Aug 30 2007

Things Robin Is Not

Robin and I have a new game. At the moment I have to do his part as well as my own, but someday I hope he’ll keep up his own end of the banter. It goes like this:

“Are you my little cutie-bug?”

No, Mommy, I’m a little baby!

“But are you my little hungry-bird?”

No, Mommy, I’m a little baby!

“But are you my little wiggly-worm?”

No, Mommy, I’m a little baby!

“But are you my little apricot?”

No, Mommy, I’m a little baby!

“Well then…are you my bonny, blithe, bouncing baby boy?”

Yes, Mommy! I’m YOUR little baby!

The game is of course infinitely expandable. In fact the apricot line is a recent addition; we gave Robin his first real bath yesterday (babies are only supposed to get sponge baths until the stump of the umbilical cord falls off) and we used the “Burt’s Bees” apricot-scented baby oil that Auntie Nina gave us. So now he smells just like a plump little apricot.

Aug 28 2007

Good Baby!

We took Robin back to the hospital yesterday for a quick weight check—babies are supposed to regain their birth weight by the end of the first two weeks. And he has! He was actually seven pounds eight ounces, so he has slightly exceeded his birth weight. We promptly congratulated him on an excellent performance at his first job: turning milk into more baby. (And poop.) Our baby strategy is paying off with excellent ROI!

Aug 27 2007

Three Pictures

Robin is enjoying having his Pappy and Nonna here for a visit:

Meanwhile, Sam is becoming a master of multitasking:


And Robin has become quite the connoisseur, at least where his own fingers are concerned:

Aug 23 2007

Containment Breach

So, we’re having a problem with pee. Robin’s diapers, while serving as effective poop-catching devices, seem utterly unable to contain his urine output. By some kind of diabolical wizardry, the liquid just flows around the diaper. So when he’s lying on his back, he’ll soak the back of his clothing and the sheets of his bed, but his diaper will be dry. I guess it’s flowing out the leg? We’ve tried changing the position of his whizzer when we diaper him, and it doesn’t seem to help. Is this a baby boy thing? Does anybody have any advice for us on diapering technique? We’re tired of washing his sheets every day.

Aug 22 2007

City Baby

When I went into labor, as we were standing on the sidewalk with our bags and Sam was waving down a taxi to take us to the hospital, the fellow who owns our local corner store came out to chat.

“Is it time?” Ike wanted to know. Sam verified that yes, it was time. “Do you have everything you need?” he asked.

“I think so,” said Sam.

“Do you have a diaper pail?”

Sam allowed as how we did not.

“I’ll get you a diaper pail,” said Ike. And indeed, a couple days ago when I went down to the store to pick up some milk, he ran in back and emerged with a Diaper Genie. “From my store to you,” he said expansively.

Last Friday we went down to the comic book store to pick up our subscriptions. Brian Hibbs, the store owner, is himself the very proud papa of a three year old boy. “I hated the first six months,” he told us frankly. “There will be times when you are seriously tempted to throw your baby out the window. If you hit that point, and you don’t have anybody around to help you out, just bring him down here. I’ll watch him for an hour or two, so you can cool off.”

All around us neighbors and acquaintances have been stepping forward with little gifts and similar offers of help. It’s immensely touching. I love the density of city living, the convenience of buying groceries three doors down and picking up our coffee at the place across the street, but now I’m seeing that these slight connections—the chit-chat at the cash register, the barista who knows your order, the smile and nod to the neighbor every morning—can run much deeper than I thought, constituting not just strands of polite discourse but the seedling sprouts of real community.  For someone like me who’s always been pretty rootless, it feels surprisingly good.

Aug 21 2007

Pooh Hat 2

Sam’s put a couple more pics up on his Flickr account. Here’s one of them:

Aug 21 2007

How Hard It Is

As I write these posts I’m very aware that I am only reporting what everyone before me has already verified; I am like an enthusiastic scout venturing deep into the wilds of, oh, South Peoria, only to come back saying breathlessly that yes, all the streets are just where the map said they would be, and the gas station hasn’t been moved. All that I’m discovering is that what everyone says is true.

It’s not like nobody told us how hard it would be. Everybody tells you that caring for a newborn is exhausting and draining and crazy-making and just generally really, really hard. That doesn’t stop us from staring at each other, dumb with exhaustion, utterly shocked at how hard it is.

Our first night home, Robin cried more or less steadily from eleven at night until four in the morning. We flipped through every page in every parenting book we’ve collected looking for a trick to soothe him—white noise, rocking, a hot compress on the belly in case he had gas. I kept telling myself he’d wear himself out and fall asleep any minute, but somewhere he was finding inexhaustible reserves of outrage. This after five nights in the hospital of scant and fitful sleep. We were utterly broken, and both starting to suspect we’d made a terrible mistake.

Things looked better in the morning, and the subsequent nights have been much more sane. We seem to have settled into a workable routine. I go to bed around seven o’clock; Sam stays up and amuses the baby. I get up for feedings in the evening, and through the night, and in the morning I keep Robin quieted while Sam sleeps in. We love our baby, and most of the time we feel like we’re doing pretty well. But there are moments every day that we wonder what we’ve done.

I’ve cried every single day since Robin was born. Not often or for long, and not even with any real sense of sadness or despair, just as a helpless venting of tension and anxiety and general overwhelm. I know it’s largely the chemical aftermath of birth: one of my books says, “The hormonal changes you went through as an adolescent or experience during your menstrual cycle are minor compared to the hormonal overhaul you’re undergoing after giving birth.” I’m not really worried about postpartum depression, though I guess it’s something to keep an eye on in myself, and I don’t want to worry anybody else who’s reading this. It’s just that I want to write about all the great stuff, how cute he is, how sweet, how amazing it is when I hold him and he blinks up at me with bemused blue eyes. But I wouldn’t be reporting honestly if I didn’t also admit how hard it is.

Aug 20 2007

The Wild World of Breastfeeding

The first and most primal task for a mother is feeding her baby. There are a ton of benefits associated with breastfeeding over bottle feeding—although it often seems that people assert causation where we may only be seeing correlation. That is, while it may be true that breastfed babies tend to score higher on IQ tests, is this because breastfeeding makes you smart? Or is it because children of upper class, well-educated mothers are more likely to be breastfed, while lower-class children are more likely to receive formula, and the former group scores higher on IQ tests regardless of early feeding methods? I’m skeptical of the more extreme pro-breastfeeding propaganda, but I am convinced that, in general, the best food for a human baby is human milk.

The problem is that breastfeeding can be really hard. I had a terrible time getting Robin to latch on in the first two days of his life. In fact, it seems like most women have some difficulty with breastfeeding at first. It really does make you wonder how the human race survived the Stone Age. Fortunately, now we have breastfeeding classes, lactation consultants, and a dizzying array of technology to throw at the problem.

Robin would suck for a bit, then toss his head in frustration, spit out the nipple, and bawl. The emotional charge was pretty enormous. My baby was rejecting me. The nurses were all watching and judging. They had forms where they took notes about me and my breastfeeding, and these forms included a scale, on which I was told I ranked “average to below average.” Specifically at breastfeeding, but I very much felt like a below average mother.

Robin lost weight quickly those first few days—all babies lose weight at first, but the magic figure is ten percent: once they lose more than that, the pediatrician starts keeping a very close eye on things. Robin lost ten point nine percent of his birth weight by day three.

The nicest of our nurses set me up with a lactation consultant. I call Dina the nicest of our nurses because, although many of them were very very nice, she gave me the best compliment: “I always like coming in here,” she told me, “because you have a very good energy, an energy of togetherness.”

The lactation consultant was named Yvonne. She was splendid. She told me the problem would most likely resolve itself once my milk came in: in the early days a mother produces a yellow liquid called colostrum, which is very good for the newborn but is much thicker than the later milk, and therefore harder for the infant to extract by sucking. Robin just didn’t have the patience, and the hungrier he got, the sooner he degenerated into angry screaming. He was clearly starting to associate the whole experience of nursing with frustration and unhappiness. So Yvonne suggested I use a breast pump to get the colostrum out, and supplement with formula until my milk supply was established. We snagged a soup spoon out of the hospital pantry to feed him with: babies that small only swallow a teaspoon or so at each feeding, and using a bottle can screw up breastfeeding even more as the infant gets used to the artificial nipple instead of the real one. (Dina later gave us a little cup to use instead.)

So Day Three was pretty wild, what with me hooking myself up to the milking machine every few hours to extract the precious, precious drops of golden colostrum. The hospital-grade electric breastpump had two big suckers that attached to my boobs, and while it was going I could watch my nipples pistoning back and forth inside the plastic tubing. It was artificial and alienating and also painful, and I didn’t feel any better about my failure to nurse my son, but at least I knew he was getting something to eat.

The next morning Yvonne was back with a little gizmo she told me was called a “nipple shield.” Nina commented that it sounds like something Wonder Woman would wear: “a gift from the Amazon queen!” It’s actually just a thin bit of nipple-shaped silicone that you can slap on over your boob. It’s a little longer than a real nipple, so easier for a baby to latch on to, and it has holes in the end of it so that the kid can suck milk through the shield, from your breast. “I think this might solve your problem,” she said, and she was entirely correct. The magic nipple shield worked like a charm; Robin latched right on and suckled happily. It was incredibly, incredibly rewarding to finally be able to hold and feed him normally, to feel him curled up close to my body and to know that now, for him, I’d be a locus of pleasure and contentment rather than hunger and frustration.

The day after we came home my milk came in, and just as Yvonne predicted, Robin’s now able to nurse without the shield. I still use it sometimes when we’re having trouble getting a good latch, usually because he’s slept too long between feedings and he wakes up hungry and impatient. But most of the time it’s just him and me, unaugmented. He’s gaining weight again now and the pediatrician is happy.

My days and nights now revolve around feedings. Every one and a half to three hours, day or night, I know I’m going to be obliged to sit down with Robin for about an hour, sometimes more and sometimes less, depending on how long it’s been since the last feeding and how long it takes him to latch on. As I’m writing this I’m calculating in my head how long I have until he wakes up hungry. (Probably not very long.) But the nursing itself is sweet and lovely and I’m terribly grateful that it’s working out for us.

Aug 20 2007

More Baby Pictures

Pooh hat!

All the mammals love Nanita…

Nap time.

Aug 16 2007

Warning: Site Redesign Imminent

Our little family is doing great—we’re leaving the hospital today! And naturally, as soon as I get home, my top priority (well…third or fourth priority, anyway) is overhauling this blog! It clearly needs to be repurposed from a tired, so-last-week pregnancy blog into a cutting edge, up-to-the-minute baby and parenting blog! There’ll be pictures. There’ll be stories. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry. Well, you will if you’re the sort of person who laughs at the ten millionth picture of a baby in a hat, and cries at the heartwrenching tale of a poopy diaper. OK, to be honest, this blog will continue to be of interest pretty much only to people who already have some kind of investment in my genetic legacy. Still! If you’re reading this, don’t get freaked out if the blog goes away for a little bit or starts looking weird or something.

Next: more baby pictures.