Friday, September 26, 2014

7qt - a month and change


It's been a really exhausting week.  Seems like every other day, or sometimes (ugh) even multiple days in a row, Miriam forgets everything she knew about naps and won't go down for more than 20 minutes or so.  I troubleshoot: maybe I didn't rock her for long enough?  Maybe she needs a blanket?  Maybe I should keep her awake longer before letting her fall asleep?  Did she burp before she went down?  Etc.  But it's rather difficult to figure out when I'm in so little control of everything.  One day I snuck out of bed while she was still sleeping to take care of the boys when they got up in the morning, and she woke up right away -- is that what threw her off the rest of the day?  Or is it that Marko and Michael got in a fight and started screeching at just exactly the wrong moment?  Who the heck knows.


I do know, though, that everything that makes my day good or bad hinges on Miriam's naps.  If she takes them, everything is wonderful.  I do my chores, I pay attention to the boys, I do a spot of knitting or reading, I make dinner, I tidy up by evening.  All is peaceful.  If not, I spend my whole day nursing her, holding her because she's too crabby to spend any awake-and-happy time on the floor or in her bouncer, holding her as she sleeps lightly with the hope that it will transition to deep sleep eventually (which it never does), breaking up fights with one hand -- fights that of course broke out just as she was dozing off in my arms.  The kids act up because they know I'm going to ignore a lot of stuff because I don't want to get up and disturb the baby.  And, of course, because they want attention.  They make tremendous messes, which I trip over while heading to the bedroom to put the baby down.  Dishes pile in the sink.  The mess makes me angry, and then I yell at the kids for some little thing, and then they act twice as bad because now they're mad at me.

I just really, really, desperately NEED some time when no one is touching me.  And these kids .... they do not always deliver.  Michael is probably the worst, because he is too young to obey without me physically making him half the time, and too enormous to be easy to manage.  Even with both hands, picking him up when he doesn't want to be up is quite a challenge.  Dragging him off his brother with one arm is a sub-optimal situation, to say the least.  It makes him angry, it makes me angry.


But on the bright side, both boys have just been in fabulous moods since Sunday.  I don't know what happened.  On Saturday they were whining all day long ... on Sunday they played independently and without fighting most of the day!  I guess they finally both got good nights' sleeps and neither one had a cold for the first time in forever.  I had forgotten just how destructive these two kids can be when they put their heads together and don't get derailed with squabbling.  They are having a wonderful time and being so creative, but it's so hard for me not to screech when I turn around and all the laundry is being used as a snowstorm, or the couch cushions are a giant sandwich.  Right now they are playing librarian, aka taking all the books off the bookshelf and stacking them up.


Check out those thigh-high baby socks above.  I totally made those.  Yeah, ridiculously proud of myself.  I thought socks were going to be difficult, but this tutorial helped a lot and I didn't find them hard at all.  The yarn is handspun Rambouillet wool (nice and soft) dyed with coffee, black walnuts, and green food coloring, mixed with a bit of natural brown llama.  Really it was leftovers from the sock yarn that I put so much work into before Miriam was born, but I added some white wool to make sure I would get enough for socks.  And then I ended up with about twice what I needed, so now I'm making a hat to match.

Good golly, look at this cheesy grin:


Marko usually isn't that interested in Miriam, but this one time he came over and started being all sweet to her.  Made me so happy to see.


I found a site that has all the Vorkosigan Saga books -- right here.  Opinions vary on the correct order to read them.  I started with Shards of Honor this go-around, and am up to Diplomatic Immunity -- aka, almost finished with them all.  That will be a sad day.  I'm trying to make them last.

I love Bujold's characters.  She explained in an essay of hers that her secret to making good plots in character-driven action novels is to ask the question, "What is the worst thing I can possibly do to this character?"  And then she does it.  That explains why these books wring me out so much.  I was reduced to tears by something truly awful that happens in Memory.

I have mixed feelings about this approach -- I don't actually like crying over books.  But on the other hand, it's facing those "worst things" that makes her characters grow, and makes me care so dang much about them.

As for moral issues, I'm very pleased with the way she and her characters wrestle with bioethical dilemmas and the way she always comes down solidly on the side of "treat people like people."  It's too easy to turn people into commodities in a world where you can design your own clone, but the "good guys" always seem to come down on the right side of things ... even when those decisions cost them.  I don't like books that preach at me, or characters that are always perfect, but I don't like having my heroes do things I find morally despicable with no repentance either.  And she seems to play it just right.

Anyway I definitely recommend these books, either in print or digital.  Since the digital versions were released with the author and publisher's permission, I don't feel bad just downloading them all.  (And I could never afford to buy all of them in print -- there are a lot of them!)

More quick takes at Conversion Diary.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

7qt: three weeks old


I have to say this now, since I worried so much before:

This totally doesn't suck.

Miriam?  She actually sleeps!  Like, for long stretches!  And now I can put her down!  She does have to be held for a good 20 minutes after she's shut her eyes to make it work, but the bright side is she doesn't care much what I'm doing for that time period.  I can walk around.  The boys can screech.  Unlike either of them, she's not particular.

I don't actually let her sleep on the couch; that would be unsafe

So, just by rearranging chore time and rest time, I can fit in all the really essential chores during her nap, and then do all my internet goofing around and other fun stuff while I'm holding and nursing her.  The only thing that's tough is getting the house tidy in the evening, because if I have it perfect by, say, 5:30, it doesn't matter because from 5:30 to 6 the boys will trash the whole place.  Miriam gets a bit demanding at that time of day, but it's frustrating for me because I like a clean house when John gets home.

Miriam's bedtime still floats around a bit, between 7 and 9 pm, but I do somehow manage to get all three kids to bed without any major crises on those nights John is out, which is really amazing to me.  It was much harder with Michael, because Marko's bedtime was so involved and Michael just couldn't be put down.  I remember one time I finally got Marko to bed at 11 pm and then just had to go to bed with my jeans on because if I put Michael down for a second to change, he would scream and wake Marko.  It was the worst.  I am so relieved things are going better this time.


If I had to pick, I'd say she's more like Marko, except she eats great.  Not constantly like Michael -- but she doesn't resist it either.  She latched on maybe ten minutes after birth, and after a day or so of working on her shallow latch, she figured it out and I have had no pain.  I've had plenty of milk, but I've been careful about having her finish one side before switching, so I don't have an oversupply either.

They are still pretty ambivalent about her in real life

But she's like Marko in her easygoingness .... which is funny because he's not easygoing now, but as a baby he really was.  Long naps, efficient nursing, no spitting up, not fussy, loved being in his bouncy chair.  And Miriam's the same.  She doesn't even cry -- more gives a short squawk and then waits for us to pick her up.


Speaking of nursing, I was terrified Michael was going to take to tandem nursing by demanding to nurse every time Miriam did.  And so I've been really careful about setting limits, saying no sometimes, and really only saying yes when I actually wanted to nurse him for one reason or another.  As a result, he's been nursing once a day, tops, and gone many days without it.  I think we may be close to weaning .... I'm not sure, because I have the feeling that if I just let him nurse whenever he wanted he'd soon be nursing constantly.  Who knows.  But for now he doesn't really cry over being told no, and I'm happy about that.


The awful moments are when I'm rocking Miriam, she's almost asleep, and then Marko and Michael both grab the same toy and start shrieking.  That doesn't even necessarily wake her, but then I have to leap up and rush over to split them up and that wakes her.  Drives me nuts.  But that doesn't happen all that often, because with her taking actual naps, I have plenty of time to spent with each kid and that really cuts down on the rivalry.  People say "it's okay that babies need to be held 24/7, because you can just put them in a wrap and do what you normally would!"  Well, the one thing you can't do while holding a baby is give exclusive lap time to your other kids.  They don't feel it counts.  And then they sit on the baby.  So no.  "Down naps" for the baby are just essential and I am very happy she takes them.  I also find that my mood on any given day goes up and down with how much Miriam has been out of my arms.  I feel so much more human if I'm not holding her all the time.


However, you know what makes long nursing and holding sessions more fun?  Good reading material.  I was feeling rather frustrated with it all, and then I found that Lois McMaster Bujold released the digital text of her Vorkosigan Saga for free!  It's not all available online in one place, but so far I've found sources for all the books I've searched for.  I really enjoy her work.

If the big kids are elsewhere -- for instance, when John works late and I've put them to bed -- then I can nurse while watching Dr. Who, which is even better.  (Not far in, so don't spoil it for me, please.)  I love the cheesiness, but I kind of hate the constant switcheroo of characters and actors.  I get very attached to people.  So far I seem to be annoying all the "real" Whovians by liking all the wrong people.  Oh well.


Another thing that's hard to do while holding a baby is knit, so I thought it would be ages before I could do any.  But nope, I managed to finish a diaper cover and now I'm working on some baby leggings.

But as anything much more complicated than that is beyond me, it's a good thing that Tiffany knitted this sweater and hat for Miriam.  Aren't they the cutest?


It can be hard to interact with a newborn.  They don't exactly make eye contact, because their eyes get crossed, and they don't smile, and they don't play with you.  But I just love holding Miriam, looking into her little face, and watching her flail around.  She seems so alert and aware already, and she makes so many faces.

Yeah, this is actually pretty cool.

Linked up at Conversion Diary.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Three births

The other day, I went back and read all three of my birth stories.  One thing stood out very clear to me: the sense of failure.

It's kind of ridiculous.  All of my births have been uncomplicated, drug-free, and what pretty much anyone would define as successful.  And yet each time, immediately after, I felt I had done it wrong.

I've been reading about natural birth since I was a teenager; it was the very first "crunchy" thing I was into.  My mom had all natural births and her birth stories all sounded so wonderful and empowered.  I read Spiritual Midwifery as she planned her first homebirth, and there was never any question for me: that was what I wanted to do.

The trouble is, all the birth stories in books like that are so awesome and transcendent and empowering, it kind of got me feeling like just giving birth wasn't enough.  I wanted a moment in my life that would make me feel that proud and powerful.

In part, it's probably creative storytelling on the part of the birth books.  They know that how we imagine labor will be shapes how we approach it, and they want to make us prepared, not scared.  So it's possible that no one's birth is quite as empowered as it sounds.

But each birth did come with its failures and disappointments.  With Marko's, I was ashamed of myself for letting myself be pushed around by the doctor; I knew perfectly well her advice was wrong (I was well-educated) but somehow I couldn't argue with her.  While my mom, who is often passive at other times, stood up to the doctor who delivered me and avoided interventions she didn't want, I -- who try very hard not to be a pushover in other contexts -- felt at the time that it was important to be a "good patient" and do what I was told.  And I also was completely unprepared for the intensity of real labor, so that I had no real coping techniques and spent a good deal of the time panicking.  (In retrospect, though, I can clearly see I was sabotaged here by trying so hard to be a "good patient," which I felt included being quiet and still.  If I'd moved around and made more noise, I know now I might have looked like I wasn't coping as well, but I would have felt much better.)  And of course there was the truly traumatic and upsetting detail that I didn't get to hold Marko right away .... something that still makes me sad, four years later.

Michael's birth was pretty great as births go -- two hours of real contractions, no complications, I caught him myself -- and yet I spent a lot of that one panicking too.  I was so sure things were about to get worse, and they never did.  I kept thinking afterward, "If only I'd known it would be this easy, I wouldn't have created so much more anguish for myself!"  I also wasn't happy with the support I had -- the midwives were more of a distraction than a help.  And I spent a lot of the time worried about John being worried.  So even though physically it was an easy labor, emotionally it wasn't so good.  I felt like I'd had the perfect birth and ruined it by stressing out so much.

And then with Miriam's birth, I had spent so much time preparing emotionally so it wouldn't be so rough, talking through it with John so I knew he was ready too, and then it was stressful for reasons out of my control!  At least with this one I don't blame myself -- except maybe a little, for not calling John and the midwife to come over PRONTO so I didn't have to go it alone for so long.  But it was very hectic and again, no time to prepare emotionally for having a new baby.

I guess I have this wish that birth would automatically bond me to my new baby -- shouldn't something so intense have that effect?  My mother says some of her babies she loves extra much because they were such easy births ("thanks for coming out so easily, little one!") and others she loves extra much because their births were hard ("you're worth the extra work!").  But with me, every time I've met a new baby, they're pretty much a stranger.  I don't want to tell my kids, when they're older, that my first thought on holding them in my arms was "Oh, thank goodness labor is over!"  Other people talk about having a "birth high" or some kind of ecstatic moment when they first hold their baby -- that's never happened to me.

And somehow a part of me hopes that birth will make me feel good about being a woman.  I feel very ambivalent about femininity -- I should write more about this.  I want to be proud of being a woman, to see it as a good thing, not just something that gives me more suffering, more sacrifice, and more hard work than a man.  So many labor stories seem to offer this -- where the mother digs deep and finds some essential power within her to give birth.  They say it's important to remember that labor is something you do, not something done to you.

But to me, labor is something that is absolutely done to me.  It is done to me by my body, and it's hard to be on good terms with my body when it goes and does crazy things like that to me!  Other women have to find their inner strength to push -- me, I couldn't not push to save my life, my body just DOES that.  In labor, I am at my most passive -- hence the unquestioning obedience to the doctors, or hoping the midwife would be the one to tell me I was in labor.  I feel like I couldn't make a decision to save my life, I'm just waiting to see what's going to happen to me.

John says that I am reverting to my true nature when that happens, showing that deep down I am a very passive person.  I hate that, but I think he's right.  I hate my inner passivity because it's what made me so easy for a cult to manipulate, and because it leads me time and again to miss out on things I want because I don't like to ask for them.  I work very hard not to be passive, and in general I'm pretty successful, but apparently at stressful moments like labor, that's all peeled away and I'm left with my inner nature .... which is passive.  Faced with that, I feel shame.  I don't like that side of me, and I feel like a failure because I wasn't something else.

But as I write this (this whole post is an exercise in self-examination; I don't know where I'm going with this) I think maybe my passivity in labor isn't something to fight.  When I started pushing with Miriam, and then asked the midwife, "Is it okay that I'm pushing?" she gave me the answer I needed -- "You are listening to your body, so you're doing the right thing."  Perhaps my surrender to what my body is making me do is what stands in, in my case, for what other people experience as "digging deep and working hard."  It's when I stop fighting, stop "coping," and just let labor happen, that things start to go right.  It's scary being that out of control, and that's why I've spent so much of my births trying to "do it right," do it my way, control the process.  I look to doctors, midwives, and John to take control and manage things for me, because I doubt my capacity to do it.  But what I should be listening to is my body itself, because clearly it does know what it's doing!

Of course utter passivity is dangerous; it's too easy to give in to bad advice and bad help.  But I'm beginning to think no amount of prior planning and telling myself "THIS time I won't be passive" is going to help.  Instead maybe I should plan with my passivity in mind, surrounding myself with people who are trustworthy (Miriam's midwife was perfect; she has a repeat customer forever) and who are prepared to tell me, "Listen to your body" and "I can't tell you what to do." 

I think most of all, I need to accept that each of my births was, in fact, just as it was supposed to be.  Each was a success.  Sure, they went against my plans, and sometimes they were a little traumatic.  But each time, my body did that amazing wonderful powerful thing it does and brought a new person into the world.  I need to stop resenting it for making things so hard on me, and start respecting its power. 
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