"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lessons Learned in These Six Weeks

As we approach Molly's 6-Week Birthday....

Lessons Learned:


After vigorously crossing my fingers for the past three weeks, the answer is now clear: This baby has a milk allergy. Eliminating dairy from my diet worked wonders in terms of her general comfort, so we were sure she was at least sensitive to it. After my accidental ingestion of Max's Cheesy Bunny Crackers (they just hopped in there!) though, it was clear: Yucky dipes and a sad, uncomfortable baby for the next three days could only mean one thing. My diet will be pristine for the next year while I continue to nurse and then we'll try to re-introduce dairy (if we haven't had a need for allergy testing in the meantime).

***

Time is a strange thing when you have a newborn. In some ways, these have been the fastest six weeks in recent memory. Have six whole weeks seriously gone by since my fast-as-lightning labor?? And by the way, where the hell did March go? Yet, at the same time, I can't believe we've known this sweet baby for ONLY six weeks. Surely she's been with us forever. Nothing makes me realize this strange time more than when strangers catch a glimpse (and then can't, of course, look away) of this beauty. "Such a tiny thing! How old is she?" they always ask..."Five weeks," I say, and then I watch as they gasp and marvel in her Brand-Newness. And she is...as sturdy as she is and as much as we've all already gotten to know each other, she is Brand New. (But getting so much bigger by the day....my mom has given me strict instructions to keep this baby tightly swaddled for the next few weeks so she can't get too much bigger before they see her again...)

***

And people are seeing this baby. Finally. We're finally Getting Out. She's doing much better in the car and once we're out, she's found comfort in the Baby Bjorn. I know that people everywhere sing the praises of the Baby Ergo (which we also have...in addition to a sling...we're Baby Wearers, it seems, as none of our kids have ever Loved their carseat) but we can't seem to get a hang of that damn Ergo Infant Insert. We'll try again when she's big enough to Ergo without it, but for now, we're Bjorning.

But it's good to be out. We've been to the post office, Target, and the grocery store. Aren't we fun?

***

It's funny to me how quickly and easily I forget how emotionally exhausting the Newborn Stage is for me. Don't get me wrong, I love love love the sleepy, cuddly, teeny tiny just-born baby. But I stress...about everything...always. And Just-Born Babies? They're sort of little just-unwrapped mysteries for me to worry about. Mysteries that cry. And depend on you, Mommy, for everything. So stress? Yes, I've had that. Every cry, wince, and lately, seriously yucky diaper, has me stressing, worrying, analyzing, googling, and calling my most trusted Doctor Mom Sources for opinions, direction, and support.

It's not that I feel like I don't know what I'm doing (like I felt with Baby #1 and, to some extent, Baby #2), it's that I DO know the enormity of what I'm doing: this is A BABY. A little PERSON. And I (along with Sam, of course, and our Village) am responsible for her healthy, happy, well-adjusted growth and development. In my emotional mind, I think: I can't get this wrong....there is no Do-Over. In my rational mind, I know that I should relax a bit...that millions of babies have been born and have succeeded under harsher circumstances than the ones into which Molly was born--She'll Be Fine.....But that nagging emotional brain then screams, "All the more PRESSURE for PERFECTION."

And I know that, to some extent, that stress and emotional exhaustion will continue for the rest of my life, even once my kids are grown. (You're never *done* parenting, of course...) But it's the mystery of the newborn stage that, as cute as she is, has me looking longingly into the future. And not that far into the future....I feel like, with both of the boys, by three months old, we were In Our Groove: on a predictable schedule, portable, play-with-able, interactive, not so new and worry-inducing, and, STILL tiny and cuddly and perfect. Instead of wishing the time away, though, I'm diligently working to ENJOY these fleeting moments of Brand New Baby, while appreciating the fact that time IS flying, and we'll be in that more settled stage before I know it. (And yes, I did mean "diligently working to enjoy..." There is STRESS in ENJOYMENT when you are me.)

***

But in line with that enjoyment, is finding the beauty in the details...and that beauty is not at all hard to find. Man, is this kid gorgeous:


Her feather-soft hair that, just like Newborn Evan's, sticks straight up in the middle and is getting lighter every day.


Her eyes that twinkle when she finds your face and crinkle when she smiles...that are turning blue, but a deep, soulful blue, unlike Max's crystal blue sparklers.


Her dimple...DIMPLE!....that hides in her right cheek and just barely peeks out when she sticks out her cheeks either in a smile or when deep in thought.

Her hands....her feet...


...her perfectly imperfect belly button...her gorgeous out-to-there lashes...


...her tiny ears that Max can't help himself but try to hold with his sticky, chubby, two-year old fingers.....and her perfect little rosebud mouth...


***

It may take forever to get out the door for preschool drop-off....
It may seem like I haven't left this house in for-EV-er....
I may sleep with one eye open all night while I watch my baby sleep beside me....
My worry lines may be getting a little deeper....
And I may not be winning any beauty pageants with my sloppy ponytail, comfy pants, and while covered in breast milk....

BUT...

Just look at this girl....My littlest Love.

Monday, March 26, 2012

dairy-free, round three

I think I may have unlocked the secret code behind fussy, squirmy, non-sleeping, "colicky" babies everywhere. It's the Milk, man.

Evan was a fussy, squirmy, non-sleeping, colicky baby. We started him on probiotics to soothe his troubled tummy, and it helped immensely...but he still didn't sleep. At ten months, when he was diagnosed with food allergies, I immediately cut his allergens (13 of them!) out of my diet....and guess what? He FINALLY started sleeping "through the night" (by Parenting Manual Standards--6+ hours in a row).

Once Evan had weaned, I added dairy (and everything else) back into my diet, only to stop again about two months before Max was born. I was paranoid about "giving" food allergies to my second kid, so I was extremely cautious. I nursed Max on a milk-free diet and he was a super chill little baby--happy, alert, and very comfortable. And while I didn't think ANY of my kids would ever be Super Sleepers, Max was a much better sleeper than Evan had been (or still was, at the time, to be honest).

Max didn't develop food allergies, and by the time I was pregnant with Molly, Evan had outgrown most of his, so I took a much more relaxed approach to nursing this time around. I didn't restrict my diet at all, but knew what "signs" to look out for.

The first two-and-a-half weeks of Molly's life were blissful. She was a happy, alert, comfy, eating, SLEEPING, dream baby. But then, right before she was three weeks old, she had a few fussy days in a row, which was brand new for her. I noticed that she seemed squirmy after feedings, unable to settle into a comfortable position, and she would curl her legs up to her chest and get tense. Because this baby almost never cries, so I wouldn't call her at all colicky, her behaviors still seemed very reminiscent of Baby Evan.

And so, it was a no-brainer: I would immediately cut all dairy out of my diet and see what happened.

It took four or five days to see a difference in her comfort level (the amount of time it took for the milk protein to leave our systems, probably), but by the end of that time, it was evident: No longer was she unsettled after feedings. Once again she would drift right back to sleep after a night-time feeding without needing to be rocked, bounced, or otherwise soothed (I didn't know babies could even DO that). I didn't notice her curling her legs up, tensing her tummy, or appearing otherwise uncomfortable. She's alert, smiley, an easy sleeper, and an all-around Happy Baby. She's even starting to tolerate the car....just don't take this kid to Target. She Does Not Like Target. (Who doesn't like Target?? She better get on board with that one--how will I survive??)

And so, I will continue to 86 the dairy for the next few months and then, maybe, reintroduce it. Or not. Giving up dairy is easy. And to keep this sweet girl happy? I'd do anything.

Lesson Learned:
I wish I had known to try an elimination diet with Evan before first putting him on Probiotics. They worked for him and I'm happy we found them, but I sort of feel like they were masking the true problem rather than solving it. And for the record: No, I'm not disproportionally worried that Molly will be allergic to milk. Because we now have a family history of allergies, she might be, and if she is then we'll know what to do, but I don't think of this new finding as a diagnosis. I think a lot of babies have sensitive tummies and that the milk protein must be a pretty tricky one to digest, but not that there's a direct correlation between discomfort in infancy and long-lasting sensitivities or allergies to food. I'm just so happy to have easily discovered the key to my baby's happiness, because this new Real Smile she's flashing these days may be the cutest thing I've ever seen in my life (now if only I could break eye-contact with her for a second so I could catch it on film...).

Sunday, March 18, 2012

moves like ninja

Sam and I had been brainstorming lately about activities that we could introduce to Evan. We want him to participate in something besides school, but were having trouble coming up with something that would fit. I'm not really into Scouts. I had a traumatic experience with scouting involving camping (well, I call it camping, Sam calls it "sleeping in a cabin, which doesn't really count") and home-sickness (I was only gone for 24 hours, but I was practically LOST IN THE WOODS) and generalized anxiety. I also didn't really like the uniforms, pledges, and door-to-door selling of things. If any of our kids ever asks to be a Scout, I guess we'll give it a go, but for now, No Scouts.

Team Sports appear, for now or always, to be out of the question for Evan. He tried soccer twice and, while he warmed up to it by the end of the second season, had no interest in signing up for the next level of play, which would be team vs. team rather than whole-group instructional.

And while the kid has mad skills with a bat and ball, he has no interest in signing up for tee ball. I think he can already picture what it would feel like to be at-bat, with all eyes on him. So we're not even talking about it.

Sam has taken him to the golf course, and he has his own set of Evan-sized clubs, so that might continue to be a fun Daddy-and-Me activity for him (and the other kids as they get older--which might mean some alone time for Mommy--woohoo!). Still that wasn't the solution: we wanted something with a little more structure, a little more instruction, a little more active, gross-motor skill building, but still with very little pressure to "win" beyond personal achievement.

And then one day, clips from a gymnastics competition appeared on a commercial during a basketball game that Sam was watching. Evan caught a glimpse and was captivated. Sam immediately jumped on his interest and said, "Look at those gymnasts, buddy. Doesn't it look like they're learning Ninja Moves?"

And those were the magic words.

Evan is into Ninjas. I don't know why. He doesn't know what ninjas are. He plays with the Samurai Ninja Castle that Santa brought, but it's more Defending the Castle play than Ninja play. All he knows is that Ninjas are quiet (sneaky) and they can do amazing flips and turns and other cool moves.

Which is EXACTLY what Gymnasts can do.

So after a bit of research and upon taking recommendations from friends, we signed Evan up for gymnastics at a local REAL gym (not a Romp 'n' Roll or Little Gym or other "baby" place). Yesterday was his first of eight classes and he LOVED it. (I didn't get to go....which is the first Big First in his life that I've missed--sniff. But I'll try not to make this about me. And, of course, Sam took lots of video clips with his phone, so I was practically there.) He, apparently, jumped right into the class and participated in each and every obstacle course. By the end of the class, he had participated in a number or "floor activities" (lots of kinds of forward rolls, log rolls, running, jumping, hopping, etc.), he climbed up and across a ladder/monkey bar apparatus, he swung on the rings, crab-crawled across the parallel bars, climbed across the uneven bars, balanced across the beam, ran up and jumped off the spring-board, and even jumped on the Giant Trampoline.

And, at the end, his "ninja muscles were already getting stronger."

He listened to the instructors, followed directions, got a lot of exercise, and practiced new skills (I didn't know, but I do now, that when he jumps on a trampoline, he can spread his feet apart in mid-air but land with them together).

And he can't wait until next week's class.

Lesson Learned:
There's something out there for every kid. You just have to find it.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

boys and girls

Not surprisingly, there has been a lot of talk around here lately about the differences between boys and girls. This might be because "penis" is a favorite word in Max's blossoming vocabulary (sigh) and there was shock, Shock!, the first time he witnessed a Molly Diaper Change.

Or, it might be because the boys are present and aware while I breastfeed Molly, and there has been discussion about how Mommies can feed the babies from their bodies but not the Daddies. (Because, as Max says, "Mommies have those circles." I guess that's what less-than-A's look like to a 2-year old. Sigh.)

Or, perhaps, it's because, now that there's a little girl in the house, people have been asking Evan and Max if they're going to "protect" their little sister. I'm kind of on the fence about how I feel about this question. On the one hand, I want them to respond with an automatic "Yes!" because, as members of a family, it's our job (and hopefully desire) to stick up for one another, look out for one another, and be each other's champion. But on the other hand, I don't want them to hear the message, "You're boys and she's a girl, so she's going to need your help." And then again, both Evan and Max have been requesting that Sam and I tell "King and Queen stories" lately. And they always give "suggestions" as to the plot line, and it ALWAYS involves Brave Knight Evan and Brave Knight Max rescuing Princess Molly from the evil fire-breathing dragon's dungeon. (And we haven't even really delved into the Disney Princess movies....I'm not really sure where they picked this up. Another facet of the collective unconscious?)

Whatever the impetus, we've been talking Boys and Girls for a few weeks now. And I always try to balance the noted differences with similarities. This morning at breakfast, Max was putting his spoon up to his eye and pretending that it was a telescope. (Naturally.) "Look through my telescope, Mommy, and look for Minnie."

So I looked, but instead of finding Minnie, I spotted Goofy.

Max didn't like how I changed his game. "No, Mommy, you don't see Goofy. Goofy is at work. You see Minnie."

"Minnie's not at work?" I asked.

"No, Minnie's not at work. Minnie's a girl."

"Girls can go to work, too, Max. Mom Mom and Grandmother go to work. Aunt Lizzie goes to work. And before I decided to stay at home with you guys, I went to work everyday, too."

Evan piped up: "Yeah, Max. Just not Mommies go to work."

"Well, some Mommies go to work," I interject, "Girls and Ladies, even Mommies, can do anything Boys and Men can do."

Max went back to his cereal (and telescope), but Evan remained thoughtful. Finally, after a few minutes, he said, "You know what? I can think of two things that Girls can do that Boys can't: Mommies can have babies grow in their tummies AND Mommies can feed babies milk with their bodies...."

"You're right, bud. That's how Mommies' and Daddies' bodies are different."

"...I just can't seem to think of ANYthing that boys can do that girls can't!"

Lesson Learned:
I think the right message is getting through.

Monday, March 12, 2012

dante didn't have a newborn

Or, if he did, he never had to operate a vehicle while she screamed.

Because if he did, and if he had, then surely his deepest, darkest level of hell would be that the damned would all turn into lactating mothers tethered to their steering wheels, forced to endure the heart-wrenching, unrelenting screams of their newborn baby as they drive in heavy traffic. And they have to stop at red lights every 100 yards. And with every teeny baby howl, the mothers' milk bursts in, which, outside of hell, is pure biological perfection....but trapped in a car is useless and increasingly physically uncomfortable. And there's a two-year old in the back of the car as well, telling the baby to "Just Stop CRYING!" in a somewhat-less-than-sympathetic tone of voice.

And it NEVER ENDS.

This is how we spend our preschool drop-off and pick-up car trips. It's not hyperbole when I say that it IS my own personal hell.

This poor, sweet baby girl, who is an absolute dream baby nearly every other moment of the day, Hates The Car. I know it will pass (or it won't and I'll be the one lucky mama who doesn't have to worry about my daughter getting into cars with older boys fifteen years from now--shudder).  And luckily, we only HAVE to get in the car three days a week (a just-discovered benefit to the three-full-day vs. five-half-day preschool schedule). But those six less-than-fifteen minute trips are nearly unbearable.

After drop-off this morning, we were supposed to go to Target. I assumed that, at some point, the screaming would stop and she'd fall asleep. She didn't. I was on the verge of (more) tears and my pre-baby less-than As were Full-to-Bursting Bs. Instead of completing the errands, we drove past Target and headed straight home.

The irony? I was headed to Target because I was completely out of nursing pads.

Lesson Learned:
Tomorrow is not a school day. We'll leave the house, but only on foot (with baby happily in-pouch). And instead of stressing over screaming, we'll all enjoy this happy, contented, beautiful baby girl. This girl...


My super-snuggly, good-sleeping, super-eating, taking-it-all-in, bright-eyed beauty. And, to be perfectly honest, she's otherwise so contented, I'm kind of happy to see the Dragon come out every now and then. A little bit of feistiness is a good thing. Baby Girl knows how to make her voice heard.

Friday, March 2, 2012

the point at which it fell apart

I had this Mother of Three thing down.

Aside from the more-than-occasionally sad, pouty Maxwell (sniff), things were smooth and easy.

I even Facebook-bragged about it yesterday afternoon: "All three kids napping. At the same time." I boasted. But prematurely....Evan woke up after forty minutes with a raging fever. It's his default symptom when he's coming down with any kind of virus. So my quiet afternoon turned into cooling down a hot and cranky sick 4-year old, keeping happy my on-the-verge-of-a-meltdown pouty-faced 2-year old, and cluster-nursing my eat-all-afternoon-so-I-can-sleep-all-night newborn (which I'm NOT complaining about).

BUT...I had it all together. I can totally handle this.

This morning, after I nursed Molly and brought her downstairs to her adoring public, I showered and, feeling extra Super-Mom, even PUT ON JEANS. "Big Jeans," but jeans nonetheless. With a BUTTON.

And then I went downstairs and took another look at my baby girl. The newborn eye gunk that I had first noticed last night was full-on drainage and her eye was severely swollen, nearly shut.

So, into the pediatrician we would go.

I was a little nervous...I had two big boys teetering on the edge, and it was our first real outing as a quartet, but....I was wearing JEANS! I could do this!

The visit with the doctor went beautifully: the boys were great, and charming, and adorable. They sat together, smooshed into one chair, reading Dr. Seuss books and telling the doctor how much they love their "boo boo baby Molly." Molly was a champ (back up to birth weight!) and was diagnosed with nothing more than a blocked tear duct. The doctor called in a prescription to the local drive-thru pharmacy for an antibiotic ointment and we would be on our way....

Until, we weren't.

We pulled into the drive-thru behind two other customers. The first car pulled away after only two or three minutes. The car in front of us pulled up to the window and Molly started to fuss. Because she's such a happy, contented baby, even fussing started to agitate the boys. Evan was worried about her, telling me that I should just tell her that I'd pick her up when we got home. Max was getting antsy, saying, "I wanna get down out my seat Right Now, Mommy, with no more of Molly crying." The minutes started to tick by, the car in front of us stayed right where it was, and Molly's fussiness was escalating to full-blown crying.

I surveyed my scene to figure out a potential exit strategy and noticed that I was completely boxed in. The car in front of me clearly wasn't going anywhere fast, I had pulled in too far forward into the drive-thru lane to swerve out to the side, and there was a growing line of cars behind me preventing a back-up. I was trapped. Literally.

And the crying escalated again to hysterical, newborn shrieking. The kind of hysterical crying that makes you start to sweat and panic (and your milk to come in).

And Max was yelling over the shrieking, "Stop crying, Molly! I get down from my seat RIGHT NOW, MOMMY!"

And Evan had his hands over his ears and was yelling, "It's too loud in this van, Mom!"

And I put the van in park and climbed back to try to soothe my poor screaming baby girl, while keeping an eye on the car in front of me, SURE that the driver would have her prescription in hand any second now.

And then, the driver in front of me pulls out her cell phone. And makes a call. AND HANDS THE PHONE TO THE PHARMACIST. The pharmacist has the phone for a minute or two, hands the phone back to the driver and leaves the window.

And the newborn screaming continues.

And the toddler yelling continues.

And Evan says, loudly, "I just wish that car in front of us would hurry up already because IT'S SO LOUD IN HERE."

And I'm sweating and on the verge of tears and I can not stop the crying or the yelling or the loudness.

This went on for, I'm not exaggerating: More than TEN MINUTES. We had been in the drive-thru line for fifteen minutes before we were finally able to pull forward. And when we did, I came face-to-face with the pharmacist: a 20-year old kid with a punky haircut named Colby who has never spent 10 minutes in the hell that I had just experienced. And I looked at him with crazy harried-mom eyes and, as he tried to apologize for the, like, really long wait, I shoved my insurance card and credit card at him and shouted, "Molly Harris! Eye drops!"

And he said, "Oooohhhh. Yeah, she's a new patient? It'll be, like, ten or fifteen minutes, 'kay?"


And I burst into tears.

And Colby looks at me like I'm crazy or hormonal or someone who doesn't have it all together and says, so condescendingly I could have shown him what Real Crazy looks like, "Ma'am, why don't you just leave your insurance card here so I can process it, 'kay?" And I spit, through tears, "Give me the cards back. Of COURSE I can't wait 10 to 15 minutes!" And I drive away. With tears streaming down my face.

And call Sam. Bawling. Seriously, ugly crying. And tell him that he needs to stop by the pharmacy because there's NO WAY I could possibly leave the house again after this experience.

And Molly is still crying.

And Max, who has stopped yelling, is now saying in the most pitiful, sulky voice, "It's all my fault."

Which, I don't even know WHERE he heard or if he even knows what it means, but it's worse than the yelling and hearing him say it makes me cry even harder.

And Evan is sitting perfectly still and quiet, looking at me suspiciously from the way back of the van, trying to figure out why and how, exactly, his Mom lost all control.

And, through my tears, I'm shouting back to all three of them, "I love you! I'm sorry! Let's go home and watch Octonauts, 'kay?! I LOVE YOU!"


Lesson Learned:
So we got home and, after I had fully convinced Max that none of that was his fault, had some nice snuggly time in front of Disney Junior. A lot of time in front of Disney Junior.