know the little personality that is emerging. They love her, puke and all. And she loves them too.

Operation Happy Bath

Muffin has recently become terrified of the bath. She's always been a little fish splashing around in our deep kitchen sink but all of a sudden she seems to think we are trying to drown her.

Since we'd need to start a bath detraumatization program anyway, I figured we might as well transition her to the big tub. The image of her in the kitchen sink is such a modern-day Norman Rockwell milieu, I was a little reluctant to let it go. But our girl is growing up and getting too big for the sink. Also, it strikes me that the spot where we scrub her butt and the spot where we clean our dishes should not be the same spot.

Muffin has since birth been deeply apprehensive of the tub's shower curtain. I don't know if it was just the tacky syncronized-swimmer motif, or the harsh sound of the metal shower rings, but she is reduced to tears if she gets within a few feet. So out with the old and in with a zen white cotton curtain and quiet plastic rings. It's so spa-like in there now she's going to expect a fluffy white robe and cucumber water. I also purchased a slew of rubber ducks, wind-up toys and funny-faced beakers to entice her further. I have my no-tears shampoo ready. Let's hope it lives up to its name.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Mother to Daughter

I hope to impart much parental wisdom to Muffin as she grows up. Now that I am a mom I am very sage and understand everything about everything.

I want to teach her that she can be whatever she wants when she grows up and no one should ever tell her she can't. I want to teach her that it's okay to be different. I want to explain to her that it's more important to be kind than to be right. I want to show her how to love her body, whatever shape it may be. I want to convey to her that she can love whoever she wants (man, woman, black, brown, purple, Republican), and her father and I will adore and support her no matter what.

I also hope to pass along the important life lesson that accessories can make the outfit. So far I think I'm doing a pretty good job.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Boobs Talking About Boobs

Man, am I worked up.

This new government campaign on breastfeeding (and the New York Times article that discusses it) makes me want throw myself prostrate on the floor, windmill my legs furiously and howl at the injustice of it all (that’s how we show frustration in my house). The government is sponsoring a new awareness campaign that compares not breastfeeding your child for at least six months to smoking while pregnant. They also compare it to riding a mechanical bull while with child.

Breastfeeding did not work for me. (TMI and excessive talking about myself ahead: beware!) As soon as I was stitched up and got to hold Muffin for the first time, I put her at my breast. The nurse on duty took one look at the situation, and very helpfully told me breastfeeding was not going to work for me. Apparently, I was supposed to be wearing breast shells during the last weeks of pregnancy to make my nipples more pronounced and baby mouth-ready. Hello, couldn’t someone tell me these things?? To tell you the truth, I don’t know that I would have actually worn them that much anyway. I worked right up until I went into labor, and I can’t imagine the impression I would have made in my office walking around with pronounced nipple falsies.

But back to the story. Things got better. The hospital’s amazing lactation consultant (I called her the Breast Whisperer) came by the next day and helped us figure things out. It was hard each time, but while I was in the hospital I did manage to breastfeed. And a number of my husband’s friends got a good look at my knockers, which once my milk came in, were truly a sight to behold.

Then five days later, we went home. And it all went to shit.

Muffin would not latch. In fact, she would arch her back and scream when I tried to feed her. So I pumped and we fed her with a finger-feeder syringe so as to prevent nipple confusion. I had a lactation consultant come to my apartment – twice – and we made a little bit of progress. But Muffin would only nurse from one side, and only with a nipple shield that kept slipping off. I did tongue exercises with her, as the consultant had recommended. We broke the finger feeder and embarked on a crazed scavenger hunt of the neighborhood drugstores trying to find another before she got hungry again. My hands got so sore from plunging the syringe at a steady rate so as to not gag her with milk. I came down with mastitis -- twice. We kept breaking the damn syringes. I dreaded feeding Muffin, which meant days mostly full of worry, since she ate every 2-3 hours. We tried and tried and tried and it just wasn’t getting better. Her anatomy just did not seem to fit with mine.

So we broke down and gave Muffin a bottle and I started pumping regularly. She took right to it, and I began enjoying feeding time. I’d continue to put her at the breast at least once a day, but she never seemed to get very much before falling asleep. I couldn’t do much to keep her awake; the oxytocin made me narcoleptic, and I’d be nodding off too in minutes.

Pumping was stressful and painful. I often pumped out blood with the breastmilk. It was hard to find 30 minutes 3-4 times a day when the baby didn’t need to be held and I wasn't doing her laundry/showering/trying to eat. And oh, how I grew tired of washing all those tiny plastic pieces.

But I found a way. And really, I was lucky; I had a good supply, so I could get away with pumping less often than most women.

I went back to work when Muffin was 3 months old. I dragged that 10-pound pump an hour on the subway each way, giving me a nagging pain in my back. I dutifully hit the pumping room on another floor several times a day and tried not to feel weird when I’d encounter co-workers with my hands full of still-warm boob juice.

But a month later, I was done. I was done with the sore back, done with spending half of my already short work day trying to find time when the pumping room was free, tired of strapping on the cones or torture when I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep, and tired of panicking that Muffin wouldn’t have enough milk for the day, tired of being resentful instead of just enjoying my daughter. Despite all this, it really was agonizing making the decision to give up.

But once I did, I gotta tell you, it was such a relief. Muffin took to formula no problem. She got her first tooth two weeks later, and I comforted myself with the fact that maybe I would have had to quit anyway.

I tried. Hard. I hope I gave it my best. Muffin had a lot of colds this winter, and I do wonder if she’d have a stronger immune system if I’d kept at it longer. Of course, crawling around on the floor, where people’s shoes tramp in dirt and germs, might have contributed too. Licking the wheels of her stroller cannot have helped either.

I think there are moms, like me, who just can’t make it work. They have a low supply or their babies won’t latch. These moms don’t need anyone making them feel worse. We feel badly enough already, thank you very much.

Then there are moms who don't have all the resources at their disposal that I do. They might not give birth in hospitals that offer solid breastfeeding support. They can’t afford fancy home lactation consultants. They might have jobs that don’t offer maternity leave so they’re back at work as soon as they’re able. The price of a breast pump ($200+) might be too steep, and besides their workplaces don’t offer a private place or the breaks necessary to pump anyway. They don't deserve to be shamed.

And I don't either.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Self-feeding Lesson #157

I don't think she's getting it.

Yeah, babe, cancel the reservation at Per Se. That food's too expensive for her to waste on her hair.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

For the three people who care about such things (hi, Mom)

Muffin says 11 words now.

1 and 2. What’s that? (totally counts as two, pronounced wasat?)
3. Duck (recently added the k at the end after saying duh duh duh forever)
4. Woof Woof
5. Dog (might have really been saying duck but we’ll take it)
6. Mama (sometimes she says mom, which makes my heart beat faster both because I am so proud to be her mom, but also because mom=people who wear tapered jeans and sensible shoes, and oh god, I have been buying more comfortable shoes lately!)
7. Dada (says way more than mama, which is just plain ungrateful)
8. Banana (pronounced nana and such an obsession that we must have bananas in the house at all times)
9. Window (pronounced do-do)
10. Ball (her spin on it is bawoo)
11. Bubble (this is her very best word and she says it perfectly)

Although she doesn’t say the accompanying words yet, she does a karate chop hi wave, and a double-handed bye-bye. She can identify her feet, her belly and her nose.

Her language skills are advancing so quickly that sometimes I can’t keep up. A few weeks ago, I noticed all day she’d say do-do-do-do. My mom and I would tease her, who’s a do-do? Are you a do-do?? Looks like we’re the do-dos, Mom. One morning I came into her room to find her standing in her crib and pointing at the window. Do-do. Duh.

So I’m learning. Now she holds up my shoes and says, za-za-za. I’m trying to really listen and figure out what she could be saying. The only thing that comes to mind is zapatos, but I’m pretty sure that’s not it.

I read that you are supposed to use the correct word when you speak to your child, instead of the cutesy baby version. I’m trying but I slip all the time. Her words are perfect just as they are. As much as I’m excited for her to grow up and communicate even better, I'll miss do-do when it's gone.

UPDATE: Make that 12. Tonight she told the nanny bye. Actually she said bye bye bye. God, do I really play *N Sync that much?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Why I can live with someone who poops in her own pants

Muffin's smile absolutely slays her father and I. She does not just grin, she opens her mouth so wide, with such delight, that I wonder if her head will split open and collapse on itself. When she bestows one of these smiles upon you, it's as if you have just said the funniest thing in the entire history of funny things, and for a moment, nothing can ever be wrong.

Should I stay (at home) or should I go (back to work)?

I am reading The Mommy Wars. The title is a bit sensationalist; there’s no mom-off here (Oh, your son walked at 7 months and counts to ten in Spanish? Well, my little one knows 50 signs and was potty-trained by one! Pow pow!) No one openly criticizes anyone else. Each of the contributors writes about how she came to the decision to work – or not to work – when she had kids.

It’s a good thing it’s not truly a war, as I wouldn’t be sure whose colors to wear. As I am reading the book, I am astonished to find that I am essentially agreeing with everything everyone says. I can relate to the mom who feels it's an unnecessary sacrifice to give up your career goals for kids and that she's a good role model for her daughter by working. I see what she means when one mom explains that the book she never wrote was a small sacrifice to pay for getting to know her children so intimately over the years as she's been at home. How can I be this divided when I went back to work full-time when Muffin was 12 weeks old? I am awfully wishy-washy for someone who pays more than $500 a week in childcare.

Here is what I do know:

If I stayed home with Muffin, I would get bored, eat a lot, watch too much TV, and would get a little depressed.

I believe I would be very jealous of my husband if I didn’t work, and I would resent the imbalance in our parenting.

I will never know exactly what goes on all day with Muffin unless I am there. I will never know whether what she does with her nanny is more or less educational/fun/stimulating/safe/character-building than what would be occurring if I were there.

I love her more than any caregiver ever could.

A happy mommy is a better mommy.

Muffin’s face lights up when she sees her nanny. I like that I am not the only person she will go to.

I think your kids should be the most important thing in your life. Good decisions mean putting your kids' needs before your own.

It would feel strange and uncomfortable to spend money when I didn’t help to make it.

If I stayed home, I would feel morally beyond reproach instead of worrying that I am selfish.

It can get extremely stressful having such a delicate balance. There are moments where it feels the whole set-up could go off the rails at any moment.

The pieces don’t fit. There is no perfect or even near perfect solution. It’s dawning on me, a year after I went back to work, that I am deeply conflicted about this. I don’t know for sure if I am doing right by my kid, and that’s a terrible feeling.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Mother's Day: A Photo Essay

Yes, I know Mother's Day was three weeks ago. I'm a little behind. (Next up: Christmas 2004 in pictures!)

The Canuck got up with Muffin and let me sleep in. I had been telling people that I didn't think I even could sleep in anymore, but I made a liar of myself by snoozing peacefully until 9am. When I finally got up, somehow the Canuck had managed to whip up this gourmet breakfast with a toddler under foot. He's all about the presentation.

Breakfast was a big hit. I don't know who loved it more -- me or Muffin. We elected not to do side-by-side reaction shots since only one of us looks cute in the morning without makeup.

Since she's been so busy knocking down block towers, banging on Tupperware and pointing out the ceiling fan to anyone who will listen, Muffin plum forgot to get her mom a Mother's Day gift. She tries to charm her way out of this gaffe by being incredibly cute. It works.

To please her mommy on Mother's Day, Muffin decides to teach herself how to read. That is not enough of a challenge for a child of her intellect, so she also teaches herself how to read upside down. It turns out Good Night, Moon makes a lot more sense when you read it that way.

Finally, Muffin figures out the most fitting tribute to her mom: she reorganizes her shoe closet.

You know this boogie is for real

I am trying to teach Muffin to dance. When I get home from work each day, I crank up the iPod with our theme song: Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat.” I love this song because it reminds me of the gleefully corny dance performance in “Centerstage” as well as the so-dorky-they’re-cool moves of Napolean Dynamite. As the synthesizer starts, I wiggle my hips exaggeratedly to get Muffin’s attention. Then I whisk her up with a flourish (I try to time it with the swell of the music), and we bop around the living room and the kitchen. She grins, holds on tight and makes the “heh heeeeh” sounds that are her strange way of giggling. As we ramp up to the chorus, I support her head, spin in a circle, and then dip her dramatically as Jay Kay sings, “Dance! Nothin left for me to do but dance!” I follow the same routine each day, and yet every time she squeals at the unexpected delight of feeling weightless. It’s funny to me that she can be scared of the sound of packing tape but have no fear about falling. I guess she trusts me.

I think my efforts are paying off. I notice that now she smiles and wags her little butt when she hears the opening bars of our song. Now that she’s starting to stand without holding on to anything, she's totally ready for jazz hands.