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How I don't lose my mind

Cara, Lillian, Nimue, Lola, Leighton, Isabel, Stella, and Charlie at Cristina's playgroup

It’s all about playgroup.

When I was going to prenatal yoga several times a week towards the end of my pregnancy, a few of the other regulars and I started to get to know each other. In prenatal yoga you check in at the beginning of class, and instead of just saying you have a sore back, you can bitch about your husband, talk about your latest ultrasound, or ask the group if they know any cures for nausea or edema or whatever. It’s very bonding, and it really helped me not lose my mind, during the last trimester especially.

Just as we were starting to make some social plans outside of class we all started having our babies. A few weeks later we reconnected on Facebook and tentatively began to talk about some of the struggles we were having with our drastically new lives. When I was about 5 weeks postpartum we had our first meetup at Izzos Tacos. I remember mostly being in a sleep-deprived haze. We were all deep in the trenches at that point and just kind of getting by. Some of us were getting out and about, and some were hiding at home shaking (that would be me). Soon after that I hosted my first playgroup, and we each started inviting other new mamas we knew into our informal group (Tiffany, for example, is my bellydance pregnancy buddy and she drags her butt from north to south Austin weekly to playgroup). At some point we realized that Facebook wasn’t going to work for our ongoing chats because we couldn’t easily invite new mamas in, so I set up a group on BigTent.com and we were in business!

So from those early days of posting our woes on Facebook in the middle of the night to now – we have 15 mamas and babies in our group and at least one playdate a week, usually more. We go swimming, go to movies, go to yoga, and mostly just hang out, bitch, and eat. We have a ton of forums on our website and we lean on each other to give advice, commiserate, celebrate, and just plain keep us company at all hours.

The first year of mamahood is wicked isolating, and I totally would have lost my shit by now if I didn’t have these fine ladies to talk to. Lillian seems to enjoy our activities, and it’s fun to watch all the babies develop and change, and see their individual personalities emerging. I also feel this group is an incredible gift to the new mamas who are joining – it’s so hard in the beginning and it seems like the more we understand we’re not alone, the easier and more fun it gets. Inviting a stressed-out mama to join our group feels like a huge mitzvah to me.

Please enjoy some photos of our babies and mamas:

Playgroup!

The early days: Lillian, Charley, Isabel and Cara at my house

Playdate!

Cristina and Stella working on tummy time

Playgroup at Cristina's

Tiffany and Cara at Cristina's playdate

6/16 Playgroup

Tori and Nimue

Potluck at Heather's

Daddies Mike and Sean with Nico and Cara at Heather's Potluck

Playgroup at Susan's

Babies: Isabel, Lillian Lola, Atticus, Stella, and Cara Mamas: Jamie, Susan's feet, Addie, Cristina, and Tiffany at Susan's weekend Playgroup

June 30 Playgroup at Andria's

Lillian and my feet attending playgroup at Andria's

June 30 Playgroup at Andria's

Heather with Charley and Arely with Nico

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.

And now a word from our sponsor…

DSC_0007

Cutest. Kid. Ever.

I’m taking a break from the ranting to update you on the actual kid. Holy crap, she is changing so fast. She turned four months old on Friday, cut her first tooth on Saturday, and her second one on Monday. Can you believe it? I thought the first six months were going so slooooow, and now it’s all happening far too fast.

Other milestones in the last couple weeks:

  • First haircut – mama did not do a very good job
  • First ponytails – extra cuteness
  • Rolling over – both directions
  • Lots of crazy sounds – gargling, whining, weird vowels and consonants
  • Swimming – okay, not swimming  but we went to the pool for the first time and she dug it. She wanted to take over the world through kicking. Read a description on Tiffany’s blog.
  • First solids – we tried some rice cereal but decided to put it off for a month.
  • Grabbing feet, stuffing them in mouth – we have reached the grabbing things and stuffing them in the mouth phase. We really, really need to baby proof now.
  • Sitting and standing – she’s been doing this for a while now, but she needs less and less support. Did I mention baby proofing?
June 30 Playgroup at Andria's

Showing off her mad foot-grabbing skillz

Father's Day

Smiling for Daddy on Father's Day

Pediatrician FAIL

DSC_0001Note: I’m publishing two stories at once, so scroll down if you want to read them in order.

Lillian’s pediatrician is so fired. I’m making an appointment with a new doctor this week. Lillian had slipped slightly on the weight chart. I pointed out that not only is she very active and strong, she is also good and chunky – she’s just small. The pediatrician admitted she looked great, but kept referring back to the chart. Then she told us to start giving her rice cereal once a day – she’s barely four months old – and that would increase her caloric intake. Apparently I’m supposed to make my kid chunkier than she needs to be so that she fits a number.

I have a friend who takes her baby to another doctor in the same practice. Her kid was born four days before mine and weighs 4 lbs more than Lillian, yet her doctor also suggested rice cereal at four months. So if my baby is underweight and her baby is not, why are we getting the same advice? This sounds like a blanket policy they created that is enforced however the particular pediatrician feels like, and has nothing to do with the needs of the individual child.

A sidebar to this conversation – I suspect that Lillian may be small boned, which means she could weigh less and have more body fat. Which means she’ll never look quite right on a chart. I had the same problem the other direction. When I was 17 I decided to basically stop eating partly so I could meet the maximum weight for my height on Weight Watchers – 113 lbs. I didn’t start eating like a normal person again until I hit 117 lbs, started getting dizzy a lot, and saw a doctor told me I had no body fat and needed better nutrition. Did I mention I hate charts (and most doctors)?

Anyway, I told her everything I’d read said that the AAP recommends breastmilk exclusively till 6 months, and that cereal doesn’t increase calories, it decreases them (it’s far more filling and less nutritious). She told me my information was outdated and insisted we start solids or we’d have to come back in for a weighing. For the record, I was right about the AAP. I’m not sure why pediatricians are pushing solids at four months when the research shows otherwise.

I want a pediatrician who 1) Can give me valid scientific data on why I’m supposed to do something that is widely recommended against and 2) Who values my opinion and common sense over a freaking chart that by the way, was created in the 50s based on formula-fed babies. I called my lactation consultant after Lillian’s appointment to check out some of this stuff and she said as long as Lillian had gained a pound a month (she’s gained more) she didn’t have an issue. Have I mentioned I love my lactation consultant?

I was proud of myself for arguing with the doctor instead of just taking everything she said as writ. She’s dogmatic and rigid, and I’ve decided that does not work for my family. I’ve also decided that we blew the digestive issues WAY out of proportion, partly due to her approach. I’m going to start adding soy and dairy back into my diet in moderation. That’s a story for another time. All about poop!

More stories from the rabbit hole

Four months!

Four months old!

I am actually feeling a lot better these days. I know the hormones are starting to subside because I don’t break into a sweat every time I get stressed out. I still get kind of hot at night, but nothing like it was. And oh yeah, I don’t have a mental breakdown every day or so. That part is key. I still get grouchy, and defensive, and worried, and exhausted, (just ask David!) but I don’t hit the red zone nearly as easily.

So now I can reflect on some of the madness that has been the last 4 months and think about writing more about it. Here’s a tale of self-inflicted crazy from the crazy archives.

When Lillian was about 4 weeks old, I had the really bad idea to weigh her on the bathroom scale. And the scale said she was only 7 lbs, way too low for where she should be. To rewind – she had come in at the 10th percentile for weight and her doctor had warned us it couldn’t go below that, so I was paranoid. She had also lost too much weight when she came home from the hospital, and that was really scary. Also, breast feeding is hard in that respect because you really have no idea how much food your kid is getting. And a friend of mine had had supply problems and her baby was having a hard time gaining weight. Another friend’s newborn had ended up in NICU because she had issues relating to low birth weight. How does all this apply to this situation? Er, it doesn’t really, I was just paranoid.

Anyhoo, I freaked the hell out. Freaked. Out. I was convinced that Lillian was dangerously underweight, dehydrated, sickly, and on the brink of being taken from me and stuck in NICU. (At this point I was seriously sleep-deprived as well.) David didn’t want me taking her to the doctor or calling the lactation consultant and further indulging my panic – he was sure she was just fine. But I got so wigged I did end up calling the lactation consultant. She came later in the week, weighed Lillian, and determined that she was in fact 7lbs 12oz, a very respectable weight gain since her previous appointment. Doh.

The freaky thing was I managed to convince myself so completely that something was seriously wrong when it wasn’t. A freakier thing was how my fear of Lillian not gaining weight and somehow getting “in trouble” for it was really an inversion of my own feelings about my body. I’ve always hated the scale, and while my self-esteem is usually pretty good these days, as is my fitness, I’ve still avoided the doctor because I don’t want a supposed authority figure to tell me I’m wrong or defective in some way. But since I had the baby I haven’t really given a crap about that so much. So here we have a perfect example of how my own issues can be passed on to my kid unconsciously if I’m not careful. Do I want Lillian to worry about weighing too much or too little as she gets older? Nooooooo. I just want her to feel as comfortable and happy in her body as possible. Is it her job to take on my feelings about my body? Oh Jesus no.

Sometimes I still worry. Lillian is smaller than most of the babies in our play group and I have a tendency to compare a bit too much. But I just look at my anxiety and say, “Well, that’s just my old friend Anxiety in another costume, and it doesn’t have any more to do with reality (or with Lillian) than last time when I was fixated on something else.”  It eventually works when paired with some fresh air, or meditation, or a good nights’ sleep. And Lillian is awesome; she’s active and happy and I love her chubby thighs and cheeks. I may be a worrier, but I make good, well-thought out decisions for myself and her.  I have no intention of letting my own crap influence those decisions or how Lillian perceives herself as she becomes more self-aware.

I’ve also talked to a lot more parents since the early days and realized that the milestone/percentage tracking thing is a bunch of bullshit. My kid is not a demographic. She’s an individual and she may be smaller or bigger at any given time depending on her activity level, growth spurts, sleep, eating schedule, and basic genetic makeup. I understand that tracking her growth over time can show trends and give us an idea if there are problems, but it seems just ludicrous how much attention is paid to this stuff in the first few months. Her doctor warned us that she had to stay in the same percentile (or go up) at her first appointment. What the hell? She’s going to be smaller sometimes and bigger sometimes. What about when she starts solids and her calorie intake drops for a while? What if her growth slows down for a little while? Should we really have to look at all this stuff with a magnifying glass before it can ever indicate anything? It turns out I know a lot of people whose kids were in low percentiles (myself included) and turned out just fine. And anyone who sees Lillian can tell she’s thriving, so the growth charts (and our pediatrician who I’m about to fire anyway – story coming soon) can just suck it.

Choose your own adventure

I’m a make the plan, execute the plan kind of person. This has been a source of stress for me since I had a baby. I’m constantly faced with choices with unknown outcomes. Feed the baby or put her down for a nap? Swaddle her or don’t? Change the diaper now or later? Go to the grocery store or stay home? Either choice can end in screaming and tears (not all mine) and once I’ve chosen I can’t go back. At first, making the “wrong” choice (the one ending in tears) made me feel horribly inadequate. I couldn’t get past feeling like I’d failed and that I should have been able to make the correct choice. Eventually I’ve come to realize that there’s no right choice. Either can end badly or well, and I’m just doing the best I can with what I know now.

My friend Heather from yoga and play group wrote this hysterical account of an afternoon with her son Charley and she’s letting me share it with you. Enjoy!

Choose your own parenting adventure.

Your husband calls and asks you to see if he left his wallet at the house. He did and he has no money for lunch. Do you:
A: Tell him to go hungry and have a low-key day at home with the baby (skip to end)
B: Think it would be nice to have a nice lunch with your dear husband and meet him for lunch (continue on)

You start the 15 mile drive to his work in the rain. The baby is happy in the car until you get on Mopac and starts to scream bloody f’n murder. Do you:
A: Turn around and go home (skip to end)
B: Turn up the classical radio station hoping it will calm the baby (continue on)

The baby is still screaming, but you’ve gone to far on Mopac now, so you continue on, at this point the baby has been screaming for 25 minutes. You arrive at your dear husband’s work and nurse the babe in car. The baby is happy and husband meets you out front. Do you:
A: Tell husband that babe is fussy and head home (skip to end).
B: Think we made it this far, let’s do lunch! (continue)

Husband drives so you can sit in back with the smiley baby. You get a mile from work and the baby starts to scream all holy hell. You and husband decide to:
A: Turn around and go home (skip to end)
B: Continue to lunch

You eat lunch and the babe is super great at the restaurant. You drive husband back to work and the baby is screaming like he’s on fire. After husband heads into work you nurse him and change him in the parking lot. He falls asleep and you carefully set him in his car seat. Yay, sleeping baby! You head in the direction of home. You are about to pass the exit to your house Do you:
A: Head home (skip to end)
B: Decide to take the chance to drop off a couple items at a consignment sale about 5 miles south of your house.

About 2 miles from the sale, the baby starts crying like he’s laying on a bed of nails. Do you:
A: Head home (skip to end)
B: Figure you’re so close and crank up the classical music

The babe is freaking the F out and you miss the turn, you decide to pull over and nurse him. The baby is happy but you’re now past the deadline to drop stuff off. Do you:
A: Head home (skip to end)
B: Hope the folks will take pity on you and take your stuff after the deadline, you continue on to the consignment sale

You pull into the consignment sale as your child is screaming in the back seat. The folks do not take pity on you and your screaming baby and are surprised that there would be any problems to get there on time with a screaming baby.
A: You decide to head home
B: You want to punch the woman in the face, but restrain yourself and head home

The baby screams like he’s been abandoned in a crack house, as you pull into the driveway he stops crying and smiles.

You cuddle up with the baby and HGTV and spend the day snuggling with this cutie pie.

Guess what my adventure today was…

6/9 Playgroup at Heather's

Charley Chillin'

How I started getting more sleep

Things change so freaking quickly when you have a baby. The baby changes weekly or daily, and you have no time to look back and think about everything you’ve learned and adjusted to and integrated because you’re scrambling to figure out what the hell you’re doing with the baby you have today. The Lillian of this week has little in common with the Lillian of last week. What upsets her, how she sleeps, how much she eats, and a bunch of other stuff  changes all the time.

We had no idea we were doing with sleep when we got home from the hospital. I read a bunch of things (babycenter.com, books, the stupid pamphlet that came with our stupid baby care class) that said newborns naturally fall asleep for the night around 10 or 11pm. So I didn’t put her down for final sleep until then, at which point I was losing my mind, she was screaming her head off, and David would have to step in and rescue us. Sometimes that meant he was up all night with a screaming baby, while I felt like I was drowning in guilt and remorse for burdening him. This went on for about six weeks. It was not fun.

My friend Tiffany said in her blog (which is awesome, by the way) that the biggest piece of advice she would give pregnant women is burn all your baby books. And while we’ve gotten some good info from a few books, I agree with her. If I had paid closer attention to my own observations, I would have noticed that Lillian seemed a wee bit overstimulated if she was up past 9pm. Agitated, hiccuping, kind of crazed. We observed this, but we kept trying other things because those goddamned books and internet and whatever said that we shouldn’t put our kid down early. Even worse, some people, including the triage nurse at our pediatrician’s office said to keep the baby awake all day. (He also said to give her Pedialite before bed instead of nursing. WTF?!)

But David had read case studies in a book on sleep a friend got us and one couple had succeeded by putting their newborn down at 6pm. We tried it. It worked. It turns out the more sleep Lillian gets, the more she sleeps. This may not be true for all kids. Maybe a laid back baby needs a little more awake time during the day to sleep well at night, but I can tell you without reservation that my kid is not laid back. She is all up in everything and that means that after a while she gets frazzled and overstimulated and without our help she gets very, very unhappy.

So now we have a bedtime routine that starts around 7pm, and almost always ends with her happily asleep by 8 or 9. She sleeps a minimum of 5 hours, usually 6-8. This is because we stopped listening to other people and started listening to ourselves. Since we started our self-designed routine, we all get a reasonable amount of sleep most nights. Yay!

Of course we’re still struggling with all the directives from our pediatrician (who told us to stop swaddling her at 8 weeks – again WTF!), people who say use a pacifier, don’t use a pacifier, don’t nurse her to sleep, don’t rock her to sleep, let her cry it out, let her sleep in your bed, put her in her own room, AAAAAAGGGGHHH!

Basically, any time you screw with what’s working before it stops working, you’re asking for trouble. Sometimes my kid needs to nurse to go to sleep. Sometimes she doesn’t. Sometimes she needs the swaddle to calm down and sleep, sometimes she doesn’t. She likes sucking her thumb and hand, she doesn’t like the pacifier. Why on earth would I ignore all these things she’s communicated to me very clearly because someone who doesn’t spend 24 hours a day with her 7 days a week told me to?

Good. Freaking. Question.

Bath time fun!

This is a totally mundane post that exists only to show off the cutest baby bath pictures in the history of the world.

Lillian loves her baths. Even if she’s having a screaming fit, she’ll chill out in the bath. David and I generally work together, though we both have solo bath skills if necessary. Generally David will get her undressed for the bath while I go find a night onesie for her. Then we give her vitamin D drops, per our pediatrician’s instructions. It seems breast milk doesn’t convey it so nursed babies get supplements.

Daddy preparing Lillian for bath time.

Then it’s into the bathtub in her little whale tub where she gets doused in warm water by Daddy, shampooed, washed, and rinsed by me. She doesn’t do the happy smile time thing in the bath, she just gets this quiet, blissed out look that’s hard to describe. It doesn’t matter if she gets water in her face, she just kind of hangs out and chills.

I dry her hair a bit in the tub first, and then we transfer her to her towel on the floor to be dried off and burritoed up.

Then a little snuggle time, a diaper with some ointment for overnight, and a light onesie and it’s off to bed. Theoretically. Bedtime involves swaddling, rocking, possibly nursing, rinse repeat. It usually works. But the bath is a nightly ritual which we all enjoy.

Changes are afoot

You may notice a bunch of posts you haven’t seen before if you scroll backwards. This is because I decided to import my pregnancy/baby blog into this one. It’s a little more, shall we say, frank (TMI) than I’ve been in this blog at least in places. But I think it represents a big chunk of my life and I’m more interested in being honest than pretty. Plus, you get baby pictures – lots of them! Anyway, feel free to skip over the parts that annoy, and I hope you enjoy the new content. It should be integrated with the old content, dating back about a year.

What I did on my spring vacation

I’ve been more than a little lax updating this blog. That would be because I had a baby, and it turns out they are a wee bit time consuming. Here’s a quick photographic update of the last three months:

Biological Imperative Win!

One day old.

One month old!

One month old

Two months!

Two months

Twelve weeks!

Three months

Lillian and Daddy

Lillian and Daddy

Twelve weeks!

Lillian and Mama

Lillian is a great little kid. She’s spunky and bright, and full of wiggles and smiles. I’m mostly exhausted, but we’re gradually getting better sleep and figuring this whole parenting thing out, a little at a time.