Saturday, December 31, 2011

Letter to Greta: 2 Months


Dear Littlest One,

You are two months old, and such a roly-poly sweetie that you’re already filling out three-month outfits and stretching to the end of your three-month sleepers. You are smiling now, small, pleased, toothless grins, and staring intently on whoever is holding you. You are sweet and adorable and my favorite part of my day is when I bring you into bed with me for a half hour or hour in the morning, where you sleep in the crook of my arm until your sister wakes up.

And yet you are a restless baby, often unable to settle yourself; you are still snorting and grunting and straining, though not as badly as before, and it often seems that you are just uncomfortable. This may be just a baby thing, but I’ll of course ask your doctor about it. Just like your diaper rash—that you had for days and days before your checkup, and which actually required a prescription—I sometimes feel like a first-time parent with you, fumbling and not doing everything I should.

For the most part, you are doing some good sleeping: 7 or 7:30 until 12 or 1am, then 4 or 5 and then up at 6:30 or 7. This is not a guarantee, of course; some nights you can’t settle yourself and we are up rocking you for hours. And sometimes you cry off and on all evening. But we are on a path to feeling rested, more or less, or at least as “rested” we can feel with two babies.

I wish sometimes that we could spend more time just the two of us so you could have my undivided attention. But as it is, you have to accept divided attention much of the time, nursing peacefully while I talk to Lucia (or, more often these days, warn her to stop throwing or screaming etc.—you’ve inspired some jealousy, finally). It will be nice when you are a bit older and you can join in while we play, or at least sit on a blanket near us so we can talk to you.

But even if you do sometimes feel overlooked, I hope you always know that you and I have a special bond of our own: it was just the two of us in that hospital for four weeks. We got through that together. We might not ever have so much alone time but for that month, littlest one, it was just you and me.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hours in a Day

It’s amazing how many hours there are in a day when you really need them. My agent has asked for revisions to my novel, hoping to turn the current trend of editors saying It’s great, it’s lovely, but no, into It’s great, it’s lovely, here’s an offer. And she wants those changes by January 10. When she asked what my schedule was like, I just told her I’d make it work.

The truth? I have no time. Days, evenings, and nights are occupied with caring for one or both children. Even naptime, a measly one hour each day, has been decimated by my cherished new child who often stays awake while my cherished older child is asleep. Evenings, once my own after 7:30 when Lucia was asleep, are now usually Greta’s fussy time. And then I go to bed, where I alternate sleeping and nursing until I get up and do it all over again the next day.

And yet—this project has forced me to find time. I quickly revised my laissez-faire attitude of letting Greta sleep whenever and however long she wanted to during the day; I now make sure she has at least an hour of awake time before Lucia’s nap, and, more often than not, I can get her to sleep at the same time. A blessed hour—or more!—is then mine. Of course, Greta is often sleeping in my lap, but I prefer writing longhand, so I just balance my notebook on top of her. We’ve also found that Greta’s fussy time at night was mostly caused by her simply wanting to be asleep, so right after Lucia’s bedtime I swaddle, nurse, and rock Greta until she sleeps. So the evenings are ours again as well. Precious child that she is, she’s been sleeping for the past week or so from 7:30 or 8 until midnight or 1am, then nursing and then sleeping again until around 5am, then nursing and then sleeping again till Lucia wakes up at 7.

I’ve also been stealing time: high-tailing it out of the house every weekend morning, making it to my favorite café before it gets crowded even though it sometimes means leaving Lucia in her pjs, breakfast uneaten, Andrew without his contacts yet in. But with two babies, if I don’t go when I have the chance, I won’t go at all, so I am up and dressed and out the door by 8. We introduced a bottle to Greta a couple of weeks ago with no problem, so I know I'm not leaving her to starve.

And I’ve been buying time. We’ve had our sitter back a couple of times each week, and I made the somewhat obvious but also thrilling discovery that I can actually use that time as work time despite my unwillingness to leave both babies with the sitter at once. I just put Greta in the Bjorn and walk outside until she falls asleep, and then go to a café and write. Greta is none the wiser, and I sometimes even feel like I’m in grad school again, sipping coffee and writing in a notebook, out in the city in the middle of the day with all the time in the world—and then Greta stirs, or my milk lets down, and I remember I’m a mom of two and I’d better focus while I can.

It’s amazing how much I can get done when I absolutely have to do it, and I’ve been pretty productive in all my eeked-out hours. But much work remains.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Letter to Lucia: 26 Months



Dear Little One,

A quick letter this month—it’s late and I need to get to bed. For once it’s not you who’s exhausting me. You’re pretty easy these days, though you certainly have your moments: refusing to have your diaper changed, refusing to lie still during said changing, insisting “Own. Own.” to put your own shoes on when we’re in a hurry to leave the house (this one’s cute, of course, despite the frustration).

You are starting to show signs of realizing that Greta is here to stay, and that Greta tends to take up quite a bit of my time. Though you’re unfailingly gentle and sweet with her, in the past couple of days you’ve often come up to me when I’m holding her and said, “Baby office.” This means I should go put the baby in her bouncy chair in the office, which is where she takes her naps. When the baby is sleeping in the office, you have all my attention. Sometimes you also say “No milk” when you don’t want the baby to nurse. The other morning when Daddy was holding Greta you chanted simply, “Baby no. Baby no.” You’re too young to realize it, dear one, but it’s hard on me, too, not to be able to give you the attention you need.

At 26 months you’re becoming shyer again, after a month or two of increased outgoingness. We went to two holiday parties last weekend and you definitely were not happy about it. At the first, the naturally exuberant hosts and their large, exuberant dog scared you immediately, and I had to hike you up on my hip (Greta was on my chest in the Bjorn) and carry you into another room, where we sat and ate a gingerbread man cookie until you were ready to emerge. At the second, you watched with interest as several older children played; but you ventured into the room with the toys only once you could have it all to yourself. At our playgroup this week, you sat near the window while three other children played with your toys. You didn’t cling to me, but you weren’t about to join in. And all I can say is, sorry, little one, but you are me. I truly hope you ultimately exhibit more of your daddy’s garrulousness and social ease; life is just easier that way. For now, though, you are happiest when you are here at home, with just us around, when you feel free to be your own chatty, funny, exuberant self.

Current favorite toys/activities: Play-Doh, stickers, drawing, Mardi Gras beads (still!), stuffed animals, Little People farm, cooking soup in your toy kitchen, books, toy stroller, collecting leaves and sticks in your bucket, Olivia, Elmo.

And with that I’ll bring this letter to a close.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bits

Little time to blog these days. I often find myself composing posts in my head, or noting something that should be a post, but then the day ends, and another day, and the posts don’t get written. So here are a few brief bits, more for my own desire to make sure things get written down than for any interesting reading for you all:

You

Lucia’s language acquisition is just careening forward these days. Today she took out some blocks and said, “I have blocks. I’m making a stack.” Just insane. What she’s having trouble with, however, are the pronouns me and you. Whenever a picture of her surfaces, we always point it out and say to her, “That’s you!” So now when she sees a picture of herself, she says, “That’s you!” I think she understands that it’s a picture of her, but she doesn’t understand that she should say “That’s me.” She does the same thing with the word “yourself.” “Do you want to do it yourself?” Andrew asked today, and then she kept saying, “Yourself” when she wanted to indicate that she wanted to do it on her own. She also sometimes just says, “Own” when she wants to do something by herself. “No, own,” she’ll say, pushing our hands away when we try to help Velcro her shoes.

Last Week

Last week marked my first few experiences of taking both girls out of the house by myself. Monday, we met a friend and her daughter at the playground, then they came over for lunch. Tuesday, I took the girls to the drugstore to fill a prescription. Wednesday, I took them both to Music Together (Greta slept the whole time in the Bjorn; Lucia danced with the teacher and hugged him, unprompted, at the end of class). Thursday I took the girls to a friend’s house for a morning playdate. Friday we went to the playground. The Bjorn and the warm fleece bunting I bought for it really are a godsend. I feel so empowered being able to just pop Greta onto my chest, and off we go.

Greta’s Checkup

Tuesday, Greta had a six-week checkup, and she has grown splendidly. She’s 9 pounds, 8 ounces, and 22 inches long—that’s 50th percentile for weight and 75th for height! These are numbers the likes of which we’ve never seen before. She’s about two to three weeks ahead of Lucia weight-wise; Lucia didn’t get to 10 pounds until she was eight weeks. In any case, those fat little cheeks aren’t just my imagination.

Christmas Sightings

There are still a few pumpkins in our neighborhood for Lucia to spot, but we’re turning our sights now to wreaths and Christmas trees on our walks. She gets very excited when she sees Christmas lights, and she is extremely excited to have such lights in our very own house. We got a Christmas tree this weekend, and though the tree-buying process vexed her—“No tree! No tree!” she said, refusing to cooperate and engage in photo-worthy tree selection activities as Andrew had hoped—she was happy once it was set up. She loves looking at the ornaments (I put lots of unbreakable ones at her level). And we wound some colored lights around the bookshelf just for fun.

Sleep

We’re getting some. Sort of. Greta gives us some good nights, some not so good. Maddeningly, she does a really long stretch of sleep in the evening—sometimes four or even five hours—but once we’re into the wee hours, it’s more like three hours. Her grunting is still an issue. The doctor said she might be eating too much (I could probably nurse another baby with my milk production), so I’ve been trying to cut her off a little, but this seems to have had a negligible effect. Each feeding is a roll of the dice. Sometimes she goes right back to sleep; sometimes she can’t settle for an hour. By 6 or 6:30 she’s usually done with her nighttime sleeping.

Our Days

Our days have been okay. When Greta takes long naps, it’s great. When she doesn’t, it’s hard. Lucia continues to be flexible and adaptable, but she’s started to get frustrated when Greta monopolizes too much of my time. “Baby chair,” she orders, telling me to put Greta in her chair; or, “No milk,” if she doesn’t want me to sit and nurse Greta. Sometimes she says firmly, “Mama sit right here,” patting the floor beside her when I’m nursing or rocking Greta. But she accepts my explanations that I’ll come over soon. And we’re having our sitter, Kate, come in a couple of days a week again for a couple of hours, which is great. Great for me to have an extra pair of hands, and I think great for Lucia to have someone play with her with undivided attention for a couple of hours.

And that’s all the bits for now. More soon.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Newborn Report

Friday morning, I woke up in a pool of milk. The front of my shirt was as soaked as it would have been had I dunked it in the bathtub. My sleeve was wet. The sheets, top and bottom, were wet. Then I sat up to nurse Greta and sat in the milk so my pajama bottoms were wet. It was not the best way to start the day.

I recount this as an illustration of why it isn’t easy returning to Infantland. I thought this time around would be easier, since we’d done it all before and knew what to expect. And in some ways it is easier: I’m worried less about details, mostly because I don’t have time to worry about them, and I don’t have any time at all to read baby books and wonder if I’m doing things “right.” What’s harder is the return itself. With baby #1, I expected things to change, even welcomed those changes as we entered A New Phase of Our Lives. I expected and looked forward to milk-soaked sheets and all the rest of it because it was all part of Having a Baby. With baby #2, it’s harder to welcome those changes with such Zen-like calm because, well, haven’t we been through this already? The sleepless nights, the endless laundry, the spitting up, the red-eyed infant who will not, despite all manner of soothing, give in to a nap? I thought I’d crossed those off my list. Yet here we are again.

And there are new challenges too—like figuring out nap and sleep schedules, which will be difficult with a toddler around. I hear first-time moms discussing how they have a forty-five-minute routine to get their infant to take an afternoon nap—ha, ha. I remember long stretches of rocking Lucia to sleep and religiously implementing a two-nap routine at around three months, and I know this time will be different. Greta’s “routine” is going to have to involve being nursed and then put down in her bouncy chair. Or napping on the go. Such is life for the second-born.

Last week, Greta looked calmly into my face with just the hint of a smile, then spit up down my shirt. The day before that, she seemed unaware that I was wearing real pants for the first time—not yoga pants, not leggings—and spit up all over those. She continues to be a sound, silent sleeper until the exact second we try to remove her from our laps/shoulders/arms. Then she either wakes up screaming or launches her award-winning barnyard imitation. (Is it a sty full of angry, ill-humored pigs, or is it Greta? I challenge you to decide.) (Also, I joke about this, but we’ll check with our doctor next week to make sure those noises aren’t a sign of a problem.)

Of course, Greta is adorable and we love love love her. She’s started giving tiny smiles, and her gaze is lengthening enough so that she gives us long, studious looks. She makes cute faces in her sleep. And she is getting cute little fat rolls at her wrists and knuckles (the benefit of the endless, endless nursing). She is great in the Bjorn, falling asleep and staying asleep long enough for a walk to the farmer’s market and some good playing in the park with Lucia.

So these are not meant to be complaints, just observations on our return to this well-trodden territory.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Letter to Greta: 1 Month


Dear Littlest One,

Happy one-month birthday! A month ago, I was finally seeing the fruit of my labor at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt—“labor” as in “four-week internment culminating in a C-section.” Labor, indeed. All of that has faded in the weeks since then. We are deep into Infantland, conversations in bed as likely to happen at two a.m. as four or six. My shoulders are reliably dotted with baby saliva and spit-up. There are milk stains on the fronts of all my shirts. We are tired. So it is, four weeks in.

But you, unlike your exhausted parents, are thriving. You gained fourteen ounces your first week home from the hospital—a good eater from the start. You are a very good little breastfeeder, though it’s wearying for me sometimes, and often I feel like I do little but nurse you. Sometimes, when you’re particularly intent on eating, you nurse with your hands splayed, as though warning anyone who comes near—“I’m eating; don’t come near me; don’t you dare interrupt.” Sometimes you nurse yourself to sleep. Sometimes you scream-cry with gas pains for a while. Sometimes, particularly at night, you fall asleep but still make insanely loud grunting noises; it’s like sleeping—or, rather, not sleeping—next to a pigsty.

The only time you don’t make those noises—and often the only way we can get you to stop—is when you sleep in bed with us, curled into my arm. This is ridiculously cozy. But, much as we love you, we do not want to co-sleep. And so we eventually return you to your bassinet, where you resume your grunting as soon as your head touches the sheet. You are a baby who just wants to be in someone’s arms. During Lucia’s naps, you nap in my lap, turned nearly face-down across the Boppy.

You still have the look of a small woodland creature, with your darting eyes and the soft hair on the tips of your ears. But your cheeks are filling out now, your gaze is becoming more direct, and a few times you seem to have given me a smile.

We’ve taken you out in the world several times in the sling and the Bjorn, both of which you immediately despise but eventually fall asleep in.

You sleep for long spells during the day. And you are a good sleeper at night, knock wood—if we could just get your barnyard sounds to cease, we’d actually be getting some decent sleep. You usually sleep from about midnight to four, or from ten to two; and are up again about two or three hours after that to eat again. Not bad at all for a four-week old. Of course we’ve had some projectile vomiting (two instances), and some fussiness, but there has been no need for four a.m. spells on the playmat like there was with your sister. Thanks, littlest one, for that. And, again, knock wood.

You have so far refused the pacifier, and we have not yet given you a bottle. Sometimes you suck your thumb.

I love this cuddly infant time, but I am also greatly looking forward to seeing what kind of baby you become—we’ll have fun, the four of us, once our life consists of more than just nursing and calming. Until then, I’m trying to enjoy the warm, snuggly naps and the heavy weight of a sleeping infant on my shoulder.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Brooklyn Thanksgiving

Andrew and I have celebrated Thanksgiving in a variety of ways over the past five years. In 2007, we cooked a huge meal just for the two of us in our apartment in Sacramento. In 2008, we ate a Zen vegan feast in a small, middle-of-nowhere lodge in Japan. In 2009 and 2010, we ate outside in Napa with the Clarks. And now, for the first time ever, we had Thanksgiving in Brooklyn.

Molly and Ian came up for the holiday, and while Molly and I tended to Greta and Lucia, Andrew and Ian prepared our meal. Andrew ambitiously followed a Tom Colecchio turkey recipe and made an amazing dried-cherry-and-pecan stuffing from Cook’s Illustrated; he spent much of the previous evening doing something with turkey necks. This picture illustrates why Andrew, not I, was in charge of the turkey. (Raw turkey skin—ick.)





We had Barbra, Chris, and Alex over for the meal as well. Lucia tried a bite or two of squash, two cranberries, half a roll, and a miniscule bite of turkey, as well as some sliced American cheese and steamed baby carrots. (On a better day, she might have tried more; but she has been sick again, coughing and stuffy, slightly feverish, surely beginning a several-years trend of one or the other of our children getting sick over the holidays.) Greta was not at the table with us—she slept through the meal in her bouncy chair—but we were all happy she was with us nonetheless.

Note that both my children are absent from this group picture, though the edge of Greta's chair and the back of Lucia's head are both visible:



It was a wonderful Thanksgiving and a lovely few days all around. Lucia warmed to Molly and Ian immediately, not least because they brought her a talking Elmo and a whole package of new Play-Doh. The night before Thanksgiving, Andrew and I had a particularly difficult night with Greta, involving very little sleep as well as a dramatic instance of projectile vomit; in the morning, after Andrew got Lucia out of her crib, she ran out into the living room by herself, ready to play—remarkable since even with beloved grandparents she usually needs some easing-in time each morning.



I desperately wanted Ian to take a family picture of the four of us, but that did not go according to plan. Lucia seemed fully willing to sit for a picture until it was time to sit for the picture I wanted. Ah well. This is probably a better representation of our current life anyway:





Lots to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, cranky toddlers included, though I have to confess I did a horrendous job of introducing Thanksgiving to Lucia. She loved seeing all the pumpkins, ghosts, and so on in the neighborhood for Halloween, and knew that ghosts say “Boo!”; but she can’t even make a gobbling sound. I had grand plans for turkey crafts, appropriate books, and perhaps even Charlie Brown, but none of those things came to pass. (Greta is to blame, of course, but she’s too cute to single out here.) I shall redeem myself at Christmas.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Leaving the House

This weekend, it took Andrew and me one and a half hours to leave the house with Lucia and Greta. First Lucia melted down after spotting some Halloween decorations in the storeroom. She wanted to take them all with her on a walk. I denied her this wish after giving her two of the pumpkin cutouts. Of course, I should have just said fine, take them, but by then we were deep into a tantrum that I simply could not reward by giving in. Then Greta needed to eat and be changed. Then everyone needed coats and slings and shoes and snacks. We did make it out eventually, and we did make it to a playground where Lucia and Andrew kicked a ball around for a while. And on the way home we even spontaneously stopped at a little pizzeria with a happy hour and had a fast—very fast—pizza while Lucia dipped her straw into my water glass and then dabbed it on the wall while murmuring “Mess. Mess.” Andrew left a large tip.

Yesterday I took the girls out by myself for the first time, around the corner to the mailbox. Andrew was working from home, phone at the ready in case I needed him to rescue me. We made it, however. When we got to the mailbox and I said we had to turn around to go home, Lucia said, “No. Playground” and began walking in the opposite direction; but I managed to get her to comply by suggesting we collect acorns. Anyway, it was a start. A small start, but a start.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Home Alone

Greetings. So far, I’ve survived the week alone with the girls, and they, too, have survived. We started off with a bang on Monday, when, within the space of ten minutes, both little ones had peed on the floor and/or on their clothes and/or on me. Lucia jumped up from the floor before I could get her diaper on, scream-laughing as she ran across the room and then peeing as soon as she hit the kitchen floor. Greta just decided a good time to go was as soon as I took her diaper off, soaking the changing pad and her sleeper. Fun times.

It was one of many moments this week when I had to just take a deep breath and remind myself that there will come a time, sooner than it seems these days, when I will no longer have babies but children who a) are potty-trained; b) no longer breastfeed; and c) sleep through the night. When I will no longer negotiate how many bites of food must be eaten before watching Elmo. When I will no longer spend my days in a milk-damp nursing bra, leaking milk at odd moments. Whenever I make remarks like this to Andrew, about taking comfort in the fact that infanthood/toddlerhood won’t last forever, he gives me an exaggeratedly tender look and belts out the refrain from “You’re Gonna Miss This” by the country singer Trace Adkins: “You’re gonna miss this / You’re gonna want this back / You’re gonna wish these days / Hadn’t gone by so fast / These are some good times / So take a good look around / You may not know it now / But you’re gonna miss this.” Probably true, of course.

Anyway. Lucia continues to be an adoring, and adorable, big sister. She likes to go up to Greta and take her hand, then say to me, “Hold hands.” She likes to kiss Greta’s forehead. She likes when Greta lies on her play mat and I sing songs to her. With a smile, she observes and remarks on Greta’s actions: “Kicking! Coughing! Sneeze! Moving!” This is all very cute. And Lucia has been very mellow all week, which has helped—some instances of being demanding, and a couple of baseless near-tantrums, but nothing to write home about. Books, sticker books, drawing, Play-Doh, and pretend-cooking have occupied our time.

It has, however, been very tough being homebound. And there are some good reasons why I feel homebound. First, Greta is just three weeks old, so I hesitate to take her outside in the cold. Second, Lucia moves so fast these days, and requires a good deal of hands-on help at the playground, and I’m just not up to it yet—I’m moving around just fine, pain-free, but I’m not exactly ready to run. And third, Lucia is a sometimes unpredictable toddler. Wrestling her into her stroller when she was unwilling to leave the playground was hard when I was pregnant—it will be impossible with Greta strapped to my chest. I need to get my courage up, basically. This will come, I’m sure, mainly because if I spend too many more days inside I’ll go nuts.

An aside: I’ve been eating a lot of peanuts, a good quick snack, and Lucia knows that nuts are only for Mama. She’s intrigued by this forbidden snack and loves looking into my bowl of nuts and announcing, “Nuts. Mama.” Which, after a few more weeks of home-alone time, might take on an entirely new meaning.

Last night, Andrew went to the National Book Awards ceremony/dinner for work, leaving home all gussied up in a tux. When he left, I was sitting in a milk-stained shirt at the kitchen table, nursing Greta while undertaking UN-caliber negotiations to get Lucia to eat her dinner. I'm gonna miss this...I'm gonna miss this...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Letter to Lucia: 25 Months

Dear Little One,

Together again! After our long separation, we’re finally back to Mama-and-baby, full tilt now that our post-new-baby visitors have gone home. Daddy went back to work this week (though he’ll be home with us off and on for several more months), so we’re settling back into our days together. Of course, these days look much different now that Greta has joined us, even though, for now, she does little but eat and sleep. The biggest difference is that so far we’ve spent our days inside. I’m still healing from surgery, unable to run after you or lift you, and Greta is just too little to be toted all over the place. This will all change, and one of these days I’ll be one of the mothers at the playground with a toddler in hand and an infant on her chest. Not yet, though. Not yet.

In the month we spent apart, your language just took off, and we really chat now. You are saying entire sentences now, like “I dropped it” and “I can’t reach.” You make observations when we read books: “Birds eat berries.” You shock me with the words you know, like apricot. Today when I offered you a larger-than-usual piece of pear, you instructed me to “Cut it.”

Your favorite activities these days are crafty, to my delight—drawing, Play-Doh (which you call “pee-o”), sticker books. You of course still love reading. You also like to cook in your play kitchen with the pots and pans we got you for your birthday, and a fun assortment of play Swedish breakfast food we got at Ikea. You love your little stroller. And New Bunny—the bunny our upstairs neighbors got you while I was in the hospital—is your constant companion. Whatever you do, Bunny does, whether it’s having a “stinky diapo” or trying to hold the baby.

Most remarkable of all as you reach your twenty-fifth month is how loving and concerned a big sister you’ve proven to be. You frequently kiss Greta, and anytime she fusses you run over, Bibi held aloft, and offer it to her for a snuggle. Each morning you toss Bunny into the bassinet. And though your offerings are temporary—“Bibi back,” you say after a few moments—your feelings are touching and show an empathy that is truly astounding. Sometimes you seem to scold me if Greta fusses for a second without a suitable response from me—“Mama, up!” you say, wanting me to pick up the baby, or you remind me that the baby wants “Milk. Milk. Milk.” So far you haven’t seemed to mind when we have to pause in our artwork or games so I can nurse Greta. I’m hoping this continues as Greta moves out of the constant-sleepiness of infanthood and becomes more demanding as we go along.

Addendum to Letter to Lucia (11/17/11)

Little One,

I forgot to add two bits to your letter: At 25 months, you can count to ten and identify and say your colors (the whole rainbow plus pink, black, white, and brown). However, you continue to say “mai” instead of “more”—this seems like something that’s going to stick around a while, especially since Daddy and I say it now too. “Do you want mai cheese?”

Saturday, November 12, 2011

11/12/11

Yikes. It says something about the state of things around here that I didn’t even realize that yesterday’s date was 11/11/11. Perhaps it’s for the best. How best to mark such a calenderic event, anyway, besides feeling vaguely panicked about not finding a meaningful, memorable way to mark it?

We’re over two weeks into two-kid-hood, and all is well. I’m off painkillers completely now, though I’m still taking the occasional Motrin for annoying and persistent pain from breastfeeding (though this finally seems to be settling down). I had my two-week checkup earlier this week, and my incision is healing perfectly; I was released into the world as a regular human being, done—finally—with monitoring and checkups and daily questions about whether I’m bleeding or cramping or leaking fluids. Andrew and I had driven into Manhattan for the appointment, taking Greta with us (leaving a feverish, coughing Lucia at home with Andrew’s mom), and we even managed a stop at Zabar’s for cheese and olives before heading home. Real human life!

And nothing signals I’m-healing-successfully-from-a-C-section like a trip to the worst Target in the country, which is what Andrew and I did on Thursday. Fortunately, another, better indicator of said healing is having dinner out, which Andrew and I also managed to do last night—we had Thai food just a few blocks from home while both little ones slept soundly at home under Granny’s watch. Today, all of us walked to the farmer’s market and joined the bustling crowds buying apples and Indian corn and leeks. It sometimes hits me as I look around on these gorgeous, crisp fall days that I missed out on an entire month of life—all of this was going on while I sat in a hospital bed on 59th Street, reading vampire novels. And even though Lucia was a bit surly, and Greta needed to be nursed on a bench, it was a relief to finally be part of it once again.

Now we are on our own: Andrew’s mom left today, and it’s just the four of us. On Monday, it will be just me with the girls, as Andrew returns to work for a while before using more of his ridiculously generous paternity leave. Good thing I still have six Percocets left! Ha! Kidding! At least, I am right now!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

A Week In, and Two Celebrations




Greta has been home with us for a week and two days now, and things are going surprisingly well. “Surprisingly” because we’ve been remarkably free from the fatigue and chaos that generally come with an infant. Greta has proven so far to be an outstanding eater, and a stellar sleeper, with little inclination to cry. Knock wood. Knock knock. I’m fully aware that this can and probably will change, but for now we feel surprisingly…human. She’s been sleeping in three- or four-hour stretches, with a five-hour stretch thrown in now and then just to keep herself in our good graces. She’s cute, too, so I guess we’ll keep her around.

In the week or so that we’ve been home, we’ve had two celebrations. November 3 was our four-year anniversary, which we actually managed to celebrate. After we put Lucia to bed, I fed Greta, passed her to my parents, and Andrew and I hurried around the corner for sushi. We’ve been going to this sushi place since I first lived in the neighborhood in 2005-2006, and it’s where we ate our final meal before getting into the U-Haul and moving me out of NYC. The restaurant is still there, but things have certainly changed for us.

On Saturday, November 5, once my dad had arrived, we finally celebrated Lucia’s second birthday. We kept it small—just Andrew and me, my parents, and Barbra, Chris, and Alex. Andrew and I had gotten her a table and chairs set, which we set up while she napped and adorned with some balloons; her gifts were arranged on the coffee table. She was initially surprised and displeased by all the new things when she came into the room, but quickly got over it and had lots of fun opening her presents and tangling herself into the balloon strings. And, of course, eating a cupcake and ice cream. She seemed unaware that her actual birthday was three weeks earlier.

And so here we are, dual citizens of Infantland and Toddlerland. And here I am, feeling remarkably good, with new-breastfeeding pain actually surpassing the pain from my incision. But all is well, despite the discomfort: we took Greta in for a checkup today, and she’s gained 14 ounces! Double the amount the doctor had said we should look for. She’s now 7 lbs., 3 oz. So we’re off to a good start.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Greta’s Birth Story



My C-section was scheduled for 7:30am on Thursday, October 27. Andrew got to the hospital at 5:00am, and we sat on my hospital bed, whispering while we waited in the dark, trying not to wake my roommate. I’d gotten an IV for hydration the night before and was wearing a hospital gown for the first time since checking in on October 2. After what seemed like a long wait, I was wheeled down to triage, where I’d wait for the surgery, Andrew following behind with my suitcase.

We waited in triage for a long time. I got a second IV—the worst-case-scenario IV, inserted so they’d be ready for anything in the OR. The surgery was changed to 8:00, then 8:30, as the various anesthesiologists and doctors tried to get coordinated. Finally, my doctor came in, wearing scrubs and a plastic mask over her face. “We’re walking,” she announced, and took my IV bag down from its hook. We walked down the hall to the OR. Andrew began putting on his surgical outfit while my doctor took me inside.

It was a real OR—huge bright lights, steel instruments laid out on tables, lots of equipment I of course couldn’t identify. I sat down on a table and got my spinal, which was uncomfortable but not unbearable. Then I was laid down and transferred to the operating table, and my lower half was hidden by a sheet. My legs got tingly and my doctor started pinching my abdomen, asking if I could feel it. I was sure I could feel everything, and kept saying so, terrified that I was somehow resistant to the anesthesia. But eventually my answers clearly weren’t aligning with what was happening, and they deemed the surgery ready to start. Andrew came in then, and it all began.

For some reason I had it in my head that, recovery aside, a C-section would be easy—you get drugged up, you lay down, and the next thing you know, your baby’s crying. I had no idea whatsoever that I’d feel every single step from the incision through the suturing, even if that “feeling” wasn’t painful. I’d been warned that I’d feel “pressure”—but this was more than pressure. I felt like someone had rammed their hands into my body cavity, and I felt every tug, pull, and push. It felt horrible, like something from a nightmare. My doctor tried to engage me in small talk to calm me, but I still groaned in horror now and then, and at one point she said if I didn’t stop they’d have to put me under. “You are not feeling pain,” she said. It was true, and I tried to focus on Andrew’s face and the fact that this would eventually come to an end.

Eventually it was time for the baby to come out, and there were some moments of my doctor speaking sharply to whoever was attending her, someone pushing powerfully onto my upper abdomen. The baby would not come out. She somehow positioned in such a way that her head was trapped. The moment didn’t last long, and suddenly I heard the gasping squall of an infant. She was finally here. She was taken over to a warming table and evaluated; her Apgar scores were 8 and 9. A few moments later, Andrew could go over to take pictures.

I got to see her for a brief few seconds when the pediatrician brought her over to me, but that was all. Andrew was then told he had to leave and wait in the waiting room while I was sewn up and moved to another table, leaving behind all the bloody pads and gowns from the surgery. Then I went to the recovery room, where I was hooked up to lots of electrodes and blood-pressure monitors and, blessedly, an IV drip of pain medicine. The baby was brought in to me, and Andrew joined me there shortly. I was able to nurse her despite being little more than a tangle of wires and IV tubes, and then she had to go to the nursery. Andrew went with her while I rested.

After a few hours, it was time to move to the post-partum room where we’d be for the rest of our stay. Andrew went to the nursery and retrieved Greta in her little hospital bassinet, bathed and calm. We were lucky enough to get a private room, which required only that we get onto a waiting list as soon as Greta was born and fork over her first year’s college tuition. No matter. It was such a relief after three weeks in the hospital and a morning of surgery to be wheeled into the closest thing to a hotel room a hospital room can be. There were warm lamps, a soft couch, a mini fridge full of juices, waters, and sodas, a large flat-screen TV, and a nicely tiled bathroom.

For the rest of that day, and the next couple of days, we really felt rested and nurtured and well. Mom and Lucia visited Thursday afternoon, and Lucia kissed Greta and then came into the bed with me, gentle and calm; I told her she had to sit quietly since Mama hurt, and every so often she’d say “Mama hurt” and give me a kiss. We read a few books together, and then they left. Andrew went back Friday and Saturday night to be with Lucia for bath and bedtime.

Thursday night, we decided to send Greta to the nursery so we could both get some sleep; we ended up sending her Friday and Saturday nights as well. I never thought I’d be okay with this, but it really worked out for the best. I desperately needed sleep, and we still saw Greta for much of the night, whenever a nurse brought her in for a feeding. In the morning, my IV was detached from its drips, my catheter was taken out, and, later in the day, my scary just-in-case IV was taken out as well. This felt like a huge milestone.

Friday and Saturday were just strangely restful periods of watching Greta sleep, feeding her, and relaxing. Saturday we had a crazy snowstorm, and it was so strange to be watching the snow fall from the window, as though we were having a little vacation. I ordered my meals from a leather-bound menu, and the food was actually really good, brought in to me on a white-clothed table. Real food was welcome after my “clear liquids” diet of broth and sorbet on Thursday.

Greta wanted to do nothing but sleep, even falling asleep when nursing; the pediatrician showed us how to effectively rouse her, which pretty much entailed unswaddling her and then letting her roll around in her bassinet, furious, until she was fully awake. This felt cruel, but it worked, and before we left the hospital she’d gained back 2 of the 7 ounces she’d lost after birth, which the pediatrician said was excellent.

Don’t get me wrong: though these days were calm and restful, the recovery was anything but easy. I got out of bed for the first time Friday morning, supported by my wonderful nurse Gigi, and promptly fainted (fortunately not before Andrew slid a chair under me). Walking felt impossible, like a lovely, distant dream, and I eagerly anticipated each dose of Percocet. Saturday, Gigi helped me take a shower, and I actually managed to do some walking up and down the hallways. Each day got easier.

What got more difficult was breastfeeding—not because Greta wouldn’t latch; she latched immediately and well; but because I became engorged very quickly. This is the one thing I’d hoped to avoid this time around, after my experience of Extreme Dolly Parton after Lucia’s birth. Beginning on Friday, I started noticing a familiar hardness and ballooning, but when I told the nurses I feared I was getting engorged, they said I wasn’t. Even the doctor I saw Friday morning said my milk wouldn’t come in for three or four days. By Saturday, the engorgement was out of control. My nurse even brought in another nurse, and they gazed at me, aghast. I tried pumping, but nothing would come out. Sigh. Exactly the same as last time. Andrew brought me a cabbage, which we soaked in ice water, and this brought some relief; but still. Between the engorgement and the painful first days of recovery, it’s pretty remarkable that I felt in as good spirits as I did.

Sunday morning, Greta and I were both examined and discharged. I was wheeled down to the lobby, and then, once Andrew brought the car around, I got my first breaths of fresh air in four weeks. As we drove home, everything looked sharper and brighter than I remembered, as though I were in some kind of fever dream, or had been in one. When we got home, Lucia kissed the baby and wanted to hold her. She couldn’t have been sweeter. Greta slept all day and then found her voice and was up pretty much all of Sunday night.

I spent my birthday (Saturday) in the hospital this year, celebrating with Percocet and vitals-checking and industrial-sized maxipads instead of a cake, but really it did feel like we had something to celebrate. We’re back in Infantland. I’m out of the hospital. My pregnancy is over. Greta and I are home safe and sound. Greta’s birth story was a long, stressful, and winding one, but it fades a little more with each of her tiny, darting glances and each of her kitten-like cries.



Saturday, October 29, 2011

Announcing...

Greta Whittemore Littell
born by C-section October 27, 2011
6 lbs., 9 oz., 20 inches long
















Wednesday, October 26, 2011

37 Weeks & Hospital Life

View from my room

36 weeks, 5 days

36 weeks, 6 days (day before C-section)

Visit from Lucia (Tuesday)

Visit from Lucia (Sunday)

Visit from Lucia (Sunday)--Lucia is dipping a coffee stir into the cream cheese from a bagel and licking it off. Hospital fun!

By This Time Tomorrow

In fifteen hours, we’ll be meeting our new little one; by this time tomorrow, I’ll be recovering from surgery and—I hope—nursing a tiny, shocked newborn. By this time tomorrow I’ll be off the antepartum floor and onto the floor where babies are crying and new parents are happy. I can’t wait.

The baby seems excited, as though she knows something’s about to happen. She’s been more active than usual, flipping around determinedly; her heartrate tracings during today’s non-stress test were filled with dramatic peaks. The nurse monitoring me said my baby always has the best tracings—“shows up all the other babies” were her words. Eager as I am to have this pregnancy over and done with, part of me does feel sad that this baby is missing out on three weeks in the womb. But all this was not up to me. She can take it up with the placenta.

By this weekend, I’ll be home. The very idea of it fills me with relief and calm, even though nothing about my homecoming is going to be calm. I’ve never had a C-section, of course, but I know the sheer physical strain these early days impart—the painful start to breastfeeding, engorgement (will I escape this time?), bleeding, molecular-level exhaustion. All of it, this time, compounded with the C-section recovery and the perhaps heightened demands of a toddler facing a huge family transition.

The thought of the physical hurdles ahead makes me weary, but I know there will be happiness in there too: a new appreciation for home and our daily routines, a new fondness for even the more difficult toddler moments, the luxury of having Andrew home for weeks, and the wisdom of knowing this time that all those early, hard, infant days do come to an end. And then, soon enough, there will be little matching outfits, walks to take together, stories to read, crafts to make, giggling in playhuts. Yes, much of this is a touch far off in the future, but it’s there in my mind’s eye.

But first things first, starting at 7:30 tomorrow morning. And onward from there.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Out of Forks

First, my C-section has returned to its originally scheduled date of October 27, 7:30am. I am disappointed, but since my time slot on the 26th was at 4pm, I’m reminding myself this is a difference of just 15 hours.

Time has slowed down considerably now that the end is in sight. For me, anyway. Andrew is running around like crazy, trying to get all the last-minute baby-coming-home details taken care of. But here in the hospital, my days are inching by. The problem is that I have left Forks: the world of the Twilight books. Terrible as they were, they were utterly absorbing, and I enjoyed both reading them and texting amusing-to-me academic-essay topics to Molly (“Bella is willing to become a vampire but not a wife. Discuss in the context of gender roles and the Facebook generation.” “Neither Edward nor Aro can read Bella’s thoughts. Discuss what this implies about the efficacy of prayer.”) But now I have finished books one, two, and three, and the final book is swimming in the postal system. Out of Forks, time has resumed its plodding pace.

So I have transported myself, instead, to Panem, the world of The Hunger Games. Having little foresight, however, I purchased only the first book of the series, which I promptly finished in less than two days. I have four days to go. And this has driven me to take a heretofore unthinkable step: to Andrew’s glee, I requested that he bring me his Kindle today. I feel like I’ve betrayed myself in the worst way, all my firm beliefs about books and pages and ink and etc., but at the same time I suppose I’m willing to accept that this is an extenuating circumstance. I’ve always said that maybe, maybe, I’d agree to read digital books if I were taking an around-the-world trip and had to pack lightly; perhaps I’ll now expand that to include hospital bedrest.

The Kindle now sits on my hospital-bedside table, waiting, waiting. But don’t be fooled: this will not resolve the central disjunct of our marriage (Andrew supports us by working in the world of e-books; I scorn e-books). It is temporary, just as other unpleasant things are temporary: hospital bedrest, eating every meal with plastic silverware, every-three-days blood draws, seeing Lucia for only a few hours each week. Surely it is the least of all the evils I’ve had to endure.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Five Days!

Astute readers will notice that we’ve skipped a day in the countdown. This is not a mistake—my C-section has been moved up one day, to Wednesday, October 26, which means my hospital adventure will come to an end one day sooner. The change has nothing to do with anything medical; just my doctor shifting around her schedule. (And she assured me there was nothing problematic about my already-large baby.) So the end is truly in sight.

I am more ready than ever to get home. Lucia has a cold, and I want to be there for sick-baby snuggling; she visited today and spent most of the time just sitting on my lap, playing with her Minnie Mouse, not even venturing closer to our other visitors, a friend and her two-and-a-half-month-old baby.

And I’m ready to get off the 14th floor—Antepartum—where my condition, though technically high-risk, pales in comparison to what I’ve been hearing about the other women. I haven’t had a Big Bleed, I’m otherwise healthy, and the health and well-being of my baby has never once been in question, even when I was first admitted—if she’d been born then, she might have had a bit of NICU time, but she ultimately would have been fine. But my previous roommate, whom I wrote about in the last post, did end up delivering her 25-week-old baby, who was just over one pound and is looking at a three-month NICU stay and who knows what complications. She also, in the same delivery, had to deliver the baby’s dead twin. I’m not entirely sure how you ever get over something like that. And my current roommate, who arrived last night, just found out her 22-week-old pregnancy is no longer viable because there is almost no amniotic fluid; her water broke, and I heard the doctors telling her the pregnancy would have to be terminated. (I obviously don’t know all the details. I know only the bits I’ve heard through the curtain.)

Anyway—it’s all horrible, hearing these poor girls crying over on the other side of the room while I read the Twilight books and watch ABC sitcoms on my computer and enjoy visits from my beautiful daughter and await the arrival of a kicking, already thriving second daughter. I know there are reasons for keeping me here, but I definitely feel like a fraud, and a very fortunate one at that. It feels like the worst kind of gloating to even have a picture of Lucia tacked up by my bed.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Parenting: November Issue

Here I am, on hospital bedrest—with nothing but time to write my monthly COMMENTARY. As I read this month’s issue, lots of things jumped out at me, perhaps because I was an unusually captive audience. Let’s get to it.

Trouble, once again, from the cover—another celebrity-with-baby, this time Bethenny something or other, a reality TV person, with her baby. This issue also featured an interview with Gwen Stefani; a page detailing how you, dear reader, and your child can dress like Ellen Pompeo and hers; and an article by an NBA player about being a good dad. The interviews were particularly egregious. I have no idea if Bethenny or Gwen are actually vapid and senseless in their real lives, but these interviews did not do anything to make me think otherwise. Take, for instance, Gwen’s comment on her fashion troubles:

“I’ve always been attracted to Japanese kids’ clothes, but they’re so hard to shop for—the websites are always in Japanese!”

COMMENTARY: Seriously, world: Why can’t everyone just speak English? It’s so unfair for us English speakers to not understand what’s being written online by people in other countries. Forget Occupy Wall Street. Perhaps Gwen, backed by Parenting, can start a movement to switch the world over to English.

But poor Gwen; you can’t blame her for struggling through this interview when you see that she was confronted by questions like this:

“Are you like us—do you ever run into Target for a toothbrush and end up spending $157 on stuff?”

COMMENTARY: Everyone, interviewer, spends too much at Target. And everyone has at some point complained that they can’t get out of Target without spending a hundred dollars. But note that figure: When making a hyperbolic complaint, the numbers generally aren’t so…specific. $157 is just a weird number. $50, or $100, or even $150—but $157? It’s just odd. All this said, I look forward to perhaps getting my two (!) little girls something cute and trendy from Gwen’s upcoming Harajuku Mini collection at Target.

Onward: to perhaps the most irritating article to date in Parenting. It’s a bold statement, I know, especially since I’m referring to an article that’s only 133 words long. (Yes, I counted the words. I’m on hospital bedrest—what else do I have to do?) The article is grating because it is full of “wordplay.” Whoever wrote this article got a little carried away on all the “humorous” ways to employ snack-related words and phrases. The article, “Chip Off the Old Block,” concerns the alarming rise of snacking in America, and aside from the title (chip! ha!), here are the other puns ‘n’ fun:
---Generation Goldfish
---Do as I say, not as I Dorito.
---son of a Funyun!

COMMENTARY: I have to admit, I can’t quite parse “son of a Funyun!” in a way that makes any kind of sense. Here’s the context: “…[S]ome kids [snack] as often as ten times a day (son of a Funyun!).” As I read it, it could have two possible meanings. First, the writer is going for a play on “son of a gun,” as in, “Son of a gun, that kid snacks a lot.” Or, the writer might be referring to a child who snacks ten times a day as a “son of a Funyun”—as in, “Any kid who snacks that much must be descended from the Funyun.” Neither of these make any sense at all, of course. And what on earth is a Funyun? Is it like a bloomin’ onion, which I would kill for right now? Son of a Funyun, I could go for a bloomin’ onion.

Speaking of snacks, we turn now to an article called “Play With Your Food,” which suggests ways to make healthy eating fun for kids. It includes the not-surprising statistic (gleaned from an undocumented source) that “50% of kids will choose broccoli over chocolate if it has an Elmo sticker on it,” which would probably hold true for Lucia. But it also includes this little bit of brilliance:

“1. Try app-y meals. Fooducate…is a mobile app that lets you scan any food with a bar code to get a quick letter grade for how real and healthy it is.”

COMMENTARY: But…but…the healthiest foods, like fruits and vegetables, don’t have bar codes. If the point is to encourage kids to choose healthy food by letting them play with an app to select said food, then you’ve automatically eliminated the best part of the grocery store! If we’re to go along with this “game,” the cart would be full of fruit roll-ups instead of fresh fruit, and Pirate Booty instead of veggies. Seems ill thought out.

This is turning into a long post—but it sure is making the day fly by. On we go to the meat of this issue: the interview with Bethenny Frankel. There is just so much here that I don’t even know where to start. I think I’ll just go line by line with a few of the best bits.

“Bryn’s not drinking enough milk right now, but that has nothing to do with me.”
“Sometimes I accidentally give Bryn food that’s just a little too hot. … What can you do?”

COMMENTARY: Lucia ate nothing but chocolate-chip cookies for five straight days, but that has nothing to do with me, even though I bought the cookies, gave them to her when she asked for them, and didn’t cook anything else. And when I noticed that the mouse in our apartment had chewed into the package and nibbled some of the cookies, I accidentally still gave them to her. But what can you do? [NOTE: This scenario has been made up. We do have a mouse. But it does not eat Lucia’s food. And so far she’s had three cookies total in her whole life. Well, maybe just a couple more than that.]

“People think I have the perfect husband and perfect life, and it’s just not the case.”

COMMENTARY: People always think Andrew’s so great (Oh, he’s so nice! So thoughtful! So welcoming!), but it’s just not the case. People always look in from the outside and see this rosy picture without seeing the dark side: the sports-watching, the Fantasy Football fixation, the insistence that I don’t dump coffee grounds all over the rim of the trash can. Look deeper, people. Look deeper.

Next up: yet another app suggestion. (Parenting should change its name to “Suggestions for Apps.”) This one is called Swackett, and it’s designed to help us figure out what to wear each day:

“If it’s cold, the ‘peeps’ appear dressed in winter hats, coats, and boots. Check it before the fam heads outside.”

COMMENTARY: Because looking at the temperature is just so hard.

Finally, a shout-out to the Overzealous Copyeditor: Congratulations—Parenting readers are learning from you! Without your having to say a thing, OC, parent-contributors (via Facebook, surely) have adopted your over-explaining style and hypervigilance. Bask in the glow of your life’s work, right here:

“We make an indoor obstacle course. … We keep track of the times, and the best chooses a healthy snack.”

COMMENTARY: Because, son of a Funyun!, choosing something like a cookie would be so very, very wrong to encourage. Yay for the parents with raw broccoli florets at the ready.

Until next time—my very first COMMENTARY written as the mother of two kids. I’ll either have copious COMMENTARY or, zombie-like, none at all.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Big Baby??

I had an ultrasound today to check the baby’s size, and I was stunned: she is currently an estimated 7 pounds 2 ounces. If I were carrying this baby to term, does this mean she’d be a gigantic baby? At first I was relieved that she definitely won’t be a tiny preemie when she’s born; but later in the day the high-risk doctor who checked in said size really won’t make a difference in whether her lungs will be okay. I’ve learned to take these statements calmly. When I talk to my doctor or the doctors in her group, they all are much more certain that all will be well; I think the high-risk doctors just have a more…high-risk view of things. But I am anxious to ask my own doctor if I need to be concerned about my new baby’s surprising chubbiness.

Lucia, though far from chubby, has reached a milestone: she’s surpassed the tenth percentile for weight! Andrew took her to her two-year checkup today, and she weighs 23 pounds, putting her in the twelfth percentile. She’s in the fifty-second percentile for height. So she’s doing some good growing. (Mom said she asked for soup for a snack yesterday—so she’s probably getting more nutrients than her little sister, who’s subsisting on hospital food and chocolate-chip cookies.) Andrew also said Lucia was upset at the shot she had to get, but became absolutely enraged when the nurse put a Band-Aid on her: he said she screamed bloody murder, pulled the Band-Aid off, and threw it at the nurse. Little charmer!

Lucia and Mom came to visit today, always a bright spot in my days. I fear, however, that my chocolate-chip cookie bribery is working against me—I’m starting to suspect she enjoys her visits here because of the cookie. But no matter. She’s adorable and cuddly, and I feel so lucky to have both her and a baby who is 35 weeks 6 days along.

My newest roommate, here for two nights, is only 25 weeks along; initially pregnant with twins, she lost one of the twins a few weeks ago, and on Sunday she was admitted for contractions and bleeding. Today she went into labor. It’s incredibly sad, the only one of my roommates so far to really have a terrible story. (Of course, I have no idea how her story will wind up in the end.) So, awful as it may sometimes seem to be on hospital bedrest with the “Big Bleed” around the corner and Lucia far away, all in all I’m feeling pretty lucky.

Eight days to go.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Nine Days…

If you calculate my remaining hospital time in a generous way—not counting today or the day of my C-section—then there are nine days left of this maddening in-betweenness. In nine days, we will have another baby—and even though there are three more nights of recovery after that, it will be different from this waiting period, this state of quasi-life. Nine days till we can finally meet this new little one and make our grand entrance once again into sleepless, chaotic, all-encompassing Newborn Land. Two boxes of newborn-size diapers arrived last week, giving Andrew a little jolt—those diapers are unbelievably tiny. He brought some to me in my hospital bag, and they look like something we should be putting on Lucia’s stuffed animals.

Today I asked my doctor whether there was any chance of making it to 38 weeks if I didn’t have a Big Bleed; she said she would never allow a patient with CPP to go beyond 37 weeks. I have no desire to stay an extra minute in the hospital, but of course I want to give the baby as much growing time as possible, so I felt obligated to ask. Fortunately, the doctor said that even if I gave birth today, the baby would be fine—she was already a good size two weeks ago, at 5 pounds 5 ounces; larger, she said, then two full-term babies she’d delivered last week. This was reassuring to hear. I’ll have another ultrasound this week to check her growth.

Considering the steroid shots I got, the baby’s size, and the fact that I’m 35.5 weeks along, no one seems very worried anymore about me or the baby. She breezes through her non-stress test each morning, creating beautiful heart-rate “tracings,” already a straight-A student. It’s just time now to wait. Nine days.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Brave Girl

To my great relief, all signs are pointing to the happy possibility that Lucia will not be scarred for life by this extended separation (or by her delayed birthday celebration). So I thought I would devote a post to how brave and flexible she’s proven to be over the past few weeks. I expected her visits here to be wary, tearful affairs, but they have proven to be anything but. I usually hear her saying “Hi! Hi!” before she even comes into the room, and she eagerly hugs me hello—then heads straight for the huge bag of books, coloring books, and markers we keep here. She generally sits right down in my lap for a reading of our favorite hospital book, Kitten’s Winter. She has a set of little medicine-dosage cups she always plays with for a few minutes, and she generally indulges in many, many snacks—usually a bagel and/or muffin that Andrew and Mom get on their way over.

On the days when I don’t have a roommate, she loves to run around the room-dividing curtain, hiding and then reappearing at either end with a big grin. She likes to sit underneath the wheely hospital-bed table, in the U-shaped area where the wheels are attached. She calls it her boat. She likes to walk on the wheel-covering bar, using it like a balance beam. And we always finish off the visit with a few Elmo videos on my computer. Then she gets a chocolate-chip cookie for the journey home. (The cookie, to be honest, is bribery that works splendidly, letting us get her shoes on and get her strapped back into the stroller.)

“Bye bye,” she always says with a wave, and she’s started giving me big hugs and kisses before she leaves, too. No tears for her. There have been many tears from me, though it’s getting better. Andrew said that when he says it’s time to go visit Mama, Lucia says seriously, “Mama cry.”

At home she seems to be as happy, playful, and active as ever. She sometimes seems confused at bedtime—should Grandma give the bottle? should Daddy?—and she’s done her share of testing (Surely Daddy will let me take this armload of toys into the crib tonight…) but otherwise she seems to have adapted to her new circumstances with nary a blip.

Ten days till delivery. Brave and grown-up as Lucia’s proven herself to be, I can’t wait to get home and resume our old ways. I never thought I’d miss fielding her endless requests for “Snack! Snack!” and cleaning up said snack in her wake…but it’s my job to refill those little bowls with bunnies and Cheerios and raisins and fruit, and I’m itching to get back to it.

Two-Year-Old Pictures





Yesterday, Andrew and Mom took Lucia on a long walk to Prospect Park and had some good playing time in the Long Meadow. Here are some pictures from the day of her (secret) second birthday.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Letter to Lucia: Two Years (Shhhhh)

Dearest Little One,

I can’t believe that we are apart on your second birthday. It is wrong, and terrible, and though you don’t understand the particular terribleness, I do. You are home with Daddy and Grandma, while I am in the hospital, staying still and safe and quiet to make sure your little sister has as much time to cook as possible. Much as I want to rush her along, I know she needs just a little more time. Someday you’ll understand this.

Because I am here, and you are home, on your second birthday, your father and I have made a decision: to pretend today is not your birthday. Imagining you opening your gifts in a hospital room, or having cupcakes and singing “Happy Birthday” without me at home, is unfathomable, heartbreaking. And so we are going to wait until I am home to celebrate. We will give you your gifts, and get balloons, and make cupcakes, and sing “Happy Birthday,” in two weeks’ time, when this separation is finally over. I have to trust that you will have no idea of the difference, that you won’t be scarred for life at this grand deception.

Of course, when I see you this morning during your visit, all I will be thinking about is that my little girl is two. Two!

In the weeks before my hospitalization, and even more so in the two weeks since, you have been growing and changing at warp speed. You are growing bigger—some of the 2T pants are too small already, since you have such long legs and such a long torso. You are eating more, and you have a plump baby face now, cheeks that swell like little apples when you smile. And you are talking up a storm, soaking up new words and phrases like a sponge. You babble constantly, and it’s so entertaining to listen to you—it is often your very own language, which you use consistently; one of these days I’ll understand it all.

Every time you visit me in the hospital you look older and seem to say more things, and I miss spending every day with you so I can witness all the changes as soon as they happen.

You love going to the playground these days, and you’ve gotten so much more active and daring—ladders, hanging from things, walking over a shaky balance beam. You’ve gotten much more social—playing with other children sometimes, greeting strangers in elevators, even hugging your Music Together teacher when you were there this week with Grandma. You are still my quiet, bookish little one, but other sides of you are coming out now, which is so much fun to see.

You still adore your stuffed animals, and you’ve been playing with a new sticker book that Grandma brought you. You love watching Elmo videos online, and you of course still love reading books. Being apart from you for the past nearly two weeks, it is a bit unnerving to not know what’s occupied your attention at home during this time. But whenever I call I hear you in the background, chattering buoyantly, so I know whatever it is you’re doing is making you happy.

This is a big birthday for you—your last as an only child—and I wish desperately we could celebrate today. But in a way it will be nice to celebrate once I’m home with your sister, to reaffirm right away that you are still our little baby whom we adore more than words can describe. You’ve been so flexible and adaptable these past couple of weeks, and I know you’re going to make the transition to big sisterhood easily as well (eventually, at least). But today, and when we actually celebrate your birthday, I hope you know that what I want more than anything is to sit together and snuggle on the couch with my adorable firstborn. Soon, little one, soon.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Section: The Verb

Here on the hospital’s antepartum floor, there’s no talk of natural labor, or water breaking, or going into labor, or anything at all not having to do with a C-section. The precise timing of these C-sections is a regular topic of discussion among the high-risk doctors, who, I’ve gathered, regularly meet to discuss the case of each woman on the floor. My doctor stopped in this morning and told me there had been some discussion over whether my C-section should still happen at 37 weeks or should be pushed up to 36. The consensus was that as long as I’m in-house, we should hold out as long as possible (up to 37 weeks); if something happens, they can always just section me.

“Section” me. This is the lingo in the world of complicated pregnancies, a bizarre and somewhat violent-sounding verb that makes what’s happening sound a lot more aggressive than the alternative, “do a C-section” or “have a C-section.” “We’ll section you”—it sounds like something Solomon would propose. A C-section is a noun, an unremarkable procedure; the transitive verb “section” is an attack (albeit a routine and life-saving one).

Besides the language, I find all this discussion and debate almost unbelievable. I feel perfectly healthy. I look perfectly healthy. Nothing is wrong with me—and yet a very big thing is wrong with me. I asked my doctor this morning whether it was possible for someone with complete placenta previa (CPP, in message-board lingo) to get to 37 weeks without having a major bleed. She said no one can predict what will happen, but she seemed doubtful that I’d escape with only the one minor bleed I’ve had. All the doctors are in complete agreement that I cannot go home to Park Slope.

This all seems completely crazy. I don’t feel like a ticking bomb. I feel bored and sad and frustrated about not being with Andrew and Lucia; I feel beyond awful for being in the hospital over Lucia’s birthday (more on this in another post). But a ticking bomb? One errant contraction away from the Big Bleed? Insanity. I feel like I’m trapped in a Bizarro world where everything seems normal but I have oh, I don’t know, a huge horn growing out of my back, invisible to me but shocking and dangerous to everyone else.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Finally, Time to Read!

Ha. “Finally, time to read!” is one of those things I always assumed I’d feel if I were placed on bedrest. It seems logical. I have nothing to do—every single hour of my day is free, and I’m not allowed to move anywhere but within this room. Reading seems the logical—the glorious!—way to pass the time.

The problem is that I cannot concentrate. At all. And everything I do manage to read, I hate. I can’t get into anything, can’t lose myself in books like I’ve always been able to, in pretty much any other circumstance. Long plane rides. Long airport waits. Long waits for anything. Subway rides. Long spells when Lucia was born and napping long infant naps in my lap. But here, at the hospital—it’s not working. I’m away from home, away from my husband and child, and though I’m not exactly thinking about anything else, my mind is so scattered that I simply cannot remember what’s happened from the top of the page to the bottom.

I have some things to try. I’m awaiting an Amazon order with two Penelope Lively books, plus the first volume of The Hunger Games. I borrowed a Sue Grafton novel from the hospital’s roving library cart. Andrew’s going to bring me Anna Karenina. But the only thing I can work up any real desire to read is the Twilight series. I need something that will rope me in, make the hours fly by, and require little to no brainpower. I need thrillers and mysteries with not-too-complicated plots. Is there another Dan Brown coming out anytime soon?

My current roommate, an Ivy Leaguer with a law degree, has been reading Harlequins, so I know I’m not alone in this inability to focus on anything with any intellectual component at all. In the meantime, awaiting reading inspiration, I’m watching episodes of TV shows online. Sixteen days to go…

Monday, October 10, 2011

Good

A happy follow-up: Andrew unexpectedly returned tonight, bearing dinner made by Mom and a chocolate milkshake. And so the day ends pleasantly. Seventeen days to go.

Not Good

Today was not a good day. Andrew, Lucia, and Mom came to visit, which was both great and awful, because seeing Lucia just makes me frantically want to go home. I was so miserable after her departure that my pulse went up enough to alarm the nurse, who advised me that getting so upset was not beneficial to me or the baby. Not good.

Then, on a day when Andrew brought breakfast but I had no outside (edible) food coming to me for either lunch or dinner, the selections were the following: a hamburger for lunch (completely inedible, so unappetizing I had to cover it up on the dish) and a chicken breast dry enough to be a scouring sponge for dinner (75% inedible—I had to eat something). Not good.

I was weighed this morning, and I’m teetering on the edge of a New Frontier: 149 pounds. Not good. (Actually, in truth, this is neither good nor bad, since that’s only 29 pounds total so far. It just shocked me.)

Then, this afternoon, I had an eensy bit of spotting; however, on a floor where bedbound pregnant girls routinely have gushing bleeds, it didn’t even raise an eyebrow from the nurses. Still, not good.

And it is clear now that I will be staying until the birth. My doctor is back in town and came to talk early this morning. Though she clearly does not want to keep me, she can’t let me go back to Park Slope; she, like everyone else, painted a nightmare scenario of the next bleed being the big one, of trying to get to the hospital, losing a lot of blood, and having something terrible happen to the baby. She said I could move to a private room on a different floor ($400/night), or find a place to stay in the neighborhood, but I could not go home. Andrew and I are half-heartedly discussing the second option, but much as I would like to not be in a hospital, I also don’t want to suddenly move Lucia to an unfamiliar place where her entire world will be turned upside down. The nurse who talked to me afterward was also pretty adamant that the best place for me to be was right here. All of it: not surprising, but not good.

I’ll be 35 weeks on Thursday, which is a good threshold to get past. But there are still two weeks after that to get through. Not good. But in a way it will be good to get through them, because then the baby will be born at full term (more or less; 37 is the magic number with complete previa). Surrounded as I am by marginal previas and complete previas and high-risk twins and low amniotic fluid sacs and exclusive talk of c-sections, on a floor where women basically sit and wait for something bad to happen, it is easy to forget that pregnancy isn’t supposed to be this way—and wasn’t, my first time around. Not good. Not good at all.

I’ll end on a bright(ish) note of It Could Be Worse: I could be stuck in a hospital in an unfamiliar city for a month, as my current roommate was when her previa was discovered in a sudden, horrendous bleed while she was on vacation. Or, as the nurse told me today, I could have been in the hospital two years ago, when, because of swine flu, NY State prohibited all visitors under twelve years old—so there were high-risk pregnant women who didn’t see their other children for weeks or months. The nurse said they tried to bring the women to the lobby for ten-minute visits, but even this wasn’t always possible.

Not good. But at least those are two things I can leave off the roster of my own depressing day.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Good Morning!

This morning, at 6:00, I was woken from a sound sleep with this greeting: “Good morning! I need to draw your blood.” Lovely. I asked her to draw it from my hand; she agreed, and stabbed me painfully, but then said she was sorry but she had to stop because the vein “blew up” and she didn’t get enough blood. So then I had to have it in my arm. And my hand, six hours later, is still sore. A pretty much fantastic way to start this Sunday. The sky wasn’t even light yet.

It’s been a week, and I’m tired of being here. I feel like being here is pointless. Nothing has happened since Sunday, my non-stress tests all come out fine, and other than some uterus “irritability,” which I’m assured is normal, I’ve been as fine as I would have been had I never bothered to come in last week at all. Meanwhile, my new roommate with marginal previa has been bleeding constantly for the past twelve hours, and timing regular contractions—she should definitely be here. Me, I’m not so sure.

But every time I ask a doctor whether it’s really necessary, they all paint the same picture: at this stage, even though I’ve only had spotting and not big bleeds, the next time I bleed I could wake up in a pool of blood and have to be rushed to a hospital, losing massive blood along the way, etc. It’s gruesome and terrifying. It seems unlikely that my doctor—whom I’ll see tomorrow and who has the final say—will have a differing opinion from the two doctors in her practice whom I’ve been seeing all week, but who knows.

In the meantime: the hospital. The day starts around 5:30, when I’m woken up for the day’s first check of vitals. Around 6:00, a doctor comes by to give me an update. At 7:30 or so, the breakfast tray arrives. Somewhere between 9:00 and 10:00, I go for my non-stress test. At noon comes the lunch tray. Scattered throughout these hours are more vitals-checks and occasional monitoring of the baby’s heartbeat. At 5:00, the dinner tray arrives. Somehow, the day goes. I think today might be broken up by an exciting removal and replacement of my IV heplock thing. Lovely.

Each day I put in my contacts and get dressed in my own clothes; I sleep in my own pjs. Being in a hospital gown just makes me feel awful. I’ve been allowed to regularly shower (regularly, as in every two days or so), and I try to put on some makeup. I read the NY Times every day that someone manages to bring it to me. I’m trying to maintain some sense of normal days. Of course, they’re not normal at all, though yesterday Lucia did write all over my pants with marker and get grape jelly on my shirt during her visit, so there are moments that feel wonderfully familiar. I really can’t wait to go home.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

An Adventure for Grandma

Yesterday, Mom and Lucia found themselves entangled in a grand, frantic adventure. In the morning, they went to a music class, and when it was time to leave, Mom realized that Lucia’s beloved plush Elmo was gone. Since Bibi isn’t permitted to leave the house, Lucia’s regular traveling companions are Elmo and her pink corduroy Cat; “Cat Elmo,” she says whenever we’re preparing to go anywhere, and she hurries to find them. “Cat Elmo.” She goes nowhere without them. And now Elmo was gone, naptime was approaching, and disaster loomed.

On the advice of someone in the class, Mom checked out a toystore on 7th Avenue; they did not have the right size Elmo. After she called me to report on the loss, I called all the other Park Slope toystores and finally found one that claimed to have Elmos in all sizes—of course, this was a store about fifteen blocks away. I told Mom to go back home, put the stroller inside, wait on the stoop, and then get into the car I was going to call for her. In the background I could hear Lucia: “Elmo. Elmo. Elmo” and Mom saying reassuringly, “We’re going to get into a car to go get Elmo.”

The car arrived and took Mom and Lucia to the toystore, where an exact replica of the missing Elmo was found. She called when she was outside, I called for a car to pick her up, and later Mom reported that Lucia couldn’t have been any happier with “New Elmo,” kissing and snuggling him. Crisis averted. Naptime successful. Total cost of six-inch-tall New Elmo: about $25. Worth every penny.

Insanities like this—the genuine panic and distress (on Grandma and Mama’s parts) arising from the loss of a Sesame Street doll, and the feeling of to-the-ends-of-the-earth determination to find another one—are among the things no one warned me about before I became a parent. Had someone told me that I would once launch an Elmo search from a hospital bed—and that I’d feel my blood pressure rise at the idea of my child being without this toy for any length of time—I’d have said they were nuts. I’d have said she could surely have another toy, or get over that toy, or wait for a new toy to arrive from Amazon in a few days. Little did I know that’s not the way it works in Toddlerland.

Side note: As soon as Mom told me Elmo was lost, I posted a notice to the amazing neighborhood listserv, Park Slope Parents, that’s like a giant bulletin board for 5,000 local parents. I got one phone call from a man who said an Elmo had been found at the Food Co-op; an email from a mom saying I could come over to look at her son’s Elmo and have it if it was the same kind; and a couple of emails from a woman who’d also been blindsided by a crazy Elmo search and who just wanted to commiserate. A true secret society, this parenting thing. You’re either in it or you’re not. If I were on the outside of it all I’d have nothing but rolled eyes in response, full of smug self-assurances that this would never be me.