Wednesday, May 21, 2008


The bath: the aftermath
Originally uploaded by karijean
We gave Howie his first bath. He didn't hate it (he hates dirty diapers a whole lot more--and I can't say I disagree with him) but he did have a "what the hell?" look on his face for most of it. Which was pretty funny in and of itself.

What he doesn't know yet is that his grandparents just bought a house. Fifteen blocks from here. They came to visit their newest grandchild and left with a new house. That is, the house is still here, but by the time they left, ten days after they'd arrived, they had made an offer, and had it accepted, for a house that is literally down the street.

I don't know why this should surprise me. I learned to say, "A kitchen gut remodel six weeks before I'm due? Sure! Let's start tomorrow!" from somewhere.

Plus, my parents have a history of calling up their children and saying, "Guess what? we've bought/sold/remodeled a house!" So really, the only thing different is that this time I saw it happen. And I was still amazed.

So now, in the space of a spring, my sister and nephew moved here, my son was born, and my parents are moving here. One more addition to Portland's tax base and the city is going to give me a set of china.

I'm excited. I'm excited for the cousins to know each other as more than once-a-year relatives. I'm excited for my son to have a relationship with his grandparents that doesn't involve only special occasions.

I'm also nervous. This time last year, this family was spread out over nine time zones. It may be a lot to ask to have us not just in the same state, but literally within a half-mile radius of each other.

It is a little backwards, what we're doing. Most families end up dispersing. Our little family, with no real home town to return to, is--what is the opposite of dispersing? Persing? Finding some reason and some way to come together. Not at all something I would have predicted five years ago.

Monday, May 19, 2008

It's all about the boobs

You know what else? Breastfeeding makes me feel myself up a lot more often.

"Does Howie need to eat yet? Let me check... mmm... no, probably not. Let's check back in about half an hour, 'kay?"

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lactation Tsunami

It used to be I couldn't see my feet because of my belly. Now I can't see them because of my boobs.

This whole breastfeeding thing? It apparently doesn't come naturally to me. Why this should be a surprise when I could neither get pregnant nor give birth without modern medicine, I don't know. But there it is. That's my big struggle right now.

It's not the milk production. Trust me, that is not the problem. It takes one look at all the milk stains all over whatever shirt I'm wearing these past two weeks to put that theory to rest. Gah, no one ever tells you in all this Breast is Best madness what an absolute mess you're going to make. Maybe not everyone. Maybe just me. But dude, just, everywhere. I can't hold my son without, say, Rightie saying, "Now? We're doing this now????" very clearly and wetly--through whatever kind of nursing pads, layers of tank tops, and maybe a jacket. And then Leftie joins in--such a follower. Wannabe. And there I am, with a sleeping son that I half pray sleeps longer and half pray wakes up soon so my poor rock hard boobs can finally get some relief, and two giant wet rorsarch tests blooming down the front of my shirt that smell faintly of sour milk.

I'm hot like that.

I'm told this is a blessing, and really, I'm sure it is, this over-abundance of milk. And I'll believe it, as soon as I can channel these powers for good. In the meantime, I can only leave the house in short fifteen minute bursts but only if I bring a spare shirt in case I suddenly need to put on an extra (dry) layer while in the middle of Target.

Hypothetically speaking.

So, yeah, it's not the production. It's more the pain. I don't know if I have an extremely low pain tolerance (possible) or Howie has the power to suck dimples of a golf ball (possible) or both or something else entirely. All I know is that I don't feel comfortable breastfeeding in front of anyone because the grimaces I make and the whimpering that comes out of my throat while trying to line the whole thing up are mildly embarassing.

It's interesting, how breastfeeding is treated. Portland is a rough town for those who don't come to it like ducks to water. It's the town with the highest percentage of breast feeders, and it also hold the record for the longest average length of breastfeeding. There's a huge unspoken--and sometimes spoken--pressure to be part of the majority here. Don't get me wrong, I agree that breast milk is the best for my son, and I want him to have the best, but how many lactation consultants do I need to see before I am allowed to say the pain is too much? What if things don't get better after a month, as everyone has promised me (well, hoped for me)?

Things have started getting better on the pain front. Today was a good day. Yesterday, though--not so much. So we'll take it as it comes, and see what happens. I'd like to start not leaking through my breast pads, for a start--leaving the house for extended periods might help my sanity.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Life After: Week One

Huh. This has been a bit of a crazy week.

I've been trying to think of what to write. And there have been little things that would have been great to write about if I'd had a computer on hand and two hands to type with at that time, but I didn't or couldn't or chose to sleep instead and now they're gone into the ether of sleep deprivation.

At the end of our stay at the hospital--on Thursday--a nurse came into the room and was all, "Soooo... we're at capacity in the labor-and-delivery unit and we have some women coming in and if they can't get a room here they're going to have to be diverted across town and they won't get to work with their OB and... your name came up as possibly being transferred to an overflow room?"

Yeah, I'm going to say no after she puts it that way.

I can't say it didn't make sense--I was being discharged at 10 the next morning. How much of a hardship could this be?

So the room we got transferred to--holy cats, was it small. Made me realize how completely pampered we'd been in our kingdom before, what with a full-size couch and closets and chairs and what-all. The new room--and that's using the room "new" quite loosely, as it hadn't been updated since 1976, if then--could fit my hospital bed and the baby's bassinet and--if we moved everything around, squished up against the wall and then didn't breathe too deeply--a fold-out cot that fit most of Andrew. And literally, that was it.

Also, we got our own personal cop.

Apparently the maternity wing has really strict security. So strict, in fact, that I wasn't allowed to walk the halls with Howie without also pushing his Humvee of a bassinet (thereby really defeating the purpose of my walk). And now I wasn't in the maternity wing. So they had to compensate by giving me a security guard sitting outside my door--the entire time. In fact! as we were packing up, there was a beautiful floral arrangement that we wouldn't be able to take back home with us (sorry, Mom and Dad!). But I thought maybe the nurses at the maternity desk would appreciate some fresh flowers (because man do they work hard!).

The security guard wouldn't let me walk to the desk with my son unless he accompanied me. The desk was maybe 50 steps away. I'm sure I looked like a criminal suspect to everyone else staying in the hall. Damn! Now I wish I'd muttered vaguely incriminating statements as random people passed by. Ah well, missed opportunities.

At any rate, he must have done his job well because we remained unmolested. That night in the Tiny Room was rough (apparently sleeping wasn't a priority to the newest member of our family), but all I thought about was others I know who had had rougher situations. I thought of my sister, who hadn't been allowed to have visitors after 7:00. Period. My sister-in-law (among others) shared a room. Others who'd had rougher deliveries, less amazing friends. Partners who weren't willing to cram their tall selves on clearly inadequate cots.

As tiny as that room was, it didn't matter all that much. We went home, a different kind of family than we'd been when we arrived. Which, when you think about it? Is pretty damn cool.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

And yesterday, everything changed.

So... yeah.

It took 52 minutes, from walking into the OR--yes, I walked my own self into the OR--to hearing a wee little cry, and everything changed.

Howie is in the house, y'all!

I haven't slept for more than about an hour and a half since 5 yesterday morning, and I'm currently waiting for my next dose of dilaudid so you'll have to excuse my sort of jagged piecing together of events. We went through a C-section, and after talking to several friends and family members who had an emergency C-section, apparently the planned one is the way to go. I mean, my incision is smaller and more convenient (ha!), for one thing, but we also had two hours before the actual event where we leisurely filled in the social security application, birth certificates, vaccination forms, vacation plans, etc etc etc. We've now applied for college and decided his major.

And the spinal block? That is some funky shit. Imagine being able to feel your feet, know they're there, feel the temperature, the breeze, the covering, but when you go to move them... nothing. Or being able to feel people tugging and pushing and pulling (and then eventually, apparently, sitting on your chest and hanging out, maybe having a cup of tea) but not feeling any cutting of any type--and definitely not feeling whatever is causing that burning smell. That makes it sound scary, and it was--but only in retrospect. At the time, the doctors were friendly, relaxed, and telling me what was going on as they went, even complementing my previous surgical team. I was so relaxed that when I heard one of the doctors accidentally drop some metal surgical implement, I asked, "Shouldn't you shout 'OPA!' when that happens?"

My OB laughed.

"You know you're going to miss me," I said to her.

She peeked over the barrier and said she would, but I bet she says that to all the girls.

When I first heard that baby cry--oh, that cliched moment!--I became a cliche myself and broke down. I'm even crying now as I relive that moment, easily the most intense of my life. The casualness of the hours leading up to that moment in no way prepared me for the semitruck that flattened me when I heard Howie cry for the first time. I couldn't even see him past the little curtain (a blue sheet clipped to two IV thingies) and I was gasping for air between wracking sobs, clutching Andrew's hand as he stood up to get a better view. Our little boy was here. This boy--whatever he was, whatever we went through, whatever, had just fallen away as this boy let us know that he was cold and he was not happy. And in that moment, everything changed.

I want to write more, but I can't right now. The heart, it can be so full.