Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The benefits of a little dirt

According to this NY Times article, perhaps a little dirt isn’t so bad for baby after all. I admit I felt I was admitting to being a bad mother when I wrote this post on how I’m fairly liberal about what I let River put in his mouth. Now I feel slightly less guilty.

Earn $10-15 if you have a 10-15 month old

Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. is looking for parents of children between 10 and 15 months old to test a questionnaire about child development. If you have a child this age, please call the number below to complete a brief interview and receive $10. Your input is important to us!

Call Mindy at:
1-866-627-9981 Ext. 3

I received this announcement, but when I called, I was told the pay was actually $15. I answered a short little survey and added a little income to a day in which I didn’t expect any.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Mom's separation anxiety

I’ve been absent from the blogsphere for the past week or so. Suddenly, there is a lot going on that is keeping me very occupied. All in a short period of time we’ve had a death in the family, an exciting professional development, an opportunity to interview for my dream job and planning a major trip.

I’m going to Siberia for three weeks soon and after much deliberation, I’ve decided to leave River home. That’s probably best for his welfare. However, I’m having my own emotional meltdown about leaving him for so long at this age. I feel deceitful in that I can’t tell him or prepare him ahead of time. I feel like each time we spend time together, I’m trying to rack up quality time for the time that I miss. I’m worried that unlike when I went out of town when he was younger, this time he’s going to remember me and miss me. I worry that he can’t verbalize his concerns, nor can he understand when people explain. I’m afraid he’ll feel abandoned and that he’ll lose trust in me.

My original plan was to take him, in which case he would have been away from Mark for three weeks. I don’t think Mark would have worried much about these things. He probably would have enjoyed the quiet time. Nor do I really think River would have suffered too much without seeing his father for a few weeks.

So does that mean I believe there is a fundamental difference between mothers and fathers and that mothers are somehow more important? Wouldn’t that go against my beliefs in feminism and co-parenting?

Perhaps there is a difference. Maybe there is some type of chemical connection that happens with birth. Maybe there is meant to be a special biological bond between mother and child. Or it might be only that in our case, I spend more hours per week with River than Mark does. While Mark does a lot with River, I am the one who is usually thinking ahead and planning for River’s needs. Maybe I’m overestimating myself, as I think mothers are prone to do, in thinking that without my planning, his world will fall apart. I know it won’t and I know that our babysitter and Mark will love and care for him.

In any case, he darn well better start walking before I go. He’s got just under a month to take that first step and I need him to do so. If I miss that big milestone, I’m really going to become a psychological case.

To add to my meltdown, I just finished watching a 20/20 show on how to survive a catastrophe. A survivor of a horrendous plane crash recounted an 18-month old seated in front of him, who had been playing peek a boo with him, and ending up dying. That boy has haunted this survivor for 20 years. I am terrified of putting River into a situation like that in which he is in danger and there is nothing I can do to save him.

I’m not a big stickler for safety. I think certain rules, like carseats, are good to strive for, but shouldn’t always be mandatory. There are some circumstances, such as a baby who nurses 2-4 hours at a shot, or going out of town when it’s not feasible to lug along the carseats, in which I think it’s reasonable to skip the seats.

I generally think the same thing about baby seats on airlines – useful, but a hassle and the odds of needing them are small. Still, when the domestic flight we took in Panama shook so much in the wind that some people screamed and the woman next to me held my hand, I realized that in case of a crash or a fall, River would be the first one to hit the ceiling and probably the most likely to be injured. It’s not possible to hold tight to an infant and to assume the safest crash landing posture. And the airplane seatbelts don’t hold a small child securely (which I’d guess is what killed the 18 month old).

So now I’m finding myself thinking that I will take a carseat along on flights when practical. If I go completely overboard, I’ll follow the advice of another passenger who survived and dress him in 100 percent natural fibers, so that in the one in a billion or so chance we go down in a fiery crash, he’ll reduce his chances of being burned.

Overall, I think I’m just going through a period of anxiety in which I recognize that nothing I do can protect him fully. The more time we spend together, the more investment I put into his growth and development, the more he becomes a person, the more frightened I become of something taking that away.

I think I need to start doing more meditation or somehow find myself some more zen. I want to be like the Buddhists and appreciate River’s presence right now, appreciate all he has already done for me and for others, and treat all joy we might receive in the future as a gift rather than an expectation. I’m trying, but it’s not happening.

Are there others out there who aren’t generally anxious about their children, but have occasional anxiety spells like this come over them? If so, how do you cope with them?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

What makes a bond?

In posting my birth story yesterday, I was reminded of the fact that while River spent a few moments on my chest immediately after birth (during which I reacted with some recoiling), he spent his first two hours with Mark. I probably wouldn’t have chosen this if the circumstances were different, but in hindsight, what has been the effect? I would say absolutely none.

He loves me intensely and I love him. He loves Mark, but still prefers me at this stage, even though Mark held him first.

I think of a woman I know who just gave birth to her fourth. With her first three, she was very much an attachment parent. This baby was born premature with some serious health scares. She calls her current parenting “detachment” parenting. She lost her milk as she sat by the incubator one night, fearful her baby would die by the morning. She can’t carry him because he’s attached to a medical device. So he receives a bottle every few hours and spends most of his time in his bassinet.

I think this woman is having a difficult time adjusting her expectations – of realizing that she can’t be an attachment parent to this baby in the way that she wanted to, of knowing that even though she’s not doing what she expected, she’s doing the best she can.

It’s made me think that some people and some literature put too much of a burden on new mothers by making them think that the first moments or the first days will have a long-term impact on the child’s development or the mother-child bond.

Sure, it’s good to hold babies. Sure, breastfeeding is good if it works for both parties. But does it specifically have to be the mother holding the baby or will a warm, loving body suffice? Do these things have a long-term impact? I’m doubtful, as long as the decisions are made with love. If a baby is not held because a parent is ignoring it, I imagine that could be harmful if repeated over time. If a baby is not held because circumstances don’t allow it, I think it’s different. I think the baby will feel whether or not there is love in the interactions. I think they will respond to the vibe they receive.

I wish that women (it seems to be mostly women) could stop beating up themselves and others. I wish they could feel that love is both necessary and sufficient.

What do you think?

Friday, January 9, 2009

The story of River's birth

I should have posted this on River’s birthday. But I’d actually forgotten that our doula put together this birth story. Since I just ran across it, I’ll post it on his 13 month birthday instead.

Here is the story of River’s birth according to our wonderful doula:

Wm’s Birth Story
December 8–9, 2007

Wm had been noticing some encouraging signs that her baby was on the way for several days, and at 2.20 pm on December 8, just a few hours after her pre-natal yoga class, she experienced some contractions. No slow to start labor for Wm: her contractions immediately started at 3 to 5 minutes apart right from the get go. I suggested she tried to take a nap given that no sleep would be forthcoming that night, but it’s pretty hard to actually sleep when you are in early labor with your first baby! She tried to rest as best she could, but when contractions are so close together, it doesn’t give much time to focus on relaxation.

I arrived at 6 pm and could see that Wm was already very uncomfortable during the contractions. She needed to stand to remain comfortable and so we got into a rhythm where she would sit on the sofa with the hot pack underneath her when resting, and then stand every time a contraction came and put her arms round Mark and bury her head in his chest. They stayed like this for an hour, working hard, and I could see how strong Wm was. The tears and laughter perhaps made Wm feel she wasn’t coping well - but showing those emotions in early labor is a sign of great strength and self-awareness, portraying an innate knowledge of the enormous task that lies ahead. They don’t call it labor for nothing!

Shortly after 7 pm, as the contractions became more intense, Wm and Mark decided that it was time to go to the hospital. She knew that she wanted an epidural and so it was not a priority to stay at home for as long as possible. In addition, she was already having enough trouble that the five minute journey to the hospital was very difficult for her. We entered the hospital through the Emergency Entrance which is never a pleasant experience. Nurses kept trying to offer Wm a wheelchair and it was gratifying to see her refuse. First, upright was more comfortable for her, and secondly, a woman in labor is not sick! An aide came down to take us up to Labor and Delivery on the 4th Floor and we settled in to Room 441 with Kathy as our nurse. Wm politely answered all of Kathy’s questions despite being in active labor.

Unfortunately, hospital protocol made it necessary for her to be monitored for 20 minutes, which meant lying on the bed – the most uncomfortable position imaginable for a laboring woman.

At 8 pm Dr H arrived, a young petite woman, gentle and unassuming and with a quiet confidence. She checked Wm and announced that she was 2–3 cm dilated, 90% effaced, and the baby’s head was at -3 station. (To allow passage of the baby, the cervix has to efface from 0 to 100%, dilate from 0 to 10 cm, and the baby has to move down from -4 to +4 station.) This was good steady progress although I suspect Wm had hoped she might be further on after 6 hours of pretty intense labor.

The anesthesiologist was called and we continued working with the relentless contractions, which were not giving Wm any break at all. A nurse came in to insert the IV, which was necessary because of a positive Strep B test, as well as for the epidural, and a bolus of fluid was administered in order to prevent her blood pressure from dropping with the epidural, which is a common side effect of this procedure. Wm, who abhors IV’s because of difficulties in finding a vein, was very stalwart during this procedure and barely flinched as the needle was inserted.

Finally at 9 pm, a somewhat brusque mannered young doctor walked in and announced that she was the anesthesiologist. I don’t think she even told us her name, but proceeded to lecture Wm on the importance of keeping absolutely still during the procedure – not an easy feat when you’re having strong contractions. In no uncertain terms, she told Mark and I to leave and “go get a cup of coffee for 20 minutes”.

So we waited right outside the door, straining to listen to Wm’s reactions. To our dismay, we could hear that she had to go through a couple of very difficult contractions as the needle was being positioned in her back and she was obliged to remain totally immobile. It must have been so difficult for Mark to hear her and not be able to comfort her as he had been doing so beautifully all day. However, 20 minutes later, we were ushered back into the room and found Wm grinning from ear to ear as the epidural worked its magic.

Dr H returned to explain that, contrary to Dr C’s promises, the ubiquitous hospital protocol insisted on continuous fetal monitoring once an epidural had been administered. However, she assured Wm that her interpretation of the monitor was very conservative and she was not about to react immediately to a change in the baby’s heartbeat. Wm had been concerned about continuous monitoring because it encourages too many false positive reactions in the doctors and greatly increases the risk of unnecessary interventions. Dr. H said she would return at 10 pm to check Wm’s progress. So we settled down to a pleasant half hour of chatting and resting as the contractions were now a blip on the monitor screen and no longer an overwhelming sensation for Wm.

At 10 pm Dr H returned and checked Wm to find that she was at 5 cm dilation and the baby had moved down a little to -2 station. This was great progress for only 2 hours of labor. No wonder poor Wm had been having such an intense experience – her labor was moving along very fast. Mark and I, baffled by the pull-out bed, called for Kathy’s help and she showed us how to work the various bits and pieces.

By 10.15 pm, Mark was settled on his pull out bed and I was comfortably installed on the egg crate foam mattress that Mark had ordered on arrival. We switched off the lights and attempted to sleep. Thirty minutes later, three nurses came running into the room, all lights were on and an oxygen mask was swiftly placed over Wm’s face. The nurses had noticed the baby’s heart rate dipping down with each contraction and needed to move Wm onto her other side. We discovered later that the little guy had the cord wrapped round his body and it was getting compressed by the contracting uterus when Wm was in certain positions. Right side lying seemed to work best for the baby.

Kathy examined Wm and announced that she was now 5–6 cm and the baby was even lower. We resumed our dozing until 1.30 am when Kathy returned yet again to examine Wm. Excitedly, she said she thought she was now 10 cm and might be ready to push. This was incredible – to move from 6 to 10 cm in just 2½ hours – I could hardly believe it! Kathy returned with Dr H who also examined Wm and said she was 8 cm, 100% effaced, with the baby at -2 station. Apparently, Kathy’s miscalculation had been due to the bag of waters bulging out into the cervix, which made it difficult to assess dilation. Dr H suggested breaking the waters to “speed things up” but Wm did not want any unnecessary interventions and so they agreed to wait another hour before doing anything. It must have been disappointing to find out you were not as far along as you had thought, but neither Wm nor Mark allowed this news to discourage them.

At 2.45 am Dr H returned and explained that there had been no change. She highly recommended breaking the waters in order to allow the baby to come down further and put more pressure on the cervix. After some discussion, Wm agreed to this procedure and sure enough, as the bag of waters was pierced, the baby’s head immediately moved from 2 to 1 station and rotated into a more favorable position. There was light meconium in the water, which meant that the baby was perhaps a little stressed.
We resumed our napping although Wm was beginning to feel a little discomfort as the baby moved down the birth canal. For some women, the epidural does not numb the lower pelvic region as well as it does the abdominal area, and this unfortunately seemed to be the case for Wm.

At 4.30 am, the doctor returned to check Wm once more and explained that she was almost fully dilated but there was a lip of the cervix still on the posterior edge. This was unusual as most women have an anterior lip to the cervix. Thirty minutes later, the same procedure proved that there was still a lip in the way and Wm was becoming more uncomfortable by the minute. In response to her unease, Mark got off his pull-out bed and came to sit by Wm, holding her hand tightly during each contraction and giving her loving words of encouragement.

At 6.15 am the doctor announced, after the check, that the baby had moved down to 0 station, which explained Wm’s growing discomfort. She said there was still a little bit of posterior cervix left but she suggested that Wm start to push anyway. The pressure of pushing often moves the cervix out of the way. Sure enough, after the first pushing contraction, the cervix disappeared and Wm was set to birth her baby.

Initially, Wm felt discouraged at her pushing efforts. She was exhausted and in pain and convinced herself that she was not doing a good job. This was far from the truth: after the first few learning contractions, she really got into her groove and moved her baby down incredibly fast for a first time Mom. It took her 100 minutes to push her baby out – that’s on the fast side of average for a first baby. This is when I saw Wm’s true colors: pushing was excruciatingly painful for her and yet she mustered up enormous courage and strength to successfully “push through the pain”.

Our lovely nurse Kathy was replaced by Natalie at 7.15 am, who thought that yelling at Wm would be an effective way of getting her to push. This tactic did not work: Wm was doing very well on her own with Mark and I gently encouraging her and she didn’t need a staff sergeant. Now we could see the top of the baby’s head with each contraction and excitement was growing in the room. Dr H, however, was tied up in the ER and Kathy returned to be with us despite no longer being on duty. The baby’s head was crowning, and still no doctor, and I was glad we had two nurses!

Finally, Dr H appeared and she quickly donned her gown and got into position to catch the baby. This was surely the most challenging time of labor for Wm, who urgently wanted to push her baby out, and at the same time was in a lot of pain. With much encouragement from an excited Mark, she gathered up the final ounce of strength and out popped the baby’s head. Dr H had been obliged to cut a small episiotomy to allow for passage of the baby’s head, as the heartbeat was dipping a little and the baby needed to breathe air. It was at this point that we saw the cord wrapped around his body, which Dr H expertly unwrapped and proceeded to cut. With Mark’s tears of joy streaming down his face, and Wm unable to believe what she had accomplished, their beautiful baby boy slipped out into the world. He weighed 8 lbs 10 oz and was 21½ inches long.

While Wm patiently underwent extensive repair of the perineum (that took over two hours), I watched Mark fall hopelessly in love with his son as he cradled him in his arms in the rocking chair. Finally, Wm was able to welcome him into her loving, mothering arms and he nursed lustily for 45 minutes. Thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of this incredible journey into parenthood. Your strength, patience and good sense were inspiring!

Your Doula,
Mrs. wonderful December 12, 2007

Our doula was able to capture the events and details that we were in no position to do. However, she couldn’t capture the emotions that accompanied the events for me.

These were:
-Shortly after labor began – tears.

-By the time I called the doctor and by the time the doula arrived – full crying

-By the time we arrived at the hospital – bawling. I’ll never forget the look the kind security guard gave me, which seemed to be one of great concern and pity.

-After the epidural – end to pain. I was a little nervous but excited and amazed that the baby would soon be there. I knew it would be my last evening as a non-parent. Mark and our doula were able to sleep. I lay there with a head full of excited thoughts, pressing the increase medicine button more frequently as the hours went by.

-When the pain began again – some surprise. I had thought the worst was over. But the doctor said she could give me some topical if it got bad, which reassured me.

-I was very happy with the nurse who was with me for most of the time. When the bitchy nurse joined in during the pushing, I was highly annoyed and pissed. I asked her to please be quiet. Mark concurred. “Really,” he said. “Stop it.” She did.

-When I began to push – bloodbath and pain beyond description. This was especially demoralizing since I’d thought the pain was over. I was also upset that the doctor was not there to give me the promised topical relief. Someone else had a life threatening emergency that night (I think an ectopic pregnancy) so the doctor was with her until River’s head had already emerged.

-When the baby came out – freaked out. It felt like a huge mass of weirdness. No instant love here.

-As I was getting sewed up for two hours – more pain, though not as bad as the labor itself. Hurt and exhaustion. I really didn’t mind that River spent his first two hours with Mark.

-First day or two – Continued pain. Another bloodbath (the toilet filled with blood the first time I tried to go to the bathroom and I had to get patched up again – very scary). Some confusion, wonder, amazement. Sometimes I thought he was very cute, other times he looked pretty ugly to me.

-With time, adjustment and love. I came to love him more quickly and more intensely than I expected to.

Have you posted a birth story? Please share the link.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Time to change pediatricians

We’re going through a tough week. River got his Hep-A vaccine a few days ago. Perhaps it was a mistake to give it to him with a cold coming on, but it has been affecting him very strongly. The fussiness, arched back of being upset and sore body parts came immediately after the shot (when the kind passserby told me I should be reported to the police for allowing him to cry). Since then, the cold symptoms have increased (runny nose, not eating like usual) together with pretty constant fussiness, clinginess and fitful sleep.

It was the flower-shaped raised rash-like thing on one of his hands that caused me to call the doctor.

We’ve gone to a pediatric group since he was born that I have been less than thrilled with. I put up with it because River hasn’t had any major medical issues since his early thrush and this office is a 20 minute walk from our house. I figured we’d stay for convenience sake as long as he was receiving frequent vaccines.

Until Mark took River to his 12-month appointment and the doctor told us that no, we couldn’t separate the MMR into three shots because they didn’t order it that way. Mark asked if there was another place we could do it and the doctor didn’t offer any ideas.

So I finally had a reason to call around. I found a small office only a few blocks further away that would separate the MMR. Not only that, they’d give River a Hep-A shot (for travel we are planning) without making me fill out paperwork and wait a week for an unfriendly nurse to evaluate my request.

So we went to the new doctor, a Russian woman, for the shot. Initially, I thought we’d go there just for the shots. It’s a hassle to change over completely, and of course a risk we’d tick people off and not be able to go back to the first group.

So when I had a question today, I called our original doctors first. They have a nurse on duty for questions and that easy availability is one thing that attracted us to the practice. Though I wasn’t too impressed with her answer a few months ago when I called after River’s first allergic reaction. “Neither sesame nor tuna are common allergens,” she told me. A quick Google search proved that wrong.

I gave them another chance today. Without asking River’s name or looking up his file, she immediately told me that what was wrong with him “has nothing to do with the vaccine.” I don’t think I even told her which vaccine we got. She said 100 is not a fever and that he must be teething. I told her he doesn’t act this way with teething and she said he must be getting a molar.

I called the new doctor. She herself called me back, an MD who remembers River and his particular circumstances. Her take was that it’s a combination of a cold or virus and the vaccine. She said his body is probably developing an immunity to hepatitis A and that is why it is acting as it is. Of course, having a cold prior to that didn’t help. She suggested we give him Tylenol and plenty of fluids. We should watch the thing on his hand and if it’s still there in a few days bring him in.

I see a reaction like this to one vaccine and I’m reaffirmed in believing that three live viruses at once is too much for his system to handle. The second doctor agrees. She thinks my concern of an overload to the immunological system of having to fight off too many viruses at once is valid.

The first office makes me feel like a pesky mother, which I’m not. I think I’ve called three times since he was born, including today. They also make me feel like I’m incompetent and can’t possibly evaluate options for myself. They go by the book, which doesn’t take into account individual circumstances. They have a my way or the highway policy. Worst of all is that they have given me WRONG information at least three times now.

I’m ready to make the move to a small, friendly, individual-oriented practice. It may not have the factory-like efficiency of the larger office nor the variety of expertise available. But we will be seen as people. We can develop a relationship with the doctor and become more than scheduled appointments. Someone will listen to us, as parents who care and do our homework. And we can listen to the doctor with more trust, knowing that we’re not just being recited a textbook. As a bonus, I like that she’s Russian and is able to look beyond what the U.S. AAP recommends, which I think can be limiting.

It’s taken me a while to get here, but now I feel relieved.

How have you found your doctors? Do you feel your pediatrician listens to you?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The nerve of some people

We went to a new pediatrician today to get the hepatitis A vaccine. My doctor’s office was decidedly unfriendly when I asked for it (I may be taking River to Russia next month) and this office was friendly and accommodating. It’s a few blocks further away, which I didn’t think would be too much of an issue – except that one have only one car and it’s cold.

This morning I asked Mark to drive us there so we’d only have to go outside in one direction. That meant we arrived for our appointment over an hour early, but fine. River got his shot, which caused him a cry a bit more than others. The medical assistant said it could cause pain and fever and I should give him Tylenol or Advil.

Then we head out to our bicycle. It was chilly, but nothing was falling out of the sky this time and River was dressed appropriately. However, we had the bad luck of a flat front tire, which apparently Mark didn’t notice when loading and unloading the bike. Because of the flat, I couldn’t ride the bike, but could only walk it. That meant a ride that would have taken about 10 minutes would be about a 40 minute walk.

I find such situations frustrating, but I also realize that the best I can do is to just get through it. I put River in the carseat and began walking. I nixed my plan to stop by tea – better to get him home as soon as possible.

He was fine for at least half of the trip. Then he started to whimper a little. At a busy intersection, he cried. I spoke to him and told him we’d be home soon, but there wasn’t anything else I could do. Taking him out of the seat would only extend the time we’d be outdoors.

We were only six blocks or so from home when a lady slowed down her car on the other side of the street. It was a ratty dark blue car. She was in her 40s or 50s, with a weathered face and unkempt hair.

She stared at River intently, enough to freak me out. Even though she was on the opposite side of the street, I feared she was somehow going to jump out and try to grab him. I tried to think quickly what to do in this situation. Moving fast wasn’t an option on the broken bike.

“He seemed to be crying pretty hard back there,” she said though the open window.

“Yep. We’re heading home,” I said.

“You know, if you let the baby cry on purpose you should be subjected to a mental health evaluation. You should be reported to the authorities.”

“OK. Thank you very much,” I said. She eventually had to move because cars were backing up behind her. I imagined her calling the police, who would find the mom and baby with a broken bicycle pretty easily.

Rationally, I knew she was probably the crazy one. I knew that should a police officer come by I could easily explain the situation. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong. Nevertheless, having someone on the street tell me I’m a mental case and a bad mother hurt emotionally, no matter how crazy she herself appeared.

I also realized that criticizing a random stranger on the street does no good at all. It does no more than to increase stress and doubt. It also helped me to remember how difficult it is to know the full picture and how one should avoid jumping to conclusions. How could she know that I’d spent my morning taking him to the doctor so that he can get immunizations individually, that my bike tire was flat, that the Hep A shot seems to affect him more than others or that he’s had a charmed first year filled with love and individual attention? She couldn’t, just as I can’t imagine all the circumstances of others lives and need to hold off on judgment.

What kind of comments have you received on your parenting? How do you handle them?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Flying with a year old baby

I was afraid of the four flights that made up our holiday itinerary. As I thought, it wasn’t easy, but neither was it horrible. Here are some ideas I collected and tips I learned.

1. If at all possible, travel with someone else. Having Mark there made it very manageable, if at times challenging. Doing it alone would have been exhausting.

2. Pack a lot of diapers, drinks (milk) and snacks. Those are things you don’t want to run out of. If using cloth diapers, airport travel might be a good time to make a disposable exception, unless you have extra room for soiled diapers in your carry on.

3. If you are doing elimination communication, offer baby a chance to take a pee in the toilet.

4. Taking a carseat is a pain that is best avoided. However, if you must take one, as we needed to, it has a few benefits. One, if you can get an open seat on the plane, it’s easier to strap baby into a carseat with hopes that he’ll stay there than it is to strap her into an airline seat. You might get more hands-free time on the plane. Two, the Go-go kids travel device is really as cool as I’d heard. It converts a carseat into a rolling piece of luggage, basically like a stroller. It’s lightweight and easy to roll through the airport and River was quite content being pulled in it. When you have to board shuttle buses and the like, you don’t have to disassemble a stroller, but instead just push down the handle, pick up the child in the carseat and carry it on board. It’s expensive, so it would be a better deal used, but it’s a very helpful travel tool, especially after baby has outgrown the bucket seat and stroller frame option.

5. Waiting areas offer great entertainment. The space and the interesting people around were enough to captivate River for a long time, with little need for extra toys. Another benefit of traveling with another adult is that one adult can sit with the luggage while the second follows the child’s wanderings. We had one woman approach us and thank us for making the two-hour flight delay enjoyable for her and her children. She said they entertained themselves by watching River run around and play with Mark.

6. This is just a money saver I recently learned about – long-term parking lots outside of the airport area. has a good listing of options at various airports. It’s child friendly in the sense that the shuttle buses will take you right to and from the gates – and it’s cheaper than other options.

7. As I’ve written before, do whatever you need to do to get that open seat available on the flight for baby. Two adults plus baby plus stranger in a row of three narrow seats = hell. Avoid it however possible. Also keep in mind that carseats generally are only allowed to be put in window seats.

8. To increase the odds of getting an extra seat, head for the back. If traveling with another, book a window and an aisle in a row of three and leave the middle open. Someone stuck in the middle is generally willing to trade. If you feel annoyed by the extra time or hassle it takes to head back and to get off last, remember that the survival rates in crashes are highest in back.

9. Try to board when they offer boarding to people who need special assistance if you feel you need it. If you don’t, board last and let baby run around as long as possible before having to be constrained.

Diaper Free Afternoon

“You’re a brave girl,” Mark said, when he saw me carrying bare-bottomed River. “Or you don’t like your clothes.”

“Both,” I said.

I’d wanted to have a diaper free day, or half day as it was, for a while now. During the week, I have River in the mornings, which is not his peak potty period. On the weekends, I’m usually running around with him on Saturday mornings and on Sundays we often go out and do something. Today we switched the schedule – I ran around on my own in the morning and took care of River in the afternoon.

Why did I want to have a diaper free day? 1. I wanted to see River’s patterns and signals, especially with his pees, which are harder to get than the poos. 2. I wanted River to have some time without a diaper covering him so he can begin to get a sense of what that’s like. I figured it would help with the little redness he’s had lately and maybe he’d enjoy the freedom. 3. Even if I missed the pee (as I usually did) I wanted to be able to put him on the potty immediately afterwards so that he could see that a pee and a potty were associated.

We’ve done OK with getting results when we put River on the pot. If he has something, he’ll usually go. However, we haven’t had much success yet with him communicating to us when he needs to go. We’re also going through more diapers in a day than I’d like.

To start off the experiment, I put him on the potty and nothing came. Then I put him in his highchair for lunch. After his first bite of food, a waterfall of pee cascaded off the highchair. Admittedly, that was rather gross. I tried to focus on what I learned – that perhaps food is a prelude to urination. But I also learned that it’s not much fun wiping up spills.

Nevertheless, I continued on. I kept him fenced into the kitchen for most of the day. It’s easier to clean up the tile floor there than the wooden floors elsewhere. I was busy cooking lasagna and he was busy pulling everything out of the cabinets. We had two more accidents though (none on my clothes) and I successfully caught one pee.

It was tiring because I had to pay much more attention to see if something was coming or to prevent an accident on my shirt. That was probably the main benefit of keeping the diaper off – forcing me to be much more attentive. I also had to keep him in a small area and make sure he didn’t get onto furniture or any carpets.

I hope it had a small effect by showing him that pee equals an immediate sit on the potty, moving toward an association between those things. It’s quite possible it did nothing beneficial besides giving us cute images of River scurrying about, completely and beautifully oblivious to his nakedness. And perhaps it extended my grossness boundary yet another notch.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

It's Over

The breastfeeding is done – for good now. We had one rare substantial feeding during our Christmas visit home. I took River into my parent’s Jacuzzi bath and the bubbling waters must have soothed him enough to lose focus on the outside world enough to breastfeed, because it was at least a 10 minute feeding, which hadn’t happened in ages. I had that nostalgic feeling of isn’t this sweet, it’s so beautiful to look at him and spend this time with him. At the time same, the old feeling of – how long is this going to take? Are we almost done? crept up on me.

My breasts continue to produce a little milk, as though they are preparing for just in case. I have to accept it’s over though. I should be glad that I was able to give him some breastmilk as long as he wanted it – that the weaning came from his initiative, not mine. Still, little nagging thoughts ask whether if I did something differently we might have continued through the winter. Since we’re not, I’m now giving him one bag of frozen breastmilk a day until that’s all gone. We’ll stretch the immune protection out for another week or two.

“Mom excrement,” Mark called it, as he thawed a bag of it today. I never got much out of the pump, but still, it seems kind of unreal to see bags of liquid that have come from me emerging from the freezer.

So now that I’m no longer tied to River by breastfeeding, this should be the time for me to go away. It is time to find a job and I’m looking. But just when I’m able to go away, I no longer want to very much. Or, I do want to, but I don’t necessary want to be away from River. He’s so sweet and loving, he brightens my day. He’ll hold out his arms to ask for hugs during a meal, or even while on the potty. The other day he started to tap my back during the hug.

It’s no longer just me holding him while he suckles at my breast. We hug and kiss and play games and roll balls and laugh together. While losing the intimacy of breastfeeding is sad, this stage is fun enough for me to want to spend more time with him.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Ideal Meal

Whole Foods is expensive, so I don’t go there often. But every once in a while, I like to make a trip to their salad bar, where I fill a box up with toppings. With these, I’m able to make at least two salads at home for myself, and River gets an excellent meal.

Today I piled tofu in some kind of sauce, curried cauliflower, broccoli in mayonnaise, roast turkey, edamame beans, garbanzo beans, jicama with mandarin orange, cabbage and beets onto his highchair tray. He was allowed to eat as he pleased from all the choices and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. Such extensive choice is not practical with mom preparing the meal.

I figure the markup is worth it in order to keep his palate exposed to and liking a wide variety of foods that I’m not able to prepare very often.