Saturday, September 30, 2006

Parenting Small Children = An Exercise in Sheer Stamina

We have entertained at our house three separate times in the past three days--once a social engagement with in-town friends planned weeks ago, the other two times last-minute visits from loved ones unexpectedly in town for brief stop-overs. So, you know, I'm pretty wiped out, especially since all this social activity coincided with my first days alone with both babies all day--though, don't get me wrong, we were thrilled to see these dear folks and to have them in our home. Then tomorrow we are supposed to host another friend for breakfast in the morning--again, something planned a long time ago--and then drive up to Minneapolis in the afternoon for a party at the new house of some close friends, where we are to give new baby Genevieve her social debut and meet up with some pals whom we haven't seen in months, let alone since Genna was born.

But here's how the evening is going so far. Genevieve has not slept since noon today. She's going on ten hours of being up right now, which brings to mind some very bad memories of Julia's epic nap strike which began at about this same age. She's had one of her miserable evenings, crying for hours on end and prompting us to try, once again, the fabled car ride. (And the last few days and nights had gone so well for Genevieve, too, what with good sleeping and less-frequent nursing. She seems to have a bad evening every few days or so, with no discernable pattern or trigger.) In the meantime, Julia apparently is getting sick; since she went to bed three hours ago, she's woken up at least six or eight times in tears, pleading with someone to "come in and wipe my nose!" Sigh. All night long, it's been an unpleasant marathon of one baby crying, then the other crying; one parent running up to tend weeping Julia, the other parent running to retrieve squalling Genevieve. If one baby quieted, the other was sure to disrupt the calm with an ill-timed wail.

Between the runny-nosed toddler and the sore-bellied newborn, I sort of think none of us is going to get any sleep tonight. Does all this mean we've been doing too much socializing--perhaps leaving us overtired and virus-prone?--or that, to console and distract ourselves, we're in dire need of more? I'll let you know after tomorrow.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Flying Solo with Two

Well, I survived my first day alone as a stay-at-home mom to two babies! The morning started with the power going out just after Christopher left for work, knocking out the baby monitors, the dishwasher mid-cycle, and both babies' white noise machines. But, that passed and we moved on to the frantic get-everybody-up-changed-dressed-cleaned-fed-and-ready-to-go-to-playgroup drill. In the middle of this process, as I was kneeling on the floor in the dining room in my pj's changing Genevieve's diaper, catching liquid baby poop in my hand mid-change and dodging soggy Life cereal escaping from my toddler's errant spoon while Genevieve cried and Julia asked for more cereal for the tenth time in twenty seconds, mentally estimating how fast I could get dressed, pull my hair into a ponytail, and consume a giant mug of dark-roast coffee before leaving the house in time for our outing, the following thought crossed my mind:

What exactly did I think, back in 2004, was so hard about taking care of just ONE baby?

Of course, I joke. It's not a fair comparison. I know exactly what seemed so hard back then, and it actually WAS hard: newborn Julia as Challenging Infant Extraordinaire. Having said that, the sudden shift in our household from one toddler to one toddler plus one newborn--and the total chaos such a change entails until we find our new groove--definitely makes the idea of only one small body to care for seem, well, if not always easy, then at least much simpler.

You could say that I was a bit scattered today as I juggled all the goings-on and the incessant baby needs. For example--and I am loathe to admit this--when we got home from playgroup I discovered that Genevieve had ridden the entire way home WITH HER CARSEAT STRAPS UNBUCKLED. I shudder to even type the words. Can you believe it, people? And our playdate was a good twenty minutes away, too--we're not talking about a two-block jaunt or something like that. Good Lord, I just about fainted when I saw it. Here's what happened. At playgroup, Genna fell asleep in my arms and I set her in her carseat to nap, unbuckled of course, with a baby blanket completely over her torso and up to her chin. In the hubbub of leaving group, what with four toddlers and three newborns testing the patience of four moms, and hungry tummies beginning to growl, I picked up the carseat as-is, without a second thought, and clicked it into the car to drive home before my entourage's tenuous hold on good humor evaporated. Never even noticed, never even remembered, that Genna Rose was just loose in her seat, snoozing away under her snuggly blanket.

We survived, and everyone got down for nap by 1:30, at which point I raced to bake brownies for a last-minute, unexpected visit from a much-loved relative passing through town and only available to come see us later in the afternoon. This was when I realized how the last five pregnancy pounds will disappear: by 2 p.m., the only food I'd had time to consume all day was a blueberry muffin at playgroup. I guess it will take me more than one day to figure out how to not only feed my babies their breakfast and lunch but also eat those meals MYSELF. Oy.

Tomorrow's another day!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sweets, Screams, and Sleep

Last night Genevieve screamed so loud she blew out Christopher's hearing aid batteries. This was at about 7 to 8 p.m., when she once again seemed to be in some sort of pain: how else to explain that absolutely piercing, panicked scream that I've honestly never heard from a baby before? (And recall that I heard a LOT of crying from Julia. Just never of this nature.) Poor honey! Of course, what I imagined her screams to say was this: "You! You with the blonde hair and the breasts! I thought you were going to give up chocolate! What's with the Hershey's Nuggets, lady? And why in the world would you think Archer Farms creme-fraiche & green onion potato crisps would taste good transformed into milk? Huh? HUH????"

OK. To give myself some credit, I did not consume any dairy yesterday before this scream attack, and almost none the day before. And while I do have a weakness for my chocolate treats, I'm trying not to eat as many as I usually would. (I'm trying to tell myself there could be something positive in this for me, in that perhaps doing so would reinvigorate my stalled pregnancy-weight loss. But unfortunately, so far I remain preoccupied with the innate unfairness of giving up treats at a time in life when nature has given me the metabolism of a bumblebee---something, I assure you, I do not normally have.)

Well anyway. We have no way of knowing what is causing these evening scream-fests. They go away in an hour or two and then she's fine.

BUT. This is wonderful news: all this week, Genevieve has slept well, going at least 4 hours between nursings at least once each night. Last night she nursed at 9:15, 2 a.m., 6 a.m., and 8:30. Fabulous, people! I hope it continues.

Speaking of sleep, this whole family is in for a rude awakening. Tomorrow Christopher returns to work. But for the past several days, for any number of reasons, everyone's been sleeping in until 8, 8:30, even 9! Genevieve tends to nurse at around 6 and then go back to sleep, so, since Christopher and Julia have been still sleeping at that time lately, I go back to bed too. Julia has been sleeping late due in part, we believe, to such artificial circumstances as the fact that Christopher has been getting her up to change her diaper at midnight each night lately after a series of leaking-diaper-triggered early-a.m. awakenings last week. The other major factor is that, because he's been home on leave, he hasn't been taking a shower every morning at 6 or 7. Although our bathroom is in our bedroom suite, at the other end of the upstairs hall from Julia's room and behind two closed doors, the sound of our shower has the ability to wake up Miss Princess of Light Sleeping, and often does.

So tomorrow, all bets are off. Everyone will probably be up, wailing or whining or wet, at some ungodly hour we are no longer used to. And I've got the task of getting the three of us girls out of the house for a 10 a.m. playgroup---for the first time without help doing so. On Monday of this week Christopher had to leave the house in the morning for an appointment, and as hard as I tried, I wasn't able to get myself dressed until 11. Hmmm. I wonder how this is going to go?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Autumn is Very Appealing

Yesterday after Julia's nap the whole family went downtown to pick out pumpkins and gourds at the stand outside the cute little hardware store. It was the most gorgeous day imaginable--sunny, 65 degrees, with a breeze just crisp enough to remind you it's September. Thanks to our horrific July heat wave/drought, leaves have started to turn yellow and even fall off in some places already, so as we walked along the sidewalk, the stroller wheels crunched along in a very autumnal way. At the stand, Julia was so excited. They had these gigantic bins of the most amazing gourds I'd ever seen: all the usual lovely orange and green delights, but also strange twisted, bumpy ones that looked like they came from another planet. Julia loved them all and could barely contain herself as she lifted one after another out, exclaiming, "I yike DIS one! I yike DIS one, Mama!" We let her pick out some gourds and also a small pumpkin for decorating our house, and she was thrilled to hold her pumpkin on her lap on the way home in the car. Earlier in the day, I had dug out a few little Halloween decorations we own--a ghost candleholder, a little ceramic pumpkin man that Julia fell immediately in love with--and she was very excited to add the gourds to our decorative efforts.

At dinner, Christopher used the word, "appealing," which caught Julia's ear. "What Daddy say to Mama, a-pita?" she asked. Christopher explained the word "appealing," telling her it means "nice" or "fun to look at," and she tried it out a few times. Except she can't say her "l"s, so it's more like "a-pee-wing" when she says it. She giggled every time she said it because she truly delights in learning new, big words. Then she said, "Mama is appealing!" We laughed. I said, "I think you're appealing!" Julia added, "Daddy is appealing! Genevieve is appealing!" Then she spied our decorations on the living room end table and she gasped gleefully, "Pumpkin man is appealing!" By this time we were falling over laughing, but then she had to add the funniest pronouncement of all: "Even Boppa [her maternal grandpa] is appealing!" Oh my goodness. The "even" part is what killed me.

Monday, September 25, 2006

News Flash!

Are you ready for this? Last night Genevieve nursed at 8:45, and then, totally unexpectedly, didn't nurse again until THREE A.M. Did you get that? Three a.m.! That's a SIX-HOUR stretch, people. Of course, I woke up suddenly in a great deal of pain at 1:30 and had to go downstairs to pump, but still. It was amazing--and fabulous. However, the whole thing was also a little crazy because actually Genevieve cried for a couple of hours after her 8:45 nursing, probably from gas pains, and didn't fall asleep until around 11. In the meantime, I didn't go to bed until around then either, because Genna had been eating every two hours most of the day so I assumed she'd be ready to nurse again at any time. I finally went to sleep, and was totally stunned when I went downstairs at 1:30 and found Genevieve still asnooze on the couch and Christopher sitting next to her working on the computer, keeping watch. We both thought she'd wake up and scream for milk at any second. In the end, poor Christopher slept on the floor next to the couch until three when Genevieve finally woke up to eat, so loathe was he to interrupt the miraculous sleeping spell by carrying her up to her bassinet. The things parents do for some uninterrupted shut-eye....

After that, Genevieve ate again at 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. Technically then, she only woke up to nurse once during the true middle of the night. I'm not going to assume this is now her schedule, but even a one-time occurrence is great reassurance that she CAN, in fact, go long stretches at night without nursing.

Relatedly, I think I have to experiment with cutting out dairy and chocolate, to see if Genna's apparent stomach distress abates. She's been having a lot of unhappy evenings lately, which seem to be caused by gas pains and upset stomach--i.e. she spits up and burps a lot, etc. Poor thing! I've mentioned before that I'm sure some of it is the amount of air she gulps while trying to cope with my excessive milk flow, but I also know that dairy and chocolate in the mom's diet are two common causes of G.I. distress in nursing babies. You have no idea--or maybe you do--what a huge challenge this is going to be for me. Milk is fine--I can drink soy. But my ice cream??? Hello? How will I be able to go without THAT? Not to mention the chocolate.... Maybe I'll have to begin by just cutting down rather than going cold turkey. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Target Days (Daze)

Today I went to Target for what I think was maybe the 4th time in a week that someone in our household has gone to Target. I should keep track some time, just for fun and horrors. You see, I chalk it all up to the supreme disorganization that arrives in one's household once one has two babies at the same time. We thought we had moments of disorganization before? We thought we were busy and distracted with just a toddler to keep track of? Oh, how little we knew. These days, it seems like at least one of us is half asleep all the time (usually me), and the other is too busy wrangling carseats and wet diapers and burp cloths and toys to think straight. Then we switch places.

Anyway, the end result is that we never, EVER, remember to put everything we need on the shopping list. Consequently, our weeks tend to go something like this: Go to Target for size one diapers for the newborn. Spend an extra fifty dollars once there on things you didn't remember you also needed until you were in the store--paper towels, laundry soap, cat litter, toothpaste. The next day, realize you are out of milk. Go back to Target and get a gallon of milk, picking up fall shoes for Julia at the same time. Two days later, realize no one checked on the diaper-wipe supply, and see that we are almost out of wipes. Go back to Target. A day or so later, realize that though we just bought two big bales of size one diapers for the newborn, we forgot that we are running low on the big diapers for the toddler. Go back to Target.

See what I mean? Today at Target I overheard a funny, very apt comment, though. One woman enthusiastically said hello to another woman, clearly a friend or acquaintance she had just run into unexpectedly. The second woman took a minute to hear and respond to her, and then apologized, "Sorry! I'm in my Target daze!" The first woman laughed and nodded knowingly, as did I from my vantage point at the end of the aisle. Ah yes, the Target daze--aren't we ALL familiar with it? What else could explain that tendency to come in with a concise list, swearing it will be a fast in-and-out, but instead end up wandering happily through the "bagged candy" aisle? The cosmetics section? The racks of stretchy t-shirts and clearance baby clothes? And who put that hefty package of mini York Peppermint Patties in my cart?

Well, anyway.

This morning (before heading to Target) I was re-making Julia's bed. She said, "Mama making my bed!" and I said, "Yes, I am." Then she said, in the most cheery, singsong voice, "How NICE, Mama!" When I laughed, she said, "I love Mama!" "I love you, too!" I told her, and just in case I hadn't gotten it the first time, she said, "I love Mama TOO!" Not a bad way to start the day, you know?

And, by the way--what a day it is. Sunny, clear, about 60 degrees, with a cool crisp breeze but a nice warm glow from the sunshine, and the sky is a vibrant shade of blue. The leaves are starting to turn yellow along Woodley Street, so everything looks golden and lovely. Truly, a perfect September day. It might be time to go buy gourds and pumpkins at the stand next to the little hardware store downtown to decorate our mantle and doorstep. We promised Julia she could help pick some out.

Happy Autumn!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Baby Dinosaur

My chubalicious newborn baby is so heavy she's given me chronic arm, back, and neck pain from carrying, nursing, and shouldering her a million times a day. At least, that's my current theory. I'm totally sore, and I can't blame it on my resumed workouts. I'm not working out THAT hard. Seriously, I'm back to downing way too much Advil with my way too much Diet Coke, and best I can figure, if my five-week-old didn't weigh God only knows how much, and if I didn't spend most of every night alternately wrestling her wily mouth into place to nurse--we play this little game where she pops on and off the nipple furiously, in an attempt to both drink milk and avoid getting drowned by it, yelling and grunting all the while like a baby dinosaur--and then swinging her onto my shoulder to burp and spit up all over my neck, maybe I wouldn't feel like a candidate for joint replacement. Julia was way lighter than this at the same age, and I don't remember having any of these aches and pains then. Of course, I'm also older, and I have a feeling I've reached that point in life where you actually do start to feel two years older when you're, well, two years older.

I still think lack of sleep has a lot to do with it, too, though. Lately, during the night, when Genevieve wakes up to nurse, I experience that awful sensation of collapsing time--you know, when you feel as though you've only been asleep a minute or two, when in fact it's been a couple of hours and it is indeed time for the next feeding? It's so eerie--and so torturous. My eyes snap awake and I could swear I JUST put Genevieve down. Then I peer at the clock in the dark and sure enough, it reads two hours after the last time she awakened me, so I drag myself out of bed to get her from the bassinet and we start the process again. In the morning I have that dizzy feeling you get when four hours of sleep a night just isn't remotely enough. This is the part of breastfeeding that challenges me the most. Later, when I'm sleeping more and the relentless physical neediness of the newborn months has abated a little bit, nursing becomes so easy and satisfying, such a warm part of motherhood to me. But in the beginning, as much as I love nursing my babies, the sheer fatigue of nighttime feedings is enough to just about do me in. Genevieve has started to space out her feedings some nights--oh wonderful stretches of three hours!--but she's not reliable yet. She still has plenty of nights--and days--when she seems to be storing up food for the winter, and her internal hunger alarm goes off with exhausting frequency.

But boy, she's cute! She smiles a lot now, and makes little cooing, gurgling sounds in your direction if you're lucky. When she's falling asleep after eating, her eyes roll back in her head and she grins in her dreams. She's got this little lime-green hat that makes her look like an elf. She's got a navy-blue velvet BabyGap jacket with argyle trim that makes her look like a baby millionaire. And the other night I got her to settle down and fall asleep ONLY by rocking her next to the CD player and putting two Justin Roberts lullabies on repeat, so she's got good taste, too. So anyway, I guess what I'm saying is, she's worth the aches and pains. But I bet you knew that, didn't you.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The End of a Streak

It had to happen sooner or later. Last night Julia had her first tantrum. I mean one of those half-hour, lying on the floor, kicking and screaming disasters. Arms and legs flailing, sweaty hair matting, feet pounding the carpet. Poor little honey. Luckily we were at home, so it was pretty low-stakes. We just waited her out and tried to provide her with whatever comfort we could, but in the end she just had to cry it out and go to sleep. She'd had a tough day, putting up with Genevieve crying and not being able to get the immediate attention she is used to from one of us when she needs something, and by bedtime she was worn out. I don't even really know what the trantrum was about; it wasn't fully clear. Something about wanting to sing bedtime songs downstairs rather than upstairs; something about being mad that Genevieve needed attention. At any rate, it wasn't pretty. But hey, she's 27 months old, so I figure she's overdue.

Speaking of things that had to happen eventually, it saddens me greatly to say that the monumental postpartum nursing-mom weight loss has stalled. Yes, it's true---those days of eating my weight in, well, pretty much everything, including ice cream, chocolate, and iced soy lattes from Blue Monday, and still waking up every morning to see another pound or so dropped from my humming-furnace of a body are over. I'm still eating a ton, but the needle on the scale is happy where it's at. Maybe it's that baby Genevieve isn't nursing every 90 minutes anymore like she was during her three/four-week growth spurt. Maybe it's my body's way of preserving enough of a fat store to keep producing milk. Maybe it's just basic physiology. Either way, I still feel pretty lucky since I've lost all but five pounds of my pregnancy weight. Since Genevieve was born just five weeks ago, that seems like a gift from above, people. I'm well aware, and I take absolutely no credit for it. I'm very, very lucky.

What else? Well, today our infant carseat BROKE. Nice, right? Yes, it actually broke. This is the carseat we used for Julia, too, but it's only two years old and is in fine shape. I mean, so we thought. The spring mechanism malfunctioned and it now won't actually detach from the base in the car. Meaning, it's not portable anymore. Let me tell you, to discover this malfunction in the parking lot at "baby school" this morning, with Julia waiting to go into class and Genevieve snoozing in the seat, ready to be carried in, well--it threw a wrench in our morning. I wrestled with that thing for a good, sweaty 15 minutes, even trying to call Christopher at home (he had already left the house for a workout) to ask his advice, and considered just going back home, but Julia had her heart set on going to her class, and why shouldn't she? In the end, knowing just how challenging it was going to be, I took Genna out of the seat and carried her into the building "loose" in one arm, trying desperately to keep her floppy newborn head from jerking off her neck every two seconds, juggling my bag, the diaper bag, and Julia's hand with my other arm while monitoring the multiple city trucks that were navigating the parking lot for some sort of civic project so they wouldn't, you know, run over my kid. While the early-childhood teachers helped me out when they could, it wasn't really their job to spell me with my tagalong newborn, and it was no small feat to have to carry Genevieve in my arms for the entire class. (Have you ever tried taking a wet paint smock off a two-year-old one-handedly, with a five-week-old on one shoulder?) Thank God my friend Ruth was there to help out when I had to go change Julia's poopy diaper.

Anyway. So when we got home Christopher inspected the defective carseat and called the company. The most they will do for us is mail us a carton so we can send the carseat to them. They will repair it and send it back. This process will take about THREE WEEKS. Hello? Like, what exactly are we supposed to do with our INFANT in the meantime? In the end, we located some friends with an infant carseat they are not currently using, that we can borrow for the next few weeks. But seriously, people, would it kill Graco to e-mail us some kind of voucher to bring to Target for a free replacement seat? Or, at the very least, just send us a new seat rather than make us go through the time-consuming rigamarole of shipping them our seat for repair? Apparently, it would. Thanks a lot, Graco--never mind the fact that our household practically singlehandedly keeps you in business.

You know what? I've said it before: I'm totally blessed. I adore--ADORE--my lovely girls; I adore being a mom; I adore not working so I can raise them full-time; I adore my husband and my family and my friends and their babies, and autumn in Minnesota and good coffee and bad TV and the simple pleasures of a toddler's hug and a newborn's sloppy, best-effort smile.

And yet, recently? The tantrum, the end of the free weight loss, the broken carseat and the sweaty repeat workout of the second week of baby class? The every-two-hour feedings Genevieve revived last night, after teasing me with longer stretches lately? The fifth week of sleep deficit, the surprising and foreign slow return to physical stamina? I could do without these. While none of these alone are any big deal, nothing even worth complaining about, well---all of them together in the past day or so felt wearying. Like, yeah, enough--can I have an afternoon off, do you think? Just a few hours' vacation from being the postpartum mom of two babies under 2-1/2?

No? Well, the next best thing will have to be good enough: on Friday I get to leave the baby with a bottle of pumped breastmilk, the toddler to her afternoon nap, and both girls with their daddy (who is still on paternity leave) and drive up to my old hairdresser's in a south-Minneapolis suburb to get my hair done, peruse trashy celebrity gossip magazines and be pampered for an hour or so. She's the best; she never fails to make me feel babied and beautiful when I leave her salon, and she's a miracle worker with my hair, which is why I refuse to give her up even though I now live an hour away. Since half the time these days I'm lucky if I get a shower in the morning, and since the dark circles under my eyes have reached epic proportions, a little beautifying is definitely in order. I can't wait.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Babies and Bottles

Yesterday Genevieve had a big day: she took her first bottle. We'd been planning on introducing the bottle (of pumped breastmilk) at four weeks, when we were sure breastfeeding was firmly established, as we did with Julia. Only, with Julia, we did so because I was preparing to go back to work at my private practice two evenings a week. This time, doing the bottle thing felt kind of strange, like why are we doing this, anyway?, especially since I recalled how baby Julia cried as she drank her entire first bottle, so sad was she that it wasn't a breast. But. Then I remind myself that if I ever want to get my hair cut, or go to the dentist or the eye doctor, or, you know, ever do anything outside the house just for myself for an hour or two without trying to figure out how to get it done and get back before the baby wants to nurse again, that, well, a bottle of pumped milk will be necessary. And the baby will have to know how to drink from it, and accept it.

So Julia and I set off yesterday morning for Target, a.k.a. our second home. Yes, I know I was just at Target, but we haven't quite re-familiarized ourselves yet with how fast one goes through size one diapers with a newborn in the house. Christopher gave Genevieve a bottle, and apparently she barely blinked. Sucked it down in her usual passionate manner, and conked out for a long nap. I came home and of course I had to pump to compensate for the missed feeding, which is kind of a pain and sort of takes away from the whole be-free-of-a-feeding idea of having someone else give your baby a bottle. I mean, if you still have to pump in place of the nursing, it's not all THAT liberating. But oh well. The only hassle of introducing the bottle is that you kind of have to make sure you keep up with it, giving the baby a bottle on a regular basis so she stays used to it, from that point on. Since I don't have work to make that a built-in requirement, it may be a bit tricky to remember to do that consistently. Or maybe I'll just have to schedule lots of "me-time" for myself, spa treatments and workouts and the like, that don't involve babies, just to keep up with the bottle-thing. Don't you think?

Also yesterday, the whole family went for a long, slow walk in the fall-like afternoon. Though our pace was extremely leisurely and we thus didn't cover many miles, we ended up being outside with both babies and the double stroller (Julia alternately riding and walking/running/hopping/dawdling) for an hour. Since I had not done anything physical in almost six weeks--and oh yeah, had also had major surgery in the interim--, this ended up being, oh, a bit EXCESSIVE for my poor body. It felt good, but the rest of the night I was as sore as when I trained for the Chicago Half-Marathon back in the old (young?) days. My thigh muscles and hip joints and feet felt as if I'd just done a long run down the Lake Michigan lakefront. Whew! Who knew?! Bless her heart, Genevieve actually went four hours between feedings at one point overnight, and three hours another time, so I actually got to rest my aching muscles more than usual! But sheesh, talk about a lesson learned! Apparently I have to start working out in a more gradual manner, even if a slow stroll around the neighborhood for an hour with the girls felt very gradual when I was doing it.

It's fall, people. I love it, and I look forward to many more stroller walks before the snow flies in November. Maybe even a short run or two by myself in the evening dusk if I can work up to it slowly and if my feet will carry me. We'll see. The seasons are changing and it's time to start again.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Feeling the Love

You know you are blessed with supremely thoughtful, caring, and generous friends when the latest loved one to come visit you and meet the new baby brings, along with a gift for the baby and a book for big sister, a grocery bag so full it is too heavy for you to lift with one hand, stuffed to the brim with enough ready-to-serve groceries from the new Minneapolis Trader Joe's store--cheese tortellini, dahl makni, green curry, spinach-filo pie--to easily provide you with pre-made dinners for a couple of weeks. And as you are gratefully unpacking the jasmine rice, frozen garlic naan, whole-wheat penne, and jars of gourmet pasta sauce, amazed and thankful beyond belief, she says, "At the store I inspected every package, and if the cooking directions called for adding, chopping up, or buying anything extra to go in it, I put it back on the shelf and bought something else instead."

Don't you just want to kiss her?

(P.S. She's not the only one. Big, belated shout-outs to our other friends who have so generously brought us dinner and snacks since Genevieve was born--thank you, guys, and we love you.)

Double Chins and Other Delights


So have I mentioned how fat Genevieve is getting? It's true. She's a total, complete fattykins. It's fabulous; it doesn't get any more adorable. But those cheeks! Those chins! Good Lord.

I've been pondering lately: were Genevieve's first three weeks too easy to be true? Well, yes and no. She inexplicably cried and screamed all evening yesterday, inconsolable for hours, as if in pain or at least very uncomfortable. And she has evenings when she fusses and cries most of the time and won't settle down for sleep. She's definitely harder at one month old than she was at one-two weeks! And as she gets older, the time that she is asleep or content between nursings has decreased, so I don't as often have clear two-hour chunks of time when I know I can be free to do other things before she needs attention (read: nursing) again. But then again, she's still far easier than Julia was, temperament-wise, and she's only had one night so far that's necessitated a midnight car ride. Julia had many of those. Also, I have a feeling that Genna Rose is simply a more average baby than she is either an "angel baby" (i.e. those mythic creatures who rarely cry, nurse infrequently, and entertain themselves by gazing at a lamp for hours on end) or a high-needs infant like her big sis. Having said all that, I'm still more than ready for a three+ hour stretch between nursings at night. YAWN.

Genevieve also didn't sleep at all yesterday during the day, other than a brief snooze in the stroller when we went to visit Christopher's work, so it was an exhausting, and rather trying, day. Before dinner Christopher took Julia out for a few errands. When they came back Julia ran into the house and presented me with a bag of candy. She then repeated, charmingly, the statement they had been rehearsing all the way home in the car: "We got this for you because we LOVE you, Mama!" OK, so her daddy made her say it, but isn't that a heart-melter? Turns out they had stopped at the grocery store to pick up her prescription at the pharmacy, and when they went inside, Christopher reminded her, "OK, honey, remember, we're only getting your medicine and some water." But Julia said, "Get something for Mama!" When he asked her what she had in mind, Julia replied, "Get some candy for Mama! Mama yikes CANDY!" Ahem. So I do.

But don't you think my little girl is about as full of sweet as anyone would ever need? What a total honey pie. Though I didn't quite realize my love for all things sugary was quite as...salient a fact in Julia's world as it apparently is. After all, I don't eat candy in front of her, nor does she get candy to eat herself. You know, you can't put anything past these toddlers. They can smell a clandestine treat a mile away. And look! We've already taught her to equate junky food with LOVE. Oops!

Gotta run. My chocolate is calling.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Sorely Tested

Well, we got the results of Julia's kidney test today. Unfortunately, they show that she has Grade 2 reflux from her bladder back toward her kidneys. This is one level worse than she showed a year ago, though it is still relatively minor (Grade 1 is the most mild level of reflux possible). This means she has to remain on her daily medication for another year, and undergo the same test again next September. I'm so sad for her. I know it's not that serious, but I was so hoping we'd be done with this and she would never again have to be catheterized for that awful test. I hate to think of her going through it again at age three.

In other news, Julia and her daddy went to the first week of a special daddy-child ECFE class last night after supper. When they got home, I learned that Julia had cried really hard when it came time for the kids to play with the teacher and the dads to go to the room next door for the parent discussion part of class. (She had done fine separating from me during our regular morning ECFE class the day before.) I guess the teacher helped her feel better and get involved with playtime activities, but then when the dads came back in to pick up their kids she started sobbing again. She talked about it the whole time we were putting her to bed last night, poor girl. Apparently the class was quite large--10 children compared to the five in her morning class--and unlike her other class (which is all two-year-olds), this class is for kids up to age 5 and consisted of a lot of four-year-old boys who were pretty rough-and-tumble. Sigh. Poor Jujee. When I registered her for this special four-week daddy class, I didn't know it was a separating class. I thought it was just playtime for dads with their toddlers/preschoolers. I probably wouldn't have signed her up for two separating classes--since she's never separated from us before in prior ECFE classes--if I had understood that. She's going through enough transition as it is right now. So anyway, it was a sad night. But then again, it will be a good learning experience for Julia, and hopefully next week will go better.

As for Genevieve, she's testing us all: today she refused to sleep all afternoon, rebelling against her bassinet and requiring constant holding to stem the tide of baby-fussiness. As I write this, she is gritching and groaning in the background, demanding her umpteenth meal of the day. I'm worn out, people. I love my girls, but I'm TIRED. And this is with Christopher still on parental leave from work! (YIKES.)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

What I Learned at Baby School

So far, no news on the results of Julia's test on Monday. Thank you all for your well wishes and I will let you know what we find out as soon as we hear! She was a real trooper and though it was painful and she cried, afterward she got a Big Bird doll and ate lunch with Daddy in the hospital cafeteria, and was in a fairly cheerful mood. But since Monday she's been saying, "Julia don't yike dat test!" Indeed.

Yesterday was the first day of Julia's fall ECFE class. For non-Minnesotans, ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education) is a birth-through-pre-K educational program through the public schools, consisting of weekly classes that include parent/child play as well as parent education. It's kind of a "mommy-and-me" type class--great for babies as well as for mamas who want to connect with other parents. It's wildly popular, affordable (fees are on a sliding scale), supportive, and fun, and naturally, our Republican governor has drastically cut the state-wide program during his time in office because he apparently doesn't think that pro-social services that help families are important. But that's another post.

Anyway, I trundled off with both babies yesterday morning. The class is for two-year-olds, but you can bring infant siblings along to hang out in their carseats if they're little enough. Class was in a new building we hadn't been to before, so I wasn't exactly sure where to park or which door to go into. Here is what I learned yesterday:

At four weeks post-C-section, when you haven't done anything physical since a week before the baby was born and your body is still pretty weak, carrying your hefty newborn in her infant carseat while also corralling your two-year-old through a big parking lot with your purse and a diaper bag over your shoulder is a total workout. Especially when you accidentally park by the wrong door and have to walk down a long sidewalk to the correct one. You are pretty sure all of this violates the "no lifting anything heavier than your baby for six weeks" rule. When you get in the building and find the classroom, you are completely sweaty and you are happy to see your fellow postpartum friend with her toddler and her five-week-old, looking equally damp and dishevelled and saying, "I'm completely exhausted now!" After nursing your newborn through class while simultaneously monitoring your toddler during the joint parent-child playtime and doing action songs during circle time, when it is time to go you will discover that reversing the above scenario while now also carrying a wet painting to bring home for the refrigerator door and battling a lunchtime blood sugar crash and a sudden attack of nursing-related dehydration is even more of a workout. The rest of the day, you will crave water, sugar, fast calories and slow breathing. You will be proud that you all made it to the first day of "baby school," and you will assume that this will get easier with time.

(Oh, by the way: Julia did great, had a blast with the huge sand table, the two-level playhouse, the dried pasta station where the kids could dig in mounds of uncooked penne and rotini with shovels and buckets, the play kitchen area, the paints....Two of her playgroup buddies are in her class, and she even managed the mama-separation time just fine, saying afterward "Julia played with teacher when mamas went to other room!" Since this was the first "separating" ECFE class she's been in, it was quite a milestone for her. Tonight she goes to a special daddy-and-toddler ECFE class after supper. Pretty exciting!)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Vampire Baby

So as you can tell from my previous post today, Genevieve is sucking me dry. It's crazy! She nurses like there's no tomorrow; she nurses like she's in one of those insane eating contests where the contestants suck down as many hot-dogs as they can in three minutes. Except she takes more than three minutes, and then she does it all over again in an hour or two. And repeats the scenario ad infinitum. All of you people who I keep hearing or reading about, whose one-month-old infants have already stretched out their nighttime nursings to over three hours? Maybe even four, or more? I don't want to hear about it. I am happy for you, and I know very well that many, many babies also exist who are currently doing the exact opposite--cruising through the 24-hour milk buffet every hour on the hour--but right now, I'm just a little too envious of anyone getting more sleep than I am to be overly gracious about anyone else's good luck. Because it just doesn't seem like I have the sort of babies who ever, EVER stretch out their nursings. Let's just pretend none of us is getting any sleep, shall we? Let's just pretend EVERYONE'S one-month-olds are still nursing every two hours at the longest, around the clock. Thank you.

So in the meantime, it all feels kind of weird, physically. As many of you know, my breastfeeding experience with Julia--in the early months, I mean--was physically difficult, painful and relentless. So I am not unfamiliar with feeling depleted from nursing. But this is different. It's not painful, so it's not effortful in the way it was when I nursed newborn Julia, but the sheer volume of milk my body is producing, coupled with Genevieve's enthusiastic suck-it-down attitude, makes me feel like all my life-force is being drained from my body by a vampire. A chubby, non-mobile, double-chinned, pooping vampire. Who happens to be extremely cute, thank goodness. For the first time, I can actually feel, physically, a direct (negative) correlation between the amount of milk my baby is guzzling out of me and my bodily energy level. Today, after the last few days of marathon nursing, I've mostly been staggering around the house panting and gasping weakly about needing more food and drink, unable to lift my feet fully off the floor as I walk. I feel like the Ghost of Nursing Past, Present, and Future.

I love my little vampire baby dearly, and I'm handling it okay, but honestly--I'm so physically tired as a result of all this milk-making! (Which is also to say that my previous plans to start working out again today, now that it is a month after the birth, are, well....not being realized.)

In the past week I've noticed that my whole body hurts--especially my neck, shoulders, back, even arms, wrists, and hands are all achy and sore, and they get worse the more I nurse and the less sleep I get, and better when I get additional rest. I think I alone am keeping the makers of Advil in business. In addition, I can't seem to eat enough to both provide Genevieve with her constant snacks and maintain my own weight--not a problem, since I'm still working on losing the last of the pregnancy pounds, but it is an odd sensation to consume three hefty meals a day, numerous high-calorie snacks, pre-bedtime cookies, glasses of milk, you name it--only to wake up the day after nursing Genna Rose every hour on the hour to find out that I've actually lost another pound. I've never eaten more in my life, and yet I've lost two more pounds in the past two weeks. Again: not a problem, but it does go to show how much the baby is taking out of me! Yikes.

Speaking of, I hear the cries of a hungry baby. After this nursing, I'm going to Target to spend money we don't really have on the essentials we need anyway: size one diapers, bigger pants and shirts and shoes for Julia for the fall, and, of course, Diet Coke, ice cream, chocolate, and assorted other snacks for the Human Milk Machine. And don't try to tell me those last items aren't essential.

Four Weeks and Counting

Genevieve Rose is four weeks old today (which is not quite the same as one month, but still feels pretty monumental). Now that is amazing. Where did the last four weeks go? Oh yeah, they disappeared in a blur of too much milk and too little sleep. Genevieve appears to be in some sort of personal race toward a third chin. Last evening she nursed five times between 5:15 and 9:30 p.m. You heard me. Five times. Growth spurt, anyone? She's at the right age for it, as they say the major infant growth spurts occur around three weeks, six weeks, and six months. At any rate, she's got to be at least nine lbs. by now, and I bet she'll hit 12 by her two-month well-baby doctor visit (the next time she goes in to the pediatrician). This is pretty amazing, since Julia was only about 8 1/2 lbs. at two months.

Anyway...in honor of Genna Rose's first four weeks in our family, here are some fitting words from a very sweet Justin Roberts song:

"'Cause now we're doing cartwheels and somersaults
And it's all your fault, yeah it's all your fault
It's you we love (mama can I hold her)
You we love (let's put her on your shoulder)
It's you we, you we, you we love...

Who knew a baby sister
Could come along and make us realize
How much we'd always missed her?"

Monday, September 11, 2006

For a Brave Baby

As I write this, Julia and her daddy are on their way home from Children's Hospital in Minneapolis, where they spent the morning. Julia was sent up there by her pediatrician in our town, to get a repeat of the kidney test she underwent a year ago (a test they don't do at our local hospital). The repeat test is to see if her kidneys are functioning normally now and she can thus stop taking her daily dose of prophylactic antibiotics that she's been taking for the past year to ward off further potential urinary tract infections.

It's been a year since Julia had her terrible kidney infection, and for the most part I try not to think about it. It's one of those things that's hard to remember head on; it's hard to voluntarily stare into the face of such a bad memory. I know that in the grand scheme of life, compared to families who have to cope with things like childhood cancer or serious disability or--God forbid--death, Julia's experience seems like the most minor of medical bumps in the road. But let me tell you, when it's your child, any amount of suffering and pain, especially in a baby too little to tell you where it hurts, or that anything hurts at all, is almost intolerable.

I truly don't have the emotional wherewithal, in my as-yet-postpartum-hormonal state, to delve into the entire tale in all its detail. But the short version is this: Julia was only 15 months old, and she had just had her vaccinations, and then she developed a fever and a variety of other mysterious symptoms, and our regular pediatrician was on maternity leave. And the myriad other clinicians we dealt with over the course of two weeks missed the boat. They said she was having a reaction to her shots; they didn't test for anything else. She became sad and lethargic; she stopped smiling, she stopped expending any energy to move or play. But her symptoms varied, waxed and waned with ibuprofen, and it was easy to take the doctors' word and assume it was just something that would surely pass the next day, or the next. Only it didn't. And eventually she started having spells of shuddering with pain, and turning gray in the face, only that would pass too, and no one knew what it was. And in the midst of all this there was the terrible night before any of this was finally diagnosed, when I mistook her middle-of-the-night cries for baby-sleep-rebellion, and I was frustrated and tired and short with her for not lying down and going to sleep in her crib. And I went into her room and snapped at her, saying, "Julia Charlotte! This is ridiculous!" And I sang an entire, very long song to her before she stopped shuddering and fell into fitful sleep. And soon thereafter it was finally discovered that all this time she'd had a terrible urinary tract infection, which had been left to fester and cause her pain, until it had spread to her kidneys.

And all this led to the eventual kidney tests she underwent in 2005, the renal ultrasound and the kidney dye test. Lying on a medical table in the hospital at only 15 months old, having a catheter inserted into her bladder to check for urinary reflux back toward her kidneys. It is a terrible thing to witness a baby suffer through tests like that. She was too young to understand why she was being put through even more pain. In the end, she got her antibiotics, and was fine. The pain went away; we went on with things. But the memories of those weeks in September last year are painful ones, because she should never have had to suffer pain for two full weeks, and it was awful that she couldn't tell us that she was suffering. And it was terrible that she was such a brave baby, when babies shouldn't have to be brave.

This morning, Julia is having a catheter inserted again, and her bladder will be filled artificially with a large amount of liquid. Then the clinicians will wait for her to empty her bladder--a tough task for a non-potty-trained two-year-old to understand, and accomplish on cue--and they will check to see if the urine clears her body in the right way. Catheter insertions hurt; and distended bladders hurt too. And Julia will not know what is happening, or why. But she remains brave, and afterward her daddy will take her for a special lunch in the hospital cafeteria, and will buy her a special toy in the gift shop. She will be okay. It's just a test; it's not serious or life-threatening. It's been a whole year since she was so little, and so sick. We're all okay now, and healthy.

She's still a brave baby.

More Boring Comments About My Newborn's Sleep Habits

Despite a fussy period late last evening when nothing was right in her world, between midnight and 7 a.m. today Genevieve only nursed three times, which is an improvement in our sleep-deprived household. Yay! I'm pretty sure there's no reason to be alarmed about colic, just the typical newborn fact of life that Genna Rose has a fussy period of day--or night, rather--and she isn't always ready for sleep when the grown-ups are, seeing as she's also been snoozing all day long. Poor girl also has lots of tummy troubles, as she tends to gulp air when she's trying to keep herself from drowning on my ridiculous milk flow when she first starts nursing. Sorry 'bout that, kid!!!

More later--it's a big day for Julia today, and not really in a good way. It involves doctors and painful tests. And it hearkens back to a very difficult time for us a year ago, when she was very sick and no one knew it, or knew why, and she suffered needlessly. I'll write more about that later. But for now, I have to take advantage of the fact that my mother-in-law is visiting and is holding the baby for me so I can go take a shower. (I may even wash my hair!)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Not a Good Milestone

Last night Genevieve had her first night of being driven around in the car at 1 a.m. in a desperate attempt to get her to stop crying and go to sleep. (Right here, insert many sad faces and big sighs.) She had been awake all evening/night, was extremely unhappy, and nothing was doing the trick--not nursing, not burping, not getting her diaper changed, not rocking, not singing, not giving her Simethicone, nothing. It was a bad flashback to June '04, I tell you. Especially since I'd slept next to not at all the night before due to her hourly nursing rush. I still can't quite believe we had to resort to the middle-of-the-night driving thing (well, it was Christopher doing the driving, since someone had to stay home with Julia). I had just been saying, a week ago, how wonderful and amazing it was that we didn't have any of those things going on with this baby as opposed to with our first. (Of COURSE I was just saying that, right? Did you hear the ominous music in the background when I said it, warning me that only a FOOL goes ahead and talks like that out loud, just ASKING to be jinxed?)

Now, given that Genevieve is three weeks old and we've had a few tiresome fussy evenings lately...I'm just a little terrified of the C-WORD. (I'll whisper it for you in case you didn't get it: colic.) Were Genna's first three weeks just a little too easy to be true?

Tune in to find out, and in the meantime, say a little prayer for us.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Just a Typical Thursday

Um, yeah, so forget about those nice longer stretches between feedings that Genevieve treated me to the other night. Last night she was back to every two hours like clockwork, just to prove who's in charge around here. Thus, today I was oh so tired again and I set a new record for postpartum caffeine consumption. I've got a new theory that part of why I am so unbelievably tired is that I am recovering from major surgery. I've decided to use the C-section as an explanation and excuse for just about everything from here on out.

So what else is new around here? Well, the whole family ran a bunch of errands this morning, and both girls did great. First we went to CostCutters to get Julia's hair fixed. I had taken her to Great Clips two days ago to finally surrender to the Need For Bangs, but yesterday it became brutally apparent that the girl who cut Julia's hair was perhaps drunk when she did so. Meaning, Julia's hair was insanely crooked. No way was I going back there for the repair. At CostCutters, the woman who fixed Julia up had been cutting hair for twenty years, not, oh, two weeks like the first girl, and she did as good a job as one can do when one's customer is a wriggly two-year-old. So anyway: so much for growing out Julia's hair, but at the same time, she now no longer looks like an orphan. Yay!

Besides the hair salon, we also visited a coffee shop to finally return a little tiny toy that had somehow escaped from the children's play corner via Julia's pocket the last time we were there, the Friday before Genevieve was born. Sorry, James Gang Coffeehouse. Then we went to Walgreen's to buy hair-cutting shears for home-trimming of above-mentioned New Bangs, and to Christopher's office to introduce Genevieve (who slept in her carseat the whole time).

Not too exciting, I know. Does this help? There's a giant ferris wheel downtown right now, amidst a bunch of rides and booths and other assorted festive accoutrements that are in place for the big Defeat of Jesse James Days fair in our town this weekend. This is our first DJJD fair experience (and I don't know how much of it we'll get to, with a newborn and everything), but apparently it is a HUGE DEAL here. The highlight is an annual re-enactment of the big Jesse James Gang bank robbery that actually happened here in...um...whatever year Jesse James rode around raising hell and killing people. Local townspeople dress up and put on a little show, complete with (fake) gunfire and (fake) bloodshed. Kind of crazy, right?

Oh, and here's an oddity. Tonight I was going through my closet, trying things on, and I discovered that a bunch of clothes I bought after Julia's birth to get through the transitional postpartum period are already too big for me, three weeks after Genevieve's birth. This is especially odd because I've lost the same amount of pregnancy weight as I had at three weeks postpartum with Julia. And yet I currently fit into clothes I didn't wear for a full year after Julia was born. How strange is that? Something about different body composition this time around; perhaps from that killer strength-training workout DVD I did until I was 9 months pregnant with Genevieve. I'm not complaining or anything, but I have to admit I kind of miss some of those clothes that I don't even get to wear this time. I'll probably never wear them again, unless for some reason I gain a bunch of weight at some point. Guess I'll give them away. It just seems so strange.

Anyway, sorry for the boring, rambling post. I'll try to come up with something more interesting soon. In the meantime, Genevieve is going through a ravenous grazing phase, nursing constantly but rarely being able to ingest more than the milk from just one side. I'm still making too much milk for her tiny tummy, so one side is more than enough. But then she decides she needs to top off the tank an hour later rather than two or three, so I end up nursing pretty much all the time. I'm not a big fan of the grazing diet. On the other hand, I'm a big fan of her sudden chubby cheeks and her double chin.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

An Extra Hour's Sleep

Hallelujah! Last night Genevieve went four hours between one feeding, and three between another (rather than her normal two), meaning that in the end she nursed four times during the night rather than five. Every little bit helps, people--I feel fantastic today!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Three-Week Status

Ways in which I am a different parent with the second baby than I was with the first:

I have not yet leaned over my 3-week-old, my palm to her chest, to make sure she is still breathing. Not once! People, it hasn't even occurred to me. Only brand-new parents know how amazing this statement is.

Neither have I accidentally woken up the baby in an attempt to make sure she is still alive. In fact, I don't think I've yet woken up the baby for any reason, at all, because if there's one thing you learn once you've been a parent for awhile, it is: never, ever, wake up a sleeping baby. Nothing is that important. Do you hear me? Nothing.

***

I know what a boring thing this is to say, but I'm going to say it anyway. I continue to be incredibly, mind-blowingly tired. Part of this is the fact that Genevieve has become a little harder to put back to sleep after her nighttime nursings, so I end up awake longer each time. Most of it is just the mundane fact of round-the-clock nursing. Genna Rose demands her nocturnal snacks every two hours on the dot. (And, for the uninitiated: the time between feedings is calculated from the BEGINNING of one nursing to the beginning of the next--something no one tells you beforehand, right?! So it's not as if you get TWO HOURS of sleep between feedings, silly you for thinking so!) At any rate, I thought I had hit a wall last week, when Genevieve was two weeks old. This week I apparently have hit the Hoover Dam. Unfortunately, my incision hurts worse again this week too, which strikes me as odd and unfair. I thought my pain was pretty much gone, but I guess my body is trying to remind me that I'm only halfway through my official recovery period.

All this tired-ness makes me sad because it means I have absolutely nothing to give to Julia. Whenever possible, though it means no family breakfasts and minimal other quality time, I sleep or tend to Genevieve as needed, and that's all I do. Nursing and changing diapers is about all I can handle right now. It's a miracle I'm actually feeding myself and the rest of the family, but that's largely due to the generosity of my mom and our friends who have brought us meals. Christopher spends all his time with Julia because I don't have the energy to take care of her too. She seems to be doing okay with it, but it's a big change from how it used to be, only three short weeks ago, when she and I spent ALL our time together between dawn and bedtime.

So: how are things at three weeks? Just as you'd expect. Wonderful, and not so wonderful. Genevieve is a luscious doll with a rosebud mouth and alert dark-blue eyes; she's a total charmer if you give her half a drooly, milky chance. Julia is sweet and kind and usually cheerful. Both girls are healthy and well. And also: I'm really tired, and my body hurts, and the house is dirty, and I'm just so tired.

So. We're doing fine.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Toddler-Speak

My current two favorite mispronunciations of Julia's:

1. "sir-vull" for silver
2. "yor-gut" for yogurt