Monthly Archives: October 2009

baby’s first road trip, complete with backseat drivers

We are biting the bullet tomorrow and making the three-hour trek to my parents’ place for the weekend. My sister is having a housewarming/freedom -from-a-bad-relationship/Halloween party, so we want to come show our support, even if we won’t really be staying for the party proper. My parents are overjoyed that Baby Genius is coming for a visit.

We also made it clear that if great-grandparents would like to see Baby Genius that they are welcome to come to my parents’ to hang out with him. My wife informed my mother a couple of weeks ago, however, that we would not be spending our time there travelling all over to see relatives, meaning she was not to start making plans for us to do so (you’ll recall this is just what she did before we cancelled our previously-planned trip). At the time, my mom agreed and was certain we could make this work. For a little while, it even seemed like she was respecting our boundaries and our baby’s limits.

Enter last night’s conversation wherein she says, “We’ll talk about the plans for Saturday once you get here.” I told her our plans for Saturday were to go to the party early and to come home. Period. And her response was, “Well, we can talk about it when you get here. It won’t be too busy of a day anyway.” No it won’t because we’re going to the pre-party, and we’re going back to the parents’ place, and that will be all. Her comments that we’ll talk about it when we get there are her attempts, though, at finding her way around it, of getting us to go visit my grandmother (who was just  here last week for a visit) or go somewhere else, and we just can’t do it. Our son won’t deal well with a drive to my grandmother’s (40 minutes round trip) and a drive to my sister’s (80-minute round trip) in the same day, and it’s just not going to happen. I’m putting my foot down, and she’s really not used to it.

I’m beginning to think my parents are of the mind that we are being overly cautious with our son, but frankly, I don’t care. We know him. We know his limits, and his limits are no more than one event per day (some days none!) if said event takes place outside of the house. Some might say that we need to just put him through it so that he’ll get used to it, but J and I are both of the mind that there is no need to put our son through undue stress simply for adults’ convenience and entertainment. He’s just barely eight weeks old. His nervous system is still developing, and he doesn’t have the skills or capacity to cope with too much stimulus. It is our job as his parents to understand his limits so that we don’t overwhelm him.

There is this mindset in our culture, however, that babies are portable, so we ought to take them everywhere so as not to disrupt our lives. This philosophy does not take into account the well-being of the child but instead focuses on the needs and desires of the parents and other adults in the child’s life. I know this is unpopular to say, but it’s selfish. I certainly know the times we have subjected our son to too much outside world, these have been selfish acts–we’re not innocent here. However, we have also learned from these experiences that we want to introduce him to the world slowly to limit the trauma he experiences. Yet somehow this makes us those crazed, fringe, over-protective, unmoving, inexperienced new parents. You know the sort–the ones who (gasp!) don’t allow their kids to watch television until a certain age or (the horror!) won’t feed their children soda or fast food. Yeah, we’re those sorts. Our poor, deprived son.

We really are learning just how challenging it is to make parenting decisions without hearing a slew of opinions about them.  I thought backseat drivers were annoying, but backseat parents take the cake.

Wish us luck this weekend. I fear we’re going to need a lot of it.

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This is not an endorsement.

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Filed under Baby Genius, family, parenting

identity matters

I am so eager to start responding to your questions, and I think I may have a few moments while the Baby Genius takes a morning nap. I would like to start with these questions from Carrie Storm:

Wife and I are due Christmas Day. I’m carrying (I’m younger at 37) and having a hard time feeling real butch lately…joked in a Birth Circle recently that I just want my ‘manhood’ back. I want to lift weights, fix plumbing, chop firewood, sweep my love up off her tiny little feet.

Instead I’m on modified bed rest, I waddle, I leak, I smell weird, my boobs are out-of-control, and I may not even make it to an Ani DiFranco concert on 11/15 that we’ve has tickets for forever because I can’t stay awake later than 8:00 in the the freakin’ evening. Yeah, I’m real tough…

Our baby will be so loved, but thus far I’ve found pregnancy to be overly-public and weird (though piercings, combat boots, and scowling seem to keep people from (shudder) touching my belly).

Is there still room for the things you loved, and for who you were, before BG was born? Do you even care about the things you loved, and who you were, before BG was born? Am I ever going to be me again? Would your hospital have let you wear your own clothes if you wanted to? Even if you decided to deliver in a Super Man T-shirt and Docs?

For me, as many of you have read here, pregnancy was an identity I embraced very easily. My wife has always thought of me as a sort of mother goddess figure, and when I was pregnant, I really did embody that to a large degree. In fact, it was one of the first times I really felt comfortable in my physical skin. It was amazing.

Still, I missed certain aspects of my pre-pregnancy self. Despite the fact that I’m decidedly more femme, I have always been the one to fix things, lift heavy objects, and generally do the more stereotypically “butch” things around the house. I’m the one with the power tools, the one who carries things for J, the one who performs car maintenance. Suddenly, my wife was pumping the gas, carrying the groceries, and offering to help me up. When I was in my third trimester, even a simple thing like using a screwdriver could send me into some serious exhaustion or contractions, so I had to give the tools over to my wife, and we had to get my step-dad to help us put things like the crib together. I’m not used to feeling as helpless as that, and it was hard. When I would try to engage in any of these activities, my wife would scold me and make me promise not to do it again. Imagine her horror when I had to be the one to climb up on a chair and change the heater vent on the ceiling the day before I went into labor because she couldn’t reach it. I loved this, but I think she held her breath the whole time I was up there with the screwdriver.

On a side note, when I was in early labor, I found it so amusing to come back from walking the halls to find this tool cart just outside of my hospital room. My wife kindly grabbed the camera and photographed it for me.

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Since having the baby, I have been able to reclaim much of this side of myself, and it delights my wife and I to no end. Sadly, much of my physical strength has waned, and I’m really having to build that back up again. Having a giant baby boy to carry around does help.

So far, I think J and I both are trying to navigate the waters of mother identity as we work to reconcile these new identities with those we embraced before. At times that is really hard, and at times it’s fun. We’re both striving for hip mama identities and find ourselves clinging to things like our old motorcycle boots and decidedly nonsoccer-mom hairstyles to do so. But there is also the side of me now who finds M.oby wraps to be decidedly hip in their own way. I guess what I’m saying is it’s a sort of balancing act combining the old selves with the new, but it’s really great to be reinventing ourselves with our son’s help.

And we certainly do still care about many of the things we loved before our Baby Genius arrived; we just have to work around BG a lot more. For example, we are big wine enthusiasts, so we’ve taken him wine tasting. I can’t drink as much wine as I used to, but I can sample the latest releases at our favorite wineries with him attached to me in a wrap. There are certainly plenty of things that are harder to do now, but we still love the things we have always loved and can’t wait to involve him in some of these activities like camping, hiking, gardening, and travelling.

So yes, I do think you’ll find a way to be you again; you’ll just be a new and improved model. It takes some time to get used to having your body back; hell, I’m still getting used to it, but it feels good. I’ve even got new tattoo designs running through my head. You’ll have the added benefit of having this extra person to dress as you like, providing further outlets for expression.

Finally, on the issue of hospital attire, I was allowed to wear what I wanted after my initial intake exam, and I did wear my own clothes through part of labor, but I found rather quickly that I needed semi-frequent clothing changes due to leaking fluid, so I was back to hospital gowns. But delivering in Docs–I wish I would have thought of that. I think they would have struck just the right combination of practicality and rebellion that I was feeling during that experience. I say ask your healthcare provider if you can wear what you want; it’s certainly worth a shot!

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Filed under hospital, identity

it’s a small world

Thank you for all the reassurance and the really great questions. I’ll be getting to those gradually over the next couple of weeks. I’m so excited to have some writing inspiration!

I know it’s perfectly normal to blog much less once the baby comes; I think I just miss it, and yet I also miss having much to write about. Honestly, I’m just experiencing a bit of a creative block overall. Our lives have gotten so tiny these days. For instance, today consisted of feeding the baby, trying to get him to nap (unsuccessfully), feeding him again, watching him smile, feeding him, watching him fight sleep, trying to fit in some work, feeding him, and watching an episode of Pro.ject R.unway that we missed last week. There are so many days when I come to the end of the day and wonder where it went and what I did. It’s such a strange feeling.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t mind at all that my world is suddenly so small. In fact, it’s really rather beautiful. There is nothing so precious as taking a midday nap snuggled up with my son while my wife reads, nothing quite so fulfilling as watching our boy get so excited over something as small as the shadows from the light fixture in his room or the elephants hanging above his changing table. I find myself at the end of the day reflecting on the smiles I’ve seen and replaying the songs we have made up to make him smile or sleep or stop crying. I can’t believe we get to have this life. Neither J nor I can believe that they let us bring this baby home and that we get to keep him forever. And sometimes I just need to remember all of this.

J and I are accustomed to being really busy. Normally during the fall, we’re teaching multiple classes, spending whole days grading papers, commuting, attending meetings, and generally feeling stressed out. We rarely see one another, and we rarely have time to stop and breathe. And during the last two autumns, we were going through the rigors of TTC to boot. So it’s not just having a baby that makes everything feel so different right now; it’s nearly everything. And I think that I may be having trouble writing about it all because it’s unfamiliar, as great as so much of it is, and it surprises me.

Anyway, I’m so grateful for all of your comments, for your perspectives on writing about life with a new baby, and I’m looking forward to sharing more of that with you and finding my voice as a blogger who happens to be a mom. I’m also really looking forward to jumping into these questions (although I think I’ve started to answer oneofhismoms’ question), so look for the first of those in the next couple of days (and if you have others, feel free to leave them).

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Filed under blogtherapy, life

please keep me from boring us all

It’s been a week full of visitors here at the House of Genius. My dad finally paid a visit (along with a new lady friend), and then today, Baby Genius got to meet his great-grandmother. My sweet brother drove her here today and they spent the day with us. Tomorrow, one of our very best friends comes to meet him. It’s a busy week, and BG has been great. He has given everyone a smile so far, and he has loaded us up on them regularly. I’ll never tire of that smile (although I still can’t seem to capture a photo of it).

Since he was born, I feel like I have so little to write about, so little to say that isn’t entirely or almost entirely about my son. And maybe that’s okay. I guess I just don’t want this blog to become just a space for the latest photos and stats on our baby. I mean, I know those are welcome, but shouldn’t I be able to write about more? Surely I have some specks of my brain still capable of coherent–even thoughtful–posts, right? Right?

Perhaps this is where I come in a little late to the “ask me a question” trend, for I think I need some prompts. I really want to be writing more, but I’m drawing such a blank most days. So ask away. What questions do you have? They can be questions about anything–the baby, us, living in wine country, academics, mothering choices–you name it. You’ll be doing us all a favor. Oh, and if you have questions, and you’re a lurker, and you’re still reticent to post here, send me an email at reproducinggenius at comcast dot net (although now is as good a time as any to delurk!).

Let the questions commence!

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my life with udders

udderfeed

I never had any doubt that I would breastfeed, and I was fairly determined that BG and I would be successful with it one way or another, even if it meant countless hours at La.Leche.League meetings or with lactation consultants handling my breasts. I grew up with a breastfeeding advocate for a mom, and I remember when I was little watching her and her friends making onesies that said, “Breastfed is Bestfed” to sell at the local fair. I never had to wonder whether I would breast or formula feed. I always just knew I would breastfeed, and I knew I’d make it work. I am lucky, though, to have been brought up knowing that while this is a learned art, it is something I would be able to do.

Before BG was born, I spent a good amount of time telling myself that this was going to be a challenge. I engaged in a lot of positive self-talk, encouraging my future self to stick with it, to seek out help as I needed it, to be patient with myself and the baby, and I’m so glad I did.

The first few days as a breastfeeding mom are hard. My first encounter with my son at my breast involved someone else holding my breast, massaging the collostrum out of it, while I held him. It was urgent because we needed to bring up his blood sugars, and it wasn’t that first intimate feeding I had hoped for. I’m honestly surprised that I was not upset by this. My wife was, but I somehow took it in stride. For the next couple of days, BG would fall asleep while feeding all the time, and I was so worried he wasn’t eating enough, especially because of his initial low blood sugars, but he and I started to get the hang of things. My nipples were cracked and sore and occasionally bleeding, but damnit, we were going to do this somehow. He had the pinchiest of latches, and because of the enormity of my breasts, I couldn’t see well enough where the latch was going wrong.

We had a home health nurse come visit us the day after we came home, and while she was overall rather surly and unpleasant, she did help us figure out our problem: he was tucking his bottom lip. My wife now had a job. She became the official lip flipper, and within a couple of days, all was well. It’s a good thing too because this was when my milk came in and my breasts swelled to a size I had never seen–and they hurt, oh they hurt.

Since then, however, our breastfeeding relationship has been wonderful, and I’m so happy to have stuck with it through those hard first days. I’m still learning how to gracefully nurse in public. So far, I’ve done it in a restaurant, in the lobby of a hospital, at an outdoor restaurant, in a waiting room, in the car, and in a park. I have a scarf I carry in the diaper bag for attempts at being discreet, but BG isn’t crazy about having his head covered up. This is when I really wish had smaller breasts because hiding them would be so much easier. It takes quite a bit of effort to cover up these big girls.

I love this process, but it has its downfalls. If BG sleeps too long and then nurses on one breast, the other will soak my entire shirt. I have woken up to find not only my shirt but our sheets soaked. The leaking is diminishing, but that let-down reflex is something else! As a large-breasted woman, I also miss wearing bras that provide me some shape. I’m not willing to go the underwire route because I’m afraid of plugged ducts (I seem to be tending toward them already), and I can’t spend gobs of money, so I’m stuck with either nursing tanks or these cheap things that have either a uni-boob effect or a no-bra effect. It’s really not lovely at all. Still, it’s worth it. I just have to remind myself that happy, healthy breasts are far preferable to a perky, well-defined bustline.

I honestly don’t know how long this breastfeeding relationship with BG will last. I hope to breastfeed him for at least a year. I imagine we’ll play it by ear after that. For now, I’m just happy to be able to do this, and I feel so lucky that we haven’t had the struggles that so many women have.

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my fibroid friends strike again

Earlier today, we packed up the boy and headed out for my ultrasound to check on my ovary. As we waited, we ran into the last u/s tech we saw who measured then-Eggghead at 34 weeks. She called him a moose. Today, she remembered us, and when she asked how much he weighed at birth and we told her, she said, “So you had a c-section then.” I was proud to reply that I hadn’t, and she walked away feigning sympathy pain.

Today was so different from my other trips to this place. We had a baby in tow, and my wife wouldn’t be joining me in the room. I also wasn’t filled with nervous excitement–just nervousness. Fortunately, the tech got down to business quickly, first with the external and then the internal (so very unpleasant just six weeks after pushing out our baby), and I saw her measuring various dark spots. Eventually, I saw her type the word “fibroid” on the screen, and I said something about wondering about how they were doing. Finally, she broke her silence and told me, “I’m not supposed to say anything, but your ovaries look completely normal. I think your midwife felt this fibroid. And sure enough, the fibroid was in the vicinity of the ovary and was very much the “golf ball size” the midwife had described. Both of my ovaries were free of any masses and were merely bespeckled with a few normal follicles. In other words, my fibroids have caused needless fear once again, and all is well. Sigh.

Afterward, we decided to fit in a trip to TraderJ0e’s–a big mistake. It started pouring on our way there. The baby was decidedly displeased with something, and he started crying like we’ve never heard him cry. Once J got him settled, and he went to sleep, we thought we were in the clear, but then we got into the store, soaking wet and started to rush around only for him to awaken in the same bad mood. Because this was our first trip to a store with him in the carseat and not a wrap, we were already nervous, but at soon as he started crying, I was ready to take him back to the car. But that was not to be so easy. In our rush to get out of the car and out of the rain, we had left both of our sets of keys in the car. We had left our cell phones. We had left the diaper bags. And we had locked it all up safely out of our reach. Half an hour later, J had gotten help and was back in the car with the baby. I had finished up the shopping, and we were ready to go home. Now we’re all safe and sound and dry, ready to stick around the house for a few days without going anywhere.

Long gone are the days when shopping was fun, when a trip out of the house was easy. There are days like today when I miss that, but I still wouldn’t trade it. I’d just rather stay in.

Finally, because no post these days is complete without a photo, I present to you our impressive six-week-old:

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ToughGuy

exhausted

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Filed under Baby Genius, life

a chapter concluded

We have had our first rain storm of the season during the last couple of days, and it is so lovely to finally feel the seasons changing. I think I needed something as strong as a storm to get me out of my flip-flops and into proper shoes and socks. For the last nine years, I have taught in the fall, so the change of seasons is normally marked by stacks of essays and student excuses. Now, every day feels much the same, and I have a hard time remembering what month it is. In so many ways, my life is unrecognizable, and yet it all somehow makes sense. I’m gladly exchanging those stacks of essays for stacks of diapers.

I’m almost six weeks into this being-a-mom gig, and I love it. Is it weird that I don’t even mind the nighttime feedings? Sure there are those nights when he has only slept for two hours, and so have I, and I would really like to keep sleeping, but we manage, and as soon as I see his eyes wide open and his mouth wide open any mild frustration with having to wake up so soon dissolves. Most of the time, he’s really not a high maintenance baby–so far. I always qualify any of these positive comments in this way because I’m waiting for the all-night wailing to sneak up on me. So far, we’re really, really, super-duper lucky–and believe me, we know it.

Today I had my six week postpartum appointment with the midwife. It was quick, and I’m back in working order. It seems my tear has healed (although it still hurts a bit), and I’m free to have baths and swim and go into the hot tub. It was so lovely to see S, the midwife who attended our delivery, and she adored Baby Genius. It really is fun to show him off. I was also weighed for the first time since my pregnancy: I’m down thirty pounds from my top pregnancy weight. I’m down twenty-six pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight. I knew I was smaller, but that’s just insane!

What wasn’t so fabulous was that S discovered my right ovary is enlarged. At first she said it was probably just hormones, and we’d check it out at my annual exam in January. But then she called me to tell me that it was bothering her and that she’d like me to have an ultrasound. Now I’m a bit bothered as well. Oh how I hope this is nothing I need to worry about.

I can’t believe that this was my last pregnancy-related appointment. This really was a significant day for me, and part of me was a little scared to see it come and go. Sometimes it is just so hard for me to believe that my pregnancy is finished. It went by so incredibly quickly. I spent a good amount of time mourning it during my first two weeks postpartum, and I still have the occasional pang when I see a big round belly–or photos of mine. I think it had to do with not knowing who I was post-pregnancy. I so easily embraced the identity of a pregnant me, and now I’ve got a new identity to embrace, and for some reason, that transition has been rocky. Lately, it’s making more sense to me, and I’m more easily saying goodbye to those beautiful months I spent gestating. It helps to see my son, in all his cherubic glory, kick-kick-kicking just as I imagined he was doing in the womb. It helps to look at the sweet foot that so frequently stuck out of the top of my belly. It helps all the more to see his big, wide-mouthed grin and to hug him close and to know that I’ve finally got what I have always wanted. Yeah, that helps a lot.

So here I am–T, the mom.

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Filed under Baby Genius, midwife, post partum, Pregnancy