Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Growing up

My baby started solid foods yesterday.  This picture represents the almost 18-pound child that until yesterday, was nourished and sustained by me (with a little initial help from my husband).  It really is a miracle.

I had planned to wait a few more days before beginning solids, in order to maximize the milk stimulation before I head back to work on Friday.  But after having her milk, she was sucking on everything in sight, including my chin, making me think she was still hungry. 

I mashed a banana, as the easiest option available and she ate it with gusto, grabbing the spoon and shoving it into her mouth, sucking on the little plastic spoon with loud chomps and holding it so tightly it was a struggle to get it back to refill it.

Today she received sweet potato with breastmilk and cinnamon and ate with just as much gusto. It looks like she’ll take after River, and after me, as being someone who appreciates some good food.

At the same time she’s increasing her intake, I’m decreasing mine.  I finally feel up to sticking with a diet.  It’s not too severe, since I’m still breastfeeding, but the first week has gone well, so I’m hopeful more weight loss is on the horizon.  I’m really looking forward to the thighs not rubbing together any more.

The toughest thing now, harder than the thought of heading back to work, is that our wonderful sleep training unraveled during the trip.  I had a marvelous week solo with Willow in Iowa, in which she either slept through the night or awoke only once every night.  But when we gave my friend back her magic pack and play with the dip and returned home, she’s up at least two times, often three, sometimes more, before waking up for good at 6 a.m.  Last night I didn’t go to bed until midnight and she was up multiple times.  It was very painful. 

There isn’t much I can do when groggy and exhausted at 6 a.m.  I often sit with her on the front porch. But today I decided to take a short walk.  Might as well get some exercise out of it.  I love the freedom that summer offers to step outside whenever we want to, to put her outside to enjoy the air, to have sunlight at 6 a.m. and well into the night. 

Tomorrow is my last full day before returning to the office.  I probably won’t do anything special, other than assemble the things I’ll need at the office.  Because I only have to go in for four hours on Friday, and because I’ll be off for four days after that, it’s really not too bad as far as transitions go.  Part of me wouldn’t mind more time off, and another part of me thinks that perhaps it could be good for me, and for Willow, to spend more time apart.  

Saturday, June 18, 2011

My baby's skin

My baby’s skin is smooth like a warm lake at dawn. I run my finger from her shoulder to her hand.  It falls down at the first fold, a narrow but deep canyon, where stray hairs, milk and other detritus tend to gather, then rises to the pillowy fullness of another ring of soft, luscious, velvety baby fat.  Five folds separate the six marshmallows that make up her arm – grasping, reaching, exploring, wanting, loving.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Good times

I am loving this trip with Willow.  I’m feeling so lucky, so grateful, so happy.  When I tried to figure out why, this is what I came up with:

1.              Good sleep.  Two nights sleeping through the night and two nights with only one wakeup has been absolute paradise for me.  She’s also been napping four hours a day, showing me that sleep begets sleep (a cool swing at the daycare helps too). 

2.              Plenty of childcare.  I have close to all the time I need to attend to the tasks I need to do, but I also have the flexibility to run out and feed her or to pump.  I’m not able to participate in the conference or care for her perfectly, but I’m doing a good enough job on both that I’m content.  River is having a blast with my parents, so I’m comfortable that he’s happy too. 

3.              No household chores.  It’s great to be in one place for a while that is not your home.  No moving, no packing, and no responsibilities.  I need to pick up after us, wash the dishes, and other minor things.  But no big projects, no large messy spaces.  When I’m in the rooms with Willow, we can just play together.  And we do.  Each evening we have a 10-20 minute giggle fest, full of belly laughs.  No one else is around to distract my attention from her.  She is a roly-poly little doll and I love to see her smile.   

4.              Stimulating people and activities. My time away from Willow is spent with inspiring people who make me think and encourage me that I can make progress on some long-term projects.  I enjoy my time away from her and my time with her. 

5.              Pumping is going well.  Being able to keep up with her milk needs was what I was most worried about.  I’m covering them fully, and even have a bit extra.  This is thanks to a great caregiver, who is really able to make a little milk go a long way.  But it’s a huge relief.

I know this won’t last forever. Reality will set in soon enough.  But in the interim, I’m enjoying it.

Tonight I took Willow to part of a conference dinner.  She wore a little sundress and I wore a dress.  I put her in the stroller and we rolled down the street together.  It was mom and daughter heading out for the night, one of many joint outings I hope.  She’ll never remember this, but for me, this has been a wonderful week with my daughter.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A quiet, rainy evening with my baby

Rain pours down, like a shower someone forgot to turn off.  Thunder peals. Lightening occasionally lights up the sky. I’m in an old house on the second floor, with tiny windows that make me feel I’m looking out from an attic.  Some of the windows don’t close, bringing the sound and the chill of the rain even closer.

My baby is in the next room, near one of those windows I can’t close. The drips, the bangs, the flashes surround her dreams. I want to hold to her to my chest and protect her, though I know it wouldn’t do any good.  Love pours from me, as the water empties from the sky. 

Parenthood eliminates the questions

At a lecture I attended recently, a writer said that parenthood eliminates the questions about the purpose of life in a way that doesn’t happen for people who don’t have children.

In a way I understand his point.  Much of my purpose at this point is to ensure safe, healthy and happy environments for my children, to ensure our genes are carried on, to do what I can so that the world is a good place for my children to live in.  There is a sense of fulfillment in these activities that I appreciate and that calms me and slows me down. 

For me, though, being a mother isn’t everything.  I do want to touch the lives of others, I do want to enjoy the beautiful sensory pleasures the world has to offer, I want to have quiet time to focus and reflect, I want sleep and exercise and the ability to use my mind and skills. 

I think becoming a parent has calmed down my need to achieve.  It has made me more content with small things.  I do feel a certain sense of achievement and purpose in providing my kids with a safe, loving, enriching atmosphere. 

What do you think?  If you are a parent, has parenthood eliminated, or reduced your questions about the purpose of life? If you aren’t a parent, what do you think the purpose of life is?

A miracle

Last night a miracle happened.  Not only did Willow sleep through the night – that itself would be a miracle, after a good 3-4 wakeups per night in the last few weeks – but she slept a whole 11 hours in a row, and might have slept more if I hadn’t awaken her.

I didn’t benefit as much from this as I could.  I first awoke at 2, then several times afterwards. Each time I sat up in partial panic and partial wonder.  “She hasn’t woken up yet?  What’s going on?  Did the babysitter do something?  Did she drug her?  Is she OK?” 

Three times I went into her room to check on her and didn’t leave until I saw movement.  By 6 a.m. my breasts were boulders and were starting to hurt.  I was torn between waking her up to relieve the pressure and enjoying the blissful serenity of a sleeping child.

Today also was an experiment in trying to attend a conference with a baby and trying to keep said baby fully breastfed.  It went better than expected.  Willow had only 3 feedings in 9.5 hours of daycare (If she’d been with me for 9.5 hours, she probably would have had at least 6).  I drove to the daycare for two of those feedings (20 minutes roundtrip each time) and the provider gave her 2 ounces of milk from a bottle.

So she only drank two ounces of expressed milk and I pumped more than two ounces today.  So not only did I keep up, I have a bit of a surplus.  Perhaps tomorrow I’ll try making only one extra feeding trip during the day.

The situation is working in that I’m able to attend most of the conference activities, my baby is being well cared for, and I’m able to keep up my milk supply.  I’m also getting practice in how to manage work and breastfeeding without the actual pressures of work.  I found that as I raced to make the 5:30 daycare pickup (I was the last one there) that I was excited to see my baby at the end of the day.  And when I took her to a wine and cheese event, she was the center of attention.

But it has its downsides too.  Just about every moment is spent caring for her, transporting her, feeding her, pumping or attending to conference-related things.  I have no time for a leisurely lunch or a casual conversation after an event.  It’s hard to network when I have to leave each session promptly to pump or to feed. When some people gathered for dinner this evening, I couldn’t join them because I hadn’t scheduled a babysitter.

Nevertheless, I think it’s as good of a balance as I can get.  I’m with my baby, am able to enjoy her, and am able to maintain my milk supply.  I can attend the conference, learn things, be inspired, and make connections.  I can’t do either thing to the extent I’d like, but that’s the price of motherhood. 

One thing I especially love about conferences is that I get to meet fascinating mothers with older children.  I am reminded that these struggles are temporary, that soon enough I’ll be sleeping through the night again, and confronting different challenges.  These women help me to remember that their careers and interests carry on when the children no longer assume center stage, and that it’s a good idea to have something to devote oneself to then.  That makes me feel better about the balance that often feels off-kilter.  As long as I keep a toe in the waters that interest me, later on I can put in a foot, then a leg, then jump fully in.