Valentine’s Day 2014

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Hooray, it’s Valentine’s Day! We are going to celebrate by staying home. And I love it.

It hasn’t always been this way. In fact, the venue we used for our rehearsal dinner was also the site of our 2010 Valentine’s Day dinner. And we had some memorable V-Day dinners in St. Louis.  But since, oh, 2011? I think? We haven’t really gone out for Valentine’s Day, and there’s a really good reason for that: the service almost universally sucks.

No, it’s not the staff’s fault. They are busting their asses to cook, plate, and bring forth the feast.  But they are also overwhelmed and overbooked; at max capacity and struggling to stay above water and out of the weeds.  I can see it in their eyes, and in the plating. Valentine’s Day is all about profit to the restaurant biz; putting asses in seats and then getting them to order off the prix fixe menu. And even when the service doesn’t suck, you eat your meal feeling like at any moment the manager is going to show up and give you a Meaningful Look while tapping on her watch.

I don’t blame them.  This is America.  This is what we do.  This is what we did, until the year we didn’t.

The year we decided to stay in and enjoy an easy but luxurious meal was the year I started really enjoying my Valentine’s Day dinner. I always pick foodstuffs that are simple, but a bit of a splurge. Scallops one year, steak another, and tonight — cheese. We’re doing a three-cheese plate with some meat and some bread, maybe some pickled onions, jam, honey, nuts, and sliced strawberries, and a simple frozen dessert.  All decadent, but nothing crazy, and nothing I have to cook.  There will also be wine.  Perhaps even Prosecco.  And a baby.  Who will probably eat all the strawberries.

Because the trick, we found, is not to go out on Valentine’s Day: it’s to go out a day or two after.

And on Sunday, that’s what we’ll do. We’ll have dinner with friends, then retire to a nice upscale bar we like in the Gaslamp District, at a hotel we stayed at for a weekend.  We did a Valentine’s Weekend (well, a President’s Day Weekend) there in 2012, sort of a mini-babymoon (one of two), and had a hell of a good time drinking, loving, strolling the streets, and being a ridiculously happy couple.

We’ll gather up the memory of that wonderful weekend as we enjoy our cocktails and each other’s company, and as we tink a glass (or two), we’ll share a kiss, and a “Happy Valentine’s Day, honey.” And that, my friends, is this boring ol’ sentimental couple for you.

Classy drinkin’ at the US Grant. (Photo quality thanks to my old iPhone.)

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.

of faithlessness and ragù

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I haven’t cooked — really cooked — in a long, long while.

A few weeks ago, we decided we had to move very quickly to avoid a steep (five figures) leaseback.  This was an unexpected kink in our home sale, and needless to say a story in and of itself, but what it comes down to is this: three days after getting back from a long weekend trip to Austin (which was fantastic), we packed up all our stuff, crammed it into a pair of 16′ SAMs (like PODs, only they’re SAMs), and moved into a rental.  Fun!

So now our new old home is being renovated, our old new home is no longer ours, and we are in limbo in someone’s vacation home…but at least the kitchen is sweet!

I got to cook today.  Really cook.  I got to play with a sauce technique I’d been wanting to try: take a tough cut of meat, chop it fine, brown it with aromatics (in this case, minced — yes, minced — onions and carrots and spices), and cook in a generous amount of gelatinous homemade stock.  Let it boil down, down, down until it bubbles like syrup and coats a spoon.  Then keep repeating until the meat is tender and melting.

What you get is…ragù.  The real deal.  Not the commercial sugar paste in a jar, but a thick, food-cloaking, hearty affair you only need a little of to make all right with the world.

Of course, I ruined it with too many strained tomatoes…but next time, I shall have faith in the ragù and see where it leads me.  I suspect to greatness.  Lynne adds cream to hers, right at the end.  I expect this would have been heavenly.

I’m also being a bit harsh when I say “ruined it”.  I did wind up with a very pleasant meat sauce.  My dinner guests enjoyed what they ate, and I did, too.  It is a sauce I am very familiar with; I could likely cook it in my sleep with one arm tied behind my back.  It is an old friend, a pleasant dinner companion…but the time has come.  I would like to make another sauce, now.

Next time, my darlings.  Possibly even next weekend.

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.

The Mom I Thought I’d Be

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So here we are at the final day of maternity leave*, and I wouldn’t say the time has “flown by”, but it has certainly passed.

It’s been an adventure.  Not just the maternity leave, but also the stuff leading up to it.  I had planned to do certain things with my daughter, and they’ve all pretty much been blown out of the water.  I nurse and pump, but I also supplement because of an insufficient supply**.  We co-sleep, but the baby’s been moved to Mike’s side of the bed because of my night terrors.  I bought a ringsling, but she was too small to ride around in it initially, and lately I’ve had no use for one.  We cloth diaper, but…well, actually, that’s worked out just fine.

Zoë is the light of her mother and father’s life.  Our daughter has grown from a jaundiced little 5 lb 15 oz squirt to a nearly-11-lb nubbin who is currently ahhh-WHOOing at the mobile in her Pack n’ Play.  The ahhh-WHOOs are cute, but they also signal an imminent meltdown. I need to pick her up soon.

On my end, I am mysteriously more weepy whenever I see a pregnant woman on TV.  I’ve been re-watching my way through Scrubs while nursing, and Carla’s storyline (c-section, postpartum depression, trouble nursing) hit a nerve.  I know it’s just a show, but there are echoes of my own experience in there.  And if at any time I see an image of a preemie covered in wires and tubes, I start to sob.  I remember trying to hold my daughter in those first days, my daughter covered in wires and tubes, so helpless and tiny, her heartbeat beeping on a monitor, and — yep, there are the tears.

I’m not the Mom I thought I’d be.  I didn’t think I’d be setting up a subscribe and save for formula on Amazon.  I didn’t think I’d be looking at a scar every time I take my pants off.  I didn’t think I’d still be trying to figure out the %@&#ing ringsling.  But then, the Mom I thought I’d be had it pretty easy.  She was kind of boring.

The Mom I am is the woman who can pick up a fussy, ahhh-WHOOing girl and have her quiet immediately, just because I’m holding her.

I love my daughter.  The Mom I thought I’d be could never know how powerful that statement would become to her.

Zoe and Her Mom

* I still have 3 weeks of CA Paid Family Leave, but I’ll be using those throughout the year to do family stuff. The 12-week block I took starting April 2nd ends today.

** “Why?” she asked, because she can’t stop doing that. Is it because I didn’t nurse my daughter in the first 24 hours? Is it because leftie didn’t get stimulated enough on account of big boob/tiny baby syndrome? Is it because I’m olllld? We can only guess. We’ll never really know. All that matters is we’re healthy and life goes on.

Getting Your Nesting On

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Arguably, I didn’t get a chance to “nest”…except that I did.  Back in November/December. That was when things went on sale and I went a little crazy buying up supplies. At the time I even thought to myself, “This is crazy. She’s not coming for four months or more! I’m being a crazy person.” And then I went right on doing it.

And as it turns out: it wasn’t crazy. By the end of January I had two changing tables (one upstairs, one down) all set up and ready to go with diapers, clothing, blankets, cloth wipes, and burp cloths. I had all the clothes friends had donated sorted and hung by the end of February. We had a co-sleeper set up at around the same time which…I mainly used for my laundry, because I’m a terrible person who never puts her laundry away. YES SORRY MOM IT’S TRUE. I’m in my late 30s, and I still leave my laundry in the basket, unfolded, wrinkling as it cools.

(Rest assured: it’s not used for laundry anymore. The cosleeper is next to me and at night, Zoë sleeps in it and reassures me by snoring along with her daddy.)

In February I bought a breastpump, despite the fact that at the time I thought things were going swimmingly and that we wouldn’t need it ’til I went back to work. But I thought, hey, buy it now, won’t have to remember to buy it later. Me and that breastpump have become very good friends, let me tell you.

And taxes. I did our taxes in March. Even though we owed money. Because I could.

I installed the baby carseat two weeks before she showed up, and the day we went to the hospital my brother-in-law (who is a police officer) inspected it. Okay, that one was cutting it a little close, but it still counts.

What we’re really lacking? Maternity bras and tops. I have one bra, two tops, and I’m reluctant to buy more because…I am always reluctant to buy more. I had no problem buying Zoë more bottles and diapers when it became clear we needed them, but you can’t get me to spend a red cent on my own clothes. It requires Mike’s scowl or my mother’s pleading to get me to do it. Have I mentioned I’m obstinate?

So what I’m saying is that, despite having felt like we weren’t prepared for our bundle of joy…we kind of were. I wasn’t spending her first days home sorting out clothes or figuring out where we were going to change her — all that was done. I didn’t have to spend time at the hospital chasing down a breastpump or figuring out what we were going to do when we got home — I had it ready to go, to her immense benefit. And I didn’t spend any time thinking oh god our taxes are due. They were already handled.

Just goes to show…if your nesting urge kicks in months early, listen to it. It may be smarter than you.

the Incredible Sleeping Zoë

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Zoë is sleeping in my lap.  Mike is going to bed.  I’ll be up at 3, 6, and 9 to feed Zoë.

Nursing is going slowly. Four days in the NICU meant our daughter started life with a bottle in her mouth. Her low birth weight (our girl was definitely a “green apple”) plus the jaundice has instilled a certain fear of exclusive breastfeeding in me. Additionally there were, um, size problems in the beginning (my baby is tiny, my breasts are not, you do the math).

Nowadays size isn’t the issue: drowsiness is. As much as I want to nurse my daughter, I worry about her getting enough to eat; nursing tends to knock her out almost instantly. Like, two gulps and she’s asleep, and it takes half an hour for me to wake her up again. No bueno when your daughter is already underweight, and really, really needs those two ounces at each 2-3 hour feeding.

So we compromise. I nurse until she falls asleep, and then we break out the bottle with the pumped milk. She doesn’t have any problem finding the boob, and her latching on has gotten much better…when she’s awake enough to do so. She’s still a very sleepy baby. We expect this is due to her being early and jaundiced, and so I’m waiting for her to “wake up” a bit more before I transition to exclusively nursing.

A week from tomorrow she’ll be three weeks old. More importantly, she’ll be “full term” then. We’ve watched as she’s gradually become more and more alert, but it still is sometimes a huge effort to get her awake and actively nursing. Until she’s more present, we’ll continue to bottle feed and I’ll continue to pump to keep up supply. Starving a baby this sleepy is just not something I can or should do.

And there is another upside to this: her dad and family get to help with feedings. Though I feed her a lot of the time, she also gets to spend that time with others. And I get much-needed sleep. It works, in its own way.

Waiting for Zoe

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At some point on Sunday, when we were still in a holding pattern, I opened my mouth and said with a complete lack of irony that we were “waiting for Zoe”.

It took four days to “get” Zoe, and during that time I spent many hours in the NICU feeding, holding, and getting comfortable with her. I held her as much as the IVs and the blue light therapy windows let me. Toward the end I made a point of showing up for every feeding with at least some pumped colostrum or breast milk, because I knew in my bones it would help.  At first it was only 3ml, then it was 10ml, and toward the end I had a full ounce. Getting her away from formula was one of the tangible, helpful things that I knew only I could do, and so I did it.

Waiting would have been harder if I’d been less exhausted; as it was, my own fatigue kept me in and out of consciousness for the first part of the hospital stay. From Saturday night to Monday afternoon, I didn’t eat — wasn’t allowed to — and I didn’t walk until Monday evening. Sleep came fitfully. I didn’t want sleep. I wanted my daughter.

The L&D nurses were incredibly kind. I’m sure it’s fair to say they’ve seen all this before and will see it all again and I wasn’t anything new to them. The NICU nurses blew me away with how confident they were with even the tiniest tiny baby, but of course they have to be. Even though people who see Zoe now say, “Oh, she’s so little!” — compared to some of the babies in the NICU, she looks like a linebacker. She was the biggest baby in the NICU at that time, and she was six pounds, three ounces when we took her home.

I made it clear to the NICU nurses that I’d never held a newborn before (I really haven’t, aside from very brief moments with my friend’s children), that I felt awkward and uncertain, and they quickly swooped in to help. It’s fair to say that most of the confidence I have now with handling Zoe comes from the hours I spent there, with several extremely capable women holding my hand and showing me how it’s done.

For all that, I also found the NICU frustrating. At times it seemed like there was no good reason for Zoe to be there, and toward the end an error in her chart (“apnea” — it was intended for another infant’s chart) almost kept her there another night, compounding the sense that this was a formality, not a necessity. The initial reason — her glucose levels — resolved in less than 10 hours. The extended reason — a blood culture that took 48 hours — turned out to be nothing.

So in the end, my daughter was in the NICU for no truly good reason other than a doctor decided she should be there. I know this is just how hospitals work, especially in the case of little, little babies. Take no chances. I wouldn’t want them to risk my daughter’s health just because I’m obstinate and a bit impatient.

It’s still incredibly frustrating. When I see the fading blood pricks on my daughter’s heels, or the remnants of tape around her ankles, I’m reminded that we spent our first 24 hours apart….

…and then I make up for it by holding her as much as possible. It’s all I can do.

We’ve stopped waiting. We are home and safe. The hospital did its job.

Now it’s time for me to do mine.