Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The center of the universe

I remember saying to more than one person on more than one occasion that I didn't want to be the center of anyone's universe -- that it was too much responsibility. Yet here I am, the center of an infant's universe. It's a lot of responsibility, but more than that, it's stressful. Taking care of a baby 24/7, no matter how much I adore him, is wearing. It finally occurred to me during a long awaited shower that the terrible heartburn and acid reflux I've been suffering might be stress-related. I'm very good at sublimating stress and just pushing forward -- it's how I got through all the sickness and death from years 2008 through 2010 -- but at some point I have to wake up to the fact that some levels of stress, or stressful situations, are not sustainable.

I am used to copious amounts of me-time. I'm an introvert who has worked hard to balance-out my introversion with a tolerance/appreciation for extraverted activities, but I'm an introvert all the same. One of the great benefits of the Information Age is the ability to maintain contacts with friends and family wherever they, or I, am. But one of the drawbacks is that this ease of remaining in close contact with people far away is that I've neglected developing much in the way of local relationships. I am developing some good relations with my neighbors, one of whom is great with Alex, but with my family all living 3+ hours away, and my best friends all living 500+ miles away, I don't have anyone to help out with Little Man. So I had a talk with his father about needing him to spot me with the baby more.

I do my best to make sure that M gets his full quota of sleep, so I take care of the baby at night as well as during the day. M usually spends 10 or 20 minutes with him her and there throughout the evenings, but usually hands the baby off to me when he starts to fuss. Given that the only time I have to get much done for myself or around the house is when M is entertaining Little Man, I'm always feeling rushed and stressed trying to get things accomplished during those mini-breaks. It's just not sustainable. So we talked, and he acknowledged that I do make things awfully easy on him, and that taking care of the baby 24/7 is a lot of effort. We both know that right now Little Man is completely dependent on me, and that he will slowly outgrow it, but for the next 6 months or so, it's mostly all on me. But there are still things he can do. This weekend he took care of the baby for a couple of hours while I got a much-needed massage. Yesterday he stayed home from work and helped take care of the baby and drove me to the doctor because I'd basically been up for 3 nights with acid-reflux and night coughing and was too exhausted to drive myself.

The good news is that my weight-loss is at a much more sustainable rate of 1-2 pounds a week (I've dropped 12# the past two months). The bad news is I need an upper GI test to try to figure out what is going on with my stomach and the acid reflux. Hopefully it is not my LES valve or I may need surgery. Yesterday I ate 1 cup of rice and a protein shake with bananas and blueberries. Not enough protein (14g) to sustain lean muscle mass -- but at least I slept through the night (minus baby interruptions) without coughing up the contents of my stomach. I wish I could eat more of my protein bars but I only have one type that isn't covered in chocolate. And chocolate, like coffee and tomatoes and many other fruits, are big no-nos for GERD. *whine*

So, I'm trying to eat a careful, bland diet with lots of protein and extra calories for breastmilk production, and trying to find ways to get myself baby-breaks. I love the Little Man beyond description, but being the center of his universe these past 3 months is starting to take it's toll.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Processing Motherhood

It is good to know that all the feedback I received about mother-in-laws mellowing once they meet their grandchildren is true. The visit from M's mother went very well. Better than either he or I expected, based upon her previous visit and comments regarding the pregnancy. Unfortunately, I had a GERD episode in the middle of her visit so I didn't get to do much with her, however, it was a blessing that she was here to take care of the Little Man while I spent the day in bed running a temp and coughing up aspirated stomach acid and phlegm. I've a feeling that my LES valve has been damaged somehow either during or after the pregnancy, because I can't lay down with anything in my stomach or it will come up. The back of M's head can testify to that, poor dear. I'm waiting to hear back from my doctor as to what to do next.

I've been (loosely) following the Dr. Sears approach to Attachment Parenting because it makes sense to me. My goal is to foster a strong sense of security in the Little Man, the kind of security that comes from trusting that the adults in his life will meet his needs. It is my hope that I'll never lose that trust, because one of the things I've been processing as I've been caring for my son are the early memories of my own mother, and my lack of trust in her.

I should state that my mom wasn't a bad mother per se... she just wasn't a good one. She wasn't very maternal or nurturing -- I recently confirmed this with her best friend from my childhood years, wanting to make sure my child's memory and Reality squared-up. Getting married and having children was, for her, the cost of freedom. Being a wife and mother, however, was not terribly interesting to her, and she put both roles behind her when I was 9.  I chalk it off as a Me-Generation thing.

Anyway... I can remember as early as 4 or 5 not telling my mother about an injury because I knew she'd hurt me in the process of attending to it, and knew she wouldn't provide any comfort to offset the pain. It was not an isolated incident, either. I should have gotten stitches on that occasion, and still have the scar to remember it by. Even today I am convinced that the ugly scar is better than the care would have been.

As a consequence of my lack of trust in my parents (my VietNam Vet father was a whole other story), I had trust issues until I entered grief-therapy in my mid-Thirties. Since I know what lasting impressions parenting styles can have on children, I'm determined to create and maintain a sense of security and trust with my son -- even if it means less sleep for now :)

Several times a day, Little Man meets my eyes and smiles this special smile that causes something inside me to flutter. It's a bit like the tearful-wonder feeling I get when my milk lets down. That smile lets me know I'm doing it right, this motherhood thing. Evolution at work -- the maternal instinct is alive and well in me.

This weekend is a just-us weekend, except for a BBQ at a friend's house, and the following weekend M's father and sister arrive for a week-long visit. Fortunately for them, there really isn't much work left to be done on the house, so they'll actually get to enjoy a California vacation with the newest addition to the family. Then a week later it's my step-mother and step-sister. My step-mom is willing to stay for several days, if we want. M seems to be pretty comfortable with her, her nursy-talk about illnesses notwithstanding.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


My mornings used to be my own.  I used to have a few hours to myself between the time I awakened and the time M woke up. Not any more. Though I don't mind, most days, because I wake up to a smiling baby boy. When he sees me looking at him he lights up with a big toothless grin. Sometimes he even coos. It's impossible to mind waking up to that :)

Little Man seems to be done with his growth spurt and I'm able to keep up with him milk supply-wise. I haven't needed to supplement with formula for a couple of weeks, and I've actually been able to freeze about 3 ounces of breastmilk a day. He is looking more and more like his father now, and he's growing into his (my) nose. In addition to inheriting my nose and feet, he seems to have gotten my light-sensitive eyes, poor thing.

He handled being passed around to a dozen different people pretty well at the party this weekend. M and I both were concerned that he might be overwhelmed by all the attention and handling, but he seemed to enjoy it. We might have an extrovert on our hands, instead of an introvert, like us. The jury is still out on handedness. I hope Little Man is a lefty like us just so it is easier for us to teach him to write and whatnot. I remember how difficult things were for me given that my parents were both right handed. M actually does a lot of things right-handed because that was the only way he could learn from right-handers, whereas my paternal grandfather was a leftie and taught me how to hold my pencil and fork, etc, and my mother fought the schools to keep me left-handed. My father's family has a strong left-handed streak, and a lot of people in the older generations stammer when they speak as a result of being 'thwarted' and forced to become right-handed, my father included.

Yesterday a friend of mine from Portland had a layover at SFO so I got a chance to see her and her daughter. We talked about the need to find a woman friend or two with infants to provide support and commiseration -- and my somewhat misogynistic tendencies. My misogyny is surprising to people who know that I attended a women's college and have dated women -- until I clarify. I don't dislike women -- I dislike the lowest-common denominator level that so many women sink to. Having gone to college with over 3000 brilliant women, I know what women can be -- and it annoys me no end to see what women resign themselves to being. I'm just not good at relating to a lot of the concerns that occupy so many women: I'm not into appearances, so swapping stories on clothes shopping, makeup and hair styling flat out bore me. I'm not a wanter. I despise shopping in general and conspicuous consumption in particular. I prefer simplicity and an uncluttered life. I'd rather have a meaningful conversation about what's going on in the world than gossip about movie stars and neighbors. And I don't play the woman-games -- I don't do the passive-aggressive competitor-co-dependent friendships most women seem to perpetuate with each other. I'm animus-dominant, and while I've definitely given my anima room to grow this past decade, I accept that I'm always going to prefer the company of men or masculine-minded women. Thus, finding women I can connect with is difficult enough without adding criteria like new-mom and over-Forty. But I'm not giving up :)

On this 'unintentional mother' blog I've mostly avoided mentioning the things that occupy my thoughts that seem unrelated to the topic. But politics and the environment and technology impact today and tomorrow -- they impact the world my son will inherit. M and I are looking at buying an electric car and putting solar panels up on the house. We're trying to reduce the amount of waste we produce by reducing consumption. We're following the breakthroughs in battery technology and alternative energy. And medicine. It would be lovely if my son came of age in an era in which a cancer diagnosis was not a tragedy, and diseases like malaria and cholera are no longer endemic to Third World. I have hopes that we'll revolutionize education so that young people will be able to learn and retain what they need to in order to take over for the technology priesthood and further the interests of humanity by evolving their thinking. I have hopes, but there are days when the omens and portents point to a dark future and a dying planet, and even my eternal optimism and sunny nature are no match for it. I have a dread that one day that my son will tell me he wishes he'd never been born into such a mess of a world. So I'm doing what I can to make it a better place, bit by bit, neighbor by neighbor, street by street. I'm Being Love, but I know I can try harder. I know I have to. There is too much at stake.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ten weeks old and a peach party

So, two months in, the mom-thing is working out quite well. M said when he thought about whether or not to proceed with the pregnancy, one of the things he considered was whether or not he thought I would be a good mother. I'm a nurturing person, and given that I practically raised my sisters and half of my cousins, M knew the answer. Still, he seems surprised by how good I am with the baby. To be honest, there are times when I'm surprised, too. There is so much about mothering that is innate, I've come to realize, probably on a racial-memory level, because it's not like I've trained for this. I just know what to do for Little Man.

I miss sleeping. It's been six months since I had a good night's sleep. M tries to help with the baby so I can nap, but often as not, Little Man gets agitated when we're separated for a while and I end up comforting him rather than sleeping. He's an easy baby, for the most part, but he's an alert and fidgety baby. When he's awake, often as not he wants to be in motion, and I don't mean sitting in a swing. I mean sitting in a baby sling while I move him around :) It gets tiring, wearing him all the time, but I'm sure that it will seem like a blink of an eye and he'll be zipping around in his little walker. But for now, I'm learning how to do all sorts of things while wearing him in front--like installing metal weather-stripping on an exterior door while Little Man made curious expressions at the sound of the drill, and putting up a tent single-handedly.

Today we're having friends and neighbors come by to harvest peaches off our tree and meet the baby. All the work we've done to the exterior of the house the past 6 months have really paid off -- we've got a lovely, comfortable outdoor space that I spend a fair amount of time in, and will probably spend a lot more time in as Little Man grows up. And we've got seating for 14 adults, which is nice for entertaining, I hope. This will be our first gathering since I learned I was pregnant.

To go with the peach theme I've made a jello mould with peaches fresh from our tree, and some panna cotta poured into individual cups for people to have with fresh fruit. No cheesecake this time. The baby only naps for 15-20 minutes at a time and I can't mix the batter while wearing him -- too much chance of disaster :)

M's mother will be arriving mid-week. I'm hoping it will be a good visit. I really enjoying meeting his aunts and uncles a couple of weeks ago. They said that M and I make a good team. I think so, too.