Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Descent of the Aunts

M's Aunt Jean sent an email that she and her sister would be coming this weekend. The email was titled "Descent of the Aunts." I read it with a grin. One was coming by Amtrak, the other, by plane, and the plan was to converge at SFO around noon and take the CalTrain to our place, since we're just 4 blocks from the station.

They and their spouses arrived here a little after 1pm on Saturday, bearing gifts. Jean handed them to me, but I left them for M to open -- he loves opening presents. My favorites of the gifts was a little porcelain piggy bank like the one I had as a kid, and the baby crocs shoes. It will be a while before he wears them, but he'll be able to wear them outside and help me in the garden next year. I look forward to making mudpies and running through the sprinklers with him :)

M enjoyed showing his family the house and telling them about the various projects we've done. They liked that the house seems modest in size from the front, but is so large on the inside as it unfolds along the depth of the lot. I like that about it, too. I've never been one for pretense -- which is why I balked when M wanted to look at houses in Palo Alto. After growing up in the Santa Barbara area, I'm full-up on pretentiousness. So we've got a nice modest-looking house in a friendly working-class neighborhood and the renovations have made it especially lovely.

M was proud to show off the patio extension we did with his father's help back in April. I'm still amused that I was hauling 15 pound pavers around at 7 months pregnant.  The whole patio area is really shaping up nicely, especially since we added the sunbrella to the patio set M's father got him for his birthday. There is still some clean-up work to do there, but I should have it done in time for the Peach Party we're having in a couple of weeks. I actually had to tie up the branches of the peach tree because it is so heavy with fruit.

The pièce de résistance was Little Man, of course. Both great-aunties spent a lot of time holding him, and even the uncles, too. We sat outside on the patio and enjoyed the beautiful weather and chatted for a couple of hours, at which point Jean noticed that I was tired. Little Man had me up at 5am, so by 3:30pm I was wilting. We arranged to meet for dinner at Buca di Beppo in SOMA and I laid down with the baby for a two-hour nap.

Dinner was quite an event. I'd never eaten at Buca's before, and so I was unprepared for the big, hearty family-style Italian fare and the celebratory atmosphere. Lots of birthdays with singing and clapping going on. It made conversation difficult, but eventually most of the groups left and by 10pm it was calm enough to visit a little. M's aunties said they think we make a good team, and told me that this is the happiest they've ever seen him, which was gratifying. I think he's the happiest he's been in the 15 years I've known him, and it's always nice to get independent confirmation of that perception.

He makes me happy, and I make him happy. Relationships are work, but when they work life really is beautiful. Fortunately, the arrival of the Little Man hasn't negatively impacted the connection we have.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

He's a charmer

Little Man is really developing a sunny personality. He's almost always smiling and cooing when he's awake. I'm finding him more interesting now that he's more interactive. Newborns are time-intensive, but monotonous, to care for. He seems to respond well to strangers -- and strangers to him. We were at Home Depot at 6am yesterday (what else is open at 6am?) scouting out plants (I picked up an arabian jasmine and a kaffir lily, both in bloom) and I was surprised by how many men were charmed by him.

In a couple of hours Little Man will be meeting his great aunties on his father's side of the family. M is looking forward to showing them the house and all the work we've done on it the past year. Hopefully they'll be able to see past the patches of messiness here and there. I didn't get a chance to tackle the floors like I wanted to -- I spent most of my free time the past two days cleaning up a mess the older cat made on the hardwood floor in the office. Grr. Any way, M is certain The Aunts are going to fall in love with Little Man. It will be interesting to see how it all goes.

Still no go on the nursing front. I've given up. We picked up a double-breast pump on Craig's List and I'm feeding him breastmilk via bottle. I do miss the way breastfeeding feels -- it's incredibly intimate and pleasurable and an amazing bonding experience.

Now that I'm pretty much recovered from childbirth (I still haves some lingering stiffness in the pelvic region) I'm feeling restless. When I'm not exhausted, that is :) There are things I want to do, and with the baby, they're just not an option anymore. No more writer's groups, Ruby Tuesday geek girl meetups, college alumnae meetings, photography expeditions, or visits to the gym. Not during the day, anyway. Little Man is still too young to leave with his father for more than 30 minutes or so. He seems to have this radar that wakes him up when I leave the house without him, and then he gets a little agitated when The Mama doesn't appear. When he's a little older, I'll have to look for meaningful social opportunities that involve other mothers and infants/toddlers -- something that is rather outside my experience. As an unintentional mother, I've never found babies all that interesting, and I confess that the conversations between my previously childless self and parents of young children were only marginally more interesting than their little kids. I'm definitely feeling the pressure of a paradigm shift.

In the meantime, I've been exploring the neighborhood on foot with an eye for future activities. There is a Shaolin Cultural Center a few blocks away that teaches a few of the forms of wushu (Chinese martial arts) as well as Mandarin language and culture. They offer classes for kids starting at age 4. There is also a kuk sool won school here in town, and the Buddhist temple nearby offers tai chi, hula, and bon odori dance practice. I also found out they have a Cub Scouts troop there, but given the recent decision by the organization to formally exclude gay boys and leaders, I doubt the Little Man will be a member. I've also found a Safari Run playland a few blocks away, in addition to the Junior Gym and the Kumon learning center over on B Street. The Martin Luther King Center offers lots of family activities, including swimming classes in the summer, and there are lots of parks in walking distance. All-in-all, this is a good neighborhood to raise a family in. That wasn't what I had in mind when I first noticed the house for sale -- I was more interested in walkability / proximity to Downtown and cultural diversity -- but it is going to work out well since I'm not going to be car-dependent and trapped in the suburbs.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Seven Weeks!

We've reached the 7 week mark.

Little Man is growing and growing. He's got to be over 10# (4.5kg) now. He's discovered that he can gnaw on his fist, and he's started moving his fingers independently of each other, rather than just keeping his hands in fists. He's holding his head up quite a lot now, bracing himself up on his elbows, and even pushing upward/forward with his feet. With all the hardwood floors in the house I think he's going to be an early crawler.

He's still a quiet baby, though he's beginning to make cooing noises and such, and his smiles fill my heart so full I can feel tears in my eyes. He's an active, fidgety baby. I could tell that about him in the womb. He's often awake for 3 or 4 hours at a time, his hands and feet moving around, and his eyes following everything. When he's like that I tend to put him in the Baby Bjorn and bounce him around as I do housekeeping and gardening chores. Honestly, I wish he slept more, because there are days I don't get to shower or change out of my pajamas and end up brushing my teeth in stages.

When my back gets tired of carrying him, I've been putting him in the baby carriage (minus the car seat) and wheel him around the house. The added bonus is the carriage has space to put things, so I use it to ferry stuff back and forth along with the baby. It's been great for when I'm working in the kitchen and I want him nearby but not on the counter. I even put him in it when I'm (trying) to take a shower, because he's at a good height to reach out and adjust the pacifier or touch him to try to soothe him.

Yesterday we went to the library for a couple of hours. I'm going through book-withdrawal, so I've decided to try audiobooks. He was very good--but then I've gotten very good at reading him, so I fed him and changed him before he even had a chance to fuss. The loudest thing he did was burp.

With M away at work this week I've been getting into more of a routine staying on top of the housekeeping. It's difficult to quietly while away 4, 5, and even 6 hours with the baby when we're waiting for M to wake up, and now that he's usually out of the house by 10am, I'm able to vacuum and scrub and bang around to my heart's content. Yes, crazy as it sounds, I enjoy (to a point) housecleaning -- mainly because a clean, organized home is one I can function (and relax) more easily in. If I don't keep up with it, every horizontal surface in the house would soon be covered, the way it was when M lived alone. Living with him I've become much more tolerant of disorder than I used to be, and I expect that with the baby I'll become even more so -- or have a nervous breakdown ;)

What else? I'm still lactating, and so I've got all those hormones going -- which means I'm more 'sensitive' than my usual self. Last night I actually told M that I didn't like him very much right then because he was being mean to me ;) At the time it seemed true, but in retrospect, I think I was just tired and overly sensitive. He's pretty good about helping me when I ask him to -- partly out of gratitude for not requiring him to help with the baby at night, I think. And M has been great about doing what he can to lighten my load or make things more efficient. For example, he noticed how much time I spent outside watering the 60ft planting bed alongside the patio, so he asked me if I wanted irrigation installed. Our landscape service wanted just $250 to install it and hook it up to our existing timer, so we got it done last weekend.

The plum tree in the back yard is dropping the sweetest cherry-sized plums right now. I set up a tarp to collect them -- partly to keep the mess off the lawn, and partly because it seems a shame for such bounty to rot on the ground. This week the peaches on the peach tree have started to get their blush. The tree is so heavy with fruit -- even after considerable thinning -- that the espaliered branches are bending. The fruit should be ripe in the next three weeks to a month, I think.

So far, things are going remarkably well. I'm learning how to plan the things I do to minimize back-and-forth, and to plan for those times when Little Man is napping in order to get things done (like now). M and I get less snuggle time than we used to, but that makes the moments we do catch even sweeter. Seven weeks into this new world of unintentional parenthood, I can say that life is (still) good.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Breast v. Bottle -- and 6 weeks of heartburn

Little Man isn't nursing. He doesn't want to nurse. He's made it abundantly clear that he finds nursing too much work / too frustrating compared to bottle-feeding.  I've seen the lactation consultant three times and I've got nipple shields and gravity-feed mini-tubing, and he's fine with them as long as he gets his milk straight away -- if there are any delays or kinks he pitches a fit. I'm trying to decide if messing with all this paraphernalia in hopes of getting him back on the breast is worth it. Admittedly, pumping 30oz of milk a day is a hassle, and the thought needing to pump for a couple of years is unexciting to say the least. The need to have a bottle ready in the wee hours, instead of just popping a nipple in his mouth so we can both get back to sleep, is disappointing. On the other hand, we're avoiding thrush and some of the other problems that go with nursing, and given my extreme sensitivity, that is something to be very happy about. In my observation, children that have been nursed for several months tend to be very secure -- they don't suffer from separation anxiety, etc -- so I've been trying to hold Little Man the way I would if he was nursing, rather than just propping him up and popping a bottle in his mouth (which I admit to doing sometimes).

I've been having problems with heartburn since we got home from the hospital -- even acid reflux and night coughing -- which is completely foreign to me. I've got (had) an iron stomach and now quite a lot of food isn't agreeing with me (yogurt, most dairy, sometimes eggs, most meats, fruits, juices, coffee, breads, etc). I've had to go buy protein drinks and protein bars to try to keep my intake up because I'm dropping 3 to 4 pounds a week and I'm concerned about the impact on my breastmilk supply. Even pumping ~30oz a day I'm having to supplement with 4 to 8 oz of formula a day for the past week. I'm hoping it's just because of the 5-6 week growth spurt I've heard about. I'm on a 14-day course of Prilosec to see if that eliminates the heartburn problem. Meanwhile I'm enjoying eating low-acid foods (like ice cream). I'll take any calories I can get right now.

Little Man's father went back to work today. I liked having him at home -- I really enjoy his company -- but it will be good to get into a routine during the week. Starting Monday.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cloth Diapers

I am learning about the benefits and drawbacks of cloth diapers.

In addition to the environmental benefits (primarily less landfill and fewer trees), using cloth diapers is frugal. Disposable diapers cost $.30 to $.40 each, so I'm throwing $2 to $3 away each day (if I factor in the cost of doing the laundry, which I'm over-estimating at $1 a day). It also cuts down on the garbage service costs. I was about ready to step up to a larger garbage bin (we're using the smallest one) because a week's worth of disposable diapers (70 to 100) takes up a lot of room, when I decided that Little Man was now big enough to fit into the stash of cloth diapers I'd picked up from an acquaintance (about $400 worth of pre-fold diapers, diaper covers, all-in-ones, and miscellaneous paraphernalia for $50).

The first time I diapered him in the cloth diapers, I did it wrong, and the clothes along his back got wet.  So I went online and found this cloth diaper video from Susan at and realized that I hadn't folded the diaper over in the back so the cotton wicked the urine up where it came into contact with his onesie.  Silly me.

Using cloth diapers requires a bit more forethought. Instead of everything going into the garbage pail, nothing does, really. The diaper and it's paraphernalia needs to be sorted. There is a flushable insert to catch the poop-paste (looks like a fabric softener sheet), and the baby wipes are flushable, too, so they go into the toilet. Then there is the cloth diaper, and the diaper cover/wrap. Most of the time the diaper cover can be re-used, so I have little hooks above the changing table and I hang the just-worn one there to air-out. The soiled cloth diaper (in this case Indian cotton pre-fold) goes into a washable diaper bag designed to hold soiled diapers, which I'm washing every other day.

Once washed, I try to put pre-fold diapers with the liner already on it into the diaper wrap and stack them just above the diaper changing station to make things as easy as possible. Sometimes I just don't get around to being that organized, and I'll pull them directly from the laundry basket. Little Man is very active/alert for a 5-week old.

Of course, when out and about, disposable diapers are preferred, though I've recently learned that there are disposable-diaper type bio-degradable inserts (made by Grovia, gDiapers, and flip) designed to be used with diaper wraps for people who want the convenience of disposable diapers combined with the environmental friendliness of cloth diapers, for about the same price as conventional disposable diapers. I might give them a try--it should be easier than having to buy disposables in the baby's size and worry about him out-growing them before they're all used.

The only major drawback is teaching M how to do the cloth diapers. Fortunately, I've got all-in-ones for him to use, so no need to fuss with the pre-folds.

Monday, July 2, 2012

One Month Old

Little Man has been with us a month now, and wow, what a month!

It's amazing how quickly M and I have adapted our lives to the extreme changes that come with having a baby around 24/7. And amazing how much we haven't had to change.

Dining out, for now anyway, is still feasible. So is going to the movies. Sleep has become a luxury, though I know I'm getting more than a lot of new parents do. Little Man sleeps for a 4 hour stretch most nights. Keeping up with the house-work is a little more challenging, especially while M is home on paternity leave. Let's just say that he is getting a LOT more sleep than I am, often until nearly noon, and as a courtesy I avoid doing things like running the vacuum and other appliances until he is awake. At which point the noise bothers him. Ah well. A couple more weeks and he'll be back at work. And then all the family on his side will be coming to visit.

I'm finding that there are conveniences to bottle-feeding Little Man, but for the most part, I'm trying not to regret giving him the bottle, since he no longer wants to latch on to my breast. Too much work to get that milk, I think. I'm pumping about 30 ounces of milk a day and he's drinking nearly all of it, the little glutton. He's gained two pounds his first month of life, so he's less wrinkled. His cheeks are looking chubby and his thighs are filling-out, but he does not yet exhibit the rolls of fat that are characteristic of breast-fed babies.

He's less of a baby-blob than I thought he'd be. Past experiences with other infants lead me to believe that he'd mostly sleep when he wasn't eating, but Little Man is often alert and active for hours at a time. He surprised me on our first night with his ability to lift his head and shoulders, and as each day goes by, he gets stronger and stronger. He uses his hands to grip my clothes and uses his little legs to push himself as he climbs up my torso to reposition himself. Sometimes he likes being low on my belly, while at others, he wants to rest his forehead against my collarbone. He's also learning to mimic facial expressions. M has taught him how to stick out his tongue and make fish-lips. He's also starting to smile more and make noises, starting to experiment with his voice.

He's often enraptured by his father. M has a wonderful voice, and Little Man will turn to look at him, his eyes wide. M often unbuttons his shirts and puts the baby on his chest, especially when Little Man is being fussy and nothing I do settles him down. It's a heart-warming picture -- father and son enjoying a skin-on-skin interlude.

My body is mostly back to normal. The swelling in my feet is gone, and the tingling in my fingers, as well. The bulk of the bleeding stopped around day 20, and the lochia has been very light since then, though I've noticed a little bit of spotting again, the past couple of days. I've been walking a mile+ most days, some of them pushing Little Man in his pram, others wearing him in the Baby Bjorn. After half a mile of carrying him, it's definitely more of a workout. I've resumed most of my normal activities with the exception of heavy-lifting and other forms of exercise that put strain on the abdominal area. I don't want any hernias or other complications from over-exerting. So painting and power tools and gardening, yes, but no resistance-band training yet.

Motherhood seems to agree with me. My neighbors have commented that I seem to have un-aged a decade or two. Looking in the mirror, I do notice that something is different. I'm 44 and I have no wrinkles. Very little gray hair. My skin looks great (must be all that coco butter cream I'm slathering on after I shower) and the odd blemishes that appeared during pregnancy have completely cleared up. Breastfeeding is taking a fair amount of weight off of me, so much in fact that I'm meeting with a dietician/nutritionist today to see what I can do about that. I don't mind dropping a pound a week, but 4 pounds a week is just too fast, and I'm worried about endangering my milk supply.  As it is, I've pulled sorted through the bin of 'someday' clothes in my closet, only to realize that I've dropped two to three dress sizes since last summer and there is very little that fits properly. Washing everything in hot water and drying on high has helped shrink some stuff up, and while I can still wear a lot of my shirts with my breasts ballooned to DD/F territory, even the smallest skirts and pants in my closet hang down around my hips. I suppose I'm going to have to bite the bullet and do some clothes shopping some day soon. Grr. I hate shopping.

I admit to being a bit tired, and on the rare night that Little Man is fussy, I struggle under the pall of  exhaustion and irritability. I've awakened M a couple of times and handed the baby over to him when I'm at wit's end, though I try not to. M functions on 8 hours of sleep but needs 10. Less than 10 hours, or interrupted sleep, and he ends up with a headache all day, so I take care of the baby every night. M often takes over when he gets up, so I can  nap for a few hours. I am already longing for the day that Little Man can speak his needs so it is easier to meet them.

Little Man is adorable when he's sleeping, and when he snuggles up against me and his breath puffs against my skin, all is right in the world. Everything slows down. Time simultaneously stops and flies. My world narrows down to the confines of our home and the peace and love that exists within it. And I think that is as it should be. Yes. It is as it should be.