Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Break

Emmett's fan club (my parents and my sister's family) have now come to NC and safely returned to their home states, and nobody ran off with the baby. I was aware that friends of both parties had suggested stealing the baby as an antidote to missing Emmett in the future. Add that to my growing list of Things Mom Does Not Find Funny. (New moms don't just lose IQ points--we also have funny bone impairments, apparently).

It was so nice to have everyone come here. Last Christmas we warned people that we'd want to do Christmas in NC this year rather than flying to my sister's house in Vermont. This was a great year to avoid flying, as weather conditions caused a big round of flight delays and cancellations around the time we usually would have been flying home to NC. Our visitors all drove down here and I know how long those drives are (I've done them several times, including with a 40 pound dog sitting on/near my bladder most of the trip). I kept half-expecting something to go wrong and while traffic was apparently pretty sucky, everyone made it here.

I am sort of glad that Emmett is a little young to cognitively process the Santa thing because I had somewhat of a Santa Fail. When my parents arrived, they understandably wanted to unload their truckload (literally) of gifts right away. As someone trying to avoid the Small House Inferiority Complex, I was all "sure it'll all fit under the tree, I'll show you right now!" and we unpacked everything right into the space around the Pez tree.
It was only in the wee hours of the morning on Christmas that I realized/remembered that a big part of the magic of Christmas is the overnight reveal that occurs when you go from having a few presents at bedtime to a larger amount in the morning. I'd given thought to other Christmas parenting tricks (use different wrapping paper for Santa gifts; disguise your writing; change your present-wrapping style if needed) but hadn't thought the whole thing through.

Despite two visits to retail Santas for cute photo opportunities, Adam and I are somewhat undecided on how much we want to perpetuate the Santa thing in the future. The "lying to the kid" thing doesn't sit well with a certain guy who spent forever studying Philosophy in graduate school. I can say this, though: I did sort of miss writing a note for Santa and leaving out cookies and carrots. With my current lifestyle of waking up numerous times per night to breastfeed, it seemed a bit preposterous to bother with this. But it's fun, as is a lot of the Santa thing. I do sort of like the idea of our family having an additional benevolent elder person that we suck up to once a year and ignore the rest the year. Kids often want to believe the Santa thing even if us grown ups are cynical about it. We'll see how it all plays out once it matters more.

It was so fun to watch Emmett interact with his presents. The first gift we held up to him had curly ribbon on it and he had a blast pulling on it. He fell asleep for a huge chunk of the present-unwrapping (my comment: "He doesn't sleep through the night, but he sleeps through Christmas?") so we saved a lot of his gifts for late afternoon. He was especially taken with an otter stuffed animal from his grandma and grandpa.

Around when we were getting ready for bed on Christmas, it started snowing. We woke up to several inches of snow covering the ground and trees. This was our 4th snow this year and the first time we had enough snow to make a snowman. Our snowman was really a snowbaby, complete with its own pacifier. I'm not sure if we would have been able to manage a snowman if not for the extra babyholding skills of grandma and grandpa.

The Northern relatives got to see firsthand just how little snow it takes to completely interrupt life in NC. Even with the roads getting cleared pretty quickly for Around Here, a lot of places ended up being closed on Boxing Day. Our break from work has had a little bit of everything, weather-wise...one week later and we're walking around without coats on. I sort of wish that the
weather had been warmer, but there is something compelling about snow on Christmas.

All in all, it was an excellent first Christmas!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Emmett's First Snow Day

Although today was the second time in Emmett's life-so-far that it snowed, it was the first proper Snow Day. Both his daycare and my workplace were closed due to weather today. Adam's large university was still open, but I convinced him to take the day off since it was Emmett's first snow day.

Objectively, there wasn't all that much snow; I sometimes imagine that the decision-makers around here go through a thought process along the lines of "did it snow? Yes? Is there snow on my car? OK, let's shut everything down." But a day off certainly was welcome today. I have been struggling during the workweek with just feeling that there's never enough time, particularly not in the after-work hours. It doesn't help that I tend to go to bed very early (knowing that I'll inevitably be back up, I figure that it's best to go to bed sometime between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m.). So today it was just lovely having enough time to do things. I tried out a recipe I've been meaning to try for weeks now; we finally got our Christmas Pez tree set up; I did some rather neglected housework; and I had time to call one friend and visit another. I'm definitely looking forward to having more time off during our Christmas break.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

First Santa Visit

There are all sorts of potential "baby's first Christmas" moments ahead of us, but for some reason, I really wanted to have both Lucy and Emmett present for the first Santa encounter. Today we just happened to stop by the local mall (the same one where we'd gone trick-or-treating) while their Santa Paws event was in progress. Needless to say, I insisted that we go home and get Lucy (after verifying that it would be OK to do pics with both dogs and babies). On the way back to the mall, I got a little worried that this would be one of those Baby Crying At the Sight of Santa pictures, but both Emmett and Lucy did a great job.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Visiting Daddy at Work


On Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Adam had to work but I had the day off. I decided that it would be a good day to go visit him at work with Emmett. He could introduce the baby to coworkers and then we could have lunch together.

At first I wasn't 100% sure that I wanted to deal with traffic, parking, etc. but it turned out that classes weren't in session and traffic wasn't bad. When I went to the NCSU web site to look up location information, I saw that The Creamery was open and that was motivation enough to get in the car and go. Adam had told me that he was waiting to go to The Creamery until sometime when we could go together. It's an ice cream shop where the products are made with surplus milk and cream from NC State cows. Until I got there, I didn't realize that The Creamery was right in the library building itself! We actually went there before heading to lunch together. I ended up having to feed Emmett at the same time that we were eating ice cream, but it seemed fitting to be nursing him at The Creamery. (Without classes in session, there weren't a lot of onlookers.)

I've only been to NC State a couple of times, and while Adam has done a good job of describing where he works, it really was nice to be there in person and to see everything. The library has some really snazzy furnishings and technology. Some things, like the scrotum-esque chairs pictured to the left, make a person go "hmmm" but on the whole, things are pretty stylish--more so than you might expect from outside of the building.

Emmett was pretty much a propaganda baby the whole time we were there. We joked with a few people that he was there to enroll in classes, and one of Adam's coworkers commented on how nice it was that we didn't seem to complain about our baby like so many people do.

We also interacted with several complete strangers: college campuses are interesting places to bring a baby. When I take Emmett to places with lots of moms, I get a lot of comments on how big he is, but it seems that the typical college student is more likely to comment on how small he is (perhaps due to less exposure to the various sizes of babies).

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Making It Work

After spending maternity leave gradually become less inept at the various aspects of the work of parenting, it was quite a shock to return to my job and once again feel out of it and at a loss in numerous ways. I have a new appreciation for how vulnerable new parents are when they return to work. My message to the world: be patient with new parents returning to the workforce. Be compassionate as your coworker struggles to take things one day at a time.

Although it had seemed that I'd thought through many of the potential challenges of a return to work, in actuality, much of my planning had been merely "what day will I return and what can I do to make that one easier." I did have some good plans it place: when I found out that Adam would have to be out of town the first 3 days I was back at work, I accepted my parents' offer to come to NC and help me out, and it made a world of difference to have people around to help out as I got ready in the morning and as I dealt with dinner and housework after work. I also requested shorter work hours those three days. I think I figured that once those 3 days past, I would have adjusted and all would be well. So here's my public service announcement: it'll probably take more than 3 days.

At some point during my late pregnancy or early days of parenting, I'd read an article about family-friendly companies in our area and how some of them offered not only maternity leave but a "phase back" period at work. I remember thinking, "hmmm, phase back, that sounds like a good idea" but not really thinking all that specifically about how or why that was necessary. As it turns out, I'm basically doing an ad hoc phase back, due in part to my own difficulties in being able to pump enough milk to leave Emmett for the full 9-10 hours I'd need to be away to for a full work day. I have some remaining leave time and will use that to continue leaving early as needed, but I would have been screwed if I'd exhausted all leave time in hopes of staying home as long as possible. It's funny, I spent so much of my career trying to break out of part-time work, and now I am totally craving a part-time schedule. And yet I need to stay full-time for the benefits and the ability to accrue leave time.

What I've found is that there are some of the challenges of being back at work are things that I wouldn't have been able to figure out until I actually got back to work. For instance, I've learned the hard way that a meeting longer than an hour is hard to manage without enduring breast pain; I've learned to make sure that my phone is with me at all times after missing a few calls from day care during the second week. I've found that I have to bring a ton of additional items to work with me each day and it's a challenge to even just remember everything.

Though some parts of my job have that "falling off a bicycle" ease to them, sometimes it feels like my brain isn't working all that well. I get tongue-tied on a regular basis. I try to do a lot of things right as they come up for fear that I'll otherwise space them. After spending the past several months on a Baby Time schedule. it's weird to be on a work schedule.

On the plus side, I'm starting to be reminded of some of the things that I like about work, and am finding it harder to get all that worked up about some of the things that typically drive people crazy about our workplace. I figure that if I have at least a few moments of competence every day or so, then I'm doing abou as well as can be expected.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

More firsts for Emmett: Halloween and Day care

Emmett's first Halloween and his first day at day care were back-to-back events, so I'll write about them in the same post.

First off, I have been looking forward to Emmett's first Halloween since before he was born. Halloween is pretty much my favorite holiday. For the past several years, we've been dressing up the dog for Halloween (and sometimes ourselves) but we figured that one of the advantages of finally having a kid of our own is that Lucydog could get a break from being dressed up. (I sort of think she missed being costumed, but that's probably my imagination.)

One of my costume ideas was to dress Emmett up as a monkey pirate. One of the first items of clothing that we bought for him was a shirt with a monkey pirate on it and we sort of think of Emmett as our little monkey pirate as a result. In early September, I found a monkey costume at Costco that was sort of his size and I set out to make an eyepatch and pirate hat for it. I was able to get it all together in time for Talk Like A Pirate Day (September 19) so he wore the costume then, too (but only briefly, because the weather was hot and the costume is fleecy).

So yes, I had his costume ready more than a month in advance, but did that stop me from lookimg at every costume display in every store? Of course not. It took serious restraint on my part not to buy him five or six or more costumes. I was especially tempted by a kangaroo costume at Babies R Us. I did end up buying one other costume (a one-piece tiger outfit that I scored at a yard sale--hey, it only cost a dollar!) but in the end, we used the monkey pirate outfit for all of his Halloween events.

I took him to four different Halloween events. The first one was a late afternoon party at The Red Hen, a local consignment boutique that sells baby and maternity clothes and accessories.
During maternity leave, I've been going to a "breastfeeding cafe" event on Monday afternoons and at this party, Emmett had the chance to interact with some of the other babies that he has met there. He was not the only monkey, but he was the only monkey pirate!

As is typical for North Carolina, there was a forty-degree temperature difference between first Halloween event (on a Wedneesday) and the next event (a mere two days later). I was glad that his costume was so warm! Our town has a Halloween Carnival every year, hosted by the Parks and Recreation department. Even if you don't have kids, it's a great way to get into the Halloween spirit. Kids and some adults show up in costume and there are various games and activities going on. Emmett's too young to play any of the games, but I had fun pushing him around in his stroller and chatting with other parents.

On the night before Halloween, we took Emmett trick or treating at the local mall. Adam had not been able to accompany Emmett and me at those first two events but I really appreciated having him along for this event because we'd opted to carry Emmett rather than use the stroller. Emmett's now around 14 pounds and about halfway through the event I needed to have
Adam carry him instead. We really enjoyed this event. Being indoors and in good lighting, we could really see the other kids' costumes well and there were a lot of people participating.
Emmett ended up falling asleep and we got the chance to see just how cute a sleeping monkey could be.

On Halloween night, we went out trick or treating with some of Emmett's big kid friends. Adam and I had taken Lucydog out trick or treating with the same kids on the same route in past years. I kind of discovered that actual trick or treating with a very young baby is kind of ambitious and perhaps inadvisable. Keeping him in a stroller doesn't work well because you can't get up the stairs on people's porches, and carrying him gets tiring. We called it a night long before the big kids were done, but we would have done so even without logistical difficulties because Emmett had a big day the next day: his first day of day care.

Emmett and I had stopped by his day care a couple of times in the past month to drop off paperwork and supplies. He's going to a Spanish immersion day care and I really do feel like he's in good hands there. I've known the directors of the center for over a decade and I like the idea of him getting the interaction with other babies. That said, the first day was hard. Adam went along for that first drop off even though in general I'll be the ones doing dropoffs and pickups. When I left Emmett, he was calm and that made it easier to leave. I was torn between staying a while and doing a short drop off, but I assured myself that he was fine and managed to leave. When I realized that I'd forgotten to leave his pacifiers, I was tempted to go back, but he isn't a heavy pacifier user anyway. I kept wanting to see how he was doing but one of the big things I've been working on this week is getting used to breastpumping and I figured that if I were there in person, I'd probably nurse him instead of getting the pumping practice. So I stayed away and stayed busy. At the grocery store, I got pangs when I saw other moms with their kids. Even though I find grocery shopping with Emmett along to be a bit complicated, I missed having his company. I realized that the longest I'd been apart from him was around four hours. When I picked him up at 3, I realized that just the act of leaving him for the day was an accomplishment in itself.

This was one of those cases where the dog parenting frame of reference was and wasn't helpful. The helpful part was knowing that Emmett was getting some good playtime (as Lucy gets when she goes to "camp"). Pickup time was much different from a kennel pickup, though. When we pick up Lucy after leaving her, we get such an excited reunion: heavy-duty tailwagging, snoopy dancing, jumping up and down, and so forth. For some reason, I expected that Emmett would do all of those things when he saw me, despite not having a tail and not being able to jump up and down yet. He was pretty calm and a little tired (he didn't nap much that first day). Now that I'm a few days into using day care, I can say that it's a great, great thing for him to be nice and calm at pickup time. He stayed calm for a while, but I didn't quite feel all right about everything until he started smiling at me again (which only happened once he was sitting in his swing at home listening to me play the mandolin; it was quite gratifying to have the playing of music be what got him to smile).

When I asked his caregivers how he did, they said that he did well except that he was hungry a lot and that I needed to bring in more milk for him. It turns out that just a few more ounces was all that he needed, but it was a bit hard for me because I was already spending a lot of time pumping and not getting as much as I expected. On Tuesday I went ahead and rented a hospital-grade pump to help keep up with Emmett's appetite and that has helped. I set things up so that he'd start day care a whole week before I returned to work and sometimes I've felt selfish to be not with him but not at work, but I've really needed the time to work through some of these issues with pumping as well as to have time to get certain aspects of my life more organized. Each day of day care has been a little bit easier and he's generally been in a good mood when I've picked him up.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Random Advice

This post isn't about the random advice I've received (though of course I've received lots) but rather the advice that pops into my head. Rather than accost complete strangers in person, I thought I should just blog it out.

1. Let others fall in love with your kid.
If you let other people hold your baby, there's a good chance that some of the baby-holders will fall in love with your kid a little bit, and this is such a good thing. A person who is enchanted with your kid is more likely to be charmed than annoyed when your kid gets noisy. You might even get spontaneous babysitting offers, who knows. One of the funny things I've learned is that if you ask someone "do you want to hold the baby?", a lot of times the reaction is "I thought you'd never ask!" And then, while someone else is holding your baby, you find yourself going "aw, I miss him." Even if you just spent the past 12 hours thinking "I wish I could just hand this baby to someone else for three minutes."

2. Cultivate friendships with other parents, even/especially those at a different stage of parenting than your current stage.
When I was in the hardest stages of baby boot camp, I often wanted a parent friend who was going through the exact things that I was. My pre-existing parent friends have kids who are at different ages. While it can be unsettling to find yourself feeling jealous of another baby's head control or the intelligible speech of a growing toddler, knowing babies and kids of different ages can help you get a sense of what's coming next and this can help you think ahead a bit. And in the case of kids that are a few years older than your baby--these kids might entertain your child, or read to him or her, or just share funny observations of your baby. It rocks.

3. Beware of dark colors on car seats, swings, soft carriers, and nursing clothes.
I wear a lot of black and was quite attracted to black fabric on the various baby accessories. While choosing these accessories, it didn't really occur to me that they would not look quite as stylish with dried spit up stains on them. Nobody really brought this to my attention ahead of time, so let this be a warning.

4. If you're going to use a Boppy for nursing, be sure to have a Boppy cover that you actually like.
You probably need (at least) two Boppy covers, but your Boppy will end up in lots of photos and you will spend a lot of the time that you are nursing looking at the Boppy. It's a little hard to explain how much little things like an attractive Boppy cover can matter to you.

5. Know that some of the handiest baby products have the stupidest names.
See #4 above, about the Boppy. The other main nursing support pillow, the Brest friend, has a name that is at least as stupid-sounding as Boppy. And yet, many people find these products indispensable. (But realize this: every list you see of "must-have baby items" has at least one thing that you probably don't really need. Unfortunately, you won't really know which item this is until you meet your kid and experiment with his or her likes and dislikes.)

6. Don't give up on things too easily.
This goes for baby products as well as bigger things. Your child might be indifferent to the baby swing one day (leaving you to wonder "why did everyone tell me this was an essential item?") and then be totally into it a week or two later. Emmett hated tummy time the first 100 or so times we tried it, but after trying some different strategies it started going better. Be patient, but also be willing to try things out in different ways. You can't really force a kid to get into something that he or she is not ready for--this isn't how child development works.

7.Throw the book across the room if you need to.
I've read (or at least looked at) quite a few books on pregnancy and parenting this year, and I have to say that the tone of these books matters a lot in terms of whether you'll get much out of reading them. I eventually realized that I should audition books via library sign out before buying them just in case I found myself more annoyed than informed. (Side note: everywhere I've been that sells used pregnancy/parenting books has multiple copies of the What to Expect books. My theory is people got really fed up with the author's attitudes towards weight gain.) I do really think that consulting the literature is a good thing, but there's nothing quite like knocking yourself out trying to do what's best for your child and then having some book make it sound as though the big and little problems are all your fault. Go ahead and throw the book across the room and seek alternate sources if you still need info.

I'd dress the boy in purple today if I could

Today is apparently the day that people are dressing in purple in memory of several recent suicides by gay teens and tweens who'd been harassed by peers. I've got some purple on and would have had the boy wear purple today if purple clothing for boys of his age actually existed. He does have purple socks on, and the hippos on his shirt kind of look purple. It's the thought that counts, right?

During maternity leave, I have not been very good about following the news. (The upside is that I'm apparently missing WUNC's latest fund drive...sorry, NPR, but your fund drives last way too long.) There have only been two news stories that have really gotten my attention: the rescue of the Chilean miners (trapped for most of Emmett's fourth trimester) and these suicides.

Friends keep posting videos from the It Gets Better project, where prominent public figures and others try to give teens who face harassment the message that things will get better. It's a touching and important message. I've watched a lot of these videos while nursing Emmett, and I can't help thinking about some of my hopes for the future.

I wrote a more rambling version of the following a few days ago:

Emmett, I would love it if you could grow up in a world where there's no bullying of any sort and where there's true acceptance of things like homosexuality. I think that there's something warped about us humans that means that teasing will always exist. I hope that you are someone who can develop a thick skin about everyday teasing if needed; I hope that if you ever engage in anything other than mild teasing, you have the strength of character to feel bad about it, and/or to make amends if someone is hurt by it.

More importantly, I hope that we have sort of a "bridge over troubled water" type of relationship throughout your life. I hope to be one of the people you really can turn to if you're ever having dark thoughts or need support or a sounding board. I hope that you'll have many great people in your life besides me that you can turn to when your emotional needs are strong.

Most of all, I hope that you can be yourself and be comfortable with and confident in who you are. Sometimes it takes courage to be yourself, and people definitely try out different identities along the way. Whatever sort of personal style or preferences you choose or end up with, I hope that you are a person who approaches life and interpersonal relationships with compassion.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hello motherhood, goodbye hobbies?

Once upon a time, I had these things called hobbies and interests...and then I had a baby.

Actually, it's not really fair to blame the baby on the demise of some of my hobbies. Before he came along, my job made it such that "photocopying things" was my main hobby. I started doing bento as a hobby a while ago and people would tend to react to it with "how do you have time to do that?" I realize that most people don't think they have the time to spend an additional 5 to 40 minutes making their food look more cute, but under normal lifestyle circumstances (i.e., not nursing an infant), I think that many people could manage some time for some hobbies if they really wanted to. To sort of try to prove this, back in 2009 I set a goal that I would draw every day, and I did it--even when I was traveling, or working a 13-hour day.

As it turns out, some of my hobbies are flourishing during these early months of Emmett's life. Now that I can stay awake for more than 20 minutes, I find that nursing is a good chance to engage in my hobby of reading chick lit as a way to amuse myself. And I can amuse Emmett with some of my other hobbies (singing badly, playing mandolin, drawing).

However, the bento hobby has been pretty neglected. I tend to do all things involving food in a rushed, half-assed sort of way lately. About half of my diet is foods in bar form or other things that can easily be eaten quickly with one hand. When I attempt a bento (and I usually only do them for the dog at this point), I often get only partway done before Emmett starts the "you're neglecting me severly"cry. The only cure for this cry is a 12-hour nursing session, and suddenly you find that there isn't time to add extra detail to that Day of the Dead Dog Skull Quesadilla bento you started. Maybe one day when he has a bit more ability to amuse himself, I'll be able to do the kind of detailed work that exists in my imagination.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Emmett's First Banned Books Week

It came to my attention yesterday that September 25-October 2 is Banned Books week, and I realized that I wanted to celebrate it by reading some controversial books to Emmett. We started reading to Emmett even before he was born and we try to read a number of books with him every day. I've noticed that picture books with rhyming language tend to work well with him at the moment.

Most of the books that were familiar to me as banned books are ones that are a little old for him (but will be good for future Banned Books weeks), so I had to google to get some suggestions of banned picture books. One of the first titles I ran across was The Lorax, which was perfect for us...I have at least two copies of it and I practically can recite it by heart. So we read that yesterday morning after listening to a brief audio excerpt from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, another apparently controversial book.

Later the same day, I was at Elaine's house and I took the opportunity to read Where the Wild Things Are to both of our boys. Maurice Sendak is a good example of how the coolest writers tend to have stuff on the "most common banned books" lists. The controversy usually just makes me want to read the books more. This was certainly the case with a more recently-published book called And Tango Makes Three, which I'd heard had something to do with gay penguins. I checked to see if the big local public library had it (I love the fact that we can do these searches online), but both copies were signed out. I was disappointed until I reflected on how cool it was that my town had multiple copies of the book and that it was in demand. Luckily one of the branch libraries had it, so I signed it out last night and read it to Emmett and Adam before Adam went off to work today.

And I just have to say...I love this book! It's a great story, based on a real male penguin couple, and is just adorable and touching and sweet. OK, so the two male penguins are in love, but it's not as though the book discusses them having hot gay penguin sex or anything. They swim together, sing penguin songs to one another, and eventually raise a baby penguin. However, the thing about book banning is that it's usually based on fairly stupid reasoning. Take the example of the other book I signed out yesterday: William Steig's Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. Apparently the objection to it was that police were pictured as pigs. OK, first of all: all of the characters are animals. Second, the pig policeman is on one page only (and there's another pig in the book who's just a regular old neighbor).

One of our next reading selections was a book called The Rabbits' Wedding by Garth Williams. Williams did the illustrations for the classic editions of the Little House on the Prarie books, for Charlotte's Web, and for many other books. I hadn't realized that there was a book that he'd both written and illustrated. The Rabbits' Wedding is a lovely story about two rabbits who have a down-to-earth, non-bridezilla outdoor wedding and then live happily ever after playing Hop Skip and Jump Me, Find the Acorn, and Jump Through the Daisies. Nothing controversial about that, right? The controversy exists because one rabbit is white and the other is black.

Although Emmett is too young to fully understand the books we're reading, I'm sort of glad that he's also too young to ask questions like, "Why was this book banned?" for which my answer would be something like. "People are idiots. Well, some people."

Friday, September 24, 2010

Kids' Music

The theme of this week at home with Emmett is music. We've been sharing music with Emmett from the very beginning, including my playing/singing selections from two favorite children's music albums, Sandra Boynton's Philadelphia Chickens and No! by They Might be Giants. I've also been making the effort to learn the actual lyrics to some Spanish songs so that we can sing those to him as well. (Recently, Adam and I both sang the Spanish version of "Rubber Duckie" to him). I haven't wanted to limit him to "real" children's songs and thus have opted to add various upbeat songs and soothing songs to our shared music-listening experiences. So, early in the day we might dance around the living room to 80s music, or later in the day I might try to soothe him with something like Van Morrison.

Earlier this week my sister sent me about 15 different CDs of children's music from my nephew's early years. I've been spending all week listening to and cataloging the various selections. It's really propelled me to do even more to expose him to more and more music. Right now the idea is to build up a basic library of songs that I can draw upon at various times in the future. I want to learn many of the songs now while I have the time. I particularly like putting together different songs that relate back to the same topic or theme (probably because I used to do this when I was planning lessons as a music teacher). For example, Emmett and I have a series of "farm songs" and this week we added "I Had a Rooster" to our song mix.

Additionally, I've started playing various songs for him on mandolin. I especially like doing this with some of the classic children's songs that I don't feel like singing. Let's take "Rock-a-bye baby" as an example. The lyrics to that song are disturbing! I seldom find myself in the mood to sing about my baby falling from trees, but I do often find myself in the mood to plunk out a nice calming melody. I also like to play bits of classical music for him. For some reason, I don't typically enjoy listening to recorded versions of classical music (unless it's Yo Yo Ma), but I do like playing the music on an instrument. At one point in life, I was terribly sick of a lot of it (especially anything from the first few books of Suzuki violin music) but 20+ years after I first learned the tunes, I can enjoy them again.

I have grand plans that I will one day compose original children's music that doesn't have disturbing lyrics. When I was working with kids, I was always pretty good at reworking existing songs to create something topical (the Weird Al school of songwriting), but I hope that if I keep things up, I'll be able to move up to the Sesame Street school of catchy songwriting. I'm definitely out of practice at the moment but am working on it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How Puppy Love Can Prepare You for Parenting


In the days before Emmett came on to the scene, whenever I'd get asked if I had kids, my reply would be something like, "No kids, just a dog!" (or sometimes "Does the dog count?"). Most people reacted appropriately (acknowledging that dog parenthood is a valid life choice) but some people (maybe 15%) felt it necessary to point out to me that parenting a human is totally different, as if I had no idea and no imagination. Of course it's different! At the same time, I actually do think that my attachment to Lucy has helped prepare me for some aspects of parenting.

Having a dog made realize that I could easily love someone who is dependent on me. While Lucy isn't completely dependent (she is quite good at foraging for dropped junk food and rotting chicken bones on our walks, for instance), she does need me to open the dog food containers and I do have to make sure to be available to tend to her various other needs. Sure, babies take the dependence to a whole other, all-day consuming level, but still. In the case of dogs and babies, I find the dependence enjoyable. Of course, it doesn't hurt that they're both so darned cute.

With both dogs and babies, complete strangers might start talking to you any time you go anywhere. Often these conversations start with people in a similar situation (another dog parent, a parent of a stroller-aged child). It's a great way to be social, though sometimes you may not be in the mood to be social right when it happens. Friends with kids have told me in the past that it gets weird to be known as "(your child's) mom" rather than by your own name, but hey, I've been answering to "Lucy's mom" for about seven years now, so I'm sort of used to it. (In the best case scenario, people are interested in you as a person rather than you as the parent, but the truth is that there are always going to be at least a few people who wouldn't have noticed or paid attention to you if the dog or the baby weren't in your company.)

Taking your dog to the vet is good practice for visits to the pediatrician (or, as one of my friends puts it, "the baby vet"). This is especially true for challenging things like blood draws or vaccinations. Having watched Lucy go through procedures using needles made me less anxious before and during Emmett's vaccinations and blood draws.

Then there's the excrement angle. I think one of the things that is the most off-putting to people who haven't spent a lot of time with babies is the prospect of changing diapers. However, a responsible, poop-picking-up dog parent comes to people-parenthood with daily experience with poop. While diaper changes aren't fun treasure hunts, they don't seem like such a big deal after daily experiences with dog poop scooping.

Another big similarity is communicating without words. I know it can be frustrating for parents to wonder, "Why is the baby crying? What could he want?" In most cases, though, the wants of the baby are not all that complicated, at least not during the fourth trimester. It kind of reminds me of when we bought a mood collar for Lucydog. Per the "interpretation guide," whatever color the mood collar turned, the "message" was "pet me, feed me, take me for a walk." Having spent a lot of time contentedly communicating with my dog makes me feel pretty comfortable around my nonverbal buddy Emmett.

There are other similarities. I could discuss how putting a sweater on my dog was good practice for dressing my child, or who knows, maybe all of that leash-walking experience will come in handy someday with the kid (hope not!). My main point is that pet parents often do have a bit of existing readiness for parenting.

Friday, September 10, 2010

How'd I End Up On This Mailing List?

About 6 weeks after giving birth to Emmett, I reached another pregnancy/parenthood milestone: getting my first free can of infant formula in the mail. I was beginning to think that I'd somehow managed to stay off the radar of the formula companies. At least one person in the childbirth/parenting classes I'd attended mentioned having received free formula during her pregnancy, so I knew that this sort of thing happened to moms, but it hadn't happened to us. I'd steered clear of many of the "sign up for big bargains" marketing tools in part because my junk mail situation is already a bit unbearable.

I wouldn't have been surprised to get a packet-sized sample of formula, but what I received was a 12.5 oz can of formula. I can't think of any other product where I've gotten a free sample in that large of an amount without having done anything specific to request it. I am certainly not worried about these companies going out of business if they can give away their products in these amounts.

I asked some of the other moms in a breastfeeding group I attend whether this had happened to them and it was a common occurrence. It was One woman said she'd received three cans of free formula. Another one said, "it seems like they prey upon you at any weak moment." Maybe that's what's going on here. I kept wondering which of my actions triggered the "send formula" button--was it that I finally redeemed the coupon for the free subscription to Parents magazine? (Maybe not, I'd done that a while ago.) Was it my enrollment in the Babies R Us rewards program? (Perhaps, but I did that even before giving my address to Parents Magazine.) Is the store Destination Maternity somehow caught up in that? (I seem to recall giving them some personal info when I bought a nursing bra recently.) Could it just be the fact that I gave birth in a hospital? (But...but...the hospital was doing such a good job of promoting breastfeeding!)

I sort of think that maybe the deciding factor was that I'd quite recently purchased a breast pump. Maybe the formula companies thought that the suckiness of pumping would make me into a formula convert?

Shortly before having Emmett, I was reading a book (fictional) called The Wet Nurse's Tale and that book really made me appreciate the existence of things like infant formula...but I have to admit to being a bit creeped out by the aggressiveness of the marketing.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Perhaps I Won't Turn Out To Be a Helicopter Parent

Yesterday was the first time that I left Emmett in the care of someone who wasn't a family member. Granted, it was my friend Elaine who is Practically Family, but still, it was probably good for me to realize that Emmett and I could survive a short separation. It seems like much of the time, if I go off to do something on my own, Emmett realizes, "Hey wait! The breasts are not in the house! I am panicking! Hear me panic!"

Based on these experiences, I was totally prepared for the possibility that I would walk into the door at Elaine's place (I'd been out to take Lucy to the vet for a yearly checkup) and I'd need to immediately console him with some good old-fashioned breastfeeding. I was pleased and stoked to see him nice and calm instead. In addition to using calming techniques like walking and talking, Elaine's son Van had helped entertain Emmett. Emmett had been mesmerized by a green alien balloon that Van had. (Elaine joked that Emmett might one day remember an alien sighting and it would be based on this balloon experience.) I think he also just enjoyed the company of another boy, of course. Anyway, what a huge relief to have this outing go well. Maybe one day I'll be able to leave him for more than an hour and ten minutes.

Right before we left, I got to see for myself how mesmerized Emmett was by the balloon. Wow. There have been times where I've found Emmett staring at something (who knows what!) but it was the first time that I really noticed him getting fixated visually on something specific. I'll be interested to see what other things capture his attention.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pregnancy and Parenting in the Summer

It's been a super-hot summer here in NC, which is pretty much normal, but I've experienced the heat differently due to pregnancy and parenting. Being pregnant when the temperatures are close to 100 F is hard work. As one of my dog-walking buddies put it, "You might as well try to train for a triathlon!" in terms of the physical demands. Among the joys of hot-weather gestating is the need to continually drink fluids, which leads to the need to continually visit the bathroom, all at a time when you already are breaking personal records for time spent in bathrooms.

Parenting in hot weather has had some disadvantages as well. Before I had Emmett, I was really looking forward to putting him in a baby carrier and going on walks around town. I do this despite the heat, but sometimes when I take the carrier off, I'll find the lower half of my shirt all wet and I have trouble figuring out if it's wet from my own sweat or from a different bodily fluid.

As I see it, most of the advantages of hot weather involve clothing, specifically the lack of need for clothing. Sometimes (OK, often) when we've been just hanging around the house we don't put a lot of emphasis on putting outfits on the boy. Lately he's been spitting up enough that when we do put him in clothing, we have to change it an hour or so later anyway.

But most importantly, with the weather being as hot as it has been, I have had no temptation or reason whatsoever to see if I can fit into the pre-pregnancy jeans. Most years, I don't even look at jeans or long pants until around mid-September and this year will probably be no different. It could be that everything fits fine, but I am in no rush to find out.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sleep Fantasies

I always used to get bored by conversations about how sleep-deprived new parents are, but now I really and truly GET IT. The other day, I was driving my sister to the airport at 4:30 a.m. to catch a 6 a.m. flight. This was truly not an inconvenience at all, as I was already awake (to feed Emmett). As I was strapping him into the car seat, I started thinking about how wonderful it would be if he fell asleep during the ride, and then stayed asleep for a few hours afterwards. In the end, he didn't stay asleep but I did get a decent nap a couple of hours later. And now, I have to admit that instead of fantasizing about romantic entanglements with celebrities and quasi-celebrities, my fantasies tend to be more along the lines of "if we go someplace using the stroller, will that buy me an hour or so of nap time?"

Meeting Aunt Susan

My sister Susan was in NC last week so that she could meet baby Emmett. It was so great to have her here. It can be really hard to find a good time for this sort of visit. On my end, the second week of being at home on my own with Emmett worked out really well for a visit. We've gotten to the stage where it's somewhat easier to take Emmett on different types of outings, but I wasn't quite feeling adventurous enough to attempt these outings on my own. With Susan's company, we went places by car, stroller, and Beco carrier. We ate four different meals out in public places (mostly just around the neighborhood, but still!) When my parents were here, it was still challenging for me to even walk two blocks without getting incredibly exhausted. It's good to be so much more recovered.
I've added a couple of Susan's songs to my "sing with Emmett" repertoire, and my kitchen is now much better organized thanks to Susan. It was great to have someone who was always willing to hold Emmett if needed. This is definitely something I've missed about my parents' visit! At this stage, anyone who holds Emmett gets to a frustrating point when he gets hungry and needs to go back to The Restaurant (as we've taken to calling my chest). During those times before the switch-offs occur, those holding him might find him trying to latch on to their shoulders, arms, or other body parts.

Although I missed seeing Max (my nephew) and Mitch (my brother-in-law), it's also a special treat to get a visit from just Susan. I imagine that there are conversations we wouldn't have had if there were more visitors in the mix. I do really look forward to the day when Max and Emmett meet one another, though!

Baby Lab!

Last Friday, Emmett had the opportunity to be a special guest in an Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) class at the community college where I work. I have to admit that when I first read the email from the instructor inviting me to bring him to the class, I was pretty sure I didn't want to go. I've been really enjoying not being at work, especially after having to work really hard throughout my pregnancy. However, the more that I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of providing the students with a learning opportunity. One of the things I think about a LOT is that we often don't get a lot of exposure to really young babies. There are good reasons for this: they have immature immune systems and it's not good to just take them anywhere, for instance. In this particular OTA class, there would be babies of different ages (including twins) and the students would be able to look at things like their reflexes and motor skills development.

My sister was in town visiting and I asked her to drive (lately I'm a little wary of driving while sleep-deprived). Having another person with me definitely made it easier to manage Emmett's first trip to my work site...for instance, I was able to send Susan out to check whether any of the rest rooms had changing tables.

One of the big things I wondered about beforehand was whether to try to visit other coworkers while I was on campus. I decided to make that call once we finished up with the class. If Emmett seemed like he could handle it, we'd at least visit my own office. If not, we'd head home after the class.

One of the fun things about going to the class was having everyone fuss over Emmett and compliment him. Although this happens most places that we go or most times people meet him, it never really gets stale. One of the students confessed to having a major case of baby fever and wanted to hold him even though she was in a different group during the assignment.

We started out with a bunch of questions about his behavior and reactions. Some of these were easy to answer (such as how/whether he reacts to my voice, or loud noises, or light), whereas others asked me to compare his behavior with that of other babies his age (hard to answer because he hasn't spent much time with babies of the same age). Next we did a series of movement-based activities. Emmett was asleep during a lot of these activities so it was hard to judge his reactions. We were a bit conflicted about whether to wake him up since he was sleeping so peacefully. He did wake up on his own eventually and managed to remain pretty calm throughout the rest of the exercises. He didn't stay in class quite as long as the other babies but he was there for a good 45 minutes.

One thing that was in one of the questions related to how he reacts to seeing himself in a mirror. I realized he hadn't seen himself in a mirror at all yet, so we've added "mirror time" to his playmat exercise time.

We did have time afterwards to stop by my own office so we did so, and he got to meet three of my coworkers. It was only a few days later that I thought to myself, "I should have checked my mail while I was there!" It's very hard for me not to obsess about work, so I'll just wrap up this post here and now. Overall, the class experience was really interesting.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Karin, when's Emmett going to be a big boy?

The last two times that I've hung out with my friend Elaine and her kids, her 4-year-old son has asked me the same question (usually repeatedly): "Karin, when's he going to be a big boy?" (Before Emmett was born, Van's favorite question for me was, "Karin, when are you going have that baby?" I guess this is the post-natal version.)

We've given him various answers, such as "oh, I'm in no rush for that" or "how long did it take you to become a big boy?" Certainly there are times when I want him to reach certain milestones quickly (like the very useful ability to hold his own head up!) but then I have to remember just how great and adorable and cool he is at the stage he's at right now.

However, maybe he is going to be a big boy sooner than I think! At today's appointment with the pediatrician, he was 9 lbs and 13 ounces, up from his birth weight of 7 pounds 8 ounces. Since his current hobbies consist of eating, spitting up, eating, pulling my hair, eating, and also eating, I'm not surprised that he's steadily gaining weight. But it's also another reminder of how fast babies can grow.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Art For Emmett





















For the past two weeks, I've been working on a book of art for Emmett to look at during his somewhat-rare moments of alertness. I wanted to use black and white images since these are supposed to be good for the cognitive/visual development of babies. I've posted some of my favorite pages from the book. The monkey pirate is probably my favorite of them all.

If you want cool black and white images and don't have the free hands or drawing capability to make your own, I highly recommend the products from Wee Gallery (available on Amazon or at weegallery.com). In fact, the squirrel and turtle above were inspired by their images of squirrels and turtles.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Laughing so hard that my incision hurts

A few days before Emmett was born, my friends Elaine and Chas gave me a copy of Dale Hrabi's The Perfect Baby Handbook: A Guide for Excessively Motivated Parents. This turned out to be a great book to bring with me to the hospital, since my attention span was too limited to handle reading a novel or anything longer than one page at a time. The book is hilarious--there's a bit about naming your baby after Ikea product names (we really did consider this, by the way!), a section on going beyond co-sleeping by adding in things like "co-unicycling," and there's even the very useful suggestion that one can get a child to go to sleep by boring him or her with dull art. In other words, it's just the sort of book that I wish I'd written.

Few things in it have amused me nearly as much as the diagram on the left, however. I keep showing this page to everyone who drops by the house (and if you've dropped by more than once, I've probably shown it to you more than once). I first saw this diagram a day or two after Emmett's birth, and I discovered the hard way that laughing really hard after a c-section is extremely painful. In case you can't read the captions, here's what it says:
"1. Using a sixty-eight-foot Balinese cloth and a small construction crane, lash on your infant, his car seat, and Dr. William Sears, noted baby-wearing authority.
2. Balance a log on head for a note of third-world authenticity.
3. Dash off to baby's play date."

The first baby carrier that I bought was a Moby wrap. I'd been to a babywearing class back in July, tried on a Moby wrap, stuck the practice baby doll in it, and loved it. When I bought one of my own, suddenly it seemed like it was about 10 times longer than the one I'd tried on. It definitely seemed long enough to strap on not only the baby, but also a large piece of baby gear and maybe another person. I imagine I'll get more adventurous with the wrap once I feel a little less sensitive around the area of my incision.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bring on the adorable outfits

It only took 2 weeks and 2 days, but Emmett's umbilical cord stump fell off yesterday! Now that it's off, we can dress him in various one-piece outfits that snap at the crotch. I've been eager to put him in some of these clothes!

The outfit that he's wearing in this picture is actually the first piece of clothing that we bought for him. We bought it during Christmas break when we were in Vermont visiting family. This was early in the pregnancy (I was only about 8 weeks pregnant) and I'd told my family a few days before this. (We waited until January, and until after we'd seen/heard a heartbeat to tell anyone else.) There are some funny quotes from my nephew Max (now 10) when we told the family, including, "I'm flabbergasted and I don't quite believe it" and "I hope Uncle Adam is responsible." Anyway, we went to Montpelier for the day and we stopped at the Zutano store. Adam and I immediately fell in love with this outfit--there are little dogs on it, and bones, and doghouses, and words like "sit" and "stay." It looked like the sort of thing that would work well for either a girl or a boy. At the time, we had no idea that it's actually quite easy to find dog-themed clothes for a baby, nor did we realize quite how many pieces of baby clothing we'd end up with by the time he was born. Still, there's something very special about choosing clothes for a baby together. Later we have "first outfit bought after finding out it's a boy" (a stripey shirt with a monkey pirate on it).

I wanted to get a better picture of this outfit, but somebody peed on it during a diaper change before I had the chance to do so. Certainly there'll be other chances, though!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Lucy's Adjustment

Tonight I took Lucy for my first solo post c-section dog walk. I wasn't sure when the right time to do so would be--Is thirteen days post-surgery too soon? What if we ran into a skateboarder and she freaked out and pulled at the leash too much? I decided to just keep it a short one on roads with minimal traffic. Both roads we walked on have hills, but we managed OK. It felt great to be walking her, but it's odd how naked I feel without the baby.

Life seems full of various firsts lately--lots of firsts for Emmett (such as first stroller walk or first pediatrician visit), but also lots of firsts for me (first time being unable to tell whether the fluis leaking on my chest is breastmilk or urine, first post-partum meal eaten somewhere other than at the couch). So, to me the first dog walk is a big deal.

People who know how spoiled Lucy is have asked me about her adjustment to having a baby in the house. Things seem to be going pretty well. While I was still in the hospital with Emmett, we had my parents bring home towels with Emmett's scent on them for Lucy to sniff. (I got this idea from a pricey baby boutique in Charlotte, NC, where one could buy a special towel for this purpose--it occurred to me "um, I could just use one of the towels around the house"). You can see how that went in this picture; she not only sniffed it but even snuggled it:
Lucy was definitely snoopy dancing when I we first got home, but then she was a little distant as she saw us interacting with the baby. I decided to interpret this as maintaining a "respectful distance" and figured that she'd interact in a more gradual manner. In the meantime, I would just pet her as much as I could (often while also breastfeeding Emmett).

I think Lucy and I had a bit of a breakthrough one night when we had a very loud thunderstorm. She gets really upset when there's thunder and lightning and sometimes needs comforting. For a change, I was getting out of bed to comfort her (instead of Emmett) and I realized that I missed full-on snuggling with her. Since that night, I've tried to make an effort to carve out one-on-one snuggle time with her (usually while Emmett naps). And she seems more comfortable and accepting of Emmett ever since.

My parents left town today after a two-week visit and they spent a lot of time walking Lucy while I was unable to do so. They definitely bonded, as evidenced in this photo of my dad:
I'm sure she'll miss them, but while I'm on leave she'll get a lot more time with me than usual.

One of the funniest moments was this morning, where I found Lucy trying to read the Dr. Sears Baby Book:
So, overall, no big issues and some good signs of acceptance! Here I demonstrate my ability to snuggle both critters at the same time:

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Cutest Prescription Label Ever!

Yesterday we took Emmett to the pediatrician to check out whether the odd-looking white stuff in his mouth was thrush (it was). We've been giving him medication and we're already seeing a major improvement in symptoms, which is a huge relief. I have to admit that I got a kick out of seeing his name on the prescription label. I've only seen his name on a few official-looking things so far, so this sort of thing is still pretty exciting for me. (I imagine that I'll also get a thrill over seeing his name on his first junk mail.)

Our pediatrician's office allows us the option of using an online patient portal and I finally logged in to it yesterday afternoon. When I saw Adam's and my names listed under "mother" and "father" I momentarily thought, "Hey, someone should correct that!" because I'm still accustomed to thinking of my own parents or Adam's parents as being the logical choices for those titles. You'd think after all of the breastfeeding hours that I've logged, I'd start feeling like an actual parent but things are still a bit in the surreal zombie phase of new parenthood.

On another fun note, Emmett's weight was up from his appointment on Monday and he's actually now an ounce over his birth weight. It definitely makes me feel as though all of those middle-of-the-night feedings have been worth it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

All of us under its spell


A couple of days ago, I put together a playlist of various songs to play for Emmett. Most of these songs were from CDs that I'd bought years ago. Every few songs I'd find myself getting all emotionally overwhelmed, and when "The Rainbow Connection" came on, I literally got choked up. How many times have I listened to that song or watched the Muppet Movie? A LOT. And yet, to hear that song in the presence of my kid--my own kid--was just a whole different experience for me. I get misty just thinking about that moment.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Emmett's Birth Story

Birth Plan? Ha!
During my appointments with the UNC midwives in May and June, I kept expecting to be asked about my birth plan, and at each appointment they'd just say, "Bring it to your next appointment." Perhaps this was auspicious, for Emmett's birth ended up having very little resemblance to my birth plan.

I'd always pictured us having a cut-your-own-cord, view-and-appreciate-the-placenta type of natural childbirth. Heck, I even attended my first natural childbirth class back in 2002 (yes, 8 years before actually getting knocked up). I wrote three versions of my birth plan--a handwritten version that was homework for the 12-hour natural childbirth class that I took back in May, then a version of that plan that I'd typed up and embellished with important details ("During labor, Adam should distract me by showing me photos of baby animals on his phone"), and then a shortened version with bullet points (after being told by one of the midwives that "we recommend keeping the birth plan to just one page,").

On June 28, I went to my appointment expecting to finally talk about the birth plan. As the midwife gave me that appointment's belly rub, she got concerned about the baby's position and pulled out the bedside ultrasound. As it turned out, the baby was in an odd sideways position.

Just that morning, I'd dropped Adam off at the airport so that he could go to Vancouver for his sister's wedding. After having about the world's most pleasantly boring pregnancy, something unusual just had to happen right when my support system was out of town. I reassured myself that at least it was highly unlikely that I'd go into labor while Adam was away with the current positioning.

The day after Adam got back into town, we had an ultrasound to check position and to make some measurements. I'd felt all kinds of weird movements (weirder than usual!) and was fairly optimistic that maybe the baby had gotten himself into a more birth-friendly position. Ha. The good news was that we got to see lots of the baby during the measuring stage (and, on my request, they confirmed that he was "still a boy"). However, at this point they declared him to definitely be breech.

Back at that natural childbirth class in 2002, I'd learned that breech position necessitates a c-section at our local hospital. I still felt pretty committed to trying to squeeze the baby out, so I tried a bunch of different things to attempt to turn the baby, including spending long periods of time in the bathtub, getting Webster technique chiropractic treatments, burning mugwort near my little toe, and so forth. Most dramatically, I scheduled an external cephalic version at the hospital. This is a technique where they try to turn the baby from the outside by manipulating your abdomen. It's about as pleasant as it sounds. I found the procedure pretty painful, but at least it was quick. After four attempts at turning the baby, we went ahead and scheduled the c-section. (I don't know for sure that I would recommend that others do the version under similar circumstances, but it was only after I did it that I really felt at all at peace with the idea of having a c-section.)

Here's the thing: I really never expected to be having a c-section. I've read a million books about pregnancy and childbirth during the past few months, but I always skipped or glossed over the parts on c-sections, figuring this would be irrelevant. It didn't help that the books I had around the house had this judgy tone about how c-sections are usually unnecessary. Dr. Sears and family ended up on my shitlist for just this reason. I also had a bit of trouble with the idea that I was the sort of person who schedules her child's birth. In fact, in late July as people asked me when I was having the baby, unless they knew the history I'd say something like "last week in July" vs. "July 27, sometime after 8:30 a.m."

It really was a bit surreal on July 27 to realize, "Hey! We're having a baby today!" I still expected something weird to happen to change these plans. For instance, friends would often go, "hey, maybe the baby will flip before then!" I hate to admit it, but I started sort of hoping that he wouldn't flip to head-down. Although I was only 39.5 weeks pregnant on the 27th, I felt like I'd been pregnant forever, and the continuous 100 degree weather didn't make me want to stay pregnant much longer.

Before we headed out to the hospital, we took a bunch of pictures, making sure to include the dog in some of them. My parents even took pictures of the car leaving the driveway!

I found it kind of empowering to just walk right into the hospital rather than having to go up to labor and delivery in a wheelchair. Of course, it was pretty much the last time that I did any walking that day.

Before we got more into the various preparations, we did confirm that the baby was still breech. Indeed it was. At this point, you could probably cut and paste a description of almost any c-section into here to explain how it all went. I imagine that these procedures are all pretty similar. Adam was with me throughout it except when they administered the anesthesia. I started out wanting to know what was going on (and I could see a bit of what was going on in the reflection of the light above the operating table), but at a certain point, that lost its allure and I had to concentrate on just getting through things.

What I remember: hearing them say, "yes, that's definitely a boy!" (apparently, he entered the world groin-first); hearing that he didn't seem to want to come out; hearing that he was definitely out; hearing that the NICU people were in the room but that I shouldn't be too concerned about it; trying to catch a good look at him while he was attended to on that table across the room. The first thing I noticed about him was his hair. It was sticking out in all sorts of directions and it was blonde. Blonde! (This is sort of my own personal equivalent of the "it's a boy/it's a girl" surprise. "Honey, it's a blonde!")

Shortly after this brief period of awareness, I hit a really sucky stage of the birth. As they were removing the placenta and putting me back together, I started shaking a lot and had this terrible feeling that I couldn't quite recognize. The terrible feeling was nausea. I spent the rest of the procedure puking into a basin. I had expected to spend this time at least looking at the baby (if not outright bonding) but truthfully I couldn't concentrate on anything baby-related right at that point. (I suppose that after having a morning-sickness-free pregnancy, I should be glad to have only had about 30 minutes of severe nausea vs. several weeks of it.) I just really wanted it all to be over with. It actually was over with pretty quickly, but it felt like forever.

In the end, I didn't care a whit about not seeing the placenta; it was not the sort of situation where Adam could cut the cord (though I did go ahead and donate cord blood to the greater good, not that I noticed when that was happening); no time for viewing pictures of baby animals, either. I started feeling better fairly quickly once we got back to the recovery room. We finally shared the name with our friends and family. I had to have Adam make all of the calls letting people know the big news.

Beforehand, I was worried that the c-section would somehow make it harder to establish successful breastfeeding, especially because I'd read so many things recommending that moms try breastfeeding within an hour of the birth. Within an hour of the birth, I was just trying to feel human again. It was a delight to find that Emmett is pretty much a natural at this; I think it helps my Earth Mother credibility to be good at nursing. It definitely helped that I'd spent a lot of time beforehand reading about the topic (I highly recommend Janet Tamaro's book So That's What They're For: The Definitive Breastfeeding Guide). It may sound silly, but I love this feeling of being in touch with the rest of the mammal kingdom through nursing. Emmett spent his entire first night with skin-to-skin contact with my chest and it was just lovely to feel his soft skin and to be so connected to one another.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Did you name your son after an otter? Information about our baby's name

I don't remember exactly when Adam and I finally settled on the final version of Emmett Zaphod Constabaris' name. For months now, people have been asking us about the name and we have been keeping it secret. While we happen to love the name, we sort of felt like others might try to ruin it for us by going "you're naming your baby THAT?" I definitely got kind of choked up when I saw the names on his birth certificate.

The first name, Emmett, is primarily inspired by a muppetational river animal named Emmet Otter. Last year at Christmastime, I knew I was pregnant and when we were watching Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas, I decided that the name Emmett should go on the list. As it turns out, baby Emmett has really long fingers, so we joke that he may one day become a bass player like Emmet Otter. (My dad might even be able to find a washtub somewhere around their house!) The name Emmett also passed the big test we were using for naming a boy--we wanted to avoid the first name of anyone I'd dated. (This cut down on a lot of normal name possibilities.) I don't think I've met anyone in person named Emmett, so there weren't other negative associations, either. We were also somewhat inspired by my favorite character from the series Queer As Folk, Emmett Honeycutt.

The middle name, Zaphod, comes from Zaphod Beeblebrox from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. As someone who still thinks that digital watches are a pretty neat idea, I love the idea of having a name that honors our child's heritage as the child of a couple of geeks. We'd been throwing out various Z-names (or "zed names" as Adam calls them) and Adam was the one who thought of the name. The name grew on us the more we used it in conversations with one another. Luckily (or not), we live in times when a person can name a child pretty much anything. We still felt it was more appropriate to use Zaphod as a middle vs. first name since it's a bit out there. I sort of picture Emmett going through a phase in college where he goes by Zaphod instead of Emmett--we would love that. One of our nicknames for him is "Em-Zed."

I especially like how the names of my husband and boy go together: Adam and Emmett. At one point I did want to throw my own last name in there, but part of the reason we didn't use it goes back to a rule/joke that Adam and I have about muppet genetics. When you see Kermit and Piggy's kids, the boys are frogs and the girls are pigs; likewise, we thought that if we had a girl, she could have my last name and if we had a boy, he could have Adam's last name. Additionally, there are a lot fewer people out there with the name Constabaris than with the last name Abell.

I love saying Emmett's name and that's the way that I know we really chose the best name possible for him.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Discomforts

I've really entered the uncomfortable stage of pregnancy at this point. It could definitely be worse--at least I don't have pregnancy carpal tunnel (knock on wood), and I've managed to avert most leg cramps--but everyday things have started to feel a little weird. It's a reassuring sort of weird: something is in there, and that something definitely feels alive. But I'm certainly not at my most comfortable.

There are two times of day that tend to be particularly ouchy. For some reason, the baby likes doing yoga at around 2, 3, or 4 in the morning. Today it wasn't until 4 a.m. and that was preferable to the 2 a.m. sessions. I have no idea how he has picked up these yoga skills since I've never taken a class (no, not even when I was avoiding real sports during my college P.E. requirements, and not even one of those prenatal yoga classes). Besides pre-sunrise yoga, the other time of discomfort tends to be on my commute to work. It reminds me a little bit about how dogs are in the car--you know, how they want to stick their heads out the window? Each day as I hit the Durham Freeway, it feels as though the little guy is craning his head to try to see what's going on. (Trust me, kid. It's the Durham Freeway. It's not all that exciting. I'll show you later. ) At least when I'm sleeping, I can change positions or rearrange the snoogle and try to get more comfortable. While driving, I'm pretty limited to the current sitting position. I used to think that driving while pregnant was no big deal since you're just sitting there, but now I get it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Linus

No, the title of this post is not the baby's name (we're saving Linus as a name for a future dog). Rather, it relates to my relationship with my latest purchase from Babies R Us.

After a really uncomfortable night on Wednesday, June 2, I made an emergency after-work run to BRU to get some sort of pregnancy support pillow. Ages ago I bought a wedge pillow but had never found it all that comfortable. This time, I decided to go all out and get a snoogle. Not only is the snoogle tons softer than my other support pillow, but I just love saying snoogle. In the past week, I've tried to insert it into nearly every conversation with my husband.

Yesterday I was fantasizing about having the snoogle at work so that I could nap on the floor and I sort of pictured myself turning into this person who would carry the snoogle everywhere...kind of like how Linus carries his security blanket with him.

"Honey, when I carry the snoogle around like this, do I look like Linus?"
"Yes."

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Snappy Comebacks

Don't you hate how you can get the same question a million times a day, and it's only once you have a snappy comeback that people stop asking you that question?

Most recently, that question was, "Do you know what you're having?", presumably a version of "is it a boy or a girl?" About the 20th time someone asked me that, I decided I'd either say something like "Quarter pounder with fries" or "It's an alien."

Now that I'm ready, has anyone asked with that wording? Of course not.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Me and My Super-Sexy Maternity Fashions

I managed to wear regular clothes for quite a while during this pregnancy, but sometime in the past month or so I hit the point of no return and am pretty much wearing maternity clothes all of the time.

The best thing about maternity clothes? Not having to be preoccupied about whether your zipper is undone. Some of our friends use the phrase "Kennywood's open!" when someone has their fly open. Nobody has had to use that phrase on me recently, though, because I haven't worn anything with a fly in ages. Usually I'm pretty good about keeping my zippers zipped, but I do have a few items of clothing where the zippers have renegade slipping tendencies. It's just nice not to have to think about zippers.

Of course, the way that many clothing items get around the need for a zipper is through the use of a super-stretchy panel. I feared the panel at first, but it really is a pregnant woman's friend. For example, I have two pairs of maternity jeans. One pair stays on; the other nearly always falls off (even at this stage). The difference is that one has the panel, while the other just has a stretchy waistband. The trouble with the panel, though, is that the panel line is the new panty line. It always kind of bugs me when I look in the mirror and can see the top of the panel through my shirt (especially since it's usually only a little lower than the bottom of my bra).

The clothing feature that bugs me the most lately is having so much stuff that ties in the back. I hate that feeling when you're leaning back against a chair and you go, "hey, what's that thing against my back?" and you realize it's part of your clothing. It's not huge on the list of pregnancy discomforts but it sometimes seems unnecessary to begin with.

I do kind of hate how the maternity items in local reasonably-priced places tend to be picked over to the point that when I shop, the only things left on the shelves tend to be XXS and XXXL. I actually went to three or four different Target stores one time trying to see if any of them had this one dress in something close to my size, and they all had it, but the size selection got worse and worse the more that I looked. Don't even get me started on the one nearby Old Navy that deigns to carry maternity items.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

On Being a Pregnant Dog Mom

Last night, I was at a class at the hospital on the topic of bringing a baby into a house with dogs. One of the class participants asked the trainer whether she thought that our dogs understood what was going on. I'm pretty certain that my dog Lucy knows what's up. First off, she's a mammal with nine nipples. She just gets these things. Second, she was the first one (after me) to find out about the pregnancy (since she has a propensity for following me in to the bathroom, the place where one finds out things like this).

We've also had a few very sweet baby-related interactions. A few weeks ago, before I went to work, she was sitting on the floor in front of the couch just looking at me, sort of the way she looks at Adam when she wants a walk. I knew she'd already been walked, treated, and fed breakfast, so I wasn't sure why she was staring. So I started rubbing my belly in circular motions and she immediately started wagging her tail (quite forcefully). I'd stop rubbing and then start rubbing again, and she would stop and start wagging in reaction. She only did it that one morning, but it was extremely cute.

And then last night, after we got back from the class, we were all upstairs snuggling and Lucy felt the baby move! It was almost as exciting for me as when Adam felt movement the first time. She gave me this look of pure love as I said inane things like "Lucy, that's the baby." Maybe the baby is already trying to pet her?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Another Pregnancy Milestone

Today was the first day that a complete stranger came up to me and asked if she could touch my belly. (Hey, at least she asked first!) I should probably qualify the "complete stranger" part. The person and I had been in the same 6-hour training session, and this was towards the end of the session. Still, there were 30 other people there, and I didn't even know her name or specific work affiliation, so I think it still qualifies as "first belly rub from a stranger." It's only been pretty recent that the belly has been really asserting itself in a way that attracts this sort of attention.

I think it would be fun to go into Lucydog mode when people touch my belly...I could lie on my back, with my tongue sticking out to the side, and wag my tail profusely. Oh wait, I don't have a tail...and it would probably be hard to get back up.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Nope. Still No Pregnancy Superpowers.

Yesterday I signed out yet another book that tries to tell you what's going on with the baby on a week-by-week basis, but it didn't give me the information I wanted. What I really want to know is at what stage the superpowers kick in. Surely I should get some superpowers out of this whole pregnancy deal, even if it's just an extra strong sense of smell or fingernails that could cut glass. In actuality, much of the time so far (at 22 weeks), I just don't feel all that different. Most of the time I'm perfectly content with this (even though it makes for boring conversation when people ask "How are you feeeelinnnng?").

Anyone know when I should expect the superpowers to kick in?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Please don't use the f-word around a pregnant woman!

Yesterday someone pointed out to me that I was starting to look "fat." Naturally, I gave the person some crap for the choice of words. After all, at 20 weeks of pregnancy, I've only gained about 7 pounds; if I were on a TV show, I could probably still pass for un-pregnant at many angles; I'm even still wearing a lot of my normal clothes!

If I were still teaching ESL, I can imagine that right about now I would be conducting a lesson on "things not to say to a woman who is 20 weeks pregnant." And the very first thing on that list would be "Don't tell her, 'Hey, you look fat!' " (Or, if you do tell her that, prepare for there to be consequences. )

Of course, it's not all that helpful to tell already-reticent students what not to say without also giving them some alternative language to use. I told my friend that I wouldn't mind being told that I look "pregnant" rather than "fat." (There IS a difference!) When people mention that they can see my "bump" or my "baby bump" I don't particularly mind. It probably wouldn't bother me if someone said, "Hey, it looks like the baby has had a growth spurt!" Or, "wow, you're showing more than before!"

I think a big part of why I've been glad that my weight gain has been relatively minor so far is that I really hate it when people think that other people's body weight should be a topic of conversation. I feel this way even about conversations about weight loss. In a different phase of my life, people have sometimes insisted that I've lost weight when I haven't--I've just followed the advice of the What Not to Wear folks and put on an outfit that wasn't outrageously unflattering. "
Them: You've lost SO MUCH weight!
Me: No, actually my weight has been exactly the same for the past three years. It's probably the clothes.
Them: No, you're wrong! You've lost weight!
Me: (tries to think of way to change topic)

I realize that I won't be having that sort of conversation again in the near future, and that the comments on my body are just starting. I should probably develop a thick skin towards these things, but I did want to put a warning out there to the world about certain unwelcome words.

Monday, February 1, 2010

How I'm Spending My Pregnancy So Far




This picture pretty much sums up my pregnancy so far. I am spending a lot of time lying around on couches. Our dog Lucy, who we consider to the be our firstborn, is already attempting to have some snuggle time with the baby. Many of my conversations about the pregnancy so far seem to involve the potential impact on Lucydog, though people who know her know that she's good with kids and has a very maternal side. I must confess that I already fantasize about taking cute pictures of Lucy and the baby together.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Big Announcement


It was actually my husband's idea to make a bento of the Baby, Baby, Pirate pregnancy test from the Simpsons to use when we announced to friends that I'm expecting a baby at the end of July this year. It's quite funny, when I did an image search for the test, I realized that several other people have started their baby blogs with the same
"baby, baby, pirate" joke. I was worried about being unoriginal but figured that doing it in bento would score us some originality points. Interestingly enough, Adam's guy friends didn't actually get it until he explained it to them.

I actually had someone ask if the two baby faces meant that I was having twins, so I feel that it's important to explain that at least one of the babies functions as the
"control line" on a regular pregnancy test, and that the test works kind of like a slot machine. Getting three of the same thing is best, but since pirates are wild, the result means "yes! baby!"

People seem to be delighted for us...and surprised. I think I may have had some people convinced that I didn't necessarily want kids, but some of that has been a bit of a defense mechanism. Let's just say that I was beginning to think that one of my special talents in life was not getting pregnant. I still have moments where I don't entirely believe it, but at least after last week I have pictures to look at (pictures of the baby itself, not just pictures of the positive pregnancy test).