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 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.