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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mini Sequins Again.

*Along with the groceries, Josh brought home four ballpoint pens--green, blue, pink, and purple--for me for no reason.

*We found our current love letter notebook and have begun writing in it again.

*Oliver's musical fish toy lulled him to sleep for half an hour.

*Oliver's feet, which are sometimes red and sometimes white.

*Josh has been working hard to let me nap or sleep in.

*Josh likes pushing Oliver's stroller and looks good doing it.

*Johnson's head-to-toe baby wash in tiny travel bottles.

*Green leafy Puff tissue boxes with hummingbirds.

*Eight packs of Puffs.

*Giving into that sleepy, warm, fluffy feeling, even if only for five minutes.

*Italian/Mexican wedding cookies.

*Finding out that my grandmother (who is largely a mystery to me) also loved those wedding cookies.

*Being cold at night and remembering that Josh already set up the electric blanket.

*Finding a fleece duck outfit for Oliver. It reminds me of the preemie duck outfit he wore (I'm keeping that one in my top dresser drawer).

*Green nail polish that's actually pretty.

*My hair finally being long enough to wear down without it covering my face.

*Rediscovering a great pair of earrings I'd forgotten.

*A husband who will untangle new necklaces.

*Wearing something new, clothing or accessory.

*Oliver's sleep smiles.

*Remembering that blogs don't have to be long and then finishing one.

*The scent of wood burning.

*Oliver's sapphire eyes in buttermilk skin.

*Oliver's sweet contentment when he has a bath.

*Josh calling Oliver Gorgeous. 

*Seeing Oliver grasp a plastic ring or a toy.

*My mom's style.

*Anything sparkly anyone wears.

*Josh using the Doctor Who pocket watch I gave him for Christmas in 2010.

*Hearing Josh say, "Will you kick a monkey or slap a lion?" when he puts Oliver on his toy-dangling playmat.

*Remembering James's (my brother's) "puppy mat"--a red nap mat with Disney Dalmatians on it.

*Designer Disney princesses.

*Going to Barnes after a long time and seeing journals I've never seen.

*Buying a journal even though I have plenty waiting.

*Noticing a theme in gifts.

*Chocolate peanut butter cookies (Girl Scout-style, but cheap).

*Freezing a Dr. Pepper until just a little ice forms near the top.

*Oliver's ability to raise one eyebrow.

*Our impressive supply of size 2 diapers (we'll see if we use them all).

*Seeing Oliver get chubby and knowing that I put the chub there.

*The special moments when Oliver wants to play.

*Picking up a journal and reading something happy from it at random.

*The way Oliver smiles at the photo of me over Josh's nightstand.

*Josh's Facebook PDAs.

*Unpacking presents.

*Getting late presents that took forever to ship.

*Seeing Josh carry an empty laundry basket out of the bedroom.

*Having a stack of unread magazines and thinking that someday, I might read them in fast succession.

*Seeing a great movie, wishing it weren't over, and finding out that it's based on a book. Books give more!

*Hearing Josh speak fondly of a movie we've watched together.

*Seeing Josh's look of surprise when I compliment him.

*Listening to Josh read a story to Oliver and watching as Oliver listens quietly and gazes at the illustrations.

*Remembering to read while nursing.

*Oliver's yellow and blue star pajamas.

*Changing the background on my work E-mail from generic, medical blue to silvery green.

*The Bic "For Her" (weird) pens Josh got for me when he was grocery shopping. They're pink and purple and pearly white and have smooth colored ink, white swirly designs, and jewel clicky tops.

*Remembering "clicky tops and twisty bottoms" from Scrubs.

*Oliver grasping one of his colorful rings.

*Oliver gazing at or touching his musical seahorse. I love that he's beginning to notice toys.

*Having more than enough milk in the fridge.

*Francesca Lia Block's new book, Pink Smog, especially since I pre-ordered it and forgot, so it just arrived like a surprise.

*The way Oliver spreads out his fingers when he sucks his thumb.

*Hearing Josh talking to Oliver over the monitor.

*The possibilities of so many books to read.

*Getting into the pace and habit of reading, so it flows.

*Baked cheddar and sour cream Ruffles.

*Josh putting tiny love notes in my lunchbox.

*The way Oliver now grasps his hands like he's thinking, praying, or hoping.

*$1 Mary Engelbreit stationery at Michaels. I have so many more cards than I'll ever use.

*Letters in colored envelopes.

*Picking up Panera on the weekends.

*Remembering I have half a Panera sandwich leftover.

*Opening a pack I haven't unpacked and seeing so many colorful bits I like and remember.

*The tiny, dark purple glass bottle on my desk.

*A catered box lunch with a sandwich, brownies, and tiny cups of fruit and pasta salad.

*Brown eyeliner with gold glitter.

Monday, January 9, 2012

What I've Learned as a New Mother (About Nursing).

*Nursing bras matter. I started with a regular bra, and pulling my arm out of one strap worked okay. But a regular bra also isn't very comfortable, and since I need nursing pads, I need to wear a bra all the time. I now have a sleep bra to wear at home and an underwire bra that I hope will be good for work and other outings. Note from later: the underwire doesn't get much mileage.

*Nursing bras don't have to cost much. I like my two $9 ones from Wal-mart, and I may buy extras to wear while those are drying from hand-washing. If they wear out, or I need more, it's no big deal. Note from later: Um, yeah. I have six or seven of these now. Even my patient, Woolite-brandishing husband can barely keep up with the rate of spit-up and leakage. 

*Nursing pads aren't all the same. I went straight for Medela since I have an M pump, but I like Lansinoh better. They are softer, and they have two sticky parts instead of one, so they don't just fall right out of the nursing bra.

*A double electric pump is worthwhile. My mom bought me the Medela Pump In Style. I'm so glad I specifically asked her for this big-ticket item. It's a contraption, and the first round was very painful and ineffective. But after a few tries, I was able to fill two 2.5-ounce tubes (one on each side) in under ten minutes. Note from later: ha! This dream didn't last. I'm not sure what magic I was using to make my milk come out that fast.

*The bustier for the pump isn't just awesome; it's essential. I tried once to pump while just holding the shields, and keeping a good seal was not working out for me. The bustier does that for me, and I don't have to hold anything. The whole mess is awkward enough as it is.

*Get the right shield size! My friend Melissa helped me figure this out. The pumping started to be more uncomfortable and didn't seem to working as well. I noticed serious suction rings, too. All this got better when I got bigger shields, which Medela sells (and I didn't really need to get bigger connectors). Note from later: And just make peace with the fact that you might have to get bigger ones again. And again.

*Lanolin isn't miraculous, but it is nice. It's a little soothing, but it mostly provides some lubrication. This seems to help especially with pumping. Note from later: meh. Hope for the placebo effect. But it does help prevent a true horror--scabs sticking to the nursing pad. I know.

*Engorgement isn't forever. On the fifth day, the day I left the hospital, I had boulders up to my collarbone. Ow. I thought, great, this is the next (hopefully) year or more of my life. I was back to relative normal after a few days, though, and milder engorgement only happens occasionally.

*The football hold and the going to the revival may be essential. Early on, Oliver could barely nurse because he would fall fast asleep almost as soon as I held him close. Mom helped me figure out the football hold (which is less snuggly), and what I call going to the revival, which is holding him flat and lifting him up and down. Yes, he startled a little, but he woke up long enough to get some sustenance. Note from later: This got better once he was a little bigger and more used to being with me.

*Nursing pain from hell isn't forever. We had a few good weeks. Then, suddenly, the first moments of nursing became excruciating. As my grandmother described it, it was like razor blades. I could barely keep myself from yelling or making sudden movements. Sometimes, I cried during or even in anticipation of nursing. Josh was mortified, and I felt terrified (more pain? regularly??) and inadequate. We considered exclusive pumping. I would exclusively pump for twelve hours or so. Then, I'd feed Oliver a little milk from a bottle before nursing him so that he would be less hungry and vigorous. Finally, I'd get back to nursing. I did this cycle two or three times. I bought a nipple shield, which helped somewhat. I had blisters, cracks, bleeding, and oozing. Yep. It was horrific. But then, just as suddenly as it appeared, the nursing pain from hell was gone. I'm glad I didn't give up (I was close!). For some women, it doesn't get better. But one to two weeks seems typical (from what I've read and the women I've talked to). It's awful, but it's not forever. Mothers dealing with it shouldn't feel bad about pumping or doing whatever they need to do to survive it. Note from later: it still hurts sometimes, but not like that.

*Pumping is hard. I expected to fill bottles like it ain't no thang. This has never happened (okay, maybe it's happened a couple of times). The first time I tried to pump, I painfully eeked out about an ounce in over half an hour. This still happens to me. Occasionally, if I've been at work for hours, I'll get eight or nine ounces. But I pump four times a day to get enough milk for Oliver to have while I'm at work, and even that's a stretch. That's with the best available pump and all the breast compression and yadayada I can muster. My body knows that yippy thing isn't my baby. And if I take a break from pumping, my body seems to have no interest whatsoever in cooperating. It's like a part-time job. Pumping plus nursing is probably a full-time job. I think it's worth it, but it's a B word. Note from later: I have good times and awful times. I try not to count too much on either.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Today is New Year's Day, the beginning of 2012, the beginning of the first full year of Oliver, and the beginning of the eighth year in which Josh and I have existed as a couple (such an insufficient word). But what first comes to mind is that today is my brother's sixteenth birthday.

I was ten and a half when my brother was born a few weeks early. I remember New Year's Eve, preparing to go a party with church friends at the home of a boy I'd had a crush on for a long while. I was probably pondering how I could look especially pretty and be particularly charming. I went into my parents' room and saw my mother sitting on the edge of the bed, looking strange.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"We're going to go ahead to the hospital."
I remember very little about my mom's pregnancy--only the bizarre panel on her jeans (something I got to experience myself recently). I don't remember being worried about the earliness apart from realizing that I had a great deal of work to do on the little pillow I had been sewing for my brother (light blue, stuffed with cotton balls. The rush led me to move from cross-stitch to regular stitches for the words "Sweet Dreams James.").

I went to my party and spent the night at a friend's house. The next day, or maybe two days later, my dad came and brought a Polaroid Captiva (the little ones) shot of my brother, dark-haired and weepy-eyed, in a diaper and T-shirt. Maybe my dad explained that the wetness was eye drops rather than tears. My uncle Ross arrived and stayed with me at our house. I ate a TV dinner, and he ate a whole box-worth of mac and cheese straight out of the pot. We watched tapes of The Simpsons. I guess he was only eighteen or nineteen at the time. My mother was then twenty-six, like I am now.

So much, James's birth informed my understanding of babies and my approach to my son, especially initially. I remember my husband and father bringing me photos of Oliver in the NICU just after my surgery and hours before I would see or hold my son. I reminded myself that the terrible tears were only eye drops, and I remembered seeing that first photo of my brother. My knowledge of how to change a diaper, hold a baby, and other little things of which I'm probably not aware came from my helping care for my brother. Because my mother had been eight years older than her brother and had cared for him, she let me do (as I remember) quite a bit to help. Though I had been an only child for a decade and wasn't particularly thrilled about sharing my parents' attention, I loved my brother instantly.

But I didn't mean for this to be about my brother's birth. I can't believe he's sixteen. I remember sixteen so well. For me, it wasn't about driving, since I didn't get my license until I was starting college. I did get my first job. I began attending public school (the same school James now attends). At first, I wanted to try to be cool. I spent quite a bit of money ordering clothes from Alloy and Delia's. I do miss the sparkly jeans.

But during the course of that first semester, I delved into my first serious creative writing class, and my teachers began to encourage me and make me believe I was intelligent, bright, and creative. I took a theater class and portrayed Anne Frank in a scene with one of my first gay friends. I felt a shift. I don't remember what I wore the rest of the year, but I remember a thin blue bag with gold fringe--Funky People brand. In it, I carried SARK books, journals, Gelly Rolls, and sometimes loose glitter. I began spending my lunch periods reading in the library, working my way through a shelf. I remember reading Winesburg, Ohio (poor Oliver was almost Sherwood, partly in honor of that year of my life); and Rose in Bloom (Alcott's sequel to Eight Cousins). I read ahead in my honors English class, devouring Gatsby and Catcher. I had read The Bluest Eye for summer reading for that class, and the book terrified, shocked, and opened me. I wrote poems that didn't rhyme. I entered and placed in contests. I won a character award (I still don't know who nominated me). I filled journals madly, sometimes with less than two weeks to a volume. "Your mind will settle," my English teacher told me, "and you will slow down." I didn't want to. I decided to be creative, a writer, a reader.

Sixteen was the age at which I became myself and was very, very happy. The next year was hard, and every year since has had its pains. But I always remember sixteen as a sparkling sort of year. I hope James's sixteen will be that way too.