Eating the Greens to Get to the Reds- Wednesday January 18th

Most hard core candy eaters have a system for getting through the bad colors.  Some people eat the bad colors first, some save them until the end, some people even throw them away (although I think those people are not true candy lovers because it’s kind of psycho to throw any candy away unless it’s banana flavored or coconut).

I had to give up my passion for candy for health reasons but I used to have a system.  I would space out eating the good colors- red, purple, orange- with eating the lame colors- green.  A few bites of green here and there reminds a candy eater how awesome the reds are.  Eating the greens gives you perspective.

Being a mother is a life time of red candy, interspersed with bites of green.  There are a lot of moments when I feel scared and overwhelmed.  There are moments when I wish that time would hurry up and get to the part of Hazel’s childhood where she sleeps more at night and gnaws at my boobs less often.  Then I immediately feel guilty for wanting any time to pass, since it’s already going so fast.  I often wonder what day it is, and I have to be sure to shower every other day and brush my teeth every single day.

All of those moments are just green candy though.  They might not taste great, but it’s still candy.  And the red candy- the hours I spend staring at Hazel, the snuggling, the sweet little baby noises she makes while fluttering her baby eye lashes- those moments are indescribably delicious.  I’ll have my whole life to sleep and eat hot meals and shower.  But these infant days are so fleeting and beautiful, I feel like I’m mourning each moment as it passes.

My sister in law asked what I was looking forward to doing with Hazel the most.  I thought about it for a while, and realized that I hadn’t thought of our future together.  I just live in the present with her.  Sometimes I think about how incredible it’ll be when she recognizes me and smiles.  For the most part though, I’m just entangled in her breath and her cries and mews and poops and the little tears that come out of her eyes when she’s outraged after a bath.

If you intellectualize having children, no one would do it.  It’s hard and it’s painful.  You give up your life for these little animals who won’t appreciate what you’ve done for decades.  But when you examine what a child does to your heart, you can almost understand why people have ten.  You can almost understand why your own mother still loves you even though you always roll your eyes at her.




Wake Up Little Hazy, Wake Up! Tuesday January 10th

Hazel woke up Saturday night. Instead of her usual ten minutes of wakeful but silent contemplation, she woke up with a startle, as if waking to the world for the first time.  And she started to wimper. Then she started to hiccup a little and cry softly. Then her face got red, her chin started to quiver, and she wailed.

Nothing to worry about though, because Tom and I had a plan for this very situation.  Before Hazel was born we both read Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg and decided this would be our argument settler.  Whenever things got out of control, we would agree to follow the advice of this one book.  No internet hysteria could usurp the calming influence of The Baby Whisperer.  This was the theory we used to raise our dog with great success.

When Hazel first started crying on Saturday night, I said to Tom confidently: “Don’t worry, I know her cries SO WELL.  She’s just hungry.”  So I nursed her for 30 minutes and when she popped off I put her back in my lap.  She sat there, stared contentedly for 10 minutes, then her face started to get red again.  ”Oh, hmm, she must still be hungry” I said, still fueled the hubris of naiveté.  I put Hazel back on my breast for another 30 minutes.  15 minutes later, she was crying again.  We changed her.  We walked around.  We sang to her.  We lowered the lights in case she was over stimulated.  She cried and cried and cried until we could see a little vein over her eye.  An hour passed.  ”I guess she must be hungry.” I said again, less sure of myself now.

This went on for a few more hours.  I convinced Tom that she must be sick, since she now had developed loud and obviously painful gas.  Her tummy burbled and produced man-sized boosters that made us laugh until she cried.  My hands got red from wringing them and my nipples spewed milk every time she started crying.  The constant feedings had increased my milk supply to the level of mediaeval wet nurse. I ignored the burning pain I felt when my breasts filled back up after a feeding, and the blisters that distorted the tips of my nipples.

Around 1 in the morning she tired herself out, and slept for a heavenly 4 hours.  The morning brought the calm baby we had grown used to and we were lulled into thinking that the night before was just a fluke.  We got out our book to review the Baby Whisperer’s stance on feeding and crying.  I pretended to believe that Hazel’s crying and rooting could be caused by factors other than starvation or a fear that her parents were torturing her.  Tom and I had a renewed commitment to stop and listen to our baby, instead of blindly reacting to her crying.  It wasn’t until we were sitting down to dinner that the crying jags started again.  ”It must be a growth spurt?” I said, bringing her to nurse again.  Tom watched my wince every time she latched on until he couldn’t stand it any longer.

“Honey?” he said, clearing his throat politely.  ”Remember how we were reading in our book that Hazel isn’t hungry every time she cries?  That she only knows how to do a few things and one of them is rooting, but it doesn’t mean that she’s necessarily hungry?”

“Oh.  Yea.” I said sheepishly.

“And remember how we’re going to try and get her on a three hour feeding schedule?  And we just have to figure out ways to sooth her between feedings?  Especially because her little digestive system can’t handle eating constantly and that’s probably what’s giving her gas?” he went on gently.

“Yea, oh yea” I said.  ”Ok I’ll try and be strong when she cries.”  We smiled at each other.

A few minutes later Hazel started whimpering again.  Then she started sobbing, breathlessly crying and rooting against Tom’s shoulder.

I tried to smile serenely.  I tried to convince myself that she was ok, that all babies cry.  I tried to imagine that she wasn’t crying “Mommy!  help me!  Mommy!  Please, please help me!”  Tom smiled back at me with genuine confidence.  ”It’s ok,” he said “she’s ok, she’s just crying a little.”  I nodded back at him.  I waited a long three minutes.

“Alright that’s enough,” I said “Give me my baby, she’s starving!”  I was only half kidding, and spirited her away to a couch, where I could safely nurse her away from Tom’s completely sympathetic and non-judgemental eyes.

The next day we went to the pediatrician for Hazel’s one month appointment.  The doctor assured us that Hazel was not sick and was perfectly capable of waiting three hours to eat.  In fact, as the Baby Whisperer wrote and Tom tried to remind me, it was better for her little digestive system to have a full meal instead of snacking all day.  I, on the other hand, was suffering from mastitis, which explained my excruciating pain and blisters.  So I was sent home with a prescription for antibiotics and a resolve to do what’s right for my baby, even if it meant letting her cry a little.

It’s been two days now, and Hazel and I both feel much better.  I’ve stopped imagining that her cries mean “Why have you forsaken me mother?!” and am finding more creative ways to sooth her between meals.  We’re back to 2.5- 3 hours between feedings during the day, and sleeping 4 hours at a time at night.  I feel much less bovine and had to thank Tom 100 times for his patience with my near-hysteria.  Ramona watched the whole scene passively, trying not to roll her eyes and remind us that she whines for food all the time and we happily ignore her.

We’re Still Happy – Thursday January 5th

Hazel is three weeks old now, and I can hardly remember what life what like before she arrived.  The rumors were true: this isn’t easy.  But what they don’t tell you is that the moments you spend staring at your beautiful daughter erase the dread of sleepless nights and chewed nipples.  I can’t believe I could be so in love with such a demanding little creature who doesn’t even acknowledge me yet.  She’s just as happy snoozing in the arms of a stranger, and yet I would happily throw myself in the jaws of a lion to save her from having to do something unpleasant.  I am already considering allowing her to never bath again after yesterday’s revelation that she despises baths in the tub.  She could be one of those monks who celebrates god by not washing themselves.  Or an artist.

In breastfeeding news, I buckled down and called a lactation consultant.  I felt better after talking to her on the phone, and that day Hazel and I finally seemed to figure out how to get through a whole meal.  The lactation consultant arrived the next day and was a surprising contradiction of make-up-less hippy who dripped with diamond jewelry.  I didn’t expect the diamonds, and was wary of the hippiness.  Because I have a mental problem, I didn’t bother to ask how much her fee was and $325 later she assured me that breastfeeding is just hard.  I was doing it right, it just sucks.  Those are my words, not hers.  Her words were much more earthy and encouraging, but I read between the lines.  I don’t know how I missed hearing how hard this was.  I had images of myself nursing my daughter Madonna-like, both of us basking in the joy of being together, our hair thick and skin dewy.  The reality is much more doggedly tired, sweaty and staring blankly at a television alternating between HGTV and True Crime Stories.

I don’t actually care though.  I’m going to stick with it as long as my boobs and milk supply can handle it.  I don’t want to beat a dead horse with this analogy, but nothing yet has been harder for me to get through physically than being awake during my c-section.  Besides reliving the memory of Tommy Jr’s birth, the actual procedure was really painful and scary.  If I can do that for Hazel, I can can breastfeed.

Things are starting to feel more routine now.  I didn’t have very many expectations of motherhood, I just wanted Hazel to arrive here safely.  Now that she’s here, I’m surprised and overjoyed everyday at how much I love her and how easy it is for me to mother her.  I’m surprised everyday that I don’t miss my old life more.  I don’t know what happens next, but today was another wonderful day.

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