On Returning to Work at a Job that Doth Not Make My Soul Sing

First day back at work after mat leave. It was… I’m not very into my job right now. The fact that I only spent about 2 waking hours with my kid: one getting him up and on the bus, and one putting him to bed makes it suck more.

In many ways, I have a pretty sweet gig. Three years ago, I would have killed someone for the job I have now. It makes me feel insane to not be happy there. But some things about the work environment are not my cup of tea. I am learning things about my work style! I like to know who I report to and what I am working on! I like to work on projects that sometimes get finished! That’s old fashioned and boring, I guess. Not very creative new economy.

So I’m all fraught about things as usual. The husband is an excellent listener, and tells me I should try and make a change. What I really want is to work part time. Man would I ever love to work three days a week. But my employer doesn’t really do part time, so I’m going to focus on trying to find a full time gig that makes me happier. So far – two applications, no prospects. I’ll keep on.

In the short term, the next two months are going to suck donkey balls. Work will be its usual self. Plus I have a million St. Patty’s gigs this year, which again I should be grateful for, but they are going to take up way too much of my limited home/family time.

The conclusion that husband and I came to is that I should hang in there through this hump and get a sense of what else is out there for me work-wise. Basically, for Lent I am going to give up fun time with my kid and just do everything I have to do for work and gigs. Then after Easter, it will be time to reevaluate. Maybe I need to quit my band. Or maybe I need to do… something about my job. I don’t know what. Just quit? That seems insane. Apply for other stuff? Make a bigger change that I can’t even wrap my head around?

Anyways. It’s Mardi Gras. I celebrated by going back to work.

A portrait of 8 months

Baby J turned 8 months old (or 2/3 of a year!) this week, and this is my favourite age so far.

He is freakishly mobile for his age. While that means he can, and does, get into all kinds of trouble, it also makes him such a happy baby to be able to explore. With basic kidproofing of our main living areas in place, he can entertain himself for minutes at a time. No more indignant squawking when you put him down. Now he follows his adults and the cat around from room to room at a great clip, his palms smacking on the wood floor.

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Just in the last 2 weeks or so, he has started really eating the food he is offered, instead of just playing with it. It’s still a really minor source of nutrition, but it gives me faith that I will not be doomed to a life of eternal pumping once I’m back at work.

What else? He babbles, laughs, and claps, and loves buttons, ties, going routside and being picked up. (Dislikes: going to sleep, waking up alone, diaper changes, having his face washed, not being allowed to eat library books, manicures, pedicures, and the vacuum cleaner.)

So, yay for a fun, expressive little person. I know this stage will be so fleeting like the others before it, so I am trying to make the most of it, and take lots of pictures too.

For the record

Before Baby J was born, I thought the year of (Canadian) maternity leave might get old fast. To the outside observer, staying at home with a baby looks like a lot of work, or at least a lot of doing mundane things in isolation. I expected to miss work and related life.

But, at 7.5 months into this endeavour, let the record show that I am really grateful to have this time. It is a relief that my one priority is the care and nutrurance of this little person. I try to clean and make dinner too, and keep in touch with friends, but my main job is child care, and there aren’t serious conflicts for that time or head space.

So tonight, even though between J’s bedtime and mine, he had 5 wakeups(!) I am not getting further behind on homework or some such by spending all my time shushing the snotty, teething baby. It’s nice and relaxed, and I’m a little afraid of the shitstorm that going back to work is going to bring early next year. Yiiii.

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Baby J himself is a fascinating little person these days, super mobile, curious, and fearless, so long as he’s not alone. Yesterday morning, he actually crawled down off the mattress where we sleep (hitherto a fortress with invisible moat) and he came to find me brushing my teeth in the bathroom. I was pretty surprised to see him travel smacking around the corner! (Mobile, yes. Quiet and sneaky, no.)

I guess this post is fashionably late but appropriate for Thanksgiving. I’m super grateful for the charge of this fascinating little person, and the life circumstances that make our current time together possible.

5 months!

So! I have a 5-month-old! And not a lot of computer time! Funny how that goes.

In the last month or two, Baby J has been turning into such a little person instead of a grub. He wants things and grabs them (and then chews the crap out of them). He has one little sharp jaggedy tooth poking through his bottom gums. And, in just the last few days, he has vastly improved his powers of locomotion, to the point where he can slowly and painfully wiggle his way over to whatever he is after. He is driven to practice this locomotion at every opportunity, including while trying to fall asleep, and again immediately upon waking. This last bit has made night wakings a bit more of a pain, but it is balanced out by the miraculous fact that, in the last week or two, J sleeps unswaddled. I was really starting to think I’d one day be swaddling a 7-year-old, but once his movements became coordinated enough that he could roll around in the swaddle, he simultaneously outgrew the need for it. Yay!

Oh, one more baby ability/obsession (for babies are obsessed with everything they do): consonants. One generic consonant. He flaps his mouth wide open and closed like a fish while yelling Bababababa! BA! It’s cute, except when it’s apparent that I am being sternly critiqued. BA!

That, above, is a lot of changes. Who is this kid?! Mostly he’s a lot of fun. OF COURSE I get frustrated being alone with him most of the time (and it’s mutual), and OF COURSE I feel guilty all the time for not being an awesome enough parent, and I do wish there were more awesome parents and baby friends nearby in our lives so we could have more of a little community and see OTHER people more often, but hopefully that stuff will come.

I am enjoying maternity leave a lot more than I expected. The last few years, I was so focused on grad school and on working that it’s a breath of fresh air to have some time. We go slowly and take walks with no need to dress up or impress anybody. I have a simultaneously terrible and wonderful habit of staying up super late after baby and husband are in bed to play music, sew or whatever in the attic, which makes me tired but is good for sanity. I can’t even imagine what going back to work will be like, but time will tell.

Meanwhile, J has learned to take naps that don’t necessarily involve me lying next to him the whole time, but they are by no means long. Which is to say, he’s up!

On the Virtues of Printed Photo Albums

Oh HAI. I forgot about this blog for awhile. Actually, I didn’t forget. I just wasn’t allowed to write here until I finished sending all the thank you cards for new baby gifts, and that just happened last week. Yes, the baby is 4 months old. Shaddup.

The thought of trying to summarize the last 2.5 months of rapidly evolving baby gives me a headache, so instead, here’s what I’m mentally chewing on right now: photo albums. (Well, that and WordPress’ new dashboard layout which is frankly making me stabby.)

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A photo of me as a baby from an aunt’s family album. Nice haircut there, older cousin! My parents never kept albums when I was little, but I’m so grateful to have a few old family photos like this from other relatives.

I want us to have real physical photo albums of J’s childhood. A million cell phone pictures are nice and all, but I have zero faith those are going to be accessible for the kid when he is grown up. A print book you have to save in a fire, but otherwise should be around regardless of electrical or computing systems, file formats, or whatever. Since getting access to my first digital camera in about 2004, there is zero printed photographic evidence of our lives, and that needs to change.

So I’m trying to be catch up on family photo albums. I still need to make a wedding one, which will be verrry short. We have a honeymoon one already. Now I’m getting started on a book for J’s first year. This is all incredibly time-consuming, but hopefully once a process is in place (i.e. photo editing and book layout programs are set up on my computer so I can work on layout incrementally as photos get taken) it should be manageable. Even short little books would be way better then nothing.

And now: diaper laundry and pumping! Life around here continues to be glamourous.

Rejoining Society

We have a fuckton of houseguests for the next little while. Some friends are coming tomorrow, then Z’s entire family is going to stay for a few days.

Z’s family are lovely, but we don’t have room for them all to sleep comfortably, or all sit in the living room at once, oh my god. Plus, some of them get up at the crack of dawn. Fortunately, they are the sort of people who don’t mind eating delivery pizza. But still, it will be a busy few days.

Then Z is going back to work on Monday. Damn I’m going to miss having him home with me.

So, I guess this marks the end of our babymoon. The first week  home with Z and J was absolutely necessary for my sanity and physical recovery from birth. Then, after that, we have had a few visitors, but mostly hermited together for 2 more weeks. It’s been lovely.

In preparation for rejoining society as J’s primary caregiver for the remainder of my generous 1-year Canadian maternity leave, I have recently acquired some key tools:

  • A SLING to put the baby in so I can carry him while doing household chores and running short errands. He had his first bus ride on Tuesday in the Moby wrap. It’s much easier than wrangling a stroller, at least while he’s tiny and doesn’t mind sleeping in a carrier.
  • A NURSING BRA that mostly fits. My boobs are taking over the world, and they even laugh at the nursing bra I bought when 38 weeks pregnant. Looking socially acceptable in a bra and shirts is still not quite comfortable (the boobs will get used to this feeding the baby business at some point soon?) but I think I’m going to at least be able to pull off wearing shirts the whole time Z’s family is here.  Here’s hoping, because one of the people coming to stay with us is a teenaged foster boy who I barely know.
  • TWO PAIR OF PANTS that mostly fit. Hallelujah! This afternoon, our last before the houseguests descend and then Z goes back to work, I left my boys with a bottle of pumped milk and took the bus to the nearest part of town where there are stores that sell pants. I currently weigh 13 pounds more than pre-pregnancy, but 13 pounds cannot possibly account for the degree to which my old pants don’t fit. I think my hips have changed shape forever. So, I got two pairs of jeans for $20 at the thrift store. It will do wonders for my self esteem to stop wearing threadbare too-short maternity jeans all the time.
Now baby and I need to cultivate a social life for weekday afternoons so I don’t slowly lose my mind. My goal is to arrange visits with all the other new moms I know from childbirth class and elsewhere, as well as with the few awesome friends who are stay-at-home parents of older kids. I have pants, a bra, and a baby carrier. We can do it!

On Breastfeeding

I was lucky to have a book on breastfeeding on loan from the midwives when J happened to be born, and it was awfully handy as a reference during those first few difficult days. My midwives are very well informed on lactation, and the hospital where J was born is “baby friendly”, meaning all the nurses have basic training on feeding babies.

It took till the fourth day after J’s birth for my milk to really come in, and he was pretty dehydrated and down 9.5% of his body weight at that time. He ate pretty much continuously for about 36 hours, and was obviously getting more and more dehydrated, as his wet diapers were increasingly pitiful. I was pretty much convinced he wasn’t getting anything at all and was pretty worried. Z thought I was insane. J finally spat up some colostrum which made me very happy; if he spat something up that meant he was eating something! And then my milk showed up and everything got so much better – immediately, and over the next days.

If we hadn’t had such great information and caregivers, the first few days would have been much harder.  Even though my milk showed up a little later than average, I think our experience was about as stressful as average, because J was a pretty skilled and enthusiastic eater from day 1 and lots of babies aren’t. Thank goodness my kid loves to eat.

J asleep in his favourite spot in the whole world - draped over my boob and using it as a pillow.

We still have ongoing challenges of supply and demand, which I might get into another day (stay tuned for a fascinating potential post about green poop and sleeping on towels) but things are so much better. J is thriving, and I benefit from the inspiration of friends with older babies who breastfeed them effortlessly, often while multitasking. One day, I hope to be able to feed J in the carrier while also doing laundry. But for now, I’m getting to watch a lot of TV, and J is getting nice and plump, and my boobs don’t hurt (much anymore) so all is well.

So come all ye pregnant ladies: take out a book on breastfeeding from the library, read some stuff online, or talk to someone about their experience.  There was about 10 minutes about breastfeeding in my prenatal class, which is not nearly enough. Also, get a spill-proof cup with a built-in straw so you can drink water with one or no hands while nursing a little tiny baby. And maybe some trail mix which you can eat with one or no hands…

That part where you first learn to feed the baby is really hard! Then it gets easier.

Life with baby! (3 weeks)

At the moment, baby J is 3 weeks old and getting plumper. He weighed a full 10 pounds at his appointment on Wednesday. Life with baby is characterized by a lot of doing things with one hand, and a lot of sitting on the couch under a pile of pillows breastfeeding. Oh, and laundry.

What can you say about someone who is super cute but doesn’t have control of his limbs or make social facial expressions?

I’m trying to enjoy the current stage of baby J at 3 weeks.  This time does have some very sweet aspects:

  • When J wakes up from a nice long sleep, or a nice long drink at the boob, he does this adorable half-smile and full-body stretch with his short little arms up around his face. I’ll have to try and get a picture of this, because it is charming and, I’m sure, fleeting.
  • When he’s swaddled up at night, J looks like a glowworm with a tiny little body and a giant pair of eyes. I need to get a picture of this too! He’s pretty awesome at night so far, mostly just waking up to eat and get his diaper changed, with the exception of between the hours of about 5-7am, which he spends bitterly complaining about something and then going back to sleep for another few hours.
  • J doesn’t scream much, although when he does, it’s good and loud. Most of his problems seem to be related to pooping and farting, which I guess are stressful if you are just getting used to your brand new operating digestive system. The Happiest Baby on the Block has a chart showing that babies’ time spent crying every day generally peaks at 6 weeks. I fear and dread this ominous future time.
  • J digs noise, and lets me wear him around the house while vacuuming. Other household chores that involve too many arm movements, such as doing dishes, or too much bending over, such as laundry, are less popular. We spend every night listening to a looped recording of a thunderstorm, and he threatens to wake up every time it gets to the quieter part at the end of the loop.
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Baby's waking-up stretching sequence looks a little bit like this, but is cuter in motion.

All these charming features aside, some changes are already happening, and we are looking forward to others.

  • He’s already growing out of his damn clothes.
  • J’s already starting to be curious about what’s around him, and gets cranky if he’s awake in the carrier but can’t see out. Even compared to a week ago, he spends a lot less time contentedly eating, and more time thrashing around trying to look around while he eats
  • I know it’s going to be a long time coming, but I am looking forward to him talking and telling us what he’s thinking about. Right now, it’s pretty much sure to be either eating or pooping, so we’re probably not missing much at the moment.

While I know increased awareness of the world around him will cramp my chronic iPhone use and evening TV watching, it’s going to be a lot of fun to have a baby who can smile back at us and get interested in toys, music, and other things that aren’t boobs.

Introducing Baby J, and a (really long) Birth Story

Baby J joined us this Monday, February 20 at 4:38 in the morning, weighing 8lbs4oz. We are so glad he’s here. Below is his birth story. I tried to write a short summary, but it turned into the monster below. I need to hit “publish” before it grows any longer.

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Here he is: Baby J, a week old in this picture! (He's 2 weeks old today and has gained a whole pound since his 7-day appointment!)

A few days before my due date, I came down with the worst bout of hacking crud. There was goo in my lungs and I was exhausted. In the end, because our bodies are awesome, mine waited until I had mostly recovered to go into labour. I think that acupuncture also helped clear my lungs as well. Thank goodness: I don’t know how I could have managed birth without being able to breathe. The downside was that a few days on the couch recovering may have been what caused my baby who had been positioned OK to turn posterior, despite all my hands-and-knees floor-washing to try and turn him before labour began.

First stage labour started Sunday morning, Feb 19, at 40W3d. I woke up with fairly mild contractions around 8am. Hooray for a night’s sleep beforehand. Things got going pretty definitively, although I was initially reluctant to cancel breakfast plans with friends in case early labour was just teasing me. I spent the morning and afternoon either standing and leaning on a dresser, or on my hands and knees leaning on a giant stack of pillows. My fabulous doula was on her way by 1pm, and we called the midwives with me in active labour (3-1-1) at 3pm or so. The whole afternoon, we listened to Hypnobabies tracks over and over again, and I demanded endless back massages and hot water bottles from Z and our doula.

A word on Hypnobabies: I’m glad to have had those tools to help me relax and focus even though I didn’t end up using the program in quite the typical way. For one thing, Hypnobabies mamas always look like they’re asleep through their whole labours, and I did a fair amount of moaning and yelling. Maybe because of his positioning, I found that vocalizing really helped, especially in the later stages which involved lots of excitement and decision-making and I couldn’t focus much on relaxing.

In addition to using Hypnobabies tools, I spent a lot of time using Ina May’s suggestion to meditate that you are a monkey or other kind of animal, because your human thinking brain isn’t really helpful in birth. So I was trying not to get involved in cerebral details like what time it was, or logistics that could be left to my very capable support team, because I was a monkey.

Second stage was hard work because, despite all the damn floor-washing in late pregnancy, because baby was still posterior. Therefore, I was in transition, by which I mean feeling pushy but not pushing yet, for damn EVER. Fortunately, my water didn’t break for a long time, and I was in my element at home, so it was manageable, but I was starting to fret about being seemingly stuck in that intense stage. Being in the birth pool was helpful for awhile, but we were trying increasingly crazy things to make the baby TURN already. Z got to spend lots of time holding me up in the water in weird positions, then hula dancing with me in the shower, then finally watching the midwives do the Rebozo technique on me (suspending my hips in the air from a giant scarf, shaking me from side to side)… but baby did not turn.

Finally at 10cm dialation, my water broke, and it was full of meconium. Damnit. At least no-one had to to feel conflicted about the reason for a hospital transfer – meconium is one of the non-optional scenarios to get to a hospital, in case baby breathes it in on his way out. So we got an ambulance ride at 1am, which must have made a fantastic spectacle for the neighbours, and continued the party at the (blessedly close) hospital.

I was getting pretty cranky but very determined to push the darn baby out, even posterior, which the midwife assured me is often possible. His head was visible with each contraction, but he was stuck under my tailbone. I was doing a lot of swearing and yelling trying to get him past that bottleneck, which may have disturbed the nurse. Sorry, nurse. The midwife remained calm, encouraging and awesome. Unfortunately, baby’s heart rate was starting to decelerate problematically, so the interventions began.

A lovely little perinatologist was summoned to get her hands in under my tailbone to try and manually turn the baby. This is a very groovy trick, but was officially the most uncomfortable thing that has ever happened to me, and the only part of labour which I wish I’d been a little tougher about enduring gracefully. The lovely doctor thought she would be able to turn the baby, but wasn’t quite able to do it in two attempts. The medical team convinced me to try some laughing gas to help relax my muscles, but it didn’t do a damn thing. Z since told me I wasn’t breathing it in properly, which may have been due to my horror of the stuff.

The ouchy baby-rotating procedure was making me tense up in a counterproductive way, so the doctor needed me to be seriously anesthetized before she would try one more time. So, damn it all, I agreed to a spinal anaesthetic and a forceps birth. Baby was in distress and needed to be out. They summoned an anesthesiologist to take me to the OR, where the really frightening medical instruments are kept. The anesthesiologist had just arrived when I was pushing through another contraction, My awesome midwife looked at the baby’s head and noticed that he had finally turned after all! Angel choirs.

Baby still had to be born in a big hurry, but because he was (finally) optimally positioned, the perinatologist could use a vacuum extractor to enhance my pushing instead of the forceps of doom, and I didn’t have to have any anesthetic. Thank Christ on a bicycle.  I understand why some women choose to have spinal/epidural anesthetic for birth, but I think everyone would agree that 5 minutes before the baby is born is not the best time for a needle in the spine. So, vacuum extractor: very strange but not the worst thing ever (see above re: worst thing ever), and soon enough he was out!

Baby J was super alert at birth (Apgars of 7 and 9) and was pretty hungry. He has continued to be a big fan of eating ever since. He was 8lbs4oz at birth, and today at his 2 week appointment was 9lbs4oz. He’s going to be a bruiser, although nowhere near the giant baby predicted by ultrasound. He’s healthy, sturdy, and super cute. I had a really sore tailbone for a few days, and a few minor stitches but nothing serious. I would not have come out of a forceps birth so unscathed. Thank you, amazing midwife, for being awesome, indefatigable, observant, and calmly coaching me through everything!

All in all, Baby J is a lot of fun.  Z is a wonderful dad, and I think he will enjoy parenthood even more once J is interactive and his set of interests expand beyond boobs. Even though we decided to have a baby on purpose, I both underestimated the pain in the ass that a newborn represents (as I think everyone does) and how much joy he would bring, even right off the bat. And all he does is eat, poop, sleep and yell. Wait till he does other stuff too!

Happy Due Date To Me

Today is little boy’s due date, and I’m so pleased to have refused to give that information out to the general public. Nonetheless, the midwives certainly know. I’m not particularly looking forward to this afternoon’s appointment, since they have been keen on my “not going post-dates” due to the giant baby syndrome.

After my last week’s appointment, the midwives and my acupuncturist (the latter based on an analysis of my pulse) figured the baby would be here pretty soon. But then I caught the cold of doom (like, #5 of this pregnancy?) and basically lay on the couch coughing for several days. I asked baby to stay in until I could breathe, eat and sleep again, and he has obliged. While I’m still snotty and coughing, my energy is just now returning, to the point where I think I could handle labour and birth.

I kind of wish we had never heard of the giant baby thing, because I’m pretty happy to keep lumbering along, knitting, marvelling at my spectacular stretch marks, and doing little jobs around the house until baby decides he’s ready to join us. And basically, that’s how I feel. For what intuition is worth, I feel like baby is fine too. He’s doing lots of dancing and wriggling in there.

My belly, looking all pretty after henna at my awesome Blessingway at 37 weeks.

My plan for today’s appointment is to accept another stretch and sweep (#3! Woohoo!), but not the “labour cocktail” they will offer. The latter is an unholy purging brew containing castor oil, cohosh, and other deliciousness. I’m not afraid of pooping for hours, but I am kind of afraid of what happens if it makes me really really ill (like it sometimes does, I believe) and then I start labour weakened and dehydrated. That sounds like a terrible plan.

But I do also want to note, at this special juncture, a bit of the mindfuck that is late pregnancy, especially when your caregivers want the baby out (which is not in any way unique to me. In fact my caregivers are so damn awesome and chill compared to the norm, I count my blessings all the time). On the one hand, babies come when they are ready. You should just chill out and let them arrive. But on the other hand, maybe your own fears and anxieties are keeping the baby in! I’m not looking forward to labour enough. I’m not doing enough squats, walking, sex, pelvic tilts, or yoga. When I think that there will be a baby here pretty soon, I still feel like “holy shit, really? are we ready?” instead of “come to us, baby, just as I envision you in daily meditations”.

I am, at least, eating enough pineapple. Nobody could accuse me of less.