Category Archives: Nursing

Accountability- September

Today is my last day of work for September, my last day of work in my first month back from maternity leave.

What have I accomplished?

  • I have written just shy of 8,000 words of the first draft of a chapter for the edited volume which Q. and I are editing. The chapter is meant to be no more than 10,000. I will be over this in the first draft, but I am not worrying about that at this point.
  • I have entered all of my evidence into my giant spreadsheet, which means I no longer have a million post-it notes in several books, left over from the reading I was able to do in the spring. I’ve also read a few more authors and have added their evidence too. I am not finished collecting evidence, but I’m far enough along with the project that my argument is clear and it makes sense to write at the same time as I read.
  • I have read and provided feedback on some of the other chapter drafts for the edited volume (although not as many as I feel I should have, since our co-editors aren’t doing their work and the lion’s share has landed squarely on Q’s shoulders).
  • I am 25% of the way through the fall semester of my class. I have taught the second half of this class before, but the first semester is new to me, so there is a lot of prep work. I am enjoying the teaching and my anxiety about teaching has largely dissipated now that I have a connection with the students. (I am a very good teacher but I always feel sick before teaching a class, especially in the first couple of weeks. I think it’s a form of performance anxiety. I’m so introverted that even though I genuinely love teaching I have to consciously prepare myself to do it.)
  • I have managed a daily (almost) writing practice on work days. Four days a week, I sit down first thing in the morning with my laptop and write for ninety minutes (or two hours if it is going well). The morning is my most productive time by far and I have fiercely protected my writing time from teaching prep, marking, reading, email, life admin, etc. I have always been an academic writer who think and thinks and thinks and then writes and writes and writes. I wrote my dissertation by not writing for weeks or months at a time and then writing 1,000 words a day (or more) for a few weeks when it was time to produce another chapter. This wasn’t a form of procrastination- it was just how I operated. I thought about my ideas for so long that when it was time to write them up the first draft needed very little to be changed. It worked well with the dissertation, where probably 85% of the finished product is identical to what I first drafted, but it meant I hit a hard wall when it came time to think about making revisions for the book. Admittedly, with this current chapter, I have been thinking about it for months, but I can certainly see a difference in the way that I’m writing. My hope goal is that when I get the draft finished I will be able to just start tinkering with editing the book manuscript, since I will have established writing and rewriting as part of the daily routine. I love to write and hate to edit. I’m trying to change that as it’s become abundantly clear to me that I will never publish if I don’t.
  • I have found places I like to work, particularly a little room on the second floor of one of the smaller libraries of the university that is not mine (but at which I have borrowing privileges).
  • I have completed the first three weeks of the C25K running program (and started week four this morning). That is the most consistent running I have managed since I last completed the C25K program, right before our final FET in the fall of 2014. I have run three days a week every week for three weeks. That should make a habit.
  • I have read five books for fun and am well advanced on a sixth. That is the most books I have read in a month since December 2015.
  • I have mostly stayed on top of our life admin. I have figured out how to pay our nanny; booked a cottage holiday for Thanksgiving; ordered hot lunches for E. at school and signed both children up for activities (swimming lessons and an after school science class for E., music with her nanny for P.); read emails and (mostly) answered them; had my eyebrows waxed and my bangs/fringe trimmed; visited the dentist (twice in two weeks since I am someone who needs to go every three months and I hadn’t been in nine).
  • I went out for lunch with Q., the first of our monthly lunch dates that Q. packed into my tin lunch box on our tenth anniversary, even though we didn’t actually go to the restaurant he had planned as it was so unseasonably warm I insisted we find a patio. I went out for lunch on two other occasions with dear friends whom I never get to see often enough.
  • I ended my work day early once to go and sit in a cafe and drink tea and eat cake and read a book. It was so lovely I had to promise myself I would only do this once a month.

There are still things I am working on. I haven’t quite figured out the best way to use my time in the afternoons when I am tired from the writing and the reading and the deep work but it’s still too early to pack it in for the day. I haven’t solved the problem of how to get up from my desk frequently during the day, particularly since I have to bring my laptop, phone, and wallet with me wherever I go. My original plan was to walk over at lunch time from the small library to the big library, but it turns out I don’t like working in the big library all that much.

I do not feel like I am being a good mother, at least not to the standards to which I hold myself. I am not getting enough sleep because P. is up more than she should be at night and she gets so angry and sad when Q. goes in to try to settle her that it is just easier for me to go in instead and give her the cuddle and the milk that she wants. I am sure I would be better at managing this if I were home more during the day and did not feel as guilty. I am convinced she wakes up because she is missing that connection with me, but it is probably teeth or developmental or habit.

I am not as patient with E. as I would like to be, which is a constant battle made worse by the fact that I feel like I should have so much more patience for him since I now see him less. I have a lot of patience, but there are many days where it is not enough.

I do not always manage to have a real conversation with Q. rather than one about logistics and timings and schedules and house needs and kids needs. This morning I volunteered to take E. to school since I was going to be ready to go at about that time anyway, and then E. took a very long time to brush his teeth so I ended up bundling him out the door and forgot that I hadn’t said a proper goodbye to Q. or given him a kiss.

I still think Q. is doing too much of the housework, but every time I suggest an alternative he restates his position that he thinks it makes sense to just get it all done in one morning. He certainly is doing too much of the cooking, but I have to admit that the nights when I need to cook from scratch are frantic and stressful as it turns out there are very few meals you can cook from scratch with a toddler on your hip who is usually trying to nurse. My idea of “easy weeknight dinners” is not the same as Q.’s, so if he wants to do most of the prep on the weekends, I think I should just gracefully accept.

I am still not sure this is what I want, but I do like having the time and space to think about my research and I can see how difficult it would be to build momentum if I had any less time in which to do that. It’s also extremely difficult for me to rationalize taking any time for myself if I’m working less than four days a week, as I feel that if I’m not with the kids I need to be working, especially if Q. is at home with them.

I am still taking it one day at a time, but, on balance, I think this month has gone well.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Blink and you'll miss it, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Choose Happiness, Life after the PhD, My addled brain, Nursing, Sleep, Who am I really? (Career Angst), Writing

Not Ready

My first baby, who could have napped and nursed however he liked, quit nursing during the day at just over ten months and started trying to transition to one nap before his first birthday.

My second baby, at fourteen-and-a-half months, needs to nap twice a day. She still loves to nurse, not only before she naps, but throughout the day. She pats my chest or, if it’s more urgent, she lifts up my shirt or sticks her hand down the neckline. She nurses for anywhere from five seconds to fifteen minutes. If I’m sitting on the floor or in a chair she will often stand up on my thigh, making an inverted ‘v’ with her body, and wiggle her bum in the air. She uses her inside hand to grab my bra or shirt or stroke my free breast. Sometimes she reaches up with that arm and waves it around in the air. I call that “yoga nursing” because she looks like she’s doing the triangle pose.

She asks to nurse when I’m cooking dinner, and I hold her with one hand and stir with the other, with her wispy hair and her still-tiny ears curled in over my chest.

She asks to nurse on transit, in museums, while walking down the street, and, as much as I can, I say yes. I have mastered the art of nursing with her in the Ergo, something I never managed when she was younger. I have become an unintentional advocate for normalizing breastfeeding and know that my country supports my right to feed my baby wherever, whenever I choose. I have become almost immune to accidentally flashing strangers when she unexpectedly decides she’s had enough. The milky smiles make the potential embarrassment worthwhile.

She asks to nurse at night, and I still say yes, although if she wakes up too early in the night I send in Q. who tells her gently that it’s “sleepy time now. No milk. No milk. It’s sleepy time.” When she wakes to nurse closer to the dawn I sit in the rocking chair and hold her close and breathe her in. In those moments she is still, calm, content. I am still allowed to cuddle her, to smooth her one tiny curl and kiss her head

My nursing relationship with my son ended badly, much earlier than I had hoped it would.

And so, to my daughter, I say yes, as much as I can. Yes, I will hold you. Yes, I will cuddle you. Yes, you can nurse now.

She is my last baby, and I am in no hurry to wean.

She is my last baby, and my maternity leave is almost over.

She is my last baby, and so she does not get to have what she wants. She will have to nap only once, so her brother can be picked up from school. She will have to nurse less, because I will not be there.

She will adapt.

She will be fine.

I will be fine, too.

Going back to work is the right decision, on many levels.

But right now it doesn’t feel that way.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Anxiety Overload, Blink and you'll miss it, Nursing, P.- the second year

Microblog Mondays: 21st century parenting

On Friday, I had a stranger turn up, not unexpectedly, on my doorstep.

Why was he there?

Because he was one half of a gay couple who had just had a baby via surrogate, and I had 150 oz of breast milk in my chest freezer that P would never be able to drink as I pumped it before I realized she had MSPI and cut dairy and soy out of my diet.

The other father had posted a message looking for potential milk donations on a Fakebook page dedicated to facilitating the sharing of breast milk. I’d seen the message and responded and, about eighteen hours later, there we were.

I sent him off with the milk and a box of 0-3 and 3-6 month clothes that P had long outgrown but were too seasonally inappropriate for my nephew, Spud.

We were both thrilled. I didn’t have to pour that milk (the product of pumping sessions at 3 or 4 a.m. back when P. was sleeping so well as a newborn I had to protect my supply) down the drain, and he had a few days of free food for his baby plus clothes for the warmer weather (when it comes).

We’ll probably never meet again.

But that brief encounter reminded me, amidst all the doom and gloom, that many of us, most of us (I hope), just want to do what we can to help each other out.

Do you have a good news story for the week? I want to hear it!

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under Microblog Mondays, Nursing, Soapbox

On sleep, work, the baby, and balance (or haven’t I been here before?)

I find myself reminded on a daily basis that sleep deprivation is a form of torture.

I am functioning, but only just. It isn’t even that P’s sleep is all that dreadful, more that she’s up twice every night so the sleep I do get is always fragmented into three blocks, compounded by her for the last week or so getting up for the day before 6 a.m.

Every morning I find the last line from Samuel Beckett’s novel, The Unnamable rolling round and round in my head (“I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”)

I can remember being in a very similar stage at a very similar point during E’s infancy (I wrote about it here). The situation wasn’t identical, of course, but it was eerily familiar: I had a baby who was waking up to nurse twice a night, guaranteeing I couldn’t get a block of sleep longer than four hours, and I had a looming academic deadline. In E’s infancy it was the first chapter of my dissertation. This time around it’s the first draft of the book chapter for an edited volume.

We’re running a workshop for the volume in mid-July and all contributors are meant to have the first draft of their chapter available for circulation by the end of May. Given I’m one of the editors (and Q. is another- the book project is really his baby), there wouldn’t be serious consequences were I to miss that deadline. But that’s certainly not ideal.

When we first organized the workshop and mapped out the deadlines, I can remember thinking (this was before P. was born), “No problem. I’ll start reading and collecting sources in March and then I can write the chapter in May.”

I didn’t seriously believe, you see, that I could end up with TWO babies who would get up twice a night to nurse in the second half of their first year. Surely, I thought, by the time P was eight or nine months old she’d be sleeping better than E was. And then she was such a good sleeper for her first two months that she lulled me into thinking she’d be an easy baby.

Ha.

So here I am, with an academic deadline and a brain that feels like mush, and what really gets me is the whole thing is just so.damn.familiar.

Last time around, when I was assessing the impact of my long-term sleep deprivation, I noticed this:

I’m breaking things.

In the last month, I’ve smashed at least four things in the kitchen- a glass, a port glass, a plate, a bowl. I don’t think I’d broken four things, total, in the previous ten years. They were dumb accidents too- I’d reach for something on the counter and knock something else over instead, or I’d pick something up and drop it on something else. They were dumb enough that each time I remember standing there amidst the shards of glass or pottery, thinking, Really? I just did that?

Yep. I’ve started dropping things or being unable to properly hold them when I go to pick them up. It’s like I’m losing my hand-eye coordination.

And there was this:

I forget things.

I forget everything now, if it isn’t written down, and half the time I still forget it even if it is recorded somewhere. Given I’ve always been the memory of this family (Q. being a very clever man but a very absent-minded professor), this is quite disturbing. It makes me feel weak.

Yep. I forget appointments, plans, ideas, even words. A normal conversation in our house now looks like this:

Q. (wrestling with tangled cables): “We should set up a charging station for the mobile phones.”
Me: “Yes! I want to get one of those…things.” *gestures helplessly* “You know! The things with all the things that you can plug in.”
Q.: “A power bar.”
Me: “Yes! Fuck. I want a power bar for my desk downstairs so I can have a charging station for the iPad and my phone and my laptop.”

I have these kinds of conversations with E. all the time. My FIVE YEAR OLD fills in my vocabulary gap when I can’t remember challenging words like “gate”, “streetcar”, or “upstairs” (these are all real examples).

I invited some of E’s friends and their parents to come on a nature walk with us a couple of weekends ago and got the start time wrong. Luckily it was a beautiful day and the family who came didn’t mind being there thirty minutes early, but still.

I had to take P’s passport application in twice because the first time I went to submit it the nice lady behind the desk had to tell me that not only had I forgotten to sign it (which was easily rectified right there in the office), but I had neglected to get Q. to sign it as well (which was not).

I cannot emphasize enough how NOT LIKE ME these types of things are.

My sense of my innermost self is built on a foundation of BEING ORGANIZED.

I am the one who is always on time for everything. Always. Even with two kids.

I remember appointments.

I fill out forms correctly.

If Q. is the absent-minded professor in our family, I am the steel trap memory.

I know the sleep deprivation is temporary- E has taught me that much.

But its effect is enormously difficult for me to cope with, not just because it makes me bleary and fuzzy and short-tempered each day, not just because it means I cannot imagine how I am going to maintain the needed focus to do the research for this book chapter, let alone actually write the thing, but because it fundamentally erodes a not insignificant part of who I believe myself to be.

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Filed under Life after the PhD, My addled brain, Nursing, P.- the first year, Sleep, Writing

Microblog Mondays: Can’t Pump- Trump

Microblog_MondaysI have a routine going where I pump in the mornings after P. has gone down for her first nap. I don’t have any set plans for this milk, but I like knowing that I’ve cleared out anything leftover from the night. In retrospect it’s become clear to me that I should have seen E’s day weaning coming because he’d been skipping and/or shortening feeds for well over a month before the strike happened- my supply would have been gradually dwindling as a result. So now I pump every morning (and more frequently during the day if P. skips any feeds) and I feel confident I’m protecting my supply.

The pumping counts as “me time” in that I don’t have any children requiring my attention and I’m forced to sit down so I can’t be doing anything around the house. I try to make sure I have a cup of tea and a snack and usually I read blogs or the newspaper on my phone.

What I’ve been noticing is that on days when I read the newspaper or a bunch of political blog posts, my milk dries up. The mere act of reading about what is happening in the U.S.A. is enough to shut my body down.

It’s a minor frustration, but, as that is usually the only quiet point in my day when I can read such things, giving them up is hard.

Has the political uncertainty crept into your life in ways you weren’t expecting?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

 

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Microblog Mondays, Nursing

You wouldn’t think eating would be this complicated

I feel like January has entirely revolved around food. It’s gone like this:

  1. P. started to get interested in actually consuming food rather than just holding it in her hand and licking it. Upon starting to eat she almost immediately cut back on how much she was nursing.
  2. As a result of P’s fussy nursing, my supply dropped. This meant P. got frustrated and started having to wait for a letdown, which led to lots of pulling at the breast and a super-cranky baby.
  3. I finally realized what was happening, cut solids out entirely for a few days, and started pumping whenever I could.
  4. My supply came back but I now had a mental block about nursing because I was so worried that P. was going to do what E. did and try to self-wean. We’d have the same problem with switching to formula- her MSPI would limit our options. I didn’t think I could face pumping for five months. Also I really really really was not ready to stop breastfeeding.
  5. My mental block got so bad it started to hinder my letdown, which meant that P. would get fussy and impatient, which would make me more nervous and worried, which would hinder the letdown even further, and so on. I started to feel like I was having an anxiety attack every time I could feel a letdown beginning and the adrenaline would trap the milk in my breasts. P’s only good feeds for a few days were before her naps and in the middle of the night- any other time I offered she’d get frustrated waiting and waiting for the letdown.
  6. I solved the mental block by playing on my phone when P was nursing- writing out a message with one hand occupied my brain enough to let my body do what it needed to do. A letdown is a conditioned reflex and I was eventually able to recondition the reflex so that it became easy again.
  7. In the meantime, we reintroduced solids and discovered that BLW was NOT going to work for P. After one too many rounds of “choke until you vomit and then cry and want nothing more to do with food”, we decided to stick with spoon feeding for now (or finger foods that dissolve easily like those Mum Mum things which we never bothered buying with E).
  8. P was back to nursing at least 8 times in 24 hours. I was able to put my phone away and just go back to cuddling. She was really enjoying solids and was starting to eat quite a lot. Other than not being able to figure out when I was supposed to get anything done outside the house (as our days were a sea of drop off, nurse, nap, nurse, eat food, nurse, nap, pick up), I felt like things were going smoothly.
  9. Two days after thinking that, P got super constipated (again, something we never encountered with E.).

And that’s where we’re at. I’m pumping during her first nap every morning to get some milk for her cereal (oatmeal, not rice, so it shouldn’t be contributing to the constipation). And today we’ll be going out to buy pureed pears and prunes to try to sort out her poor tummy as she’s obviously uncomfortable.

This too shall pass.

But it’s been a real pain while it’s been happening.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Food, MSPI, Nursing, P.- the first year

Apples and Oranges

On Monday I had my biweekly phone check in with my counsellor. I haven’t seen her in person since before P. was born, but I’m hoping to get there once E. is back in school. It’s just been too much to wrangle both kids. We talked through what was going on generally (short answer: family still in crisis on a truly unbelievable level) and how the course was going (almost done but I am marking exams at 4:30 a.m. after P. feeds because that’s the only time I have) and how I was feeling (exhausted and numb) and then she asked if I had specific anxieties about P.

And I had to admit- I have not been able to let go of the worry I feel about P.’s weight gain.

No one else thinks there is a problem. The midwives said her weight was fine. The paediatrician reported her “perfect” when I brought her in for her first round of vaccinations. P. has been consistently gaining about 0.75 oz per day, so 45 grams. The minimum is 0.5 oz, or 30 grams, so you can say “she’s only gaining a quarter of an ounce above the minimum”, which doesn’t sound all that great, or you can say “she’s gaining fifty percent more than the minimum”, which sounds like a lot. I try to make the voice in my head say the second one rather than the first.

“So you’re worrying about a problem when there is no problem,” my counsellor said.

Yes. Yes I am.

We talked about whether I was punishing myself because P. has been a somewhat easier baby than E. was (although I really would not classify her as ‘easy’), or whether I was just fixating on one thing to worry about (with E. it was sleep).

Ultimately I realized two things. The first is that part of this fretting over her weight gain is displacement anxiety. It’s the spill over from all the stress and grief and worry I have about the rest of my family. I’ve crammed it into a box and I’ve tried so hard to keep that box shut so I can keep functioning, but it’s creeping out and this is how it’s manifesting.

“What would you do if her weight gain wasn’t ok?” my counsellor asked.

“I’d work to increase my supply,” I said. “I’d probably try to pump after every feed. Maybe I’d take the herbal supplements again. And I’d cut out dairy just to see if that was causing any issues.”

“So you’d have a concrete plan for something you could do to fix the problem.”

I can’t fix the other problems in my life. I can’t heal my father’s spine or fix my stepmother’s hip or cure my stepfather’s terminal cancer or ease the burden my mother and sisters and stepsister have shouldered as they sit with my stepfather while he dies.

But I could probably fix a low weight gain if I just needed to make more breastmilk.

“Maybe you’re making this into a problem because you know it’s a problem you can control and you can’t control the other worries,” said my counsellor.

She is so right, of course.

We talked about the problems I have with projecting. My big worry with P. is that if she does the same dramatic drop down the percentiles that E. did at six months (he had been in the 75th to the 90th percentile for weight and then ultimately slid down into the 20th and stayed there), she won’t have as far to go because she hasn’t had the strong early weight gain (she is a full two pounds lighter than E. was although exactly the same length).

My counsellor asked how I still remembered all these details with E.

“I kept a really detailed journal.” (I didn’t mention the blog.)

“Maybe you should put the journal away for now. Maybe acknowledge it as a historical document and a memory of E.’s infancy, but don’t look at it to compare.”

And then it hit me.

E’s journal is my parenting manual this time around.

When E. was a baby, I read (what felt like) every single parenting book out there. Books on sleep (SO many books on sleep). Books on food. Books on child development.

I’m an academic and I was trying to approach parenting like I would any other thorny issue- read my way into the subject.

I wanted the manual.

I wanted the explanation.

I wanted the key to E.’s behaviour.

And no matter how many times Q. said to me: “Babies do crazy things!” or “E. hasn’t read the books!”, I still struggled with adapting and adjusting to E. because he didn’t do what the books said he ‘should’ be doing.

I thought I had learned better. This time around, I’ve felt so smug about how I haven’t read any parenting books at all. I gave all the ones I owned away before getting pregnant with P. and I haven’t replaced them. I haven’t taken any out from the library. I’ve been resolved to just follow my baby and roll with the punches.

I thought I was doing this.

But I’m actually parenting exactly the same way I did with E., except this time my model isn’t some generic baby in a book but one very specific baby- my son.

This means when P. does something that’s similar to what E. did (like napping only in carriers) I don’t worry about it. I thought it was because I’d accepted that babies do crazy things but I think now it’s because E. did that exact same crazy thing and then stopped doing it, so I know P. will stop doing it eventually too.

Likewise, if P. does something that’s different from E., but not in any worrying way (such as always wanting to be held looking outwards or rolling over almost a full month earlier), I’m fine (if a bit apprehensive about what this will mean for us when P. is a toddler).

But when I feel P. isn’t measuring up to E., that’s when I worry. And I’m worrying because, once again, my baby is not fitting the model I’m using.

I changed the model but not my mode of thinking.

I know it is so common for parents to compare their children and it is so hard not to do it. And this blog is full of detailed reminders of exactly what E. did when.

My daughter, however, deserves to be seen as her own person, not in terms of “her big brother did that” or “her big brother never did that”.

It’s not her fault she was born second.

So I’m going to try to put down the journal and to stay away from the archives on this blog.

I’m going to try to see her just as her own perfect self.

She deserves nothing less.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Baby Olympics, Nursing, P.- the first year