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The Experts

I’ve realized lately that when it comes to babies and kids there is a theory – endorsed or espoused by an expert with many letters after his/her name – for EVERYTHING. Remember how I bragged on Lillian’s excellent sleep? Well that lasted until just after she turned five months old and then fell apart. This was not unexpected, it often happens around then, but we certainly hoped we had dodged that bullet. Not so much.

So now her sleep is totally erratic. Some nights we get the old school 7-9 hours straight. Some nights there’s one extra wake up for nursing. Some nights she goes down fairly easily and some she wakes up every 20 minutes until midnight. Some nights she wants to nurse every hour or two. Did I mention I hate unpredictability? It makes me crazy. But here we are, trying to adapt .

Some of my mama friends have had to contend with this all along, for others it’s more recent. But most of us are now having to take another look at the dreaded “sleep training” and making decisions about how to help our kids sleep. Some experts say that the only way to make sure your kid will have good sleep for the rest of his life (and do well in school, make money, and marry doctor) is if you let them cry it out. There’s a bunch of different names for this but they all amount to letting you kid scream alone in their room until they eventually put themselves to sleep. There are gentler and not so gentle versions of this.  The first book David and I read on sleep espoused a not so gentle version, and claimed the payoff would be a gloriously easy to sleep and nap child. David pretty much bought into it, I was on the fence. I spend a lot of time on the fence these days. I should check for splinters.

Anyway, there are also books out there that claim that letting your kid scream her head off in a dark room with no idea if you will ever show up might be a wee bit damaging psychologically, and some studies have shown it dumps a lot of chemicals into their bodies that can have bad effects on their emotional development. So basically you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

That pretty much sums up the parenting experience. There are so many experts out there who tell us what we should or shouldn’t do, and mostly contradict each other and expect us to ignore our own intuitions and judgment. It’s maddening. It makes me mad. It reminds me a lot of when I was an opera singer. My teacher would say one thing, my coach another, and if I pointed out that it was contradictory they would claim it wasn’t and try to blame me for not understanding. There’s a reason I’m not an opera singer any more…

Recently I’ve come to realize that we all cherry pick the research/experts that resonate with our own beliefs and values the most. At least I know I’m doing it. What I wish is that I wasn’t so insecure about my parenting abilities that I need an endorsement to take care of my kid the way I think is best.

David and I tried a bit of crying it out and concluded it was not what we wanted for Lillian. The “you’re ruining your child’s life” arguments on both sides are less concerning to us than what are we doing to her now? Is there a compelling reason to put her through that kind of emotional pain, other than it speeding up the amount of time it will take for her to learn to put herself to sleep? Not that we could find. She’s a happy kid and we don’t really want to fuck with that.  Now talk to us in a month and if she’s still waking up at all hours we may change our tune entirely. But seriously, why do I need an endorsement to figure out what is best for my kid? I know her better than anyone else in the world. I’m the goddamned expert.

And on to round 2 of poo. We took Lillian to see an expert on gastric issues. We think. This guy has a waiting list a mile long and works a lot with kids with food intolerance issues. But I didn’t do a lot of advanced research on him because I was going on a friend’s recommendation. Whoops.

He talked a lot of smack about “our society” and “basic science” to justify the test he’s having us do to find what Lillian is sensitive to. He gives this blood test called an IGGe4 thingy to David, because supposedly his food sensitivities dictate Lillian’s for the first part of her life. But then I did some research on this test, and it turns out that while one study showed some improvement for IBS patients who cut foods out according to the results, a more in-depth study showed no correlation between the test results and real food sensitivity. The doctor also used some phraseology I tend to get a little suspicious of, claiming that food sensitivity can cause brain fog and inflammation. Er, what? Very not sold. Possibly not even on the fence.

I made this appointment for Lillian after she had a week-long reaction to what I thought was one dose of dairy, but turned out to be a week  of exposure to soy. We know for damn sure that she has a problem with soy. Which is what we had trouble convincing our original pediatrician of in the beginning.

Anyway, we’ve decided that if the test results come back and are intuitive – if they at least confirm some of what we already know – then we’ll take them into consideration. But if they’re all over the map and the doc is really dogmatic about his interpretation I think we’re going to move the hell on. We have an appointment with Lillian’s new pediatrician next week, so I’ll be curious what she has to say.

I guess the point of all this is that as an insecure and at least mildly terrified new parent, you have to sort through all this fucking information when it really makes the most sense to get to know and trust your intuition. I have far more information on my child than anyone else possibly could. Sorting through that information and looking for patterns and correlations is my job. Unless something an expert is espousing really jives with what I already know, it’s probably bunk, or at least inapplicable.

It’s been really hard to get to the point where I can see myself as the expert instead of anyone and everyone else, but I think it’s the only way I can take the best care of Lillian. I have a big brain, a lot of strong instincts, and I love my child profoundly. Pair that with David’s intelligence, love, and protectiveness of  Lillian and we make a pretty good team. I wish I trusted that more and wasted a lot less time on feeling insecure and fearful.

The Neverending Poopstory

16 Weeks

A whole entry about my poop? Seriously?

Here, as promised, is an entire entry dedicated to poop. There will be no pictures of poop, however, just graphic descriptions.

When Lillian was around seven weeks I noticed some little specs of blood in her diaper. Of course, I freaked out and called the pediatrician who said it could be a reaction to cow’s milk and to maybe scale back on it a bit. Being the freakazoid I am, I decided to cut dairy out completely and I got every soy product I could get my hands on and ate them all weekend. Then it got really weird and icky. Mucusy, sort of seaweedy dark brown and stinky as hell. There were also occasional specs of blood, and other poop was really green. I called the pediatrician and asked what I should do. I mentioned that the week before I cut out dairy I had actually started subbing in soy milk for my cereal because I was worried I’d been overdoing it. So follow along  – I actually upped my soy intake right before this whole mess started. Then I upped it a lot more, and the poop got way worse. I asked the pediatrician if she thought it was possible that Lillian had issues with soy, but not dairy. She said it was possible, but told me to keep drinking soy milk and cut out all dairy.

Lillian was really fussy during this time so I decided that was crap advice and I was going to cut out both diary and soy – Lillian started feeling better pretty quickly. When we saw the pediatrician about a week later for her two month appointment, she recommended I take a probiotic called Florastor that was safe for people who were dairy intolerant, and she gave us 5 vials for collecting poop to have it tested. She claimed that mucusy, green poop was actually a sign of intestinal bleeding (rilly?) and I shouldn’t try to reintroduce dairy or soy until she had yellow poop again.

I’m generally not squeamish about changing the poopy diaper, but collecting it was no fun at all. The vials had liquid in them and the tops had these tiny spoons attached that you were supposed to use to scoop the poop. The vast amounts I had to get into each vial was totally incompatible with these teeny tiny spoons, so I just ended up trying to scrape it into the vial from the diaper. Much ickiness ensued. Bleah.

The tests came back negative, and the doctor told me to stay off everything with any soy or dairy additives and take the Florastor until things were normal again. I became a poopologist. I looked at every diaper, scanning it for blood, consistency, color, and smell. The state of Lillian’s poop became the barometer for my state of mind. Good poop – good day. Bad poop – bad, bad day. Depression. Anxiety. Fear.

The poop stayed green but stopped showing any blood (and mind you, the blood was always in such small amounts that David couldn’t even see it) until Mother’s Day when we went out for dinner. The pediatrician had said goat and sheep cheese should be safe, so I had me a goat’s cheese fest and a great dinner. 36 hours later Lillian’s poop got nasty again. I felt like a horrible mother. It took about 5 days to cycle back, and in the meantime I’d run out of Florastor so I was off it for a few days. Magically, we had yellow poop again for the first time in about six weeks! Hallelujah!

Then I went back on Florastor and it got weird again. So I went off. Florastor, it turns out, has lactose in it. The theory was that Lillian has an intolerance to either soy protein, dairy protein, or both. So lactose from cows shouldn’t have an effect. But then again, the doctor told me to avoid all dairy and soy additives, many of which don’t contain protein. Huh?

I called our local blended holistic-conventional pharmacy and asked a pharmacist about Florastor. She said as a probiotic it’s virtually useless because it only contains one bug. She suggested a broad spectrum, dairy and soy free probiotic and an enzyme to help with digestion.

Several things have happened since then. Lillian’s poop is much better overall. When something seems to disturb her digestion, she bounces back quickly. I think the supplements help, and I also think her system is getting better at processing stuff.

I’ve talked to other mothers about the situation, and come to the conclusion that we blew the whole thing way out of proportion, partly thanks to our pediatrician. She even had me worrying every time I could hear Lillian’s stomach grumbling. Yes, blood in the poop means something is bugging her intestines, but monitoring every single quality of her poop is crazy and crazy-making. It turns out lots of my friends have babies with green, mucusy, dark, light, yellow, brown, whatever poop. They’re all fine. Baby poop is not standard, and it’s no big deal when it changes. Even blood is not a big deal if you can isolate the cause and cut it out until they outgrow the intolerance.

It should be mentioned that Lillian has never seemed to have any discomfort since that first week. She’s perfectly happy, active, healthy, and has a good appetite. We rarely notice any discomfort that could be attributed to her digestion.

So after making myself nuts for two months, I decided that was enough. No more obsessing about every change in Lillian’s poop. We would start reintroducing soy and dairy separately and determine if either or both was the culprit, and any poop that didn’t have significant blood was good poop as far as we were concerned.

The pediatrician quizzed us about it at Lillian’s four-month appointment last week and we gave her the basic story. I asked her about the Florastor and she claimed it was perfectly safe. Again, her party line without any real consideration for my observations, or my individual kid. So. Fired.

It’s way more fun to not be obsessive. And now we know she is actually quite sensitive to soy. I tried some stuff that had soy additives and lo and behold, she had a clear, but short-lived reaction. Hopefully she’ll outgrow it, but I’m not going to try again until she’s six months old. I’ll try a small amount of dairy in a week or so and see what happens. I suspect with dairy it may be a threshold thing and if I enjoy it in moderation she’ll be just fine. Either way we’ll know before we start solids, so we’ll know what to avoid. In the meantime, I’m turning in my poopologist badge and just going back to being Mama.

And that’s the poopstory. I’m going to get in so much trouble for this when she’s a teenager.

Surprise!

Lillian on Mother's Day

Don't play innocent with me, kid.

My first Mother’s Day started off with a bang! At 4 am cleaning poopsplosion off the nursery walls. Yes, motherhood is full of serene, peaceful fulfillment and joy. Well, it is, in between screaming, pooping, nursing till you fall over, and hormone surges that turn you into a psycho.

So I’m helping David change the baby during her 4am feeding (that’s bottle time) and he lifts her legs up to get a wipe under her butt and kaplow! Green poop everywhere. We laughed our asses off. David claims I shrieked loudly but I have no such recollection. I think he’s making it up.

We’re still dealing with the gastric issues. Our baby is cute, funny, happy, and sleeps like a champ. But she definitely can’t process either dairy, soy or both. Last weekend we went to dinner at Odd Duck Trailer – it’s gourmet locally sourced tapas place – and ate some great food. Unfortunately, something either contained dairy, soy or both and we started the whole poop thing over on Monday, and we still don’t know what the mystery ingredient(s) is/are.

On Sunday we went to the in-laws’ for Mother’s Day bbq from Rudy’s. Which I could eat none of since they marinate it in milk and rub it with soy oil. Joy. So I got to nurse in the other room while everyone was eating, and then eat some pork loin I brought and overcooked the crap out of. It wasn’t my best day ever. But David got me a nice card and we’re getting the Bob stroller next week. It’s the ultimate running/walking stroller and it makes mama very happy.

In other news, Lillian sleeps like a champ now. We started a ritual a few weeks ago – eat-bath-eat-sleep by 8:00, and we do as much sensory deprivation as possible in the bedroom so she doesn’t get overstimulated. This kid likes to look at stuff, wiggle, pump her legs, coo, and generally spazz out. But after the cuteness comes the babypocalypse. Harbingers include:

  1. Pumping of the legs and giggling
  2. Hiccups
  3. Wide adorable eyes

One minute it’s all cuteness fun and the next it’s screaming and misery. The trick is to get her on the boob or into the bath or bed or something soothing before she gets so wound up she can’t calm down. We’re doing a lot better at it. David is also really good about letting her self-soothe when she can, I tend to overdo the rocking and shushing. Between the two of us she’s getting better naps and better sleep at night (and so are we praise be the Jesus).

Lillian was eleven weeks old this past Thursday. It’s hard to believe she’s coming up on three months. Her personality gets more developed every day, and she’s much more vocal than she was. She’s got a whole new vocabulary of coos and squeaks, and has great head control and legs. She’s going to be unstoppable when she figures out how to roll, which looks to be very soon.

I'm hungry.

Lillian and DaddyYes, I’ve been a slacker. Being a new mom is not conducive to well, anything except nursing, changing diapers, and trying to sleep. In addition, we’ve been dealing with some digestive issues with Lillian that have necessitated me cutting out dairy and soy. Do you know how hard it is to avoid all dairy and soy? Really freaking hard. Pretty much eating out and any prepared food at all – anything that comes frozen or bottled – is out. I now have to read ingredient lists obsessively, call restaurants in advance and ask about what they cook with, and mostly just cook all my own food. And while this is probably way healthier than the plethora of junk food we enjoyed during Lillian’s first six weeks, it is very time consuming. I’m kind of over it. It’s been three weeks so far and there’s no end in sight. Some of Lillian’s more distressing symptoms are gone (specs of blood in the diaper, discomfort) but some remain (lots and lots of green poop. you asked).

Have you ever heard of soy lethicin? Neither had I until this happened. It’s in EVERYTHING. And so is soy oil. Crisco, margarine, and vegetable oil are all made from soy. It turns out soy is way harder to avoid than dairy.

On the plus side, we’ve re-upped our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture – weekly organic vegetables) subscription and have started shopping at the farmer’s market on the weekend. I’ve also become a huge fan of Jamie Oliver’s Food Nation. He’s right – there are way too many ingredients in most of the food we get at the store. Everything at the farmer’s market is made locally and doesn’t have ingredients you don’t recognize. It’s nice. We’re subsisting mainly on rice, vegetables, and meat. And that’s not a bad thing really. Because bacon is meat. Bacon is my new cheese.

Meanwhile, the baby is doing great. Her skin looks great, she’s sleeping great. She’s cute as a button. Well, cuter because who ever said buttons were cute? But she’s dang cute. She’s 10 weeks old, is hopefully approaching 10 lbs, and is 10x more fun than she was a few weeks ago. Lots of smiling, happy shrieking, scooting, and general trouble-making. And mama is having a hard time not buying her cute new clothes every day.

Lillian and Daddy

Hanging out with Daddy

Playgroup

Rocking the Bjorn

Two months!

Modeling the latest in Carter's Coture