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Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

So…normally Kaelie insists on being in my arms for no less than a half hour after I get home from work. But today, she popped right down to chase the cat after only a minute or so! Well that was a sudden change…At least she let me pick her back up again.

Since having a child, I’ve spent a lot more time feeling several conflicting emotions at once, often related to her growing up. Weird because I was never that interested in babies until I got pregnant, and I always pictured my kids at more than 4 or 5 years old (usually closer to 10). But I had a rough time a few months back when she started wanting to occasionally be not in my arms; I was both proud and sad, excited to be heading toward the major reason I wanted kids in the first place, but unwilling to let go of holding my little baby whenever I wanted. I got past that eventually, but I’m still regularly confounded by having both feelings at once. I am not accustomed to complicated emotions.

Speaking of sudden changes, in the last couple of days she’s started to respond in ways that show she understands what we’re saying. A few days ago, she had C’s phone in the car. He asked for it when we got home. She shook her head (she’s shown an understanding of “no” and shaking her head side-to-side for about a week or two) and he offered her a trade: the phone for getting out of the car seat. So she gave him the phone and was happily rescued from the hateful seat.

There was another one yesterday, but I don’t remember at the moment. I’m sure I’ll remember as soon as I put the baby in the car seat to go pick up C in a few minutes. And this morning, when I had on my coat and shoes to go to work, she tried to give me her own jacket. Awww…

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It’s the beginning of September. Yesterday was the first day in months that the high has been below 70, and today is the same. I love, love, LOVE this weather, especially after the heat of summer, but if the highs were in the 60s year-round, that would be my idea of the perfect climate. Handknit shawls and long sleeves, my favorite clothes.

The sudden coolness is filling my head with memories of last year, shortly after I entered the hospital with a huge belly on a summer night and left with a baby on an autumn afternoon. Going out for brief periods with the baby in her car seat, unable to walk too far or stand for too long before my crotch began to ache, but being so enamored with the baby that I didn’t really mind. It was an excuse to sit down, though it was sometimes frustrating to have to, but I had my baby and I was utterly smitten. Now I “just” love her, and though I have the instinct to throw myself between her and danger without even thinking — and there’s no one else I’d do that for — I do wish I still had that intoxicating, soul-completing, impossibly mind-blowing infatuation. I felt like an eagle in flight.

I admit that sometimes I want another baby just to feel that way again.

The last time I felt infatuation at all was in the beginning of my relationship with my husband, and that was tempered by the constant fear that I was, once again, ignoring multiple flaming red flags due to said emotion. The fact that there didn’t appear to be any did not ease my anxiety, but rather added to it. Where were they?! It seemed that every relationship I’d ever had started off with tons of flags, and I knew well the feeling of almost intentionally blowing past them while the Little Voice in the back of my head warned, “you’re going to regret ignoring that…and that…that too.” But this time there was no Little Voice and no red flags, and he seemed far too good to be true. He shared my axioms, the base assumptions on which I built the way I saw the world and the judgments I made, and I had never, to my knowledge, met anybody else who felt so strongly about objective reality and ethics, how to determine truth from falsehood and right from wrong, how to make a relationship work. No wonder I had always felt so isolated!

But my infatuation with my daughter was completely different. There was no fear, no anxiety. I stressed about breastfeeding and sleep and being unable to clean the goddamned kitchen or unpack from our recent move, but my love was untouched by those concerns. I stared at her constantly, held her all the time, ventured out of the house with her just to be out in the world with my new baby and fill myself with the strangeness of it, especially against the background strangeness of the suddenly cooler temperatures. I reveled in the depth of my love for her, unable to really believe that I was capable of feeling something so strong.

Now, I just love her. More than anything in the world, more than my own life…but compared to those first few months, my love for her seems inadequate. I question it; I reassure myself by reciting my instinctive reactions to tiny threats — a bee, a stiff breeze, a bicyclist that didn’t cling to the far edge of the path — reminding myself that even though this seems so natural as to be a given, I would never have done such a thing for anyone else. See? I love her. No need to feel like my emotion is slipping through my hands. I have proof — look! I have proof of my love! — to stave off the guilt.

But I don’t stare at her while she sleeps (much); I read Reddit instead, or type out a blog post, or play a game, and sometimes I even set her down to go do something else — and when I do, the feeling is suspiciously like relief. I don’t feel bereft when I leave her, even though she cries. Shouldn’t I? Shouldn’t I cry when she does, shouldn’t I at least feel bad when I go off to knit, instead of looking forward to riding my bike and chatting with other women? Don’t I love her like I did before?

And that’s what bothers me, the answer to that question. No, I don’t love her like I did at first. I love her more than my own life, but I am no longer smitten. And that’s okay. It’s more than okay: it’s the way it should be. It’s not good for either of us for me to give up my own needs and happiness and spend all my time with the baby. So I argue with the mom guilt.

It makes me angry sometimes. I did not have a kid so that I could feel this way, certainly not as often as I do. Every moment I feel like I should be doing something with her: she doesn’t really play nursery games because I don’t play them with her; I’m bored of reading board books; I can’t seem to remember to do the baby signs; I hate sitting in the grass where ants crawl on me. But she needs the experience!

Well bugger all of that! She will develop fine without playing Patty Cake! She will learn language without baby signs! She will have plenty of time to play in the dirt! Shut UP, guilt! She is going to be fine!

I never thought I’d have this problem…and you know what? I’m not having it any more. I’m taking Babble.com and BabyCenter, and even Free Range Kids, kellymom, and the entertaining mommy blogs off my bookmarks list, and I’m never clicking on a link to another parenting article. I’m not reading any more about how hard parenting is and how modern parents are made to feel guilty for doing or not doing. I’m done with negativity. I’m done reading parenting “tips”. I’ve done my research and I know what I intend to do, what I’m going for, and how to do it.

It’s time to stop letting in the guilt.

My baby is growing up

This seems to happen mostly when I haven’t been with the baby for a lot of the day. Once she’s asleep in my arms and it’s time to put her down, I can’t do it. I look at her peaceful sleeping face and hold her quiet body and I just want to hug her tight to me and never let go.

I never thought I’d be like this. Until I was pregnant I didn’t even think about babies; whenever I pictured having kids they were always old enough to hold interesting conversations. But now that I’ve had a baby of my own, I can’t deal with her getting older. It’s a lot of things coming together into this: my difficulty separating her and me, my love for her as a baby, not knowing what she’ll be like as a child, knowing her as a baby but not a child, not wanting to deal with the difficulties I know are coming. She’s always been an easy baby; I’m not looking forward to being angry or frustrated with her when she requires me to do things over and over and over again in order to learn what she may or may not do. And I’m afraid I won’t be able to do it.

Plus, and I guess this is a big one, I like things the way they are, dammit. All this change is coming too fast. In less than a year she’s gone from helpless newborn to a miniature person with a will of her own and the means to achieve much of what she wants. Her cries are completely different now. She expresses a wide range of emotions and a lot of them involve her unwillingness to be out of eyesight of me.

So I have a conflict. It’s difficult to reconcile the two. On the one hand, I love the closeness we’ve always had; on the other, I need my damned space. When she was happiest in my arms, doing almost nothing, I still felt like i had my space because I could, within reason, do what I wanted. I spent hours online or playing games while she napped. When she fussed, I rearranged us a bit and found a new way to play or surf the net. Now, her demands interfere with my ability to do what I want. I might be able to play a game, but only for as long as she’s happy playing on the floor. And she doesn’t like being on the other side of the baby fence from me, though I can’t put my computer on the same side or she’ll get into the cords. If I try to do something on my iPad, she wants to touch and grab it. I put on Uzu for her and she gets frustrated and angry because she can’t grasp the lights. If I pick her up, I have to move around with her or she gets bored and squirms. So I put her down, and she cries. If I leave the room she is angry, betrayed.

But if I take time for myself, forcing C to look after her, then when she’s finally asleep for the day in my arms and I can set her down and have some much-needed time for myself…I can’t do it. All I want is to hold her for just a little longer, okay a little more, okay just another minute, okay fuck it i’ll just have to sit back down because I’m not going to set her down for a bit yet. I don’t know how to fix this problem. And don’t even get me started on how I should just go to bed instead of playing a game or messing around on reddit or writing a blog entry or…

Should’ve gone out today, tired or no, too hot or no, showered and unwilling to get sweaty on a run or no. It’s one of those days when you don’t feel like being a parent. I would have napped the whole afternoon if I could have. And though all I want is to have some uninterrupted time to play Civ, I have made a deal with myself: scrub the soap scum off the tub after the baby is asleep…or go to bed myself. Now that I’m nursing he to sleep (I hope), though, I think I’ll probably say fuck it and stay up. Just for a little while, which I say every night. I keep doing this to myself and I really need to sleep.

Gonna update more often now…

…I swear. Honest.

I’ve pinned this as an app tab in Firefox…there are a bunch of things I keep wanting to post on Facebook but then I’ll be That Mom who always posts tons of stuff about the baby and nothing about anything else. Granted, my life involves a lot of baby stuff so it’s not surprising. Mostly, though, I want to update here more often because I wish I’d made note here of the milestones as they happened, but all I can do is start doing so now.

At the 6-month appointment, our pediatrician gave us a checklist for the 10th month. But we didn’t have a 10-month appointment, just a 9-month one, so at the 9-month appointment she was behind on the 10-month questionnaire. I refused to worry, telling myself she’d get there by 10 months, and I was right — by July 9th, 10 months old, she was well within the “normal” range on everything but the section that includes talking, and now at 10.5 months she does almost everything on the list…and a couple of things on the 12-month questionnaire. She doesn’t say any words yet, despite my and her father’s best efforts at getting her to say “mama” and “dada”, but I’m not worried. My mom tells me I didn’t really talk much at all until I was 3, and I’ve always been great with language.

It seemed like she didn’t do anything new for a long time. She did “bonk” her forehead to ours if we tilted our head toward her, and would sit up starting around 5-6 months or so, but unless she fell over (something she’d do without crying after the first few times, unless somebody gasped*, she’d stay seated in that spot for a while, until she got bored; then she’d cry. At 8 months she started inchworming around…I have video of that and it is adorable. Around 9? months she started getting to her belly from sitting, so we stopped being able to keep her in one place by sitting her up with a few toys.

We’ve had a whole bunch of milestones just within the last month: sitting up on her own, pulling up to stand, stepping when held by the hands in a standing position, peek-a-boo (on her own, without us making gestures), teething, crawling (finally! I wasn’t expecting her to crawl at all, because we have hardwood floors and her inchworm maneuver has served her just fine thus far), drinking from a regular cup, and now she can almost pick something up from a standing position without sitting down. Teething, crawling, and drinking from a regular cup all happened yesterday — she cut her first tooth, drank from Daddy’s cup, then crawled, then cut her second later on that evening or possibly in the early morning.

I was surprised at how emotional my reaction was. Pride doesn’t seem justified since it’s utterly normal behavior, but I still feel it. I get so excited whenever she does something new; it’s both pain and joy rolled into one. Joy because, obviously, it’s just incredible to watch her grow from a completely helpless newborn into a tiny human with intentions and desires; pain because she’s starting to need me less now that she can move around on her own. Just a little less…but this is the beginning. Now I’m starting to understand all the references I’ve heard over the years to a mother’s pain at her child growing up and away from her. It never occurred to me that I might feel this way. I always pictured myself taking joy in my kids’ abilities to take care of themselves, encouraging them to do everything they can, but now I’m starting to wonder if it might be something I have to force myself to do.

But she’s woken from her nap, so I have to cut this short. I think I’ve put down pretty much everything I want to put down for now, though.

*At my monthly knitting group, I had her seated on the floor while I talked to another mom. She fell over, which I didn’t notice until everyone gasped; she looked around…and then cried — “oh, they made that noise, I guess I’m supposed to be upset!” >_<

Birth story

So I never actually posted K’s birth story, and I typed it out for a comment on Reddit for the third time, I think, so I might as well copy it here and just refer people to it. So I’ll leave in the advice toward the end. Currently it may be a bit wonky; I haven’t had time to properly edit since adding some things.

Of course there may be TMI.

I was to be induced on a Thursday, so Wednesday night they had me go in to the hospital to get something applied to my cervix to help it ripen/dilate. They offered ambien or morphine to help me sleep and recommended the morphine since its affects wouldn’t last into the morning. Morphine feels like being drunk, btw.

The next morning at about 8 or so, I was given an IV. I had the pitocin started by 9. I fell asleep for an hour or so and when I woke up I was in or pretty near active labor, though I didn’t know it at the time. Contractions were painful, around the front of my abdomen, but it wasn’t bad. Our doula recommended taking a little walk around L&D, so we did that, but by the time we were halfway around, my contractions were 20 seconds apart and I could no longer take steps through them. Whoops! They dialed back the pitocin and we hobbled back to the room. Looking back, I can say that I was definitely in active labor by that point.

The rest of it is a blur now. My doula and husband had me going to the bathroom regularly to empty my bladder, but in between trips I think I stood for a while and sat on an exercise ball. I think it was the second time I was on the toilet that I asked my doula if I was in active labor because if I wasn’t, I was pretty sure I couldn’t do this because the contractions were already painful enough that I was starting to have doubts. She checked with the midwife/nurses and assured me I was.

More time on the exercise ball. Our doula sat down in front of me and took control, saying, “do this with me: hee hee hee hoooohhhh.” And that was how I went through all the contractions after that until it was time to push.

I did have a lot of doubt as I got closer to transition. I have no idea how long I was thinking “I can’t do this” during contractions, but once each contraction started to abate, I was okay again. And I couldn’t ask for drugs when the pain was really bad because I was too busy going “hee hee hee hooooohhhh” 🙂 I had told my husband and doula not to give me drugs unless I was saying “GIVE ME THE GODDAMN DRUGS,” and I wasn’t ready to even ask for them, even in the middle of a contraction. I knew enough about my options to know the pain was better for me.

Our doula had explained the drugs they use at this hospital: epidural and a narcotic (I think) that they don’t give you unless you’re at least 3-4 hours away from birth because your body needs to clean it from the baby’s system. The point of that one is to let you get some rest when you’ve been in labor for 15 hours and you are exhausted. I didn’t get to that point.

I could not deal with the idea of a needle in my spine or the catheter required for the epidural. I know pain, I have felt pain, I understand pain. It sucks but I know what it feels like. I have never had a needle in my spine or a catheter and at no point did the pain eclipse my desire not to experience those things.

So eventually they had me lie down. They checked my cervix and the midwife was surprised to find I was 8 cm dilated. My first thought was, “well, no drugs then!” It was kind of a relief to have that decision out of the way. I don’t know how long after that I started to push, but it couldn’t have been long.

The first contraction was a minor change from what I had been used to — it felt a little different toward the end of it. I said something like, “I think I’m ready to push.” The next one, there was no doubt — my entire abdomen convulsed and went HURRRRRRRRRRR, and I had to breathe, and then HURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR….and then HURRRRR. You know how, in movies and sometimes in other people’s birth stories, the nurses tell the woman not to push yet because the doctor isn’t there? I don’t know how they do it because there is no “not pushing”. Your body is pushing and you can either try and relax the rest of you, or you can help. But there is no “waiting to push”.

Don’t be scared by this. It’s actually a great relief, after hours of just going through contractions, to be able to DO something, but not to have to MAKE yourself do it, because your body tells you that we’re pushing now, okay now rest for a moment, okay now push again. And time just flies. I pushed for 2.5 hours, but for the most part it seemed like nothing. Once my baby was born and I could think about time again, I could have sworn it was 15 minutes.

At first I pushed on my side, but my legs were getting tired and my hip started to hurt during contractions (I have bursitis in my hips, and one or both hip joints hurt in certain positions), so we tried a few different things. I intended to squat, but the pain in my hip was only eclipsed by the pain of the contraction at the very peak of it, so that was out. For a while, I was on my hands and knees, and that worked for me. A few things I remember:

My doula was on one side and my husband on the other. During contractions, each of them took a hand and I pulled on their hands like I was in an abdominal machine at the gym. The next day, we were all going to be sore.

I felt a stretchy pain right by my clitoris. Throughout labor, that was the only tearing I felt, and I think that was pretty much the least of it. I don’t know why I felt it there and not all the way around, but I’m not complaining. I also don’t know if I felt that because I was facing down, but it didn’t go away right away when I was back on my back.

They encouraged me to touch the top of the baby’s head. I didn’t want to, fearing it would be weird and I’d freak out. (Some people, when getting a cavity filled at the dentist, put their tongue in the hole in their tooth; I very carefully do not.) But finally I did, and my husband says my whole body relaxed and it seemed that it gave me more strength. I remember deflating like a balloon for a moment. It probably looked like relief, and maybe that’s what I felt, but I don’t now remember feeling that way. It was incredible, and I think that was the moment that “baby!” became Real…but it was surreal too. One of those things you only experience a few times in a lifetime, so it doesn’t feel like it’s possible but there it is, happening all the same. To you.

After a while they wanted me to be on my back again so I could pull my knees up to help get the baby’s head past my pelvic bone. I do think it was during that part that it started to feel like I wasn’t getting anywhere, but it was only briefly. I learned later that they were afraid to up the pitocin because of my earlier fast contractions, though I think they did at some point.

The midwife also pressed on my perineum a few times during the pushing phase. Supposedly, this helps reduce tearing; I have no idea if that’s true or not but it’s worth a shot. It also, and this was much more important to me, gives you something to aim for as you’re pushing. I tended to get all tense (and purple, my husband says) in the face during a push, so they had to do a lot of encouraging to get me to push “down there”.

This was about when I became dimly aware that there were a LOT of people in the room. I didn’t care (which surprised me when I looked back on it), and I still don’t, but damn. They were all cheering for me, and it really helped, which does surprise me since I hate being the center of attention. They were probably mostly there because they were concerned about shoulder dystocia, where the baby’s shoulder gets stuck under the mother’s pelvic bone, which is very dangerous for the baby as they can suffocate if the umbilical cord is caught between the baby’s head and the birth canal.

That was because she wasn’t turned quite right, and they were all prepped for whatever they do in that case. But once her huge head got through, the rest of her rotated and followed in the same push. I remember looking down between my legs and seeing a lot of purple on the table and the midwife looking over at me in surprise. Then everyone descended, lol — the midwife picked up the baby and asked me, “on you?” and I cried “YES!” and they had me pull up my shirt and they laid her on my chest and rubbed her with white towels until she cried. K grabbed my husband’s finger on one side and was facing our doula on the other side, and our doula asked if he wanted to come around to the other side, but he said he’d have to let go of her first, and there was a lot of activity going on that I was dimly aware of, and she wasn’t crying anymore, but my husband was — and laughing too. I stared down at the top of her head, which was covered with the hair that we had seen on the past-due-date ultrasound. At some point my husband did come around to my right where the baby was facing, and apparently our doula took a couple of pictures which I can add to this post in a few minutes, and all the nurses did whatever they had to do, and I got stitched up (I tore very badly, which is unusual) and eventually I was put in a wheelchair and we all went down a floor to Maternity.

I suggest staying in the hospital as long as your insurance will cover. It is so nice to have the nurses there to take care of you and once you get out, then you have to take care of yourself and the baby and you have to call the hospital instead of just ringing a bell to get somebody in your room to answer your questions. I thought about leaving a day early but I’m glad I didn’t.

Oh, and one last piece of advice: ask for a stool softener as soon after the birth as you can. It takes a couple days to start working and you might need it, especially if you are anemic like me and have to take an iron supplement (which causes constipation). Bowel movements after birth, particularly if you tear a lot, can really suck. Eat lots of fiber and get some Metamucil just in case. I don’t want to scare you, but I really wish somebody had told me this beforehand. As I said above, my tearing was unusually bad, so 99.9% certainty you’ll have an easier time, but have the stuff on hand just in case, and take it until you know what to expect. It’s best to just have everything fall out.

Speaking of waste falling out, urinary incontinence is also common after childbirth. When you start to think you might have to pee at some point, get to the bathroom ASAP because you have to go a lot more than you feel like you do, and the muscles you use to hold it in are worn out. Holding in your pee and peeing anyway is a very strange feeling.

Back to less unpleasant topics: My labor was very short — less than 8 hours. They said my baby was probably pretty much ready to come out and labor would have started within the next day or two at the latest. This is one thing I did not mind at all about being induced 12 days late.

Pictures: http://nettabird.imgur.com/birth

Oh, and people say you’ll be overwhelmed with love and all that? I wasn’t overwhelmed. I was really too tired to feel much of anything at all. But within a short time I was definitely amazed with how much I loved her, and that feeling just keeps growing as she gets older.

A quick check-in

Missed the gym yesterday but my muscles were still kind of stiff so it was just as well. Weights this morning. I wanted to go back to bed, but it was my own damn fault I didn’t get to sleep until after midnight, so I made myself go to the gym.

I’ve determined that my squat form isn’t getting appreciably better and it’s probably good enough to add weight to the bar. So last time I added 10 pounds and this morning I did the bar, then 55, then 60, then 65, with 10 reps each. I think I can ramp it up fairly quickly and soon I’ll be doing more on squats than I do on bench (currently 85 with 6 or 7 reps in the morning).

On Saturday I went out in my Vibram FiveFingers (VFFs) for the first time, running. It was every bit as glorious as I remembered. I wanted to run longer, but I forced myself to turn around and go back home, and then to walk rather than do another running interval, because I knew I’d already used up my muscles and I didn’t want to repeat the being-unable-to-walk-properly-for-four-days thing that I did the last time I started running in these shoes. The next day I was stiff right away when I woke up, and Monday morning I was still stiff, but this morning I was good. Tomorrow the high will be 60 so I’ll do another interval set in the morning instead of going to the gym, and then I’ll take K to the park in the afternoon. We’ll try the swings and see how she likes that. I’m really looking forward to it.

So far, I have lost 5 pounds from my starting weight of 182. 1 pound was unconvincing — could have been milk or water weight. Going under 180 for the first time in a year was encouraging. 5 pounds, that’s fat loss right there. That’s calorie restriction paying off. That’s proof I really can lose weight; I’m not stuck with this fat forever. I can do this! And I can’t wait to see 175, then 170, and when I see 169.5 on the scale I am going to need to do something special.