Monday, July 24, 2006
Warning: the following post contains somewhat graphic depictions of traumatic breastfeeding experiences. If the words “breast” or “nipple” offend you or make you tug at your collar, my first suggestion is GET OVER IT! and my second suggestion is that if you can’t get over it, don’t read any further!
I nursed Dear Daughter for the first year of her life. Research shows it’s the best choice for the baby’s health and results in less illnesses in the baby as well as higher IQ. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not a “breastfeeding Nazi” who shuns those who don’t make this choice. I don’t think I could have done it if I were working full-time. Those of you who have not experienced what it is like to hook your breast up to a milking apparatus can rest assured it is not a party, though the first few times I ever did it I thought I’d discovered a pretty neat party trick….
The first couple weeks of nursing a newborn are typically the hardest, often resulting in cracked and scabbed nipples. This undertaking is NOT for the faint at heart. But I made it through this phase with Dear Daughter and settled into a nursing groove with her that lasted nearly 13 months before she was totally weaned. It was an emotional experience the last time I nursed her. We were down to the bedtime nursing only for the last week or so, and each night I wondered if it would be the last until the first night she finally fell asleep without nursing, and I knew it was over. I sat in the dark and rocked her and cried even though I was ultimately ready to be done with the nursing thing. It’s just one of those “Mommy moments” that’s hard to capture with words.
I foolishly assumed that nursing Dear Son would be a similar experience. The first time I tried to nurse Dear Son, within an hour of his surgical removal from my womb, I was amazed at the clamp on that boy’s jaws! And he was all business. He somehow knew exactly what he was doing, and he was going to achieve it in five minutes or less. I also quickly learned that Dear Son could set his jaws like vice grips, and there was no prying him loose until he was good and ready. After a few months of being a voracious nurser he started having some impatient moments where he would pull his head back while pushing against my chest with his pudgy fist(while being attached to the breast). All of a sudden my neat party trick became something worthy of the Ripley’s Believe it or Not show. I managed to find ways to deal with all this. However, what came recently may be the last straw.
A couple weeks ago I experienced a clogged milk-duct and/or a clogged nipple pore. This is very painful and means that the milk continues to engorge the breast with no hope of coming out until the clog breaks free. Only that’s not the worst of it. Remember the description of my Dear Son with the vice grip jaws and the way he yanks back his head and pushes with his hand? Yeah…well even that didn’t do the trick, though it did manage to elevate my pain scale off the charts. The treatment for a clogged milk duct includes some rather aggressive massage to the breast to force the clog out. All this trauma was…well…traumatic. I will spare you graphic detail about the bleeding once the clog finally broke loose, but yes, there was bleeding. But wait…that’s still not all…! Dear Son also simultaneously decided to hit a growth spurt, which means he was up at least two times in the night demanding to be fed in addition to his regular feeding schedule. “Well,” you might be saying, “why didn't you give him formula?!” I did. But that's not a good solution. If you’ve ever filled a water balloon until it pops, you know how I felt. Except that, fortunately (I think), my breast didn’t pop. Though that may have been a less painful solution. The only real relief is to get some of that fluid OUT, which--save for pumping--must be done by nursing. So skipping feedings or substituting formula only prolongs the pain and leads to the very real possibility of an infection. Fortunately things didn’t go THAT far for me. However, two weeks later I am still in some pain.
Remember that this was all going on simultaneous to the events I described in the previous post AND Dear Hubby’s employer has had enough demands on him that he also pulled about three 16 hour work days in addition to his regular work schedule in the midst of all this.
All this means that, while I’m a trooper, there IS a limit to my sacrifice. I fear for when Dear Son begins to get teeth, which he has fortunately been slow to do. So I’m thinking I may not have a choice but to wean him early, which feels very sad for me. Not to mention I have no experience doing this, and I’m terrified of the engorgement and a possible repeat of the afore mentioned events.
Well, if you’ve made it this far, I’m impressed. And fortunately for us both, this tale of drama and trauma seems to be over. The end.
Friday, July 21, 2006
We’ve had some drama and some trauma the past couple weeks, but fortunately it feels like we are back on the upswing of things. I think the story starts quite some time back when our nine-year-old antisocial cat (not the 19-year-old geriatric one) began peeing in random places in the house. It began just about the time Dear Daughter turned two, which is probably no coincidence. I can understand why a two-year-old little girl can be intimidating to an antisocial cat. Each time Antisocial Cat heard Dear Daughter coming up the stairs (Antisocial Cat ALWAYS stayed upstairs except to eat and eliminate) she would bolt under our bed. Dear Daughter would peek her face under the bed at Antisocial Cat and squeal and think this was really a game of social interaction rather than attempts at antisocial avoidance. Poor Antisocial Cat was terrorized. So she apparently decided to lash back at us for bringing the toddler terrorist into our family.
I was on the verge of getting rid of Antisocial Cat much sooner, but then it occurred to me that I’ve never actually SEEN Antisocial Cat pee on the carpet, and it could actually be Geriatric Cat doing the peeing. After all, he’s the one with all the weird health quirks, including his current terminal cancerous condition. The possibility that Geriatric Cat was the guilty one threw a wrench in the deal. I’m much more tolerant of him, because we have a 19 year history, and although he IS geriatric, he is NOT antisocial. Hence, he at least gives a little back to the relationship, unlike Antisocial Cat.
Nonetheless, I could not tolerate the cat pee and the guilty party would not give it up, and I was effectively pushed to the breaking point. One, night upon finding fresh cat pee on the very spot on the carpet that I scrubbed and scrubbed the odor out of for the umpteenth time, I lost it. I flew into an episode of lunacy, carthartic lunacy, but lunacy nonetheless. I began raging about “killing those cats” and tearing out the carpet. I was done done done. Since we couldn’t determine the guilty party for certain, we decided they both had to go. Antisocial Cat was going to the Humane Society ASAP, and as hard as it was to consider, Geriatric Cat was going to meet his maker a tad early. After my outburst, Dear Daughter followed me around the house for a day or two inquiring, “Are you going to kill the cats?” Weary of the whole ordeal, I typically responded (in as pleasant a tone as I could muster), “Yes, Sweetie, I am.”
After recruiting Dear Hubby to deposit Antisocial Cat at the Humane society, which wasn’t easy to do, I was trying to make an appointment for Geriatric Cat to go to our regular vet for the euthanasia. However, Geriatric Cat lucked out. Our regular vet was in the midst of his own health crisis and would be unable to provide his services to kill our elderly feline for a few days. I couldn’t tolerate the thought of having more cat pee deposited into the rug, but I also wanted Geriatric Cat to have the least traumatic end-of-life experience. He’s been a great companion for 19 years, after all. So we decided to wait for our dear and familiar vetrinarion to do the dreaded duty. Geriatric Cat was then confined to “death row” in our laundry room where there is vinyl flooring and no carpet to ruin. After 24 hours in “the hole,” we took pity on him. That and his yowling was past the annoying point. We began letting him out for short visits under strict surveillance. Wouldn’t you know it, he never even showed a bit of interest in the area of carpet where the phantom pee-er did his/her business over and over. The vet’s office called a couple days later to inform that he could now terminate the kitty, but I weenied out. Geriatric Cat has been another week with us with no pee-parties. So we’ve elected to let ‘ol One-Eye (the other eye is occluded with a blinding cyst) live a bit longer. He doesn’t appear to be in a lot of pain, but he is growing rather pitiful. He’s happy just to sleep in his favorite spot on the couch, though if we are going to be away for long periods of time, he goes back into “the hole” to ensure against any big messes while we are gone.
This ordeal was only part of the stress of the past couple weeks, but as my tale is already growing a bit long, I’ll have to address more of it in an upcoming Drama and Trauma Part II.
Monday, July 17, 2006
We were talking about something that happened to me when I was a little girl, and Dear Daughter asked if she was there. I explained that it was before she was born. She asked what it means to be "born." I replied that it was before she was even alive. She then questioned, "How does someone get alive?" I silently wondered to myself how to explain the birds and the bees to a not-quite-three-year-old. It's a conversation I thought I would have about 8 or 10 more years to prepare for. *Sigh* Fortunately she was satisfied with a vague description of how Mommy and Daddy had to meet and fall in love before she could be born. I'm sure she will bring it up again in the future and want to discuss it further. That's life with my precocious little one.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
Friday evening Dear Daughter accompanied Dear Hubby to the store for a quick errand. This time she asked, "Daddy, why does the sun go up?" Apparently he fumbled his way through this conversation. Later he told me that he'd decided that the next time one of those questions came up he would tell her to ask Grandpa. Ha!
Dear Daughter also decided to demonstrate more of her sophisticated vocabulary Friday morning. She was busy brushing her teeth while I was busy putting away the mini steam-clean vac (comes in handy with a geriatric cat). As I fumbled about with the machine that had been left to dry out in the bathroom, Dear Daughter paused with her toothbrush in mid-air and said, "Mommy! You are distracting me with that!"
As you can see, Zachy is sitting up now on his own, with just the wee-est bit of extra support from the Boppy pillow. He is also trying oh so hard to scoot forward now that he's got backward figured out. Oh, and did I mention he's beginning to do a neat rendition of "Mama" that goes more like this: "Mamamamamamamamamamamamamama!" Yes, in the same post I am touting my son as both a future athlete AND a Mama's boy.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Here we are a year later, and the first voice is saying, "You were right!" and the second voice is saying, "I told you so!" and for the first time in my life, there is complete agreement between us all. It seems funny to me now that I would wonder about being able to attach to a little boy, when my life just feels absolutely complete in a way that it never could have felt without him. I was asked a gazillion times when I was pregnant with Dear Son if the baby in my belly was a boy or a girl. Mommies with two little girls or two little boys flashed envy in their eyes as they mused aloud about how wonderful it would be to have one of each. And I would say (rather flatly), "Yes...wonderful" as I walked away thinking about all the boxes of adorable baby girl clothes I had stored away and wondering why I wasn't excited over this boy idea.
The truth is, I always wanted a sister--a friend that was as thick and close as blood. Someone to share secrets and stories and giggles with. Someone to share clothes and makeup with, and someone to talk about boys with. My friends who have sisters reminded me that there is a dark side to sisterhood as they told tales of their childhoods and their sisters stealing their boyfriends and their clothes and just being plain old mean and catty, as girls can be. And one friend told me that I was having a boy because God knows what I need. "Just wait until those teenage years hit!" she said. Indeed, in all my work with pre-teen and teenage kids, I have always tended to much prefer working with the boys--except for the one that threw an eight pound monkey wrench at my head during a home visit. Fortunately he missed.
However, I don't even have to wait for those teenage years to feel so keenly aware that God did indeed know that my little boy is just the sort of nourishment my soul needs. And though I hate to stereotype, during this phase of Dear Daughter's bug-o-phobia I tend to feel relieved with some degree of confidence that my little boy won't likely share this fear at her age. Of course, Dear Sister-in-Law (a Mommy to four boys) reminds me that a different dilemma could arise: Dear Son may become infatuated with bugs, insisting on capturing them and inviting them into our home. Some days I actually think I could handle this better than the 110th episode of squealing and crying in response to a miniscule ant. Then I see a big spider or one of those flying black beetles and start thinking the little-girl-fits over bugs may be better than the little-boy-invites of bugs into the house (the voices in my head now have something new to argue about).
Then I consider that a brother and a sister could make great companions. I feel an indescribable emotion in the pit of my stomach when Dear Daughter shows her concern and affection for her "Little Bubster," and likewise when the Little Bubster grins and giggles at his big sister just because she is there. I'm beginning to think that mealtimes are going to be quite interesting for the foreseeable future, or a good five years, whichever is longer. Dear Son sits at one end of the table in his highchair grinning adoringly and giggling non-stop at his big sister while she sits at the opposite end of the table cutting up for his benefit--and becoming more and more frenzied in her efforts to elicit his amusement and adoration. Sometimes it all creates such a racket that Dear Hubby and I completely give up all efforts at conversation relating to the news of our own respective days. It's annoying and endearing all at the same time. And it also fills up some of the newfound moments of quiet inside my head that have occurred as a result of there being one less thing for the voices to argue about.