Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Christmas in August

My brother has been living in Seoul, South Korea for the past three years.  (You can read some highlights from our visit to Seoul here and here.).  He's now back in the states and has just moved to Pittsburgh to start a PhD program (sounds like somebody is totally copycatting his sister, right???).

Anyway, on his way to Pittsburgh, Uncle Bubs came through St. Louis to meet his new niece!

Cardinals fan Caroline isn't too sure about being held by a guy in Pirates gear...
My parents came up for the weekend also, and it was the first time we had all been together in a long time.

My family has not celebrated Christmas together for the past two years, not since Eliza died.  I wasn't functioning at all in December 2010, and last year David and I didn't even put up a tree and attempted to escape to Mexico.  So my mom decided that we would have Christmas this summer when Brandon was here.

It was also a convenient excuse for my mom to give Caroline a bunch of Christmassy clothes that she'll be able to wear in December this year.  And for us to play silly board games and let David cook for everyone, in true holiday spirit!

Grams and Mini-C
So we exchanged Christmas gifts (which included beer, chocolate, yoga gear, baby photos, and a carved Buddha) and Uncle Bubs brought Caroline a stuffed panda bear that he got from Lotte World in Seoul.  I wanted to name it some kind of cute Korean name but we couldn't come up with anything cute and easily pronounced by those of us not fluent in Korean.

However, when we visited Brandon in Korea two years ago, we met the girl he was dating at the time, and I remembered that we also met her really adorable dog:

Joo and her puppy
Unfortunately (for my mom and me, who wanted to make Joo part of the family), Brandon and Joo broke up.  (That's right ladies, my brother is single!!!  Who wants to be Caroline's favorite auntie???)  But since I still love Joo and her cute dog, I thought we could name the panda bear after Joo's puppy...  Except I couldn't remember the dog's name.

But Brandon remembered!  His name was... Pony!

Yes.  Like the small horse.

So...  Pony the Panda.  Because that won't be confusing AT ALL.

Meeting Pony the Panda
 We tried some other names because David thought she might seem weird if she pointed at Panda bears and called them ponies, but Pony stuck (Also don't you kind of want to name your dog Pony now?).  So I guess our daughter runs the risk of being the weird kid who thinks pandas are ponies.

Who you callin' weird?  Nobody in this picture is weird.
Oh wait.
Fussiness conquered by the New Native sling. 
(Side note:  I see in the pictures that I kept putting on and taking off a sweater that evening.  I felt cold... then hot... then cold...  Yeah.  That was the night before I woke up with MILK FEVER.  Go figure.  Also that's a scalp massager that my brother is wearing on his head--a little Christmas gift from Yours Truly.  Bubs--You're welcome.)

Anyway, our family Christmas would not be complete without a picture of a baby in an enormous stocking:

No idea what that shadow is -- but the stocking contains the best Christmas present EVER.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.  In the woombie.
And Caroline still loves Pony the Panda!

Oh, BY THE WAY, I'm 8 weeks old now.
(And yes, we are the parents taking weekly pictures of our preshus snowflake.)
Cooper showed an interest in Pony, too, so he had to be encouraged to play with his own toys instead.  Unfortunately for Coop, Caroline is not an interested playmate yet.  And I'm grossed out by chewy dog toys on the baby blanket.

Why won't baybee play tug of war???

There you have it.  Christmas in August.  Thanks, Caro, for making our days merry and bright.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Friends With Kids

I saw some of my best friends on Sunday.  And many (though not quite all) of their kids.  With the six of us girls who still see each other on a fairly regular basis, there are a total of twelve (living) kids.  Four of us were pregnant at the same time in 2010, three of us were pregnant again in 2012.  This six of us and ten of our kids got together on Sunday.  It was crazy and loud and so much fun.  It's just amazing to know that we've gone from college drama to the dramedy of raising kids.  It's fun to see the kids so close in age, how well they play together, how much they look like one parent or the other.

Carol's Noah and Sam make me smile, with their huge brown eyes and brown curly hair and their bilingual English/Portuguese skills.  Sam is three, Noah will be two in December.

Jamie's Owen will be two in October.  He cracks me up because he's such a stocky little guy right now and both his parents are tall and thin and he squeezes his juice box in the middle so it spills and he plays so hard he gets red faced and sweaty.

Beth's Lilly will turn three in October.  She has her dad's big blue eyes and stands out as the quiet one in a noisy group, although she can be plenty noisy at home.  Her ponytail is perky and she even keeps her dress clean and when I ask her new baby sister's name, she whispers, "Evie."

Allison's Aubrey is tall for her age (just turned three) and has the kind of hair that I still envy--gorgeous blonde bouncing curls.  In an extra twist of unfairness, she somehow has thick, dark eyelashes as well. Wade is Aubrey's big brother (he'll be five very soon) and even taller than she is--he looks like such a grown up boy with his talk of jet planes and he (politely) asks for seconds on cake before everyone has gotten firsts.

Stephanie's Evelyn has just met everyone for the first time but asserts herself with the confidence of a girl who has two brothers (one fourteen months older, one who's her twin).  She will be two in November, and in her world, there's no car that can't be driven, no slide that can't be slid, no potted tree that can't be pulled over.

The babies in the bunch were all born this summer and are stairstepped--Jamie's Nathan is about a month older than Caroline who is just about a month older than Beth's Evie.

I loved seeing all of them together (and their moms).  But of course I kept thinking about the little girl who wasn't there.  The little girl who should have been a month younger than Evelyn, almost the exact same age as Noah, three months younger than Owen.  Would she have been shy or bossy?  Would she be talking?  Would she prefer dresses or shorts?  Would she buddy up with Evelyn or want to shadow Aubrey or Lilly?  Or would she prefer to play trains with the boys?

I see those kids who are right where she was supposed to be and I see how breathtakingly BIG they are, what strong little personalities they have, what amazing things they are capable of doing and saying and feeling (Noah played hide and see with me under the table, Evelyn wanted to swing so high, Owen fell in love with a stuffed Clifford dog).

I see these kids and I feel so glad that they are here and safe and healthy.  I'm relieved that my friends have been spared the pain and grief that David and I have felt.  I'm also insanely jealous.  All I want is for both my kids to be alive.  Why is that so easy for everyone else and so impossible for me?

This has been the first time we all got together since Eliza died (well, it's the first time I was there--it's possible that they got together and tactfully didn't mention it to me).  I know there's no way I could have done it before Caroline was born.  In that way, she has made life easier to handle.

I was so afraid for so long of seeing these kids and missing Eliza.  I was afraid of being overwhelmed with anger and sadness and bitterness.  And I can't say that those feelings are completely gone.  But I can love my friends' kids for who they are, both in spite of and also because they are a reminder of Eliza.

David and I were talking last night about how much Caroline has filled up the hole in our lives that Eliza left.  The busy-ness of parenting, the fun of picking out clothes and visiting family and watching her become more and more aware of the world around her--we have that now and it is so, so sweet.  But the point of our conversation was that there's still an emptiness--a quiet space that could only be for Eliza.

I felt that quiet emptiness yesterday, surrounded by friends, laughter, chatter, the occasional shrieking child or fussing baby.

I held my baby and I hugged my friends and I was so grateful for all that's good in my life.  And I can't even tell you how much I missed my first little girl and everything that should have been.

Don't be confused!  I'm actually holding Nathan (third from left) and my friend Allison (the pretty blond) is holding Caroline

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Crazy Talk

I had a bit of a meltdown yesterday.

I'm feeling much better, so it wasn't just that I was sick, exactly.  It was mostly a pity party of sadness, and frustration that I had to deal with mastitis and a fear that it will be recurring and I will want to stop breastfeeding.

Except I don't want to want to stop breastfeeding.

Not because I totally love every minute of it (although I do like it far more than I expected to) and  not because breastfeeding is the only way to be a good mom (I completely understand that many people need to use formula for physical or mental reasons and I think that's absolutely fine and no child with loving parents is harmed by taking formula instead of breastmilk).

When I was pregnant with Eliza, I planned to breastfeed to save money and because I just assumed I'd be able to do it.  I wasn't all worked up about the bonding with baby or anything like that.  I knew it was good for the baby's immune system.  Mostly I felt obligated to try it and I just hoped I wouldn't hate it.  Also, I figured it would eventually be easier than trying to deal with formula and bottles.

This time around, I wanted to breastfeed for all the same reasons, and I was so relieved that (1) it was going well because the baby was gaining weight and (2) I didn't hate it.  Honestly, I was surprised by how much I liked being able to do it, and I really thought we'd mastered it.  After a very challenging two weeks when she was first born, nursing became easy and relaxing.  I love holding the baby close and listening to her little grunts as she eats and her contented sighs when she's milk drunk and sleepy.  I wanted to do it because I felt like it was the best thing for her, but I'm not continuing to do it merely out of obligation.  It's true that I'm tired of my boobs being ridiculously huge and I'd like to wear a normal bra again someday (along with my old jeans), but I'm glad that I can do it for her, and I really don't mind it at all.  I like feeling so close to her and I like feeling that my body is doing something right.

But I realized last night (post-meltdown) that a big part of my anxiety about the mastitis issue was exactly that--my body was no longer doing something right.  In fact, something was terribly wrong.  And even though it doesn't affect the baby (she's still nursing just fine and it was only painful the first two times I fed her on Sunday morning--the boob is still tender, but nursing doesn't add to the pain at all.  In fact, it mostly relieves it.) I am freaked out that something is going on with my body that I can't control--something that made me both miserable and helpless.

Everything I read about mastitis has a list of things that cause it, it frustrates me because I wasn't doing ANY of those things!  I got fitted for nursing bras, I drink lots of fluids, I wasn't skipping feedings or pumpings, and even though she does go long stretches without eating at night, that's been going on for a month or so.  I know they make those lists to help people avoid having this issue, but every time I would read those things, I'd feel like I was being told that getting mastitis was my fault.  Like I must have done something wrong or this wouldn't be happening.

And if I hadn't done anything wrong, then WHY was my body messing this up?  What is wrong with me?  It makes me feel like I can't take care of a baby, like I can't keep my baby safe.  I couldn't keep Eliza alive, and now I can't feed Caroline the way I wanted to.

And I know that's crazy because (1) I AM still breast feeding and the only effect of mastitis was that I felt like total shit for 24 hours, and (2) there's probably nothing I could have done to save Eliza OR prevent mastitis and (3) I don't think you have to breastfeed to be a great mom.  But somehow--in the exhaustion and frustration of not feeling well yesterday--mastitis felt like one more way my body was failing my baby.

I realized (post-meltdown) that I am putting a lot of pressure on myself not just to be what I feel like is a "good mom" but to do everything exactly right.  Like I have to prove that I can do this--easily!  effortlessly!  happily!--so that I don't give anybody the idea that I can't take care of this baby, either.  (And here I thought I'd done enough therapy to work through my guilt about losing Eliza...)  

Honestly, the only reason I've even been able to have this idea of having to be "good enough" to keep my baby and not be completely stressed out of my mind is because Caroline is such an easy baby (she's not fussy and she's a good sleeper) that she makes me feel like I'm doing a good job.  I can only IMAGINE what a wreck I would be if she were colicky or sick...

I don't exactly have a solution for this--I know that the way I feel is illogical, but that doesn't mean I can just turn it off.  So I'm just trying to remember that everything doesn't have to perfect all the time, and that most babies survive and thrive (some of them in spite of their parents).  If breastfeeding continues to work for us, then we'll keep doing it.  I'm don't need to be some kind of self-sacrificing martyr, but I don't have to stop if I don't want to.  And, if I want to quit, I can do it without it being some kind of failure.

(I also know that I can't really take credit for Caroline being an easy baby--it's not like she sleeps well because of anything we've done!)

It helps that I know a few other people who have gotten mastitis but had no other issues (as in, their babies didn't die) so that helps me feel less like my body is broken and more like this is just a shitty thing but things could be much worse.

That's the real mindf*ck--that getting sick made me feel broken, like my body can't keep babies healthy.  I know that's not true, but knowing it and feeling it just aren't the same thing.

It helps that Caro started smiling FOR REAL this week.  The last couple days I've been sure it wasn't just gas.  She's actually interacting with and responding to David and me.  It's basically the most heart-melting adorable thing EVER.  I haven't captured many good pictures of it (she smiles at my face, but looks quizzically at the iPhone) so this is a bit blurry, but you still get the gist of her adorableness:

OK, time to get out of my crazy head and go nurse the baby.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Fire Boob

Saturday evening, around dinner time, my boob started hurting.  Not like SUPER painful, just kind of sore in one spot on top.  I couldn't feel a bump or lump or anything, but I still figured it must be a clogged milk duct.  I hadn't done any of the things that can contribute to a clogged duct--the baby's sleeping patterns hadn't recently changed, I wasn't wearing underwire bras, I wasn't pulling her off the boob early during a feeding.  My legs also felt really sore and tired, which seemed weird since we hadn't walked all that far, but I didn't think much of it.

I looked up "clogged milk duct" in a couple breast feeding books I have and followed their directions (nurse frequently, apply warm compress, massage boob while nursing) and thought it was sort of feeling better.  Caroline has been sleeping long stretches at night (knock on wood) so around midnight, I decided to take a hot shower and pump before I went to bed.

It didn't matter.

I woke up at 7 the next morning, under the sheet, blanket, and duvet cover, FREEZING cold.  Except for my right boob, which felt like it was about to spontaneously combust.  I was shivering, my teeth were chattering, and I knew something was very, very wrong.

By 8am, we'd determined I had mastitis.

I had all the classic symptoms--painful boob with a red splotch on it (although it actually wasn't that painful compared to the other symptoms), fever, shakiness, weakness, chills, and sweats.  I never run a high fever, but my temperature didn't drop below 99 degrees all day long, even with antibiotics and ibuprofen every four hours.

I laughed because the first instruction under "Mastitis" in The Nursing Mother's Companion is to "Go to bed."  Dude, there's no way I could get OUT of bed.

Fortunately David was able to call in to work and stay home with me today, because there is no way I could take care of the baby by myself.

I called my doula/lactation consultant later in the day to ask her about probiotics (because the LAST thing I need to experience now is thrush) and was trying to explain to her that I don't understand why I would have gotten this or what I did wrong.  She told me that there was probably nothing I could have done--infections just happen sometimes.  It's possible my immune system was down (I did have a sore throat the previous week) but she said there's no specific cause.

I spent all day yesterday nursing Caroline every two hours, as instructed by my doctor, my doula/lactation consultant, and everything we read online.  (This was unusual for us, because even when she was first born, she never demanded to eat every two hours.  She quickly settled into a routine of eating just 7 times a day, which of course was a concern for me since everything I read said 8-12 times a day, but our pediatrician assured me she's doing just fine.)  At first, nursing was miserable, and GOD FORBID she flail her arm around and hit the sore boob.  If she was sound asleep, I pumped, which was also miserable just because pumping is not super fun.  But I was doing anything to keep the boobs feeling soft and empty.  Eventually the boob pain subsided, and I fully expected to be feeling better by last night since I'd been on antibiotics and ibuprofen all day long.

But that was not the case.  Basically, mastitis is like the worst flu symptoms ever, plus boob pain.

Around 9:30pm, I'd nursed the baby and she'd fallen asleep in my arms.  I was sitting and holding her in the recliner, and all of a sudden, I was FREEZING cold again.  I had two of our warmest, fuzziest blankets on my lap, but I was still so cold I was shaking.  David put another quilt over me.  I wanted to keep holding the baby because she was so sweet and sleepy and comforting, but finally it got to the point where I was shaking too hard and my arms felt completely weak.  I told David, "Something is wrong.  I feel worse."

David picked up the baby, and her poor little legs were sweaty from being held against my furnace of a body (she sleeps very soundly, though, with Mommy as a heating pad).  He put Caro in her bed and helped me move to the couch, where I curled up in the fetal position under all my blankets.  I knew that I was burning up, but I felt so cold that I couldn't stop shaking, my teeth were chattering like crazy, and all I could do was sort of moan pathetically.  We took my temperature, and my fever had gone up to 102.7.

David was pretty freaked out as he'd never seen me like that before.  I've never had a temperature over 100 degrees since he's known me.  In fact, I don't think I've ever had a fever that high in my entire life.  He  told me this morning that he was really scared when he saw the thermometer.  So then he kept searching online to read about what to expect, and I tried to watch TV but couldn't focus on anything.  At one point I wanted to go to bed, but when I stood up I felt like I was going to pass out, so it was back to the couch.  I took a short nap there and then my fever had gone down a little bit (around 100) when I woke up, so then I made it back to bed.

When I woke up at 4am to nurse the baby (we had to set an alarm to wake all of us up ever 2-3 hours during the night), I felt the best I'd felt since Saturday--and I didn't have a fever.  But by 8am today, my fever was back (although it was down to 99.6).  It's hovered around 99 all day long and I just feel absolutely exhausted.  Like it takes an internal pep talk for me to get up and go to the bathroom.  I did manage to shower today, though, because my fever broke a couple times yesterday, leaving me hot and sweaty.

I know I should be grateful to have a nursing baby and two working boobs and all that, but I'll tell you that I did go ahead and have a little bit of a pity party because WHY would this have to happen to me (and, apparently, just 20% of all nursing moms, usually in the first three months, most commonly in the first 1-2 weeks)?  Why can't my body function properly?  And of course when things happen that are out of my control and yet occurring within my body, it always goes back to my pregnancy with Eliza, where it seems as though my body failed her.  Why can't I ever fall on the fat side of statistics, where you DON'T get "milk fever" and your babies all live?  So that train of thought, along with a brutal fever and severe body aches led to some tears that probably would have been more extreme except I was so freaking exhausted I was too tired to cry.

Fortunately, I slept pretty well last night, in between waking every 2-3 hours to make the baby nurse.

The most surprising thing is that my boob wasn't nearly as painful as everything else (for some reason I just expected a boob infection to keep the boob at the center of Everything Awful).  The muscle aches from the fever were the worst.  I still feel sore, like I rolled down a hillside full of rocks after hiking for ten miles and every inch of my body is tired and bruised.  My back and legs and arms just hurt.  And I'm still so weak that I don't really feel comfortable walking around with the baby.  David has run to the store to pick up a few things and took Caroline with him because I'm scared that I can't take good care of her by myself.  It's awful.

So, in summary:  I'm 24 hours into my antibiotic, my boob still looks red and angry, and I'm weak, sore, tired, and cranky (evidence of crankiness:  David deleted a show from the DVR that I hadn't watched yet and I yelled at him and told him he was "insensitive and disrespectful").

We're both hoping I'll feel loads better by tomorrow.

Between me, the baby, and the dogs, he's dealing with four helpless, needy creatures who desperate for attention and relying on him to deliver food, drink, and entertainment.  Just in case you thought his day off work might be a vacation... yeah, not so much.  At least the worst appears to be over.  Hopefully I am on the mend.

Anybody out there had mastitis and lived to tell about it?  Can you offer me some hope here?  I just want to be able to keep nursing my baby and never experience this again.  Is that really too much to ask?

A cute baby is the best medicine of all.  Unfortunately, it does not cure mastitis immediately.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The days are just packed

We've been busy.

Strolling around the neighborhood.

Stroller walks manageable with just one four-legged beast.
Strolling at Forest Park.

OMG!  A Segway tour!  Future Visitors to STL:  We can totally do this.  If you want to be a HUGE NERD.  I don't know why I want to make fun of people on Segways.  I just find them irresistible targets of mockery.
Visiting sister Eliza's tree.

I love my baby ducks.  Also, I was relieved her tree survived the heat wave.

Eliza's tree tag

Locavore likes chow time.

Swaddle becomes toga.

Sweet dreams.

Tummy Time.

Sister & Brother
Hanging with the homies.

The three musketeers.

Getting hit on by cute boys.

Nathan is getting a little handsie!  We've got to keep an eye on that one.
And today we're watching a few episodes of Season 2 of Parks and Recreation (I don't find many shows to be laugh-out-loud funny, but Parks and Rec does it for me).  Observe the wee baby couch potato.

Most delicious couch potato EVER.  I could just eat her up.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Adding Insult to Injury

I'm sure you've all been waiting with baited breath to see how things went on my return trip to pick up Little Mac from the new groomer's.

In a word:  Not so great.

OK, that's three words.

And don't worry.  I'm about to give you several more, detailing how I managed to literally fall on my face and then metaphorically get kicked while I was down.

Little Miss C got a bit fussy on me in the afternoon.  The kind of fussy where she's tired but she doesn't REALIZE that if she'd just go to sleep, that would cure the problem.  So after rocking and ssshhhing she was finally sleeping off her drama and I actually had time to take a shower.

I'm not sure if I made this totally clear before, but when I walked Mac and Coop and Caroline up to the groomer's earlier that morning, I had not showered before we left the house.  Also, I was wearing a nursing tank top with a maternity tank top over it (helllloooo hottie) and workout shorts and my hair was two days dirty and in a pony tail and I obviously wasn't wearing any make up whatsoever.  I mean I was WALKING which is the closest thing I'm getting to exercise these days, and I'm not one of those people who puts on make up to go exercise.  And there was no point in showering when it was hot enough that I'd break a sweat even though I was only walking a short distance.

Anyway, Caroline had just fallen asleep when the groomer called and said Little Mac was ready to go.  I asked if it would be ok if I picked her up in about an hour, and they said that was fine.  So then I jumped in the shower.  I had plans for that evening, so I took advantage of her napping to blow dry my hair and put on makeup.  And I put on a little black sundress (a nice stretchy knit so it still fits).

My friend Abby was coming over to visit me (and the bebe) so I had the brilliant idea of asking her to sit with Caroline for a few minutes while I drove to pick up Little Mac.  Of course Abby was more than happy to do this for me.  I was a little worried that Caroline would wake up from her nap and be hungry, but as I mentioned before, the groomer is less than a block away.  So I figured I'd be there and back in five minutes.

I assured Abby of this and dashed out the door.  As I was rushing outside, Cooper was barking and I turned my head to tell him to shush, and then...

I don't know exactly what happened.  I was stepping out the front door onto the front stoop and somehow I landed on the side of my flip flop and then my foot rolled and my ankle kept going.  I felt a shooting pain, and I crumpled down on the concrete stoop.

Abby didn't actually see me fall, but she saw me down on the ground, so she flung open the door to make sure I was ok.

I was not ok.

It was my bad ankle, which I severely sprained my freshman year of college.  And it had happened almost the same way--I was walking, and I fell off the sidewalk.  I was on my way to class with one of my guy friends, and he mentioned that his girlfriend was going to the mall because it was Clinique Bonus Week.  I was so excited about finding out it was Clinique Bonus Week that I forgot to watch where I was going, and as I was squealing about new eye shadow and black honey lip gloss, I stepped off the sidewalk and rolled my ankle in the most painful way possible.

My friend Greg thought I was kidding at first when I collapsed onto the grass and it was ONLY because it was in the middle of campus in front of who knows how many witnesses that I managed not to cry.  Greg helped me up and helped me limp to class (Environmental Science lab) and the professor sent someone to the dining hall next door to get me ice and then I sat there with my ankle iced and elevated while we all did an experiment (I forget what the experiment was) and THEN my professor drove me to the hospital where I had an x-ray to make sure that my ankle wasn't broken.  The doctor said sympathetically that sometimes sprains hurt more than an actual break.  They sent me home with an ankle brace and a prescription for pain pills and crutches.  I lived on the third floor of a walk-up dorm.  And my roommate had to carry my tray in the dining hall.  It was a long couple of weeks.

Anyway, this time I was ok.  It wasn't actually sprained, but that didn't mean it didn't hurt like hell.  Also I was totally embarrassed that I'd just EATEN IT in front of a witness (of course someone had to be there to see this) but I was also glad Abby was there just in case I really hadn't been ok.  And thank goodness I wasn't holding the baby!

Abby flung open the door and came outside, anxiously asking if I was ok and what she could do.

I kept saying, "I don't know yet..."

Anyway, after a minute, I caught my breath and rotated my foot around.  It was clear my ankle wasn't broken, and I managed to stand up and put my weight on it.  It hurt, but it didn't hurt more when I walked on it.  It obviously wasn't severely sprained.  And it was time to pick up the damn dog and I needed to get back before the baby woke up and wanted to eat.  So...  carry on!

I limped to the car and then drove to the groomer.

So that was my injury.  The insult came next.

When I walked in, the groomer (the same middle-aged woman I'd talked to that morning) smiled at me and said, "Hi.  Can I help you?"

Except the way she said it was a little odd--like she couldn't imagine what I was doing there.

I said, "Yes.  I am here to pick up Little Mac."

"Oh!" she said, "Ok."

She headed for the door to the back.  Then she turned and said, "You're not the one who dropped her off this morning, are you?"

I stared at her.  "Um, yeah."

She blinked at me and then said, "Wow.  You clean up good."

I was speechless.

I mean, obviously I was not looking my best when I dropped off Little Mac, but evidently I was actually UNRECOGNIZABLE?  Are you KIDDING me?

And who says that to a complete stranger?  It's like a reverse compliment that doesn't actually mean you look NICE, it just means you looked like hell on wheels before.  Which, apparently, I DID, but that doens't mean commenting on it is necessary!

She brought out Little Mac, who was shaved so short she looked like a different dog (which was sort of what I'd asked for, but still a little shocking), and I said, "Wow, Little Mac!  You clean up good, too."

I paid.  She said Little Mac hadn't bitten anyone, although she tried to bite the girl who bathed her, but it was all right and she could come back again.  I left a tip to apologize for Little Mac's behavior.  Then Little Mac trotted and I limped back to the car, favoring my hurt ankle and nursing my wounded pride.

Ah kleen up rill gud.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Stroller Time: Fantasy vs. Reality

When I was twenty-some weeks pregnant with Eliza, we bought a stroller.  I researched a lot of strollers, which included both googling and chatting up people pushing strollers at the farmer's market.  I knew I wanted a jogging stroller but I didn't know whether we'd want a BOB, a Mountain Buggy, or a Phil and Teds...  in the end, we went with Phil and Teds because you can add a second seat to the back without changing the space that the stroller takes up (planning on two kids already...  so optimistic!).  I posted about the night David put it together here.  (It's so weird to read that post and remember clearly how excited we were...  Now there seems something terribly ominous about the "funny" picture on the box.)

Anyway, when we lost Eliza, the stroller fantasy was one of the most heartbreaking should-have-beens for me.  I walk the dogs daily (perhaps I should say walked, as the poor dogs have not been regularly walked all summer since we had a baby the same day this heatwave began).  I thought when spring came I'd carry Eliza in a baby carrier, and once the weather warmed up, I imagined myself strolling through the neighborhood, kiddo in the stroller, bottle of water in the cupholder, waving at neighbors, my ponytail bouncing, my legs getting toned from regular exercise, dogs trotting alongside us.  Every time I walked the dogs while pregnant with her, I indulged in this little fantasy.  It won't be long before I'm pushing a stroller on these walks.  We'd walk up to the park nearby and we'd walk by the playground and I'd smile at my belly and think that it wouldn't be long before I was pushing her to the park so she could swing right along with the other kids.

I couldn't wait.

(I have taken the dogs on many a walk since Eliza died.  We have not once been back to that park.)

Of course, I knew that the dogs might be a bit of a challenge, but in my fantasies, they were always well behaved.

And that is the biggest indicator that this was a fantasy because my dogs are not good walkers.

Cooper is more of a sniffer and a pee-er than a walker.  He zig zags all over the place, gets his leash caught up under his legs (in part because he has to wear a special harness on walks that I call his hyper-hypo harness after that SNL sketch with Mike Meyers--it fits around his body and the leash attaches at the front of his chest so that if/when he lunges after things, it's easier to control him).  He often sniffs with such urgency that he will fling his entire body weight at the end of the leash, and thirty-five pounds of determined puggle can really yank your arm around.

Little Mac does not like to walk in front of the pack, partly because she doesn't see very well (unkempt bushes and children's toys have both scared the hell out of her when they crossed her path).  Cooper also has a habit of body-checking her out of his way as he zig-zags around, knocking her off the sidewalk.  So sometimes walking the two of them together means one arm is stretched forward, holding Cooper back, and one arm is stretched backwards, dragging Little Mac along.

Have I mentioned how awesome my dogs are?  I mean, I know they sound like total pains in the ass, and they are, but they are also our sweet little preshuses and we lurve them to pieces.  Photo evidence of preshusness:

We luv our baybee.
SO ANYWAY.  It's been so hot, I have not done much strolling at all, and when we've gone out in the evenings, it's been when my parents were here or David was home so there were always enough people to divide up dog and stroller duty.  But today Little Mac had a grooming appointment at a new dog grooming place that I decided to try out because it's right up on the corner--less than a block away.  Instead of loading up the baby and Little Mac in the car, and breaking Cooper's heart by going on a ride without him, we'd all just take a little stroll together!  Sounds like a perfect plan, right?  I mean, yeah.  It's a little warm today.  But it's only half a block!  This will be fun.


The reality was not quite what I imagined.  And it wasn't just because my ponytail isn't very bouncy.

So the first challenge was getting the leash on Little Mac.  (I know--doesn't sound like the most promising start to a dog walk, does it?).  The thing is, she doesn't like to walk unless there are the same number of people as dogs because of Cooper's poor leash etiquette.  So if David and I are both going, she'll happily join us.  If it's just one of us, she'd prefer to stay home.  And she'll growl if I come near her with the leash and she has decided to stay home.  Fortunately I commanded her to "SIT" before she got to her bed (which is like "base" for her and she only has to obey commands before she gets on base and GOD FORBID you approach her or talk to her or LOOK at her when she is on base).  So I got the leash on her with little problem, and thought we were off to a good start.

Cooper was, of course, THRILLED at the idea of a walk, so he did his happy dance all over the place and I managed to wrangle him into his hyper-hypo harness and leash.  I left Caro in her pack and play as I dashed outside to get the stroller out of the car and set up.  Fortunately I have mastered that skill, so it took no time at all.  I left the stroller on the porch and headed back inside.

She was fussing a little at this point (how dare I lie her down in a safe, soft place and IGNORE her!), so I bounced her around and sang a few lyrics from the score of Pippin until she settled down.  Then it was time to wrangle her into her infant seat, which would attach to the stroller.  (I know the infant carrier would be easier, but it was so hot I hated the idea of sweating all over her.)

Both dogs sat by the front door during this, and Cooper whined loudly the ENTIRE time I got the baby in her seat, refilled my ice water, located my purse, and went to the bathroom.  Just in case I might, like, FORGET he wanted to go on a walk.

Finally, it was time to walk out the door.  I was awkwardly lugging the infant seat, trying not to trip over the dogs or their leashes, as they conveniently blocked my path.  I told them sternly to SIT and WAIT--commands which Cooper promptly ignored, dashing outside in front of me.  However, I used my mad ninja skills to step on his leash and stop him in his tracks, at the same time I kept the front door from banging into the infant seat and managed not to spill my water.  Ninja!  Then I closed the door on his leash so he was stuck (Little Mac was still inside at this point) and got Caroline's seat securely attached to to the stroller, the water in the cupholder, and my purse in the basket underneath.

Deep breath.

I realized at this point that I'd neglected to grab poop bags, so I held Cooper's leash as I let myself back in the house, got the poop bags from the cabinet by the front door, grabbed hold of Little Mac's leash, and let myself and Little Mac outside.  It was such a short walk I was hoping we wouldn't need poop bags, but you always need them when you don't have them, right?

Right.  But in my case, you also need them when you DO have them.  We'd gotten maybe two yards down the block when Litttle Mac decided to take a dump.  So, I put the brakes on the stroller, drag Cooper back, pick up her poo.

But somehow in this process, I managed to get a VINE wrapped around my ankle.  If I didn't know better, I'd swear it grew suddenly simply to entrap me.  So I'm holding the bag of dog poop in one hand, I have two dog leashes with dogs pulling in opposite directions in the other hand, and I'm standing on ONE FOOT, kicking wildly with the other in order to disentangle myself from the vine.  It's a miracle that I stayed upright.  I nearly lost my flip flop in the kicking/thrashing process, but finally I was free.

I glanced around furtively to make sure no one had witnessed this scene, but the coast appeared to be clear.  So then I put the bag of poop in the basket of the stroller, as far away from my purse as possible.  Gross.

Then we were back in action.  Cooper did a pretty good job of staying on the left side of the stroller.  That was the main challenge.  As long as I could keep him on one side, we were good.

Mac, as usual, preferred to lag behind, which was actually fine since she wasn't getting tangled up in the stroller that way.

We turned the corner and were almost to the alley, where there's a dumpster for tossing the poop bag.  Before we got there, Cooper decided he needed to take a dump.  So we repeated the previous scene, except without the attacking vine.

I strolled into the alley with the baby, the two dogs, the two bags of poop, deposited the poop in the dumpster, and turned back around.  We were ALMOST there!  And it had only taken three times as long as I had imagined!

We hit the front door of the grooming place and I see that it has a huge step up and a door that pushes in.  I was a bit bewildered because I did not know how to navigate that kind of entrance with a big jogging stroller and two dogs.  There was a handicapped sign on the door that said "Ring bell for assistance."  So I rang the bell.  I mean, I was there to give them business!  They could at least make the place accessible for me!  And what if I were a customer in a wheelchair?  Ridiculous.  I mean, disabled people have pets, too.  Install a ramp already.

Anyway, no one responded to the bell.  Cooper started whining at the door, Little Mac was pulling in the opposite direction, and I was about to turn the stroller around and try to back my way (which meant that the lyrics to "Back That Ass Up" were immediately stuck in my head--Girl you look good, won't you back that ass up...) in when another customer came up and held open the door for me (thankfully she did not have a dog with her but was there to pick up her cat).

FYI:  Caroline was perfectly happy and content during this entire time.  She loves to stroll and of the three needy creatures in my home, she's the easiest!

We managed to get inside as the groomer was coming out of the back to answer the bell.  She stared at me like I was a crazy person so then I explained that only one dog was being groomed and Cooper was just along for the walk, and yes, Little Mac is a girl even though her name sounds like a boy's name.  Then I filled out the forms and warned the groomer about Little Mac's attitude (which I'd already mentioned when I made the appointment), and then it was time to go home.

I was already exhausted.  And I could feel my boobs sweating.  Gross.

So we headed back outside into the broiling heat!  And we'd walked about twenty yards when Cooper took ANOTHER dump. And guess who was out of doggie bags??  Evidently he did not read about the One Dump Per Walk Rule that I have.

There was more furtive glancing around, and since it appeared no one had seen us and the yard was pretty untidy anyway, and he'd done it near the street and not up in the main yard, we just walked quickly away.

I know, I know.  Irresponsible pet owner.  What can I say?  It's not like I was going to pick it up with my HANDS.  (Although I have rung a doorbell and asked for a plastic bag on a couple of previous occasions when Cooper broke the one dump rule and I could tell the owner was home and the yard was meticulously cared for.)

We made it home without further adventure, but it seriously took us almost forty minutes to walk around the block (which is maybe a ten minute walk on a normal day).  And did I mention my boobs were sweating?

Now I get to look forward to picking up Little Mac after her hair cut...

So, yeah.  The walk was not quite the fantasy I imagined.  But at least there's a happy baby in the stroller, you know?

Photo evidence of happy baby.  Not in stroller, but you get the idea.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My First

When I was pregnant with Caroline and someone would ask me if it was my first, I almost always said no.  I got asked that question a LOT and only twice did I lie because I wanted to shut down the conversation.  After all, it wasn't my first pregnancy.  I would much rather tell a stranger my sad story and watch them feel awkward than listen to their smug and patronizing, "Ooh, your life is about to change!" or "Get your sleep now while you can!"

Eff you very much, my first baby died and I sure as hell don't need your advice or your ridiculous comments about how life-changing this experience is.

Not a very nice attitude, but what can I say?  Grief + Anxiety doesn't bring out the best in me.

As I wrote before, one of the nicest surprises about being pregnant again was that it gave me the opportunity to talk about Eliza.  To say her name, to explain that she mattered.  Everytime I shared her story, I almost always got a kind and compassionate response, and often I opened the way for someone else to share something important with me as well.  It wasn't always easy to talk about her, but I was always glad when I did.

Now I have a living, breathing, squawking little baby, and when strangers ask if she's my first...

I usually say yes.

Because she is my first five-and-a-half-week-old baby.  She is my first experience with breastfeeding and diaper changing and tummy time and lullabies and rocking chairs and car seats and strollers and bouncers.

In my heart, in reality, in all the ways that make me a mom, Eliza was and is and will always be my first baby.    But in the way I know people mean when they ask if Caroline is my first, well, I guess she's my first baby, too.

So it's a difficult question to answer.  It's one that I dread being asked.  And I've wondered if saying yes means that I'm taking the easy way out, that I'm pretending Eliza never existed.  This bothers me a lot, even though I know that everybody who knows us, everybody who matters, knows how important Eliza is to us, knows how much we love and miss her.  So why is it so hard to mention her to a stranger these days?

I think it's because I'm afraid I'll do it sort of apologetically.

Actually, my first baby died.  But it's ok that you asked!  See, look how great this new baby is!  I'm doing ok!  I'm totally not a crazy, unfit mother.  **insert big, fake smile**

I could talk about Eliza when I was pregnant and explain why this pregnancy wasn't all sunshine and unicorns, I could talk about Eliza and explain how much we missed her and how scared we were that something unexpected would go wrong again.

But now that something didn't go wrong...  I'm afraid that if I talk about Eliza, there is no way for me to adequately explain that I'm still not ok, and yet, things are really, really good.  I don't want to sound as though I'm awash in desperate grief on a daily basis because the truth is that I'm not drowning in it the way I was before.  But I absolutely don't want to sound as though I'm "all better" or having Caroline has fixed things, because nothing could be further from the truth.  I may try saying, "Yes and no," and see if I can get people to leave it at that.

I was clicking around the Still Standing online magazine (a wonderful resource for people struggling with loss and life after) and I found this article by Kristen Binder.  It's a reminder of why the internet community is so amazing--because when you don't quite know how you feel, someone else magically puts it into words for you.  Her article succinctly explained why I'm so reluctant to mention Eliza to the grocery store clerk or the nice lady at Walgreens:

"I used to think that I was doing some great disservice to Peyton's memory and life if I didn't mention her every time the question was asked, but after seeing how those conversations tended to play out, now I feel the opposite.  The moments when I choose not to share Peyton's life with strangers are less about protecting myself, and more about protecting her from the ridiculous notion that because she died as a baby, and I have gone on to have other children, her death is some how acceptable."

That's exactly it.  Because if I told someone that my first baby died, and they looked at Caroline and said, "Well these things happen for a reason," or "Well, everything works out in the end," I would COMPLETELY lose my shit.  Or, worse, I would just smile and nod and silently hate them with every fiber of my being.  Because Eliza was not a TRADE OFF for Caroline.  She didn't die so we could have this new baby.  And if anyone were to so much as imply that this is how things were "supposed" to work out...  It makes me cry just writing about it.

Kristen goes on to say, "The reason I don't share all of the details of Peyton with just anyone, is because I refuse to sit there and hear her worth insulted.  She is too special to me; too sacred, too amazing, and far too loved for me to leave the door open to having to her life minimized by some stranger's platitudes."

So sometimes I'll talk about Eliza.  And sometimes I won't.  The truth is that in so many ways, Caroline is our first baby.  Except she's not.  Eliza is.  And strangers can keep their platitudes to themselves, because for all the happiness that Caro has brought us, I still miss Eliza immensely and I don't know how on earth I've lived twenty months without her here.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


You know those mommy-blogs that post all about poop?

This is not that.

Except that for the moment it is.

I should preface by saying that we've had our share of baby poop.  Caroline is a frequent pooper, not to mention a remarkably noisy one. I like to say she is "working on a project in her pants" because of the way she screws her face up in serious contemplation. And everytime her poo is audible (which is frequent), it never fails to make us laugh.  Not only does she belch like a frat boy, she makes some serious noise from the other end, too.  Since we've started cloth diapering, all poo has been fully contained (no blow outs!) but there was an incident during a diaper change with David that required an extra load of laundry and earned her the nickname "Mustard Shooter."  I'm sure you can imagine the details.

So our little routine is that when Caroline wakes during the night, I feed her in our bed and then take her to her room for a diaper change (on weekends, and if he's already up for work, David does the diaper changes.  It's a good system.).  It was early this morning (around 5am) when she woke up to nurse and then she went to work on one of her projects.  I nudged David and asked if he'd change her diaper, and he said he wanted to sleep a few more minutes.  I decided to hold her for a bit longer and make sure she was finished with her project before I got up with her.  As I was lying there, half-asleep, I smelled something.  It smelled bad.

Breastmilk poop doesn't really smell at all, but my sleepy brain just thought that I was holding a baby with a dirty diaper and that dirty diaper stunk.  I couldn't figure out what else would smell bad.  About this time, David's alarm went off, and he shut it off but then snuggled back down under the covers.  (This is what happens when he stays up past his bed time so we can watch True Blood).  So I let out a long-suffering sigh, decided to let him catch a couple extra minutes of sleep, and got up to take the baby into her room to change her diaper.

At the door of the nursery, I stopped short.  The bad smell was worse.  In fact, it was almsot overpowering--was it the diaper pail?  And then, in the soft glow of the nightlight, I saw something dark strewn all over the light colored carpet of the nursery.  I let out another long-suffering sigh because I just knew Cooper had destroyed something and left torn up pieces all over the baby's room.

So I shifted the baby to my other arm, flipped on the light, and gasped.

There was dog poop EVERYWHERE.  And not just poop.  We are talking Grade A Diarrhea.

I immediately started gagging (because that is what I do) and stuck my head back in our bedroom door.  So much for David's extra minutes of sleep.  I was NOT dealing with this situation on my own.

I woke David, told him I needed his help in the nursery, and as he staggered to the doorway, I realized that I had stepped in a dollop of poop that was in the hallway and not in the baby's room.  SICK.

So David went to get paper towels, rags, carpet cleaner, and doggie-specific carpet cleaner, and after he wiped off my foot, I tiptoed around the many piles of feces (there were at least twenty separate lumps of diarrhea, stretching across the room from the doorway to the window and back) to get to the changing table, holding my breath so I wouldn't gag at the odor.  I changed Caro's diaper in record time, and then headed back to our bedroom to lie her down.

Now it's no secret that Little Mac has pooped in the house before, but never anything like this.  Mac's poops are always easy clean-up--scoop it up with toilet paper, drop it in the toilet, flush, and spray the carpet with the special enzyme doggie mess spray.  THIS was entirely a different matter.  David had to basically mop up each individual mess of poo with a paper towel, then scrub the carpet with hot water, then treat it with carpet cleaner and spray.  I offered to help (half-heartedly, but I did offer), but David told me to deal with the baby and he cleaned it all up by himself.  Also he didn't have to listen to me dry heave that way.

Obviously our go-to poop-in-the-house suspect is Little Mac, but judging by the sheer volume of this mess, we're thinking this was Cooper.  Cooper has been extra lazy this morning (he slept so heavily he didn't even hear the mailman).  And he hasn't eaten all day which is completely out of character for him.  I guess maybe he's not feeling well?  Poor baby.  We've had the baby gate up to keep the dogs out of our bedroom at night, but I still don't understand why he didn't bark or whine to wake us.  At any rate, we can only hope this was a freak accident.  We're keeping a close eye on Cooper and we'll see if he regains his appetite, or if he needs a chicken-and-rice diet for a couple of days.

So later this morning, we were carrying on with life as normal.  Caro was happily contained in her new lounging seat and I was doing laundry.

I went to the nursery to get the diaper pail and throw in a load of her diapers and--BAM--there was ANOTHER pile of poop in the nursery.


So I did what anyone would do.  I ran into the living room and yelled at Little Mac (this poo was pretty unmistakably hers, and it was NOT diarrhea).  She looked at me blankly, then turned around and walk the other way.  Cooper and Caroline both stared at me, somewhat bewildered.

I stormed out of the living room to take a picture of the poop, which I then sent via text to David, along with a lot of expletives (because everyone wants to spend their morning cleaning up dog shit and then get a picture of MORE dog shit via text, AMIRITE?).  Then I picked up the poo and flushed it, and treated the carpet with the last of the cleaner.  Then I called my mom to rant about the dogs.  I mean what the HELL is wrong with them?  I was either in the same room as the dogs, or in full view of the back door from the kitchen all morning.  There was absolutely NO EXCUSE for a dog not going outside.

My mom thinks the dogs are silently voicing their opinion of the new ranking order in the house.  Maybe so.  In which case, they had better GET OVER THEMSELVES and QUIT SHITTING INSIDE.  I'm at a loss as to how to deal with this.

So now the diaper pail is sitting in the uncarpeted hallway (based on my nonscientific, screwball theory that the dogs smell Caro's poo and think that the nursery is actually a bathroom), the baby gate is up in the doorway (no one enters the nursery without supervision!), and we will be steam cleaning the carpet in that room this weekend.

Also, I just asked a friend to dog and house sit for us Labor Day weekend.  Can't wait to see how that goes.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

One Month

nekkid newborn
Looking a lot like Mommy's baby pictures here
How am I growing up so fast?