Saturday, May 31, 2008

Win Some, Lose Some

Good news: The Ameda breast pump I rented (thanks again, Mom) is working very well. I've gotten 1 ounce per session, and the time to get 1 ounce has gotten shorter and shorter. I am very pleased.

I've even managed to get this trick working for me (next step - pumping while surfing the web). And the picture below works really well for conditioning my letdown reflex :-)

Bad news: I don't actually know if I can use the milk I've pumped, what with the thrush outbreak. (Though if I understand this site correctly, as long as Gwen and I are still being treated, she should be okay to receive the 'infected' milk.) I've been symptom-free since yesterday, but even so, I don't want to risk re-infecting. I've left a message with Lillian for guidance.

Good news: Chris is home today (Oh, how I love weekends) and he’s been handling Gwen pretty much all morning.

Bad news: Gwen has needed a lot of handling, because she is quite miserable today. Poor little thing. When will she learn to speak English so she can tell us what's wrong?

Good news: Being Gwen-free this morning, I decided to do something utterly spontaneous and unheard of for many weeks: make fresh bread in the breadmaker.

Bad news: The little piece that goes in the bottom of the breadmaker and kneads the dough? Missing in action. I can’t even imagine where it might have been put by God-knows-who and when, because it’s been a long time since I used the breadmaker and there have been a lot of people in and out
of our house since then.
Good news: I decided to make cookies instead, with the yummy frozen cookie dough I bought from my sister.
Bad news: I burned the cookies. I should have just eaten the dough. Doh.

Friday, May 30, 2008


I have three nursing bras and two nursing tank tops. Of all my hundreds of dollars worth of nursing gear, the nursing tank I bought from Bravado is my favourite. Since none of these pieces can be dried in the dryer, and since there was a strange laundry mishap yesterday, I lived without this beloved shirt from Monday until today, when it was finally dry and I got to put it back on. Ten minutes later, there was a diaper breach and a poo-tastrophe all over my favourite nursing tank. And the laundry for the day was already halfway through the cycle, so Lord knows when I'll get to wear it again.

And I didn't even get to wear the thing long enough to nurse in it.

Oh well, you've got to laugh ... right??


Gwen weighed 9 lbs 5 oz at yesterday's appointment. That's a gain of 3 ounces in two days. Go, girl!


Speaking of laughing, Lillian said that around the four-or-five-week mark is when she likes to discuss birth control with the new mom. Birth Control ... that's something to do with sex, isn't it? Ah yes, I vaguely remember it... Haaaa.


I just finished doing a sleep log as advised by The No-Cry Sleep Solution. It turns out Gwen is getting too little sleep during the day - she should be having 3 naps totalling 6-7 hours and she only gets 2 naps (if I'm lucky!) totalling 4 hours. Also, here's how our nighttime looks:

8:30p asleep
10:15p awake, nursing
11:00p asleep in bed together
1:35a awake, nursing
2:00a done nursing
3:50a awake, nursing
3:57a done nursing
5:30a awake, nursing
5:45a done nursing
7:00a awake for the day
Asleep time: 9 hours
Number of awakenings: 4
Longest Sleep span: 2 hrs 35 min

And you know what? Compared to some nights, that one was not actually that bad. Scary!


By the way, I learned from reading that book that at this age, "sleeping through the night" means sleeping 5 hours in a row. Which probably isn't what most people think of as "sleeping through the night," but it still sounds pretty freakin' heavenly at this point. And what kills me is, Gwen used to sleep for that long at a stretch. And she would often sleep for two four-hour stretches. Know why she doesn't anymore? Because we trained her out of it. How the hell do I fix that?


Chris finally built me a clothesline! I am teh happy. Today is the third time I have used it. The first time I used it, I got home in the midst of a rainstorm and took all the clothes off the line. The second time I used it, it started hailing and I was nursing and couldn't even do anything about it for half an hour. (What the fuck, May?) I can't help but notice that the sunshine has become much less bright since I dared to put clothes out on the line for a third time this morning, but I am still hopeful. Or stupidly stubborn. Or both.


Both yesterday and the day before, I went out alone with my baby. Yesterday was particularly great as I went downtown, took the sleeping Gwen out of her carseat and put her in the sling without waking her up, then wandered around downtown doing errands and enjoying the weather. I felt completely competent and ready to handle anything, with my sling on one shoulder and my diaper bag/purse on the other (isn't it weird how the right equipment makes or breaks your mood?). It's a far cry from the first few days after her birth when I was too afraid to carry her down the stairs for fear I'd fall and drop her.


I am now the happy renter of an Ameda Egnell pump, which my incredibly awesome mother offered to pay for since I still haven't seen a penny from EI. I'm renting instead of buying right now for that reason, not because I am worried about my supply. When the damn cheque finally shows up (seriously! I applied 6 weeks ago! How is this acceptable? If I was single I would have been kicked out of my home by now, not to mention the impossibility of buying groceries and diapers!) I'll be buying the Medela Swing. The goal, as I said, is nothing to do with supply and everything to do with being somewhat desperate for a break. I have a mother in law who is chomping at the bit to spend some time with her granddaughter, and I'm too anxious to leave her even for a half an hour because I just can't predict when she's going to want to eat. If I can pump a couple of times a day, even enough to get a bottle or two a week, I'll be very very happy.

Ironically, I can't find any time to pump as I have a baby on me for 24 hours a day. Which is the reason I need a break to begin with. Hahhhh.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Things I love about being Gwen's mommy:

1. You know how in cartoons, when a character wakes up and does this incredibly exaggerated s-t-r-e-t-c-h? I always thought it was such an affectation, that no one actually does that when they wake up. However, Gwen does. With this adorable little sleepy/grumpy look on her face. It's completely delicious.

2. Just this week, Gwen is starting to smile in recognition of us, not just as a reflex. It's not constant, but when it happens it lights up the room.

3. When nursing, Gwen doesn't feel it's necessary to stop eating, change positions, and obtain back-patting assistance to burp. She doesn't even unlatch, just burps out of the side of her mouth and keeps on chugging. No time to waste, here, people. Hilarious!

4. At nearly five weeks old, Gwen still has all the beautiful downy lanugo she was born with. It's the softest substance you've ever felt in your life, and combined with her baby skin it feels like velvet. In addition, stroking the long hair at the back of her neck releases powerful endorphins that help you feel all is right with the world.

5. Gwen is a very warm baby. Unless we are going out somewhere, I usually don't even put clothes on her, now that the weather is nice. A diaper and a swaddling blanket suit her just fine. She's so warm that after a good nursing session, the side of her body that was cupped in my arm is covered in sweat, and her hair is wet and curly from it.

6. Once, she got spit up in her eye. In her eye! How the heck did that happen?

7. I am getting better at putting her in and taking her out of the sling, and have decided that it is, as advised by Rhea, way better for taking her out on errands/shopping etc. than the carseat/stroller combo. It can be tricky to get her in, but once she's in she usually settles quickly and often falls asleep. I have even managed to nurse her in the sling once, which if I could master would change my whole life.

8. Most of the time when I nurse her, Gwen is swaddled up and mostly immobile. But sometimes circumstances conspire and she is unswaddled and naked (see #5). When this happens, when I hold her skin to skin against my body, it transports me back to the moment we first met, when I first held her warm, slippery, naked and perfect little body against mine. It's like revisiting the night you first fell in love with someone.

9. When Gwen is trying to find my nipple and latch on, sometimes she gets frustrated or upset and begins to weep piteously. It's impossible to take this seriously, because not only do I know with all the certainty she lacks that the food source is still right there, but it's the most overblown and emo sound you've ever heard, and is thus hilarious.

10. We went to a choir barbecue on Saturday, and the choir sang "Welsh Lullaby" and dedicated it to Gwen. She was nursing at the time and for the duration of that song, she froze in rapt attention and just took it all in.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Breastfeeding Update

Yes, just like Amber, I know you are all dying to know about the status of my boobs. (Rachael, take note: after the baby is born, all attention shifts from your belly status to your boob status.)

So. Thing #1 is, thrush. So far only evident on Gwen's bottom (what we thought was just a bad diaper rash). Her bum, her mouth, and my nipples are all being treated. Yesterday/last night was a complete gong show. She didn't sleep, I didn't sleep, by 5am I felt like my nipples had been chewed on by rodents and I couldn't. Nurse her. AGAIN. So I, you know, didn't. Instead I broke out the formula, in a bottle no less, and went back to sleep. When we got up to her screaming again 2 hours later, we discovered how bad the diaper rash had gotten, called Lillian, and she came over and diagnosed thrush. Hence the tender nipples. Sigh.

Thing #2 is, my appointment with the health unit today. The nurse (Norma) thinks based on a thorough description of my left-side pain that I might have an infection from the time, shortly after Gwen's birth, when my nipple was cracked and bleeding. She recommended a "triple treatment" of antibiotic, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory, as discussed by Dr. Jack Newman here. (I was also pleased to see the nurse pull up during our discussion, as it's a site I've been visiting lately. The public health nurses use the same websites as I do! They must be good.)

Thing #3 is, breast pumps. I brought my manual pump to the health unit to get some assistance with it, and the nurse was really shocked that it wasn't working any better than it was. She let me try out an electric pump to eliminate the possibility that I'm just one of those women for whom pumps do not work. That possibility has now been eliminated and I am seriously considering the purchase of an electric pump. The one I tried at the office is an Ameda Egnell, which worked like a hot damn but is probably quite a lot of overkill for what I need. She suggested the Medela Swing which is $200 at Babies R Us.

(So, those of you who know stuff about breast pumps - Amber and Mouse, I'm looking at you - please let me know what you've heard or experienced with different brands of pump and what you might recommend.)

Conclusion: I'm feeling way more positive today, weirdly. Yes, I'm frustrated that we seem to be working our way through the list of all the shit that can go wrong with breastfeeding (and look! I forgot to even list infections of the breast tissue!), but for some reason I view diagnoses of actual problems in a way more positive light than I would a reaction of "Well, breastfeeding hurts, what can I tell ya," accompanied by shrugged shoulders. The bottom line is, if I do the umpteen things I need to do in order to treat the thrush and/or infection, it will get better. That gives me hope.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative

First of all, let me state straight off that I am not one to paint motherhood (or parenthood for that matter) in rosy hues framed by flowery bouquets and perfumed by the breath of tiny angels. I have always believed that parenting is hard work, and while some of it is greatly rewarding, I think most of those rewards come long after the initial investment of time and energy. I think society frowns upon the frank admittance that mothering is (a) difficult, (b) non-instinctive, and (c) less than completely fulfilling, but I believe all these things.

And I make this promise right now to all my friends and readers - you have full and complete permission to grumble, bitch, whine, moan, complain, carp and cry to me anytime about parenthood. And I will not expect said complaint to be followed by the disclaimer, "Oh, but of course it's all worth it." (That much is understood.)

So, now that I've created my own little safe place here, let me talk about positives and negatives.

This blog is currently filled with a lot of negatives. There are really only four things I do that classify as interactions with my daughter, right now: breastfeeding is far and away the largest of these, and I find it difficult and sometimes downright painful. After that comes soothing her, which is also by its nature a challenging task. Then there is hygiene - diapering and bathing - both of which she hates. Finally, there are the scant moments in which she is awake, alert, and not particularly in need of anything. These are the moments in which she focusses on my face, perhaps mimics my expressions, responds ever so slightly to my voice.

Put like that, it's no wonder all I do is complain. But there's more to it than that.

Back in the early days of motherhood, I got well and truly schooled on the power of positive thinking. To be specific, I learned that it had the power to kick my ass. Because every time I expressed gratitude for something positive, whatever it was I was grateful for got taken away.

"Thank God no one else got that stupid awful virus," I said, and the next day both Sally and Chris got sick.

"Thank God Gwen is healthy," I said, and then she started losing weight.

"Thank God she sleeps well," I said, and then Lillian told me I had to start waking her up to eat.

Deep in the worst of the sleep deprivation, I became convinced that my gratitude was getting me into trouble, and I stopped expressing it. Stopped talking about the things I found positive in my day. Stopped even noticing or thinking about positive things, for fear they'd be destroyed. It's practically an unwritten rule of mommyblogging that the minute you braggingly blog "my kid has slept through the night for x months", your kid will immediately stop sleeping through the night. It made sense that I should stop talking about the enormous triumphs of my day.

Unfortunately, that has led me to this place, where I'm entering the second month of motherhood and all I see are the challenges. And it makes me sad to think that I might look back on this journal in years to come and see only the negative side of the picture, only the difficulties and frustrations, none of the beauty that takes my breath away. I've got to change my perspective, and while I have no doubt that it will be hard to do, it will all be worth it.

Gah. Help me. I'm choking on my own platitudes.

Amusing Horoscope

I have another post in mind I'd like to write, about focussing on the positive and why I haven't been doing that. Maybe I'll get to write it later. In the meantime, though, I've had a really rough day with Gwen as she didn't go down for her nap until 2:30pm instead of 10am as is her usual habit. And today's horoscope, which just happened to pop up on my Google, says:

Work may be complicated by schedule changes or unclear direction from your boss. Or, perhaps, you simply feel unappreciated and underpaid. But just because things may not be running as smoothly as you wish, don't assume that everything is falling apart. If you can shift your thinking to see the potential instead of the problems, you will be able to turn a tough period into a productive one.

Word to your ever-lovin' mother.

PS: I really wanted someone to note down my Google horoscope on Gwen's birth date, because I'd read it that morning and it said something to the effect of "if you just relax and go with what's happening, you can accomplish more than you ever thought possible." Awesome! But no one had time to do it, because I was quite a demanding labouring woman.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

More on Pumping

Wow everyone, thanks for all your encouraging comments about breastfeeding and pumping. Yesterday I spent most of the day on the computer (even while nursing - that was awesome!) researching and learning more about other women's experiences - this thread in particular at one of my favourite blogs was a real treat to find.

Here are some of my favourite tips from that thread, gathered here for my later perusal and for the education of anyone else who finds herself in a similar boat.

Before pumping:
- Warm compresses for 15 minutes beforehand (hot water bottle? Magic bag?)
- Lube up nipple with lanolin or olive oil to get good suction

During Pumping:
- Develop a letdown cue (ALWAYS look at picture of baby, listen to certain music, whatever) to take advantage of operant conditioning. Many women suggest a sound recording of baby crying. I would think a picture/video/sound clip of an unhappy baby would be more effective than a happy one, as that's the cue that lets Mom know she's needed.
- Distract yourself: read or watch TV. A watched pot never boils, a watched collection bottle never fills!
- Eat oatmeal while pumping or at other times
- Practice deep breathing

Daily Habits:
- Eat protein-rich foods (peanut butter?)
- Sleep helps increase milk (how ironic)
- Drink 2L+ of water per day for supply
- Lecithin supplements (2000 mg) good for preventing blocked ducts

There were a lot of conflicting figures on how much you could expect a pumping session to yield, and how long it might take. states that baby’s daily intake = about 25 ounces, and offers a handy calculator for figuring out how much baby is taking in per feed based on how often you are nursing. At this point, I figure Gwen's feedings are about 2-3.5 ounces.

Kellymom advises that "You may need to pump 2-3 times to get enough milk for one feeding".

On the other hand, the instruction booklet with my pump (a manual Avent Isis) suggests that pumping for 10 minutes should yield 20 oz.

Some recommended techniques:
Power pumping. Pump for 10 mins, stop for 10 mins, pump for 10 mins, repeatedly, for an hour or two. You can try this at the same time each day for three days in a row, or, if you really want to boost supply, you can do this on and off over an entire two or three days. It can take up to a week for the increase to show up.

Frequency day. Throw in a *frequency day* where you pump once every hour or hour and a half the whole day. A couple of days later you'll have more milk.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Reading List (Archive)

Since the pregnancy, labour, and birth part of my life is behind me now, I decided to change my reading list to include more current (parenting-related) topics. Here's the previous list of books I adored.

Baby Catcher - a book written by a modern midwife with many tales of her experiences in midwifery. A personal and touching look at the other side of birth.
Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn - fantastic reference. Written by a doula and two Registered Nurses.
The Birth House - fictional account of how the medical establishment changed birthing practices in a small Nova Scotia fishing village in the early 20th century.
The Birth That's Right for You - A good starting point to get you thinking about different birthing alternatives and how you might function in different scenarios.
The Doula Advantage: Your Complete Guide to Having an Empowered and Positive Birth Experience with the Help of a Professional Childbirth Assistant - If you have never heard of doulas or are not sure what they're all about, read this. Very accessible with tons of valuable information and statistics about how doulas improve birth outcomes.
The Midwifery Option: A Canadian Guide to the Birth Experience - Terrific guide to what midwives are and are not. There's a lot of misinformation about midwifery; this book will set you straight.
The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth - Indispensable guide to what interventions may be recommended: what they are, how they affect you and your baby, alternatives, and so on.
Birthing From Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation - an excellent resource for facing and accepting your fears and reclaiming the spiritual, emotional, and psychological aspects of birth.
The Birth Partner - The definitive guide for anyone who wants to help a woman through labour and childbirth. Includes information about pain management, tests for the newborn, postpartum period, and more.

Breastfeeding Fears

After four weeks, I am ready to come clean with my current views on breastfeeding.

Dudes, breastfeeding is really intimidating.

I am really hoping that I don't scare off the moms-to-be reading this, because after all, millions of mothers worldwide breastfeed successfully. But I find it scary as hell.

Take a look at the list of things that can go wrong with breastfeeding:
Bleb (I had one of these last weekend, holy hell did it hurt)
Cracked or Sore or Bleeding Nipples
Blocked Ducts

Slightly intimidating, wouldn't you say? Whereas, the problems with formula feeding are as follows:
Expense ($75-$200/month)

*While breastmilk is always there and always the right temperature, the flip side is that Dad or Grandma can give a bottle while I have a damn rest (or get a massage, or whatever), so the convenience issue is kind of a tie.

Now, before you all jump in to tell me the benefits of breastfeeding, don't worry: I know. But ultimately, most of those benefits are for the child. And most of the sacrifices made for those benefits are made by me. And while I'm not completely ready to throw in the towel just yet, I am needing a bit more encouragement, assistance, and motivation than I expected, because I am finding breastfeeding to be a lot more difficult than I thought I would.

Let me count the ways:
Day 1-3: painful bleeding nipples due to bad latch, lack of milk
Day 3-4: milk comes in, I get norovirus
Day 4-6: Gwen gets norovirus, loses interest in nursing, my supply dwindles
Day 7: Gwen losing weight, scheduled feedings imposed
Day 8: Taking herbs to increase milk supply; constant tears (mine) because of feeling inadequate
Day 9: Gwen still losing weight, started domperidone and Supplemental Nursing System (formula)
Day 10: Difficulty latching on left side (unsure when this started, but I remember remarking on it as far back as Day 10)
Day 11-24: Gwen slowly gaining weight
Day 15: Left side increasingly sore
Day 22: Left side intolerably painful; bleb appears; trip to emergency room discussed
Day 24: Bleb resolves with help of warm compresses
Day 28: Gwen pronounced healthy and no longer in need of SNS
Day 29: Gwen 'bites' hard on left side, causing pain lasting 2-3 hours after nursing
Day 30: Left side still too tender to nurse

Looking at this synopsis, it's easy to feel hard done by. While our caregiver looks at Gwen's weight from the outside and declares her healthy, I look at the situation from the inside and feel nearly insane at the thought of doing this for another eleven months. Exactly when is it supposed to get easier? When am I supposed to get this warm rosy glow of love and bonding and mutual appreciation?

I know sleep deprivation is a factor in how I'm feeling right now, as is frustration and lack of quality time with my husband. And I do feel guilty for complaining about it, because I imagine the Great Wide Internet looking at me with raised eyebrows and saying, "Did you really think it was going to be easy?" No, no I didn't. I knew the first three months would suck. But I didn't expect breastfeeding to be as difficult and downright painful as it is, especially a month into it. And when my mom looks at me - my mom, who breastfed both my sister and I in an era when it really was not as supported as it is now - and says, "Well, breastfeeding's not for everybody," I am torn up inside, because part of me wants to be stubborn and determined and do everything to give Gwen the best I can offer, and part of me wants to latch on to this sentiment like a "get off the hook free" card and quit right now.

I think about what life would be like with Gwen on formula - a life where Chris could take the late night feedings (10pm and midnight) and I could take the early ones (3am and 6am) so we could each get a decent rest. A life where Grandma Karen, who has been begging since Day 1 to have some time alone with Gwen, could have just that as I went out for a massage or a manicure or just stayed home and had a bubble bath**. I fantasize about it the way I fantasized about getting an epidural when I was in labour. But like the epidural, I know I can't really do it. Not yet.

I have two things left to do. On Monday, I'm going to call the Health Unit and go to their Breastfeeding Help Centre. I'm going to ask them about a lactation consultant, as well, in case I need more help (or, as seems to often be the case, I need help on the evenings or weekends).

And then, I'm going to resort to my old standby of motivating myself with money. If formula costs $75-$200 a month, my pain and suffering is saving our family that much money. Furthermore, if we found out that breastfeeding was actually impossible and we had to buy formula, we'd find the money somehow. Therefore, I figure I should be entitled to a breastfeeding allowance of at least half the formula cost ($35-$100/month) just for me, for fun frivolous stuff, something to focus on when it feels like an angry rat is chewing on my tender nipples.

**This life would also be possible if I could pump enough milk to get a couple feedings' worth per day. I've tried pumping exactly twice: the first time I got three drops, the second time I got nothing. But I'm going to keep trying.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dear Gwen: Month One

Dear Gwen,

Did you know that on the first night of your life, neither your dad nor I got a single wink of sleep? It's true. Every time you made a noise, I was sure you were choking. Every time you were quiet, I was convinced you had stopped breathing. Eventually, we turned on the video monitor your grandpa Keith had bought us for Christmas - the video monitor I had totally mocked - and then we were able to watch you from our bed without sitting up and leaning over to check on you. Because, yeah, you were in the cradle RIGHT NEXT TO OUR BED. And we still had a monitor on you so that we could look at you every 30 seconds without sitting up.

We've gotten a little more relaxed since then. Nowadays, you make a noise and your dad and I look at each other and wait to see how serious you are. Then we play rock-paper-scissors to see who's going to deal with it.

From day one, you have had some interesting habits. You snort like a pig when you're hungry - I am hoping this is not because you have a deviated septum or something, but if you do, I'll totally nag your dad into getting you a nose job, because whatever other weird and geeky habits you may have inherited from us, you don't need to go through life with an unconscious snort. You sometimes have trouble latching on for breastfeeding, and when you do, you whimper like a beaten orphan. This should probably break my heart, but in fact it kind of makes me laugh, because you just sound so pathetic, and meanwhile I can see that the object of your desire is just millimetres away if you would just turn your silly head in the right direction.

Speaking of breastfeeding, we had some troubles with that in your second week of life. You got a very mild case of the Norwalk virus (a gift from the hospital where you were born) and it made you just lethargic enough not to be very interested in eating. In response, my milk supply dwindled. Your dad and I were congratulating each other on our wonderful sleepy baby who let us get two four-hour stretches a night, but meanwhile you were losing weight and becoming even less able to wake yourself up to eat. Once our midwife figured out what was going on, she put us on a strict schedule of feeding you every 2-3 hours, with only one 4-hour break. That was the most hellish week of motherhood so far (yes, worse even than my own bout with the Norwalk virus) - trying to wake you up at 3:30am to eat, when I was barely awake myself. We ended up having to supplement with formula for a while as well, but were lucky enough to score a Supplemental Nursing System so we could fingerfeed you instead of risking nipple confusion by giving you a bottle.

As of today, though, we are finished the formula as you have gained 4 ounces in 6 days and are now a whopping 9 pounds 2 ounces. The elimination of that crutch meant I was free to introduce the next one - a soother. So far, you are into it, though you do require a little assistance to keep it in your mouth.

As of yet, you have stalwartly refused to get into any kind of routine. I haven't tried very hard to encourage one, except for certain things I do to try and teach you that daytime is for being awake and nighttime is for being asleep. Other than that, you're in charge. I figure you'll settle into a routine when you're good and ready, though I kind of hope it's soon, because the unpredictability can be a little wearying.

Your dad would want me to write down that he really does think you're surprisingly advanced for your age. He began saying that on your second day of life, because you were in his arms and began rooting (your neck muscles are really strong) and then you turned your head towards me where I was sitting beside the two of you. I don't know if you heard my voice, or smelled my familiar scent, or maybe you just got lucky. But in any case, your dad thinks you are a genius child, and also really strong.

The two things in life you hate, so far, are baths and diaper changes. I can see what these two things have in common - you're naked, perhaps cold, you're not in someone's arms which is clearly your preferred position, and people are mucking about with you. I'm sorry to tell you that both of these things are necessary. I've learned that if I change your diaper after a feeding, instead of before, sometimes you are mellow enough not to scream at me. I haven't figured out what to do about baths yet.

I will say, though, that for a person who spends most of her time soiling herself with poop, pee, and spit-up, and takes a 45-second bath only once a week, you still smell surprisingly delicious. I would certainly not smell that good were I to follow your hygiene regimen.

Even bigger than the hygiene issue is, of course, the sleep issue. We are getting it figured out, slowly. Every evening we look at you, then exchange looks and wonder, what will tonight be like? We have good nights and bad nights - bad nights being the ones where your first night feeding lasts two hours, and then you decide to wake up every hour from then on. But somehow every morning is a fresh start, an opportunity to get it right, so we keep at it. I have recently discovered the joy of co-sleeping; the joy being that when you start snuffling to be fed, I just roll over and pop my nipple into your mouth and go back to sleep. Much nicer than getting up, picking you up out of your cradle, walking to the nursery, feeding you, and then putting the two of us back to bed. With co-sleeping feeds, neither you nor I really wake up all the way, so the interruptions are less jarring. The downside is that I don't feel comfortable sharing the bed with you and your dad, so he's been relegated to a cot nearby.

Another thing I should tell you, is that I'm not 100% sure I think of you as a separate person, just yet. For the first week or so of your life, I hardly ever referred to you by name. You were always "she" or "her" as in, "I just put her to sleep," or "She's going to be hungry soon". It wasn't conscious, but I think I didn't quite realize you were on the outside of me. I call you by your name often now, but I'm still not completely separated from you. That is bound to be a slow process.

I am completely and utterly in love with you, by the way, despite your tantrums and your frustrating behaviour (your latest habit is keeping your strong little arms as rigid as iron while you cry to be fed, so I can't manoeuver your face close enough for you to latch on). You make me smile and even laugh far more often than you make me sigh or roll my eyes. And even after the worst night, the morning dawns and it feels like a fresh start, a whole new chance to get to know one another and figure out how to be a family.


This month's firsts:
- First time meeting Grandpa Keith and Grandma Karen (April 26)
- First time meeting Grandpa Ron and Grannie Maureen (April 27)
- First time outside (April 30)
- First trip to the mall (May 2)
- First time alone with a sitter (May 9)
- First time out of the house with the baby for more than an hour (May 11)
- First time nursing in public (May 15)
- First ferry ride (May 18)
- First time meeting Auntie Sara and cousins Andrew and Scott (May 18)
- First time meeting Great Grandma and Great Grandpa (May 18)
- First night away from home (May 18)
- First baby shower (May 20)
- First time co-sleeping (May 20)
- First time at a restaurant (May 22)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Gwen's Birth Story - Part Three

Part Three – Gwen’s arrival
(Part One) (Part Two)

7:30pm - Sally said, “This baby’s going to be here by 8:00!” It was exciting to feel that this was going to end, and that there was going to be something else happening next, and I didn’t even realize that I had no frame of reference – I had no idea what time it was or how close 8:00 was. It didn’t even matter, it was the exact right thing to say.

I got a lot of encouragement from everyone during the pushing stage. Chris stood near me with tears in his eyes, telling me I was so strong and so amazing and that he couldn’t believe what I was doing. Janice stroked my forehead and told me I was so precious. Sally told me to take in a breath deep enough to sing a long, high phrase, and then push during the whole time I let the breath out. (This was awesome not only because I could relate perfectly to what she told me to do, but because it was so refreshing to think about something not related to the baby or the birth!) Behind me, I could hear Lillian and the nurse (Desiree - yes, Kat, the one you met!) saying, “Wow, she is a really good pusher,” which gave me a lot of strength as well – they weren’t just saying it to me, placating me by saying the right things, they were commenting to each other that this labour was going really well and that I was doing a fantastic job.

As the baby crowned, Lillian asked if I wanted to reach back and feel her head, which I did. OH MY GOD!! What an incredible feeling.

In between each contraction, her head would slip back in a bit, and in my haze I thought she was going all the way back in and I was losing all my progress. Of course, the other people in the room knew that this was not the case. In between was the hardest part because I was so stretched out, but I couldn’t push without a contraction, so I had to just stay still and try to block out the pain.

The head finally came out (after about 10 pushes) and she spat up right away, which was good. Lillian saw that the shoulders were quite large, so she said, “little pushes” while she worked gently to ease my perineum around the shoulders. Lillian then said to me, “When she comes out, just sit up onto your knees (I was on all fours with my upper body against the head of the bed) and I will put her between your legs.” Right after that, Sally told me that the nurse was getting the bassinet ready for the baby. I was incredibly energized all of a sudden – with these two statements, I felt infused with power and strength and the understanding that I was within seconds of meeting my daughter. There was no stopping me after that point!

With the next contraction, I pushed with everything I had – but when the contraction ended, the baby wasn’t born yet, so I didn’t stop. I had decided I couldn’t take anymore, so even without the contraction I kept pushing, pushing, pushing, with every bit of strength and desire and determination that I could muster. And then she was out. And like a light switch, the pain stopped. I had almost stopped remembering what it was like not to be in pain, and suddenly it had cut off completely. I was almost as amazed at that sensation as I was about the fact that I had a baby!

7:56pm - I sat back on my knees and looked down and there was my daughter. She was pink and slippery and wiggly and crying and amazing. All I could do was say “Oh my God, Oh my God,” over and over. I was completely awestruck. Janice described this moment as lightning going through my body and bringing me back to life.

Gwen made excellent noises right away, she didn’t even need to be suctioned as she got rid of all her own mucus. The only snag at this point was that the cord was not long enough for her to come up to my chest – probably the reason she’d kept slipping back inside throughout the crowning. Lillian asked Chris, who had been planning to cut the cord with a Japanese ceremonial knife, what he wanted to do. Chris immediately said that the cord should be cut with the scissors as that was all there was room for, and that he could trim it with the knife later. He didn’t care at all about losing that ritual, he just wanted Gwen to get up to my breasts right away.

Then we sang Gwen her song - a song Chris and I had sung to her during the pregnancy many, many times.

This is a triumph
I'm making a note here, "Huge Success"
It's hard to overstate my satisfaction
Aperture Science
We do what we must, because we can
For the good of all of us
Except the ones who are dead
But there's no sense crying over every mistake
You just keep on trying till you run out of cake
And the science gets done, and you make a neat gun, for the people who are still alive...

I cuddled with Gwen while Lillian and Desiree cleaned me up. I expressed my joy that all my work was done, till Lillian reminded me that there was the little matter of the placenta. Ugh! Haven’t I done enough? We then had this little conversation about the fact that I hadn’t sworn at all during labour – the one thing I had been sure I would do, as I am quite a potty mouth at the best of times. I think the reason I hadn’t been cursing a blue streak is because there just wasn’t energy to waste on unimportant words. If I was going to say something, it had to express the maximum of meaning with the minimum of effort – “back” meant “put counterpressure on my back”, “water” meant “get me some water”, “okay” meant “the contraction is over”. Sally told me later that at one point in late labour, I had said “Oh my goodness,” which cracked her right up – oh golly gee, gosh darn it!

I also said “I can’t do this,” “Please God,” and “Come on baby,” a lot.

Birthing the placenta was a challenge, as there were no contractions to push against, but I just sucked it up and did it, gazing at my beautiful daughter the whole time. After that, Desiree had to press on my uterus to see if it was contracting properly, which hurt like hell. Then Lillian stitched me up (9 stitches), which I couldn’t even feel. And I peed right on the table and didn’t feel a thing and also did not care in the slightest.

For the next hour or so I held my daughter, both of us naked, while people fussed around and cleaned up and checked out the placenta, which had two interesting features – a double membrane, which Lillian said she hadn’t seen in twenty years, and a lot of calcification, which was probably due to my high-ice-cream diet. Things were slow and relaxing at this time. Once in a while I felt that perhaps I should let someone else hold the baby, but I decided I’d earned some uninterrupted time with her, and that everyone else would have a turn eventually.

At about 9pm, Lillian said, “Should we do the newborn exam, now that she’s an hour old?” I couldn’t believe an hour had gone by already. She was weighed (8 lb 12 oz), measured (21 inches long), and quantified in all kinds of ways (apgars of 8 and 9). Chris trimmed the cord with his Japanese knife.

While I lay there, I looked down and realized I could see my feet again! My belly was gone! (Well, greatly reduced, anyway.) I was encouraged to get up and take a shower and try to pee, one of which I was successful at. Chris held Gwen for the first time, and so did Sally and Janice, while I was showering.

After I got out of the shower, it was time for logistics. Chris had forgotten to bring Gwen’s bag (the one with her sleepers, diapers, going-home outfit, and so on) to the hospital; he explained that this was because when we left for the hospital, he was entirely focused on me and my needs, to the extent that he sort of forgot there would be another person with us on the way home. He’d also forgotten the camera and his parents’ phone number (no, he’s not the type who has his parents’ phone number memorized – after a year, he has almost learned ours). I saved the day by having a small card with the important people’s phone numbers on it – Emily’s Great Big Hospital Bag Packing List suggested it, so I had it, so he was able to call his parents and tell them they had a granddaughter. We also called Auntie Sara, Honourary Uncle Mike, and my parents. After that was all done, a plan was made by which Janice and Chris would go back to the house, Janice would head out in Chris’s car to buy ice cream (which was, of course, ALL I wanted to eat), Chris would pick up Gwen’s bag and come back to the hospital, and then Chris, Sally, Gwen and I would head back home.

Yes, I left the hospital the same night. I was pretty determined to do this, and the experience of labour and birth did not dissuade me. Had it been 2am I may have felt differently, but I didn’t see any reason to stay – all I wanted was my own bed and to feel normal again.

So at about 11pm we headed out of the hospital room, our crazy laden caravan, and went home.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Gwen's Birth Story - Part Two

Part Two – Active Labour
(Part One) (Part Three)

3:30pm - Sally suggested a shower, feeling that it would help me relax enough to dilate further. I didn’t want a bath since I was afraid of lying down in the tub and not being able to get back out again – also, since I was so warm, the idea of being submerged in hot water was not appealing. But the thought of the hot shower on my back was attractive, so at about 4pm I got in the shower. Also by this time, I was not able to relax my ladyparts adequately in order to pee, so Janice suggested that peeing in the shower might be easier.

Chris came with me into the shower, not that I would let him have any of the hot water. He let me lean on him during the contractions while the water poured onto my back. I told him I was sorry, but that I was going to have to pee in the shower. This was important because we are not the kind of couple who talk about or witness each other's bodily functions. For the most part, we pretend they don't exist. Clearly, things had changed.

During the shower, I told Chris that I was having trouble letting go of being a hostess and trying to take care of people. It seemed that all I needed to do to start letting go, was to voice that.

Just as we were running out of hot water, I threw up in the tub.

4:30pm - When I got out of the shower, the contractions were really strong, and Sally started timing them. They were about a minute long and 3-4 minutes apart. There was a big shift – I stopped caring about my naked body and I just went into my own little world. We spent about half an hour on the landing, singing songs and timing contractions. Sally soon suggested calling Lillian back – she showed up at 5:00, just as we finished singing “There was a great big moose.” Sally commented later that she expected Lillian to show up and just change the entire dynamic, take over the room, but she did no such thing. She fit perfectly into what we already had going on, observing quietly for a while to see what was happening and figuring out how best to assist.

5:15pm Lillian checked me again – I was 3 cm and I was so, so sad. I really wanted to be closer. Someone suggested that the hot water tank might be refilled by now, so Chris and I went back into the shower. During the shower, I was feeling really upset – the contractions were so strong and so close together already that I felt I was barely coping with them, and I knew I had a long ways to go yet. I was really starting to doubt my ability to cope without pain medication. In fact, during contractions I started to fantasize about an epidural. I still didn’t want to get one, since it would be bad for the baby, but I imagined what it would be like if I could get one.

“This is really hard already, and I don’t know how much harder it’s going to get.”

My water must have broken in the shower this time, though no one noticed and we only figured this out after the birth. Chris and I once again got into a rhythm of how to cope with the contractions, while Sally sat outside the bathroom and timed them just from the sounds of my breathing and vocalizations. Chris and I talked briefly and decided that I wanted to have laughing gas when we got to the hospital – I really felt I needed help, and I knew that laughing gas would not pass through to the baby, so I felt okay about doing that. We got out of the shower and Chris told everyone that this is what I wanted to do. Lillian suggested that we hurry along to the hospital, then, since it would take time to get there.

I actually did think about walking to the hospital (it’s only a five-minute walk, when you’re not in labour), because the idea of sitting in a car was so very unappealing. However, after having one contraction at the top of the stairs, one contraction on the landing, and one contraction at the bottom of the stairs, this idea was quickly abandoned. It would have taken me five hours to walk at that rate! I had two or three more contractions on the way to the car – I remember holding Janice’s arm as I was a little dizzy. Chris scurried around getting the hospital bags into the car. Sally went in Lillian’s car while Janice rode with Chris and I. I had one contraction in the car on the way to the hospital – Janice somehow nearly climbed over the front seat to put pressure on my back during it. Apparently we were stuck behind some ridiculous old man driver, too, but I had no idea.

“Have a really dramatic contraction when we get to the admitting desk, okay?”

I had a contraction up against a large concrete pole in the parking lot, then we went into the emergency admitting desk. Lillian told me I should have a really dramatic contraction once we got there. “No problem!” I thought. As I walked in, I saw a Mom with two toddlers in the waiting room, and thought “I need to be dramatic enough to make admitting hurry, but not dramatic enough to scare the kids.” Surprising how your mind takes in these little details. A moment later, the contraction hit and I leaned against the wall next to admitting. Someone rubbed my back. Afterwards as we made our way past the kids, one of them said to his mom, “She’s upset,” and his mom said, “She’s going upstairs to have a baby.”

We made our way down the maze of hallways and into the elevator. When we walked into Room 4, there was this incredible moment of recognition and excitement – “This is the room where my baby’s going to be born,” I said. I felt so filled with happiness – I felt like something was happening outside of my own body, that this was real.

6:15pm - Lillian checked me as soon as I was settled on the bed, and I was at 7. I had gone from 3cm to 7cm in about an hour.

After that, I really stopped talking and interacting with the other people in the room. Someone put my CD on, someone adjusted the bed to the position I needed, someone readied the gas and taught me how to use it, someone took off my clothes without me even realizing what was happening, and my body kicked into high gear.

The gas was helpful, but I had to time it right. I had to get the mask on the second I felt a contraction starting, getting ahead of the pain, because if it was a second too late it did nothing. I took two or three deep breaths of gas at the beginning of each contraction and then went through the rest of the contraction on my own, because taking any more gas made me feel like I was going to throw up. I learned later that most women using gas use it for the whole contraction (or sometimes, even in between to help them relax) and that Lillian was impressed with my fortitude and restraint. It was really just my desire not to vomit anymore that made me look so strong, though.

Someone was applying constant pressure to my back. Someone passed me water in between contractions – a space that was becoming shorter and shorter. Someone handed me the gas mask at the start of each contraction.
7pm(ish) - I said urgently, “Something feels different, I need to push.” Lillian checked me and told me I wasn’t at 10cm yet, so if I could help myself I should avoid pushing – but if I needed to, then there wouldn’t be any stopping it. I tried for a couple of contractions not to push, but it was a losing battle, so I started pushing without really telling anyone what I was doing. They weren’t hard pushes, just pushing back against the pressure hard enough to attain some kind of equilibrium.

When I started talking about pushing, Chris was so excited – he looked at Sally and said, “Is this transition?” He was stoked! Some time later, Lillian told us that the last lip of cervix was gone and I could push (little did she know I’d already been at it) – a different kind of pushing started at this point.

I remember people kept coming up to me and saying, “The hardest part is over” – the hardest part is getting to 3cm, the hardest part is getting to 8cm, the hardest part is getting to 10cm – I was frustrated that they couldn’t seem to get their stories straight, but I had no ability to speak this to them. By this time when people talked to me I would kind of have arguments with them in my head, but I didn’t really speak out loud – I was way too busy.

I don’t know when this happened – maybe during the crowning – but I remember thinking to myself, “I think I’ve changed my mind. I don’t really need to have a child! Can we just never mind all of this?”

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Gwen's Birth Story - Part One

Part One – Pump Up the Jam!
(Part Two) (Part Three)

Wednesday, April 23rd
1pm – I get a “stretch and sweep” from Lillian. We had decided to do this because my blood pressure was borderline high – just high enough that the word “induction” had been mentioned a few times, and that I was doing two nonstress tests a week at the hospital. Rhea, a good friend who is also a midwife, had suggested a stretch and sweep not as a way to start labour, but as a way to make the induction more effective if it did need to happen. When Lillian asked if I was interested in having it done, I was more than agreeable.

The procedure itself was nothing exciting. A little uncomfortable and awkward. It was my first opportunity to find out what my cervix was up to: having heard about some women who were already 2 cm dilated for a couple of weeks before labour really began, I was eager to learn where I was at. There wasn’t much to learn, however; the cervix was still mostly posterior (though far enough forward that Lillian could reach it) and just a little bit effaced.

2pm – next time I went to the bathroom, there was the tiniest (dime-sized) bit of ‘something’ unfamiliar in the toilet. I wondered if it was the beginning of the mucus plug, but didn’t think too much about it.

12:30am – playing SingStar with Chris, Rhea, and Ian. The last song of the evening was “Pump Up the Jam” by Chris – all four of us were dancing around and goofing off, re-living the Much Music Video Dances of our youth.

1am - we went to bed – many hours later than my usual bedtime. As Chris and I lay in bed, I felt a very strange sensation. It took me a minute or two to realize what it was – a menstrual cramp. After all, it had been a long (LONG) time since I’d felt one of those! I reported this to Chris, who apparently took this quite seriously. Ten minutes later I felt another one. “Interesting,” I thought, and went to sleep.

Thursday, April 24th
5:00am - I woke up and went to the washroom. What I saw in my underwear proved that yesterday’s bit of ‘something’ was, in reality, only the tip of the mucous iceberg. ““Well, hello bloody show,” I thought to myself. I was still cognizant of the fact that the bloody show is no guarantee of baby’s imminent arrival, but that along with the crampiness was making me pretty antsy.

5:30am - still having cramps every 10 minutes, and they were uncomfortable enough that I wanted the hot water bottle to help me deal with them. As I got out of bed for the second time to go get it, Chris woke up.

6am - we decided it was time to contact our doulas.
- Called Janice; she was excited and giddy. I told her I didn’t know when the baby was coming – “It could still be four days of this,” I said – but I wanted to give her the information so she could decide whether and when to come. She agreed to call her boss and see what she could do.
- I didn’t know whether Sally would be up yet, so I asked Chris to email her instead, reasoning (incorrectly, it turned out) that she would check her email as soon as she got up.
- Soon after, Janice called back to say she had been able to get off work, and would be arriving around 1pm.

7am - we timed a few “cramptractions” and determined they were about 60 seconds long.
- I called both my mom and my sister, still clinging to the line that “it could be days”.
- Also, Rhea and Ian woke up, with Rhea of course advising me to just ignore the cramptractions as long as I possibly could. Taking this perhaps too much to heart, I spent the next couple of hours trying to downplay what I was feeling and not giving in to the sensations as much as I perhaps should have.
- Sally phoned, and though I again told her “it could be days” she was ready and willing to come. “If it’s days, then we’ll hang out and have some fun times together,” she said. I told her that Janice was already on her way as well. “Do you not want me to come, then?” Sally asked. I paused for a moment to assess how I really felt. “I want you to come,” I affirmed. To me, that was a big turning point, admitting that something was really happening and that I wanted my support gathered around me. “Okay, I’ll be there.” Sally checked the ferry schedule and said she would be in around 2pm.
- Chris left a message for Lillian.
- I asked Chris to make me some whole wheat pasta for breakfast – a strange request at that time of day, but I remembered that the complex carbs would serve me well if it turned out to be a long day and my appetite disappeared as my sister had predicted.

10am - we arrived at the TreeGo park (Chris and I were going to watch Rhea and Ian do the course) to find it closed. By this time, I was feeling pretty uncomfortable having contractions in the car, and I couldn’t really think of anything else to suggest. I really just wanted to go home and be in my comfort zone, so we said our goodbyes. Rhea and Ian headed on to Victoria and Chris and I headed home, where I focused on waiting for Janice because that was the next event in my day and I needed to focus on something.

From 10 am to 2pm is a blur. Chris and I tried many different techniques and positions, trying to find something comfortable and effective. He also reminded me to drink, and to go to the bathroom. We spent a lot of time on the upstairs landing. Eventually, it became clear that the best position was for me to be kneeling into his lap while he sat on a chair. This position also worked with me leaning over the back of the futon, or when standing, leaning against a wall. I’m not sure exactly when the back pain started, but it surprised me quite a lot when it did because I knew the baby was not in the “back labour” position. I wondered at the amount of pain I was having in my back, and wondered how actual back labour would feel. Chris started applying counterpressure to my back, which was really helpful. Sometime during this stage I put on my birthing necklace (which had beads from all the people who’d attended my blessingway) and started gripping the rock that my best friend Mike had given me. I’d also been given a candle that everyone at my blessingway had carved a word into, and we lit the candle during this stage. This was a good focal point at times, but I was still moving around so much that it wasn’t always in view. It was also around this time that we took those final belly pictures.

Though I have no memory of this, Chris reports that he was doing the deep ovarian breathing exercise with me at this time, as well as reminding me to relax certain parts of my body and making me drink some water or Gatorade after each contraction.

1pm - during one of my bathroom breaks, Janice arrived. Chris briefed her on what was going on, what was working, how she could help. She soon suggested putting the belly wrap around me to try and take the pressure off my belly. I remember telling Janice how frustrated I was that nothing seemed to work for very long – I wanted to find “the magic position” that would work through the whole labour, but I was also feeling pressure to change positions every few minutes.

I noticed that the cherry tree was in bloom. I had watched that tree throughout my bedrest, wondering when it would bloom and wondering when my baby would be born. Somehow I had decided these events would happen on the same day. Now, it seemed I was right.

2pm – Chris had to leave to go pick up Sally. I remember that it was me who pointed out what time it was and that he needed to go – not him. Surprising!

3pm - By the time Sally and Chris got back, Lillian was here. She observed me through a couple of contractions, and my mother phoned and I asked Janice to answer it and deal with it, which she did admirably. Lillian took me upstairs to check me – I was at 1cm and was so disappointed. However, the good news was that I was fully effaced and the baby was at -2 (she had been at -4 the day before). I was not able to hear the good news about the effacement, but Sally and Janice kept reminding me that the effacement had to happen first, and now it had, and that every contraction from now on would be an effective dilating contraction. Lillian went home to nap and await our next call.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


I realized sometime in the past day or so that really, my whole life right now is about feeding Gwen as much as possibly can during the day so that God willing she will let us sleep decently at night. Honestly, from the moment I wake up in the morning (which is sometime between 4:30 and 8 am, depending on Her Highness's mood) until I lay down in my bed at night (sometime between 9 and 11) my every thought is about feeding her, filling her tank, how long till I can/have to feed her again, how long has she been napping, should I wake her up and feed her, did she eat enough before falling asleep?

All so that when I do lay down, I can do so with a reasonable expectation of staying laid down for at least a couple of hours.

Adding to the current frustration is that Gwen has two modes right now: eating and sleeping. If she's not doing one of these two things, she's crying and/or screaming because she just stopped doing one and wants to do the other. She doesn't spend any reasonable amount of time awake and looking around or interacting with us - even her eyes, which are pre-programmed to focus at the exact distance of my loving face as I feed her, are closed when she nurses. So it's easy to start feeling less like a parent and more like a machine.

I'm not saying I have PPD, and in fact I'm not even terribly bothered by the fact that my life is currently reduced to this. But it is an interesting realization, nonetheless. Standard Disclaimer applies, I know it won't be like this forever, I know she won't be this tiny and demanding for very long, and I know the time will come (soon?) that there will be more rewards than just a two-hour stretch of uninterrupted time: smiles, giggles, coos, recognition for God's sake that I am something more than The One Who Smells of Milk.

The Big Trip

I don't think I've gotten around to mentioning it here yet, but tomorrow marks yet another first in this motherhood journey. Chris, Gwen, and I are driving up Island and taking the ferry to Powell River to visit with my parents as well as my sister and her kids who are meeting us there. On Tuesday night, there will be a baby shower. More importantly, on Monday afternoon Chris will be leaving me alone with my baby. Well, not alone exactly as I'll be surrounded by family, but still. I am a tad nervous - Chris is the one who is really good at swaddling and soothing Gwen to sleep.

If all goes as planned, you'll have a 4500-word birth story (in three parts) to read while I'm gone. And when I get back, holy crap, Gwen will be four weeks old. Time is already flying - the fact that I live from nap to nap and feeding to feeding probably has something to do with that.

Also when I get back, my mom is coming to stay for a few days and help out. Hooray!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Janice would be so proud of me

Yesterday, about 15 seconds after I typed "Laura is wondering where the heck Spring is?!?" into my Facebook status, the sun finally came out and the clouds burned off and ten minutes later Gwen and I were out for a long, long walk.

I knew I was taking a risk because we left at 1:30pm, and she hadn't eaten since about noon. But I couldn't stand being cooped up anymore, I was desperate to get out and the sun was the final straw!

I put her in the stroller and went first to Save on Foods to pick up a few things, then to Dollarama, and then down to my church to drop off some Thank You cards. By the time we got there it was nearly 3pm, and Gwen was awake though not quite fussing yet. I surveyed my options and made a decision: I would walk across the street to the Crisis Clinic, not because I was in crisis but because it's a VIHA mental health site and thus I know everyone there. I could go in for the ostensible purpose of showing off my daughter, and then when she started to fuss I could ask if there was a counselling room free for me to nurse her.

Lorraine, the admin there, was of course thrilled to see us, and suggested that I could nurse in the staff room (which is incredibly comfy, outfitted with several couches and living room chairs). I ended up nursing Gwen there for over an hour - first on one side, then on the other side, then back to the first side, with brief breaks in between for the admiring staff to cuddle her and remark on how big and strong she is, and how much hair she has, and how perfectly lovely she is.

And meanwhile, I nursed and nursed and nursed in a staff room while people I know only peripherally came and went. I have come a long way in the past three weeks. In reality, though, I just happened to learn the lesson that I'm sure all mothers learn sooner or later: when your child is hungry, you do what you need to do, no matter where you are or who might be looking at you sideways.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Cuddle Cure

So a few days ago in this post I mentioned "the cuddle cure" which is a concept Chris and I learned from "The Happiest Baby on the Block", a book (and DVD, apparently) by Harvey Karp MD. My friend Amber asked what I was talking about, and to save her (and you) the trouble of reading Dr. Karp's entire work, I will summarize*.

Dr. Karp believes that the first three months of a baby's life are "the missing fourth trimester". Babies are born at nine months' gestation not because they are ready for the outside world, but because if they stayed in the womb any longer their brain development would make it impossible for their giant heads to pass through the birth canal. But those first three months are, really, an extension of the time they spent in the womb: they are still developing at that rapid rate, they are sleeping most of the time to allow them to do so, and they are really not ready to deal with real life yet.

If you picture the vast differences between a newborn and a three-month-old infant, this rings true.

As such, Dr. Karp recommends The Five Ss to help babies deal with life on the outside, by making it mimic life on the inside. The Five Ss are:

Side/Stomach position

The "cuddle cure", of course, is doing all five at once. Most babies only need one or two of these Ss at a time - Gwen, for example, calms down fairly easily when we swaddle her and make loud Shhing noises in her ear (the white noise mimics the sounds she heard in utero). She is also, as mentioned before, a sucky baby - she loves it when one of us gives her a finger to suck on, even when she's not hungry. In the post linked above, when she was really hysterical, Chris was doing 4 of the 5 Ss to soothe her - she was swaddled, lying on her side, he was making Shh noises in her ear, and jiggling her firmly but gently back and forth. It can take a minute or two for the baby to take a breath and notice all these calming techniques, but they do work.

I recommend this book (or the DVD if you're pressed for time) to any parent-to-be. We have had great success with these methods.

*The book is really poorly-written, with loads of annoying repetition (perhaps it's meant to be read by sleep-deprived parents?). However, despite the frustrating prose, the ideas Dr. Karp puts forward seem sound. I just wish he'd gotten a ghost writer.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A random collection of stuff with no cohesive structre

So, first of all, go read this post by dooce because it explains, better than I ever could, why so many women and especially mothers choose to document their lives and their children's lives in the blog medium. Here's the one that rings true to me: "the good for other women who read what I write here and walk away feeling less alone". When I read Emily's long-ago post about the difficulties she was having with breastfeeding, and the guilt she felt around that, the light went on for me. I wasn't a mother yet when I read that post, but I knew the official party lines were "breast is best", "it doesn't hurt if you're doing it right", and "in fact, it's an immensely rewarding experience for both mother and baby". I also knew, even then, that not every mother has that experience, and that sticking to those party lines was pretty invalidating for those women. I was in awe of Emily for posting honestly, laying herself bare and perhaps, in the process, allowing some other woman somewhere, at some time, to understand that she wasn't the only one.

So yeah, go dooce.


Second, some positive strokes from my appointment with Lillian last night. I have been wanting for some time to give Gwen a soother - I know the time's not right yet, but based on the enthusiasm with which she sucks on my finger, I already know she's going to be a soother baby and am looking forward to the time when she can suck for contentment and I can move around freely. (I know it's not hunger sucking, because when she's hungry she spits my finger out and keeps crying.) So, all the parenting books and websites say to wait until breastfeeding is well-established before introducing a soother, but what the hell does that mean? I wanted to ask Lillian, and yet I knew I had to phrase it properly, because Lillian is a midwife and a self-proclaimed hippie and if I just say, "What do you think about soothers?" she's going to tell me I should avoid them. So I thought about it on and off all day and finally came up with the right wording, which was, "I want to give Gwen a soother. When do you think would be the right time?"

Now that I look at the paragraph above, it doesn't seem like such a big deal, but believe me, figuring out how to get the information I wanted without inviting advice was a challenge on the amount of sleep I am getting these days, and I was incredibly proud of myself for figuring it out, and for being assertive about what I want for my daughter instead of just bowing to someone else's opinion.

Lillian's answer was that we needed to get Gwen weaned off the formula first, which by the way she told me I could do in whatever manner I thought best. Last Friday when we had a good weigh-in and I asked about weaning her off, Lillian was all for it, but I was dumb enough not to ask about the logistics of doing so. So I spent the next four days climbing the walls and wondering, "Should I offer it at fewer feedings? Should I offer less per feeding? Should I offer it during the day and not at night? Should I only offer it after she's taken both breasts and still seems hungry?" (It was that last one I decided on, although "deciding" is kind of a grandiose term for what I did.) So it's like night and day to have Lillian say, keep weaning her off in whatever way works for you guys, whatever you think is best. Whatever I think is best! Because I'm the mommy! This rocks!


However, it looks like weaning off the formula may not happen quite as soon as one might hope, because guess what? Gwen is three weeks old tomorrow. And guess what happens at three weeks? A growth spurt. Judging by last night, during which Gwen woke up to nurse every 2 hours - she has never done that before - I'd say the spurt has started. After the fourth time of waking up to her crying after only about 90 minutes of sleep, I whimpered pathetically to Chris, "Please do something, I need a break." He dragged himself out of bed, got Gwen and took her to the nursery for the next 90 minutes, where he fed her about 60 mL of formula in two separate feedings. He is truly a prince.


Final subject: Laundry.

OMG, the laundry!

Even though we are now back on disposable diapers (the cloth ones are large enough that they irritate her belly button, which is still healing, poor thing) the laundry is crazy. We do a load of Gwen's laundry every second day. Because I'm trying to be as environmentally responsible as I can, I'd prefer to let the clothes and diapers air-dry instead of putting them through the dryer.

The user manual we got with our cloth diapers advises us to put the laundry through an extra spin cycle after washing, to help them dry faster. Then Chris came up with the idea of putting everything in the dryer for half an hour before hanging it up to dry. These two tips do indeed reduce the hanging-to-dry time, but they also create two other problems.

First of all, it now means I have to make four separate trips to the laundry room - one to put the laundry in the wash, one to do the extra spin cycle, one to transfer to the dryer, and one to hang the laundry up to dry. I spend most of my day with an infant on my lap either nursing or napping - I cannot guarantee that I'll be able to get to the laundry room when the time comes. Given my unavailability, I almost wonder if it would be faster to hang them to dry right away.

Secondly, with the extra spin cycle and then the 30-minutes-in-the-dryer, are we actually having any positive impact on the environment by letting the stuff air-dry for the remaining few hours?

I would be very interested to hear what other moms and/or environmentalists have to say on this topic.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008



A Long Day

Yesterday was one of those days they warn you about in prenatal class.

Got up in the morning to nurse Gwen - we're getting a pretty good morning routine down, where I nurse Gwen for 30-60 minutes and then hand her off to Chris so I can use the washroom, get dressed, get myself breakfast, and so on. While I was nursing a friend called and asked if it was okay to pop in for a short visit as she was coming through town. I enthusiastically said yes as I do enjoy showing off my beautiful daughter. So about 45 minutes later she and her husband arrived, cooed over Gwen, hung around for half an hour or so, then left.

I had about an hour-long break to do laundry, sweep the floor, and nurse Gwen again before my cousin and aunt showed up, visiting from the Mainland. They stayed for three or four hours. It was a wonderful visit and I'm really glad they came, but by the time they left (3:30pm) I was quite exhausted. Just as they headed out the door Sue showed up, ostensibly to drop off a Snugli that they didn't need anymore. She stayed for over an hour.

I don't want to sound ungrateful or antisocial, but that was a long freakin day and neither Gwen nor I weathered it very well.

By this time Chris was home from work, but was stressed out over something unrelated and wasn't really on the scene for helpfulness. By 5:30pm I was stressed to the max, not only from the long day but also from the fact that Lillian was going to come at 6pm for a weigh-in and I was feeling anxious and guilty and worked up about what the scale would say and what Lillian would say about what the scale said. I realized that I was getting myself into a real "damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't mentality" because if Gwen is hungry and I give her breastmilk, I don't know if she's getting enough for that all-important weight gain. But if she's hungry and I give her formula, then she's not getting all the awesome benefits of breastmilk. So basically I spend my day second-guessing myself and getting upset wondering whether I'm doing the right thing.

By 6:30 Lillian had not shown up, Chris was working on dinner, and Gwen was nursing again. (We found out this morning Lillian was at a birth last night and didn't have her phone list, so couldn't call to reschedule.) Chris ate dinner while I nursed Gwen, then I ate while Chris fingerfed and soothed Gwen. Then I took her upstairs to change her, and it all went straight to hell.

When I tried putting a nightgown on her, Gwen started screaming - not crying, but screaming - in hysteria, making noises that absolutely broke my heart. To me it sounded like either terror or pain. It took 25 minutes to get her calm again (thank God for the cuddle cure, it REALLY WORKS), and then I nursed her again, and obviously somewhere in there Chris decided that Iaido class was not in the works for him this evening since both his wife and daughter were at the end of their respective ropes.

After that she nursed for about 2 hours, and then she slept for four, and I don't really care what time she wakes up to nurse after she lets me sleep for four hours, so everything was okay again. But ... oy. No more days like that, please?

Mother's Day

What did I do on my first Mother's Day?
Well, Gwen got me a card (she's surprisingly advanced, you know) which was addressed to 'snort-snort-wahhh' - that's Gwenese for 'dearest mother'. Chris got me a card too.

I got given these cards during the morning nursing, and from then until 1pm Chris was in his den doing God-knows-what while I, y'know, mothered.

At 1:30pm our good friends Mike and Jenn and their daughter Zoe showed up for a visit, which was lovely. They are all perfectly in love with Gwen, of course, because she's perfectly lovable. Zoe was especially enjoyable, as by the end of the visit she was instructing Chris and I on how to carry and soothe the baby.
At 4:30pm they headed back to Victoria while Chris and I got Gwen ready for our first multi-hour outing, a dinner at Chris's parents' place. We were there for about 4 hours total, and I nursed her twice and changed her once, and all was well. Then we came home to bed.

But really, there's a better way to tell you about Mother's Day.

On my first Mother's Day, Gwen's honourary cousin Zoe got a picture taken with the baby.

And Zoe's mother Jenn got her picture taken with the baby.

And Gwen's honourary uncle Mike got his picture taken with the baby.

And Gwen's daddy Chris got his picture taken with the baby.

And Gwen's grandpa Keith got his picture taken with the baby (an awesome picture showing their matching bald spots!).
And Gwen's grandma Karen got her picture taken with the baby.
And hell, even Keith and Karen's dog Fritz got his picture taken with the baby, and actually this was stunningly important to them, though I'm not totally sure I understand why.

Notice anyone missing?

Meh. Hope everyone had a perfectly smashing Mother's Day, and that you have pictures to prove it!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mommy & Daddy's Date

We went out to Chapters to buy a Mother's Day present for my mom, then to Dairy Queen on the way home.


I didn't feel as anxious as I expected, leaving Mah Preshus Baybeh with someone else for the first time - likely, the fact that there was formula in the fridge to stave off any meltdowns helped with that fact. However, as predicted it was nearly impossible to think/talk about any subject other than Gwen.

Well, give me a break, all I've done for the past 16 days is take care of her. How could I have anything else to talk about??

Friday, May 9, 2008

A good weigh-in!

Gwen was up 1.5 oz at her weigh-in this afternoon! This is right on track for gaining .5 oz a day. YAY!

Tonight, at Janice's suggestion, Chris and I are going out (for an hour or so) and leaving Gwen here with her. It never would have occurred to me to do this, but what a great idea. Chris and I going out and being a couple for a little while instead of co-caretakers of a tiny dictator.

Feel free to place bets in the comments as to where we're going.

A good night

The other night when I made the decision not to wake Gwen up to eat, Chris was frustrated and upset that I'd made the decision unilaterally, and he also didn't agree with the decision itself. That night, I handled Gwen entirely by myself while he slept, which I didn't think was fair either! So last night, we agreed that Chris would wake up Gwen, I would wake up myself, and we'd fingerfeed her after each nursing.

We set the alarm for 1:30am. At 1:25am, Gwen woke up and began making hungry noises. We had a very effective nurse and fingerfeeding, then went back to sleep, setting the alarm for 5:30am. At 5:25, same thing happened - Gwen woke up and asked to be fed.

Lillian had told me that my sleep schedule and Gwen's would start to mesh - that when she was about to wake up, I would wake up, and not feel miserable. It's true! MUCH better than waking up to an alarm and then convincing Gwen to wake up from a deep sleep as well. I think it's a great sign that she is waking herself up to eat.

I'm getting so much encouragement from friends - everyone emailing and calling to let me know I am doing a good job, it will get easier, and that the scale is not the be-all end-all of baby wellbeing. Thanks, everyone :-)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Good, Bad, Ugly

The good:
My daughter is adorable. She cracks me right up.

The bad:
No weight gain in the past two days.

The ugly:
I'm getting fed up with the SNS since it's impossible to manage Gwen's mouth, my nipple, and a finicky feeding tube which by the way doesn't always work even when you do EVERYTHING right. I'm still using it, but mostly for fingerfeeding after Gwen has a good nurse on both breasts.

I'm not waking Gwen up for night feeds anymore. She hates it, I hate it, and it takes nearly an hour to wake her up and an hour to settle her back down after a nursing session that usually isn't very effective anyway. So I'm done with that. Gwen is getting good at asking for food, so I'm trusting her to keep doing that. Of course if she starts losing weight again I may have to reconsider.

I am encouraged by the fact that a friend's kids took a full month to regain their birth weight. We will get there, and hopefully in a way that is not going to make any members of our little family crazy.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Gwen is up four ounces this morning. I actually pumped my fists in the air when I got this news. FOUR OUNCES!!

She won't continue to gain this quickly, of course, but we are very optimistic. I already saw the change in her behaviour and energy levels so it was very gratifying to see it reflected in the numbers as well.

In other weight-related news, I weighed myself last night. All I wanted was to be under 200, and I got my wish - 199 :-)

Today's goals:
- Thank you cards
- Calling work/EI and getting that straightened out
- Going for a walk in the sunshine
- Having a shower


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