Tuesday, July 29, 2008
My schedule is determined by pumping. I’d love to get up early in the morning and go to a wonderful local coffee shop, with dim lights and a deep interior full of wooden tables and soft chairs. Instead, I stay home until I must be somewhere so that I can pump as long as possible.
I can feel that my breasts are full, only I still get two ounces or less with each pumping. I’m sure if River was here he could find himself a satisfying meal after the pump is no longer able to get another drop. It’s a shame that I can’t find a pump that can extract more, but I’m crossing my fingers that I’m maintaining enough of a supply that we can get back on track when I got home. If not, I’m wasting a lot of time.
When I called home I got to hear River babble into the phone. Mark says he isn’t acting any differently.
“I’m sure he’ll be happy to see you when you get here,” he said. “He’s excited to see me when I get home. But he’s not the kind of guy to let the absence of anyone keep him from enjoying what he has at the moment.”
I think that is one of the first lessons my child is teaching me by example. Maybe we’d all be as continually happy as he is if we could only find joy in whatever the present brought and not worry about the things we were missing at the time.
When I called, the representative said she didn’t think there was much difference between the Lactina Select and the Pump in Style. However, I’d read things online that claimed the Lactina was stronger. I felt I had to make my best effort, so I went ahead and got it.
As a result, I walked into class with a giant, blue plastic case slung over my shoulder, as if I was carrying construction equipment. The Lactina requires an outlet and I was tired of the toilet anyway. I decided to try to use a classroom. I posted a Please Do Not Disturb sign in the doorway, chose rooms with the desk in the far corner, and pumped for 20 minutes. It was much more comfortable than the toilet. Using the desk, I could even read. And no one barged in.
While I was down to 12 ounces or so of milk collection, I could feel that my breasts were full. The supply was there, the pump just wasn’t getting it out. I hoped that my being vigilant with my fluid intake, my fenugreek and my pumping would at least allow me to maintain the supply until I returned home. At that point, I’d feed River as much as I could and would be very careful about pumping, at least for the next few weeks.
Monday, July 28, 2008
I’d been rather lax about pumping lately. I thought he’d passed the six month mark, he’s healthy, and I need time to be a person too. So he’d been receiving breastmilk when I was around, formula when I wasn’t. I knew that if he grew out of breastfeeding soon that he’d be a healthy and happy baby.
However, being away from him and suddenly faced with the thought of my supply drying up made me realize that I wasn’t ready for the intimacy of breastfeeding him to end. I considered flying home. I spent all evening reading articles online, looking for products that could help me. For the first time, I realized there is a difference between my Medela Pump-In-Style and the pumps women rent from hospitals (hospital grade pumps).
I cringed when I read women writing about their milk “drying up.” It’s such a horrible term, connoting withering, dryness, age and barrenness. Even though I rationally knew there was nothing wrong with starting to focus on my own life and interests now, emotionally I felt that if I returned home “dried up,” I’d be a failure as a mother. I would feel so guilty for denying him any more access to breastmilk, for breaking that bond of intimacy between us, so that I could pursue my own interests for a week.
I upped my fenugreek to three tablets three times a day, I downed water and Nursing Mother tea, I pumped, I tried to get more protein and rest, I researched hospital-grade pumps, I even researched medicine said to increase milk supply. Someone told me I should pump at least eight times a day for 20 minutes each time. That’s not easy when I need to be outside of the house sometimes. So I ended up pumping in the bathroom.
I knew the whirring noise probably freaked people out. And it wasn’t very comfortable for me on the toilet either. Once a woman asked, “What is that noise?” When I called out “a breastpump,” she told me my baby would sure appreciate it, that both her daughters had nursed, and they had never had to use a bathroom stall.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Except that I was only pumping 16 ounces of milk per day – two bottles worth. River drinks at least four or five. I started to have doubts. Was I going to lose my milk supply?
I called a lactation consultant and she wasn’t very encouraging. “All that formula you gave him reduced your supply,” she said, as though I was a bad, bad mother. “And of course a pump isn’t the same as a baby.”
She said I should pump for at least as long as Soren feeds every day. Two hours in the morning? I didn’t think that was realistic. And I should eat protein and whole grains and look at their web page.
Thanks a lot for the encouragement, I thought.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
I enjoy a day of pure freedom. I walk down the brick streets, enjoy my surroundings, talk to people, go out for lunch, have time to write. When I see children playing in a fountain, I wish River was here so that he could feel the water streams against his skin. However, I’m pretty solid emotionally. I know he’s being well taken care of. I doubt that he notes my absence. I wonder how long I can remain apart from him and feel so calm.
Friday, July 25, 2008
When we spent our first weekend apart, I worried until I knew he arrived safely at his grandparents’ home. Then I enjoyed the quiet.
When I left for three days, I enjoyed myself, but missed him intensely by the end. I had his favorite song stuck in my head, I could feel the phantom of his little body in my arms. I returned home, eager to hug and hold him. He’d just learned to roll over the day before. When I came in, he glanced up at me, then went back to smiling at the babysitter.
For this trip, I started missing River two days before I even left. I treasured the long morning feeding, I stroked his soft, smooth skin, hoping I could take the feeling with me and maintain it over a week. I’m grateful that my estrogen levels are still very low, due to breastfeeding. Otherwise, I’m sure I would have left in tears.
I’ve now been away two hours and am at an airport Starbucks. I miss him already. But at the same time, it’s such a treat to be able to sit peacefully and write as I wait for my flight. I haven’t been able to do this since before he was born and it’s a luxury I now appreciate.
Target: The gold standard. I know people who plan stops at Target on car trips to take advantage of the great bathrooms and kid-friendly facilities. Excellent selection of carts for all sizes of kids.
Non-family friendly stores:
Shop-rite: My local Shoprite no longer has shopping carts with baby carriers. They expect people to have the bucket infant car seats and to lug them into the store.
The Green Mill – very accommodating to children, good changing facilities.
Caribou Coffee – Changing tables available in both men’s and women’s bathrooms. A corner with toys keeps kids occupied and allows adults to enjoy their drink and free wi-fi.
Ideas/suggestions?. So far, every restaurant I’ve gone to so far has been very accommodating to us having a baby with us and even breastfeeding, and this ranges from casual fare to fine dining. I’ve only come across one non-friendly place (below). Your experiences are welcome.
Non-family friendly cafes/restaurants:
Pete’s Coffee – no changing table. No response to email expressing concern about lack of place to change baby in facilities.
Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP): In the central area of the airport, there is a family room, with soft chairs for nursing mothers, a rocking chair, and even a nice crib in the darkened room. The family bathroom across from this room has thankfully kept the plastic changing tables and not replaced them with a stone slab like some other airports. With privacy and an electrical outlet available, one can pump in peace. Good choice of restaurants and shops and plenty of space to run around.
Cleveland (CLE): Good family restrooms and employees who rank high on the friendliness scale.
Non-family friend airports:
Miami (MIA) – a shortage of chairs means many people end up sitting on the floor. Poor choice of food and entertainment. Hectic and not a pleasant place to spend time.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
The first storm was in the middle of the night. I feared River would wake up and I waited to hear his cry. When I didn’t, I was still tempted to wake him and bring him into the safety of our bed, to bring our family together to face the danger. I didn’t do it because I was the only one awake and it was only me that was feeling afraid.
This afternoon a similarly sharp storm appeared – strong enough that I unplugged the computers and turned off most electrical devices. Our babysitter stood with River by the open doorway, watching the rain pour down and the lightening flash and crackle. Yes, it was severe she agreed, and yes, the lightening felt very close by. But I was clearly more uncomfortable than she was. I wanted to protect my baby somehow, but didn’t know how.
These fairly mild events make me think back to our flight last month on a small plane from David to Panama City, Panama. We weren’t supposed to be going to Panama City. But our flight from David to San Jose was canceled and they rerouted us through Panama City.
It was rainy season in Panama and we got caught in a thunderstorm. I saw bunches of clouds outside the window, an endless puff of grey. Lightening crackled and brightened the view from the windows. I tried not to think about it until our plane dropped – straight down and suddenly. Then it did it again. By the time it happened a third time, passengers were screaming and I even let out a sound of alarm.
All the while, I held a sleeping baby in my arms. I tried not to pass my nervousness on to him, while I simultaneously gripped him as tightly as I could without waking him. All of a sudden I realized that without any restraint, he’d be the first to fly up and hit and the ceiling. I realized that in such moments, I want nothing more than to be with the people I love. At the same time, I would have removed River from there in an instant to take him away from the threat. Unfortunately, I was powerless to do so. I thought about the parents with small children who were on the planes attacked on 9/11 and how utterly terrified and powerless they must have been. Getting yourself into a bad situation is one thing. Bringing your child into danger, no matter how inadvertently, is another.
All this is to say that becoming a mother has affected my fear quotient. It’s made me more afraid than I used to be. I don’t want to do anything too stupid myself because I don’t want River to grow up without a mother. I’m sure he’d be fine. I’m sure he’d win over the hearts of whoever was in his life. But I don’t think any other woman could love him in the same way I do. For that reason, I want to be there for him. And of course, while I want to expose him to life and adventure, I don’t want to put him in harm’s way.
My husband applauds my newfound caution, saying that I wasn’t careful enough in the past. Yet, when I return from vacation telling him I was more careful than usual, yet I had a serious rafting accident and terrifying flights, he thinks I still have a way to go.
· Blended cantaloupe and blueberries
This one doesn’t come from local produce, but we copied the idea from a friend and both of our babies love it:
Avocado with banana
As for meat (chicken and beef) we’re finding it works better in small quantities (such as a casserole with some chicken in it) rather than trying to blend up chicken with something else. The texture is too stringy if it’s largely meat.
If you prefer to feed your baby fresh food but are concerned it will be a lot of work, here are a few tips to make it easy.
1. Get yourself a few silicone ice cube trays and silicone muffin pans. The silicone makes the food very easy to remove. The ice cube tray is a good portion size early on (and makes it easy to mix – ie. 5 cubes of sweet potatoes with 3 cubes of green beans to sneak in the greens) and then the muffin size becomes a better portion later. The muffin pans are also great when blending up entrees. You’ll have a bunch of complete meals on hand for baby. You can get these on ebay, in local kitchen stores, or in department stores, Target, etc.
2. Get yourself a small food processor or blender
3. Have a box of large zip-locs on hand.
If you have the three things above, you are ready.
Start out with individual vegetables or fruits. We always added a spice (carrots with ginger, sweet potatoes with cinnamon, green beans with basil, broccoli with lemon pepper etc.) so that baby would get used to a variety of flavors.
To make your first batch, peel the vegetable, boil until it’s soft, blend or puree and add spice (if desired). Fill the silicone tray and put the tray into a Ziploc bag. Close tightly. When the cubes are frozen, press them out into the Zip-loc. Remove air from Zip-loc and close tightly. The cubes don’t take up much space in the freezer and you can remove as needed. This method avoids the problem of freezer burn.
It’s easiest to do this in quantity. It takes the same amount of work to boil and blend five sweet potatoes as it does to do one, but five will last a lot longer. We found that making food 2-3 times a week (a different vegetable each time) was sufficient in the first month or two.
Blending the cubes as the baby is ready is a good way to introduce mixtures. They are also helpful in getting baby accustomed to tastes that aren’t a hit right off the bat. For us, green beans didn’t go over so well. So our babysitter found that River liked them if she mixed 5 sweet potato cubes to three green beans cubes. Each day she reduced it, 4 to 3, 3 to 3, until he was able to eat green beans.
Just over a month into solids, we realized our baby was eating everything with gusto and we stopped being so methodical about introducing one thing per day. We began to give him whatever we were eating, though we avoid giving him sugars and white carbohydrates.
I made a soup with turkey, black-eyed peas and collard greens. Before adding the salt, I blended up a portion, put it into bottles in the freezer, and we had several meals on hand. If the soups needs thickening, we add baby cereal. We’ve given him a kale, chicken, tomato and corn tortilla casserole blended into muffin-size portions, wheat pasta with pesto, a squash and corn soup, a rustic cabbage soup. We blend fresh fruit with tofu for dessert.
I don’t know whether it’s genetics or early encouragement to try a wide variety of foods, but River will eat anything – including lemons and spring onions. Since daddy is a very picky eater we’ve been especially diligent about trying to help him develop a taste for healthy foods.
The combination of preparing staples to freeze 2-3 times a week and blending up whatever I’m eating as additional meals during the week hasn’t been too onerous. It probably would be a bit easier to feed him organic baby food from jars. But he wouldn’t get the spices, the variety, and the exposure to the typical foods that I eat on a daily basis and that I’d expect him to eat eventually. It’s been easy to get him used to those foods early on so that we eat together from the beginning (I’m hoping to avoid making separate kid meals). And since my husband usually isn’t interested in the healthy things I prepare, it’s been wonderful to be able to share them with a baby!
Sunday, July 20, 2008
After pulling a berry off a tree, I squish it between two fingers and offer it to River. He accepts it cautiously, wrinkles his nose at the sour tartness that combines with the red sweetness, scrunches his mouth, swallows, then accepts as I offer him another.
It feels nice to be able to pull food off of a bush and offer it to him.
“But it’s good for the baby!” she said, as though we were denying River development opportunities.
Today one of the local music schools had a free party, which was more like a sample class. We were looking for something to do as a family, so we went.
It was a nice way to spend 40 minutes. We sang a little, danced a little, and River had plenty to see and hear. The older children (2-5 years old) seemed to be having a good time.
As a free Sunday activity I thought it was fun. Mark was less impressed.
“It’s a sad statement of our culture that people now pay to do things they should be doing anyway at home,” he said. “It’s just people who have too much money and think they are going to do something for their baby.”
I agree with him that it’s expensive. Probably too expensive for us at this point. But I do think it’s useful to have a half hour or an hour where a parent is able to focus only on the child – with no distractions from the telephone, the TV, or household responsibilities.
Yes, we sing to him at home and we play with him. But it’s not so often that he receives full attention with stimulating games and music for an entire 40 minutes. Maybe it is sad that we need an organized activity to help us schedule in uninterrupted time with baby. But until we can figure out how to get that at home, I think such activities help parents to get out of the house, bond with other parents, and spend some happy moments with baby.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Who knew? River was born in December 2007, toward the end of that 4.3 million. Yes, a lot of my friends are having babies within twelve months after River’s birth. But I figured perhaps I’ve just entered the age at which people are having kids and I’ve also entered the parent community, which puts me in closer contact with such people.
The article attributes the population growth to a community of immigrants having more children, women with careers waiting until 40 to begin families, and a large number of women in their 20s and 30s. In 2006, the average number of births per woman was 2.1, the highest it’s been since 1971. I remembered learning the statistic as 1.7.
The thought of increased class sizes is depressing, especially since we hope to use public schools. Perhaps they will instead hire more teachers. On the positive side, this might be just what the social security system needs.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
· Salad mix. So smooth and sweet I could snack on it raw.
· Arugula. The flavor was distinctively more bitter than in the past, perhaps because it’s nearing the end of its season. It was too bitter for me to use in salads, so I’ll be making another batch of arugula pesto, throwing in the bunch of basil as well. I used some arugula pesto the other day, tossing it with whole wheat garlic fettucine, a bit of spaghetti sauce, some grated parmesan and fresh basil – yum!
· A bunch of basil
· Summer squash – boiled and blended with fresh basil to baby’s delight
· Cabbage. Baked in sweet and sour cabbage. This recipe wasn’t especially tasty, but the baking shrinks the cabbage and makes it easy to take in a lot of vitamins in a small side serving. We blended the sweet and sour cabbage for baby as well. Tonight I plan to make rustic cabbage soup. (postnote – it was delicious! Check out the recipe).
· Beets. My favorites. Currently, I’m eating them all in salad with goat cheese, pecans and dried berries. If I wasn’t, I’m sure baby would be happy to get his hands on some.
· Swiss chard. I figured out that sautéing the leaves with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (the same way I prepare beet greens) is an easy and fairly tasty side dish. I still like the beet greens better.
· Small red potatoes
I could also pick a bunch of flowers and a few herbs. I repeated making a batch of
homemade herbal tea, pouring two kettles of boiling water over a bunch of lemon verbena, a bunch of mountain mint and a bunch of peppermint. The tastes came through clearly. Chilled in the fridge, it made a wonderful, refreshing drink for a hot summer day.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
But what if the message came from people closer to home – people you might run into on a daily basis, people who would notice whether or not you are making positive changes – people like your neighbors or coworkers?
My mother-in-law’s work began a program called the Step Diet. They encouraged employees to get pedometers, to track their movements, to take advantage of opportunities to move more. They even had an intensive weight management group, offering personal advice. The result: not only does she wear her pedometer religiously and try to get 10,000 steps a day, but she gave pedometers to all her children and their spouses in an effort to get the family moving.
The community of Princeton, NJ is trying something similar. In a project called Princeton Living Well, funding in part by the National Institutes of Health, a website was created to promote healthy living. Among the offerings are:
· A function that allows daily weight tracking
· A function that allows daily tracking of movement/activity
· A calculation of BMI and information on what different BMIs indicate
· A calendar of events that promote good health – from group bike rides to healthy cooking demonstrations
· A forum section where people can do anything from find an exercise partner to find good local honey.
· A rewards program, where participants earn points for logging on, for participating in discussions, and for attending community health events, among other things. These points can be redeemed for healthy, but fun prizes, such as gift certificates to the grocery store, to local restaurants, free or discounted massages, yoga or exercise classes, etc.
They are also conducting research to see what impact this site has on the
participants ability to pursue and maintain healthy living.
I think the idea sounds promising. Bringing the message close to home, providing a community of people committed to similar goals, and giving motivation through rewards and an easy tracking of progress seems to me more likely to inspire change than a message from high above. Hopefully, it will be successful and will inspire communities across the country to initiate similar endeavors to encourage healthy living.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
This is normal in Kyrgyzstan and my colleague didn’t take any note of the fact that his baby was going to the bathroom without diapers. Instead, he commented on the baby’s facial expression, seemingly asking his parents what they expected of him.
I forwarded the photo to our babysitter. She hadn’t heard of elimination communication until she came to spend time with River. She did watch our copy of the Potty Whisperer video though and took on the challenge enthusiastically. She has been very helpful in the EC process and I think she should take credit for the results appearing so quickly.
Her response was “We think River is so amazing for doing so well (and, of course, he is!), but compared to the rest of the world it doesn't seem that special!"
This morning she told me she’d been discussing elimination communication with her husband and the challenges of attempting something that is so rare in one’s own community. She asked me, “Are any of your friends doing ECing?”
I paused for a moment to think. I thought of my friends who do yoga, who teach their babies music, foreign languages, who feed them organic foods, who gave birth at home. Nope, as far as I knew, none of them were doing elimination communication with their babies.
For the first time, I momentarily felt a sense of isolation. Am I really the only person I know doing this? Then I reminded myself to not limit myself to my physical community. There are millions of parents all around the world raising their children this way. They were my example and this particular lesson seems to be working so far.
Instead of feeling odd or isolated, I’ll just be grateful that I have access to different cultures and ideas and am able to choose what I think seems helpful from each one.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
This week cabbage and fresh basil was added to the assortment. I collected the usual salad mix, arugula, swiss chard, Russian kale, beets, and giant lettuce. I got to pick the last remnants of peas off the vines as well as flowers. Best of all, the herb garden was ready for use. I walked alongside rows of two types of mint, oregano, chives, lavender, thyme and lemon verbena, free to cut whatever I’d use during the week.
With a greater variety of veggies came more variety in dishes. I made an herbal tea by boiling one bunch of mint with a bunch of lemon verbena. I used ½ pound of arugula in a pasta recipe provided by the farm. With the peas I made a mint-pea hummus, wonderful with whole wheat pita wedges and fresh veggies (the recipe is in the Oprah Cookbook).
I told an employee of the farm how wonderful it is that River began eating just as the local soil began to reveal its treasures. As a result, he’s including sautéed beet greens, turnips, beets, collard greens, broccoli and kale in his very first tastes and is accepting them all well. She told me it’s only a few more weeks until the early tomatoes are ready. I can’t wait!