Monday, March 26, 2012

sleep or exercise

A quick survey:  when you have to choose between sleep and exercise (i.e. having to wake up early or go to sleep later in order to exercise), which one do you choose and why?

I used to choose exercise, but lately I am so sleep deprived that I need to pass on the exercise and get more zzz's .  I found that I was more likely to gain weight when I would exercise than when I would sleep.  This might be because I tend to snack in order to stay awake, or because I feel entitled to snack when exercising.  I don't know.  All I know is that I am a much better mother for Emma when I am awake and fully present rather than when I babysit her half dozing off while she is playing by herself.  So, tonight I chose sleep.  I am feeling a little guilty though...

Friday, March 23, 2012

life at 7 months

Emma fills my life with so much happiness...all the time... I cannot believe that another human being can be so adorable, so loving, so loveable, and can take my heart over like that.  She is sleeping in our bed right now, and I can hear her breathing through her sniffling nose (she has constantly stuffy nose).  She will soon wake up a bit as she still does not connect sleep cycles very well, and will start rooting for a boob, without opening her eyes, whining just enough to make sure I hear her, and twisting her little lips in a downward curve to show me that she needs me and I'd better tend to her agenda ASAP.  Without opening her eyes (still!) she will expect me to plop a boob in her mouth, which I will, and which she will take greedily.  All the while, my heart will melt for how cute and small and adorable she is, not believing that she is mine and at the same time feeling like she has been mine since forever.  And I will give her what she wants, happily adding kisses on her warm head, caresses on her thin hair, and hugging her body in close to mine until she falls asleep.

She is now crawling well, and today she sat on all fours, ready for beginning to cruise.  She also went down two stairs when I wasn't watching (tsk, tsk!) and to my relief she chose to go bum first instead of head first.  She loves the cat, and in particular loves to remove fistfuls of hair off the cat's back and to put them straight in her mouth.  She probably already has a fur ball in her intestines growing as we speak.  If she could put the entire cat in her mouth, she would.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

blaming the victim

This post is inspired by the pain I feel when I see women get blamed for the tragedies that happen in their lives, which they did not cause, they could not have prevented, and they are in no way responsible for.  It is meant to help women deal with other people's insensitive comments that might imply otherwise.

When something tragic happens in our life, the people around us will react according to how their own empathy and experience allows them to react.  We all have noticed that when a tragedy happens there are always those who blame the victim for what happened.  For instance, in my case, when I lost Adrian, I phoned my parents to tell them and the first thing that my dad said was "hopefully next time you won't exercise during pregnancy, where have you seen women exercise while pregnant, you were the only one", etc, and so on.

Whoa.  First of all, my OB said it was ok to exercise.  For all intents and purposes, I had a normal pregnancy at that time.  Second of all, if I thought there was something wrong with exercising, I would not have done it, dude.  Third of all, implying that it was my fault that Adrian died was the cruellest thing I have heard during those awful two weeks.  And my dad is a nice guy, who loves me very much.  I know where this came from.  He was scared.  He wanted his grandson as well, and he was scared and angry that this happened, and also probably to some extent uncomfortable with the randomness with which bad things strike us.

I am just writing this because it bears repeating:  we all get blamed for things that are not in our control, and it is an illogical response, but it comes from people's fear of the unpredictable.  Life randomly dishes out very bad things sometimes, and shit strikes where it wants to.  This is a hard concept to swallow, in particular for control freaks who think they can escape the randomness of the universe with careful planning.  This is why other people, terrified that a baby could die, blame the mother for not doing enough, whatever that enough might be.  They tell themselves that a baby's death is avoidable if only the mother did this or that, and in the process imply that they would be able to avert such tragedy by some responsible behaviour.  Along the same line, some women judge and place the blame on a rape victim, because they like to believe that rape is not a bad random thing that might happen to them, but rather something that the victim unwisely chose to bring upon herself.  This implies that rape only happens to some people who take the wrong steps somehow, and therefore that it would never happen to them because they would know how to avoid it.  Same thing with cancer victims, I have heard so many times "but he smoked..." even when it was not a cancer related to smoking.  It just makes us feel better to find a reason, and to reassure ourselves that life behaves in orderly, predictable patterns, where everyone gets what they deserve, as judged by somebody who makes no mistakes in judgement.

This is a developmental stage through which we only grow once we have encountered the random bad events ourselves and learned that hey, there was nothing at all, nothing nothing nothing we could have done to prevent it.  At the same time, we learn that quite often we get dealt a hand that we do not "deserve", whatever that means.  In other words, there is no cause and effect, and no preventing the bad outcome.

Do not listen to the voices of people who say otherwise.  If you could have prevented  the event, you would have.  If I had any clue that exercising would harm Adrian, I would have lied in bed for 40 weeks.  In any case, the OB says that it would have happened with or without exercise.  Despite that, sometimes I wonder if not exercising would have delayed the onset of the dilatation, and maybe help me bring the pregnancy to 20 weeks when I had an ultrasound scheduled, and perhaps the tragedy could have been averted.  Who knows.  I have reached a stage where these questions do not hurt anymore.  Now they just cruise through my head, in one lobe, out the other.

Now I'd better go sleep because it is painfully obvious from the quality of my writing that my brain is not functioning fully.  Only a couple of neurons are still awake, the others are all snoring.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

first experience in the swimming pool

We have a swimming pool in our town, and today Emma turned 7 months old, so I decided to take her swimming.  This was very stressful, for a number of reasons:  will she like it, will the water be too cold, will I be able to wash her afterwards given that there was no change table anywhere, the logistics of changing her on top of the car seat, what to do with all the stuff including the clothes, the shoes, the car seat and the towels.  Yes, our swimming pool has parent and tots programs, but no change tables, and no place to store one's car seat.  People simply bring everything inside with them, and once I have figured that one out, that's exactly what I plan on doing.

I took MrH along for an extra pair of hands, and it was very helpful, despite him not being able to find a pair of swimming trunks and hence having to watch us from the side.  He enjoyed seeing Emma's face as she started to loosen up.  She was scared a bit at first, as the leisure pool is quite noisy and colourful and there were lots of older kids splashing about, but then she saw another little girl, 7 months old as well, and started reaching towards her, so we went to make friends.  They tried to touch each other's faces (and for all I know attempted to poke each other's eyes out), and got along quite well for a few minutes, after which we explored floating on the back, jumping up and down, and riding a giant fish made of foam.  She enjoyed it in a somewhat reserved and cautious manner, but I can see great potential for fun in the next couple of visits.  I plan on getting a punch card and taking her every weekend.  Not because I am a good parent, but because she slept like a log after the swim and I had the evening off to blog and chill (grin).

PS.  Oh yeah, we skipped the washing entirely, I just dried her, dried myself, and off to the car wrapped in clothes and blankets we went.  By the time we got home, she was too tired to wash, so we'll just have our usual morning shower I guess.  I will let you guys know if our skin falls off or something.

Friday, March 9, 2012

left behind

I am continuing to read this absolutely wonderful book, Knocked up, knocked down by Monica Murphy Lemoine.  It speaks to me on so many levels that I need to slow myself down in order to digest my feelings, lest I just glance over them and keep on devouring page after page.  She inspires me to write about similar thoughts and me-too's that I don't want to forget, but at the same time I don't want to put the book down and much for compulsory therapy :)

She writes about being left behind by her pregnant friends, due at the same time as her, when she lost her baby at 8 months gestation due to hydrops fetalis (fetal heart failure).  Here's the excerpt:

"Nina and Carrie (...) would-in all likelihood-go on to have their babies, and continue to have a special, new-mommy friendship together.  Without me, that is.  (...) There was simply no end to the possible ways in which I could be left behind."

For some reason, this left me thinking about the feeling of being "left behind" when unable to conceive, or when miscarrying, or when having a stillborn baby.  We all know what I am talking about.  Your friends go on having babies, some conceiving on the first try, others on their second or third try, and nobody but you has any problems carrying the pregnancy to term.  Their babies are born within days of your due date, the date when you were supposed to have the baby that you miscarried.  By the time you have the third failed IVF, their babies are already one year old and cruising.  Heck, they are talking already and you are still struggling to conceive.  In the meantime, you miscarry the second time and they are pregnant with number two, safely around 32 weeks, blooming and happy.

Life is happening for them.  They are raising families, and are fulfilled, fertile, reproductively prosperous,   financially comfortable, educating their children on how to say bye-bye and how to use a spoon. Is life happening for you?  Hard to tell, since you are sucked in the middle of a grey vacuum of depression and emotional exhaustion, no end in sight, and frankly if this is life, it sucks.  On top of that, you have to figure out how to pay for your next IVF and you don't have time to contemplate the meaning of life too much because you are working two jobs, instead of being off on mat leave like you thought you would be by now, changing poopy diapers and watching your baby crawl on the kitchen floor.

Not to mention that you are lonely, and that is not helping the feeling of being left behind.  The other ladies your age are talking about their babies, attending baby showers, lending each other baby bouncers and sharing tips on how to deal with teething.  They try to include you.  They shower you with sympathy.  They do not have any intention to harm you with their successful lives, and they would like to see you join the ranks, but the truth is that you have less and less in common with them, you and your childless life and your blanket of grief.  A sore thumb in the middle of this lively bunch of cheer and fertility.

I don't really have that much in the way of solutions to this situation.  All I can say is that I have been there so much that it has become part of who I am.  Even though I have joined the ranks of parents, I still feel very acutely that fear of being left behind by life.  What does that even mean though?  Left behind by what?  Whose life am I racing to keep up with?  Is that what we are supposed to do, keep up? Why? Thwarted desire is not the same thing as failure.

Anyway, if you do find yourself there, this is what I found helpful:

1.  have an ally.  A good spouse, a therapist, a friend going through similar stuff.  Several allies are even better.  Complain to the ally but don't complain so much that you wear him/her out.  That is why several allies are better than one.  By the way, feel free to wear out your therapist, that is what you pay her for.

2.  belong to some group, just so that you don't feel completely alone.  A volleyball team, a quilting club, anything.  Involve yourself in some sort of group project, preferably something relatively simple that you enjoy, to feel like you belong to some extent.

3.  feel alone.   Feel the depth of that aloneness.  Feel the emptiness of it.  Feel the weariness that it brings.  Become familiar to it to such an extent that you recognize instantly and you can immediately say "that's that alone feeling again".  That way it will not take you by surprise at a baby shower or some other social function where somebody announces a pregnancy.

4.  either avoid completely baby related stuff (like baby showers for instance, or other people's children born around the time yours should have been born) or choose to expose yourself to baby-situations so often that you become de-sensitised.  I chose the second one because of my job, which involves being present at deliveries and following babies as they grow.  I had no other choice than to quit my job (but given that I needed money for another IVF, that was not a choice).  It is easiest if you take a stand one way or the other.  There is a middle way, but then you perpetually have to keep choosing your stand.  I chose to force myself to grin and bear it, and I became so good at it that it was only lately that I realized I had completely turned off any feeling towards newborns and babies in general.  When this has changed (recently) I realized that as soon as I did not need to be numb anymore, my brain turned the numbness off.  I now love holding babies and want to smell and hug and caress their soft heads and generally experience a flood of feelings towards them that I had previously been completely cut off from.

5.  life has not offered you the baby yet.  But that does not mean that you will be left behind by life.  Something good will be offered in the end.  Perhaps that something good is a baby, as it usually is.  Or perhaps it will be a fantastic marriage.  Or a very successful career, where you feel you have made a meaningful contribution to the world.  You might not feel like you belong in that particular pack of women, but you definitely belong in the human race.

6.  make new friends.  Find people that you have stuff in common with.  Having a miscarriage or infertility is a bit like moving to a new city:  you have to make a new life.  A life that will suit you best.

I want to write more on this topic, because I have struggled with it for years, and I have thought a lot about it.  I am having trouble organizing everything into coherent information though, and it might help if people write specific instances in which they felt alone or left behind, or some personal experiences with the topic, in order to jog my memory and bring out exactly what I felt at that time.  I am pretty sure that we have all felt similarly at one point or another (raising the question of how alone are we, really?).

Thursday, March 8, 2012

other people have penises

I am reading a book about a lady who had a miscarriage at 16 weeks.  She is describing everything very well, and I feel like I have so much in common with her... up until the point where she describes how the baby was conceived.

She and her husband had sex and she got pregnant.

Wow.  Picture that.

I am sitting here, on my floor, amid toys scattered around me, reading this book about complex emotions that I understand so well, and realizing that after all this time, the only thing I have NEVER done is have sex with my husband and get pregnant.  Get pregnant from sex.  In my current state of tiredness and daydreaming, I have a hard time picturing what that must feel like.  No doctors, no dildocam, no medications, no medical intervention at all, a completely personal and intimate affair.  Like I said to MrH, I am devoid of any envy by now, I just feel the same as I would about the fact that other people have penises:  I am just noting the difference and I am in awe.

I probably need some sleep :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

breastfeeding thoughts

When I do have a moment to write, I lately write several posts at once, but that is because I have things I wanted to write about and just did not have a moment in the past, so I figure I had better go for it now while I get a chance, you never know when the next chance will come...

I was thinking about my breastfeeding journey.  Emma is now almost 7 months old, and she is still breastfeeding.  This is, in itself, a small miracle.  I have come such a long way with the struggle, that I am almost not realizing anymore what a struggle it has been, and continues to be.  To recap events, I was very intent on breastfeeding from the beginning.  In Canada we get pumped full of information about the benefits of breastfeeding, and we feel like failures if we don't succeed, or like small criminals if we don't attempt it.  I can only speak for myself, but I have noticed the guilt that comes with not breastfeeding in today's climate.  It is simply not the "right" thing to do. 

However, I really wanted to do it.  Before I even got pregnant with Emma, I would have dreams in which I was breastfeeding a baby.  Those dreams made me happy, and I wanted them to come true.  At almost any cost.  I ignored the excruciating pain of the first few weeks, thinking that it was supposed to hurt, not realizing that Emma was very hungry and that is why she would cry and latch and cry all night long, instead of taking a few hours' breaks in between feedings.  There was no milk, and when the milk did come, it was very little I think.  Finally, towards the second week post partum, I think we were doing well, with the milk supply a bit better, and Emma gaining weight but still not up to her birth weight.  Then I had the massive bleed, and was in ICU, and lost all my milk supply.  I realized that I did not have any milk left about one week after I bled, when I was at home trying to recover.  Emma was four weeks old and still not back to birth weight.  She was looking more and more skinny, and one night she kept on pulling off the breast repeatedly.  That is when the moment of truth came, I tried to express some milk and there was nothing.  I booked an urgent session with a lactation consultant, and started supplementing right away.  I used a rudimentary self-made SNS-like contraption, which allowed me to supplement at the breast.  It was additional torture.  (A lady I know tried the SNS and threw it against the wall!).  I was (and still am) on lots of domperidone to augment the milk supply.  Eventually, both Emma and I settled into a routine where we would use the SNS much easier, and I would pump, but the most I ever got was 1 oz.  When she turned 6 months, she learned to suck through the tubing and spit out the breast, so I gave my SNS away to a lady who adopted a baby and wanted to breastfeed.  

At the moment, she breastfeeds with the same dedication and skill that I would expect from any baby that was exclusively breastfed.  She gets way more nutrition through the bottle than from the breast, and she knows that the breast is slower, so when she is hungry, she refuses the breast.  I know not to push, I give her the bottle, and then when she is no longer hungry, she uses the breast as a pacifier.  She gets all the closeness and some breast milk (at the moment I am making about 2-3 oz three to four times a day), and I got to breastfeed up to now.  I don't have my period yet, and my prolactin is as high as anybody else's who breastfeeds, giving me all of the usual breastfeeding bodily changes, with the only difference being that my production is very limited.  

It took a lot of struggle, just like anything else to do with my body and pregnancy-related stuff, but as usual it worked out somehow.  Not exactly the way I was dreaming of, but hey, we are still doing it, so we must be getting something good out of it.  I am just writing this because when I lost my milk I was devastated and I really would have liked somebody to encourage me, to tell me that it is still possible to breastfeed, and to have both a satisfied mom and a satisfied baby at the end of seven straight months.  I felt like a failure. I still do when I read about how much milk other women are producing, and I worry about having had to give Emma formula, but this is the hand we both got dealt, and we played it to the fullest.  (Yet another exercise in letting go of visions of perfection :)


I have had some very exhausting days over the past two weeks.  Between teething and stuffy nose, Emma had a bunch of nights in a row where she would wake up every 20 minutes.  Nonstop.  I was going absolutely crazy from the lack of sleep.  I did not recognize it as being a temporary problem, and in the madness of the moment even considered putting her in her own room, in a crib, and shutting the door so that I can get a bit of sleep, since I had several nights in a row where I simply did not sleep much and was so extremely exhausted.   I thought that I am doing something wrong with my way of night time parenting, i.e. that co sleeping is causing this problem, and that all the attachment parenting stuff is creating this problem.  Other people (whose kids sleep on their own in their crib) tell me that their babies sleep 12 h straight, without any awakenings, but I would have been happy with 3 straight hours.  This is what led me to believe that perhaps it is something parenting-related.

Fortunately I got help from MrH and from my mom, and between the two of them I got a bit of sleep in the mornings, from 6 am until about 9 am, and those 3 hours uninterrupted have helped immensely.  A few nights later, Emma started sleeping again as usual, with her one to two feeding breaks between 11 pm and 7 am, and I cannot complain about those.  I am a normal person again.  I have (once again) cancelled my plans to buy a crib.  It is not the attachment parenting, it was a bit of discomfort and a virus that caused the change in her sleep pattern.  I am so satisfied with sleeping with her, and I really think that she likes it as well, that I am very happy to have hung in there and not thrown in the towel.

I am curious if anybody out there co-sleeps, and if so, does your baby sleep through the night?  Is it a feature of co-sleeping that babies wake up to nurse at the all-night-diner since it is so convenient?