Thursday, July 28, 2011

Twelve weeks

I remember the last time you were twelve weeks, little Bun.

You could not hold your head up.

It's odd--over the course of a few days, she went from lying there, a pathetically snurfling inert lump, to holding her head up for minutes on end, checking out the world. We have kicked Tummy Time's ASS.

You could not fend off ravening lemurs.

Those pesky lemurs.

You could not look contemplative while wearing a girly outfit.

She's so good with power tools she can afford to wear bows.

When last you were twelve weeks, I already loved you, though I was afraid to love you, for fear you'd vanish.

Then, I had no real evidence of your existence. Now I can hold you in my arms, so warm and strong.

Then, you were an enigma. Now you are my own dear daughter.

Then, I could not drink. Now I can have a margarita.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A harrowing weekend. But not that harrowing.

Thursday night, after spending the day in the basement, Bun Bun and I slept in the basement. It was a bit musty, and, um, scared the shit out of me, because I'm basically a two year old, but infinitely preferable to being boiled alive upstairs. In the morning Mr. Bunny came down and encouraged us to come upstairs, and I shrieked NOOOOO! THE MOLE PEOPLE REFUSE TO RETURN TO THE LIGHT!

We spent the day there as well. I mainly used the time to contemplate the crying baby moral dilemma. (Short version: it's wartime, you're hiding in a basement with some others and your baby starts to cry. If the baby keeps crying the enemy will find you and kill you all, so you [ostensibly] have to choose between smothering the baby to keep it from crying, or all dying.) And to hope with every fiber of my being that we would not have a power outage. The freezer is stocked with precious, precious breastmilk, and boy would it would break my heart to have to pour it all down the drain. But in the evening we got a tremendous thunderstorm. Mr. Bunny and I dashed around the house opening every window and door as the blessed coolness swept through the house, returning it to a habitable place. The storm passed, and still the power held.

In the morning, I was in a celebratory mood after sleeping in my own bed, and requested some of Mr. Bunny's fabulous cornmeal waffles. After making the noises of cooking for a while, he suddenly asked me to come downstairs in a tone that I know means SOMETHING IS WRONG. It seems that while we had not lost power, the freezer was not working properly. Not the fridge, mind you, just the god damned freezer, which was warmer than it should have been. Panic and buying lots of ice ensued, and the (still frozen) breastmilk was transferred to a cooler, which was then filled with as much ice as it would take, wrapped in a blanket, and placed in the coldest corner of the basement.

Then we had waffles, and they were DAMN good.

Then a man arrived to fix the fridge.

Then a man arrived to tell us that our water had just been shut off as they'd had to do some unexpected thingy with the ongoing water main repairs in our hood.


Although it was not fun, it certainly reminded me that I live a life of incomparable luxury. I don't have to go to work today, so if I lose my stash of breastmilk, it's actually not the end of the world. I have clean running water, most of the time. And most important, I don't have to live in a basement, hiding from enemy soldiers.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


It's time for another of those posts wherein I complain about my extremely luxurious situation.

Bun Bun and I are currently hiding out in the basement. It's not pretty, and there's a dripping noise that probably means our hot water heater is about to explode, but it's so coooooooool. You see, because Mr. Bunny works from home, I normally spend the day on the second floor of our house, while he spends the day in his first-floor office. But the second floor is unbearably hot today.*

Why don't I just hang out on the first floor? Because if I did, I would most likely stab my husband in the face.

At first, I couldn't quite figure out why I got so irritable when our paths crossed during the day. I'd be perfectly content doing whatever with Bun Bun (lately, being amazed at her ability to lift her head during tummy time.** I don't think the parents of the organism that first crawled onto land could possibly have been prouder than we are...), and he'd pop his head in to see what we were up to, and I'd suddenly feel an annoyance that burned with the heat of a thousand suns. Even as I felt it, I knew it was silly, and it felt particularly silly when he'd pop his head in with an offer to make lunch, or to take her for a while. I mean, what kind of insane monster gets annoyed with someone for being helpful? But I sure did. And feeling silly didn't change shit.

So I considered the fact that we'd never spent this much time together before, and figured maybe even the best of partners becomes a little suffocating after a while. But then I noticed that I was perfectly happy to spend time with him on the weekends, even eager for his company. So it's something to do with him being "at work".

I'm still not entirely sure what. Maybe I'm resenting him for having an existence outside the realm of Bun Bun? But it's not as if I want to run off to the office for a bit--nothing could be less appealing. Or maybe I'm resenting him for sort of being half in, half out. You know, not really primary caregiver, but not really noticing the difference between my life and his life? Certainly I find myself getting prickly when he tells someone that laundering the cloth diapers is not such a big deal, because LIKE HE'D KNOW! Or commenting on what a quiet baby Bun Bun is, because LIKE HE'D KNOW! (Though, ahem, it's not, and, ahem, she is, though not nearly as quiet as he thinks.)

Ultimately, it's probably a combination of several things. One, I don't want to spend every waking hour with my husband. Two, I want him to do his damn work and then be DONE. When he pops his head in, it creates the impression that he's got nothing to do, and if he's got nothing to do, why isn't he on Bun Bun duty, or why aren't we doing something super fun as a family? Three, my life revolves around child care, which still feels weird, his doesn't, a fact that might activate some kind of primitive knee-jerk feminist reflex.

So. There's definitely no way we could possibly exist on the same floor of the house.

I hope it cools off soon, as I'd like to return to my normal habitat.

*So hot that I pre-ordered the new-fangled swaddle strap. Because swaddling Bun Bun at night feels like animal cruelty, and not swaddling her is not an option.
**GAG. Still hate that name.

Monday, July 18, 2011

At least we didn't talk about the contents of her diapers

We had visiting childcare this weekend, so took the opportunity to spend some time by sans Bun Bun. First we had a massage, which was awesome. I can turn my head several degrees further than I've been able to since the second trimester. Then we went out to dinner, which was also awesome, as I had almost as much liquor as I wanted. We shared a half-bottle of wine, and I commented that it tasted good, which is a technical term used by oenophiles. Mr. Bunny showed his superior knowledge of the vintage by saying it tasted jammy. We looked at each other. We looked away. We looked at each other and said in unison: Froggy Jammies. Because, you see:

One of her preferred outfits.

Then we laughed. Then my milk let down. So, Bun Bun was never far from our thoughts, and we have proven our parenting chops by saying Froggy Jammies in a hip and upscale-ish restaurant.

I also worked up the nerve to ask Mr. Bunny how he's doing with the whole celibacy thing. He said I shouldn't feel any pressure to reengage, and that he'd read women didn't have much interest while breastfeeding. SWEET! I love a man who does his research.

I did NOT work up the nerve to ask whether the reason he's willing to forgo getting laid is because he finds me disgusting.

Perhaps next time.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Baby and not at all me

My husband and I often have our best conversations when we're in a restaurant. There's something about facing each other across a table and being removed from our normal surroundings that seems to encourage us to have state-of-the-union conversations. Or maybe it's just that I've decided this is what we do, and so I'm the instigator. Whatever. On the occasion when we took Bun Bun to dinner for the first time, the topic of conversation was my longing for a fellow new mother friend who lives walking distance from my house. After Mr. Bunny shot down my idea of hanging flyers (Because he felt it had a bit of a "lost cat" flavor to it. Ahem. He's probably right about that.), he said that at times in his life when he's wanted to meet people, he's had the most success by just acting on all opportunities. That painful as it is to leave the house, it's the most effective way to achieve this particular goal. WHATEVER. Obviously crazy, right? Clearly I can just sit in my back yard and eventually the perfect new best friend will find me.

Implausible as his suggestion was, I decided to go with it, and attended a Baby and Me event last week. It takes place at a former elementary school a mere four blocks from my house, just past the library, a lovely shady walk.

There were some good things about the experience. The other people did not throw stones at me, and I got to hear a ton about what nine-month-olds are up to, which will certainly be useful in seven months. But there were also a few aspects of the experience that made me grumpy and that had the effect of highlighting my sense of isolation.

First, there was the super obnoxious member of the group. He's a stay-at-home dad, and at first I thought he was just extra defensive about being the only male present, or feeling like he had to work extra hard to show how awesome he is at parenting because he has a penis. But as we went around the circle, the rest of us sat quietly while each person had her say, and he always chimed in with his super-knowledgeable response. OH SYDNEY DID THAT TOO, and here's how you fix it. So I think he's just an asshole. 

Second, the conversation fixated for a tediously long time on the subject of baby sign. NOTE: if you're really enthusiastic about baby sign, you might want to skip this part. The development of symbolic communication in humans happens to be something I know a shitload about, and the baby sign craze just chaps my hide. There's nothing wrong with teaching a baby to use signs (that we know of yet!), but there's nothing RIGHT with it either. There is zero careful research to show that it does jack shit for your child's development or has any long-term benefits. And while it might be entertaining to see your kid using symbols before he or she is able to produce words, I think the natural unfolding of language acquisition (which normally involves a period of gestural communication) is a beautiful thing, and why tamper with it? Hate on me if you want, and shower me with anecdotes about your child being so frustrated before she learned the sign for MORE, but you are not going to convert me, and I predict that this craze will die out just as the whole baby Einstein craze has. Ahem. So anyway, I had to sit there biting my tongue for quite a while, which was unpleasant.

Third, I'd gone largely to ask about pediatricians, and the whole room was mad about the very Dr. Jackass I vow to set on fire if I ever see him again. And as a special knife in the side, the woman who seemed most likely to be my new best friend (covered with tattoos, cloth diapering) was the most rapt about how amaaaaaaaazing he is. Sigh.

Finally, I ended up at the changing table with another woman, and we got to talking. She asked how my pregnancy and birth had been, and I told her it had all gone beautifully. But I found myself feeling really weird about just leaving it at that, so I without thinking too much about it, I added that the getting pregnant part had been hard for us. Turns out she'd had trouble, too. I remarked that it was a shitty experience, and she agreed. Then she asked how long it had taken us. Two years, I replied. Oh, that's not very long, she responded.

Part of me totally agrees with her. It's not that long. And I'm guessing had I pursued the conversation I'd have learned that she went through some major hell, and I certainly sympathize with her. But I also think she can go fuck herself. And in that moment I was grateful that I recorded my experience here, because when I'm tempted to write off my suffering simply because it was smaller than the suffering of others, it's nice to be able to re-read those posts, and to be taken back to those dark and painful days.

So...this foul-tempered and highly judgmental bitch has yet to find that new friend. Shocking, isn't it?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ways in which I've broken my baby

Seeing as how I'm a professional woman and all, which means I'm controlling and rigid, I'm trying to be as mellow as I can about Bun Bun's overall health. But in her brief lifetime, she's already gotten busted in a few small ways that give me a little peek into the future. A future filled with guilt.

1. It's HOT here, and has been HOT and will continue to be HOT, and we were a tiny bit careless about keeping her neck folds clean and dry, and she got a rash. So I was like I'll clean it off with some alcohol, and then apply some diaper rash cream. The rash went from slightly red to angry and blistered, in, like, five seconds. Then it peeled and is now fine, but still. I felt bad.

2. We have been LAX about TUMMY TIME. Perhaps because it has such a stupid name. Maybe I'd do better if it were called Regular Abdominal and Neck Muscle Development Periods, or RANMDP. Anyway, she hates it, and I was like so fucking what if her head gets flat? It will all work out in the end. But at her two month check up, we were told because her head is flat (which it totally is. Ooops.), she has a tendency to spend too much time with her head turned to the right, and her neck muscles are getting stiff. I immediately recalled having read about this in one of the infant books, and had even been paying attention to which way her head tended to turn for a while, but then I...forgot about it. The pediatrician* said she needs physical therapy or to see a craniosacral therapist. For the time being, we're drastically ramping up the RANMDP, including all forms of not-on-her-back time, like on-my-chest time, and doing some exercises for her neck. But DAMN! Be warned, friends. Tummy time is FOR REAL.

3. Vaccinations. There is something super special about knowing your happy, innocent child is about to be hurt and not being able to do anything about it. I made Mr. Bunny hold her as I just couldn't, but when she screamed in rage and pain and obvious disappointment that the world had turned out to be a cruel and heartless place and that her parents had utterly failed to protect her (she has a very expressive cry), I burst into tears. I knew it would be an unpleasant experience, but I hadn't anticipated how awful it would make me feel. I'm so glad we get to do this over and over.

Speaking of busted, by claiming that I had mastered breastfeeding, I clearly tempted the wrath of the thing from high atop the place, and got a plugged duct. Hot compresses have been flying, and I think I may have beat it back. But yes, your Schadenfreude is entirely appropriate and understandable.

*More on the pediatrician situation some other time--can you bear the suspense?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Gender-inappropriate pants

When Bun Bun wears clothes at all, she's mainly been wearing stuff I inherited from a friend who had a boy. The first time we put her in a pair of blue pants, Mr. Bunny sang the following spontaneous little song:

Gender-inappropriate pants!
Everyone's gonna think you're a boy.

And you won't get into a good college,
All because of your gender-inappropriate pants.

It's better with the music.

Now that we've taken her out in public, she has in fact been mistaken for a boy many times. I don't care a bit. I mean, maybe I care a tiny bit because I worry that the mistaken person will be embarrassed, but I am not offended or horrified or anything. And who knows--perhaps being mistaken for a boy will end up working in her favor. People will be like, Oh, what a cute baby! I'm going to pay him an equitable salary! And when they find out she's a girl it will be TOO LATE and she'll earn earn, like, 25% more than the other girl babies.

I'm not sure how much I care about the whole gender socialization thing, and I'm certainly not claiming there's anything wrong with covering a girl baby in pink bows, so if that's how you roll, don't take any of this as a criticism. But I did notice that the first time I put her in something girly (a lavender onesie from her grandmother), it felt kinda...weird. Like I was suddenly hyper-aware of her girlishness, whereas before she'd just been a person.

On the other hand...I went to the fabric store and came home with THIS.

Because, you know...CUTE! (I am at least planning to make it in blue. But that's just because I happen to like blue and therefore have a lot of blue fabric lying around.)

Not going to be mistaken for a boy in that.

So while I think about how to make sure her sex doesn't limit her (or minimize the extent to which it does), I've come up with an interim compromise. When I find myself cooing things I might not also say to a boy, like you're so sweeeeeeeet! Or you're so preeeeeetty! I'm careful to add And you're so stroooong! You're so raaaational! You're sooooo good at maaaaaath!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Breastfeeding and I...

...are now friends. We're still not besties, and yeah, it's one of those friendships where I'm a bit wary, never sure whether or not I can really trust her. But when we first met, I never thought we could be friends at all. I guess we've been through a lot together, and it's brought us closer. In summary form:

Week 1: bleeding blisters, increasing alarm, regular weeping
Week 2: bloody fissures, constant weeping
Week 3: religious application of my ointment, healing blisters and fissures, regular weeping
Week 4: religious application of my ointment, healing blisters and fissures, sprained wrists, occasional weeping
Week 5: the same
Week 6: the same, certainty that nothing would ever change.
Week 7: nothing changes, and yet, somehow it does. I feed Bun Bun STANDING UP. IN A BATHROOM STALL. That was quite a feat of coordination.
Week 8: I run out of ointment (see Figure 1) and am certain that I will instantly get thrush and mastitis.
Week 9: I don't. I master the side lying (or the I'm a giant sow with one little piglet) position.

I assure you, I squeezed until I could squeeze no more.

It's week 10, and it's still not perfect, but I no longer dread feedings. For whatever reason, things are great with Left Breast, but not so much with poor Right Breast. With Left Breast, I can enjoy the cuddling, watch Bun Bun's sweet little face, hold her fat little hand...With Right Breast, it's all about gritting my teeth and bearing it until the pain mysteriously subsides (after a minute or so). But still, a million times better than my starting point. And as many of you suggested, nothing identifiable really changed. It just got better.

Well, I suppose one thing that helped was being told that if I still have pain during the initial latch, it's okay. That allowed me to stop feeling like a failure, to stop panicking that I'd rip open my old wounds, to stop feeling like I had to take her off and try again a hundred times. And also being told that if the nipple comes out flattened, it's totally fine, provided it's not painful. That was a great relief, as nothing I could do would prevent the nipple from coming out flat, and the internet says it's an indication of a bad latch and a bad mother and a sure sign that your child will never learn how to read and will be one of those kids that bites other kids constantly. Otherwise...I suppose she learned a bit, and the crazy milk fountains subsided (around week 7), and once I was healed enough I could stop using the football hold which was hell on my wrists...but it's still a bit of a mystery to me how things went from pretty rough to pretty much fine.

I have a feeling that my experience is normal. I suspect women who have no challenges at all are in the minority. (And if they assume it's because they're just smarter or better mothers, may I suggest they kiss my ass. You know, in the friendliest way possible.) And I HOPE that women who have terrible problems with supply or infection or vasospasms or can never get the latch to work are also (on the sadder side of) atypical, but I could be wrong. I was never anywhere near giving up, and I think it's because I was spared those experiences. So far. I absolutely expect to have at least a few episodes of something yucky (Please let it not be thrush!), but now that the latch problems are under control, I feel like I can face whatever develops next like a man.

POINT IS: I think there's often a very rough initial period. And reading over my experiences (and particularly the comments on those posts--I was so deeply grateful for those) may be encouraging to anyone in the thick of it.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Planned Parenthood

[Why this post?]

I'd taken this bus to school every day during my last two years of high school, and I knew its rhythms like my own pulse. But I'd never taken it so far in this direction, and I was anxious. What if I missed the stop? What if I'd gotten the address wrong? My heart was hammering.

At the tender age of 21, I was on my way to my very first pelvic exam. My family had always been poor, and to us, family doctors and yearly checkups existed only in the movies. Health insurance? I don't think I even understood that it existed. If we got sick, we toughed it out. It had probably been a decade since I'd been seen by any kind of health professional. The world of medicine was completely unknown, and completely terrifying.

In the waiting room, I found myself in familiar company. Women speaking Spanish to small children. Teenage girls with elaborate braids. I relaxed a little. I relaxed still more when I learned how little the visit would cost. Along with my relief, I also felt pride that I could pay something. I wasn't indigent.

The nurse practitioner was unforgettably kind. During the exam, she told me to place my hand on my lower abdomen while she pushed up a little. That's your uterus, she said. Hello, uterus, I thought.

I left the clinic with a year's worth of birth control. But I also carried away a new friendliness towards my body, and a belief that there could be kindness and compassion out there in the world, at a price I could afford.

My story is not particularly sexy. There's no abortion following some awful incident, no tragedy at all. But my story is the common one. My story represents what Planned Parenthood does: make health care available to poor women. And poor women are not who some of us think they are. They are not any stupider or lazier or less responsible than the average rich woman. They are a segment of our society that, because of the cruelty of our social system, can slave endlessly and never get ahead. And when we think about whether our hard-earned tax dollars should be spent on these women, we should always remember that we rely on their suffering. It's their sweat that allows us to live comfortably, to have a cheap meal, to pay less than five dollars for a fancy coffee. Indeed, we make sure that they can never get ahead simply by the way we live our lives. The least we can do is provide them with low cost health care, and compassion.

To read other stories, go here.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Research and motherhood: They go together like peanut butter and...salmon

I recently looked for weblogs written by other female academics who have been through infertility. But it turns out when you google academia + infertility + blog (or related terms) you And I'm already my most loyal reader. My reason for looking had to do with the strange place I find myself in right now--not really a stay at home mother, not really a working mother. Basically....a slacker mother.

At Mediocre Institution, you get no actual parental leave. I am not actually on leave right now, I'm just not getting paid because it's summer and I don't have a grant with summer salary built in. And in the fall, I will not actually be on leave. I am "released from teaching and service obligations" on account of Bun Bun. But research is the main part of my job, and I am supposed to be doing research RIGHT NOW. I'm supposed to be doing it in the fall, too.

Uh, I'm not doing SHIT right now. (I dropped by for a lab meeting last week to touch base with my research assistants, but mainly I've just been keeping in contact via sporadic e-mail.) And if anyone on my tenure committee finds this I'll deny it, but I can't see that changing in the fall.

I am super burned out, after all that awesome depression. (Hence my search specifically for blogs by academics who had been through IF.) And the burned out has been going on for a while, so I'm not involved in any exciting collaborations, or working on tons of projects or papers that I'm enthusiastic about, et cetera. And then there's the convenient but also inconvenient timing of my tenure process: my file is in now, which means I'm being evaluated based on what I've done already, which does not exactly encourage me to work my ass off.

In some ways, I wish I had release from RESEARCH obligations. At the moment, I'd much rather teach and do committee work, which may require more scheduling, but doesn't require a brain of any kind. And I wonder how many other academic women feel this way. The adjustments my workplace makes for parenting seem so reasonable, generous even. But they ignore the fact that research requires intellectual vigor, enthusiasm for creative thinking, uninterrupted productivity... I bet I'm not alone in finding it, summon any of these things. And I'm wondering if my colleagues who seem to return to work without missing a beat are just better researchers than I am, or if they are hiding the fact that they feel this way too. I now know that many of them were hiding the fact that pregnancy was hard on them.

And I have to tell you, the role of slacker mother is not a totally desirable one. I have the work of a stay at home mother (all the household chores, the primary care-giving during the week) while also having to feel guilty about being a slacker. I find myself resenting my husband for sticking me with, say, the laundry, because goddammit, I'm a PROFESSOR, but of course, there's no evidence of that whatsoever.

If you're rolling your eyes and thinking So just work already! Well, see the part about being totally burned out. Or if you're thinking I should quit, well, I have to wait to see whether my feelings about my career have actually have changed for good, and there's also the fact that I've got a contract. And if you're thinking I should do neither and stop feeling guilty, well, that sounds awesome. How do I do that? Teach me to have perfect control over my feelings, OH WISE ONE.

And if you're thinking this is super boring and I don't relate to any of it at all, I don't blame you. This is absolutely one of those posts I warned you about, where my problems don't look like problems to anyone but me.*

Except perhaps to other women in the same situation. So if you happen to know where all the post-infertility pre-tenure academic bloggers are hiding, feel free to point me in that direction.

*Particularly not to women who have to return to work after six weeks and would kill for a little more time with their child. I really don't know how you do it.