Eight Month Minx and the Crawling Crib-Climbing Carnival of Carnage!

She was seven months. We survived. But now... I was ready for the "eight month sleep regression" but I don't recall being told about the "eight month moody toddler-tantruming mobile maniac" phase. The drooling darling hits eight months and is more than ready for action. 

Baby Diptheria? 

We've approached eight months with madcap abandon! After eight, then nine. Then a year. FIRST BIRTHDAY, yikes! An occasion for which apparently our enormous gala will need an appropriate theme as well as several thousand handcrafted digital multimedia homages to our first year on the Chaya beat. I'm thinking I'll just cover the event space with empty water bottles, huge boxes, chargers, paper bags, and newspapers for a "things Chaya actually plays with versus all those cute toys we got at her shower" theme.

Yeesh. Party? Theme? Raffle and babymoonlight cruise? Here I thought the only requisite was smash cake. I'm on that. I'm thinking would most symbolically be accomplished by giving baby the last frozen vestiges of our wedding cake to pummel). 

So eight months. A year. Two years. Then she's pushing twenty and either desperately trying to get as far away as possible or needing to crash in our basement after dropping out of school!

As the little one gets less and less little, I start to understand baby fever somewhat. I guess kids are like Pringles: once you pop you can't stop. Well you can. And maybe you have no strong choice in the matter. Chaya is likely to be an only child due to a myriad of factors. We're both pushing mid-thirties. I am likely going to have the same hormonal issues that required a very grueling amount of ART to manufacture our little beastie. And we were lucky that time out. No guarantees the next time. Doing any of that with any little one would be hard. Now imagine all the ultrasounds, blood draws, shots, and hormonal whirlwinds (let's not even get into the magic baby-making trigger happy window and the imperative to mate like bunnies with a little toddler nearby). 

Not likely.

And now add a willful, wild, madcap little pixie who is the very best kind of baby, but by no means the kind one would describe as "easy" She's not "hard" like some. Not a velcro baby. Not one plagued with medical issues. She wasn't even exactly colicky as a wee wee infant. But she's a handful. At eight months, her favorite activities are (1) finding exactly the least baby proofed area of the house and army crawling there at hyperspeed, (2) trying to climb the least stable and pointiest thing in that un-baby-proofed area, (3) falling not while trying to do any of that, but just while she's sitting quietly, (4) SOBBING because she fell; (5) or because I put her down when she was fussing to no longer be held, but apparently didn't want to be put down either, or because I offered her a pear instead of the egg she wanted, or because she doesn't like the feeling of having to poop these days, or because I don't want her to rip the ethernet cable out of the wall and/or leap across a room headfirst onto my computer keyboard, or because somebody tried to change her diaper, or because she dropped the toy she was flinging around over her head, or because the Dow Jones dropped ten points; (6) and of course turning all forms of parenting into an MMA experience.

I could really use a Go Pro for my breastfeeding experiences. For me, it's an extreme sport. Arms, claws, and legs flying. Nipples being ravaged with newly formed pincer grips. 

But not just the "nursing" (by which we mean "mommy will need a stay in the ER one of these days after a feed"). Really parenting this little one is an extreme sport. Forget running after her and discovering all the newly discovered non-baby proofed areas. Forget the raging tantrums when you might cross sweet Chaya by, say, removing the Pampers wet nap she's been imbibing for the last several minutes. Even and especially forget naptime, which can truly be a battle zone. Or don't we all get joy from little talon in the armpit with another hand pounding into the trachea while choking out a somewhat skittery lullaby

But it makes me sad to think this is it. And I'm a little jealous of those crazy women already adding siblings to their little family.

For me, it mostly isn't that I want "another baby." Sometimes I do. I think about the what-ifs. What if we had a mellower, easier (boring?) baby? A sleeper? What if we had a baby like Chaya but now I know how to handle so many of the little snags along the way. What would it be like to have a little boy?

But mostly it's this: I want all of Chaya all at once. I love who she is and what she is becoming. I'm not the slightest bit the sort who prefers little babies or thinks she's growing up too fast. There's a part of me so impatient to meet more and more of her and it is revealed through age. I'm so excited to be with her in her toddler years. Watch her learn to read her first books. Go to her first school concerts. Talk with her. Learn with her. See her returning from her first summer camp a new and more amazing girl. See her conquer her fears and go out forward on her own. Learn from her as she becomes a full fledged adult with ideas that far outpace my staid and rusty notions.

I want those moment. I want the moments I cherish now - playing, watching her figure out crawling, letting her linger on her nap as she babbles and thwacks my face unceremoniously. I love the beast. 

And I also want the moments already past. And there's the baby fever. I want the little piglet sleeping on my chest. Snuggled into the boba for hours on end with the angelic little repose. Watching tv upstairs with Andrew while nursing the little beast for half hours on end. I want holding an inconsolable purple crier in the kitchen, who can only suck on my thumb and hold on tight. The giddy butterflies inside of me when she was first kicking and dancing her way right out. Her first little laugh. That smell of newborn. The sense of seeing your very own soul vulnerable and panting right in front of you. 

But time doesn't let me have everything at once. Memories are fleeting; they're mostly stories fabricated from shred of truths. Reformed with each record. 

She may be trying to do me in and drive me made, but she is my all and everything. Nothing makes me relish and resent the relentless passing of time more than this sweetie. I know if I had another one, it would be a whole new ride and a whole new timeline of fleeting moments to crave and pine for. But some days, I wish I could pack them all into a single infinite moment and drown in it. 

Or maybe just in the drool. While I pick crusted prune and snot out of the hair she hasn't torn out yet. Parenting is a beautiful experience. Truly. 

A Few Tips to My Pre-Chaya Self: First Eight Months. 

Of course, no baby is the same and no parenting experience is alike. I wouldn't dream of giving advice to another parent. And certainly wouldn't expect any of the same to apply with another little one. But a little hindsight LASIK as I reflect back on the day of my daughter's eight month birthday. 

1. Those first two months or so? Seriously. It's called a lay-in period for a reason. Do not. I repeat, do not, confuse your pregnancy fitness with your postpartum fitness. Stay in bed. Let your husband make his own food. Tell him to make you your food. Eat A LOT. Leave the house a mess. And ignore visitors. You have no idea how taxing that was on your body. Just nurse and sleep. And work? You won't be able to do that and take care of your baby. Not really. For a while, maybe, but that will come at a major cost. Make your peace with that. Don't be afraid of being left home with the baby. You got this. It's gonna be tough, but you'll get it dialed.

2. The Medela PISA (pump in style) is a PIEZA SH*. Get yerself a better breastpump. Get the flanges to fit. And then relax.

3. Breastfeeding is "natural" and historically a part of the human mothering experience. So is mastitis, tongue ties, babies dying from inadequate nutrition, wet nursing, nursing strikes, babies so distractible that they will only nurse in a dark room with the sound down, supplementing with other milks and solids of varying qualities, and weaning. What's not natural is the culture in which mothers are meant to carry on and take on the world from day two or three after birth and do it all - a lady on the streets and an Earth Goddess mother in the co-sleeping bedroom. It's easy for some. It's cheap for some. It's convenient for some. But there's such a thing as lacktivism that paints an overly rosy picture. There is help and support available. Seek it out ASAP. Then do what feels right for you.

4. Lactating is actually kind of like getting addicted to heroin - it can devour your time, provide a major heavy-duty high, feel worth all kinds of money and mental energy spent, not make sense to those who aren't doing it, and boy oh boy are there withdrawal symptoms. Don't change anything too quickly. And be aware that the more you pump to build supply, the more you're going to have to keep pumping to avoid clogs and mastitis. Slowly cut back. Soooo, soooo slowly. Even just nursing at longer intervals is risky. And that's to say nothing of the hormonal emotional stuff that can happen.

5. Four months sleep regression is a real thing. A very real thing. Be prepared. Put the coffee on. Enjoy the "can sleep anywhere and on the go" months, but also maybe think about getting baby to sleep on her own in a crib or bassinet as soon as you can. It gets better. Then worse. Then better. Then worse... but a baseline better even then.

6. You don't need that fancy bassinest. It's an awesome little storage unit for pillows and blankies, but trust me on that. And co-sleeping is great, but be ready for when it's not anymore. Be ready.

7. You don't need that awesome sleep suit either. By the way, SIDS risk or no, baby will pretty well only sleep on her belly.

8. Batteries gone. Never, ever put batteries in a (baby) toy. Trust me.

9. It's not teething. Nope. Not this time. Not that time. Ok maybe... nope, not then either. You have a drooly, randomly irritable baby. Get used to it. Thank the powers that be that she doesn't have fangs yet. And love the crazy baby, because the things that make her harder are the things that also make her soooo much fun.

10. Post Partum Depression and Anxiety are huge things that don't get talked about enough. You probably aren't gonna get them, but keep an eye out. You're gonna feel so wrung out and overwhelmed and isolated sometimes, you need to have that support network there.

11. She's gonna cry. A lot. It will change in timbre and quality. There will be PURPLE crying. There will be mysterious sobbing jags. Gas. Overstimulation. Boredom. And then, she'll grow older and have a personality and tantrum like hell out of nowhere. I hear eventually she'll get stranger and separation anxiety. Sometimes she'll actually just want to cry herself down. Sometimes she'll need to be soothed. You'll figure it out. But it's not gonna be easy. Just remember, it probably isn't teething.

12. Notice how she fusses at a certain evening time every evening? That's because she needs an earlier bedtime. Seriously. And shorter waking intervals. Don't keep a three month old baby awake for three hours at a time. Daylight savings is the awesomest thing ever.

13. That napping thing, though? She's not gonna be a great napper. Not after four months. Short naps aren't as good as long ones, but they *do* count. Don't let anyone tell you differently. For your sanity as well as hers. Again, do everything you can to get her into a crib. You'll miss her, but You'll also miss yourself if you don't. 

14. You do not need several coolers worth of frozen breast milk. Did you know it's probably high lipase? And you shouldn't keep it that long? Donate. Cycle it out. Use it in the bath. Just don't buy a second cooler y'hear? Really.

15. Yeah, yeah, cherish every moment, but seriously. You're not going to. You're gonna hate parts of it. Parts of it are going to be dreadfully boring. Sometimes you'll actually flip your tantruming baby off behind her back. For all the talk of screen time and attention and being in the moment, sometimes... your phone will be your lifeline. Don't hate on the internet. It's going to keep you sane sometimes. Or slightly less deranged. But do know that every time she sees that pretty phone, she's one step closer to grabbing it and utterly destroying it. Invest in a good case and know when to turn it off/put it down.

And whatever else, remember it's not a race. Babies are what babies are and they learn and develop unique to their own inner schema. Some day she may be able to tell you what is wrong and what she wants, but words aren't always the sole truth either. Trust our instincts, but not doggedly. And laugh. A lot. Especially when you want to cry. Unless it's a medical emergency. Then laugh, but get yourself treated, because those talons may have some kind of poison on them, we don't know. And someday... ok somebody it really will be teething (gulp)

Happy Eight Months Miss Chaya.

Seven Month Survivor Baby-Battle-log Updateapalooza

Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated...

I'm still alive! Seven months of mad baby booby nappy nutsiness has wrung me through a few tight spaces, but I'm pliable. Or at least, I'm hanging on by the power of decaf coffee and sheer cuteness (mine and the baby's of course).

If I miss anything about my pre-baby existence, it's writing on a more regular basis. Unleashing my compulsive rivers of pablum has always been such a restorative endeavor.  It's a mental lathe, writing. When I chitter away with little fingers, I gain a sense of otherworldly focus. Simultaneously diving into my deeper chasms and stone-skipping the glib surface of those shiniest ripples of quotidian mummery.Even knowing these might be read connects me to it. And my god, now that I have a baby, there is so much to write about.

I remember taking some umbrage when my father suggested that my sister and I combine forces - I having the writing bug and she having the tri-child chaos about which to write. Is la vida lalaloopsy so intrinsically more interesting than the DINK day to day? Was my pre-baby life not worth memorializing in agonizing detail? Pshaw?

Didn't I have more to talk about at the dinner table before the baby? My days now are a pastiche of naps, drool, diapers and an obsession hinging on the contrast between my child's poop and peanut butter. 

But of course parenting is a mad whirlwind worth processing. Sure it's mostly the many facets of baby feces and a catalog of baby shrieks and raspberries that would put the OED to shame. But sometimes it's also rushing to make an Easter egg hunt after an unpredictable nap; carting a cutely clad cranky strawberry-bunny through the recondite back streets of lord-knows-where because you missed a turn and nearly plowed yourself and your daughter headfirst into a stationary Ford while trying to load the map on the phone you swore you'd never take out while in the car; waiting to reconnect with your husband who misunderstood your errant google calendaring and took a long free detours on the way; thoroughly missing the egg hunt, but not the best desserts, and only narrowly coinciding with daddy, who finally made it just as every one began leaving en masse. Sometimes it's intense negotiations over when and where to meet up for a "walk" that will inevitably end up changing times more than your baby changes diapers before landing exactly back on the original time; sometimes involving some actual walking, but mostly mad messaging to determine whether you actually are all in the same parking lot or not. Sometimes it's an hourly overnight vigil as baby lies still for the first time in months, leaving you to balance the bulging in your boobs against the snoozing of the sweetie and your projected future nap-map of the day to come. Sometimes it's nursing a tiny terror who hums and burps while suckling, and then begins banging her arm against your face and arm like she's hitting the bar after a strong shot of whiskey. Sometimes it's just the overwhelming joy and sheer terror of loving something so vitally alive.

There's a lot to write about.

If only my brain could actually kick into focus. Which, sadly, is virtually impossible.
I get down time. Plenty of down time. Plenty of hours hovering over the kitchen counter, suspiciously eyeing the baby monitor and wondering why now of all times the baby is taking a real nap. Plenty of aimless pacing between several open tasks. But it's a sort of restless, constantly on the alert sort of time. Usually filled by rushing about the house and battening down the hatches. I eat carrots and lettuce compulsively each time I pass by the fridge. In between, I indulge in crosswords and social networking, and other things that have the luxury of being taken up and abandoned at a moment's notice. Not conducive to even semi-coherent babbling.

But I am still alive. And the wars rage on as we reach 7 and a half months of baby bliss.

And so, here is your baby battle status Update On All Fronts

The PP physical recovery - while I was knocked flat on my well-toned tush by the postpartum physical convalescence, I "should" now be "recovered" entirely. Meaning parts of my internal lady plumbing are no longer bobbling through my belly and sloughing detritus. Should I so desire, I "could" actually work out just as hard as I did before this baby farrago. However, I'm nowhere near able to replicate that kind of fitness. Things that interfere with my cardio dominance: The sheer lack of time, absence of appropriate ergonomics while toting an increasingly heavy little lady, and significant sleep deficit. 

Speaking of that not-so-callipygian toosh, the breastfeeding has done more than liposuction on the junk in my trunk. The damage done to my lower back is unspeakable, of course. Full of prickles and little tweaks, and unknown knots. Add that to the still stretched out abdominal midsection muddle - plus the bigger boobage - and I have an entirely different shape than my typical shape.
It's a nice enough shape and not entirely alien to my general contours. I'm still hinging on underweight. I still have muscle tone from pushing strollers up hills and swinging babies over my head. My calves are still week formed. But I'm in a different place physically for sure.
We have a jogging stroller. I have the ok to start running with Chaya. Today, I bought a sports bra that fits my jiggle-wiggles. We'll see if running begins again. I had a brief flirtation with the treadmill during naptime, but the treadmill is torturously tedious. And even running requires a certain focus and commitment that's hard to muster during my brief little nap windows. Perhaps outside would be more enticing? I already take a daily walk with the stroller. But the extra requirement of having to change and maybe even shower? I just don't know. 

The breast-feeding bonanza - So, I have declined to take the follow-up ultrasound, but it appears my abscess/mastitis/boobamaggedon has abated. This time. I am terrified of a resurgence now. Which is interesting, considering that Chaya has recently started nursing less. Most likely in response to her increased interest in solids. Nonetheless, when she does things like suddenly sleep through the night, leaving my engorged boobs achingly full... well it is a bit nerve-wracking. I don't want to pump it all out, lest she suddenly wake and scream the baby equivalent of "psych! Where's my boob, biyatch??" But I also don't really want to putter down clog lane again. And in the meantime, she's been sort of constipated. I want her to keep more hydrated, but she doesn't drink from a sippie cup and is nursing less, so a challenge. Fortunately me and my boobs have adjusted to what appears to be a permanent dropping of one more over night feed. We are now able to go 7-8 hours at night. One middle of the night feed. And now Chaya gets up an hour earlier. Thank god for the time change. But she's getting eleven hours, and my breasts haven't exploded. Knock on wood. 

In the meantime, I've decreased my dose of domperidone by 4 pills in the very slow wean from medication. So, it is all still very much a work in progress. Priorities include these action items: keeping on keeping on, avoiding more surgical intervention, and suppressing the development of baby teeth as long as possible.

Napwars - Lord knows, really. I vary my response by the hour. Naps are way better than the four month nightmare period. The nap ritual definitely has power. Sometimes she'll begin her nap period with some massive nap gymnastics. Sometimes she'll start fussing right up until she passes out. On rare occasions, she does not actually fall asleep and that fairly well sucks. But most of the time, a nap is wrung out of the whole experience. And often enough, she turns around a bit and then goes to sleep. Most of her naps are still short affairs - the painful 30 minute non-nap to the massive success of a 50 minute nap. But at least once or twice a week, she'll throw in a long nap. Usually when I have to be somewhere. Or when somebody's coming over. Other times, she'll take a really short nap, tumble around the crib for twenty minutes and then take another nap. It's predictably unpredictable. But, again, a lot less doom and gloom than the four month napless baby. And, as I alluded to up above, the baby seems to be sleeping a bit more at night. Of course, she's also getting a little constipated from less breastfeeding at night, so it's a balance.

Getting Out: It's hard to see my old friends. I can barely schedule anything for myself (a nap? a run? a visit to the doctor?), let alone something involving actual logistics. The vicissitudes of baby whirlwinds are tempests that cannot be planned around. Chaya needs a nap roughly two hours after she wakes from her last one. Her naps vary in length from twenty minutes to two hours. She needs to nurse somewhere in between there. She doesn't really do that if she's in a different environment, or if others are around. And to add a little cherry on top, I'm an introvert who has always been exhausted by socializing and who is now running on a seven month sleep deficit.

If I say that my other mommy friends "understand," it's a little more nuanced than that. I wish I could explain this in a way that would not incense my prior childless self. It's not quite embarrassment. It's not estrangement. It isn't that I don't trust my non-childed friends to understand/tolerate/brook my newly flaky anxious distracted behavior. I do. With all my heart. It's maddening to be unable to commit to anything. Or to have a serious conversation for more than a few seconds at a time. Maybe it's that I want to preserve my sense of those friendships for the nuanced and deep relationships that they were. You know how with the right people, you reconnect within seconds after years apart? Maybe I just want to feel like we can pick up "just the same" and that's not really likely in this current chaos. What if I'm not my old self. It's inevitable to change. It's great. But what if some part of me that I wanted to keep has been lost? Oh the horror. But mostly, it's just hard to get out.

It's not super easy to see my new friends either, but then that's part of the understanding.

A few examples:

I have a group of mom-friends with whom I take walks. Ok usually "walks." The amount of walking is far outweighed by the amount of standing, gearing up, bottle-feeding, shuffling, and the like. It's not a super aerobic group usually, although I have other mom-friends who certainly are true walkers.Typically, Jennifer brings her six year old daughter, Olivia, which adds lots of doubling back and stopping. Inevitably, somebody needs a bottle. Usually one of the babies. And there's that sort of cat-herding uncertainty to our mass gait. But we get out.

One of these days I'll bring my awesome jogging stroller. But it doesn't actually fit in my car at the moment. Darn. Every time we schedule a walk, I bring our umbrella stroller. Every time I bring the stroller, I struggle with it briefly and then thank the powers that be that I also brought the boba air carrier. One of these days, Chaya will end up in that stroller again. Maybe.

Anyways, having hit an unseasonable pocket of warm and pretty, we all decided it would be good to go for a walk "at the end of the week." I had suggested earlier in the week, but too many things were already happening. So I sent out a mass text suggesting Thursday was the best weather day.

Jennifer said "ok, where/when." I suggested two places and asked if she wanted Olivia to come along (Olivia gets off school early on Thursdays). Claudia said "whenever." Everyone said wherever. Chrystine said that she was really busy, but maybe. I finally suggested it would be easier to meet at the Marine Life Center down at the Harbor. This was because (1) parking at Boulevard is awful, and (2) a mutual friend of ours works there, so I thought we could see her. Jennifer said that Olivia would want to come then. I suggested that would mean we should meet after 2. Claudia said Sebastian usually eats at 2. I said maybe 2:30ish, "nap dependent."

And on we go. Of course somewhere along the way, Jessica asked if anyone wanted to take a walk at Boulevard. Two other girls were going at 2. She chose the Harbor because she didn't think she could make 2:00 p.m.

And so, the naps begin. Let the walk excitement commence:

Chaya wakes up at 1:50 and I text the rest of the group that we are on target for 2:30. Claudia texts that she is already on her way. Her husband will drop her off early and they're feeding Sebastian in the car. Jennifer tells Jessica that we're on for 2:30.

I get a little distracted playing peekaboo with Chaya in the crib and start nursing fairly late. And it takes a while. And we end up making googly eyes at each other for a few minutes. And suddenly it's 2:20. Crap. Grab a soda because I know I'll be thirsty. Chaya enjoys playing with it right up until she spits up right into the can and I throw it in the sink.

I make it to the car with an armful of baby, purse baby carrier (I have the stroller in the car but somehow I just know it's not going to work out), and ... not my coat and not the baby's coat and not the baby's hat and not my sunglasses and not my keys. Unable to actually escape without my keys, we return to the house for a thorough scour. Tada, finally find it and take off still sans baby coat and my sunglasses. Oh well.

While I'm on the way there, I get a text from Claudia asking if she's in the right place. She's not. She's at Zuanich Point instead of the Marine Life Center. Jennifer texts she's on her way. Claudia misinterprets and believes that we are on our way to find her. She begins to wander around and says she'll meet us halfway. Google maps tells her it will take twenty minutes to walk. This concerns me, since it's actually much closer.

Make it to the Harbor. Jessica sees my car and follows me in. We go to the Marine Life Center. Nobody is there. Including Casey, who runs the place. On our way back to the parking lot, we find Casey. Jennifer calls asking where we are. I go find her and Olivia, who is very upset that we are not going directly to the touch pool. Meanwhile Claudia texts to say nobody knows where this place is, she's lost, and to just go on without her. I tell her to stay where she started and we'll find her. She says she's "on the trail." We start walking, while I once again tell Claudia to stay put.

In the meantime, Olivia has several mini-strikes in which she refuses to advance because she is annoyed that we are still not at the touch pool. She occasionally runs forward ahead of us and then pouts on a new bench.

By the time we've reached Zuanich, Claudia texts "I'm here" without elaborating where. Several confusing text messages about Anthony's restaurant and the Bellwether later, and we ascertain by telephone that she went in the opposite direction. I again tell her to stay put. She again says she'll meet us on the way. We somehow find her after two more telephone conversations. Still baffled as to how we passed each other previously, we finally reassemble our tribe and get set to set out for real...

Except Jennifer stays behind because there's no way Olivia is going out again. And then we run into Bill. Claudia chides him for dropping her off at the wrong place. He goes to The Loft (a fancy bar by the Center). We set out. Ezryn starts to sob. We're not sure why. And then of course I realize that if I don't leave soon, I'll miss the last nap window and be stuck at the park with a baby who falls asleep at 4:30 and then wakes up ragingly hungry at 5:00 and... I leave.

Claudia and Jessica hopefully actually completed the walk that I began yesterday.

I received additional texts that Jennifer had to go home as the children were being crazy. Chrystine let us know that Meira had slept for five hours that day and was going back to sleep. Jessica probably went home ruing the day she couldn't make it to Boulevard by 2:00 p.m. And Claudia and Bill decided to hang out at The Loft.

And hey, after some major protest, Chaya did actually take her afternoon nap. I'd call that a success of a group outing. More or less. 

Time Passes...

So for the last what seems like several weeks the discussion about walking has gone like this:

First person: soooooo the weather looks good on ______ day
Second person: I'm think I have the flu.
Third person: Baby is sick with something nasty and keeps puking.
Fourth person: My entire family has liver cancer and I think the dog has scurvy.

And thus we postpone. It's been a really nasty cold, flu and plague season in other words.

Anyways, it's finally reached peak gorgeousness time out in this area. The flu had been around and around faster than a tilt-a-whirl. It seemed safe to attempt another walk.

I tried again. After a week full of foreboding Monday thunderstorm predictions (which turned into a mostly cloudy to beautiful weather day), I suggested that Wednesday through Thursday might be nice.

Claudia, of course, has the plague. She caught it from Sebastian who caught it from Bill. The conservative faction suggested a humidifier and baby tylenol. The Bellingham faction suggested an array of essential oils and herbal infusions. We all agreed that Bill probably should not have stayed home to "take care of Sebastian" and then spent the morning in bed nursing "a cramp" followed by planning to take a hike with a friend. Some of the other ladies sympathized. And others praised how wonderfully helpful their oh so special cooking/cleaning/rainbow-pooping husbands really are. I said "yeah, that's nice, but mine has a really cute butt." End of that conversation.

At any rate. Plans weren't entirely made. But Jen suggested that she was going for a walk today after Olivia got hom. I suggested that might align with Chaya's nap battles.

We get the option of Chaya sleeping "well" (two four hour chunks and a two hour morning chunk is miraculous to me) at night, or taking an unprecendented two hour nap during the day. We don't typically get both. She slept well that last night... so... There have been a few guerrilla resistances movements and crib tumbles before succumbing to far shorter and more volatile naps.

Olivia was going to be out of school at 1:30. Chaya woke up from one nap at 12:30, meaning she would probably be due for another around 2:30ish. There seemed to be wiggle room, so I suggested I might be in for a short one. We agreed to meet at St. Clair park. Which is just far away enough for me not to be able to walk there. But close enough to be a ridiculously brief drive.

Biding my time, I allowed the little demon to scootch-crawl herself around the house in increasingly intense fashion. At about 1, we nursed. At 1:30, I was ready for the long "getting ready to go" battle. I did much better than usual, all said. No spit up in cans. And I remembered the baby, the boba, and myself. I did not, of course, remember a hat or sunglasses for either of us. Nor did I really remember that my back can't take front carrying a 17.5 pound monster baby anymore. This I had to remember while actually at the park.

After some unexpected battles with the garage door remote, I made it to the park almost precisely on time. Only to check my phone for the first time in far too long.

Alex was still asleep, having konked out in the swing. Olivia was "getting home soon." Etc.

So I wandered. I waited. I realized I should have used the bathroom before I left.

By about 2:00, I was thinking perhaps I should head out. By 2:05, I got the message that they were almost there.

And after walking down the street to find them, we all connected. For a "walk." By which I mean "walk two steps before Olivia began to (1) protest and cry that we were walking instead of going to Sienna's house; (2) demand snacks; (3) insist on going back to look at a 'fairy hole' in a tree." And so on.

After about fifteen minutes, Chaya was pretty out of it and I really had to use the bathroom, so I said I needed to head back. Olivia celebrated in theory, but then dismayed in the realization that we had to walk all the way back. She troopered on with chagrin and a faintly escalating moan. After what I am assured was an endless death march, we loaded back up in the car, and the rest of the group went off to find Sienna's house. Turns out Sienna was not home.

For our part, I wasn't the only one who needed to use the bathroom, so the timing was probably for the best. Incidentally, solids poop is bizarre. It stinks and looks like little poop pellets compared to breastmilk poop. Really, it basically is proportionally normal human poop, but at that scale, it's really weird. And Chaya actually went down for a nap without much protest around 3. Yes, I'm a stay at home mom. My life is defined by my child's diapers and sleep sessions.

And, well, my back isn't totally broken.

One of these days, we will all actually walk together. I'm guessing our children will be in college.

And some day I'll get back to writing more regularly instead of massive blogger blowouts every few months. I may be senile enough to really make some colorful entries by then!

Mastitus Andronicus and the Febrile Feeding Frenzies

There be boobies and babies and even bottles ahead. Return of the Mammoth Mammary Misfortunes. Lactilagoons, pumping pains, and some tasty messy munchies. Oh and a few cognitive lightyear leaps... 

Mini-Mitts and the Angry Boob

Not to frame all parenthood in terms of struggle, but for all worthwhile accomplishments, there are birthing pangs. To create a beautiful new, the pretty (darned) old must chafe away. 

And learning is a bare naked time of terrifying vulnerability. When the stakes are as high as the flesh of your flesh (sometimes in baby form, and sometimes in the form of skin that baby has literally ripped right off of you under her talons), it can be a time of high striving for grand and noble reward. So I start by acknowledging the paradoxical stance most parents take when discussing their children: (1) yes it is the most exhausting, horrifying, annoying, vexing, unnerving and chaotic thing to ever happen to one; (2) but it's also the best, most joyful, amazing, and profound journey upon which you'll ever venture.

Because the two feelings are inextricably related. Call it Stockholm syndrome. Just don't call it late for dinner. Nothing of value comes without a cost and a struggle. And if you are taking it so in stride that you aren't the slightest bit put off from time to time, well, I question your eligibility for the parenting mantle. You might just be carrying the baby as an accessory.

That said, we continue with the baby battles. In many regards, I feel like the life of baby can be divided handily into three little pockets of battles/challenges/overlying motifs.

The first 6 weeks were the bloody (all too literally) postpartum shock of a body more enfeebled than it was in the latest throes of pregnancy and labor. In many ways, the baby herelf was the easy part. She was small. She needed constant nursing. She slept in odd and jagged spells. But the feel-good chemicals were strong, her cries were tearless, and her needs were simple. My exhaustion, however, was substantial. My body virtually ripped to shreds from that rapid ejection of life. It was a long haul just to be able to walk more than fifteen minutes at a time. And finally giving myself the rest required was an agonizing exercise in "taking it easy" and trying not to get too involved in day to day life or the exciting intrigues of our inevitably enthusiastic visitors.

Then there were the next months of let-down let-down: the boobie battles. When momma's milk evaporated, baby went on a very unintentional crash diet, and we clawed our way back from hours of pumps/supplements/and frustrations in the haze of purple crying. The Hail Mary dom perignon tic tac savior. And the final arduous struggle to tear baby from the plastic teat of an increasingly fervent bottle nipple preference and the iron maw of perpetual pumping. Husband and wife constantly at odds over the timbre and intent of her sobs and cries. Shaken by knowing she'd been left hungry before.

Baby took her last battle-bottle sometime before Thanksgiving. She has occasionally been offered one since, but at these times mostly gnaws on the tip (making mommy's boob tingle and mommy's mind dread the coming teeth) and coughs when milk comes through. Mommy waits until baby is old enough for a sippy cup, which seem somehow less seductive a replacement for her boobie, and she continues her dom perignon altoids (mint free because - of course - peppermint theoretically reduces some women's supply as surely as cookies boost it!). Some women are worried baby will never take a bottle. I worried she'd remember the ease and flow of those old bottles whilst already being distractible and impatient at the breast due to her ultra-aware age.

As this war wound down, we entered into sleep territory at the four month marker. The aftermath continues razing through life as we once knew it. Mommy bade adieu to her work with baby pipe dreams. Cribs, monitors, sleep sacks, books, and rituals dominated the dialectic. And sweet SAHM had the occasional success with a fair bit of bittersweet failure.

Current status during the ceasefire

(1) mommy's acceptance that baby doesn't really sleep more than 30-45 minutes at a time anymore during the day (except when it's an hour and a half and wait what?? Crazy baby), and that after that baby will spend any remaining time in the crib doing gymnastics and edging her way towards bursting straight out of the crib, quite possibly the nursery. We know one of these days all I will find is an open window and a rope fashioned from old onesies hanging out of the window;

(2) baby's acceptance that she doesn't really need to feed more than every four hours at night and that she can actually thumb-suck herself back to sleep if she's awake between those intervals; 

(3) a mutual agreement that baby will get drowsy and at least sort of sleepish (or lay there quietly maybe) after mommy reads and sings to her in the nursery and lays her in the crib;

(4) a mutual understanding that at least one nap on a four nap day will probably be taken out of the crib; 

(5) an awesome video monitor supplants The Real Babies of Bellingham as the best reality tv this side of Senegal.

Aaaaand so we take a break to return to prior battles: ANGRY BOOB STRIKES BACK. With a vengeance. While bottles took baby scratches with equanimity, mommy's skin breaks more easily. No matter my stabs (har har, no the stabs were baby's) at ingenious mini-manicures, baby has talons. And she kneads as she nurses. Leaving both breasts with several scars and kitty scratches. Some worse than others.

At the same time, mommy found that disassociating nursing and napping seemed to help naps work a little better. This reduced the frequency of nursing. And the desperation to keep grumpy baby occupied, stir-crazy mommy socialized, and everyone napified also encouraged her to drop a few more pumping sessions a day.

Resulting in a backlog of milk. Resulting in a clogged duct. Resulting in clog meeting broken infected skin. Resulting in... drumroll please... AN ABSCESS! In the milk maker area. And ouch. Let me just say ouch. To make it worse, baby sensed something was wrong and stopped much wanting to nurse on that side. Meaning more pumping, which didn't help with the irritation or the sanity or the rest.

My poor right breast was a snarled sunset of reds, purples, mauves and raw skin. The nipple itself distorted and cartoonish. And all the surrounding area unsettled and sensitive.

And so back to the Bellingham Center for Healthy Motherhood. And back to Mt. Baker Imaging (haven't been there since my fertility fandangos) for a breast ultrasound. Apparently, there is liquid, but they'd prefer not to "aspirate" (poke with a big needle and suck the liquid out, which may or may not leave a little hole in the skin through which milk would pour) so long as antibiotics are seeming to work. Fingers crossed. We're hoping for a big improvement by tomorrow.

The good news is that the angry boob still looks utterly battered, but it's more pinkish than purple. And baby has been a little less reticent about nursing on that side. Sometimes. She still has no problem suddenly getting thoroughly disinterested in nursing, and whipping her head off the breast while still fully latched. In fact, it's a common enough occurrence that mommy has to practice her zen breathing in advance. The downside is that increased nursing involves increased discomfort afterwards, since she's still nursing somewhat brutally in light of the changed shape of her number two suck sack. But I feel less urgent about pumping to get the milk out at, say, 2 a.m., and that's nice.

Still chained to the pump, but not in the middle of the night anymore. And I've discovered that those teeny tiny socks that don't quite fit her feet anymore are pretty optimal for her teeny tiny claws. Well, she still manages to get them off with all her busyness, but most of the time it still protects my worst areas from the utter writhing agony of a fistful of nail.

And so we carry on, having added one more pill to the arsenal. And one more wrinkle to the magical mummery of baby rearing. Little one is almost six months, and oh so mechanically close to making a mobility breakthrough. I envision all new battles beginning then. And evolving well into her late forties and fifties. Because she will always be worth it all. And I will always be there with my pound of mangled flesh hating and loving every step of the ride.

Of Boobs, Bellies, and Battlefields - Turn for the Worse 

Booby battles continues over the blare of a nap detente. It appeared at first that a little blue capsule (or four a day for ten days) was all that stood between me and recovery. My angry boob mellowed out. Chaya started nursing better on the right side again. All was well.

And then, not so much. The night before last, swelling increased to areas yet untouched. There was tightness, achy inflammation, and a really hard spot.

And despite my fear of fear itself (and the shame of possible hypochondria) I called the Bellingham Center for Healthy Motherhood to suggest my motherhood was not currently on track to healthy. Being the ridiculously caring and present health providers that they are, I was beckoned in at Chaya-beastie-nap's convenience. And it was agreed that things looked gnarly. And angry. And it was time to go back back back for another ultrasound. Shockingly, the Mt. Baker Imaging Women's Diagnostics Center had availability for "immediately" and so off I went.

There, they also agreed that things weren't looking fantastic (but from a deeper, more internal perspective) and that it was time to break out the biggish needles.

I dun been aspirated! That means they stuck a needle in my breast and used an ultrasound guide to locate a lagoon of fluid, which they then extracted into a syringe.

Remember, dear Mr. (W)right when you got that liver biopsy and thought it was the funniest thing ever to respond to any question about your well-being with "they stabbed me in the liver!!" Well, buddy, "they stabbed me in the boob!!!"

And they drew out some delicious looking puss as well as some walled in milk. I guess I have a clog somewhere along the way? Or little lagoons of milk in my bosom. Uncomfortable little lagoons. That don't seem to clear up. I'm not a fan.

Luckily Gramma Pam was nearby and able to watch Chaya immediately while this all happened. This is one of so many reasons why I am so grateful to live where we do. Chaya spent her time flirting in the lobby, making eyes at everyone who came in, and showing off her mad new skillz. Oh yes, I came upstairs yesterday to find Miss Chaya on her hands and knees rocking back and forth! Holy moley, we are in for it. 

She's not super agile about it yet, but these are definitely the foundations of crawling happening around here. We are in trouble. I am particularly in danger. That girl is wiley and - as primary warden/caregiver - I'm in the crosshairs.

At any rate, the prompt aspiration did not magically cure my problems and I'm still waiting for a report on the lab cultures. I desperately hope to hear that there is some superior antibiotic that will clear everything up. Currently I am unable to nurse from this side, pushing me back to the early nightmare days of pumping and bottling. They're less nightmarish now, somehow, but the pumping frequency is demanding. And this is not just for nourishing my child, so much as preventing painful and dangerous engorgement. I got no sleep last night between feeding from my left boob plus ambidextrous bottles and sneaking downstairs to pump out the ever-filling lactalagoon of my right boob.

I am of course exhausted, frustrated, uncomfortable, and having stomach annoyances from the antibiotics. But I'm glad the turn for the worse came during the weekend so that I have help from my darling husband.

In the meantime, I'm making my peace once more with the bottle baby. It's cute now that she can hold her own bottle. She still makes the most soul-searching eye contact over a bottle. And grabs your face just like she does while breastfeeding.And pumping is still a major pain in the nipple. Mostly the time filling aspect is the most brutal. Hard to be chained to a stationary object with an active little baby. The day I wean is the day the PISA gets thrown off a tall building while I scream Yippee Kayee Motherf**er! The Spectra will go to the bottom of the lake perhaps.

The time is winding on and still no lab results... Will I have my answers soon? Will I figure out new and inventive ways to bottle feed and pump with a baby who must have all things (cords and pump equipment) in her grasp? Will a bushel full of cabbage leaves dry up the lagoon and send me on my merry way to happy formulaland? Will Monday bring a whole new series of aspirations and visits to the Mt. Baker Imaging Center? Will I come in to find baby hanging from the ceiling next?

I really haven't the faintest at this point, but I'll certainly keep you - sorry, so, so sorry in advance - abreast!

Bonzai Boobie Bath and the Six Month Magic

Another week past and the battles wage on. As I write, I have currently plopped the left-most half of my modest decolletage in a bowl of warm water, epsom salts, and essential oils. Soaking the udder is my new naptime hobby and calling. Because my life is thrilling like that. Like a spa day for one small vector of my body mass. Maybe next time, my toe will get shiatsu. Who can say?

We left off with a turn for the worse in Abscess-Mastitis land. Or better in that I did in fact seek medical attention and get my massive abscess aspirated. There was still some uncertainty as to whether I had MRSA or not. I do not. Just garden variety nasty strepoducacacadoodledoo. And the antibiotics I had been taking ought to have been doing the job. They actually were kicking some infectious bacterial ass, except that the clogged areas (near the nipples, by the way) were still very much backlogging milk into a painful breeding ground for the nasty infectious puss. Oh there was more in the magical land of TMI. So much more.

Anyways, let's montage that nonsense out of ponderous tomes and straight into victory - here's me squeezing, soaking, scrubbing, exfoliating a very delicate lady area, pulling off skin-like-something from that delicate lady area, pumping, nursing, crying, and finally squirting my baby right in the face with and unexpected surge of milk.

What a relief.

But I'm not out of the woods yet, so I'm reticent to proclaim anything but a detente. Today I had a follow up and we agreed that it's nice to see the nip area back down a third of its peak swollen stage, and that pink is a much nicer color than dark red and purple. But we also agreed that probably antibiotics don't need to stop just yet. There's still some hard areas and a fair bit of pink.

And so we carry on carry on.And panic when baby atypically decides to try out sleeping through the night. Yes, I eventually sneaked into the nursery and nursed her while she was still asleep. Yes, it's a thing. They call it a dream feed. Because that boob needs to be emptied, even if it no longer fills up as urgently as pre-mastitis. And if I had to pump, you know she'd have woken up hangry immediately afterwards. Plus I am still devising elaborate execution plans for both my pumps at this point, so dream feeding it is!

Of course going through all of this and wondering when the next resurgence might explode has been a contemplative time of transition. Will mommy soon reclaim her boobs for herself (and occasionally her paramour?)

After the domperidone started working, I had set six months as my initial goal for pulling out all the stops to nurse the little beast. And we're at six months.

I possibly appended a "until she's firmly on solids" to that goal. Breast milk has qualities that help digest solids while babies are adjusting. It is, of course, also the bulk of nutrition and the ideal nutrition until age one. But formula can follow as second best.

She's not firmly on solids by a fair mile, although solids are darned well on her pretty firmly these days. I have discovered that she enjoys eating sweet potato and peanut butter from a small spatula. And that she can't get enough black rice and pear porridge. I have discovered a few more things as well: (1) baby food is super fun to make, (2) Chaya is not thrilled when she accidentally throws a spatula full of brown rice and pear into her eye, (3) avocado is interesting but weird in baby land (apparently "finger foods" mean "foods you attempt to masticate and swallow through fingers alone," (4) while I disagree with the slightly misleading and inaccurate "food before one is just for fun," food is a lot of fun.

Oh and diapers get a lot more interesting even when it's just a little bit of semi-solid material passing through.

But yes, I think now that she's starting to enjoy the textures and flavors of various caloric mushes, Chaya's going to like food. And I'm going to like making a right mess with her. Of course food will be a small percentage of her diet for a long time to come, but it's a way for me to give "myself" to my baby in a more abstract and independent way. Instead of processing the food internally and giving back, I externalize the process and give her more and more agency in choosing it while sharing my own love for the tastes and textures of the world (and eating half of all of it myself).

Of course there's so much I am not quite ready to give up - the intimacy (when she isn't clawing holes into my chest and shrieking at me), that feeling of becoming one and giving myself to her in the most personal of ways, the convenience (ok this is debatable - I don't need bottles, but it's a PITA to feed distractibaby on the go), the extra calorie kick (when I'm chained to the house and too tired to get out, I have to acknowledge I'm hugely out of my usual shape), and mainly the excuse to go to the BCHM for Breastfeeding Cafe every Tuesday. And I see so many mothers struggling so much harder for so many fewer results. I am a "success" story in a very heartfelt community. It's weird to even conceive of walking away from that. Like a strange version of the sunk cost fallacy.

But I've also made my peace with letting go at some point, and always when the equation favors the downsides of trying to nurse against the benefits provided. And although breastmilk is great at any age, the hugest relative benefits diminish with each passing month. I've made progress towards minimizing the downsides by cutting back on pumping. I'd like to - much more carefully, because I don't need more clogs and mastitis - phase out the final two pumping sessions. And if switching to a bottle meant encouraging Chaya to nightwean with no fear of any consequences for mommy's boobs... well I wouldn't complain about the extra sleep. I suspect the boobs could handle the night weaning at peak form, of course, but if not...

I am also playing with weaning down the dosage of my domperidone. It's a lugubrious process anyways, so beginning now is not as dramatic as it might sound. I'm currently taking twelve pills a day. To wean, I drop one pill at a time at weekly intervals - one week with eleven pills a day, one week with ten, etc. If there's a real reason to get off quickly, you can drop a pill every three days, but that comes with risks of side effects and so on. It's possible that a slow wean could find my sweet spot dosage at a much lower amount. It's even possible that I could wean completely without losing my ability to breastfeed, though less common. Or I could realize it's dropping and incrase my dose again. I may stop on a chosen dose for a while longer or keep going anyways. It's hard to say and depends on the way things evolve in the future. I suspect that Miss thing will self-wean before the age of one. She has always seemed more interested in bottles and certainly is ecstatic about food (despite being horrible at actually ingesting it)

And that darned little tiger is eventually going to get teeth... just saying... 

Hard to imagine breaking the mold and giving up the certainty that I can "EBF" when so many women kill themselves for upwards of a year or two to provide just half of their child's diet with milk.

But in the meantime, I'm captive to the vestigial mastitis hanging about in my bosom. Must obsess over every hour between feeds, soak that boobie, and pump away! Chaya doesn't mind. As long as mommy keeps loading up that spoon and too much food (milk or otherwise) doesn't get in her eye!

And hey, sitting! She can kind of sit. If I put her in a sitting position first! And then she falls to the side randomly after several minutes of looking very sturdy. Like a cute little drunk person. My little baby girl is growing up and preparing for college.