The perfect thought at the perfectly wrong time

08 April 2015

life is short and then you die

I just read a Facebook status that said, "One year from now, we will be on a warm, sunny beach!" And the thought crossed my mind, "Unless you are dead."

Ever since my sister died unexpectedly on March 1, my brain has been plotting people's sudden demise left and right. I keep imagining, though briefly, that death will snatch us at random unexpected moments. My paranoia that my baby could just stop breathing suddenly and for no apparent reason, which seems to be something I think about anyway when I have newborn babies apparently, persists even though Maya is more robust now. When I see some sort of reference to someone who has died, in news headlines or otherwise, I can't resist opening the article and reading more. I am particularly attracted to articles about deaths that are sudden and unexpected and not caused by someone's poor health or old age. I just don't get it! Does everyone really die when it's their time? It seems so random and arbitrary sometimes. One day you're here and then suddenly you're not coming back for no apparent reason. Nothing changed, except . . .

I don't know if my personal blog is the place to admit how morbid my brain is lately. I guess I just can't really understand the experience of death so well. When we worked and lived at the funeral home, it was just business. It took a little getting used to, but after a few brushes with the corpses, I was not phased by them. And I try to remind myself of how commonplace it is, because everyone is going to die. And ninety percent of the time (I don't know actual statistics), death comes to the aged after a gradual wearing down after a life well lived.

17 January 2015

birth story

Baby Girl, whom we've decided to call Maya, made it just in time to see the end of 2014. I'm really glad to not be pregnant anymore. And I wanted to account for her existence and the story of her birth on this here blog a bit.

I've been thinking a bit about what a big deal human life is. It's a crazy and intense and risky process to bring a person into the world, and once they're here, it's crazy how inchoate and helpless and completely dependent they are. I feel intensely the significance and potential of this little person's life, and yet it's quite a mystery to me. When I turn that lens on my own life, it doesn't seem to compare. I take my life for granted while being constantly amazed by the newborn I'm responsible for keeping alive. No one needs to care for me around the clock in order for life to be sustained. I'm just alive and sometimes it feels rather unremarkable and aimless. It's kind of a big deal that I'm here, though, still kickin' it.

I planned a home birth and felt pretty confident that it was the best place for me to birth this time, but you know, it was and still is a bit scary. In the event that something crazy does go down and needs a really sudden and drastic response beyond what can be provided with materials at home, it is risky. I think the chances of anything like that happening are pretty remote when you have a good midwife and are healthy/low-risk, but as with anything, you never know.

Now that sufficient time has passed for me to not feel like my experience was mainly just painful and surreal, I can say that I feel really lucky and grateful that this birth went the way it did. It was almost perfect in the sense that it was nearly everything I had hoped for when I thought about birthing at home. 

I went into labor the night before New Year's Eve, but I was in denial about whether I was in labor. Although the contractions felt different from the Braxton-Hicks I had been getting pretty often throughout pregnancy, and they were much more regular, I didn't really believe that my body would go into labor on its own. It was a trial of patience to still be pregnant and wait confidently on my body to do its thing. I haven't historically trusted my body to work all that well, so that was a new thing too. I suppose the denial was helpful for my patience, though. I got into bed that night with pretty painful contractions, the kind I didn't feel like I could lie down during, but as soon as Shep nursed to sleep per his usual, the contractions faded and I surprisingly fell asleep. I slept several hours and woke around the same time the insomnia had been waking me every night previous. Painful-while-lying-down contractions started back in pretty quickly, so I got up to do the dishes. I think by this time I knew I was in labor, but I thought it might be a long way out until I had a baby. 

Things progressed quickly, though. Soon, I was unable to keep doing dishes during contractions and I started doing laps around the house and coming back to the dishes in between. Tim got up to offer support and I told him we should consider calling the midwife around 6 a.m. I had no sense of how close together or long my contractions were, though, so I had Tim time a few. They seemed short to me, but they were lasting around a minute and coming every two to three minutes. When Tim called Rebecca around 6:30, she said "She sounds pretty close; I better come quickly." She got here maybe 20 or 30 minutes later as Tim was prepping the birth pool and I was kneeling over an exercise ball.

Once Rebecca was here and the birth pool was ready, I got in the water and kneeled in there without really changing my position much. The pressure was increasing a lot with my contractions and it was getting pretty tough. I sort of felt myself losing control so I tried to bring it back in and focus on my breathing. That helped a little. I remember that I started pushing and it was sort of a conscious effort, which surprised me. It also surprised me that I had moved through transition so quickly. Rebecca said my water was still intact and commented on how rare it was for a baby to be born "in the caul." I was complaining a lot, though, so she offered to break it for me to help pushing get a little easier. The baby was crowning at this point, and she barely had to do anything to burst my sac. She noted the time (8:11 a.m.), baby's head was born (I remember asking at this point, "Can you just yank the rest of her out?" The answer was no. I think the rest of the body was harder to birth than her head!), and the baby was completely born just 9 minutes later.

It was awesome. Everything went off without a hitch, basically. I tore a little and required two stitches with lidocaine. I screamed a bunch. I had some retained membranes (placenta), which made postpartum recovery the first couple of days a bit touch and go. (It kind of felt like I was in labor throughout the night on the second night, which I guess is only fair since I got to rest and sleep the night before the birth.) It wasn't perfect and it wasn't painless, but baby and I were both healthy. My midwife was amazing. I trusted her completely and I just have such affection for her and the great care she provided me and this little girl. I did not have to go to the hospital or leave the comfort of my own home. (The only disadvantage to this I could see perhaps was not having a maid service.) I did not have to deal with any drugs or side effects. Shep never had to leave. I could walk to the toilet and around the house. Now, a bit more than two weeks later, I feel pretty much back to normal. Overall, I think it was way easier and less painful than my experience in the hospital nearly three years ago. Some people have awesome experiences in the hospital, and I totally respect and appreciate that. But I thought staying home would help me to have a better experience, and I am grateful all worked out so I was able to. My body did its thing, and I had a completely normal and healthy birth. No one checked my cervix, ever, for dilation or effacement. No one told me what to do or when. We just left my body to its own devices, and it worked out. We are so grateful.

07 January 2015

another post about breastfeeding

I have similar feelings about formula as I do about medical interventions in pregnancy, labor, and birth. Succinctly put, it is amazing that we have the technology we do in order to deal with problems and complications when they arise, but it seems that the availability of that technology has made those choices the norm rather than interventions reserved for exceptional, necessary circumstances. I wish breastfeeding were more of a norm because I think it would make it easier for women to choose to breastfeed initially and to sustain it successfully. It doesn't help anyone to just say "breast is best." That only makes moms who try breastfeeding but experience obstacles and then give it up feel guilty and inadequate.

It's tricky determining the necessity of circumstances that require formula, just like it is tricky deciding when it is necessary to induce labor artificially, say. I read an article today called "Why I Chose to Bottle Feed" that I saw on Facebook. I had mixed feelings about the accounts I read. It made me feel a little sad. Not because these moms are giving their babies formula and I think they'll be scarred for life (they obviously won't), but because moms who want to breastfeed do not have the support they need in order to be successful. It is not just about the individual mom and baby--it's the whole system creating these structures that affect the individual. The system makes it way harder than it needs to be, so when women have problems, it makes total sense. They blame themselves, but really society has failed them. I have read or heard many, many accounts of breastfeeding being no longer viable for so many women who try, and I feel for them. I'm probably annoying to talk to about it though, because I feel like it is OK to bash our breastfeeding culture in response and also actively counter it in my behavior. Which is weird because I don't think of myself as an iconoclast. Becoming a mom does odd things to you. I've become one of those obnoxious women who see no reason to leave the room or hide my nipple when it is time to nurse, but it is totally obnoxious because that is socially unacceptable. I wish it weren't. My goal is not to make others uncomfortable. I just think, instead of adding more public-use rooms for mothers to go hide and feed their little ones, why can't we all just relax and respond the same way when a mom sticks a nipple in baby's mouth, whether it is attached to a breast or to a bottle, wherever and whenever?

I can also see that there are real advantages to bottle feeding. It really means that other people can feed and comfort your kid! It means you can feed an adopted child! (Though did you know you can nurse a child that is not biologically yours even when you don't start off lactating? And that it's possible to breastfeed after a mastectomy? The body is cool.) Formula is both liberating and, yes, even necessary at times. For example, I totally do not think I would breastfeed if I worked outside the home. Becoming a mom is the direct reason I don't work outside the home, in fact. It is hard enough to maintain your supply when you have a real baby on your breast, but an electric pump? Yeah, right. Plus, pumping sucks. Kudos to people who are committed to it.

But breastfeeding should be the easier option, I think, and maybe the expectation, but sadly, it just isn't unless X, Y, and Z. It is not a method of feeding your baby that is free of complication. After nearly three years of continuous nursing, I thought I would be pretty old hat with nursing the new baby. We are only a week in, but it has been surprising to me how different and not easy it is this time around. This newborn Maya is not newborn Shepherd, who latched onto my breast within moments of being born and seemingly never stopped sucking from there on out (which presented its own set of problems). This girl struggled to latch on and struggled to be satisfied with what she was getting out of my nipple for a few days. Now that my milk has come in, things are improving, but it's still a struggle. I can nurse lying down, but she can't latch on when I'm lying down, so we have to start every nursing session with me sitting up. (Sorry, perineum.) She is so sleepy and often is hard to wake for feeds, and is too sleepy to latch on without being fully awake. She has a hard time latching when I'm engorged. She just has a hard time latching, period. We took her to the doctor yesterday and she had lost even more of her birth weight than when she was last weighed on day three. Also she hasn't pooped since she passed through the meconium on day two. She's lost more than ten percent of her birth weight at this point, and I guess that's when most doctors sounding the alarm. "Give your baby formula or they will die!" (Maybe experts should say more often, "Keep trying and try not to stress. It will work out.") Luckily we saw a doctor who was not alarmist in nature, but that knowledge had me worried anyway. Is my baby not thriving? Is it possible I can't breastfeed her successfully?

Anyway, we're working on it. Sometimes it takes some troubleshooting and time. Sometimes it's harder than others. But it shouldn't be so hard that we're stressed out of our minds and traumatized by trying and overcoming the complications we face. Sometimes it doesn't seem to go the way that it "should," but that doesn't mean it is a failed enterprise. Wouldn't it be cool if we as mothers had this community of breastfeeding support in which people can openly share their different experiences, and where we have expertise readily accessible and available to help us work it out instead of telling us we're doing it wrong? That would be cool.

26 December 2014

40 + 3

Apparently I am the type of pregnant woman whose gestation period is longer than average, and also one who gains more weight than average. Last time I stepped on the scale (three days ago), I had officially amassed 50 pounds of weight I don't normally carry. My "due date" has come and gone, and those things are dumb, but am I ever going to go into labor on my own? I didn't before and worry my body will need prodding again. I was hoping this pregnancy would be different, and overall it has been, but this end part . . . man!

Tim has been off work this week, though, and that makes the days feel a little more tolerable. I am still in tears on a daily basis, but it helps to have someone here to fill in my slack. We were hoping he'd be here to help with the postpartum adjustment and recovery period, but it might turn out that his break from work will include more waiting than adjusting. We will see. But it is nice to have him here now. I am sort of at a point where I feel like I need more help now than I will adjusting to the new reality of having two kids, but that's probably a silly thing to think. I will probably feel extremely limited and inadequate and incapable once the baby actually arrives. I have gotten a few comments like, "The baby is easier to take care of on the inside than the outside." But Tim counters that kind of saying with, "Once the baby is on the outside, you can put them down once in a while." Hopefully the challenges presented by the adjustment to another little life in my care will be exhausting in a different way. I'm done feeling impatient or anxious or unprepared--I have lost all sense of having any control--and I am just trying to find ways to distract myself: physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Despite feeling like I'm revisiting an identical purgatory to the one I was in during the final stages of my previous pregnancy, I am confident this labor and birth experience is going to be better, so in many ways, I'm looking forward to doing that.

11 December 2014

oh, the toddler

I think this is maybe the nature of life with a toddler, but sometimes I feel sick of it. So much defiance. Almost every moment feels like a battle unless we are ignoring each other! He follows maybe one out of one hundred verbal requests, and even that percentage seems generous right now. It is getting harder for me to just pick him up and force him to go where I want him to go, and he doesn't listen even afterI allot him freedom to do as he wishes. Every time I get him out of his car seat, he tries to go downstairs to his grandma's whether she is home or not. He thinks it is funny to run away from me and then it is a game of chase in his mind. I feel like maybe I should just avoid taking him anywhere, but that seems bleak, too.

Sometimes he does things that hurt me and then laughs when I say ouch or reprimand him. He does not seem to eat real food but asks for juice and milk and sugary things instead. He constantly requests to watch TV, and I let him every day because it is easier for me, but I always feel guilty. He says "stop it" and "don't" to me constantly, and everyone else. He is quite the bossy little man.

I know it's a combination of factors that lead me to my impatience with this stage, but I wonder if part of it is this evolutionary mechanism to turn my heart toward the more helpless and dependent being who is gestating inside of me and away from the older child. I mean, there are wild mammals who basically forsake their young as soon as they are weaned (still working on the weaning thing). Is that a thing for humans? I hear people say sometimes that they can't imagine their hearts expanding to love two children because their love for their first is so great, but for me it feels sort of like I can't imagine my heart expanding to continue love my older child, and I would rather kick him out and force him to make his way on his own.

But then there are moments where he is so unbearably cute and amazing and I feel so guilty for not appreciating him more.

09 December 2014


Do you ever feel like you are not in a great position to receive advice? Probably because I'm quite prideful and am my own worst enemy, I feel like this quite often.

As baby time draws near (I wish I knew how near!), I feel increasingly anxious about the prospect of a home birth, postpartum recovery, and having two kids to stay home with and care for. The other day a woman in my ward suggested that I practice with a doll to prepare Shepherd for having a baby sister. Mommy's feeding the baby, Mommy is changing the baby's diaper, etc. Good idea, I thought, but probably it's not going to happen. I seem barely able to survive a day without the help of the TV as far as Shep is concerned and things just seem to be getting harder in many ways. I have been thinking and worrying (probably mostly unproductively) so much over the past nine months about how this transition will go for Shepherd. I'm sure I haven't done enough to prepare him for it, either. But I guess when it happens, we'll just go survive.

I've never considered myself a particularly confident or passionate person. I don't have a political agenda about breastfeeding or home birth like some of the women who make similar choices seem to have. I don't think formula is inherently evil, and I respect the experiences most women have with hospital births. The motivation behind these choices for me personally can probably be more simply boiled down to fear of the alternative. After my less-than-ideal experience birthing Shep in the hospital, I am more scared of giving birth in a hospital than I am at home, so a home birth seemed like the better option. (I am aware of the risks and implications involved with birthing at home, though, and I'm scared of those too!) I am more scared of weaning and teaching my child how to sleep on his own than I am of continuing to nurse and allow him to use it as his main method to fall asleep, despite the fact that there are a lot of implications and problematic elements involved with that choice too that I worry about.

I just wish sometimes I felt like my efforts were enough. I understand that almost all of the concern for me others express probably comes from love and good intentions, but sometimes I don't feel very receptive to suggestions, worry, and concern. I'm not doing this because I'm brave or trying to prove something. I feel weak and scared, and I want to hear positivity and confidence expressed in me because sometimes I can't seem to muster it myself. I want to hear that I'm okay and that what I'm doing seems to be working well. Of course no one else can really provide me with these things; I know it has to come from within. I suppose that's something I need to work on.

02 December 2014

lost things

Maybe this is TMI but I've been having nipple problems lately. I've diagnosed myself with Reynaud's syndrome/nipple vasospasms and I blame this condition on nursing during pregnancy. Probably women's bodies were not evolutionarily designed for nursing and gestating babies at the same time. I defy you, evolution! Consequences, though, have not all been pleasant.

This is all to say that I bought these nursing pads made out of wool in order to try to combat this condition. Wool is pretty pricey. Then one day I lost ONE of my boob sweaters. I call them boob sweaters because they're intended to keep my nipples warm enough to not spaz out. TMI? TMI TMI!

I was so very upset by this lost breast pad, which I had purchased just days before. I turned over the entire house looking for it. I couldn't imagine where it could be. I got depressed and instigated a fight with Tim because I was irritable and moody. I felt spiritually agonized and prayed that I would find the lost thing. And then, because I was in emotional turmoil and couldn't sleep, I wandered around the house around midnight and beheld the lost breast pad in the middle of the living room floor.

Yes, it was a relief that this lost thing was found. . . but . . . Tim didn't find it. I didn't find it. It just appeared. Its reappearance was as mysterious as its disappearance. Tim and I both found the manner of its recovery a little unsettling. He's started locking the doors more because maybe someone stole it and then came into our house and returned it? I have no idea. It's weird. Should I be embarrassed that I was crying not too quietly in the other room before I found it on the floor? Mysteries.

Is your spouse #1?

Over the past little while, I've noticed a couple of things crop up around the Internet about putting your spouse before your kids and how important that is to your marriage and for your kids, as well.

I'm interested in thoughts about this. Everything I have read seems to suggest that if you don't willfully prioritize your spouse's needs above your child(ren)'s, then you are in some need of adjustment.

I take issue a bit with this stance, but I'm also a little uncomfortable with my reasons for doing so. Reading what I've read has made me feel a bit guilty because I suspect often that I put my child's needs ahead of my husband's. Not intentionally, but I do so because my child is a very little human. He needs are more numerous and constant, often more simple to fulfill, more urgent, and he requires my constant presence/supervision. While I theoretically value my marriage enough to prioritize it over my child, I think in pragmatic terms it's a bit impossible, at least for me. We don't really have the resources to seek out a date night every week, for example, and I haven't prioritized it. When you don't have a free (or affordable) and reliable babysitter, it's easier to just take walks and hope the kid keeps quiet long enough for you to finish expressing a coherent thought. Sometimes it works and other times it doesn't. We just take what we can get.

I don't think it's realistic to think that your marriage will be prioritized the same way as it was pre-child. Is that just me? I justify myself by thinking that this stage of our lives (during which our opportunities to connect as two married adults are almost continuously interrupted by a young child functioning in his own dimension) is a temporary one. Our relationship probably won't go back to how it was before we became parents, but I'm sure at some point in the not-too-distant future, it will be a little easier for me to make my marital relationship more well-rounded. Sometimes right now, it feels rather like a business contract involving a parenting partnership. But is it so wrong of me to admit that my life is sort of about my kid(s) more than my marriage at this moment?

24 November 2014

another pantsless party

Rereading my post about making Shep go naked because I wasn't prepared reminded me of our very similar experience at church yesterday.

I usually don't drop Shep off at nursery. Mostly Tim does, and often assistance is offered by the five-year-olds I used to teach in Primary, one of whom seems to be one of Shep's favorite people right now. They like to help take him to nursery and did so yesterday too, but for unknown reasons, I decided to accompany them and even made a point of saying goodbye to Shep before going back to play prelude music. Cue trauma. I decided to let the nursery leaders try to help Shep through his feelings of abandonment, but he didn't seem to be comforted after several minutes, so I returned to get him and ended up taking him into Primary with me, hoping he would be ready to return to nursery later. The return to nursery never happened, which is too bad and a little strange because he has done well in there the past few months.

Shep did fairly well in Primary, though, and was minimally disruptive while sitting with his friends (my former class) for a while, but then I noticed that he was starting to leak through his diaper. In the matter of seconds that it took me to get from our seats to my bag behind the piano, which had a clean diaper in it, it looked like he had completely wet his pants with no diaper as a barrier. As I changed him on the floor behind the piano, I debated about whether or not to put his pants back on. I decided the lesser of two evils was to set him free with a clean diaper but no pants. He was self-conscious at first but returned to join the CTR 4 class fairly soon thereafter without much ado. At this point I was needed on the piano, so I didn't join him. I only could guess that the giggles emanating regularly on the other side were a result of Shep valiantly trying to participate in singing time with only a diaper and thus becoming the laughingstock of the Primary. The poor kid probably didn't realize he was the cause of the laughter though and seemed to join in happily.

tandem nursing

I didn't mean to turn this blog into one about breastfeeding, but it's on my mind today, and I did fairly warn you, reader, that I might try to start using this space as an outlet for what's on my mind. If there actually is anyone reading this, feel free to navigate away to more interesting Internet places.

I just finished reading Adventures in Tandem Nursing. This book has been on my to-read list for much of this pregnancy, but without ordering it from La Leche League's website for nearly $20 (I am not accustomed to paying more than $1 for books, so this seemed obnoxious to me), it was rather difficult to get my hands on a copy. I ended up asking my twin brother (whom I rarely associate with) to check it out from the University of Utah's school library because I couldn't find it anywhere else! I should probably be a member of La Leche League so I can get borrowing privileges to such titles and maybe be a part of a community with some other women who have had similar experiences with nursing. 

Shepherd is 31 months old and he continues to nurse. I hesitate to even describe what he does as breastfeeding, because while in theory it all seems like one and the same (he still suckles at the breast for all intents and purposes), I believe he stopped nursing for any nutritional needs quite some time ago. As others often seem compelled to do, I also feel like I want to state here that my experience nursing a child is so different from what I thought and planned before having a baby that it seems almost unimaginable that I ended up here or once thought about the issue as I did before. 

One of the mother's stories in the last segment of Tandem Nursing sounded a lot like Shepherd: once the baby actually arrived, he was jaundiced and required treatment under the lights, which he didn't tolerate very well. The mother described crying as the baby was crying under the lights and thereafter feeling sensitive to her baby's crying (I imagine that is not unusual), eager and anxious to do whatever it took to stop the baby from crying whenever possible. It was so sad to listen to Shep cry under those lights and be unable to do anything for him, so I sent him away from my room to the nursery and only went in to nurse him. Thinking about this, which I haven't done for a while, makes me feel like crying.

So began a nursing journey, I suppose, that reached far beyond feeding a baby from my body. Nursing seemed like one of the few tools I was capable of utilizing that would generally work to calm him. It seemed like he was always crying if he wasn't nursing. 

I never really anticipated nursing coinciding with pregnancy, but here I am at 36 weeks gestation and Shep continues to nurse to fall asleep (thankfully he doesn't often nurse otherwise). I feel like I'm at the end of my pregnancy, even though these last few weeks always feel long, and I am worried about how things will go when I'm no longer pregnant. I guess I just always counted on the idea that he would give up nursing on his own. I've never liked the idea of forcing weaning on him because I was too intimidated by the battle I foresaw. So I thought he would just give it up at a time when he stopped needing it, and that I would be glad to accommodate until then. But so far it hasn't worked out that way. I've been setting limits along the way because nursing hasn't exactly been pleasant the last eight months or so. It's been a painful and fairly frustrating experience for me, though not wholly so (I've been having nipple vasospasms quite a lot--perhaps caused by "dry nursing"--but ironically the one thing that seems to alleviate the pain is nursing, so I sometimes encourage Shep to nurse even when he doesn't want to!). But we've kept at it anyway. Why? I guess because it seemed more manageable to me to nurse him to sleep than to find another solution to get him to sleep. When Tim is here, I often pass Shep to his arms for him to rock to sleep in the chair. That has worked at times. Am I a bad parent for not teaching my child to sleep on his own? I often fear that I am.

I worry about fitting a nursing newborn into this journey that has been already complicated by pregnancy. Reading Adventures in Tandem Nursing was encouraging for me, though, because it helped me feel like it might be okay to just take things one day at a time with this tandem nursing business and decide not to make any decisions. There have certainly been times when I've come close to making decisions about changing the status quo, especially when the status quo seems pretty intolerable in the moment, but I never have the confidence to pull the trigger on the big guns, it seems. I hope that I'll have the courage to make adjustments when it's necessary for my well-being as a mother. I believe in self-sacrifice for my babes to fill their needs, but sometimes I'm afraid of taking that to martyr levels and endangering myself in the process.

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