Category Archives: post-partum

Counting My Christmas Blessings

It’s been a good long time since I had one of those overwhelmed-by-emotions new-mommy moments. Maybe my hormones have finally found some semblance of balance (it has been six months) or maybe I’ve been just too darn busy to entertain them for any longer than a nanosecond. But last night I sort of felt the need to invite them back in.

My husband was late getting home, so I was alone in getting baby ready for bed. I gave him a bath and put him in his super soft fleece pajamas before settling the two of us into the wooden rocking chair (yes, I’m old school) next to his crib. Normally, I would read to him as he nursed himself to sleep, but last night I decided to just listen to the Christmas music that was playing downstairs and rock.

Oh Boy, Oh Joy

At one point I looked down to find that baby had drifted off to sleep. I ran my hand across the top of his head, smoothing his hair back into place. I then took my fingertip and traced the outline of his eyebrow, the bridge of his nose, and finally the little curve at the back of his neck. I don’t know what it was about this last little detail, but it triggered a sort of double helix of emotion–sadness and joy, wrapped tight around each other.

See, baby is named after my brother, who we lost in 2000. It’s hard to believe that it’s been a decade already because I don’t miss him any less today than the day he died. In some ways I think I might miss him more because I know now all the things that he’s missed since he’s been gone. He officially died from complications following a liver transplant. However, the real underlying problem was that he had a very rare genetic immune disorder, a disease that has plagued my family genes for generations, passed uniquely from mother to son. For a long time, I feared that burying sons would be a family tradition.

But by the grace of god, it turns out that I am not a carrier of this awful  disease. So, as I sat there, looking at him by only the light of the lamp in the corner, the reality of this very simple thought really set in on me: I am not going to lose him.

He will never have to know the fear or the pain that my brother (and actually my uncle, too) knew. Or develop the courage, the tenacity, or even the wit to be able to deal with it all. He will not have to take it one day at a time, making the most out of every enjoyable moment.

This is not to say that he’s got a carte-blanche on life. But god willing, this will be the biggest, baddest bullet he’ll ever have to dodge. At the very least, it means that whatever happens as his life rolls out before him, this will not clip it short. And for all the new fears you develop the day you become a mommy, it’s such a giant relief to have at least one scientifically put to rest.

So, as I take stock of my baby just days before his first Christmas, I see so many blessings wrapped up in this happy, healthy (and hefty) little boy that I know it’ll take me a lifetime to count them all.

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Filed under babies, daily life, emotions, family, hormones, infants, mommy care, moms, post-partum

The White Gold Rush

We’re nearing the end of World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7, so I figured it’s probably an appropriate show of support to post an update on how my own babe-to-boob experience is going. If it’s any indication, we now refer to breastmilk as white gold.

I’ve passed the two-month mark and as you might guess from my lack of recent posts on the subject, no news is good news. It was a bit stressful in the beginning because quite simply I didn’t know what I was doing. But it wasn’t too long–maybe a couple weeks–before I hit a stride that I was comfortable with.

For me, that meant going against everything I’d read and introducing a bottle early–like within the first week of bringing baby home. I felt kind of guilty about it for some crazy reason, but it wasn’t too long before I realized that pumping and bottling totally enhanced the quality of life for me with the wee one. I felt more mobile–all I needed was my mini cooler pack full of breast milk and I was good to go. And it felt like I got more free time (if there is such a thing once you have a kid) in between feedings where I could get essential tasks like paying bills, doing laundry, and getting myself together done.

The best I can figure on that one is that baby eats more from a bottle in a single sitting than from the boob and, therefore, sleeps a bit longer. In fact, I credit the two 4 0z. bottles that baby downs around 9pm every night for getting him to sleeping through the night. (As an aside, that’s been so wonderful. So wonderful that I’m afraid that it’s too good to be true. The thought of going backwards is really depressing.)

Now, just to clarify, I’m not pumping exclusively, although I’m fascinated by the couple of mommies who I know who’ve gone that route. (Sometimes pumping  feels so time consuming.) I still nurse, but only for a few–usually two or three–feedings a day. The rest of baby’s feedings are given by bottle because they’re given on the go, anywhere from a park bench to a parking lot. (Turns out having a baby hasn’t slowed me down much; I just carry more luggage.)

But the one thing that comes with pumping is a heightened sense of how precious whatever expressed milk you have is. The first time you open up the mini cooler to find out the top to one of your bottles wasn’t screwed on tightly sucks, plain and simple. You feel so cheated because you worked so hard to produce that milk and it’s gone but baby didn’t benefit from it. (You get the same feeling when you have to pump and dump, only it’s worse because you feel intentionally wasteful.)

And there’s always this worry that you won’t have enough bottles to keep baby satisfied while you’re running around doing your thing. That’s a real concern if grandma is babysitting, but it’s really not that big of a deal if you’re busy with baby; after all, you can still nurse at any time, even if you’d prefer not to in public. In the case of a wailing baby emergency, it’s nice that you’ve got that option.

For newbie moms considering going this route, here are a few things that I’ve learned that have totally helped me out:

  • Start early. So-called nipple confusion, the idea that baby will never take the breast once the bottle is introduced, is largely a farce. However, there is now more evidence that mommies can wait too long to introduce an artificial nipple, making for a rough go down the road. For me, I introduced the bottle very early and have found that my wee one goes from breast to bottle seemlessly.
  • Go slow flow.Milk comes out faster from a bottle than the boob, so you probably want to go with a slow-flow nipple that’s made especially for newborns. The slower flow best simulates breastfeeding, forcing the wee one to suck pretty hard. Not only is this good for developing the mouth muscles and reducing dribbles, but it helps babies switch from breast to bottle a little easier. However, you really

    Baby's Favorite Bottles

    need to check out the packages to make sure you’ve got the right nipple. For example, I use Avent bottles. (I love them, by the way; they’re PBA free, reasonably priced, and you can buy a converter kit that works with just about any pump, allowing you to pump directly into the bottle from which you’ll feed.) The newborn nipple is labeled with a 0+ versus a stage 1 nipple, which is good for 0 to 3 months. I’ve noticed similar labeling issues with other bottle manufacturers.

  • Pump en primero. This is by far the best piece of advice I can give pumping mommies–pump before you nurse not after. I had started experimenting with this technique when a friend of mine mentioned it as a great way of building up a milk supply, especially when returning to work. When I pumped after a feeding, I was able to get out maybe a couple of ounces per boob after what felt like forever. When I pump before I nurse, I end up with double that stored up in about the same amount of time. And baby’s not suffering for it. Turns out that babies are impressive little suckers and are able to out milk a breast pump. And if I was ever in doubt, I could check for a mini milk moustache on baby when nursing. (He never disappointed.)

Those are by far the best tips I can give any mommies going for the bottle in the near term, but I saw a few more in the article “Breast & Bottle” in the August issue of Parenting. Check it out here.

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Filed under bottle feeding, breastfeeding, child development, daily life, infants, lactation, moms, newbie parents, newborns, nursing, parenting, post-partum, post-pregnancy

Bye, Bye, Baby

This summer has been one full of firsts for my husband and me. The latest first for us was leaving baby for the first time for an adult night out.

I don’t know when most newbie parents first have their first night away from baby–whether it be for a dinner and movie or a night on the town–but my impression is that we’re on the leading edge of that learning curve at two months into life with baby.

Our night out was exactly that–a night spent outside, sitting around a fire by lake with my brother and sister and their spouses. We had been at a family barbecue when my aunt out of the blue offered to take baby home so we could stay and hang out. (I have one of those patchwork divorced families where everyone is spread out all over the place and consequently it’s rare that so many of us siblings are all in the same place at the same time.)

Maybe it was the beautiful sunset that was brewing or the promise of a cooler full of cold beers, but I think it took maybe 30 seconds of deliberation between my husband and I before we had the car seat and kid strapped in the care with her, grandma, and my dad.

As they backed out of the driveway, my husband and I could see baby’s

You're Seriously Leaving Me?

round little face through the backseat window. He was giving us this look that made we want to open the door and run my finger down the side of his face. It looked similar to this photo. His little brow was furrowed, his mouth was in a pensive line, and his blue eyes were open wide, looking slightly confused. My heart tightened a little seeing that look.

We stood waving as they drove away.

“I didn’t like that at all,” my husband said.

As we grabbed our beverage of choice and picked our spots by the fire, my sister-in-law says, “I can’t believe you did that. I’m impressed.” My siblings had been watching the whole farewell scene, more or less in disbelief. Apparently we made it look easy.

I started to wonder if we were weird. Were we somehow deficient in the parenting department because we were able to let our two-month-old baby go in the name of a good fire and good conversation?

But I looked at this decision as the right one a few different ways. First, we weren’t leaving baby with a stranger; he was with family. Second, we weren’t going to be out all night. (Although I will say 2am came amazingly quick–too quick, in fact–when you’re having fun catching up.) Third, he wasn’t likely to be a pain. He had two full bottles, clean diapers, and a change of clothes, so chances were that he was just going to eat, poop, and pass out for the evening.

But there was something else that made me feel like it was okay to send baby packing for the evening. It was the feeling like I needed to share him. I find him so beautiful, so wonderful, so perfect that when someone offers to hold him, change him, feed him, or, in this case, watch him for a few hours, I have a hard time saying no. I want them to share in the wonderful feelings that I get when he’s close by experiencing those little moments–a snuggle against your neck or a little snooze on your chest–for themselves. And I figure the more I share him, the more he’ll be loved; that’s one of my biggest hopes for the wee one, that he’ll be as adored as he deserves.

But sometimes I wonder if my willingness to share will be confused for something else. My paranoia makes me hesitate for a second every time I give my wee one over to another pair of hands; I worry people think I’m a bad or negligent mother. But I’m not about to stop sharing–I think babies are good for the soul–but I wish every goodbye to baby didn’t feel like such a milestone.

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Filed under daily life, infants, moms, newbie parents, parenting, post-partum, post-pregnancy

The Incredible Shrinking Uterus

My OBGYN is a little different from what you’d imagine most mommies-to-be would want in a doctor. I like him because he’s to the point, thorough, and pretty chill. I can’t stand doctors who end up scaring their patients by outlining every possible (even if unlikely) health scenario. But he doesn’t make small talk, he’s not particularly warm or fuzzy, and he doesn’t really do drama. And he’s definitely not funny.

Except during this last visit.

I went in to see him for my new mommy check up. Basically, this happens around six weeks after birth and is a chance for the doc to make sure everything had returned to normal, or at least as normal as possible. (Remember, giving birth is like having a grenade go off in your underwear.)

So, similar to a routine visit, the doc did a physical exam to see how things were coming along. The stitched area appeared fully healed and nothing was abnormally smooshy on the inside, so he moved on to checking my uterus.

Now, the uterus is basically a giant muscle that holds the baby in place during pregnancy. The contractions leading up to child birth are basically the uterus flexing, pushing the baby out. At any rate, during pregnancy, the doctor is always checking to see where the top of your uterus–the fundus–is to make sure the baby’s growing at the right rate. It starts out below your belly button and by the time you’re into month nine, it seems like it’s snuggled in between your rib cages.

It's How Big?

Post birth, the doctor checks to make sure it’s gone back to its original size. Now, original size is small. Really small. I didn’t realize how small it was until my doctor held up his thumb and his forefinger to show me.

But the part that I was really get stuck on was my doctor. He just seemed so amazed at the fact that the uterus basically shriveled up like a raisin in less than six weeks. I think he even referred to the process as “cool.” And he kept holding up his fingers to show me just how little it was. Throughout my whole pregnancy I hadn’t seem him this excited about anything. It was hard to believe after all the pregnant women he’s dealt with over the course of his career that he’d still be amused by a shrinking uterus. (Men are kind of all the same, aren’t they?)

With my uterus snapped back into shape, I scored an A on my post birth exam. So, my doc gave me the green light on the gym and sex (in that order, as if one leads to the other) and sent me packing with a birth control prescription and reassurance that post-baby sex will get better. What a way to end on a high note.

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Look at the Baby, Look at the Baby

My husband and I never get sick of the movie Old School. We’ve seen it a gazillion times and still get a kick out of all the awesome one-liners. One Vince Vaughn zinger that my husband and I particularly find hilarious has taken on a totally new meaning for us post Baby Aleksi’s arrival.

Watching, Judging

The quote to which I’m referring comes from the wedding scene, where Beanie (Vince Vaughn) tries to talk Frank (Will Farrell) out of getting married.

Frank: “This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Beanie: “Why don’t you give that six months. You don’t think that’s gonna change. I got a wife, kids. Do I sound like a happy guy to you Frankie? There’s my wife. Now, see that: always smiling, hi honey, judging, watching. Look at the baby, look at the baby!”

(Better yet, listen to the actual movie quote here.)

For me, there’s something insanely hilarious about that last line: “Look at the baby, look at the baby!” Pre baby, my husband and I would whisper that line to each other every time we were around a baby that everyone else was oohing and ahhing over. We always giggled at our little inside joke; “baby” was barely in our vocabulary.

Not only am I now living that quote, but I’m totally one of “those” parents.

Nearly every morning, I spend probably a good 15 minutes just lying in bed, staring at the baby, memorizing every little curve of his face. I’m not really thinking about anything; I’m just looking, looking, looking, as if something in his round, little face could have changed overnight.

And it’s just not me and it’s just not the mornings.

I’ve caught my husband doing the same. He puts his face right up to the baby’s and just stays there until he’s got his fix. Sometimes he even calls me over so I can stare with him. (Ok, I admit it; I do that, too.)

Same thing when I’m having dinner with my parents. The baby moves or makes a peep (or even just sits there), and conversation at the table stalls out and we all just stare at him. I’m half surprised that our mouths don’t drop open and drool starts falling out.

What is it about babies that makes grown people do this?

Babies are definitely cute, but it’s something more and it’s definitely deep and it’s definitely profound. It’s like there’s something in us that recognizes that this is a new, fresh life, one so full of possibility, that forces us into a temporary state of awe.

Or maybe it’s that something in us recognizes that this little person is one of us, that he (or she) belongs to us, with us. So, we get a little glimpse of how big our responsibility is to this wee one. Maybe it’s our sense of how big the job is and how small we are that gives us reason to pause. We need a moment to see how much it’ll be worth it.

Or maybe it’s just that we see ourselves in these round faces and curious eyes. And in seeing our reflections, we feel so much less alone or insignificant in the world. We know this little person is glad to see to see us, will look up to us, will love us and so the longer we look, the better we feel about ourselves.

Then again, maybe it’s none of these things that drive us to linger a little longer on a pair of lovely lashes or bright eyes, a button nose or a pouty mouth. And maybe it really doesn’t matter. Just look at the baby.

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Filed under baby blues, daily life, emotions, hormones, infants, moms, newbie parents, newborns, post-partum, post-pregnancy

Growing Pains

I’d always thought of growing pains as something that kids experience as their bodies and brains stretch, but I’m starting to think they’re more something that parents go through as they watch the whole process.

This occurred to me the other day when I got a message from a friend who is a mommy-to-be. Turns out that her baby boy is likely to arrive a couple weeks early, so he’s probably going to be a little tinier than she and her husband were expecting and she wanted to take me up on my offer to give her some of the newborn outfits that baby already has outgrown.

A Box Full of Memories

Of course I was thrilled to help, even if it was as simple as throwing a bunch of onesies into a box and mailing them to her. But as I was putting the box together, I found myself getting a little verklempt.

Blame it on the baby blues (damn those hormones once again!), but it was somehow really sad to be packing away these little, itty bitty outfits. I found myself taking extra care in folding them, lingering a little longer on the ones that I thought looked really cute on baby. I ran my fingers one last time over the embroidered designs and pulled some of the snaps together for old times’ sake. I may have even put a couple up to my face and taken a deep breath, as if I was never going to smell baby smell again.

It was almost heartbreaking to think that even though he’s still a wee one, he’s never going to be that small again. In the matter of a few weeks, he’d grown so much. He suddenly had a past.

And then it hit me that I have a lifetime of more moments like this. My baby isn’t always going to be a baby. He’s going to be big, and then bigger, and then really big and then suddenly he’s going to be a man and then an old man. And it feels like it’s going to go by so fast that it might be easy to miss something.

When I was growing up, I don’t remember seeing parents–or at least moms–hysterical all the time over their kids. Of course, I’m sure I saw a parent or two shed a couple of quiet tears on the first day of kindergarten or at high school graduation. But with how I felt folding those oh-so-soft onesies and footie pajamas, I think I might find a reason to get misty every day (or at least every other day).

Every day he’s going to learn something new, develop more personality, become a little more independent, and leave a deeper imprint on the world around him. And for as wonderful as that growth is to watch, I know part of me will be wishing there was a big pause button I could push so I could hold on just a minute longer to the really special moments that I know we’ll have.

No wonder my grandmother always carried a Kleenex in her sleeve. There are tear-worthy moments to be had every day.

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Filed under baby blues, daily life, hormones, infants, moms, newbie parents, newborns, post-partum, post-pregnancy

The Itsy Bitsy, Teeny Weeny Bikini Challenge

It’s no secret that new mommies come with new curves. But somehow it never is anything but shocking when it happens to you. One morning a few days after giving birth you wake up and you look like you could be a B-list porn star.

It’s totally weird–and a bit painful–at first. My body had totally outgrown my expectations; one day I found myself standing in front of the nursing bra selection at Target hardly believing that I could actually be searching for a D cup. (Incidentally, a 34D might be the hardest size to find on a rack. I’m not sure if its because its a popular size or a freak size, but I’ve been in four Targets and found only two bras in that flavor.) I couldn’t believe I’d reached that far into the alphabet.

But then things sort of feel like they’re under control. There’s no pain and no tightness or fullness. I was once again comfortable in my own skin–so comfortable in fact that I sort of assumed I had shrunk a half a cup size or so.

All I needed to remind me that I was dead wrong was to try on a bathing suit.

But I was feeling good enough, or rather the weather was just hot enough–it was nearing 90 degrees over the holiday weekend–that I thought maybe I’d expose my pale flab-flesh to the sun in the name of cooling off.

Well, if I thought my nursing boobs were big, trying on bikini tops confirmed they were giant. Now, I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, but in this case the more that I had wasn’t exactly better. I tried on one top after another–I had five bathing suits on hand and then I tried one of my sister’s–only to get more and more disappointed.

If I wasn’t falling out the top, I was hanging out the bottom. Bandeau tops looked like a strip of electrical tape across my chest. Triangle tops screamed bad boob job. V-necklines were a little too plunging. There was no way I was going out in public wearing any of that; it would be horrifying to children and small animals.

I needed a solution or I was going to miss out on one of the best boating weekends of the summer.

I had a sports bra in hand as my last best option–the big, thick tan lines that I’d undoubtedly end up were not exactly appealing but neither was the possibility of being ticketed for indecent exposure–when I had an idea. Maybe one of my nursing tank tops might be able to do double duty. After all, it was hot pink and matched a set of bathing suit bottoms that I seemed to still be able to wear. So, it was settled. Nursing tank meet bathing suit and voila! I had a tankini.

Most people would probably tell me to just enjoy my new-found–and hard to miss–curves. I mean, from padded push-ups to surgical enhancement, lots of women shell out beaucoup bucks to end up with this kind of rack. But it’s hard to feel like me when I feel like I’ve got twins on a trampoline on my chest.  I guess the whole swimsuit session was a reminder that even though I’m feeling pretty back to normal, my body’s still got a mind of its own.

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