Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I had a hard time starting this here internet web-journal thingy. I never imagined myself being one of Those People, creating an anonymous--and therefore totally glorified--version of myself for consumption by strangers. But I'd been reading IF weblogs and then wanting to comment and then feeling like I had my own things to say and then really wanting to say them...so I did it. Even though I was pretty embarrassed. Because the difference between this space and my hand-written journal is you, the audience. Once you have an audience it becomes hard to pretend you don't believe, deep in your deepest heart, that what you're writing is worth reading. That you're interesting. Which is so obviously not true in my case. But I was able to get over my self-consciousness and start writing because our community is based on a need to give and receive support. Even boring people can give and get support. And I figured that when I got securely pregnant, I would stop.

Of course, there were a couple of factors I failed to take into account. First, the attachment I'd feel to people. And sure, I could just follow your stories without contributing my own, but then it wouldn't be a conversation. I'd miss that. Second, the fact that I'd still want support. Yep, I'm now deeply needy and can't do without you. So even though I'm still embarrassed, I'm going to continue writing.

But I do want to give you fair warning. Infertility changes you, thus parenting after infertility is different from plain old parenting. However, I can already tell that it shares one important feature: the need to complain. I'm going to need to express frustration, despair, anger, annoyance, fear, even though I'm aware such things might not make enjoyable reading. I thought about having a symbol that would warn people when they were in danger of reading something that might seem ungrateful or insufficiently sensitive to the feelings of people struggling to build their families. You know, like the chili peppers you see on a Thai menu warning you when an item is particularly spicy? I was thinking it would be a Black Bunny of Ingratitude and Callousness. But then I thought, when would I not want that symbol to appear? So I replaced my header.*

Henceforth, let the Black Bunny of Ingratitude and Callousness apply to all posts. Any post may contain material that seems ungrateful and insufficiently sensitive to the feelings of people still struggling to get that take-home baby. If you can't bear to read about these things, you know what to do. I will miss you, but I will fondly dream that you might come back some day when you're experiencing some of the same things yourselves.

*The image comes from a beautiful Japanese print

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sorrow and Joy

In a few hours, Augusta will be having a D&C after a missed miscarriage, and my heart is breaking for her. Those of us who have crossed to the Other Side certainly need no reminder of how damn lucky we are, yet this cruel universe sends 'em anyway. Far too often. To all of you who have been through this experience she will have, I am so, so sorry.

It might seem unkind to juxtapose that thought with the following, but after all, this is why we keep striving in the face of indescribable heartbreak:

Mr. Bunny, entering the bedroom at about 3 am with a freshly changed Bun Bun: The GRUNT-O-MATIC 3000! It grunts! It squeaks! It spits up! And when you've had it for about thirteen years, it hates you!

Me: Um...why...would...anyone WANT a Grunt-O-Matic 3000?

Mr. Bunny: Because! When you've had it for about six weeks, it smiles!

Me: *heart melts*

If you've got a Grunt-O-Matic 3000 of your own, give it a special kiss. If yours is still on order, I pray that it will ship soon.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The alchemy of parenthood

Before Bun Bun was born, I wondered what sort of father my husband would be, what sort of partnership we'd have as a family of three. I wondered if his lack of interest in reading books about babies and buying things for babies would translate to a lack of interest in caring for our very own baby. I worried that he'd defer to me on all matters, and plead ignorance when faced with caretaking tasks. But no! Thus far, he's been amazing. Just as some of you suggested there might be, there was a magical transformation once Bun Bun was a real live person. Now he's perfectly happy to read books about babies and tell me what they advise, while I smile and resist saying, I KNOW! I ALREADY READ THE BOOKS ABOUT BABIES! He's been happily cooking and cleaning and grocery shopping: instead of laundry being a tedious chore, it's now part of Caring for His Family and thus brings him a weird sense of satisfaction. He changes all the diapers, and in the wee hours after she's been fed, he's the one who changes her and soothes her back to sleep. He reads to me while I nurse, and has been an amazing source of support during the Days of Bloody Nipples.* He even keeps his temper when I'm awful. (In the middle of last night I growled GO AWAY! at him, and he totally didn't take it personally!) I think it might have helped that my C-section forced him to take a super active role from day 1, so he didn't get the chance to be deferential. And maybe it won't last indefinitely, but while it does, I am certainly going to enjoy it.

Mr. Bunny and Bun Bun after her first bath. There's a soundtrack to go with--I am now conditioned to tear up to this song.

So, in short, he's basically turned from lead (well, maybe silver) into gold. And what about me? What kind of magical transformation have I gone through now that I'm a parent?

I have turned from person into milkbag.

I've read about this phenomenon, and, as with so many things, failed to understand what it was really like. In the mornings, Mr. Bunny asks what I plan to do with my day, and the answer is always feed our child. That's it. That's all I can hope to accomplish, and I feel pretty lucky if I can accomplish that.

Mr. Bunny is going back to work next week. And although this is not nearly as bad as it sounds (he's the VP of a three-person company and has a super flexible boss, plus he works from home most of the time and is planning to work in a sort of part-time capacity while we see how things go), it makes me anxious to contemplate it. I feel like I'll be left all alone, wandering in a misty, timeless world, just me, my leaking breasts and my baby.

*Things are going okay in that department, by the way. I estimate another two weeks and we'll have this down. Please let me not be wrong. Also, RandomQuorum asked for specifics on the advice I got from the magic doctor, so I've put some stuff here.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Of all the gin joints...

Lest you think I spend all my time mooning about babies, here's something different. But let me start with a quick apology to CGD, whose best friend is about to move away. She'd probably love to have the problem I'm about to complain about.

A while back, I mentioned that BFB (goodness, that should really be Best Friend with Toddler now) was interviewing for a permanent position in my department. Well, she got the job. She's taking another year in California, so won't start until next year, which I am super glad about. I've promised Mr. Bunny that I'll work my way around to being happy about this development, but at the moment I don't see how that's going to happen. I think I'll need every day of that year to effect the psychological shift.

There are a couple of reasons this news is not filling my heart with joy. The first has to do with the way she got the position, but I won't say much about that on the off chance that she's found this space. (Though if you have, BFB, you're an IDIOT for reading it.) I will say this: it's made me hate my job and the people I work with a whole lot more. Right now the idea of ever going back to work makes me want to puke. The second has to do with our relationship. She has a certain Single White Female tendency where I'm concerned. This makes me sound so egotistical, but I'm not the only one who thinks this is the case. It ranges from trivial things like I'll start wearing contact lenses, she'll start wearing contact lenses. I'll switch back to glasses, she'll switch back to glasses to larger things, like I'll start studying X in grad school, she'll start studying X in grad school (she has totally redefined herself so that she is now squarely in my field), she'll find out I'm trying to get pregnant, she'll start trying to get pregnant (and succeed instantly, the whore). And now...I'll get a job in the Department of Q at Mediocre Institution, she'll get a job in the Department of Q at Mediocre Institution.

I feel like she is always watching me, always sizing me up, and always measuring herself against me. If something good happens, I don't want to tell her for fear she'll say something to undermine my happiness. Because she often does. And worse yet, if something good happens to her, I struggle to be happy for her and to not say something to undermine her happiness. And I don't even consider myself a hugely competitive person! With most of my friendships, I can appreciate others' superior qualities and skills without feeling threatened by them. Not this one. There's something about this friendship that brings out the worst in me. It's like my identity is so much at risk that I can only feel like I'm doing okay as long as I can convince myself I'm doing better than her.

Of course, her pregnancy and my infertility didn't help. She made a great effort to be sensitive, but ultimately, it was still horribly painful for me to be around her. And then we took that break, and after the kind of lame way we got back together, I didn't feel like telling her about my pregnancy. I sure don't feel like telling her about my early experiences with parenthood. And the two poles of her world are her kid, whom I continue to find completely boring, and her job, which I sure as hell don't want to hear about.

For these reasons, I really don't relish the thought of her being a presence in my life again. I worry that the competition will be carried to new ground: Do our shared students like me or her better? Do our colleagues value her or me more? Is her child smarter and more successful and prettier than mine (impossible, of course, but one worries)? I just want to live my life without that scrutiny and comparison. The whole thing makes me want to pack up and leave town...or just put an end to this worthless friendship. But right before I'm about to be her senior colleague (assuming I get tenure) is not a good time to decide we should break up for good. And it wouldn't really solve the problem anyway.

I'm actually considering taking this to a therapist, but I'd feel like such a jackass. Dear therapist: I hate my friend. Please help.

Anyway, thanks for reading and (I hope) resisting the impulse to smack me. I just wanted to let you know what fills in the intervals between applying antibacterial ointment to my nipples.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The recovery of the Bunny

Recovery from the C-section has been speedy and problem free (knock on wood)--no worse than the myomectomy. I was on my feet the day after surgery, planting tomatoes seedlings in the garden a week later. I think I'm 90% back to normal, and previous experience suggests it will be months before I make up that last 10% and no longer feel a little bit tired and a little bit stiff. But in general, the part where someone cut my guts open has been no big deal. It's the tits that turned out to be my Achilles' heel.

What follows is a detailed account of my suffering, which will be of zero interest. But shortly before your baby is born, come back here and read this, as it might save your life. Or at least your nipples.

Flash back to Bun Bun's birthday. By the time I got my hands on her, she was sleepy and not interested in breastfeeding. I was quite anxious that she make the effort, though. As you all know, if a baby--particularly one born via C-section--doesn't breastfeed within a certain window, she will die and also grow up to be a murderer. So I made the attempt without proper supervision. I mean, shit, I read the books, I practiced using the plastic doll in breastfeeding class, what more is there to it?

Here's what more there is to it. Two or three feedings that look reasonable (nipple lined up with nose at time of entry, chin far down, lips flanged out) can fuck you up so quickly that you'll still be unwilling to wear a shirt two weeks later. And sure, it hurt a bit, and I knew it wasn't supposed to, but it's allowed to hurt a little, right? And anyway, I was willing to take some pain for the sake of not having to raise a dead murderer. What a fool I was. I so, SO wish I'd waited until an expert was on hand. As it turns out, she probably would not have been much use, but would likely have been better than nothing.

Over the course of the day, a number of nurses looked at my latch. Some pronounced it good, others offered advice. Bloody blisters were forming on the ends of my nipples. A lactation consultant looked at my latch. She said my nipples were long (Shocking news! I'd been worried they were short!) and Bun Bun's mouth was small, so it was going to be hard. She taught me some stuff, and I had hope that things would improve. Trying to latch her on was beginning to really hurt quite a lot, plus she was hard to wrangle when I was full of tubes and unable to really move easily. But I persevered through the night and the following day. On day 3, our pediatrician stopped by and informed me that she had lost too much weight. She also said that this is typical of C-section babies because of all the saline they pumped into me (that is, her birth weight was probably a bit inflated), and that it's most likely typical of vaginally delivered babies too, but they go home sooner so no-one catches it. None the less, she wanted me to use a supplemental nursing system. They wouldn't let me take her home if she didn't gain a bit. With a massive effort of will I agreed to this without bursting into tears at the thought of formula touching my baby's lips on the third day of her life for no logical reason except that I was a total faaaaaailure. The SNS is a little tube that is taped to your nipple so the baby still nurses on your breast, but gets a bit extra from the fine people at Sim.ilac. It's a lovely invention for the cases in which it's really needed, but a huge pain in the ass when you are not comfortable nursing yet and your nipples are falling off. It adds an additional factor to an already complicated situation. Still, I did it. I wanted to take her home, so I did as I was told.

I'd noticed a little tightness in my breasts that afternoon. Oh boy! My milk is coming in! Perhaps in a day or two it will arrive, I told Mr. Bunny. And then, that evening as we were wrangling the stupid fucking SNS, BAM! Like a mack truck came my milk! The books skip over this part, by the way. They're like oh and then your milk will come in. Nature is a beautiful thing! They don't describe the fact that it may come in in a matter of MINUTES. Mr. Bunny was hilariously flustered. He was like OHMAHGAWD MILK! CALL A NURSE! So then I had rock hard tits and falling off nipples. The good news was that I could kick the SNS to the curb. They weighed her at midnight, and she was up enough that they reckoned she'd get the green light in the morning. And she did. So we took my aching tits and bloody nipples and beautiful daughter home.

Sunday: I decided to alternate pumping with feeding, in the hopes that I'd heal a bit in between.
Monday: we called the lactation people at our pediatrician's. We'd chosen the practice specifically for this service, but while I could talk to someone on the phone, I couldn't get an appointment until the next day.
Tuesday: the LC at the pediatrician's FINALLY showed me how to latch her on properly. Ridiculous. I'd done what I could to educate myself. I'd gotten advice from probably ten people who were supposed to know what they were doing, including a certified lactation consultant. But in five minutes this woman opened my eyes to a whole new world of pain-free nursing. I felt like an idiot. But I also felt deeply ripped off that so many people had failed me. My nipples also felt deeply ripped off.
Wednesday-Thursday: I experience the difficulty of recreating at home what I'd done in the office. A bleeding fissure opens up in my right nipple. I pump that breast exclusively in the hopes that it will heal. I spoon feed her the results, a messy and depressing procedure. A bleeding fissure opens up in my left nipple. I do some internet reading and conclude healing won't happen any faster if I just pump. I feed her on both bleeding sides, trying not to be too appalled when she gets little droplets of blood on her nose.
Friday: Mr. Bunny calls for a second appointment with the lactation people. The receptionist asks him the reason for our visit, and he utters the famous words: Mom has bloody nipples. I meet with the doctor who specializes in breastfeeding medicine. She is awesome beyond words, with a sense of humor and everything. She's doing a study on early breastfeeding pain and we chat about institutional review boards and informed consent documents. She helps me learn a new hold and gives me a prescription for a topical antibacterial that will help me heal while I continue feeding. She takes cultures to make sure I'm not getting infected. She makes me feel a ton better about life. We make it through the weekend.
Monday: We return for a little fine tuning. While my nipples are healing, latching her on continues to be a struggle, involving multiple failed attempts (which are quite painful), and frequent weeping.

Today: The scabs from the bloody blisters are almost entirely gone. The fissures are almost healed. I can latch her on with only a few failed attempts, and haven't cried since...yesterday. I can imagine a world in which life is not a series of painful and frustrating experiences occurring at two or three hour intervals.

Today my daughter is two weeks old. We relived her birth at 8:33 this morning. Our ups are so fucking high, but I want to be truthful about our downs. They are low. I know many of you have had easy breastfeeding experiences, and I would like to stab you in the face am delighted for you. I know many of you have had far worse troubles than I have (uh...so far), and I am now in a much better position to offer you my sincere sympathies. I know many of you--though most likely no-one who has read this far--have no babies to rip your nipples off yet, and I humbly beg pardon for what might sound like bitching. But to all those fuckers who say breastfeeding is a beautiful, natural thing, and who say if it hurts you're not doing it right and then fail to help you make it NOT hurt, I say: DIE, MOTHERFUCKERS, DIE.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The birth of the Bun

Thursday, May 5th, 2011.
After a restless night, I awoke a little before the alarm was set to go off at 5 and slipped into the shower. I'm a girl who takes long showers, and I like to sit down for part of the time. Sitting in the shower is where I did my daily weeping over the past years, sobbing out the despair brought on by every anxiety-provoking treatment and negative test and bleedy uterus. And every morning of my pregnancy I sat there sending good thoughts to my fetus, loving my growing belly. I found myself sobbing on this occasion, too. The idea of cutting her out of there just seemed so cruel. I imagine this could offend some of you who have had C-sections, whether by necessity or preference, and I assure you I'm not making any general statement about the procedure. And I imagine some of you who endured difficult labors or are still waiting for your shot at motherhood are also rolling your eyes--I don't know how lucky I am. But, for me personally, this surgery has always been a source of sadness and guilt, and never more so than on that morning. And it's funny--even looking at Bun Bun lying next to me and seeing that she's perfectly okay and could give a shit about the mode of her birth doesn't take that grief away.

The drive to the hospital and the walk to Labor and Delivery were bizarre. We've done that drive and walked through those corridors so many times. And it was incredibly strange to take a left turn at the door leading both to the IF clinic and my OB's office and get on an elevator going to...Parenthood. I was installed in a recovery room. I lay there in my snazzy gown listening to her heart over the fetal monitor and feeling her little movements and trying to keep my shit together. Soon I was wheeled across the hall to the OR for a spinal/ epidural combo. It's a strange procedure--I was very aware that someone was fucking with my spine (my SPINE, y'all), but it wasn't particularly uncomfortable. A sort of weird pressure, then an electric spark, then the sensation of having pissed myself. But, I hasten to add, just the sensation. I lay down and the foley catheter was inserted, noteworthy mainly for the fact that I got to spread my legs for a room full of strangers. And then I was draped and Mr. Bunny came in. He looked very handsome in his scrubs and surgical cap and mask. You look like a doctor, I said. I am a doctor, he replied. Now just lie back and I'll get started... My OB informed me that she was ready to make the incision. There followed a period where it felt like a whole lot of people were rummaging in my insides as though I were a suitcase. My OB was talking her Fellow through the procedure, but I didn't want to focus too much on their conversation. I squeezed Mr. Bunny's hand and he stroked my forehead. There was the occasional smell of cauterizing flesh. NOM. We're opening the uterus now, said my OB. A surprisingly long time passed before I heard that first thin little wail and I felt the presence of another person in the room. It's a girl, various people cried out, sounding genuinely joyful. (Apparently they don't get as many opportunities to break the news as they'd like.) A girl! Mr Bunny and I echoed, tearfully, sobbingly. They held her above the drape and I saw a blue, smashed, vernix-covered face and was like, What the fuck! What is THAT and where's my child? A less-than-romantic reaction, I know, but I strive for truth. She was whisked to the other side of the room for warming and checking, and Mr. Bunny went with her. She was a bit chilly, like her mama, so it was some time before he was able to hold her, and all the time I could hear her lusty cry. At last Mr. Bunny brought her to me. He held her up to me and I could touch her cheek and kiss her. Her tiny perfect face, her wee hands, her massive quantities of hair the color of my husband's, her great pools of eyes... I had worried that the moment of transition from fetus to child, from n people in the room to n + 1, from parent-to-be to parent would be dampened, perhaps into nothingness, by the nature of the procedure. But it turns out that it's bigger than that. Way, way bigger.

Meanwhile, something extremely painful was going on below the drape. My chest was on fire and it seemed like they were stuffing a pygmy hippo inside me, and it fucking hurt. I told myself not to be a baby--that women endured hours of contractions and I could take this, but I was a bit psychologically unprepared for pain. The nice anesthesiologist gave me "something". I came back to the present and was able to focus on my sweet girl. They finished stitching me up, lifted me onto a gurney, and wheeled me back to my recovery room, Mr. Bunny following with Bun Bun in a bassinet. After endless checking of this and that by nurses and doctors, they brought her to me. I unsnapped my gown and they placed her on my chest. She snuggled in, seeming instantly comforted. I was overawed.

Next time: The recovery of the Bunny.

(P.S. I swear I left you all really great insightful, supportive comments, but I chose to catch up right before the great Blogger fail. OH WELL. Just imagine what you really needed to hear and pretend I wrote it.)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A study in contrast

Scene: A dim-ish hospital room. A wall clock shows 11 pm. I'm lying in a hospital bed, clutching a tiny pink and blue striped hat, sobbing. My day-old daughter has been taken to the nursery because I wept all over her while trying to feed her, and the (useless, horrible) nurse has suggested we let them take her until her next feeding. I am unable to agree, but my husband sees the wisdom of the suggestion and says the awful words. I am feeling like a worthless failure, and like a monster, and like her absence will actually kill me.

Scene: A bedroom filled with sunlight filtered through curtains. A My Neighbor Totoro clock* shows 4 pm. I'm sitting in bed with my daughter snuggled against my chest. She's limp with contentment, and I'm euphoric, having achieved a virtually pain free latch after only five or six tries, having had twenty glorious minutes of listening to her satisfied little swallows. My husband is sleeping on the other side of the ginooooormous bed, ready to change her diaper as soon as she has a shitsplosion (which she has--she appears to be a reliable eat-then-shit baby), but I'm enjoying the moment too much to wake him.

I want to describe Bun Bun's birth in technicolor detail (um, not because I think you care, but because the more times I record it, the better I'll recall it), but these contrasting moments are pretty representative, I think, of what the past week has been like. My wee Bun is a week old today, the day after her official due date. (See her page for a last belly shot. Maybe. Who knows, perhaps I'll record the shrinking of the belly, too...)  Things are going pretty well, I think. Feeding is the hardest part, as I feared. Despite all my reading and preparation, despite the many so-called experts on hand at the hospital, I am a sad member of the Sisterhood of the Completely Tore Up Nipples. But after a meeting with the lactation consultant at my pediatrician's on Tuesday, I think I am no longer doing new damage every time I feed, and someday I might even get good at this, and who knows, even recover. In the meantime, old right tit gets pumped until her enormous fissure heals, and we make many sacrifices to the PLEASE LET ME NOT GET THRUSH Gods. I am so grateful to those of you who have detailed your tales of breastfeeding woe, as I was so fucking glad to have my pump ready to go when I got home, and to have a stash of hydrogel pads on hand. I am so grateful for the things that are going well. I have milk, I have a baby who loves to latch and suck, I am getting several two-hour increments of sleep each day, I have a husband who can take off work for multiple weeks and who has leapt into fatherhood like a...thing that leaps into another thing enthusiastically. I am intensely, overwhelmingly, indescribably grateful to have this child.

*Because how could you possibly visualize the scene properly if you don't know what the clock looks like?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

My family has never been one to celebrate Mother's Day, but I must admit, today was a bit different. I brought my daughter home, you see. Bun Bun is healthy and perfect and I'm finding it hard to believe there has ever been a lovelier child on the face of the earth. She was born at 8:33 on the 5th, and weighed in at 6 pounds, 4 oz, 19 inches long.  I am feeling quite sprightly, all things considered, though will be sharing the good and the bad in more detail than anyone will care to read in the coming days...

My Baby Bunny

(P.S. If I made anyone anxious with my long silence, I apologize. I should have mentioned I had no plans to post from the hospital.)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Bun'll come out / Tomorrow

Bet your bottom dollar / That tomorrow / There'll be Bun!

I'm sure you're all sick to death of wishing me well and are like HAVE THE BABY ALREADY SO WE CAN STOP EXPRESSING EXCITEMENT AND SHIT, but I made the mistake of finishing all my work, and find myself with nothing to do. So I'll show you the completed Bun Bunery.

Owl rug! The paintings are a fairy tale series my father did. They used to hang in my niece and nephew's room, but my brother sent them a few months ago.

Squirrel and bunny lamps!

The completed quilt. Although you can't tell, I quilted leaves in the tree and clouds in the sky.

And this photo is for Misfit. (See e-mail if you're like WHUH??)

There's just one thing missing from this awesome room, and I hope to be able to bring it home with me in a few days.

Monday, May 2, 2011


We're having our thirty seconds of sun for the day. I'm in the dining room, looking out at our dogwood, which has finally flowered. That tree was one of the things that drew us to this house. It was this week five years ago that we paid it a second visit to confirm that we wanted to make an offer. There was something about it that spoke to us--Mr Bunny loved that it had the same layout as his grandparents' house in Providence, I loved the sun room with the french doors opening out onto a downward sloping lawn where we could play croquet. And, though this may make you gag, as I walked through it that day I had a vivid image of our children scampering about, running up and down the stairs. That image was one that tormented me quite a few times over the past years, as I imagined us growing old and grey in this house, all alone.

I'm trying hard to visualize what it will be like to come back to this house with my very own child.  Quite possibly this time next week. I just can't do it. Or more accurately, I can't make it feel real. All that feels real right now is the bundle of parts squirming around inside me. (By the way, it's bizarre how there comes a time when the fetus begins to feel very much like a baby--somehow although I never know what's what, it's clear that there's something with arms and legs and a rump in there, very baby shaped!) Bun Bun is so safe in there, and his little movements feel so contented and secure. I don't want to be separated from him.

Maybe it's partly knowing that he doesn't get to decide when to emerge--ready or not, out he comes in a few days. It might make me feel extra protective. Maybe it's knowing that parenthood is a slow process of separation, that we'll never be this close again. Maybe it's actually got more to do with anxiety--I know how to be pregnant at this point, but I don't know how to be a parent. Maybe I'm afraid to learn.

Mr. Bunny is all athrill with anticipation--soon he'll be part of a triad instead of watching me be a dyad he can only enjoy from the outside. I know there are wonderful things on the other side of this door we're about to step through. Still, I'm glad I've cleared my schedule so I can spend all my time appreciating the last of this extraordinary, miraculous experience.