Sunday, December 27, 2015

Tandem Nursing and Weaning

I'm not ready to wean and nor is my son, who is 14 months, but the time is near...I have an impending business trip back to NYC and I will not pump.... so on my return, no more "mimi" (which is my son's term for nursing, combined with pointing at my breasts). If I didn't have the trip planned - right after he turns 15 months- I don't know how I would wean. Particularly as lately he has been sick and nursing more. It's our special cuddling time.

The main reason I want to wean is that despite my doctor's assurance and my own research, I remain skeptical that nursing throughout my pregnancy is a good idea. In order to nurse my son, I must create extra nutrients and I fear that I will be taking this away from my second child. Also, my son will be 15 months and even though emotionally neither of us is ready (for nursing provides such a special connection with your children) he is eating solid foods and hardly surviving off my milk. He wants to nurse - and now requests it - in the mornings, when he is unwell or when he injures himself and when he goes to bed- all instances when he wants to be nurtured and not because he is missing something vital from his diet. A secondary reason (and after I already resolved to wean at 15 months) is that it has become painful to nurse (albeit nothing compared to my stygian first two months before his frenulectomy) and worse, lately every time I nurse, I get contractions (again, nothing compared to the contractions of actual labour, but enough of an ouch factor to add to the mix). My doctor warned me about this, but she assured me it wouldn't lead to a miscarriage, but one wonders...

So my plan is to first cut down to strict twice a day and then once a day and then scuttle off to NYC and leave hubby to handle Day Zero....ha ha ha ha ...while I will be crying in NYC since I will have a weaning period too and since it would be my first time away from my little one.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap for Mankind (He's walking!)

We knew this day would come. Just like I waited in tense anticipation when he would say "mmm" to have the consonant progress to a name I had never been called (we are all born with different names and most of us end with the same and most important- mama or dada), I have been waiting weeks to see my little one make his first steps.

Around his first birthday, he was very adept at getting up by himself and within a week was walking, albeit with much trepidation, while he could hold onto something. He was side-stepping across the walls and child fences around our house and slowly walking with us when we held his hand or when he had his walker. My dad, who was here visiting over that time, was determined to be here when the big moment came and as any programmer, tried to program my son into walking. "What he needs" my dad decided after careful study of his subject, "is for his concentration to diverted" he mused. My husband and I agreed. He was so careful in his steps and so unwilling to let go that it seemed fear was holding him back rather than any ineptitude. After all, the poor guy certainly had his fair share of falls, including a recent nose dive onto our wooden floorboards (replaced that weekend by a fluffy carpet - floorboards may be chic, but they are your child's nemesis), so we could hardly blame him for his caution. Then followed weeks of the walk circus. We were waving toys around, enticing him with food, music - you name it, all the glory of the world was just a few short steps away.

And it bloody well worked. One step! Two Steps! Three Steps! Four! We were elated. Soon, there must be more.

The first time he took two steps, enticed by a Rubik's cube (my dad seems to think that if he buys 2 Rubik's cubes every time he sees my son, he will by osmosis), he fell on his arse when he realized that he was walking, due to our cheering. Thus followed our paradoxical pantomime in which we tried to be concomitantly nonchalant and yet encouraging at the same time. We would like to think that our contorted reactions aided his progress, but after a few small steps here and there, he was taking a few every day. And then he ran across the room.

One day he was crawling. The next, running. It does go by so fast. We were elated! And then... Holy shit, he can touch that now? He's turning on the stove! He's opening the drawers! He's opening the doors! He is running head first into the shelf! We had to ramp up safety features fast.

What I find very interesting is that from the moment your child starts to walk, they walk. Even though they're much more adept and faster at crawling, they eschew this mode of movement and firmly take on their bipedal state. My son has not crawled at all since he could walk (save for crawling with his buddy through a material tunnel that gave them seemingly endless joy), even when I have crawled in front of him (when he was crawling, it would give him such joy when we joined him for a crawl). It's as if he understands - and accepts- that to crawl is beneath walking (I couldn't help it) and that one would only crawl if they couldn't walk. It's the primal example of cultural immersion at work. Or maybe he's so excited that he can walk - his arms outstretched, partly for balance, partly to state to the world I CAN DO THIS! - that he forgets to crawl. My husband reckons he's just happy that his knees don't hurt anymore.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Big Sleep (Sleep Training)

Week 2 into sleep training, we were amazed at how well our son was sleeping. He was finally sleeping through the night. It's as if he would wake up, realize we weren't going to come to his aid and without hope of cuddling comfort and with no energy to expire, he would snuggle himself back into the sheets. There were a few nights when he cried out and we came in to change his diaper, but after following a strict rule to check, change if needed and offer water, we leave immediately. Hubby is now taking full control of night duty, as we are (sadly) weaning of nursing (and there's Baby No2's placenta building to work on during the night).

It hasn't been easy. It's viscerally painful to know that your child is crying and that they are crying because of a situation you placed them in. One major hurdle for parenting, at least for me, is applying the old adage that 'you have to be cruel to be kind' - for instance, with sleep training. While sleep training has made a huge positive impact on our lives, our son is learning a life skill - how to put himself to sleep and is patently sleeping better. We've had to make a lot of decisions in the past year that willingly caused our son pain for his greater good, including authorizing quite painful medical procedures. He has been catheterized multiple times and had to have an IV at 11 weeks, which involved excruciating trial and error. At this moment, we can't explain this to him (I still do, as I explain everything to him). Later, we may have to make decisions that we can explain to him, but that he may not understand or agree with. It's a difficult path, but one that is easier by going through it together. We stand strong in front of our son, but behind closed doors, we cry together.

There have been hiccups with sleep training. When hubby came late one night, my son thought he could turn me. When I was away, he performed a full show for his dad. When grandma came over, finally assured of success, he upped the production budget and exploded crescendo after crescendo, but to no avail (though I have my doubts if mum were left on her own without us). I am still amazed at how well developed our son's manipulative skills are. He is acutely aware of our weak points and is merciless in attacking them. It's a constant battle of wills and admittedly he wins more than a few, but with respect to his sleep, we are winning.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Sleep Training

Why did we not do this earlier??? That's the main result after less than a week of sleep training.

We made the mistake from the beginning (our son is 13 months old) of rocking and singing our son to sleep. It made sense. It was the caring, loving thing to do. We could cuddle with him. We enjoyed it for the most part and invariably would fall asleep with him. At times, it would take a long time to get him to sleep, a few times over an hour, and we would be frustrated with him. Every time, whether we fell asleep with him or not, we would be exhausted. Our night would end at 7.30 pm. At least mine did, so much for planning to work, ha!

If I fell asleep with him, he would want to nurse the night through, waking up intermittently and seeking out my nipple. Neither of us could rest. My husband, who chided me for falling asleep with him, decided to be gracious and exclusively take over the night shift when I got pregnant with our second recently. I must admit there was no small gloating and schadenfreude on my part when hubby kept falling asleep with him and our little one kept waking and wanting to cuddle, waking up his dad.

"That's it!" my hubby, exasperated, shouted the conclusion of our son's coddling. "We are training him!"

My first reaction was to grit my teeth as I spent nearly a year waking up throughout the night to nurse. P takes the night shift for a week and now we're sleep training. My second reaction was to limp out a smile, for I knew it was best. L had to learn how to go to sleep by himself and we were hindering the development of that aptitude for him.

But how to stand not running in and nursing him when he cried?

It was all rather easier than we thought. We had heard horror stories. My friends' daughter cried for over an hour straight. As L cried, we cried, watching him on his webcam from our room and wondering whether we could cave. The first few nights he would go to his toys and cry (our son sleeps on a queen bed on the floor, but that's another story) and then he would crawl back into bed. It took about ten minutes. We felt victorious, watching him sleep. The next few nights, he didn't even leave the bed and was asleep in a few minutes. Ah, sweet, sweet, victory! He's also been sleeping better. Before, he would wake up at least once if not twice a night, but since sleep training (which may or may not be a coincidence) he has not woken up at all.

A miracle!

We still can't believe it.

If only we had done this sooner...Sleep training may sound harsh, but it's better for all of us.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Holding On

Every parent told me it goes quick. In the first few months, in a constant hypnogogic state with bleeding nipples and a betrayal of a tummy that would not decrease, this seemed to have been proven patently incorrect. Now, in the past few months I am seeing my little guy - just 13 months today - grow up and as proud and happy as I am, part of me is clinging back.

When we started our nanny share with M and P and their son W, L would scream chills down my spine as I left and I would cry that I was leaving him in such a state. Hubby was also not strong, but we bore it. Then one day, barely a month into our nanny share, when L was still not a year old, he didn't cry. He went straight to W and began to play. That morning I cried because he didn't.

This morning, my son didn't want to nurse. Since I'm 5 weeks pregnant with Baby 2, I stopped pumping and dropped to nursing my son twice a day. I'm not ready to drop to once a day though. He jumped out of bed and wanted to play with his toys and crawl around. My milk has decreased since I got pregnant and he has looked at me questioningly during our recent nursing sessions, protesting the decrease.

I'll keep going till I can and I will miss it.

I suppose this too will go by quick. Cherishing every moment is a must.  

Saturday, November 21, 2015

No 2!

I was a little surprised, rather flabbergasted, when I found out I was pregnant again earlier in the week. I thought I had the stomach bug going around.

My little is still shy of 13 months and I am still nursing him. Moreover, I had grand plans for next year, having only recently found a great nanny share with my friend for our two sons, started sleeping through the night (mostly) and slowly starting (quite probably as a consequence of added sleep) to feel like my old self again. I'm even wearing pre-pregnancy jeans again, albeit admittedly only the stretch pairs...and now, having not fully recovered my life from before my little guy exploded into my life nor my tummy (which I had hoped to lose when I stopped breastfeeding), nor having returned my body to full ownership, a little poppyseed appeared and is growing. I suppose if we waited and returned to our previous productive lives, another little one may cause us shellshock anew with their explosion, just like our first, whereas we are still in baby mode and thus more prepared.

Everything is still too early too tell, but if everything goes right, 2016 is shaping up to very different- and much more full - than we thought.

I originally wanted to nurse my son until 18 months and I know some mothers do continue nursing throughout pregnancy and even in tandem, but I will try and wean in the second trimester. So far, I'm still nursing and intend to nurse until he is 15 months (and my second trimester begins). We'll see how I go...I'm not ready to let go and nor is he.

While it was the late period that gave the final clue (my previous pregnancy enlightening me to the fact that being pregnant feels like your menstruation is coming from an extended period), I noticed I was very hot and sweaty at night, extremely tired and sleepy and waking up ravenous at 4 am. Every pregnancy is meant to be different, but so far, mine looks pretty similar in effect.

The most difference has been the nausea. I've had incapacitating nausea or evening sickness (since for me it always starts at the end of the day, which is a somewhat blessing) every night... and the good old second trimester seems so far away....

I wonder if it's another boy or a girl...

Definitely better than any stomach bug!

Thursday, November 12, 2015


I can't believe it's been a whole year since my little ray of light has shone in the world and yet I feel five years older.

It's been the most difficult, amazing, kaleidoscopic year.  Nothing can prepare you for the supernova that explodes in your life and results in motherhood, which although always mesmerising, if difficult, becomes at least less physically taxing.

As much as the second trimester made me feel as if I had supernatural powers and I would feel every kick a miracle and look at my ninja belly with such adoration and pride, the third trimester kicked that smile of my face with my inability to bend, breathe properly (my increasingly not-so-little tenant discovered that hooking his feet between my ribs was his favourite position and he did not care what the landowner thought) and the need to pee... oh, pretty much right after peeing...leading to lack of sleep as if my body were preparing for the constant hypnagogic state it would experience after labour...and labor, which kicked me right in the face. If labour (the clue is in the word itself) didn't end with a child, it would be a well thought out effective torture.

I still remember the first moment I saw my little guy and he looked at me with piercing incandescent eyes that belied such curiosity. I was hooked from moment one. Every day,  he still amazes me.

Looking back over the year, I can now laugh (having already expired all my tears) at all the seemingly impervious presuppositions I held. Ha!

1) Breastfeeding is natural. It will be easy. The milk will flow and it won't hurt at all. Mothers that don't nurse are evidently vain and selfish. {I should have known from my labour, that my first assumption would prove to slap me in the face}

2) I will never give my son formula {see 1 above}

3) I only need to take 3 weeks off. After all, I'm an attorney in New York - I don't sleep anyway.

4) Since I work from home, I can work and look after my son at the same time. Don't they sleep all the time anyway? (refer to issue with assumption 2 above)

5) I will only ever speak one language to him and ensure everyone else picks one too.

6) He will only ever use cotton diapers, no matter what.

7) I will toilet train him at 10 months.

8) He will never, ever eat one morsel of prepared food.

9) He will have a strict schedule that will not be changed, no matter what.

10) I will discipline him and never give into his crying.

11) I will sleep train him {see 9 above}

12) No one outside of the family will look after him {also see 3, 4 above and 13 below}

13) I will work more at night to make up for time I lose in the day taking care of him.

14) I will CERTAINLY be a better parent than that hopeless mother I've never met at the table next to me.

15) I will never have my child watch TV or look at a computer or ipad EVER.

16) I will get my flat stomach back in no time at all.

17) I will always find time for myself.

18) Having a kid can only bring my husband and I, who have a great relationship, closer together.

19) I will not have another kid until I retain ownership of my body for a while and get back into shape (refer to 16 above).

20) He will respect me until  at least 13, right?


1) Breastfeeding was, bar none, the most difficult thing I have ever done. Bar none. That's right. It was WORSE than labor, mainly because the torture was continuos for three solid months. My son has eight razor sharp teeth now and sometimes he bites down on my nipple resulting in a burst of immense pain, but those quick bursts of pain are incomparable to the dizzying pain I experienced when he had no teeth but couldn't suckle properly. My breasts were swollen, got infected, my ducts were repeatedly plugged and my nipples bled through scalding pain. By the time I saw a lactation consultant 6 weeks in, I already experienced everything that could possibly go wrong with breastfeeding (truly a privilege). After my son had a frenulectomy, it was a little easier, but it was only when his mouth was big enough at 3 months did the pain go away.

I'm still nursing at nearly 13 months and intend to keep going as long as it suits us. I'm down to nursing 3 times a day and I've kicked the pump as of last month but if it didn't get easier after the third month and I continued to experience scalding pain every second of my increasingly unhappy and breastfeeding obsessed life, I would have quit. The universe needed to teach me a lesson - don't judge a woman without knowing the beast hooking its jaw around her breast (or to simplify, don't judge).

2) Due to all the problems breastfeeding we had at the start, including repeated mastitis, I was not producing enough milk and my son was losing weight. I didn't want him to starve, so I resorted to formula. In order to kick the formula, I had a physically incapacitating schedule of nursing, feeding him the bottle and then pumping to increase supply which repeated every 90 minutes. Near to emotional and physical collapse and staring at every drop I pumped, I nearly lost any shard of sanity I had left when my husband accidentally spilt the precious droplets of milk I had just pumped. Every oz counted. That old idiom of not crying over spilt milk did not originate with nursing mothers.

Everyone, including my son, was much happier after we decided to do both. It's not an absolutist decision you have to make, as if breast milk and formula were engaged in a Manichean battle in which nursing has to win. As breast milk is only as good as the breast it comes from, I figured if that my milk were missing some essential vitamins, he would get it from the formula and made my peace with the bottle.

3) All I need say on this one, is that 3 weeks in, I was still profusely bleeding, just starting to be able to walk without stabbing pain and still couldn't pee without burning pain from my stitches and having to douse myself with iodine and water and tap down with witch hazel. And that's apart from the lack of sleep and scalding breasts and bleeding nipples. Working your butt off on a case and billing 17 hours in a day while your partner swears at you and slams the door in your face is certainly taxing, but it is incomparable to this.

Unfortunately, being the lead attorney in a Federal multiparty litigation with insensitive opposing counsel who opposed my break but wanted a break for Thanksgiving (!!!), I had to file a motion to dismiss less than 3 weeks after giving birth and attend a mediation 2 weeks after.



After a few conference calls through which I desperately went through Luca's playground of diversions, while trying to properly advise my clients or negotiate with opposing counsel and a few weeks of attempting to draft in 90 minute bursts as he slept, I caved in and realized it was not sustainable. My little one did aid me in one negotiation when opposing counsel, a non-parent male, became so flustered with Luca's crying that he virtually agreed to everything my clients wanted.

5) I've been speaking a mix of Serbian and English and my hubby a mix of English and Greek. When we're all together, we mostly speak English as we would like to understand each other. We don't mix sentences, but some things we say in Serbian, some in English and he seems to understand both. We also use American sign language. He certainly babbles a lot, but apart from "mama", "dadda" "bebe" (baby in Spanish, which his nanny exclusively speaks to him in) and "ne" (no in Serbian) we can't make out what our little polyglot is saying.

It's very easy to come up with a perfect plan to raise your kid but when the kid actually comes - with a choir of chaos screaming ten billion diverse actions you must do concomitantly to keep them alive with the same amount of hands and less brain power - you tend to go with the flow.

6) See above. During long car rides and plane trips, cotton diapers don't work for either of us. We use half compostable wipes/diapers and half cotton. And yes... the occasional conventional diaper now and again, and it hasn't yet killed him. Better than being stranded without any.

7) He's 13 months and still thinks it's best to put the potty on his head. We have decided to chill a bit and move our use-by date on the diapers to 18 months.

8) (See 6 and 7 above). Better he eat than not at all and there are organic companies out there (as with formula, for ingredients in a packet it seems a little oxy-moronic to call them organic, but hey) that you can use, some of which we really like.

9) Luca had 11 flights transcontinental and transatlantic flights in his first year of life, to say the least. We mostly keep a schedule, but when we go on a trip or have family over, we go with the flow.

10) Hubby is better at this than me. I try and be tough, but if anyone is the dictator, it's the guy a third of my size who I cower before.

11) I run in and still nurse him if he wakes up at night. He's my baby! And the best cuddler ever (sorry, hubby). I'm hopeless.

12) Not having any family around and working while taking care of him failing miserably, we went nanny hunting. Serendipitously, my close friend has a son 3 weeks older, lives walking distance away and was looking to nanny share. We love our nanny. She's very sweet, always timely and great with the kids. It's also great that the boys are together and learn how to socialize. I find that my time with my son is so much better now that I am not constantly trying to divert him and do a million other things. Now, I can concentrate on him when we're together and the time, even if smaller in quantity, is far better in quality.

13) I usually fall asleep when my little one does.

14) Having a stubborn and pretty quixotic character, I've learnt important lessons being a parent. Something may seem wonderful in your head but your baby is another person that might not fit within your plan - your ideas need to be malleable and go with the flow and your particular baby's needs. We are against our society's overloading of antibiotics, but our son requires daily antibiotics or he faces constant UTIs and risk of kidney damage. There wasn't much of a choice there.

Now when I look at a mother struggling or pacifying her kid with an iphone, I don't judge. I've realized I don't know the particular circumstance and I can relate to the chaos. The most judgmental people of parents are non-parents that have zilch idea about how bloody difficult parenthood is.

Maybe I'm not the best mother. In fact, I'm not. I'm inconsistent, I'm weak, I'm tired, I'm diverted, I'm away at work for half the time and I'm certainly not what I envisioned myself to be. Yet, I seem to be what he needs me to be - his mama, that is there to comfort him, feed him, nurse him love him, read to him, play with him and take him out for adventures. I've learnt to accept that we do what we can. We can't take care of our kids if we don't take care of ourselves.

We have a lot of fun and I'm glad he is growing up loved.

15) On a transatlantic flight when your kid is screaming his head off, you may opt, as we did, for some fun forest time on your phone (we later learnt that Elmo affects babies viscerally - he is tantamount to toddler crack). Unfortunately for us, our son, used to flipping book pages and interacting with toys, got even more frustrated by animals on a screen that don't respond to any action by him. At rare times, we calm him down with Sesame Street. The program is educational and even if the medium is passive and therefore possibly inherently negative for development, all parents know that at certain times, you need your parents' little helper.

16) This was a rude shock. I finally decided to accept my mummy tummy and to lay blame on my clothes and my previous vanity which resulted in a wardrobe that patently paraded my flat stomach (and is now the most unflattering wardrobe for my new shape). I've lost all the other weight, but the belly still protrudes unless I walk around with it permanently sucked in so I am constantly asked by the good public whether I am pregnant. Sometimes I wish I were pregnant just to respond in the affirmative and have an excuse for my tum. I have wanted to reply it's just a tumour, but then I fear I may bring one upon myself from universal vengeance.

17) I don't think I've had a bath since before he was born (at about the time I physically could not get out of the tub). Any "free" time I have is spent on work since when I'm not working, I want to be with my son.

18) Having a child is difficult and while it brings you and your partner together in a way you never had before - in fact, together for life, without or without your consent - it is a strain on your relationship. Let's take a hopelessly in love couple, starve them off sleep and food, give them a billion things to do and play a record of a crying baby on repeat and see where they are after a few months... also, in relationships between men and women, the biological division of labour produces some resentment. Men have it easier. They don't have to go through labour, they don't nurse and when all goes haywire, no matter how much daddy wants to help, it's mummy they want.

For us, we realized a lot of the arguments were plain stupid and that we had no time for each other. So we decided to take up date night. Now, we have to calendar romance, but better to send an invite than get left out of the party.

Besides, date night is fun!

19) Well, this wasn't so bad and we survived the first year with nobody dead. My tummy doesn't look like a permanent fixture and who knows when I'll stop nursing. I certainly don't want to normalize life and have another pregnancy come at me like an exploding grenade. We're already in baby mode, so why not more?

20) All I'm saying on this one is that my one year old looked up at me and shook his finger at me shouting "ne, ne, ne" (no, no, no!) when I was pleading with him to finish his dinner. It's already started.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


I've been in a cast the past couple of weeks as I ended up with a metatarsal fracture on my right foot (somehow, all my injuries are on the right). Luckily, I have my mum here from Oz to help me out, otherwise, I believe I may have gone insane.

 The first day we moved from NYC to SF, I ran out with Luca and fell down a whole flight of stairs, twisting my right ankle, but as the pain went away and more importantly as I was only thinking of my son (who luckily was completely fine, as I fell holding him tight and up high), I completely forgot about it. I then proceeded to walk with Luca about one to two hours a day up and down the hills of SF carrying him in my baby carrier. I wore ballets most of the time. I've never been one to wear heels, but ballets have always felt very comfortable to me and I usually trawl around in them (and the Aussie in me has me go barefoot at home all the time, which still shocks the steadfastly European sensibilities of my parents). They're of course not the shoes with the most support, but since they were comfortable for me, I thought nothing of it.

Everything adds up. The fall. The walks. Carrying Luca (who is 17 lbs) and my "loukaniko" (Greek for sausage, what I term my post-baby rolls). My poor feet had to support quite a bit more weight post baby. I was 106 lbs. before pregnancy and gave birth at 147 lbs. Since all I could see was that my stomach and breasts had changed, I naively believed that I would waltz out of the hospital very close to my pre-Luca weight. Ha! I left the hospital with 132 lbs and I've pretty much stayed that way. I started ramping up my exercise and went back to my yoga and ballet bar routines. So, while I was flabbergasted to be told I got a stress fracture, really, I should have been surprised that I didn't get one sooner.

Stress fractures are very common post-baby, particularly among nursing mothers. We lose bone mass nursing as well as calcium and on top of that, we stress our bodies with added weight, no sleep and running around looking after our little ones (I'm now taking prenatal vitamins and added calcium vitamins). I'm also sure many mothers carry their babies everywhere, just like me, and are determined to get back into shape, increasing intensity too quickly on over taxed bones.

I've torn several ligaments and broken numerous bones before, but this fracture felt like nothing like that. Suddenly, I felt pins and needles in my foot and had trouble moving it. Then, the swelling and throbbing started. Being ignorant of the fact that I was in a high risk group for a fracture in my foot and not feeling what I would then term as pain, but more a strange discomfort, I walked up the hills from Valencia up to Cole. When I got home, my husband thought it might be tight muscles and gave me a massage. My foot got progressively worse, until I couldn't walk on it anymore.

At first, when I went to the doctor, they misdiagnosed my fracture as a spider bite. I grew up with spiders and was skeptical - my skin was normal and there were no suspect fangs. The x-ray was normal but it takes up to 2 weeks for a stress fracture to show. I went back the second week and again had a daft doctor who reassured me it was a spider bite. It was only when I went to a podiatrist after 2 weeks that she diagnosed me correctly - feeling my fracture even before I had my x-ray taken.

It only took me a day to soak my cast in the shower. I spent a few hours trying to dry my cast, but had to wait more than 24 hours to change it. I was going nuts - my skin had developed a hot, sticky rash and while I wanted to give my skin a break, I had barely 2 mins before they put me in another cast.

Being in a cast and not being able to move is driving me nuts. I've always been an active person - to a fault- and I'm struggling having to keep my feet up. Without my mother to help me with my son, I don't know how I would handle it.

It's been quite a stygian month. The day I fractured my foot, my son got sick for the first time with an ear infection. The next week, he got a urinary tract infection - our worst nightmare (what the pediatric urologists had been saying was only a matter of time and what we myopically believed would not occur due to our diligence in changing and washing him). Then hubby got a virus. Then we caught what we had as we continued to play our game of musical misfortunes. I'm hoping May brings new tidings - beginning with getting my cast off.

Monday, March 30, 2015


There's nothing worse than when your child is ill or injured (apart from the more morbid scenario that I cannot bring myself to type). It's heart wrenching to see your child in pain and easier to feel pain yourself.

We knew from the 36th week of gestation that our little Luca had hydronephrosis and from his 3d week of life that he had VUR. For the first two months we had him on preventative antibiotics but as he had stomach upset and a persistent yeast infection and we were giving it back and forth to each other from nursing and as we were afraid of the longterm consequences of daily antibiotic use, we decided to stop giving him antibiotics when he was two and a half months old. We had hoped that by diligently cleaning him, we could avoid an infection, but this weekend, our little ray of sunshine fell ill and it was confirmed to be a urinary tract infection- which with his high grade reflux (between stages IV and V) we know has reached his kidneys.

When you know your child has a condition - such as Luca's VUR - you base everything around the condition. We use cotton diapers so that we know when he has peed and more importantly, pooped, so that he is changed as quickly as possible. Our child has never spent more than 2 minutes in poop and that is probably quite an exaggeration as thankfully he has never pooped in his sleep and we are ever ready to bathe and change. Our policy used to be that we would bathe him every time he pooped, then we decreased our war policy to only bathe when poop reached his penis and if not, to simply diligently wipe. I now worry that the decrease in bathing procedure may have led to his infection so we are going back to bathing each time there is any poop. I wish there was a protective shield that my son could wear so that when he pooped, none of it would touch his penis, but of course no such poop shield exists. What material would it have to be so that pee could seep out but no bacteria from faecal matter would enter and that it would be comfortable and breathable and not cause skin irritations? I don't know, but I am going to try an added cotton layer on the front from now on. The bastion diaper - tying a cotton diaper the usual way and then placing an extra layer of cotton at the front. I do not believe of course that cotton is impervious to bacterial contact but I do believe an extra protective layer may help. Whether I will be able to dress him like that without him complaining is another matter....

Any time our kid gets sick or looks like he is getting sick, we are immediately concerned that it may be a UTI. The poor kid. We are always sticking the thermometer up his but and inserting the catheter in his penis. Two weeks ago Luca got sick for the first time. It turned out to be an ear infection but due to his VUR, we had to rule out a UTI. So when he had a high fever, we had to test his pee. Babies don't pee into a cup of course so we had to play the waiting game with the baggie inside the diaper. Unfortunately my son peed right before they applied the bag and as he was ill and had no appetite, he refused both the breast and the bottle. After five hours of holding out and still no pee, with the possibility of a kidney infection worsening, I caved in and allowed a catheter. I cried when they couldn't even a get a drop - the kid was dry. They gave him an injection that would attack both an ear infection (as some puss had been observed and this was more likely than not the guilty party) and a kidney infection and we played the same waiting game the following day. This time I refused a catheter and decided to wait until the morning as he already had antibiotics working for him from the infection. To our delight, the fever went and he was all better. He was poked & prodded for nothing.

Yesterday morning, however, he had another high fever and of course we immediately had to assume it was a UTI. This time we bagged him at home, applying alcohol before we did so and hoped that he would pee and we would obtain a negative result so that we could go home. Unfortunately, we received a positive result and had to catheterize him. Baggies have a very high false positive rate as it is very difficult to sterilize and avoid any bacterial entry with them, however much we wash the baby and our hands. While a positive baggie cannot be trusted, a negative baggie can. Unfortunately for us, it was positive. Our poor son is just 5 months old and we've had to insert a catheter in him 4 times. This time the catheter at least got some urine but unfortunately it was positive. We gave him the injection right away and today he is much better and has no fever.

Now we have to decide whether to put him back on daily preventative antibiotics. The good news is that his liver has kicked into gear and we can now use narrow spectrum antibiotics with less consequences. We already provide him probiotics so a low dose may not kill all his gut bacteria. There is no guarantee, however. We are also worried that longterm use could lead to resistance. Moreover, the literature is divided as to whether longterm preventative use actually prevents recurrent kidney infections. I think for now, we'll continue without but if he gets another infection and in a relatively short period, we will probably relent and put him on the narrow spectrum ones. It's a choice we don't want to make, but unfortunately, that we must - at least until his flap grows sufficiently to prevent reflux.

The next decision would be whether to have surgery and when. We haven't looked into that as of yet as he is too young and had been asymptomatic. Now, we cannot say that, but we hope that this was his first infection and his last.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


It took me four months to allow someone that is not family to look after my son. My concerns were threefold. One, I was worried that they would not look after him well. I imagined a sitter reading a book or on her phone, just rocking his stroller, while he caked in the sun, until he screamed from the screeching stains of his diaper. In particular I was worried - in fact - let’s call a spade a spade- freaking the fuck out - that he would not be cleaned and changed adequately and would get a urinary tract infection. I know that when anyone in the family watches him, we watch him like hawks and surgically clean him, knowing that we cannot risk a UTI as for him this may lead to a kidney infection due to his reflux. Besides, even if we didn’t have to worry about kidney failure, how could anyone love him as much as his family? Second, I understood getting a babysitter as failing in being a mother. Currently, as I am working part time, I understand my “job” as looking after my son and from that perspective, I understood hiring a babysitter as failing in this employ. What kind of mother am I to leave my son with a stranger? Third - and closely connected to the second reason - as I work from home, I thought that I should be able to work and look after my kid. 

I stubbornly held on to my resolve, so much so, that my husband made an urbansitter account and made an ad for me. Once some girls responded, he asked me to only have a look at their profiles. Concomitantly, I was breaking down in my attempt to work and look after my son at the same time. I would nurse through conference calls (still do!) and go through my weapons of mass diversion. Drafting was more difficult, however. I needed both hands to type and I could never completely focus on an agreement or on a motion, even if he was asleep, knowing that he would wake up in half an hour and wondering if he was OK. In my attempt at diverting Luca so I could work, we bought a series of contraptions, so that the living room looked like an interior playground, until we found one that he enjoyed for a longer period. Even with the help of my inanimate sitter, I had trouble working. I felt guilty working and not playing with him and it would shatter my heart in bleeding shards when I glanced over and saw him look at me. At other times, he would be completely preoccupied with his bouncer - swinging to and fro (he loves the standing ones, hates the sitting ones) and spinning the wheels in front of him or chewing on a grainy animal beside him - and I would be entranced, watching him. How can a parent not be enamored watching the first activities of their child? What is his little brain thinking right now as it spins the wheel? Spin, spin! At last, I caved in. 

The first time a sitter came, I was so nervous that I didn’t go anywhere and consequently got no work done. The poor girl. I watched her like a hawk and introduced her to the rules of the house - how to put on cotton diapers. To wash him after he poops. How to prepare the bottle etc etc I also chatted with her when he was sleeping and by talking to her and seeing her play with him, I saw what a great person and sitter she was- she really seemed to have such a great time with Luca! - that I was comfortable enough to leave and work elsewhere the next time and actually got a lot done. Having a sitter has been a saving grace. I am getting my work done and not falling behind and I have even take some time for myself, using the time the sitter is there to go to yoga and my bar classes. The house is cleaner and I can clean while the sitter plays with Luca too. Most importantly, even though I have less time with Luca, I have more quality time with him as I can actually focus on just him and enjoy being with him when we are together instead of constantly fielding calls from clients and opposing counsel and dangling a toy in front of him as I focus on my screen and my call, working for my client and not for my son.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


Our little one is blossoming each day. It’s amazing to watch. Already, we have noticed that at four months, he appears to understand many words. He knows when we’re about to go for a walk, about to take a bath, when we’re about to feed and change his diaper. He also appears to know his name - when we shout out Luca, he turns to face us (and usually smiles - we believe he loves the sound of his own name and takes ownership of it!). I also note how his face explodes in a burst of a brilliant smile when I tell him I love him- whether I tell him in English or in Serbian (I use both languages interchangeably). I wonder whether he is comprehending the words or whether he is registering our tone and facial expressions. Possibly, it’s a combination of of words, tone, expressions and particular gesticulations and/or motions we do. For instance, when we speak of his diaper, we are checking his diaper or carrying him to the changing station. This would signal to him that his diaper is about to be changed, even if he did not comprehend the word “diaper” or any word associated with a diaper change. This reminds me of a study (I believe it was referred to in Oliver Sacks’s “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat”) that showed when we understand language, we are comprehending a lot more than words. We are conscious of tone, expression and other signals that aid in our understanding. If you’ve ever learnt a second language as an older child or adult, you will remember that you can get by with a few words and understand the gist of a conversation with such a cadaverous understanding of vocabulary and syntax by utilizing knowledge of tone, expression and other emotional signals. When the part of the brain that registers language in the sense of pure vocabulary and syntax, is damaged, most of these injured people can nevertheless go about their daily lives barely noticing hardship as they will utilize their comprehension of these emotional signals and by so doing, sharpen their register and become even better at their comprehension. So, while patients with such injury could communicate near to or at the same level as everyone else - they cannot comprehend spoken language with no emotional cues (i.e. a recording by a computer).

I was at first hesitant to speak both languages to my son and resolved to only speak one. However, in particular as his father does not understand Serbian, I naturally fell into a pattern of speaking both languages to him. I worry that by doing this I may retard his lingual development, even though I never speak both languages at the same time (or if I do, I will say a few phrases in English and repeat the same in Serbian). My husband and his family speak Greek to him on occasion, to add to Luca’s lingual melange. Recently, we have added another language to the mix - sign language. Hopefully, he will pick up all three languages and then utilize the three to sprout his knowledge of other languages, having a foundation in tongues derived from Ancient Greek, Old Slavonic and Norse/Latin. The grammatical complexities of Greek and Serbian (for instance, the Serbian use of seven cases, an extremely difficult concept for a foreigner to grasp and the reason my husband’s ambitious and enthusiastic excursion into the language soon petered off) and the versatility of English should (hopefully) provide him a solid base for grasping various different groups of languages. I’ve found however that the more languages you learn, the easier more languages are to grasp. We are all born polyglots (didn’t Chomsky prove that there is a universal grammar and that we can soak up any and all languages at birth?).

Recently, we’ve started utilizing sign language with our son. I was wary at first, believing that it may retard his verbal development (apparently a common fear). After reading up on the subject and being introduced to many arguments as to why sign language in fact accelerates verbal development and even reading - for you can introduce reading by introducing the signs of the alphabet and then simple three letter words that may be easier to grasp than purely visual learning (although I would think that this would depend on the particular child’s learning propensities and mechanisms), I decided to explore it. I was not so much persuaded by the argument of improving my son’s lingual ability - both hubby and I were a little wary of accepting all the arguments in favour of sign language that we read in sign language books (after all, while it may be worthwhile for the fox to eat all the chickens, one would hardly accept the argument without some skepticism from the fox itself, no?)- but by the fact that it fostered your child’s independence and expression. Even if sign language retarded lingual development - and that’s a big if - no one out there is arguing that it prohibits it or even impairs it permanently - only that it may slow it down to some extent and in the end everyone ends at an even level. In that case, I would much rather my son communicate with me sooner even if thereby he would communicate with me later with words. Whatever his comprehension, his vocal chords will simply not allow him to speak the words he knows in order to communicate with us. He may however be able to sign much quicker. I absolutely cannot wait for the day Luca signs “milk” or “diaper” or dare I even write “love” - my heart would summersault! 

We can already see that Luca wishes desperately to communicate with us and becomes evidently frustrated when he is not able to express his intention to us. He is a very vocal kid. He babbles constantly and experiments with different sounds. I have very little worry that learning sign language would in fact retard his development in any way. Another particular benefit for us, is the ability to utilize the same sign for English, Serbian and Greek. By doing this, we hope to foster his understanding that he is learning three different languages concomitantly. While we are using ASL, which is particular to the United States so that Serbian and Greek sign language are different and we are most probably teaching him the wrong signs for these sign languages, our intent is not in making him a polyglot in the sign language arena but in fostering our communication. For instance, if later he can sign “eat” and we have learnt the signs for say, different fruits, I can ask him what he would want, and he would have to think what he wanted - does he want an apple or a banana? This not only fosters communication and expression, but his independence and assertiveness  By allowing him to express what he wants and providing him a means to think of what he wants, we would be strengthening his character as he would not only be passively receiving what we give him and merely reacting to his environment but actively engaging with his environment - which to some extent, he already does. We would just be adding more fuel to his fire. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Crying Game

There is nothing more heart wrenching than to hear your baby cry. Often, I start crying with my baby - a physical reaction I cannot control. I blame it on the hormones. My hubby does not have the same reaction. When speaking with my mama friends, they understand the crying (and leakage!) and their husbands also can remain stoic as they collapse.

I am quite relieved that my hubby does not have the same reaction as me as it is better for our son to have a parent that does not also collapse with him. Since our son has hydronephrosis, we have had to put him through numerous scans and procedures since he was born. The two most exhausting were the VUR scan and the most recent - and the far worse of the two - the lasix renal scan. My son had to have a catheter inserted for both and for the latter scan, we not only had to deny him food for nearly seven hours but had to give him an IV. He was crying for food for the last couple of hours and I couldn't stand the pained and confused expression he gave me when he tried to take the breast and I denied him. The nurse noted he could smell the milk and that it was better for hubby to hold him. We tried to divert him with the aid of Larry the Llama but knew we were on a losing streak, with L becoming more agitated as the hours dragged on. Not being able to feed my hungry son was one of the worst pains I have ever felt. For me, that lasted but half a day but unfortunately for too many mothers in the world, this is a more permanent predicament. This should never be the case.

How do you explain to your child why they are in pain when they are too small to comprehend what is happening and before they can understand what you speak? For several days before L's procedure, I explained to him what was to happen to him, how he would feel and why, hoping that on some subconscious level, he would understand. When he was crying from hunger and crying from the pain of green strangers holding him down and stabbing him repeatedly with a needle - for it is difficult to insert an IV in a three month old - he looked at us imploringly to help him. What must he have felt? What must he have thought? The people that were always so loving to him, that fed, washed and clothed him, suddenly holding him down as green strangers tortured him. I was asked to leave the room as I crumbled and apparently appeared so pallid the doctors thought I would faint. The last thing I wanted was the doctors paying any attention to me, away from my son, so I left and immediately crumbled in a heap, drenched in tears, outside the room.

Both scans were done at Cornell and I have to commend them for their care, management and efficiency (now were are in the hands of UCSF, which I hear is fantastic but have not experienced yet). My son had a team of specialists looking after him both times. Despite having two pediatric anesthesiologists on the team, it took them numerous attempts to insert an IV in. They tried his right hand and after several attempts, moved onto his right foot, again to no avail- at which point I was asked to leave the room - then according to hubby they moved through his other appendages and finally inserted it in his left foot. My husband was holding him and speaking soothingly to him as they kept poking him with the needles and when it was his left foot's turn, he jokingly said, "Luca, you better relax so the doctors get it, or your head would be next."In fact, that is where they would have went. The veins in a baby's head are bigger and easier to get than their extremities. Scalp IVs are not usually the first place to go as parents tend to freak out, although nurses find they are both easier and give the child more mobility (as children move, they have to have the IV foot or hand taped to a board to render it immobile).

My son also cries when he wakes up as if he is having nightmares. I wonder what dire dreams he could be having. Did he dream the milk dried up? It's as if babies are remembering their previous life and are shocked to discover they are waking up to a nightmare - which surely it must appear to them - in which they cannot move, they cannot speak, cannot hear and see properly and generally have to relearn and renegotiate all their communication and understanding anew. Sometimes, in my more morose moments, I wonder whether he is remembering his previous deaths.

Recently my son has started crying for attention. Before, he would cry for physical reasons that he could not fix himself only -  if he were wet, hungry, cold, hot etc we would come to the rescue and rectify the situation. Now, my son understands the power of his cry and uses it to bring us to his side for no reason at all, except to just be. This can be quite frustrating if I'm attempting to get anything done (they said the swing would work!) but as soon as I pick him up and he stops crying and looks at me with such wonder and love, I melt and am all his.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Moo Diaries

Breastfeeding is one of the most- if not the most- challenging things, both physically and psychologically, I have ever done in my life. It has overwhelmed my life since my son was born. Granted, we had a particularly bad run at it. My son had tongue tie so he was mostly chewing on my nipples, causing them to scar, bleed and bruise, rather than suckling milk out. This lowered my milk production as well as causing plugged and inflamed milk ducts and in turn mastitis, a yeast infection and vasospasms. The lactation consultants that saw me both said that I had pretty much everything they treat women for. Lucky me. It's three months since my son was born and I am still breast feeding him and while I fear to write this in case I jinx our progress, we have established a routine, which albeit it includes supplement- thank God you can find organic milk based formula (thank you to all the cows feeding my son!!)- is a routine I can keep without going insane. When the milk runs dry, so be it.

Before we had L clipped, breast feeding was a nightmare, but I pushed through it, believing the incredible pain was due to a low pain threshold. After all, all my friends told me the first week was a nightmare. Maybe for me, this was just extended to two, three, four, five, six weeks - then I called it, and called a lactation consultant. When she  inspected my bleeding and bruised nipples and his obvious tongue tie, she dignified me with the description of being the most stoic mother she had ever met, noting that she did not believe any other mother would have continued to feed. Had she arrived narry five minutes before, she would have seen a perfect example of stoicism by the expression of what it was not. My daily breakdown: I was on the bed, crying, in the foetal position, wanting to crawl into a hole and not feel, exhausted and overwhelmed by the sheer scalding pain of my nipples. In the first few weeks, when my stitches were still healing and it was mired misery down there, I was overloaded by pain, my body collapsing and not being able to register where the screams should be directed. Conscious that anything I took passed into my milk, I kept off the meds and suffered through it. My pain was so overwhelming that I all I could do was feed. When he finished - which at times took two hours as he was unable to latch properly, unbeknownst to us- I would fend him off to whomever was closest as it was too painful to have him lie on my chest. We missed out on pressure cuddle time - which not only is a magical experience but important for milk production as it releases oxytocin, mammals' neurohypophysial hormone.

No pain was greater, however, than my husband poking my nipples with a needle and squeezing out milk (mastitis was nothing compared to this! Possibly because my fevers were so high I was too delirious to register the pain), trying to unplug my milk ducts (before his clip, my son was not pulling my milk out and I had numerous plugged ducts). It was at that time I realized that either our walls were super soundproof, or none of the neighbours cared (which reminds me of the NYC saying, "the best thing about New York, is that no one gives a fuck. The worst thing about New York, is that no one gives a fuck") and I was ready meat  to be chopped up by any psychopath that roamed our West Village condo complex (surprisingly, in the three and a half years there, the only skirmish we witnessed was outside our window on  Christopher Street, where the drags queens had a punch out).

It was a downward spiral - pain increases stress and decreased the "love" hormone, the decrease in milk supply in turn caused me further stress and anxiety, which caused cortisol to rise and oxytocin to fall, further decreasing my milk supply. The repeated infections - the mastitis infections and yeast infections - further dropped my supply so that I was pumping anywhere between 1/3 of an oz to 1 oz from both breasts. My husband asked me to quit. I growled at him. Increasing my milk production became a crusade.

I became obsessed with the fact that I couldn't feed my son without supplement and became quite depressed, anxious and embarrassed, feeling guilty and inadequate. I imagined we would be stuck somewhere in the wilderness, where I could not obtain any formula, and my son would starve as he looked desperately at my dry mammary glands (yes, that's how crazy I got). All my insecurities and regrets in my life, all my perceived failings, were zoned in to producing milk - if I produced for my son, none of it mattered. If I failed - it was the final expression of everything that I had failed to achieve, solidifying my inadequacy. I felt I was a bad mother and undeserving of my son. Unfortunately, stress and depression increases cortisol levels, which depletes milk production and so I descended deeper into the downward spiral.

For nearly two months, I would feed my son, bottle feed my son and pump. I would also get up a few times in the middle of the night to pump, so that I was sleeping in two and a half bursts, failing to enjoy the fact that my son was a super awesome sleeper that slept 7 hours straight after two months. During the day, I gorged on galactagogues - oatmeal, Guinness et al and rigidly took my supplements fenugreek and blessed thistle - and watched the trickle of my milk as I pumped. My lactation consultant advised that I watch a sitcom while I pumped. So I re-watched nearly all of Frasier and as we live in a loft, so did my husband to his increasing chagrin.

My mother in law came to help out and she - who bottle fed- was gently trying to persuade me that it wasn't worth it. I took this opinion as a challenge and plundered through the last of my wits, until I collapsed and decided I was no longer going to pump and I would sleep when my son slept. Slowly, I decreased my rigid routine, felt better and - when I said to hell with it - my milk went up! I was pumping 3 oz from both breasts (which I understand is laughingly meagre compared to most lactating women but for me was a deluge! And I stood proud).

I made peace with my milk, or lack thereof. In fact, since I have accepted that I have done everything possible - both physically and emotionally- to provide milk, I now even enjoy the convenience that providing formula can offer. He sleeps more during the night because we provide him a bigger feeding when he goes to bed, giving me and hubby some needed time as well as some much needed sleep. I still breastfeed every time he feeds and provide him all my antibodies and all that good stuff and I have accepted that the organic formula we give him (which in a way is an oxymoron for by its very definition, "formula" is formulated and there are additives in there which are not natural, even if good for the baby, such as DHA, Vitamin D etc) provides him whatever my milk lacks (for mother's milk is only as good as the mother after all). So in a way he gets the best of both worlds. For me, it's still double the work - I have to breast feed and bottle feed each time - but knowing I supply my son my milk and bonding with him (he stops during feedings and gives me a bashful smile as if saying "thank you mum! I appreciate this!") is all worth it. I've made peace with the way we feed and with the fact that my milk may dry up - until it does, we feed and feed and feed. I'm much happier and a better mother for it as I am not discarding my son for the pump.

One of the reasons I was so against formula (apart from anxiety that a corporation was feeding my son and wondering how tightly controlled this psychopathic creature was) was that I believed it was the "easy way out" - certainly now, breast and bottle feeding - we did not choose the easiest option (nor the least expensive by any means). Being ignorant of how difficult it was to breastfeed, I had incorrectly assumed that mothers that fed formula to their little ones were choosing the convenience of it and denying the good stuff to their babies (in my defense, I had read that one of the main reasons women choose not to breastfeed was fear that it would affect their breasts - such a cosmetic and selfish reason, I found unpalatable). These mothers, in my mind, were therefore not as good, as they preferred their own convenience and appearance to their babies' health. It's always good (and sometimes necessary) when the universe slaps you a lesson that unveils your ignorance and increases your empathy. My forage into the stygian side of breastfeeding has taught me the lesson that women do not make this choice easily and most of the time, it is made for them.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Circus Act (Luca's Playground)

I am stealing this post in as L is entertained by his safari mobile. I reckon I have about 20 mins before he becomes fidgety - either bored, wet or needing to burp. In order to get anything done, I have to bounce L from contraption to contraption throughout the day when he is not feeding or sleeping so that he is diverted while I (try to) work. Sometimes, the plan falls through - such as the mobile that I had placed between two couch cushions in our temporary accommodation (we've moved the fam from NY to SF!) that stayed in place by the pressure of me sitting on one cushion, nearly falling on top of him when I moved without thinking, during my conversation with the clerk of the court in a Southern District case I'm litigating at the moment and resulting in some ambient acoustics for the young clerk (who may now think twice about early motherhood). Another diversion, which I can only use when reviewing (or buying more L diversions on Amazon), is to put on the Beatles or the Beach Boys, which L loves and have one of his plush friends, Benjamin the Bunny or Larry the Llama or Marius the Giraffe rock on to their beats, which employs one hand only and leaves the other to click through as needed. The baby bouncer provides some relief, but only works if Sir L can look at me while I am doing something interesting - which to him involves movement and definitely not typing. It worked great while we were moving as he he loved seeing me put things into boxes. A swing is on the way which purportedly will give me more time.

In this way, as L goes from ride to ride in his playground throughout the day and mum goes about her deeds in bursts, a precious hour and change is achieved. I cut a deal with my hubby to be on duty for 90 mins in the morning or evening most days to get more work in. However, if I'm realistically going to continue my practice, now that the grandmothers are gone, we're going to have to find a breathing biped diversion. I'm very nervous about this, particularly as L has vesicoureteral reflux ie if he gets a UTI, he gets a kidney infection. We watch him like hawks and bathe him every time he poops. I worry that any sitter we employ would not be as diligent. That is my main and my professed concern as I know it sounds reasonable. I have other concerns, that I understand to be a little from left field, but that still gnaw at me. What if a sitter appears fantastic but is really a kidnapper? Or a sadist? Or has horrible grammar that influences the currently vulnerable linguistic wiring of my son? I trust the older he gets, the less panicked I will be, but I am prone to being a worry wart and may have to stalk any potential babysitter online to see if they are suitable for Sir L.

A lesser concern is the economics of the situation. Employing a babysitter while I bill is a no brainer. But what of employing a babysitter when I am not billing but doing what is necessary for my practice? This brings me back to my earlier point in a previous blog as to how important childcare is for women's career choices. Many women do not go back to work because by doing so, their whole salaries may go towards childcare and in such case, why have a stranger look after your heart and soul? The fact that there is no subsidized or government provided childcare is absurd.

L is starting to fidget and my time is nearly up. Next, we will go onto tasks that can be done by the both of us. I've become quite adept at doing things one handed, holding L with the other arm and that's saying something because before he was born, even doing things with two could be a hassle - I am terribly accident prone. Necessity is not only the mother of invention, but adaption too.

After that, it'll be back to mama on the go-go, the full time circus act that has only one but devoted customer and who pays in gems of priceless smiles and gurgles. There's the slippery dip, where I hoist him up and slide him down my legs as I lie on my back and lift my legs up, the "aero ride" where I hold him flat as I stand and spin and many a puppet show and song and dance routine. I have my standard gigs and then I switch it up, but its's always go-go-go. It can be tiring but you can't beat that smile as a reward. It's worth the world to me.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Dance Monkey, Dance!

Time has wisped by since little L was born, each day melting into the next. I can hardly believe that tomorrow, at 11:11 am, he will be 11 weeks old. He has developed leagues in this time. He is making all sorts of sounds (and always "Ey!" for food as if he instinctively knew that would command attention), nearly sitting up and standing up by himself (he was very nearly holding his own head up the day he was born), tracking objects with his diaphanous eyes, turning his head towards different sounds - the changes are rapid and almost discernible daily. As his brain furiously connects more and more wires, my brain has lost the same (just as my husband, since L's birth lost around the same weight I gained from my pre-pregnancy weight as if he lumped it over to me). I was sure there were 40 days in a month the other day and have the memory of a goldfish. Since my health has recovered recently(apart from recovering from labour and numerous stitches therewith and the pain of a gnawing baby with tongue tie on my scalding nipples, I've had mastitis twice with near hospital grade fevers, yeast infection on my nipples and borne the delight of vascular spasms- lucky me!), in part due to allowing myself to sleep more than two hours at a time (resulting in the first instance from my husband turning off my pumping alarm as our son had begun to sleep throughout most of the night quite early on), my brain has somewhat flexed its muscles, but I would not be gambling on my chess prowess any time soon (or sentence structure). Someone once said to me that the postnatal period doesn't really start until about six months after birth, and I'm beginning to agree with that assessment. I'm still not physically nor emotionally myself and lactation surges you with hormones - as well as swelling you with sweat. Nursing is also soporific - most times that I nurse, both L and I are very nearly knocked out. Yes, I'm already getting high with my two month old - but social services will not knock on the door anytime soon as there is a biological rather than botanical basis for the deep sleep. The release of oxytocin, which produces the let down and the bonding with your baby makes you and baby, very sleepy.

I am at a loss to understand how single mothers without help can do anything - they are ninjettes, super heroes bar none. I've had my mother and my mother-in-law help out (as well as a supportive hubby in love with his son who takes on a lot of tasks on his volition and would not have it any other way) and I still haven't found time to further any of my ventures. I did go back to work for a bit, 3 weeks after birth due to being lead counsel on a case at a fragile time, but I collapsed in an emotional heap and retreated to my den, asking my partners to take over for a couple of months. Since then, responding to an email here and there has been my most productive.... This is where I left off yesterday, deciding to cheat time whilst L was asleep to write another post. There really is no time when you are indentured to a dictator and at mercy to his caprice. Babies really do demand all your attention. I am writing this as L sits next to me on my desk in a car seat  - he loves the car seat and rejects the bouncer we got him (figurati!) - and is amused at the mobile in front of him, determined to teach the smiling monkey twisting to Bach a lesson with a wry smile of indulgence as I periodically rock the car seat. As soon as his royal majesty bores of the mobile, having either conquered the monkey or as is appearing to be the case, fascinated by his hands and trying to swallow as much of them as possible in one go, I am back on duty. I tend to put him in a baby carrier and rock around the house, putting on some tunes (he loves the Beatles most of all but also favours reggae) and shoving puppets in his face that somehow... this where I left off yesterday, writing now with Luca in a baby carrier on my chest, swaying to reggae. I suppose I have a few minutes to rant, as long as I sway sufficiently for his royal, monkey, dance!

What do single mothers do?? How do they go back to work and take care of their children? How do they find child care when it's so expensive? The US has very anachronistic and insufficient maternity leave and child care provisions. The Federal provisions under the Family Medical Leave Act only apply to businesses that have 50 and more employees in a 75 mile radius and only for full time employees that have worked for one year before their maternity leave. Further, maternity or paternity leave is only for a meagre three month period (when the child is still wholly dependent on the mother- particularly if the mother is breastfeeding, which becomes very difficult to do when the mother goes back to work- and the mother has barely recovered from labour and is still sleep deprived) and worse, is unpaid. Many businesses skirt these provisions by not employing full time workers and many couples - or single parents - could not afford to take a three month period without pay. Additionally, while some places in the US now have free pre-K, which acts as a necessary free child care service for working parents, there is no government subsided childcare. Thus, many women who would take maternity leave, are forced to work and many women-particularly women in partnerships where their partner earns an income - are forced to stay at home and cannot return to work (when you see that all your income would go to someone else taking care of your child, staying home is a no brainer). Neither of these unpalatable choices are a worry for high income earners. They can withstand unpaid leave - although of course, higher paid jobs generally have paid leave from their employers - and they can go back to work and continue their careers when they wish as they can afford to pay for full time child care while they do so. This situation merely perpetuates and exacerbates inequity in society. Paid maternity leave, longer maternity leave and either free or government subsidized child care is a necessity and one that a government that cares for its people should provide.