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

ANNUS MIRABILIS

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?


Instead....

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.

4) HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

HA!

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.