The Post Post Post

[Warning: This blog post contains personal body related information; not for the squeamish or uninterested.)

I realized yesterday, when I got what seems to be my period, that I used to blog about it every time I got it for over a year. Many, many cycles of trying to conceive were ended with me writing about the onset of my menses. Without looking back, I am sure that each of those posts were full of woe. I remember trying to convince myself that the cramping or spotting was really a result of implantation; despite its recurrence, I’d stay up late pleading with Dr. Google so I could retain the possibility of being pregnant—even one more day—until the real blood flowed.

Now, I feel truly ambivalent. It’s been 2 years since my last period, and I don’t know how to associate with it anymore. Am I technically post postpartum? I know the period will most likely change over the coming months and when I eventually stop nursing, but the onset has left me befuddled—kind of how I feel about a lot of things these days. The result of continued interrupted sleep? Probably.

I'm baack!

I’m baack!

Speaking of nursing. I always thought I’d want to nurse as long as my child would want to and let her wean as she lost interest. But lately, the constant whiny demand for “nuh-thEEEng!” has me wanting out. Getting grabbed by the shirt collar and yelled at in the face for something that is actually starting to hurt again (sore nipples) is nothing like the soulful connection Josie and I used to share. Especially now that I have to go back to cramps and bleeding, it seems like we should make a trade. I shed my uterine lining every month and she finds comfort from me in other ways.

One feeling that is mightily clear and present is that of shame. I have not figured out what to do for an income and when and how to do it. I try telling myself that being with Josie every minute of the day and getting household things done is a job, though unpaid. But my older more persistent voice says that I am lazy and entitled and “not enough.” The shame of not being a working mom is surprising to me. I have often thought the hetero-normative working mom gets a raw deal having to work and be main caretaker, cook, maid, etc. So why be so self-punishing for being a stay-at-home mom for now? Added to this shame is guilt for actually yearning to work outside the home if only to get away from Josie sometimes. I fought hard to get her into our lives; how can I now want to be away from her? Many moms have told me to just get some small job, that it’ll be worth it for the separation, yet I’m having a hard time believing that bagging groceries would make sense in the context of my new life with a pre-preschool toddler. On the other hand, the universe has been slow to deliver unto me a new and highly satisfying career idea. The thoughtful present “me” definitely feels like I have my hands full most every second of the day, but the nagging inside my head “me” is apparently a masochist.

Instead of the usual Moment of FoG (Funny or Gross), I thought I’d share some of my GaS (Gross and Sad): If you go back about 9 or 10 months of posts, you’ll see that I had some work done on my anus to relieve the incredible postpartum hemorrhoids no one tells you about. It helped a lot. But something I’m starting to come to grips with (no pun intended) is that certain functions “down there” will never come back online—not the way they were before the birth. In spite of the many months of physical therapy, I have only regained a portion of the feeling in my muscles around the episiotomy and internal (forceps and other) tearing. What this means, combined with a healthy dose of Eastern European IBS, is a constant struggle with shit. Most of the time, I can’t completely eliminate and can’t feel what has come out. The wiping is never ending, and when I try to get it all, I end up with hemorrhoids again! I know people have it a lot worse. People with broken backs who lose all feeling spend much more effort on this every day. But because I am mostly functional and only uncomfortable and inconvenienced, the time it takes from my life, as well as the pain and frustration, do not afford me any kind of disability pay; I just need to suck it up (no pun intended) and get on with life as usual. Bending over to walk Josie pushes on my gut which pushes other things, and I do this all day long. I can’t imagine getting work done in the short time Josie naps when I need that time to clean up around the house and in my caboose! The most frustrating thing for me is that, again, no one talks about this stuff. I know one other person who has similar issues, but I’ve heard of so many more from my health care providers. I wish I knew why women don’t talk about the nasty parts of pregnancy and postpartum life. Is it shame? Do we truly think our bodies are that original that no other woman has experienced something similar? I hope, at least, that sharing my GaS (don’t get me started on gas) will reach some blog reader out there and that she will feel less freaky and alone.

More Than Words

Josie has shocked us every day of this 13th month with at least one new word. Josie can baby sign, speak, or both the following words (and more that I am too tired to remember now): book, car, dog, eat/food, hi, bye-bye, bird, bus, ball, toothbrush, outside, sun, key, airplane, nursing, swing, eyes, more, tree, balloon, all done. She understands and communicates so well that she rarely gets frustrated with us for not knowing what she wants or is saying. The frustration is mostly about getting from here to there, and it’s on both our parts.

I’m in a room full of toys and music and a bunch of 1-year-olds running around me, climbing on things, sitting down and getting up. I look over and see my beautiful sweet daughter, sitting and watching and then reaching for me with hands ready to hold on to my fingers while we give chase to these other kids.

My back hurts, my hamstrings hurt and my hip flexors hurt. They all hurt a lot.

French manicure -- clearly not my hands.

French manicure — clearly not my hands.

But I do this “walk” several hours a day, maybe to both Josie’s and my detriment, because she totally skipped crawling and will not get up on her own… not to a sitting position from lying down and not to a standing position from sitting. When she walks her legs are stiff, and when she bends down she bends at her waist, not at her knees. We thought for a long time that these movements would all just come on line eventually, but when we talked with some people who are not each other about it (including her new docs), the idea that she has a developmental issue in this area became a thing—as in a thing we are being proactive about but that I also stress more about with each passing day. We are trying to get her into pediatric physical/occupational therapy that will be covered by her insurance. We’re reading about the motor skills development of kids with special needs. We’re trying to get her on the ground, experiencing her knees, and off of our fingers.

People who hear me talk about how she isn’t walking yet say, “Oh, don’t worry, so-and-so didn’t walk till she was 2!” I don’t need for her to keep up with the Joneses; it’s not a pride issue. I’m really not worried about the walking; she is pretty good at it with the fingers. It’s her not getting up and down or using her knees that has me biting my nails (when they’re available to me). Because I know that we will do whatever it takes however long it takes to do (e.g., I will not be walking her with my fingers across the stage to get her high school diploma), I can daydream about the time when this is a memory and I can blog about something else. After all, it seems like yesterday she was only in the 4th percentile for weight, and now she’s up to the 25th!

 

Takeoff

I am the target audience for mass hysteria. Killer bees in the ’80s was hard for me because I really liked swimming in the pool, but there were bees everywhere. Traveling with the wife to visit her Midwest family in summertime gets me scanning newspaper headlines for the words West Nile or malaria. Now see, none of those things have gotten to me (and here’s the psychological issue) because I worried about them. So by not taking the flu seriously this year and forgetting about flu shots, all three of us have been sick all of January. Yes, it is my fault. And for it, I got pneumonia—one of those arcane diseases of the past that I think barbers used leeches to kill or something. Oh! It’s just like how I spent so much energy during my pregnancy worrying about getting a C-section that I didn’t even consider worrying about episiotomies and forceps—I mean, that’s so boil some hot water and grab some towels, right?

Don’t waste a moment worrying about my twisted narcissistic logic for how the universe works. I’m always in therapy.

With that said… I have been in bed for a few days now, which does not seem possible. How is the world going on without me? Right now, Josie, who is almost done coughing completely and hasn’t borne the brutality of the external nasal suction device in days, is out playing with the sitter while Kristy is at work. I did sneak out and vacuum as soon as I had the house to myself because in my brain the enormous amount of our dog’s shedding is somehow connected to illness. But I also showered, without rushing, which is huge.

Being out of commission has made it painfully clear to me how little Josie needs me now (I mean really needs me). She’ll be brought in to the sick chamber for an occasional nursing but is otherwise out of my sight for hours at a time. When I’m healthy, I am the upended marionette with Josie holding onto my pointer fingers as she walks around the house over and over. I had been moaning a bit about the unkind ways of her puppet mastery and the pain in my back. So, of course, I get fluid in my lung! Do you see? Now I’m in bed instead of walking her around—i.e., I did this to myself. Okay, enough with the self pity and frightening misguided views of cause and effect.

Josie is at this taking off point between baby and toddler that both Kristy and I have noticed very suddenly. She turned 13 months old, and wham! a toddler. She still doesn’t walk on her own, but there’s just something different about her. She’s started signing and/or saying a ton of new words, like book, car, all done, more, shoe, sock, all within a week. This is huge when the one word forever was “Hi” (spoken in three syllables like a flirty Southern Belle). She’s got at least a million teeth now, too. She walks behind her walker wagon and scoots while sitting on her car—things it seemed she would never do a few weeks ago. I’m so happy to see all of this. So happy and also kind of sad, which is understandable (the tiny baby Josie is growing up!) but also stupid because letting someone like me with depressive tendencies get a little sad is like giving a kid carte blanche access to the ice cream container; I’ll gorge and get messy with it. When I’m not with her on these long lonely diseased days, I feel a physical ache, like I need her near me (I mean really need her). Is it because I’m still breastfeeding? Can I hope that this is all just hormones inducing what in any other relationship would be deemed codependency? I freakin’ hope so. Ich!

Now, for what you’ve all been clambering for, another FoGy (Funny or Gross) Moment:
We were making a video of Josie for a friend’s birthday—ya know, to post on his Facebook page kind of thing. We have the hardest time taking photos and video of Josie, so we thought we’d do it in the bathtub where she can only move so far. We made the video and were watching it later to see how it came out. Panning up from the adorable baby to a taped-up sign that reads Happy Birthday the camera catches a UBO (unidentified brown object) sitting in the soap dish on the wall. It unfortunately does not resemble the pumice stone it actually is but instead looks alarmingly like dookie. Now, most people may see this and not assume poop, but if you know Josie like we know Josie (and have told others about Josie), you have to wonder/shudder. See for yourself:

Life After One

I had so much time to blog when we were trying to get pregnant; I could write about every color my skin turned after an injection and how I loathed every flagrant pregnant person who dared shop at my grocery store. I thought this would be a great thing to continue doing once we were finally pregnant and even after… ya know. The truth is I do still occasionally have the thought, “The crazy thing that just happened must be blogged about!” But I never ever prioritize it. If there’s a moment to be had, I still, after a full year of moming, go for sleep, eating by myself, or a shower. If I’m somehow well rested, I may even go for exercise. But I have yet to choose blogging. I know I’m blogging right now, but it’s just to say.

Josie turned one at the end of the year. We had a small party to which she was fashionably late (she chose that day to begin napping well). I scoured the city for a bakery that makes desserts without gluten, dairy, sugar, soy, corn, or any other thing to which Josie tested sensitive. She did not carebday1_blog for the cupcakes (nor did many other people); this gave me a small glimpse into the years ahead when I’ll be whining such things as, “I worked so hard to find something you could have and you don’t even want to try it?!” We had the party away from the house because of how poorly her 6-month party went (Josie screaming through the entire thing and needing to be held in another room). We brought her big foam puzzle piece play mats and a bunch of oversize Leggos for the babies to play on/with. I think her favorite part was when we flash mobbed her, which is to say we all got in a big circle and did some of her favorite numbers (hokey-pokey, wheels on the bus, go bananas); she loved it, wearing an expression that said, “You all know my songs? That’s nuts! Sing unto me, my people!”

So long ago in the naive days of before-Josie, I thought that I would be back to doing some kind of work at three months. Ha! At that point we hadn’t even figured out her tongue-tie/eating issue and I still hurt to move for the shredded crotch. Now, here at twelve months, I feel like I’ll go crazy if I don’t find something to do with myself that isn’t Josie related. (BTW, I don’t need suggestions of what to do; the world is my oyster, yadda yadda.) But we’re just starting to get out of the house to try play groups and mommy and me’s and baby shows, etc. I think I’m just trying to find the balance between pushing to get up, dressed and out of the house after each nap (which I mostly do by running on adrenaline) and staying at home where Josie cries to be “walked” around the living room for hours on end. Finding said balance (while being a generally impatient person) and wishing there was something I’d love to do in this world that would allow me to make more money than I would pay in childcare… I will call this my Wish At Year One.

An example of pushing out of the house comes from this past Friday. Mama had been sick and coughing all night for days, Josie had the bug for a day but was better, and I had been fighting the throat demon (and the insomnia beast) for the past couple of nights. I heard of a dance party (open to the public) at a co-op nearby where people go with their kids to play whenever for a monthly fee and a simple job. Though I felt like a ball of peanut butter, lint and hair, I got us dressed and over to the party by 10am. I knew I’d probably end up losing the fight to the flu bug for pushing myself, but it was so worth it. Imagine a ballroom full of toddlers and babies and parents—and a DJ. Josie took off scooting (’cause she don’t crawl) all over the wood floors, chasing down balls and hula hoops (usually out of the hands of slightly older kids whose moms told them to give up the toy… I should teach her about sharing, huh?). There were dress-up party clothes to don, but we didn’t venture into that mess. She and I danced to Michael Jackson and some other tunes; I spun her around a few times (even though I could hurl) because she gives the biggest smile every time.

We’re going for it again tomorrow. There’s a concert series put on in Portland with real bands that play just for kids. It’s called YouWho, and tomorrow Blind Pilot is playing a show at a venue two blocks from our house. I have no idea what to expect. Will they play their own music, which I’d imagine would bore children to tears but make the parents cheer? Does the band take the time to learn kids’ songs? All I know is that it was cheap and it’s so close; we can leave and be home in five minutes for any reason. That is what I call an outing!

Catch Up

It’s been entirely too long since my last post! But when most every day is an exercise in just getting through, I find the idea of myself sitting alone and typing my out thoughts hysterical.

Our Thanksgiving trip to Tucson: Leaving 50 degrees of wetness and arriving in sunny 80 degrees of splendid was very needed. We packed dresses that Josie would not otherwise get to wear (too big for last summer but will be too small next one). We had a big house all to ourselves — and my mom, of course, who we went there to visit. The house has an open floor plan, so we could actually put Josie down in one room and prepare food in another. She did not scream because she could see us. It makes me want to knock down some of our house’s walls.

A photo of Josie in Tucson by our dear friend Bert Lippel

In Tucson; photo by our dear friend Bert Lippel

While there we saw my uncle, my dad’s brother, who is fighting cancer pretty hard. It was so important to me that he and Josie meet now. We also visited my dad’s grave on the third anniversary of his death. That was a throat lumper. We saw old friends, who met Josie for the first time, and we attended the bar mitzvah of my oldest friend’s son. We packed a lot in, including big dinners and lots of play time. So much sun and dry and warm. Alas.

Quite a lot has happened over the last month, but I am not going to try to write about it all. Instead I’ll list some adorable and funny new things Josie has started to do. Josie likes to walk, but only while holding on to my fingers or with me holding under her arms. I got her a Radio Flyer wagon to walk behind, but she is not having it (so far). She does enjoy going for rides in it, however. Josie likes to talk, and by talk I mean babble with some prominent sounds: Globble globble globble, blagel blagel blagel, mamama, and die die die (which I try not to take personally). A lot of tongue is involved, and if you talk back in kind she will smile and nod like, “Uh huh, you feel me.” Josie likes to teethe. We keep running her to the doctor to have her ears checked, and the most recent trip revealed gums with not one but a few molars pushing through simultaneously. Ouch! When this hurts, it hurts the poor girl a lot. So, it’s no surprise that Josie likes to chew… everything. The Melissa & Doug toys that are so awesome because they’re wood instead of plastic? Well, many have paper pictures on the wood that Josie will chew off and eat. Since discovering this, we have semi-retired a few puzzle boards; so unfortunate. Josie likes to stand up and move here and there, constantly. The only thing is, like the walking, she wants me to make these movements happen to her, and she really doesn’t like it (understatement) when I don’t. Since I know she can scoot on her butt (we see her do it back and forth in the tub every night), I tell her I’m not moving her this time and if she wants to get somewhere she can scoot her tush. It gets very loud after that. Josie also likes to poop almost every night in the tub. We have to be glad because it means she won’t be pooping and waking up overnight (the girl cannot sleep if there’s poop in her diaper), but it also means one of us is going fishing while the other does jammies.

For your Moment of FoG (Funny or Gross), more bathtub fun:
Josie has always enjoyed finding tiny holes and putting her finger in them. Sometimes she becomes obsessed and does this for much longer than I thought a baby’s attention span could be held. You know the small hole below the faucet that catches bath overflow? So, it would be one thing if she simply liked to stick her finger in this tub hole, but Josie got in the habit of scooting over to the faucet (no matter how many times we dragged her back to the far end of the tub), sticking her pointer finger in, wiping it around inside, and putting this finger in her mouth. Obsessively. For way too long we just gagged and tried in vain to distract her with bath toys, until we realized we could just cover the hole (her baths don’t get too high, and no one else really gets the luxury of a bath these days). A little duct tape magic, and the problem (the specific problem, not the larger issue) is solved!

Last Firsts

It’s November, which means it’s Josie’s last first new month. She’s an old pro at December since that is when she came into the world. She is growing up faster every day now, and I’m noticing a lot fewer new things. Sure she wobbles when standing, but she stands. She rarely gets on all fours as if to crawl, but she occasionally will. She is now even eating rice crispies (not capitalized and with a “c” because the official brand has gluten).

Last month Josie had her first ear infections. After she finished her antibiotic, she (wham!) got another one (or maybe it was the first one laughing at our attempt with simple amoxicillin). So she went on the stronger stuff (so much harder to gag down), which seemed to take a couple days longer to make her feel better. Poor thing. And of course, her front right tooth had to start pushing through this time. I guess she’s kind of like her moms… we freeze in the face of overwhelming tasks, and then once we get our butts in gear, we race through them all at once.

Josie lost some weight during these times of infection, and she’s never been a big girl. So, per usual, I became very worried. She was born at the 50th percentile for weight, but has been at the 10th most of her life. Then suddenly she was down to the 4th. Also, Josie’s never been a colorful child, meaning, her beautiful creamy skin has always been quite pail. We asked our PCP about this because we’d heard that she should start taking iron supplement at 6 months. She told us Josie is getting all the iron she needs from my breast milk. We even asked for a blood test to confirm that, but she reassured us it wasn’t necessary. We convinced ourselves that she is just pail like me and the rest of my family. In fact, Crayola has a specific blue called Zev Blue, which is named after my brother’s legs.

We were encouraged to see a gastroenterologist about her weight (not by our state health insurance covered PCP, of course), and in anticipation of that visit, we got a whole smattering of levels tested on her blood. Guess what? Terribly low iron! Ah, to be an infant and anemic — less appetite, lethargic, crabby. Thanks PCP! Well, at least we finally discovered it, and now that Josie takes an iron supplement daily, she’s a changed kid. I say kid because she’s huge! Well, I don’t know how much she weighs now, but she’s heavier to hold, has cheeks aplenty, and thighs to rival your T-giving turkey. Plus she’s just so much more active. What a relief.

Here’s another Moment of FoG (Funny or Gross) for y’all:
The other morning (too early for me to be wearing my glasses or be awake at all), we were playing on the floor when I noticed a tiny yellowish bit of mushy matter. Josie is usually the one to find all things tiny on the floor, so since I got to it first I reacted quickly before she could see it. We have problems with ants from time to time, and with a very shedy dog walking all over Josie’s play area and toys, ants are a constant threat (plus they make me crazy, like I might as well give up on living in a civilized society and get a tent). So what were my options? Wipe it on my clothes, and it winds up on the floor or furniture — leaving us back where we started. Call the dog over to eat it, and I have dog lick on my hand. I did not consider getting up and washing it down the sink. I did what any sleep deprived mother (I think) would do; I put it in my mouth.

These Are Viruses

Last week was a trifecta of baby woe.

Josie’s top left tooth was coming in. I don’t know if all top teeth come in like shark fins, but this one came down at an angle that made me wince to look at it. So when she kvetched and had a fever, we thought teething was the cause. But then the fever went up to 102 degrees and only came down with constant ibuprofen. The day came when the fever decreased on its own but was followed by a nasty rash. The last straw was when she stopped nursing, and eating and drinking — and the rash got nastier. Upon good advice, we went to the children’s hospital ER (it was Sunday), where we discovered she had a virus (Roseola, though they didn’t name it), and, after digging pounds of wax from her ears, the doctor could detect ear infections. That’s right: teething, virus, and ear infection.

More rash than skin!

Josie was all smiles, which made it hard to take her to the hospital. But we didn’t want her getting dehydrated. While we waited for the doctor to see us, the nurse tried to get fluids into her. Our girl is particular, and she was not having any of that purple “grape” Pedialyte. We tried plain water, but she just clamped her lips, turned her head and pushed away with her hands. Finally she nursed a little, which relieved me because I was not about to watch my tiny baby get an IV. Our girl is also very strong (at least in her torso). When the doctor tried to get the wax out, Josie had to be restrained by three adults. All the while she shrieked her dog whistle shriek, which caused ER sliding doors to close and nurses to plug their ears. If that wasn’t enough torture, she had to be held down to get numbing drops in her ears and then again for a catheter — because apparently all Caucasian female children need to be screened for UTIs at every possible moment (???). In the end, we left a little worse for the wear and with a prescription for antibiotics. We struggled two more times that night to get more drops in those ears and then the horrible pink junk in her mouth (and swallowed). Thankfully, she seems to need the drops less and gladly takes the pink crap.

During the week of fever and suffering, we bent a whole lot on the sleep training. She has come back from it pretty nicely but is still waking up a couple of times after midnight and before her early morning feeding. This means I can fall asleep okay, but I can’t fall back to sleep. I try going to bed earlier and earlier, but I’m an adult, damn it; I gotta get past sunset!

Speaking of staying up late… The other night, I took my very old friend (long friendship; she’s only 2 months older than I am) to a concert for her birthday. Natalie Merchant is playing a bunch of concerts with symphony orchestras, and when I saw she was coming to our town, I knew we had to go. We loved listening to her and 10,000 Maniacs in high school. At one point in the show, my bff leaned over and said, “I wonder if we’d even be friends without her music.” Ouch. But really, the show was quite different from what I expected; the songs were largely poems and nursery rhymes she’d adapted and set to pretty music (violins and cellos vs. guitars and drums). But after the orchestra left and just she and her guitarist and pianist remained for the encore, Natalie Merchant got a little goofy. The reason I bring this up is because she too was under the weather. She started singing the ’90s anthem “These Are Days,” which happened to be the song of our high school graduation slideshow (yup, that old). She stopped in the middle of the first note, and said, “Ya know, I didn’t get sick all summer, and after the first day my kid was back in school…” The crowd giggled with understanding. Instead of getting back to the singing, she began listing all the illnesses present in her child’s school, ending with Strep and pointing to her throat. A heckler, trying to be funny or just wanting to hear the song already, called out, “These are viruses!” I don’t think Natalie heard him because without a pause she blurted out, “Hippies, inoculate!” After a millisecond of breath intake among the politically correct Portland audience, the crowd cheered and whooped (yes, Pertussis was one of the viruses mentioned). By the way, I totally stayed awake through the show and the delirious encore.

And now I hear there’s a cold going around. God help us.

 


(Disclaimer: No men were harmed in the making of this blog.)

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