the potty diaries

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We’ve been having some..struggles…getting Zo to change her diaper. Most days we’re fine. She cooperates.  No blood is drawn.

Tonight, however….

Tonight she was all piss and vinegar (heh), flopping facedown so I couldn’t easily get the diaper off, shrieking like I was performing major surgery without anesthesia. After I finally wrassled it off her, I realized the cloth insert was bone dry…despite having been worn for well over an hour.

“Uh.” I squinted at my scowling daughter. “Big girl potty?”

“!!!!!” she said, and jumped up. Off we went to the bathroom. Onto the potty she went. I sat down across from her.

“Go potty, baby,” I said, and she gave me an exasperated Look. “Pssssss,” I said, making what I thought was a helpful sound. Another Look, saying, Back Off, Mom. I’m WORKING ON IT.

(My toddler can’t roll her eyes. But if she could, I’d have gotten such an eye-rolling.)

And whaddya know? I heard the music every parent wants to hear: tinkletinkletinkle in the potty.

She seemed pretty cool about the whole thing, but this maaaaay be an indicator that she’s becoming aware that there’s a connection between wet pants and her bladder. Who knows! She’s shown potty enthusiasm before, only to drift away when it stopped being fun.

Anyway, she got lots of applause and cheers tonight…then promptly tried to run off without wiping.

Ah well. One battle at a time.

waiting for waiting

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We’re still planning on #2 in 2015, despite Mike’s layoff. We’re optimistic he’ll be employed by then.  And hey, if not — free daycare!

Buuuut seriously.

It’s on my mind because of articles like this, which support the theory that what a mother eats well in advance of getting pregnant has an impact on the pregnancy, which means I kind of need to get on it.  Certainly being deficient in folate and Vit-D is a concern; I’ll be upping both in the coming weeks.

Aaaand…I’m old.  I need all the edge I can get.  That means getting back to the best I’ve felt.  And the best I’ve felt was when I was eating paleo.

Oh, the paleos.  Vegetarians hate it, normal people wonder what’s so bad about bread/pasta/donuts, waiters roll their eyes when yet another person asks if there’s gluten in their iced tea*.  I want to grab my walker and remind people I was doing the paleos before Tim McGraw was, and maybe to get off my lawn (seriously, I just got that thing to grow back), but what’s the point?  I don’t need to prove to anyone what makes me feel right.  It works for me, I’m not surprised when it works for other people.

The biggest problem, of course, is that meat ain’t cheap, and I’m off one of the cheapest sources (eggs), and we kind of are on a restricted budget right now (see: layoff).  I’ve been cutting our meat portions in half and supplementing with rice, potatoes, and corn, but it’s not — strictly — paleo.  And I don’t have that buzz I got when I was doing the very strict, very meaty, full-of-fibrous-vegetables paleos.

Historically, I tend to use the day after my birthday to “reset” my diet clock, and this year’s no exception.  From my birthday, I have 6 months before we start “trying”, and if Zoe is any indication, “trying” will take a few months, possibly less.  When mom asked me what I wanted for my birthday dinner, I said, “Steak, please.”  What better way to go back to what works for you, then at the hands of your own mom?

And of course, there are two other matters: I want to lose the last of the Zoe-weight before I pack on another kid, and I want to get some exercise in, too.  We were actually doing a really good job of going for walks, Mike and I, during the first pregnancy.  Then I miscarried, and we cut back because of the anemia, and then I whammo got pregnant again, and between moving and adjusting to the current wee one, it’s been a yo-yo.

But I think — knock on all the wood — things are settling.  My physical therapist seems to think I need to get my back strong, and I agree.  So I’m going to start focusing on strength training again, and getting in my 7500 steps a day, and not go too crazy.

I’m a planner.  I like to plan.  For all its pain and tribulations, pregnancy is an exciting time.  Unique, surprising, promising, and sometimes rife with pain and fear and constantly needing to pee…but also great potential.  I hope we’re successful again.  I’d like Zoe to know the joys (and eye-rolling tests of patience) (but mostly joys) of being a sibling.



* You laugh, but boricha is made with barley, so technically, it’s possible!

On Large Families

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Large families. Speaking as someone who was lucky number four of four, I clearly benefited from one. Mom had a girl followed by a boy, and by all rights could have said, “Welp, got my set, I am DONEZO.” But she didn’t, and thus, you are reading this post.

As for myself, we’re probably going to have two and call it good unless there’s some sort of freak accident or immaculate conception. I’m no spring chicken, as my dad likes to say, and on top of that with #2 we’ll need to be considering the expense of day care.  Which I have been considering.  Often.

Which brings me to the aforementioned large families.  A Facebook friend commented on this blog, which asks “When did we start hating large families?”  In my case, when I see a large family I don’t think “oh, that’s terrible, what freaks, don’t they know about birth control?”, but instead “holy crap how can they afford that?” It’s genuine curiosity on my part. Does one spouse have a really, really good job? Do they have a live-in family member who watches the kids while mom and dad work? Are they living mortgage-free (did they inherit a house, do they live with family)? How do they manage this? How?

I am the chief number cruncher for the Paddock compound, and I can tell you right now that if Mike’s unemployment income evaporated, we’d be making some drastic changes in record time. Yes, we have savings, but I’m cautious of breaking that glass.  Basically, the worst thing* that could happen would be for us to foreclose on our home. To stop that and live only on my income, we’d need to sell at least one of the cars (possibly both), stop 401(k) and college contributions, and a whole list of other micro adjustments.  We would have to question visits to doctors.  Vacations would be few and far between.  Eating out would be maybe a monthly event.

I run through these scenarios constantly, and all we have is one kid.  If we had four, I’d probably be investigating EBT and other government assistance.

This is not unusual, especially not in California, where rent is laughably expensive and food isn’t much better, and having a large family means either being well paid or constantly checking the couch for spare change. And though the norm used to be very large families (especially in pre-reliable birth control days), it isn’t anymore.  We tend, as a society, to react poorly when we see something that doesn’t match the patterns we’re accustomed to.

There are people who will rant about “the breeders” and how the planet is overpopulated and why don’t you just adopt?  Those people have their opinions, and as one of the breeders they rant about I obviously think they’re wrong and can take a short walk off a long pier while wearing concrete boots.  But hey!  I have my biases and I know it.  Also, adoption in America is a) expensive and b) difficult.  Making a baby — if you are able — is comparatively easier and a lot cheaper, providing you don’t have complications.  Not to mention that US birthrates are actually on a decline, so congratulations, ranters!  Mission accomplished!  And while it may not seem that way, the truth is that a society that doesn’t replenish itself is a society in crisis. Just ask Japan.

In conclusion, I don’t think most of us hate or disdain large families. I think most of us see an anomaly and freak out a little about it, and a few of us (like me) are wondering how they do it. Because in this day and age, in this economy, it’s the only question I don’t yet have a good answer to.


* “The worst thing” in the sense of our personal finances.  Obviously, death, injury, disease, locust, and cats puking on the duvet are infinitely worse.

The Problem with Pink

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Slate writer Allison Benedikt recently wrote

What is it with you moms of girls? I have never met a single one of you who isn’t tortured about pink and princesses. It is a given that if you are a mildly feminist mother (or father, but more mother), you are going to do everything within your power to steer your daughters away from anything that has the stink of “girly” on it. I shudder to think how many pink ruffled onesies, gifts from less enlightened relatives and sexist friends, have gone unworn because America’s feminist mothers could not stand to dress their 3-week-olds in the color of oppression.

Yes, I’m one of the moms the author’s talking about. I steer my daughter away from pink, and I’ve asked my family members to consider a different color when buying her clothes or toys.  I have taken back onesies that say “princess” on them.  I am, according to this author, part of the problem.

But the suggestion is that I have a problem with women or femininity, and that’s not it. The problem I have is the suggestion that this is Zoe’s only choice for color in her life. And if consumers like me didn’t raise a ruckus, we’d never have options. Everything would be pink or blue if not for the hard work of iconoclasts like me.

Because, here’s the thing: Zoe wears pink things. Her Nana made her a beautiful, stunning pink quilt when she was born. I bought her pink gDiapers along with the sunshine yellow and light blue ones. She will undoubtedly get more pink stuff in her life and I will accept it because she looks cute in it and heaven forfend I stop my daughter from looking cute, taking a photo, and uploading it on Facebook.

What I don’t like is when I go into Target, and see an alarmingly pink aisle of everything pink starring pink with a side of pink…and nothing else.  It feels like Communism. In pink.

I also have this nagging suspicion that the deliberate “boys are blue/girls are pink” branding came from companies realizing that if they made things strongly feminine or masculine, they could sell the product again when a family has another baby of a different gender. I mean, uck! Who wants to put pink on a boy? (Answer: probably me.)

Fact is, I grew up with My Little Ponies and Cabbage Patch Kids, and some of them, yes, were pink…but not all of them. And that’s the difference: I had my choices. And that’s really all I’m asking for. My daughter should be able to pick blue, or yellow, or green…or pink.

But I want it to be a choice, not a default.

Experiments, Failed and Otherwise

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Life is an experiment.

And thus, when we created a new life, we decided to try some things. We used cloth diapers, and they worked. We opted not to feed her cereals, and today she’s healthy and eats a whole lot of sweet potatoes, yams, and squash instead. We tried to exclusively breastfeed…that didn’t work out so well. And we also thought we’d try a floorbed.

Which worked.  Until it didn’t.

We are blessed with a mobile baby. She rolled over early, sat up early, and started crawling way, way before the milestones said she should be crawling. She was standing with assistance before nine months, cruising a week later, and can hold an unassisted stand for a few seconds before she has to grab something or sit down. It’s basically only a matter of time before she’s toddling around the house. I’ll be shocked (shocked, I say) if she isn’t doing it by her first birthday.

We were also blessed with a strong home sale that allowed us to buy our shabby but unique and more suitable home in Oceanside. And with that blessing came a two-stage move that unfortunately interrupted ZMP’s sleep routine. She slept with us for most of the time we were in the rental, and if we are honest, she was sleeping with us at Chorizo house, too (though usually only in the early morning, and usually only if she cried for me to come get her). As she became increasingly more and more mobile, the floorbed stopped being the-place-where-I-sleep, and became the-place-where-I-play. The look of delight that would cross her face when I took her into the bedroom didn’t say “Mom!  I’m ready to sleep!” but, instead: “Mom!  You took me into my other playroom!  Awesome!”

And that is how the floorbed experiment morphed into the cosleeping experiment.  While she wouldn’t sleep on her mattress, she would sleep on ours.  And so she did.  For nearly two months.

Life is also a series of tradeoffs.

One of the tradeoffs I made when I went back to work was not being able to spend my sleeping hours chasing a baby.  I do not have the luxury of sleeping in if she has a bad night, or wants to cuddle at 1 AM.  This is cruel and cold and we can all rail against society about it (or rail against me, for wanting to have a career and a baby), but this is the truth: I have a job as both a mom and a game producer, and I need the gray matter between my ears to do both. I do not have my brain when I’m running on sleep fumes because I had to be up at 6 AM to make the 7 AM train that takes me to the 9 AM meeting.  Not to mention that sleep deprivation makes me cranky…and my daughter doesn’t need that Mom.  But that’s what I’ve been doing for two months ever since ZMP started only sleeping when she came into our bed.

There’s another, darker piece to this: I have a sleep disorder.  It abated for a few months after Zoe’s birth, but came back with a vengeance a couple weeks ago.  During the first 30-90 minutes of sleep, I sometimes wake up screaming and fighting invisible monsters.  With Zoe in bed, this has translated into me waking up screaming, clutching my baby, and trying to defend her from monsters.  At least my maternal instinct is to protect, but unless we went through elaborate efforts to get her to bed after I’d had an attack, there was always a danger to her and me sleeping together.

Again, we can rail against Western medicine’s inability to cure my stupid brain* and the unfairness of biology, but that’s life and that’s the truth.

…which is all my roundabout way of saying we have gone the way of most parents in America and bought Zoe a crib.

She spent 30 minutes crying after I put her down in it last night.  I believe in gradual extinction, so I washed dishes, prepped her sweet potatoes, and went in every 5-10-15 minutes to let her know I’m still there, I still love her, and she’s not going to die from this.  Doing household chores helped: kept my brain busy while her distant cries echoed from the back room.  Nothing is sadder than having a baby clutch you and sob, a baby who knows that if you’d only pick her up, she’d stop crying and go to sleep.  The maternal instinct to do just that is strong, and opponents of cribs and crying will tell you you should listen to it, but those opponents have never woken up to find themselves clutching a terrified baby and trying to fight off an imaginary Jigsaw’s puppet from Saw.

(No, I don’t keep evil puppets in my bedroom on a regular basis. That’s just my brain being my brain.)

When she finally did knock off, I found her sitting up and having fallen face-forward.  She only woke up once after that — around 1:30 AM.  Her father and I assured her we’re still there, we love her, and she isn’t going to die from this, and then left her to sob that heart-rending sob that lasted, oh, five minutes before fading off.

And this morning, when I came in to get her, she was standing in her crib quietly.  She saw me and grinned, and I picked her up and nursed her, and it was like none of last night had happened.  Just pure love.  My favorite snuggles.

The back and forth on CIO is nearly as stressful as the act of doing it. You’ve got people who’ll tell you you’re permanently damaging your child, that it causes PTSD, that your instincts are right and you should listen to them.  And you’ve got people who’ll tell you that babies need structure and they need to be forced to learn to sleep and that the brief flood of cortisol and stress hormones a baby experiences during the CIO process is not enough to permanently damage them (and if it was, we’d all be totally screwed).

In the end, I decided to do as my mother had done with me.  She had no monitors, no handbooks, and no advice other than what her own mother had given her.  And at the end of the day, she put us in a crib, kissed us good night, and closed the door.

Tonight is night two of the routine. We’ll see how it goes. It could be worse.  It could be the same.  It could be nothing at all.  But all of us will hopefully sleep well from now on, and my child will be safe from my unconscious self.  And so ends the grand floorbed/cosleeping experiment, which was fun and snuggletastic and I honestly loved every moment, but not with a mom who sometimes thinks ninjas are trying to steal her daughter, and not with a baby who just wants to crawl around the room because she can.

Oh, she can.


* Actually, hypnotics like Ambien do work. They shut down the nightmares…and me. They also give me piercing migraines and aren’t supposed to be taken regularly, and certainly not when you have a baby in bed with you.  I was on Clonazepam for a long time, but it had only about a 30% success rate, and it’s a Class D medication so that was a big nope when we decided to conceive.  I also tried Melatonin for a time…the minty tablets tasted good, but otherwise no impact.

I don’t take anything now, and just prefer to ride out the nightmares.  We know stress and alcohol contribute to them, but the biggest cause?  Fiction writing. Yes, I have a weird brain. (back up)

Rolling With It

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It’s the last week in our rental, and since we’ve gotten here ZMP’s going-to-bed pattern has gotten worse.  Back at Chorizo House she was actually “going down” with very little trouble; Mike and I would take her upstairs, we’d sing a little song and read her a story, she’d cry a little bit, and then she’d be asleep.

I don’t know if it’s the rental or teething or the fact that she’s crawling and sitting up and just so excited to be mobile, but lately getting ZMP to bed has been a huge struggle.  A two hour struggle, in fact.  We put her down, and she screams and cries and is completely inconsolable unless I’m nursing her or Mike’s holding her.  And because we’re in a duplex, we can’t let her cry; it’s not fair to the people trying to get sleep, one room over.

So last night Mike had to run an errand, and I was solo putting her to bed.  At around 8 PM I took her into the walk-in closet that is (temporarily) her bedroom, and I set her down to nurse.  Which she did for about a minute, then she rolled off and grinned at me, and started to charge around the room.

(I will quickly say: this is not a small closet.  It fits a dresser, a crib mattress, a box of clothes, two adults, and a baby with no issues.  I don’t want to give you the impression that I’m crammed into a 2′ x 4′ space, because: no.)

So I reclined on her mattress as ZMP crawled and cavorted, going to the entry (across which we have a baby gate), then coming back.  Getting onto the mattress is an effort for her; she’s successful two out of three shots, and when she was she’d crawl over to me, nurse briefly, then crawl off again.  And that was when I realized: ah ha.  This is a chance to spend time with my daughter.

Let’s look at it this way: she’s not tired.  She’s not ready to sleep.  She hasn’t seen me all day.  I may want her to go to bed at 8 PM, but she clearly doesn’t, and trying to force her just leads to tears and wearily trying to get a baby to bed for the next hour.  So why not let her play in this soft, safe space?

I think there’s something to the “she hasn’t seem me all day” line of thinking.  Call me crazy, but I think my baby misses me as much as I miss her, and when I put her down in that closet and sat with her, she decided to show me what she can do.  She can go here!  She can go there!  She can get this book and this cloth block!  And then she comes back to nurse, but only briefly, before she heads off to show me some more.

I think I’ve been too focused on “baby must be in bed by X time because the books say so”.  I really try to only take the books with a grain of salt, but that one, for some reason, stuck.  I’d forgotten she might want to spend just as much time with me as I wish I could be spending with her.

So tonight, at around 8 PM, I’ll take my daughter to her “room”, and I’ll play with her for an hour or less, and then at some point I’ll say, “It’s time for bed now.”  Because she’s still a baby, and she still needs structure.

I think I need to give her that chance, though, to be with me.  I think that’s what she wants.

Coming Home on a Friday Night

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It is 8:30 on a Friday night.  You had to stay at work late because of A Thing, and now you’re home.  You’re home, and you’re sitting at your computer, and the baby you’re sitting with is latched onto your boob and slowly suckling herself into oblivion.

You’re looking at Facebook. Your friends at work went out after their day ended, and they’re having drinks and going to movies. They’re tagging photos of alcohol. Drinks that look quite glorious. Drinks you would like to be drinking.

Meanwhile, the spit-up your baby sprayed on you is drying, and you are taking this opportunity at the boob to trim her fingernails, which, seriously, grow at a rate of an inch a day. The baby is doing her best to test the theory that children can grow back their fingertips. It’s a delicate process, clipping a squirmy baby’s fingernails.

You look at the photos and you think, “I would liked to have seen [MOVIE] tonight.” But you can’t, of course, because you’re sitting at a desk, clipping a baby’s fingernails, nursing her to sleep. Meanwhile, because you were so late, your husband is off getting the family feast — cheeseburgers.

Your friends will move on to other bars, other places.  They’ll post more photos.  On Monday, they’ll have stories.  What did you do with your Friday?  “I kept my daughter from becoming a  decuple finger amputee.” They won’t get that.

And you don’t quite get it either. Why it is you’re so content to sit here with the baby across your lap, clipping her nails, looking at pictures of splendidly manicured alcohol. You were not maternal in your youth. You liked kids, but you didn’t adore kids. Most of your dolls wound up with severe haircuts, a la G.I. Jane. You babysat for money, not because you thought children were fun and cute.

But this you know: maternal gene or not, when you walked through the door, nearly two hours late, your baby turned and smiled at you, and all you wanted to do was hold her. You were so happy to get home in time to see that. 9 PM is her bedtime, after all.

Your baby is now asleep. Floppy-sleep, too — the sleep where you can move her without consequences. Chances are she’ll stay that way for a few hours, and then wake you up. You used to love to sleep in. You haven’t slept in since before she was born.

But you also know in the morning she’ll open her eyes and smile. And smile. And smile. At you. At her father. At the warmth and security you create for her.

She can’t say it yet, but she’s saying it anyway.

I love you.

You have something to do on this Friday night.

Being her mom.

Supply-Sideboob Economics

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I have a running mental list of “things no one warned me about” when it comes to parenthood. Supply concerns is one of those.

I pump every day. If it’s a workday, I pump 3-4 times. If I’m off, I still pump at least once, but I try to give ZeMonkey the boob as much as possible.

Every time I pump, I dread what’ll come out — or I should say, what won’t come out.

On the drive to our humble dinner tonight, I confessed to my husband that I devote an inordinate amount of time worrying that my supply is going to “dry up”…even though I’d spent that entire day nursing our daughter, and during that time only needed to give her 10 ounces of supplementation (compared to a workday, when she regularly takes about 14-16 ounces of supplementation). This means my boobs are (mostly) working…I just can’t pump enough at work.

But there’s this anxiety that still follows me around, and settles on my shoulders every time I hook myself onto the pump. Will this be the day? it whispers. The day you stop producing?

Breastfeeding is a lot of work. When you produce slowly, or if you have a slow eater, breastfeeding goes from being twenty minutes on the couch to thirty, forty, sixty and more…and then you get an hour or so of respite before the baby is hungry again. When I told my doctor that Zoë would sometimes nurse up to two hours in the evening, she waved it off. “Oh, she’s just comfort nursing.” I’m now pretty sure that wasn’t the case; she was trying to get nourishment, it was just trickling out by drips and drops rather than the steady stream she needed.

I have tried all the galactagogues. I rather enjoyed eating oatmeal-almond cookies for a week, but can’t say they increased my output. The blessed thistle/fenugreek combo seems to increase production slightly, but that’s about it. I spent days of my maternity leave with my baby attached to me, hoping she would stimulate production. I drink gallons of water. I haven’t gone on a diet and I haven’t limited my calories. I massage my breasts while pumping, I nurse Zoë before work, and it’s the first thing I do when I get home. Still my supply remains what it’s been: enough to just barely feed her, not enough for her to thrive.

So when does she thrive? When we give her formula. It’s as simple as that. And that is a painful realization to reach if you’ve been steeped in the “breast is best” culture. There are women who would have told me to “try harder”. But those women aren’t my friends or family. They’re mostly trolls on forums. They don’t know my pain.

Far more are the women who have quietly come to me and said they went through the same. Either their supply dried up completely, or they had to supplement, or they decided they would rather spend time with their child than a pump.

I personally spent hours and hours doing searches on formula types and ingredients, trying to find something good. The make-at-home formula recipes freak me out; I’m terrified of making a mistake that will malnourish my baby, and I just can’t bring myself to do it. The organic types sound good…until you realize they’re all using brown rice, which has high levels of arsenic. All of the non-organic ones have GMOs. Basically, I can’t win. Everything has a perceived drawback. Finally, I just looked for whatever didn’t have corn syrup in it and went with that. I ultimately took the grocery store out of the loop completely, and that helped me not only gain back time, but some of my sanity; all my formula ships through Amazon Prime.

So hey, random woman on the Internet who may be agonizing over giving her child formula. My name is Steph, and I want you to know it’s okay. I want you to know I spent days and weeks agonizing and have now come to a place where I know that this, too, shall pass. Soon she will be older and eating sweet potatoes and egg yolks. Soon nursing will be something we do for comfort rather than sustenance. The boxes of formula will go away. The hours of pumping will fade. New challenges shall arise.

At some point, you have to forgive yourself. You can’t very well hold a baby when you’re wringing your hands.