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The Fourth Trimester

That is where I have been. Technically, I stayed away from this blog for most of my third trimester as well.

No, I have been in that lovey, beautiful haze of post-babydom with our latest little big man, Andrew Jacob. He cruised into life in mid-August, a week and a half late, weighing in at almost 9 ½ pounds and 22 inches long. That’s my boy. He’s now four-and-a-half months old and weighing in at 17 ½ pounds and 28 inches. Yep, you read that right. Everyone start sending footballs and basketballs.

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He is beautiful. He has Ned/Thor/Gunnar’s eyes and head and is built like a little linebacker. I can tell already he’s going to be sweet. This time around, things seem to go so much faster and little Drew and I are bonded quite nicely.

This fourth trimester has been like a ferris wheel. Scary, sometimes too fast, and sometimes. Way. Too. Slow. These are my ruminations from the past few months:

Time. There is so little and so much of it. It seems that this first few weeks are so fleeting; little man is reaching all of those milestones—smiling, laughter, cooing—so quickly. And yet, each little tickle is like a discovery, as NTG and I look at one another and wonder, “Did Max do that? When did he first smile?” We shrug and turn our eyes back to the joy of our newborn. He is here now. It fills my days, and yet seems to not be enough of it at all. He rolled over a week or two ago, and NTG was saddened. “It’s all over,” he said.
Sleep. Oh, how I love sleep. In the fourth trimester, sleep is a like a drug really. You crave it, you push it aside, you long for it, you cannot wait for it, you sometimes are overtaken by it before you know what is happening. My favorite moment of the day often is when I climb into bed, the boys are all tucked in and I get watch a little television or read a chapter of … zzzz. It still amazes me how the third trimester leaves us in a bad taste in our mouths when it comes to sleep … it evades us so well. And in an instant, we can now easily find slumber, like it was waiting to snatch us up all along.
Which brings me to patience. Certainly all parents need it, but none more than parents of more than one child, when the youngest has just arrived. Patience seems run right alongside sleep; the more rest mom gets, the more parallel the tank of patience. The less mom has to work, the greater the patience. The easier the schedule, the more I can tolerate Max slamming the pantry door a hundred times in a row. You get the picture.
Letting go. I did a lot of this with Max’s arrival. Housework, making dinner every night (see Cooking), having time to watch television. With two, the second time around letting go is amplified. It’s really leeeetttinnnng gooooo. I cleaned my bathrooms this past weekend and realized I had not scrubbed my sons’ bathroom since before THANKSGIVING. All television watching takes place via On Demand, and if a show is not on On Demand, I dump them. I’m starting to be a shower-at-night girl because morning showers are laughable when you have preschool and an infant in tow.
Cooking. Well, I’m a foodie. Totally. Even in my last month of pregnancy, while I was a giant whale of a person, I managed to cook and fill my freezer for those nights post-baby. After Andrew’s birth, we had meals cooked by my mom. Friends brought dishes and presents for the baby. And then … crickets. Because we live in such a rural area, it’s up to me make sure we eat, since take out option are rare. And kind of scary. I’ve learned once again how much the crock pot is my friend. And make-ahead freezer meals. And cooking double batches and prepping ahead of time. And to stop following recipes altogether.
Love. Yeah, we love the babies. I mean, some people are baby people, and some are not. I’m in the former category. Nothing as perfect as a little baby sighing softly in his sleep. Or how snuggled up he gets while nursing. Or the way he cannot stop himself from having a total giggle fit every time I take off or put on his clothes. Or how he already loves the game where he holds out his hand to my mouth and I pretend to eat his fingers. Better than chocolate, those babies.

And now the light is starting to filter back through the tunnel of the fourth trimester. Work is starting to come in again; Andrew is almost sleeping through the night, although I have yet to adopt his 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. sleep schedule. We’re getting into a groove, and I’m starting to feel that good feeling writers get … I’m ready and at the keyboard.


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Ah, to boob, or not to boob ….

There’s been quite a spree of in-your-face images of breastfeeding as of late, and it’s made me curious as to what is up with the guerilla breastfeeding agenda. I know, I know, I tend to push the “whatever is best for your family” slogan when it comes to motherhood. And I’m about to do it again. Kinda.

First we’ve got the hot button “Mother’s Milk” article from Time magazine (May 2012), and really, I should say, the image is more of the hot button than the article itself. Or is it the headline?

I get that the image is intended to be provocative. I get that attachment parenting encourages breastfeeding well after the first year. I even get that in some way, these images were intent to promote breastfeeding, via starting a more explosive conversation than “Are you going to breastfeed?” But, “Are you mom enough?” Please. Jamie Lynne Grumet (mother on the cover) is not any better at motherhood than me, or you or the next hundred yous.

In contrast to the Time cover photo, the other controversy, found in the image of Terran Echegoyen-McCabe and Christina Luna nursing in uniform, was not intentional according to Echegoyen-McCabe, who told NPR that the images were not meant to become an Internet sensation. The photographs seem to promote breastfeeding, taken of moms in all kinds of situations, and the uniforms merely a way to show that military moms too breastfeed. And yet. Here we are with comments on what is and isn’t appropriate in a uniform. (Re: Showing your breasts is a no-no.)

Brynja Sigurdardottir/Courtesy Terran Echegoyen-McCabe

In my circle of moms, aka friends that all started having kids at the same time, deciding to nurse our newborns was kind of a no-brainer. Yet I have several friends and mom acquaintances that have genuinely tried to nurse and for a myriad of reasons—baby’s tongue thrusting, going back to work full time and not being able to pump enough, babies not gaining enough weight—they quit.

The strange thing to me, about the moms that had to switch to formula, is the majority of them felt the need to keep explaining their rational behind the switch. As if there really is a lording Court of Motherhood transferred from Kate Reddy’s imagination into the real world.

There’s not.

There’s not. The truth is, pretty much every mom I’ve ever met “gets” it. Really. Which is why I take offense to the concept that mothers that do not parent their children via Bill Sears philosophy (me), or breastfeed their children until they’re six, or spend all hours of the day (and night) with their children makes them better parents. It doesn’t.

On the other side of the coin, I’m a total proponent of breastfeeding. And all of this hububalloo, is taking away from supporting moms that may be struggling with breastfeeding. Or ones that don’t want to consider it at all. This whole concept of raising awareness about breastfeeding shouldn’t be about getting the rest of the non-nursing world to start a cheer every time a mom unsnaps her bra. It should be about educating moms about getting started, and encouraging them to continue even when it’s tough.

As for acceptance when it comes to nursing in public, I say eff the haters. In the moment, say a crowded holiday airport, when your baby is hungry and needs to nurse, you’re going to do what is best for your child. And a little flash of skin never hurt anybody.

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It is four thirty in the afternoon, and I am breaking apart peanut butter sandwich crackers and placing the pieces next to my son’s head as he’s lying on the floor, pushing a car back and forth. He reaches immediately for the snack and pops it in his mouth. I smile and walk away, inside doing a mental cartwheel. Yes!

They say that when trying to lose weight, it is not about sticking to a diet, but rather, taking on a healthy eating lifestyle. When you are trying to gain weight, it is the same concept. Except instead of grilled meats and salads life becomes a blur of cheese, dried fruit, peanut butter bread toast cookies, Pediasure, butter and heavy cream.

It’s no joke. We buy a pound of butter every week. Haagen-Dazs ice cream, woman’s most verboten food, is now always in my freezer. I’m making pudding, cookies, muffins, and adding chocolate chips to everything. And yes folks, I’m seeing a nutritionist.

Beside the mental roadblock of what Max is eating, there is the added stressor of getting him, once again, to eat anything. In another twist of parenthood, we have learned that two-year molars do not wait to appear after a baby’s second birthday. Max is teething in full force, which means we’re back to squishing berries, crushing cereal and smooshing bread. Don’t even get me started on the scraping lunch into our booster seat or tossing bowls onto the floor.

On the whole, I am trying to stick to my mantra of keep calm and carry on. But some days, when Max is sitting at dinner, smashing up his green beans with his forefinger and completely ignoring the grilled cheese I’ve made him, it takes everything in me not to try and just stuff it down his throat. Especially when I’m calculating the day’s calories in my head: ½ slice peanut butter toast, ¼ cup of milk, five Cheese Its, ¼ pear ….

Ned will catch my eye and say, “It’s okay. He drank half of his milk.” All I can do is shake my head and say, “It’s not enough.”

So I step it up a notch. I do things that I never thought I would be doing in my relatively clean, normal adult life. My coffee table now holds remnants of peanut butter crackers, raisins, and a cup of milk 24/7. I chase Max around the house with pieces of buttery, syrupy waffle so he’ll take another bite after breakfast. When I put him in the car seat, I don’t hand him a toy, he gets a snack bowl and a sippy cup of milk spiked with cream. After dinner he gets pudding, or cookies, or ice cream and every night, he’s carrying a Pediasure up to bed with him.

And yet. It still doesn’t feel like enough. I mean, I can could offer him brownies every half hour for an entire day. But if he doesn’t eat them, what else can I do?

I have another week before we weigh in again, and I’m seriously contemplating buying a scale so I can see if we’re on track yet. In the meantime, I will contemplate dinner, and pray my menu hits one of the foods Max has approved to eat today.

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Or, as I like to call it: Help! My Toddler Won’t Eat!

Last week, we found out at our 18-month wellness visit that Max, our little superhero, is in the 21st percentile for weight. To be exact, he weighed 23 pounds, 11 ounces, just a little bit more than his 9-month weigh in. So, we made a date with the nutritionist the following Monday.

Now Max was nursing a cold, courtesy of Mommy, plus he is teething, plus he had five shots at the doctor’s office, which meant that weekend, he wasn’t interested in eating a damn thing. We show up to discuss Max’s weight on Monday, and learn that he’s lost half a pound. Way to kick start that conversation, eh?

Now, we’ve already been through the masses of blood tests, back when he dropped weight at a year. So we move on to summarizing Max’s eating habits and getting a recommended list of foods to add to his diet, which includes

  1. One tablespoon of almond, peanut, or cashew butter on toast, bagels, waffles etc.
  2. One ounce of heavy cream per eight ounces of whole milk.
  3. Lots of dips: ranch, dressings, cheese sauce, with dippers like proteins, mini bagels and soft pretzels.
  4. Cream cheese, drinkable yogurt and puddings.
  5. Butter or olive oil on all veggies, breads etc.
  6. Pediasure for the days where he won’t eat a meal.

We also are to add a snack at night, and to try and increase his meat eating. For the next few days, this brings about a whole new shopping/food prepping reality that I’m still adjusting to. I’m checking yogurt shakes (RE: Danimals, Gogurt) to sneak a snack in him before naptime, but they’re all made with lowfat milk; same with prepackaged pudding, totally sans the added calories of whole milk. I’m giving him Tagalongs as snacks, the peanut-butter-filled Girl Scout cookies, because they’re an awesome 70 calories a pop. I’m smearing butter on everything, and making full crockpots of stew meat and pulled pork so he has some consistent meat choices.

And yet. He won’t eat.

At the most, he’ll snack on dry cereal and raisins and occasionally eat a slice of toast or a few tablespoons of peas. He’ll drink milk and some Pediasure. And for the past two days, running a low fever, I can’t even get him into the high chair.

We have tried a litany of excuses and suggestions for this new behavior, which began 12 days ago after his visit to the pediatrician. He’s teething. He’s running a fever. He’s trying to exude control. He’s not feeling well. He’s getting over the shots.

We also have tried adjusting mealtime behavior: from high chair to booster seat, at the table; not praising nor scolding him for eating/not eating; giving him smaller portions of food; remaining nonchalant during meal time.

Some days, I am so angry I cannot see straight. I literally have to walk away from the table, because it makes every neuron in my brain explode when he doesn’t eat. French toast? No. Pulled pork? No. Buttered corn? No. Grapes? No. Just no no no no no to everything that he once ate with vigor. Thank god we haven’t taught him how to say the word yet.

In discussing this with other moms that are dealing with similar issues, we find it’s the exhaustion of not finding a solution to the issue. It’s exhausting exuding so much effort and energy into preparing food that our toddlers turn their nose up at, or worse, squish it in their little baby fists. It’s wondering what to do now, when the problem isn’t just that they won’t eat, but that they need to gain weight, not contribute to losing more of it.

At the end of our conversations, we tell one another the same thing. “Keep calm, and carry on.” So for now, I shall.

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Last Tuesday, our morning started with this:

Little Max was done with a diaper change and Ned watched him run into his bedroom, trip, and eat a face full of rocking chair. We went off to the pediatrician’s office to get him checked out, crossing our fingers that he didn’t need stitches. (Sidebar: We learned the hard, expensive way that most trips to the ER for cuts and whatnot result in no stitches, but instead just a $100 copay for the visit. And nurses goo-ing over our son.)

Luckily Max is tough, tougher than Mommy, I think. The day before his tumble we were at the peds office to see a nutritionist, reason being that our most recent wellness visit revealed that Max has only gained one pound since we left Florida in November. Which in the battle against his weight loss during month nine to month 12, we’re back to his original 9-month weight.

All of this is compounded with a giant immunization/Hep B shot cocktail given at his wellness visit, which basically causes Max to completely lose his appetite for the four days prior to our nutritionist meet and greet. We show up for that appointment to learn he’s lost half a pound over the weekend.

Top that off with the barrage of questions at our first talk with our new doctor. Is he able to stack blocks? Yes. Throw toys? Max had just thrown my newly-found sunglasses across the room mere moments before. That’s a yes. If you ask him to locate body parts, say his nose, will he point to it? Well, he puts his finger in his nose, does that count? Does he know at least seven words? Um, not all at once. Does he say “mama” and “dada”? Not directly to us, no.

At the end of this the doc looks at me and says, “Okay, well, be sure to work with him on that.” Hmm … maybe I should be working on a new doctor. By the time we hit up the nutritionist and then Mikey hit up the chair, I was at the end of my momma rope. What am I to do to fix all of this?

The lovely Kelly Ripa always tells this great joke, about how when you take home a new flatscreen television, you get a user manual thick enough to rival War and Peace, but when you take home a baby, they give you a single sheet of paper. Darn it, right about now, I wish there was a Mommy Manual.

I know that you can’t predict the health and development of every baby. I know I can’t prevent all trips and falls, and I know there is danger in comparing each child to an imaginary “normal” and wondering if he’s falling behind. Why doesn’t he have a giant vocabulary? Ned and I are both academics. Why doesn’t he say “yes” and “no” and “good-bye”? Why doesn’t he know where his nose is? (Actually, I think he does know, but he’s smart enough to know he doesn’t have to tell us if he doesn’t want to.)

I’m not going to lie; I’m completely freaked out that he’s not gaining weight. He’s growing, he’s in the 91st percentile for height. But clearly, his eating habits are not working. And it’s too much to cover in just 500 words. So we’re taking notes from the nutritionist, starting to use some developmental tools and hopefully making some progress, soon to be reported in future blogs, as I start writing my own Mommy Manual.

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The Mom Shame Game

I am unhappy to be writing about my latest rite of passage in motherhood: my first official look of disdain from another mother.

Max and I were at our very enjoyable music class (Loudoun County libraries rule) and Max was having his usual behaviors at the opposite end of the room from me …. Emptying the basket of scarves instead of dancing with them, finding the one cabinet in the corner of the room with a broken lock, not wanting to put his music sticks away …. Normal stuff for him and rightfully so; he’s young, exploring and just learning how to communicate.

When it came time for the pile of rattles, shakers and bells, I see Max across the way, trying to remove one of a pair of yellow rattles from the hand of another mom, who is sitting on the floor with her three-year-old daughter in her lap. The daughter, nonplussed about my son’s lack of boundaries is just sitting there, while her mother is firmly and then with great annoyance, trying to get my son off her rattle. I’m pretty sure I heard her utter a, “Goodness. Stop it!”

By the time I get to them, Max is crying, ’cause this momma is not giving up that toy. I try to comfort him and say something lame like, “Toddlers. What’s mine is mine.” I smile. She glares. That look of, I cannot believe you have not taught your son about sharing! or perhaps it was a, I am not here to discipline your son! Whatever, it was not nice. I turned and took a step away, to meet the lovely librarian, waiting with a pair of rattles for Max. We went back to our spot, he shook them for thirty seconds, and they got tossed back on the floor.

All this time, I’ve been operating on the idea that younger children rule it. This particular group was for zero to four years of age, so I assume that the little ones that aren’t socialized yet get the right of way. Would it have killed this mom to give up a rattle and pluck another one out of the basket a mere two feet over away? Was I supposed to offer up an embarrassed apology that my son, not yet a year and a half old, did not relinquish his desire for a shiny yellow rattle? Did said mom have to throw me the look of annoyance?

I mean really, just the day before; a total stranger handed over his smart phone to my toddler and let him run around with it for ten minutes, despite my embarrassment and attempts (two) to remove the phone from a giggling Max. That guy clearly knew nothing about little kids (except they’re cute, and they really love technology). This mom had two children, including a son that was just old enough to start walking and had been crying throughout the entire class. Shouldn’t she get it?

“Getting it” is one of the joys of having relationships with other moms. If we go to a play date, I don’t have to worry if I forgot to refill my travel pack of wipes. I will sit with two babies in high chairs while the other mom picks up our sandwich order. We automatically reach down for a thrown toy, no matter who’s kid threw it. It’s that kind of shared mom intimacy that is so awesome; clearly, that rattle-hoarding mom is missing out!

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Poop in the Purse

It’s 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, and I’m cursing under my breath, frantically driving toward my house to pick up a prescription for blood work for my 12-month-old son. The prescription is sitting on my kitchen counter, not in my purse, which is where I prefer to have said prescription when walking into the wait-an-hour-for-service laboratory.

Oh, and there’s poop in my purse.

Let me start from the beginning, well before the poop. (Yes, I am aware that there is poop in my purse. I put it there.)

When my son Max was born, he was an eater from the get-go. Kid ate and ate and ate. He left the hospital weighing 7 lbs., 7 oz., and at his first doctor’s appointment he was up to 11 lbs. We started him on rice cereal right around four months old, because he was so darn hungry every night. People would comment on how he was “so solid.” My family was relieved that we were indeed well on our way to raising a giant. My husband was all, “That’s my boy!”

So imagine my surprise when we go for our one-year check up and the nurse tells me his weight, “21 ½ pounds.” She checks the chart. What? No … that’s impossible. The doctor makes her get out the infant scale. We re-weigh him. The digital scale reads: 21.7. Shit.

Max hasn’t just not gained weight, or plateaued as many new creeping/crawling/standing/walking babies do between nine months and 12 months. Max has lost weight. About two and a half pounds.

So we go through the litany, What is he eating? Any changes in behavior? Loose stools? We should run some tests. And we do. And the first round results in more inconclusive questions and a definite his protein count is low.

And I, supermom extraordinaire, am devastated. Are we not feeding him enough? How much is enough protein? Should we try and feed him more times per day? Is he losing developmentally as well? Is there something serious going on?

So in addition to blood work, they want a stool sample. In the office, the doctor handed me this teeny padded envelope, which has her office address on it and tells me the instructions are inside, and that it “should be easier because he’s in diapers.” Um, okay. I have put off the sampling process until the night before our second visit to the cattle-call needle place.

I tell you this story because it’s too funny not to tell. It also helps lighten the there-could-be-something-wrong-with-my-baby moment. So I open up the package, and in it is a little cardboard envelope, a four- by three-inch piece of paper with instructions, two wooden sticks and two folded-up sheets of tissue paper.

I realize pretty quickly that the folded up tissues, which are huge when you unfold them, are for, um … adult-size samples. Indeed, the instructions read, “1. Remove backing from tissue; adhere to top of toilet seat. 2. Defecate on tissue.”

Whoa. What? (I mean really. Isn’t tissue a little weak in the overall strength department to hold the uh, result of said defecation? Why don’t you get a bigger envelop with like, a plastic baggie or something?) My second reaction was, Thank you, god, I am not doing this poop test for myself.

I figure out that the sticks are for the actual samples, and the little cardboard envelope is to put the samples in. So I’m in the bathroom, with two separate diapers filled with my son’s very adequate defecations, poking at each one with its assigned stick four freakin’ times each (cause that what the instructions demand), and then transferring what’s on the stick to the little opening n the cardboard … all while trying not to inhale. It can’t get any worse, right?

Until this particular morning, when I gather up my courage, my son, and the poop and head off to the lab, hoping there isn’t a giant line and planning to stop by the post office afterwards to mail off the poop samples. And the moment I walk in the super-duper crowded lobby and start signing us in I realize: The ‘script is sitting on my kitchen counter.

Which brings us to now, me racing home to get this ‘effin, stupid piece of paper, hitting every read light, with a baby in the backseat happily trilling and singing away, unaware that he’s about to be stuck with a needle for about four vials of blood and then there’s me, mentally planning when to release the poop into the wild and I just have to start laughing. Because the truth is, I’m no stranger to poop in the purse. I have a cat. But at least for the cat, the whole procedure is: Scoop. Plastic bag. Done.

As it turns out, when we return to the evil lab lair (45 minutes later) I go to sign us in again and ha! They never called our name from our first appearance that morning. So we sat, and ten minutes later, we were called. Which at first seems like we should be celebrating, but then the reality of needles sinks in and I just hope Max doesn’t have any residual memories of his blood work days.

Turns out Max is fine. Almost fine. He’s gaining weight again, and has a mild anemia issue. We’ve got two weeks until our next laboratory trip. Sans poop.

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