It’s sort of difficult to look back and reflect on this year. It seems to have been impossibly long and impossibly full of both good and bad. I’ve heard from many people that 2013 lived up to its reputation of being bad luck and ended up being the worst year in memory. Not many people seemed to have enjoyed this year, and I can’t particularly say that I blame them. Obviously, this year brought us amazing goodness, but it was unbelievably hard, too. Cameron, his father, and both my parents spent time in the hospital. I seem to have lost touch with most of my friends. The flood. Oh, the flood. What happened in September this year put a huge crack in me that has forever altered the way I see the place I live–through no fault of its own–and I don’t think it will ever be fixed. I spent more time this year battling my depression and anxiety than probably ever before. Not to diminish the beauty that is my daughter, but her arrival brought with it almost 5 weeks of daily crying and some of the worst self-doubt I’ve ever had.
But there was beauty and wonderful moments this year, too. I celebrated my 25th birthday and Cameron turned 30. We spent three whole weeks in Hawaii, something I think about almost daily. We traveled to North Carolina to witness the union of two of our most wonderful family members. I started working on a new book with my agent, which was exciting despite how challenging it was. And, even though many of my friends seem to have fallen away from me, I grew closer than ever before to my best friend–my husband–and to my parents. Of course, most beautiful of all, my little girl. I cannot wait to see what this year brings us and I am so excited to watch her begin to learn and grow. I know 2014 will bring new challenges but it will bring new opportunities too, and I’m looking forward to it. I’m eager to see 2013 go into the record books and hopefully 2014 will not be repeating any of its bad habits.
We had an excellent Christmas week with Caroline. On Sunday, we went to my parent’s house to watch football and finish our shopping. Monday, they took us to dinner at HuHot Mongolian Grill for Cameron’s birthday, and then they got us a hotel room to spend a nice baby-free mommy daddy night, also for Cameron’s birthday. (He turned 30 on the 20th!) The hotel was AWESOME and Caroline had a sleepover with MeMe and Papi while we enjoyed nearly 12 hours of continuous sleep. Ahh. We went out to breakfast the next morning (Christmas Eve) and then went back to my parent’s house to help them set up for my mom’s party. That night some of our family and close friends came to visit and spread some holiday cheer. The next day we got up early to open presents, had breakfast, and hung out until Cameron’s family arrived. After a casual dinner with them we headed back up the hill and the next morning had Christmas round 2 with his family. So many fun presents! Caroline made out like a bandit in the toy department. Cam’s family heads off to visit with some other friends and family later this afternoon, so it was a short visit but really fun. Needless to say I am looking forward to just relaxing again…it has been a busy week! Caroline has her 2 month appointment and vaccinations on Monday, and Cameron returns to work on Wednesday, so we have a big week of transition ahead of us. Anyway, in lieu of a blow-by-blow of our Christmas week, enjoy some photos instead. I hope you had a fantastic week and were able to enjoy fun times with your family and friends. 🙂
I remember the year I realized that Santa wasn’t real. It was the year we had moved to Colorado Springs from Syracuse and I must have been 7 or 8. It was the first time I’d witnessed a Christmas without snow, so naturally I asked my dad how Santa would land on the roof. Without missing a beat he said Santa put roller skate wheels on the bottom of the sleigh. Later, I found wrapping paper in my parents’ closet that was the exact same paper that had covered the box containing my Pocahontas talking Grandmother Willow bank. When I asked about this, dad said that sometimes Santa got too busy to wrap presents, so he would drop them off and ask the parents to wrap them for him. He tried so hard to keep that one going, but it was pretty much over for me at that point.
The strange thing was, though I realized he wasn’t real, it didn’t mean that I stopped believing in him. The older I got, the more I identified with Santa. Or the spirit of him, I guess. I came from a family of atheists, so Christmas has nothing to do with the birth of any deity figure for me. As a loose follower of the ancient Celtic religion, I celebrate this time of year as Yuletide and the passing of midwinter, one of the origins of modern-day Christmas. But growing up, Christmas was about Santa Claus and celebrating family, friends, good food, and yes, gift-giving. It’s not all about the gifts, and I think it’s important to instill that in our children–in fact, one of my pet-peeves is when people ask what I want for Christmas or worse, tell me what they want for Christmas–in my book, gifts should come from the heart and you should appreciate that the giver took the time to think of you in the giving of it. Christmas is not a time to ask carte blanche for cash. You know all the Whos down in Whoville who loved Christmas just because it brought people together and it was a time to love one another and spread joy? That was my family. Our house was decorated warmly and festively and it was, like the song says, the most wonderful time of the year. Still is.
And that’s why I’m continuing the Santa tradition with Caroline. Since we don’t celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus, I want to give her something to believe in during this season. Lately I’ve read a lot of other bloggers who seem to hate the idea of introducing Santa to our kids. A lot of people seem to think it’s about the worst lie you could possibly peddle to your kids and I think that’s ridiculous. What’s wrong with Santa? What’s wrong with getting our kids to believe in magic and create a sense of wonder in them? So what if it’s not real, so what if some day they’re going to find out. If you’ve done it “right”, it shouldn’t matter, because they will still believe in the magic and the spirit of Christmas.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. You know the story of The Polar Express? The boy who finds himself doubting Santa until he meets him and receives the sleigh bell which will only ring for people who believe in Santa and the magic of Christmas? The adults can’t hear it, but he always does, because he believes. My dad still hears that bell. 58 years old and he can still hear that bell. Which means that I do too.
This is a post about breastfeeding. Pass it over if you feel so inclined.
The first night Caroline and I spent in the hospital after her birth was tough. Really tough. Cameron and my mom went home to rest because we thought, well, they’re only 2 blocks away, and more than likely the baby will sleep most of the night anyway since that’s what she’d been doing all day. That’s what babies do their first few days, they sleep. I had the nurse there for support, we figured it was a decent solution to allowing some of us to get some sleep. The second Cameron left the hospital, Caroline started wailing. And she pretty much never stopped the whole night. I held her, I cuddled her, I walked around the room with her, I changed her and I tried to feed her, pretty much my entire arsenal of things I knew how to do less than 24 hours into my career as a mother. The nurse would come in occasionally probably to make sure that I wasn’t passed out in the bed ignoring her because she was crying for so long. She helped me re-swaddle her and gave me a different binkie to try and checked her to make sure her temperature was okay. Because my milk wasn’t in yet, feeding her was still a challenge, but boy did I try. All night long. When she first came out at only 5lbs3oz, we were instructed to feed her every 2 hours on the dot, which I did (or attempted) dutifully and happily. It was the first sign for me that breastfeeding was going to be a challenge, but I was still too tired (and too hopeful that it was just “the first night”) to read the writing on the wall.
The next morning when the pediatrician came in to do a checkup on her, instead of being told that she was doing well and we could go home that day, he told me that she had lost 9% of her birth weight in little over 24 hours. She had dropped all the way to 4lbs11oz which is preemie, might need to go to the NICU territory. In case you’re not familiar with what’s considered normal, doctors expect babies to lose about 10% of their birth weight in a week before they start gaining again. Naturally this was a little distressing, but not the end of the world, and the doctor told me that he wanted us to stay an extra day to make sure she could put some weight back on. I held it together till he left the room and then immediately started bawling in front of the nurses who, bless them, were very supportive. I was overtired, physically exhausted, hormonally overloaded, and alone–Cameron was still on his way over with coffee. Most of all I was worried about my baby. Since I was still only producing colostrum at that point, the nurses said we would try to supplement her with some formula so that she could get a few extra calories out of every feeding and that when I could, I would pump to try and help bring the milk in. We fed her formula by syringe at first, and then the nurse whipped out a supplemental nutrition system, basically a supply line that fed formula into the corner of her mouth while I was nursing so that we were killing two birds with one stone–she was nursing and helping bring in the milk AND getting some extra calories. Luckily, the next day when the doctor came in to look at Caroline, she had gained back 5 whole ounces–he’d expected one at the most, so this was extremely encouraging, and he allowed her to be discharged that day.
The next few days were a struggle as my body adjusted to nursing and milk production. On top of the super painful nipples every time she latched on, my milk came in so crazy fast I was engorged almost immediately and spent a good 2 or 3 days in severe pain that left me crying pretty much every time she nursed. Once at three in the morning I got up and had to put hot washcloths on my chest just to get some relief. I also have an overactive node or gland or something under one of my armpits near where the milk ducts are, something that has been an annoyance pretty much all my post-puberty life, and when my milk came in, this thing swelled up to the size of a chicken egg and stayed rock hard for three days. Misery. Pure misery. I remember at one point saying to Cameron that if this was going to continue, there was no way I’d be able to breastfeed for an entire year.
Since then the engorgement has gone down (thank goodness) but breastfeeding has still been a challenge pretty much every day. Caroline is gaining plenty of weight and in fact is surpassing the doctor’s expectations–at her last appointment she weighed around 7lbs8oz–so that’s good, but pretty much every nursing is a complete crapshoot and could go one of two ways: perfectly fine, or completely terrible. I have occasional oversupply and a near constant overactive letdown, and if you’ve ever experienced that you know how frustrating it can be. One of the lactation nurses at the hospital told me it was “a good problem to have” and I wanted to ask if she was kidding me. I know that it’s probably preferable to having low supply or some other issues, but in no way is it a “good problem to have.” It’s a miserable, horrible problem to have and I think it’s the one thing that’s contributing the most to my baby blues, more so than the colic even.
Here’s a basic rundown of how nursing goes. If it’s a good session, she feeds for 5-7 minutes on one side and that’s all. I offer the second side but usually she is not interested and I end up having to pump. Her doctor says that because she is so efficient at nursing and gaining so much weight that this really isn’t an issue, so I figure I’ll take it. If it’s a bad session, it’ll go something like this: I put Caroline to the breast. She latches on perfectly and nurses calmly till the letdown happens, which I can sense because both my nipples feel like they have binder clips clamped onto them for about 10 seconds. I can also tell it’s happening because it’s at that point that the baby starts choking and gagging and unlatches, then starts to scream. Then let’s not forget the milk that ends up everywhere because I have turned into a garden hose with no valve. The crying and constant latching/unlatching means two things: Caroline is not eating, and she’s swallowing air which is giving her gas and contributing to the colic–and usually it means she ends up spitting up whatever milk she did get in the first place. It’s a horrible cycle and gives me miserable anxiety pretty much every time I have to feed her. I’ve tried just about everything that’s been suggested by the lactation consultants and that I can find online, so no advice please, and in any case nothing that I’ve been trying is working. When we get really desperate we decide to pump and bottle-feed her for a few weeks until she can handle the amount or my body regulates, but usually by a few hours into this plan I end up so miserable that I put her back to the breast again because I can’t stand the bottle (not to mention she doesn’t love it either, so bottle-feeding sessions are usually just as stressful as nursing). It’s just not the same and let’s face it, issues aside nursing is just easier than bottle-feeding especially late at night. I don’t have to keep track of pumping all the time and I don’t have to spend time heating up a bottle, I can just feed her. Or try to, at least.
Still, it’s been hard. Really hard. We usually get in a pattern of having a good few days and then a regression happens and she will go back to having problems again. The problem for me is that my brain sees a cause-and-effect pattern: I feed her, and she immediately cries, which means I’m not doing a good job. I know it’s not rational and I know I have little control over the issue, but it’s not easy to cope with. It also means that she is not eating enough to get a full stomach in one sitting, so she still at nearly 6 weeks old sleeps maybe 3 hours at a time, and most days I end up feeling chained to the couch because she has to eat a little all the time instead of eating a lot occasionally. And naturally this snowballs into a lot of other issues that have been hard to cope with, the baby blues chief among them. I guess I thought by now something would have “clicked” and we would have figured it all out and gotten into a pattern, or something. All the people I know who recently had babies say their little one is giving them 4-6 hours of sleep at night and everything is going fine, but I’m still up with her pretty much all night, sleeping in a different bed from Cameron because it’s too hard for us to both be awake all night long, and I’m getting more and more frustrated and upset every day. It’s exhausting when something you spend so much time of your day doing doesn’t go well. I have days where I want to give up breastfeeding altogether because why spend so much time being miserable, and others when the idea makes me break down because I need that time with my little girl and the idea of doing anything else means I’ve failed (again, not a rational idea, but it occurs to me anyway.)
Anyway, as we approach Caroline’s 6-week birthday all I can hope (and hope and hope and hope) is that maybe we’ll turn a corner soon and breastfeeding will become easier, because at this point I don’t see it lasting nearly as long as I’d hoped because there’s simply no way I can continue like this. And that makes me desperately sad. Still, most everyone we’ve talked to say that the first 6 weeks are the hardest and it does, despite all odds, get better after that. So I have my fingers crossed, because at this point it’s really about all I can do.
I thought, since time is already barreling by at the speed of sound, that I would start a series of things I love about every month of Caroline’s life while she is doing so much growing and learning. Might help me to remember them, first off, and it might also help me remember the good times when things get hard.
So, in no particular order, some of my favorite things about Caroline’s first month.
When she finishes nursing and rests her head there and falls asleep. I know, given her colic and stomach upset when I don’t get a good burp out of her, that I should sit her up and burp her sooner than later, but sometimes it’s just so peaceful I can’t bring myself to wake her.
The cuddles. Ugh, the cuddles. When I hold her and she curls up and turns her face against me. I can’t take it!
Little toots. I know, super mature of me, but it cracks me up when she farts.
Another super mature one: when I lie back to feed her so that she doesn’t get overwhelmed by the letdown, it puts me in pure hysterics when she lifts her head off, decides she wants more, and practically dives back onto my nipple with this huge wide open mouth. She buries her face in my boob and all I can think of is her going “OM NOM NOM!” Yeah, I’m 25.
Discovery faces like these:
The little coos and noises she makes when she’s in a good mood and just looking around taking things in.
Attitude. (I’m enjoying this one while she can’t actually talk back.)
When she’s in the middle of a crying fit and I put her to my chest and eventually she just gives up and lays her head down on my chest.
Wandering hands that brush my tummy while she’s nursing.
When she is up on my shoulder and she holds herself upright and I can see her out the corner of one eye and all I can see is this big baby face, like looking through a fish-eye lens. I don’t know what it is about this that I love so much.
Sleeping on mommy’s chest at night and her new favorite, sitting with mommy to watch tv.
Bragging mommy time. Caroline is rolling from her belly to her back. Say whaaaaaat.
Over the weekend while we were on our date my mom said she did it in the middle of having an angry fit about her gas. She had her on her tummy in the playpen and she said she just got so mad she pushed herself right over. This morning, we set her down on her mat for a little tummy time, and she rolled herself over easy as you please, twice. She wasn’t upset or flailing or anything, so I don’t think it was just a fluke–and, after all, she did it twice. She gets up on her arms in a push-up stance and woop–there she goes. I thought 4 weeks was way too early for that, (BabyCenter says 4 months is the average for belly-t0-back) but I guess every baby is different. Either way, time to move her playmat onto the floor–we have it set up on the counter for the time being (and always under supervision, obviously, though up to now I knew there was no way she was going anywhere) because it was the easiest way to see her at all times and make sure the cats didn’t come over wanting to share the mat.
I think she will be an early mover. She is so strong and ready to explore the world! Proud mommy is proud.
Hard for me to even wrap my brain around that one. Every day with Caroline feels like a lifetime. And then it feels like it is flying by at the same time. I suppose that’s how parenthood works.
Caroline is doing pretty good. We think she weighs right around 7 pounds or so now (we don’t have another checkup till 2 months) and she is finally fitting better into some of her clothing! Newborn clothing still fits, but she tends to swim in the 0-3 month clothes. It’s working out nicely though because most times babies get one or two wears out of the small clothes and then they are outgrown, but she is still rocking the majority of her small wardrobe. She usually eats well, though we had a few days of supply/letdown issues and she wouldn’t eat much more than a few sips at a time, then she would get upset and scream and give herself gas and then get more upset because she was hungry and had an upset tummy. So we had to bottle feed her for a day or two just so that she would eat enough to sleep. Luckily she takes the bottle like a champ, which is something I was worried about after reading so many horror stories of babies who refuse bottles. Those issues seem to be mostly resolved now, though sometimes the letdown is still so strong I have to lie back so that she has a little more control.
We still haven’t managed to work out much of a nightly sleeping schedule, and she still won’t go much more than 2 or 3 hours at the most in between feedings. I was hoping it would be a little more than that by now, but then I have to remember that she is still only the size of an average newborn and just doesn’t have the weight to support longer sleeping hours. After about a week of complete insanity at night trying to get her to sleep in the cradle next to our bed that usually led to her sleeping on my chest all night we decided to just put her back in her big crib and suck it up and sleep in her room with her. That seems to be working in the sense that she does seem to like the big crib, and she is even napping in it now instead of in her chair. Another thing I’m glad for and happy we resolved early because I had so wanted to avoid crib transition issues, which seems to be a very common problem. So, most nights we swaddle her up in her baby straight jacket and take it in shifts, since that seems to be the best way for us both to get at least a small chunk of sleep instead of both of us waking up every 2 hours and being miserable all day. Last night we moved our tv into her room so that I could sit up and watch tv during my shift if she was fussy, which makes the time sooo much easier for me if I’m unable to sleep. I have been developing some anxiety about the nighttime hours and I got to a point where I hated to be alone which led to a pretty bad breakdown, but having the television and a distraction (as opposed to just sitting in the dark with the baby while she cries) seems to make a big difference. I’m learning now that everything comes down to finding what works and rolling with it even if it wasn’t part of “the plan.”
Unfortunately Caroline does seem to have some colic issues and becomes extremely uncomfortable and gassy at times. This is not terribly unexpected because I also had extreme colic when I was an infant, to the point that I had to be driven around at all hours of the night and set on top of the washing machine on the spin cycle just to give me (and my parents) some relief. Caroline’s fussiness is not unbearable, and we’re learning techniques to deal with it, but some days the poor girl will become extremely bloated and her belly will get really distended and she will fight and struggle and scream while she tries to pass gas or poop, which makes me feel awful because there’s not much I can do to help her. I don’t think she is having intolerance issues with something I’m eating, because her poop is still a normal color and I have no reason to think she has an allergy or anything like that, nor is there ever any sort of pattern, it’s just that sometimes she seems to get off schedule and she will go an entire day without pooping, then have 4 or 5 huge poops within a few hours like something finally just let loose. We’re pretty sure soon we’re going to take out stock options with gripe water, which is pure freaking magic and does help give her relief nine times out of ten, if for a few hours at least. (And it makes me feel better that it’s all natural and I’m not just medicating her to the gills.) Now that she can hold her head up on her own and turn it both ways we can let her do tummy time or even nap on her belly and that really seems to help the discomfort. All about finding what works.
This weekend Caroline had her first sleepover with her MeMe and Papi without us. We went to my parent’s house for Thanksgiving, and on Friday my parents got us a hotel room down the street so that we could go and have a date night and actually get some sleep. It was great, we went to see The Hunger Games, got takeout and sat in the hotel hot tub and then slept a whole 10 hours in a giant comfy bed. Pretty sure we’re going to attempt this at least once a month because it really helped refresh us and let us get some time together, something that I’d been missing a lot. Somehow, even though we’re basically attached at the hip and spend our entire days together, I have never felt so far away from my husband. And that’s hard, so it was definitely nice to get some baby-free time.
As for me, there are still some challenging days when I struggle to stay positive and not let myself become overwhelmed, but they are starting to become fewer and fewer. I still hate the nights and I worry every time the sun goes down that I won’t be able to handle the crying or the lack of sleep. I also still have some pretty bad anxiety about taking Caroline out of the house and out to the store or a restaurant. Luckily, she LOVES her car seat and loves being in the car, which is a huge blessing because anytime we need to go anywhere, it’s a minimum 45 minute drive. So the car rides are fine, it’s just the being in the store or wherever we are that I tend to get really anxious. Last week we had lunch at Panera and then spent some time in Target grabbing a few Christmas decorations and the only thing I could think about the whole time was what if the baby wakes up and starts crying. I guess I just know that if I’m at home, I know how to take care of her and what to do and where everything is, but being outside of that little bubble still makes me nervous. I know it’ll get better, just like everything else. Soon the nights will be easier and she will sleep longer and we’ll be able to have more of a schedule, which is still something we are lacking.
Despite the challenging days, I’m still amazed every single day at how incredible this little bean is. No matter how much she cries or how frustrated I get, at some point the clouds lift and she gets calm and looks up at me with complete adoration and it’s impossible for me not to just be a million percent in love with her. Sometimes in the mornings I’ll bring her into the bed with me to cuddle for an hour or so and it’s just the most perfect feeling in the world. I love our little family and I love this amazing little person who is becoming more alert each and every day and now will finally get into the time when she recognizes us and maybe will even smile at us soon. I’m so excited for her to start knowing us and interacting with us. I’m so excited to see what kind of little person she becomes!