Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Ellen used to be a teacher, but once she became pregnant, she knew she couldn’t find a teaching job. So she applied to work at a daycare in our area. It charges parents $1400 a month and has one adult for every four babies. She said the application process was extensive. At the end, when she was offered a job, she said the pay was $10-12 an hour and that she wouldn’t have guaranteed hours.
“I can make more at Lenscrafters,” she told them. And she did.
Now she wants to work more hours, but her mother can only watch the baby one day a week and Ellen isn’t willing to put her 9-month-old son in daycare.
Sandra did work at a daycare. She said it was a daycare that appealed to upper middle class parents, so people expected it to be good. She wasn’t impressed. She worked in the baby room and said there were not supposed to be any more than 12 babies there at one time. Nevertheless, they often had between 18 and 20 babies.
I asked whether parents complained and she said yes, then they would improve things a bit, then it would return to where it was before. She said that when prospective parents came to visit, the owners would tell her to take eight babies out for a walk in a giant stroller for eight they had. Once they were out of sight, the visiting parents saw a much lower caregiver-baby ratio.
She also told me that once, while wiping a babies face, the baby turned her head and Sandra’s marquis cut diamond ring scratched the babies cheek. She told the owner what happened and the owner decided to tell the parent that the baby had been scratched by a toy. Sandra told the mother what really happened and after the mother knew the owner was lying without apparent reason she pulled her baby out.
I asked Sandra whether she wanted her son in daycare when he became older, at the toddler stage. She said she thinks it’s fine then, that she only has a problem with it for babies.
My husband works for a company with a lot of engineers. It’s a very male-dominated workplace. Most of the females who work there and who have stayed on after having children have left their kids in daycare.
“People do it,” Mark tells me. I know they do. And I know it’s the best option available for a lot of people. And I know the kids survive and turn into wonderful people. But for my child, I believe that close, intimate one-on-one (or one on two) attention is the best thing for him at this age. I do believe that all children deserve this. And I think that, as a country, we fail to create the circumstances that give children the best start to life.
I think about the Canadians or the European countries where it is standard to allow at least one parent to stay with the child for the first three years (or a combination of the parents, so each takes a portion of the time off of work). After that, when the child is ready for socialization and interaction, there are government-sponsored preschools available. Due to the family leave policies, the child receives nurturing attention when they need it, they receive socialization and interaction when they need it, and the parent is able to continue on with their career when they are ready.
I’m also rethinking my assumption that private daycares are necessarily the best quality. Yesterday I read an article in the New York Times that claimed that 94% of nursing homes have health or safety violations. Like daycare, it made me think that should our society allow for caring for our parents, most people probably wouldn’t want to put their parents into one of these places if they could help it. The article also stated that the highest violation rates were at the private, for-profit nursing homes. Non-profits did the best job, followed by government homes. When my friend tells me she was offered $10-12 an hour to care for four infants and each parent is paying about $8.75 for the care of one infant, one wonders how much of the cost is going to quality and how much is going to profit.
All this is to say that I think the most vulnerable in our society, the infants and the elderly, deserve better. I know I’m living in an individualistic country. But I hold out hope that one day, people will realize that individuals are better off when people take care of each other.
Anyway, upon entering the library today, a lady told me I needed to blow River’s nose. I figured it was probably running, but I didn’t have any Kleenexes handy. However, when I went to the front of the stroller to take a look at him, he was breathing through his nose. Gigantic yellow green bubbles emerged from both nostrils, deflated and grew again.
Gi-ross! A friend gave me a diaper wipe for the job and I cleaned him up. I realized this is probably just the start. I feel like I’m now really a mother, that I can love something that probably turns most people off.
At first it was encouraging to feel I could stock up on knowledge and I’d know what to do with this new being. Then it became tiresome to read so many authors so sure that whatever they recommended could apply to every child. And my brain needed another subject to occupy it. So I gave up the books for a while and found I was able to figure things out pretty well on my own (or at least, with the support of friends).
I think I’m ready for another dip though. I’m not looking for any particular answers, but want to see what’s out there. I’d like to see what ideas might be helpful for us. If I find anything good, I’ll post it here.
Have you read any parenting-related books that were worth the time spent on them? If so, please share.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Today I went for the entire two hours. I spent the time doing a combination of walking on the treadmill (9,000 steps!), getting breakfast for myself and Mark at the bagel shop nearby and reading a few pages of a novel.
Many of the exercise machines have personal monitors and one of the channels you can choose from is a live video camera of the childcare room. Early in the period, when River was in the crib, I couldn’t see him. It wasn’t interesting to watch other kids and I flipped channels between music, news and cooking shows.
In the last half hour of my time, I looked again at the live video and saw that River was up. He was lying on his stomach alone in the middle of the floor. I saw his snake-like crawl as he went toward a truck. Then I watched the truck roll away and River follow it.
At one point, while River was going after the truck, a little walking toddler came by and walked off with it, completely oblivious or unconcerned that River was heading towards it and had been playing with it. I saw River watch this boy walk away, then slither slowly in his direction.
The young girls working there sat on one side of the room and didn’t pay much attention. An older boy, in the 6-8 year old range, took an interest in River. As I bit my lip in fear he would accidentally step on River, this boy walked around River, then stood in front of him. He put his hand on his knees and brought his face down to River’s level. I couldn’t see River’s reaction. For all I know, he might have been smiling or laughing. But I tried to imagine wanting to move forward, but finding a giant face in my way.
Even as I was watching it, I knew I shouldn’t be. A quick look to see that he was OK should have been enough. I didn’t need to monitor every move he made, every interaction he had. However, it was clear the employees weren’t paying much attention and I admit I took a certain voyeuristic thrill in seeing what he does when I’m not there.
I watched the video for a good ten minutes and was so absorbed I barely noticed I was exercising. In the beginning, seeing him move about made me smile. Then seeing how small and powerless River was there gave me such a feeling of injustice. I realized this was a microcosm of the real world, that River will have to deal with people who are mean either through inattentiveness or intentionally. I know he has to learn to maneuver these situations. At the same time, I couldn’t help but wish him to enjoy the protective bubble he’s lived in a little while longer.
The photo here is the same childcare center, but a different day and a different staff member.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
“There are so many memories in that swing,” he said. “River sat in there when he was just a few days old, fresh from the womb.” He paused. “It’s scary to think about.”
This swing, the Fisher Price Papasan Cradle Swing, was our trusty friend. It was the single best baby item we owned. It soothed River to sleep when nothing else would. If it wasn’t for that swing, we would have gone months with River unable to take a nap anywhere but our laps. It gave us peace and freedom. It gave River comfort and sleep.
We haven’t been using it much in the past few weeks because River now sleeps in his crib and he’s getting to the upper weight limit of the swing anyway. However, last night, his sleep schedule was altered by him not feeling well. He woke up at 5:15. I fed him. He made big, wide eyes at me in the dark. He was precious, but it didn’t look like he was going to return to sleep. And I wasn’t ready to get up for the day.
So I brought him downstairs for one final run in the swing. I strapped him in, turned it on, went upstairs and back to sleep. The rocking motion soothed him to sleep and he woke up cooing happily.
When I knew I was going to sell the swing, I washed the padding so it would be clean for the new owner. I wonder if the new baby will smell River’s presence there. Whether it will feel his calm.
I’m glad that another baby and another set of parents will benefit from the swing’s magic powers. And we’re glad to have the extra space. However, the swing’s former spot is now an open space, a reminder that River has moved on to another stage in life, one in which we all must manage without an in-home swing.
Friday, September 26, 2008
I loved how her thoughts mirrored my own – the strangeness of imagining a young woman, possibly a baby now, possibly not yet born that will be the mother to my grandchildren and the life partner to my son. I also had similar feelings of how exciting and odd it is to raise a miniature version of my husband. Because we got a 4-D ultrasound (which only costs $25 in Bolivia) I was able to see ahead of time that River was a clone of Mark, so much so that Mark’s father found it disturbing to look at his 40-year-old son in utero.
I’ve read that babies often resemble their fathers more than their mothers because it reassures fathers that the baby is in fact theirs and increases the chances that he will stick around to support it.
Another issue I’ve been thinking about recently is how the traits from the father coming through in the child can impact a woman’s ability to bond with it. For me and many other women, seeing my husband’s traits in my baby is a positive thing. Should anything ever happen to my husband, caring for River and helping him to develop his potential would be a way of trying to keep my husband’s character alive.
Recognizing that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, when one is in a stable, loving relationship, they have learned to love, or at least accept, the less desirable traits of their partner. Since they’ve already come to term with these traits, it seems to be that should the same traits occur in the child, they will be ready to accept them.
However, if a woman is carrying a child she doesn’t want, from the result of rape, incest, undue pressure or other circumstances, if she doesn’t love the man who fathered the child, the appearance of those fatherly traits could have the opposite example. A woman can be torn between love for her child and hatred for the man who fathered it. When that innocent child evidences traits from the father, her hatred can spill over to him – overtly or not.
I thought about an article I read about a mother in Rwanda, who struggled with this same conflict with her 8-year-son, conceived as a result of rape. She said she loved her son, however, he was a living reminder of the rapist and she beat him regularly.
I agree with my friend that she may well have the ability to raise a mini-version of her husband, along with some traits of herself. It’s that combination of personalities among two people who love each other, found within another unique individual, that contributes to making parenting the exciting adventure it can be. However, only a woman herself can decide whether she wants to house and nurture and/or raise a child with any particular genes. In societies that don’t allow abortion, they allow the traits of brute strength to gain prevalence in the gene pool. In those who do allow abortion, the men who are most successful in getting their genes passed on to succeeding generations will not only be attractive and intelligent on average, but will have the qualities necessary to attract a woman and to gain her love and trust. Those are the traits I’d like my son to pass along.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
“Can’t I just give him some more meat?” I asked, a couple of times before the doctor acknowledged that giving him meat would help too.
River has had a largely vegetable diet to date because we feed him what we have and this summer, we have had a bounty of vegetables. He’s eaten all the veggies, including iron-rich ones like kale and broccoli. He also usually eats fortified cereal for breakfast (I’m giving it to him until we run out, then I’ll switch to non-baby food). And he drinks 2-3 bottles of iron-containing formula a day.
I looked online to see which foods contain a lot of iron. Meats, beans and greens led the list. I resolved to try to get more meat into his diet. And I would skip the vitamin drops. It just seemed wrong to me, given the bounteous and healthy diet that he eats, to think that I need to purchase a special product for him to meet his nutritional needs. What is wrong with nature if he can’t get it from his food? Or what is wrong with the guidelines?
Then I read about the importance of iron in the development of brain function and cognitive skills. I read that if levels are too low early on that the developmental delays couldn’t be made up. I could damage him for life. I began to worry, seriously, if it was a mistake to not get him the drops.
A few days later, a discussion began on the online parenting group I belong to. It turned out that a lot of the parents on that list were told their babies iron levels were low – especially those that were breastfeeding more than six months. They wrote about how the iron stores a baby is born with start to deplete around six months and how the levels of iron in breastmilk are low. They were told to use the drops too. Some did and others did it only sporadically and their kids still reached the desired hemoglobin levels in time.
Then the discussion turned to evolution and why should iron levels be low if a baby is breastfeeding and why should that be a problem if this what evolution provided. They talked about the negative effects of iron – how bacteria need iron to latch on to and that perhaps lower levels of iron reduce a baby’s susceptibility to disease.
At least two people recommended the book The Survival of the Sickest by Sharon Moalem. I got the audio version and began listening to it immediately. One thing I learned early on in the book is that breastmilk contains lactopheron, a protein that combines with iron, preventing bacteria from feeding on it. At the time when I’m starting to doubt how useful it is to keep breastfeeding, that in itself made me think it’s worth giving River at least some breastmilk for as long as I can.
The book describes the author as a “maverick scientist.” I think it sounds like just the book for me and I can’t wait to finish it. This guy is finishing his MD and has a Ph.D. in human physiology and neurogenetics/evolutional science.
I’m not so into fringe theories. I want to see scientific evidence to back up hypotheses. But I also feel that the medical establishment doesn’t welcome a lot of questioning, especially questions that drive down profits in the industry. An intelligent, thoughtful person who shows evidence but is willing to go against the grain is someone I’m very interested in listening to.
In the meantime, I temporarily feel better about going with my instincts and skipping the drops. I made River scrambled egg yolks for breakfast, and a fantastic spaghetti squash with lots of meat sauce for lunch. I think he will be just fine.
Monday, September 22, 2008
A recent article in the New York Times wrote about new sites that provide social networking for babies – kind of like Facebook for minors. I wrote to an internet parent group I belong to to see if anyone had tried it. Some people said they had set up blogs for their children (allowed invited readers only) but no one had tried these sites.
I decided to take a look. I signed up for two sites, totspot.com and kidmondo.com.
Kidmondo was sleek and had a lot of tools (like growth charts and a dental record), but I had some difficulties with the process and I felt the emphasis was on eventually selling me a baby book. I like that a baby book is available – it allows a child’s first year to be recorded just through the day to day updates a parent provides to friends and family, but I’d rather that be an available service rather than the focus.
Totspot also had it’s glitches in starting up. But I liked the easy to access feedback form on the bottom of the screen and the fact that they seemed to value receiving feedback. This made me think they were working to make it a site that meets the needs of parents. I also liked the kid-friendly color scheme, the answers to questions that parents might be concerned about, and the fact that I didn’t feel they’d be trying to get money from me anytime soon.
I spent the bulk of last weekend setting up River’s page – entering his firsts, writing his favorites, putting up photos and videos. I then sent a link to the grandparents to see what they thought. I wanted to know whether they preferred this format, which requires the initiative to log in and see what River is up to, or whether they’d prefer the bi-monthly link to photos online.
Mark’s parents have yet to try it. My parents gave it a thumbs down. Of course, they’ve never used Facebook, so they found some of the features difficult. By this point though, I’d spent so much time making the darn page I wasn’t yet ready to abandon it.
So I invited the rest of the family and friends. One week later, only a small number of those invited have followed through on the invitation. Even my husband hasn’t joined because he didn’t like having to register and provide personal information. Most of those who have joined are in their 20s and 30s, users of Facebook, and they seem to think it’s cool. Three of my friends already have pages up for their kids since I sent the first email. Even my parents, who gave it an original thumbs down, have returned to view updates and may be getting the hang of it. At this point, I’m enjoying seeing my child’s “friends’” (or the children of my friends) pages, so I’m probably in for the long-run.
So far, here’s my impressions of the pros and cons of baby social networking sites;
- It’s private. Only the people you invite can see your child’s information. And unlike Facebook, where you can sometimes click through to friends of your friends, you can’t on totspot.
- After the initial time investment involved in setting up the page, it only takes moments per day to keep it updated.
- The frequent updates allow people who care about the child to have a much more detailed glimpse into what is happening in their lives. This is especially useful for relatives who live far away.
- It is an easy way to store information for a future baby book or other record-keeping of your child’s life.
- Totspot sends an email when any child you are linked to updates their profile, so you have a reminder to come back and check when there is something new.
- The child-friendly tools, like the growth charts/dental charts/record of firsts are fun
- Having to sign in and register is a big barrier for a lot of people who already have a million user names and passwords.
- On totspot, for now, you have to upload your videos via youtube or another video service. This requires setting up an account there, and you have to make your videos public in order for the link to work. Therefore, while your videos don’t have a name or identifying information on them, they are no longer private.
- Unlike a personal blog, which you have more control over, you never know when the site owner may decide to change the format, limit stored information, etc.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
This happened the other day and some pee spilled onto the wooden floor. I wiped it up quickly and hoped the landlord would forgive us. Today, I again left the room while River went potty. When I came back, he was in the leaning forward position. He seemed to know something was wrong because he just stayed there, not moving, as though thinking – I know I made a mistake, now what do I do?
Unfortunately, this time there were two big turds that also ended up on the floor. Lesson to parents – no more using potty time as time to get stuff done. Remain near and assist River in departure from seat when finished.
Friday, September 19, 2008
I took refuge in messages posted on a parent list I belong to. Discussing preschoolers and kindergarteners who weren’t liking school, the parents suggested waiting six weeks to give everyone a chance to adjust. Luckily, for us, it only seems to have taken two weeks.
I’m glad that we are able to save a little money. Every bit is counting these days as we are in the fifth month of living on one income. I’m also glad for River to learn to spend time with another baby. I really think they are learning from each other. Mirena, who is usually almost silent, began to make some noises today that sounded a lot like River. And River, who is much less mobile than Mirena, suddenly pulled himself to standing in my lap – twice. He learned to pull himself up two months ago, but once he learned the skill, didn’t apply it. Perhaps seeing Mirena standing (and even walking) easily inspires him.
I’ve heard that one difficulty people have in potty training toddlers is that the toddler is so interested in playing that s/he doesn’t want to have to stop to go potty. River has been combining playing and pottying well. We used to hand him a toy or a remote control while he was on the pot. Now he’s able to scoot around, while still on his potty. This morning, he scooted over to his Leap Frog Activity Table and played happily with it while taking a poop.
Another interesting development is that he seems to know that he’s pooping and does not want me to remove him before he’s done. Today I lifted him up, saw a poop, and thought he was done. When I tried to take him off the potty though, he began to fuss. This was the second time this had happened and when I left him on the last time, he pooped some more. So I put him back on and waited a while longer.
Unlike changing a diaper, where an adult has to be there all the time, I’m no longer sitting next to River when he’s on the potty. Ever since he was sitting up well, I’ve been able to go do things – get a bottle or a meal ready, pick things up, prepare items to leave, check email – for a few minutes while he does his business.
When I came back, there was in fact more poop. I guess I understand his fussing. I think if anyone was offered a choice between pooping in their pants and pooping in a toilet, they would probably pick the latter. I find the fact that River is expressing this preference at age nine months really wonderful.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
We still give River mostly pureed foods. I find it easier to get a variety of ingredients in one place by mashing them together. My friend Karen though, the mother to a seven-month old, has barely used purees at all. She is having problems with her daycare provider because they don’t want to feed her baby solids, afraid she will choke. Karen says many people question her and judge her. Just because they see everyone else giving their babies purees, they think that is the right thing to do.
I’m pretty terrified of River choking, so I haven’t been giving him a lot of solids. He usually gets them when we are on the run. I’ll bite open a cherry tomato and give him half, or the same with a grape. Recently I’ve started to cut up some soft fruits into small pieces and let him play with them. But the majority of his food intake remains mush.
I’m not sure where Karen got this idea from, but she feels more comfortable giving her baby solids. As we sat together at a café, she pulled out a Tupperware container filled with boiled green beans, carrots, squash and pasta spirals. River became antsy watching little Helen eat these things, so Karen offered him some as well. He seemed to enjoy sucking the flesh off the skin of the squash stick. And he was happy chomping on the carrot and pasta.
We were recently in the market for Cheerios, but I pulled the Apple-Cinnamon Cheerios Mark picked out off the checkout counter when I saw the sugar content and the preservatives. Even the healthy brands have a good dose of sugar. Who needs Cheerios though when you can make your own veggie and pasta snack kit?
Monday, September 15, 2008
In the early months, I received that validation because he was often ahead of his peers. As he got older, others started to meet certain markers before him. Mirena is only the most startling comparison.
At this point though, it no longer matters to me. I know that babies meet markers at different ages and that by the age of two or three, they will all be pretty much the same. More importantly, I’ve spent enough time with River to know that he’s sweet and bright and healthy. Nothing else matters. I don’t doubt that he’ll get to all the milestones that he needs to. And I’ll trust he’ll do it at the time that’s right for him.
It’s still interesting to see other babies just to see the wide ranges that exist and to acknowledge their progress as they move from one stage to another. Like River, who has his strengths and his weaknesses, they are all little individuals, making their place in the world at their own pace.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
I think how he’ll have no memory of this time. Some of the most meaningful and special months of my life, during which we have a close and loving intimacy, will disappear into his oblivion.
I hear with some frequency women looking at River and telling me to enjoy the time.
“My baby is 6 foot 1,” one said.
“And mine 6’3,” her friend said.
“My baby is 19,” a real estate agent told me last weekend. “It happens in the blink of an eye.”
I know they are right and I do want to treasure this time. But treasure as I might, I can’t hold it still. I can’t enjoy it any longer than the time itself.
Yesterday I watched college students, probably on the men’s track team, running down the street. They wore shorts and ran bare-chested. Looking at their rippling muscles, their long and lean strengths, I thought back to the women who bore them, who nursed them, who fed them twenty or so years ago.
There is a group of women out there who will always see these strong young men as their babies. They will remember the sight of the boys’ naked little butts on the changing table. They’ll recall the feeling of small arms around their neck and slobbery kisses. When they offer their sons hugs or refer to them as their babies, their son’s probably say, “Oh mom,” and then look for escape.
Looking at them, I saw my future and River’s future. I’ll be happy for him to be strong and healthy and athletic. I want him to grow up into a confident, independent person. But I also want to hold this time near. And I mourn the fact that we’ll never be able to recall it together.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
I do get this feeling at our local seafood shop, where the ground is slick with water from the spray used on fresh fish, the employees are friendly and I know the fish goes right from the ocean or river to this shop’s cases. They also stock some fruits, vegetables and pies, all top quality and so beautiful I imagine what I could turn them into as soon as I see them. For both my husband and I, going there is a treat because the shopping is a pleasant experience and because we know we are receiving a great product. However, since most of the fish runs $10-20 a pound, we have to limit our visits.
So, I was so very excited to find a Pennsylvania Dutch market, where people I believe are Mennonites bring in fresh food from their farms and sell it at very reasonable prices. Their cows roam free, they don’t use hormones. Nothing carries the official organic or other quality labels. But because they are dressed in dresses with aprons and caps or pants, long-sleeved shirts and hats, I have more confidence in their production beliefs than a label would provide.
I try to buy all of our meat, poultry and dairy there. I can buy milk that isn’t labeled organic, but is so smooth, sweet and velvety it’s like drinking cream. They sell Amish creamery butter and yogurt made from grass-fed cows. The prices are closer to a regular supermarket’s than a Whole Foods-type store and I can feel comfortable preparing the food for my baby.
In addition to a fun shopping experience, it just makes me feel good to go there. I like handing over cash to people who are closely tied to the farms that produce the farm. I enjoy seeing people I normally encounter in my community and to see the racial and ethnic diversity of the shoppers who buy their products.
I took Mark there today for the first time. He was excited to take advantage of the $6.99 all you can eat breakfast. “It’s nice to come here,” he said. “It reminds me of the diversity of humanity.” As I drank my third glass of milk today, it reminded of how good things can taste when animals are allowed to roam freely.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Nestle Good Start Very best Baby
Enfamil Family Beginnings
Similac Strong moms
Wal-Mart Parent’s Choice – fill out the form online or call the formula maker PBM Nutritionals at 1-800-485-9918 and leave your name, address, phone number and whether you prefer a milk or soy product.
Earth's Best Family
Sam's Club Member's Mark
2. Go for the free stuff. Let your friends know you can use formula so they can send their unneeded samples or leftovers your way. People give away samples and unused formula all the time on my local freecycle. If you are open to cans that have been opened, you can benefit from families who had to try multiple formulas before finding one that worked for their infant. Since few people are willing to use open cans, these are readily available and a shame to waste.
3. Don’t be afraid of the generics. Since for us, formula was a supplement to breastfeeding, I figured River was getting the good stuff from the breastmilk. He didn’t need a top of the line formula. They all seem pretty similar anyway. You can pay about half the price for the generics.
4. If your baby accepts it, take the soy. Extra free samples of soy formula seem to be available more often than the milk-based samples. River didn’t seem to distinguish between them, so while we only bought the milk-based formulas, if someone offered us a free can of soy, we took it gratefully.
5. Use coupons. When you register with the formula makers, you’ll also receive coupons, or formula checks in the mail. These are larger in the early days (often $5-8 off) and come in smaller amounts as your baby gets older (probably, after the maker thinks your baby is hooked on their brand). If you are in need of coupons/checks, you can buy them for a slight discount on ebay, or better, get them for free on freecycle or from your friends. If you have coupons you are not using, you can put them in the hands of someone who needs them via freecycle.
6. Check the clearance racks. At my local Shoprite, I got three large cans of a discontinued formula brand on clearance, $8 a piece. I’ve seen ready-to-drink formula in the clearance bin more than once.
7. If you find yourself overseas, stock up. The same or similar formula is priced differently in different countries. When we went to Panama we found the large containers of formula that cost $20-25 here cost $15 there. We came home with three.
8. Take what the hospital gives you, but only if it’s really free. After taking home our “free” Enfamil starter kit and diaper bag, I later saw on the bill that we were charged $60 for it (ripoff!). Yes, insurance probably picked up a big chunk of that, but do we really want such charges driving up our premiums?
9. Don’t feel you have to stick with the brand you received as samples. Why do manufacturers provide samples? Because when you first need formula, you’ll probably use the brand you have sitting around as a sample. If your baby accepts it, it’s likely you’ll go out and buy more of that brand because it’s a sure bet that your baby will take it and you are overtired and overextended anyway. It’s worth risking a few dollars to try a cheaper alternative. If your baby rejects it, you’ve lost a few dollars and hopefully you pass it on to someone who needs it. If your baby takes the cheaper brand, you’ll save a lot in the coming months.
10. Doing an occasional internet search for “insert your preferred formula brand” and “free sample” might bring up some special offers. Just be careful of scams, especially if it’s not offered directly by the manufacturer.
Using the steps above, plus relying on breastfeeding as the primary source of milk, we believe we’ll make it to 12 months old without ever purchasing a full-priced container of formula.
River was definitely interested in Mirena’s physical prowess. “Look at her bang on the TV,” his mind seemed to be saying. “If I could stand up I could do that too.” I think his motivation to be more on the move will increase.
Mirena, who remained absolutely silent, without a word nor a gurgle during River’s two-hour nap, became a little more talkative when she heard River’s babbling.
I hope this will be a positive experience for both of them. River will probably be motivated to develop physically, Mirena will have more verbal stimulation and both will adjust to balancing their needs with another’s. Should either of them have a sibling in the future, hopefully what they learn together will make their adjustment to a new little one easier.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
This one was slightly more useful than past appointments because they did a blood test for lead without my having to ask for it. I’d read that kids should be tested at a year or two old and I’d planned on asking for it at our 12-month appointment. There are a lot of older homes in our community and many of them, including ours, have lead. The inspector who came last fall said we have lead paint about ten layers of paint back on the walls. It’s only a danger if the paint chips off and then River puts it in his mouth.
At the time, we thought we’d be moving by the time River was 6-months old. As long as he couldn’t crawl, it wasn’t a risk. But now we’re staying another year and River is crawling, so we’re concerned. If his levels are elevated we’ll take action, moving if necessary. Hopefully they will be OK and Mark and I will both feel better to be reassured.
We also learned that River has moved up from the 75th percentile to the 90th for height and weight. I was expecting that because he does seem larger than many of his age-mates and frequently receives comments about being a big boy. Even the doctor called him “muscle-man.” Mirena, his new playmate, is half an inch taller than him though. She must be at the 100 percentile-plus range for girls.
He still only has one tooth, which I think is a bit less than average for his age. The doctor’s assistant asked if we have him hard things to chew on. I said no, not often, because he doesn’t experience pain very often.
“But chewing on them will help the teeth to come in faster.”
I told her we weren’t in a hurry, especially after I read that baby teeth don’t aid in chewing until the molars come in. Until then, they don’t serve any purpose but to make breastfeeding a little more complicated.
River had to get his finger pricked for the lead test and a hemoglobin test. I’m afraid he’s inherited my poor bleeding skills. I used to walk out of the doctor’s office with six bandages on a typical blood draw. When I tried to donate blood in my 20s I was told to not come back because it was like taking blood from a 90-year-old. The lab worker couldn’t get enough blood from River’s first prick and many squeezes (which River took like a muscle-man, without crying), so the worker pricked his other thumb.
It’s really horrible to watch pain inflicted on your child. I knew my presence was probably comforting to him, but at the same time, I feel he must wonder why I’m letting it happen. From the finger pricks, I had to take him to immunizations, where he got the last Hep-B shot. I would have come back in six weeks for the last polio shot (which was also scheduled for today), but the doctor said it could be given as late as 18 months, so no hurry. That was the first time he actually supported my delaying a shot.
At the same time, he did urge me to get (two!) flu shots, even while he admitted the low efficacy. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to. Not because I have anything against the shot – I get it for myself almost every year. But because River is already getting too many things injected into his young immune system this year. The doctor commented that despite the low efficacy, it’s worth it because of the serious effects the flu can have on a baby. I do understand that, but River has less exposure than others by not being in daycare and he really is a big, healthy guy for a baby. If anyone can make it through a bout of illness, I think he has a very strong chance.
He said that timeouts don’t work until a child is two. From about now until age two, what we should do is ignore any undesirable behaviors. If the child is throwing a tantrum (luckily, we haven’t gotten to that stage yet), he said to ignore it and not give the child the thing they want (so as not to reinforce the behavior).
This makes logical sense to me. But I can see myself having more trouble resisting giving in than Mark. So I asked Mark to help me stick to this.
Before River was born, I never expected I would be the softee. I have high expectations of others and can be pretty demanding. But something has changed within me when the situation refers to my own child. There is something instinctual within me that doesn’t want to let him suffer. I’m going to have to make clear to myself what is a reasonable request and what isn’t. And in the cases of the unreasonable requests, I’ll have to do my best at standing firm.
I also asked what to do if River rejects food. The doctor said that if there is a real reason River is rejecting the food (ie. I serve him habanero peppers – not such a farfetched example since I’d told the doctor I served him chili with jalapeno peppers this week) that’s fine. But if we’re serving him three healthy meals a day and there is nothing wrong with the food, then should he choose to reject it, he can go without eating until the next meal.
He has only rejected food on rare occasions. In all the instances, I gave him something else and he ended up eating the originally offered food at the next meal without a problem. Telling him to wait until lunch is one thing. Dealing with the long period of crying that would probably result is another. I find this situation tricky now since I think teething played a big role in the few rejections we’ve had. Since he is such an adventurous eater normally, perhaps I just shouldn’t worry about it until and unless it becomes an issue.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Today was definitely an adaptation day. Our babysitter, Grace, had no time to eat anything during the afternoon. Her hair was frizzy and unkempt from the hours of super-activity. The 8.5 month old girl, Mirena, had to adjust to new people and a new environment. And River, 9 months old today, had to adjust to sharing attention and to a younger girl who is stronger and more forceful than him. He probably wished we could have come up with something better for his nine-month birthday than a playmate. He was so exhausted from the commotion that he went to bed at 5:30 instead of his usual 8 p.m.
Grace commented that both babies got angry with the other. “It’s because they are both only children” she said. Saving money is one reason we are trying this. Another is that we think River is at the age when he needs to learn to share, to take turns, to play with others, to realize that he can’t always be the sole center of attention. I think it will take some adjustment for all.
Poor Grace really had her hands full today. I realized, upon seeing Mirena, who is a sweet little girl, but very physical and with a “stronger personality,” that River really is an easy baby. Grace did a good job trying to balance both of their needs, but I could see that it was exhausting. I’m sure it will become easier as she comes to know Mirena better and Mirena and River come to know each other.
But watching her made me wonder how daycares with an infant ratio of one adult to four babies manage. Or even three babies. Perhaps it’s easier if the babies are fed in separate areas. That would reduce some of the angst experienced today when one baby saw milk or food and wanted some too. But I’d imagine that managing so many little ones with such constant needs would necessitate quite a bit of independent play time, which is fine for older kids, but makes me uncomfortable for young babies.
We’ve done the one-on-one attention thing for nine months now. We’re moving on to a little one-on-two attention. We’ll see how it develops.
I remember before having River how friends and colleagues with babies would tell me that before the baby was born, they couldn’t imagine being a mother. After the baby arrived, they couldn’t imagine life without him/her. Neither Mark nor I can imagine life without River. We both recognize that the tiniest of changes in circumstances would have resulted in the birth of a different being, that River might have been relegated to non-existence. Just imagining that makes me sad. We know we probably would have loved that other being, but it’s hard to believe that s/he could really compare with River. I suppose that is biology doing it’s job again. Whatever you end up with is what you think you should have had all along.
The birth seems ages, a lifetime ago. I tell myself it really couldn’t have been that bad (thank goodness I have my very detailed post-birth notes!:). I look at new parents and their tiny little babies with a mixture of awe, joy and nostalgia. With time though, the awe portion is decreasing and the nostalgia increasing. I suppose that is again biology doing what it needs to do so that women will want to reproduce again.
I definitely don’t want another baby in the near future. However, when I see the little babies now, they make me want to experience that newness, wonder and exploration again in a way that I never felt upon seeing babies before River was born.
Some moments of the past nine months have been tough. Overall though, I think they were less tough than the pregnancy and childbirth. But so many more moments since December have been filled with love, peace, joy, wonder, learning, bonding, trust, acceptance, compromise and commitment. I’ve been happy and I feel lucky.
This weekend was our safetyproofing weekend, inspired by the arrival of Mirena. While River can now cross a room, mostly pulling himself across, he’s not yet in danger of getting into too many things. Mirena however, at 8.5 months old, already crawls like a pro, stands up and even walks when holding onto something. It was actually helpful that her presence motivated us to safetyproof ahead of when River needs it.
What did we do?
Turned the coffee table so that the edges are less accessible and there is more open space in the living room. Put plastic covers on the corners of the coffee table. So far, these haven’t been very effective though since both babies were immediately drawn to them and were able to pull them off easily. One remains on, the other is on the floor.
Put wires as much out of reach as possible. We gathered them at the back of tables and other furniture.
Put plugs in the electrical sockets.
Got a used gate on freecycle to block access to the kitchen.
Got a sectional gate playyard in order to block off a safe area for play. We also ordered a foam mat so that there will be a soft surface within the playyard to roll around. We have yet to try this set-up.
Took books off of lower shelves and boxed them up.
Put latches on kitchen cabinets. I admit we’ve been a bit lax about keeping them off, because the child-proof openers are not so easy for adults to open either. But we’ll be more careful with the cabinet that contains cleaners and other potentially dangerous items.
Put all writing devices out of reach.
Make the office an off-limits space, and the kitchen an off-limits space to Mirena.
We’ll see how this works in practice and whether any additional steps are needed. I wish there was some type of device available to baby proof babies from each other. Because the main problem we had on our first day with two babies in the house was them touching and potentially injuring each other.
I figured that of all the infant learning activities on offer (most of which require very large investments) this was most likely to have a real effect. River has been fairly cautious around water. He enjoys bathing now, but it took him a while to get there. The few times we’ve taken him swimming, he was not overly enthusiastic.
I took him on a speedboat this summer and didn’t have an infant lifejacket (I know, horrible mother). Images flew through my mind of our boat crashing, of him flying out of my grasp, of him sinking, of the panic, terror and helplessness I would feel to see him go under, to not be able to reach the bottom. I understood why the McCann’s didn’t want to leave Portugal after their toddler disappeared. I thought that if he were to drown, I could never leave the lake. Something feels inherently wrong in abandoning one’s child, even when nothing can be done.
So, all these morbid thoughts made me think it would be great if he could become comfortable in the water. Better yet, if he could learn to swim earlier than I did (self-taught, I learned to swim underwater at age 8 or so, above water at around 12).
The class is only a half hour long on Saturday mornings. I wasn’t expected much. But it ended up being wonderful.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Ratatouille – great mixture of vegetables, especially in late summer when all are in season. Nice combination of spices. Puree this up for a great baby meal.
Borshch – this is a great recipe, bringing in some meat as well as late-season fresh veggies. Puree it, fill a bunch of bottles and stick them in the freezer to have meals on hand whenever needed.
Sauteed Chicken with Cherry Tomatoes – the cherry tomatoes and shallots give it sweetness, lots of protein from the chicken. A great meal for the family as well, so this one goes a long way. From The Oprah Magazine Cookbook, pg. 115
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1.5 pounds) or chicken thighs
4 garlic cloves, smashed and coarsely chopped
6 shallots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, rinsed and drained
1 tsp. dried oregano
¾ cup dry white wine
freshly ground pepper
1 pound spinach angel hair pasta, cooked according to package directions
-In a 12-inch skillet, a Dutch oven, or a lidded casserole, heat oil over medium-high heat.
-Add half the chicken and cook until golden brown, about 6 minutes total, turning midway through cooking time.
-Remove with tongs and brown remaining chicken breasts.
-Reduce heat to medium.
-Add garlic and shallots and sauté until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
-Add cherry tomatoes, oregano, white wine, ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper, and sauté until wine reduces by a third, about 4 minutes, shaking the pan from time to time.
-Return chicken to pan, cover, and simmer until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink, 5-7 minutes.
-Adjust seasoning to taste.
-Serve chicken over angel-hair pasta.
Friday, September 5, 2008
I guess it was better this time than last because the poop was only smeared from his thighs to his feet. It was still nasty though. I picked him up and stuck him right in the bathtub. The water quickly filled with small, dark floating particles. I pulled off his shirt and used that to wipe his legs. Mark took care of the sheet and the bed.
We were negligent. We forgot to put on pajamas. Hopefully this is the last reminder we’ll need.
Just schedule your tours about 1.5 hours apart. We purchased tickets online because we thought we could have some trouble getting in on Labor Day weekend. We went on the Monday of Labor Day and it was possible to get in without advance tickets. There was just a 60 minute wait. We could have saved the $2 per ticket “processing fee” if we’d just purchased them on-site.
There is plenty to do while waiting. There is a family room available for sleeping, changing, nursing, rocking, etc. There is also a café (mostly soups, salads, sandwiches and snacks, but made with all-natural ingredients), gift shop and exhibit room. I made use of the trails, exploring the grounds and taking in the views while waiting. Most paths are stroller accessible, so I only had to carry River down on set of stairs and along one hiking trails.
Note that trail H, which is supposed to go to a beautiful view north of the house is NOT worth it in summer. The leaves on the trees block almost the entire view.
Monday, September 1, 2008
She told me I talk too much about River.
“I guess in our last phone call you talked about some other things,” she said. “This weekend it’s been better because I’m spending more time with you. But when I called you when he was a month or two old, there must be some hormonal change because you were really different. River was all you could talk about.”
She told me that some of her co-workers talk about nothing but their kids or their home repairs and she finds it very boring. She also feels sorry for them that they don’t have more in their lives to discuss.
This was a little depressing to hear because I didn’t want to become the type of woman who can only talk about her kids. My friend Evelina, mother to an almost-five year old and pregnant with her second, vowed that she wouldn’t bore people with talk about her child. Apparently she’d been bored with others talking her ear off. She stuck to it and rarely mentioned her son to me unless I asked. Only now do I realize how difficult that much have been.
I explained to Lisa that especially when a woman is breastfeeding, there isn’t much in her life in the month or two after childbirth than being a mother and trying to take basic care of herself. I also explained that a lot of people who work full-time probably don’t have time for a lot more than eating dinner, relaxing a little, taking care of their kids and maintaining their homes.
I know that some women grow apart from their childless, single friends once they have children because they no longer have the same priorities. I still value my childless friends and have maintained my friendships with them. But I also understand now that there is something about motherhood that draws women together. It is like membership in a certain club – an understanding that another woman, regardless of age, nationality or upbringing, has been through the same long, difficult and life-changing experience as you – an experience so full of pain and joy that it’s unlike any other.
When I was pregnant, I suddenly found it easier to talk to one of my friends who is now a stay-at-home mother. She took such an interest in and concern for my experience. She was very helpful in sharing her advice and wisdom. I also found that both during pregnancy (when it was more annoying) and now (when it’s more welcome) people seem compelled to share their stories, first their pregnancy stories, now whatever information they want to share about whatever baby is remotely connected to their life. Seeing another go through pregnancy or motherhood brings back the experiences to those who have been through it. I now feel this joy for my friends that are currently expecting, especially for the first time. More than ever, I want to help them out in whatever way I can.
When I told Mark what Lisa said about my talking too much about River, he responded, “Yes, you talk about him a lot, but so do I. I think that’s normal.” I thought back to the previous night, when we were all eating dinner together. Mark kept pointing out River’s face to Lisa as River chewed on lemons and limes. I thought it was funny and watched, but Lisa seemed to be more interested in her menu.
I didn’t expect parenting to be as interesting and as joyful as it has been so far, so I do take an interest in learning, in talking to other people, in comparing experiences. However, one reason I’d really like to get back into the workforce is I want to focus on something other than parenthood in-depth, to be current on one particular issue and be able to discuss it with other knowledgeable people, parents or not.
Since, as I move through the early stages of parenting, I do think a lot about motherhood, I’ll continue to have an interest in this subject. I hope that this blog will provide me with an outlet to process my thoughts and hopefully to enter into discussions with people thinking about similar issues. In the meantime, I need to continue developing myself in other ways, as I’ve been trying to do in the past months, and to expand the repertoire of conversation topics I have available to subjects beyond my adorable River.
The first song on the CD, “Oh How Lovely Is the Evening,” works magic, absolute magic on River. There has only been one occasion on which playing this song has not stopped him from crying.
This evening, 4.5 hours into the six hour drive home, he began to cry for no apparent reason. My husband made the good move of switching the music from the Spanish lullabies that were playing to the Car-I-Oke CD. He played the first song over and over, 20-25 times (it’s short) then allowed the next few songs to play. The first four songs are all very relaxing and soothing. River stopped crying within 45 seconds. He stared at the back of the seat calmly, clearly taking in the music. Within 10 minutes he was asleep, no further action needed on our part. This is a miraculous CD that has an effect no other music we’ve introduced him to has accomplished.
On Sunday we took a 30-mile bike ride along the Allegheny Passage. Since most of the path was flat and seven miles of it was downhill, barely requiring pedaling, under normal circumstances it would have been an easy and enjoyable time. Taking along an 8-month-old was an experiment though. I regularly take River on the 15 minute ride to the pediatricians, but we hadn’t gone any further than that. Most of the time he holds up, but a few times he cried pretty loudly.
The plan for the long bike ride was to take it easy. We’d stop whenever he wanted to fed, be changed, or have a rest. The first mile or two went well and the scenery was beautiful, so I looked forward to a good day. That quickly changed though and River began to whimper, then cry, then scream. Since it was near his usual naptime, I hoped he’d complain a little, then go to sleep. No luck. I stopped on a bench and breastfed him, then we continued again. But he complained again, loudly and non-stop.
Passing bicyclists gave me sidelong glances.
“Boy, he’s sure angry,” one said. “His veins are popping out from his forehead.”
I’m a horrible mother thoughts ran through my head. Especially when my friend asked River, “Do you have a mean mommy? Yes, you do.” We were only five miles into the trip. Would there be another 25 miles of this? I didn’t want him to suffer, but we had to get to the other side somehow. I knew it was his naptime and I felt bad he was missing it, but we can’t be home from 11-3 every day. Every so often, he needs to adjust to another schedule.
So we took an extended River break. Luckily my friend was accommodating. When her friend called on her cellphone, I was glad she was occupied. I breastfed River, I let him sleep in my lap for at least 15-20 minutes. We discussed the possibility of a bottle, but knew it would fall and the nipple would get dirty on the gravel path. We wished there was a way to tie the bottle to the childseat. We decided to offer a bottle of formula, after the breastfeeding, to try to fill him up and settle him down.
It worked. From that point on, he was great. We didn’t know how long it would last, so I raced ahead of Mark and our friend, trying to cover as much ground as possible while River was going well. We made several more stops along the way, usually for a feeding or diaper change, but sometimes just to let him rest from the movement. None of the stops were as long as the first big River break though. He made it through patches of sun, though long, dark, cold tunnels, and through the wind rushing past him as we sped seven miles downhill. He started to cry during the last mile or two, but then we were close enough to food, rest and sleep that I knew it wouldn’t last long.
So we made it. We took much longer than usual and couldn’t continue on the additional 16 miles downhill to Cumberland. But we had a great day – riding along a beautiful path through bounteous greenness. And River held up – not only through the bike ride, but through three days without any substantial naps.
We had fun, he had lots of mommy and daddy time, as well as some new experiences. Tomorrow we revert back to River’s schedule taking precedence. Hopefully he’ll forgive us the interruptions.