Thursday, June 20, 2013

The end of the world as we know it

Last weekend we adults discussed daycare and the lack of a job and concluded we would give our 2 week notice at daycare. It is done. Starting next week, for the first time since she was 6 months old, the kid won't go to daycare (and neither will Little Monster).

The plan now is to hire a college student to watch Little Monster a few hours a week just like we did before she was old enough for daycare. The cost would be a bit less than what we were paying but it doesn't come with food once she starts eating stuff. For LM at least, two big factors played into the decision to lose our spot at daycare: she hasn't been napping well so she comes home sleepy and goes to bed an hour or two later, eating only once, and that pumping is making me super miserable. So much misery with that pump. Since the kid goes to all day, every day kindergarten soon and there's a sliding fee after-school program, losing her daycare isn't all that awful. If we have no income it ought to be fairly cheap and decent quality. I'm torn though, about not having certified childcare. I kind of want to look for a spot for her either starting in time for spring semester or when she turns one, which means looking right now...

It seems to me that we've steadily declined in daycare quality for the kid over the years, despite staying in the same kind of licensed in-home daycare settings.  At first her daycare had 4 kids total, so the personal attention was great and even at 18 months, there was a preschool curriculum. The second place was run by a grandma and had 7 kids at most. The third place was very similar but in a small (rural poor) area rather than an affluent suburb so there were few nice new things and slightly lower quality food. Slight drop there. Here though, there are the state maximum number of kids allowed, and a few sibling groups so they are meaner than average to each other and by extension everyone else. I feel that Lttile Monster was getting good care but the Kid was getting lost. She's also learned several really awful things from daycare like kicking until you get your way, being mean on purpose, that "you can't be on my team" game (although usually she was the one excluded, not excluding), and the "I will keep being naughty until I get my way" tantrum. She used to say please and thank you, now she tromps around expecting us to cater to her every whim. I know some of that is being 5 and selfish and not connecting feeling bad or sad after a punishment (usually taking away whatever she was throwing at us) to her choice to keep doing whatever after she was asked to stop, but I feel awful that she is so miserable at daycare and I haven't addressed it with her teacher properly in all these months. 

I suspect now that she knows daycare is almost over that she's being extra weird and acting out more (egads more) because she is out of routine and possibly because the other kids are being extra awful to her. I am all for quality daycare that's affordable for everyone, but I feel like such a terrible parent for leaving her in what is a bad environment for her and maybe any kid. We really should have addressed our concerns a lot sooner and found something else to do with her if things continued to be bad. And a big part of the problem is the number of kids. This is a legal number and there just isn't time to teach the kids not to hit each other and actually enforce that rule? Maybe we need to change the legal number then. Our provider is very capable and well trained but the number of kids is probably too much for anyone. 

It comes down to that elusive infant spot. We got the spot for the baby because the kid attended there and we would have had to put down a big deposit & pay 50% weekly tuition to keep it if she had left... I get that every home daycare gets one or rarely 2 infants so there's a low supply, but it is awful. The center infant tuition around here is 3-4 times the in-home licensed rate. If Little Monster got a center spot, then we would pay more each month on just her childcare than rent. 

Sigh. I am just really looking forward to making whatever comes next work for us. The spouse is officially now unemployed and hasn't heard about the last 2 interviews but the first 6 didn't lead to a job. Sigh. Trusting that we are where we need to be is really hard and now that we've built a rickety new support system, we have zero guarantee that we can stay with no job for the spouse. It is a hard time of uncertainty but we will survive. At least Little Monster remains a cheerful and lovely baby who brightens up any room she is in. It's very startling to have a "good baby" after so much colic and reflux. Having more time to enjoy her is going to be great fun, even if it means more Kid tantrums. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Project dreamcatcher week 2

Let's define some steps to getting to this 5k.

1. Running every other day as soon as my shoes are back from their upgrade.
2. Yoga every other day to minimize pain, including yoga class on Tuesdays.
3. Stick to it.

There is a distinct catch to this, of course. I haven't actually started running just yet, and now my shoes are in for repairs until at least Wednesday. But why haven't I started? Oh me being a big baby and too chicken to go the gym by myself and surprise job interviews (this is fantastic) and that outing with the kid.

While my running shoes are in hock I am planning to walk for 90 minutes every other day (in my dress shoes/work shoes since they are it for my shoe collection).

I feel like the biggest challenge for me to overcome is inertia. I think once I get started, it should be easy enough to keep going. Except for the pain part. I think it's going to be more pain at first and then less pain once I am stronger. Chronic pain is just the most unpleasant thing ever.

My doc and dietician are all about me trying to lose weight with calorie counting/cutting but I'm not sold on making a second change in my life while I'm working on this exercise business. I think I'll wait on that until later and stick with "eating healthier" rather than fussing about calories and limiting snacks too much. I am going to unit dose my snacks for the week into small jars so I don't have to try to measure each snack every day. That way, if I am less than successful with my running/yoga project, I'm at least snacking a reasonable amount.

Side note: a lot of what happens in a hospital pharmacy is taking a bottle of pills and putting them into individual little bubble pack deals. Super duper fun!

I hope I'm not over-reaching for this goal, but I'm going to try.

My second goal is even bigger but I also feel like it's more manageable. The goal is to unpack every box of stuff in our house and get it put away or tossed out. Half of our garage is boxes, some unopened for years. We have boxes of things from our wedding pushing 10 years ago that need to be dealt with and disposed of or whatever. So far, we are working on one box a day and I think we'll get through most of them before the end of summer at that rate, presuming we can keep it up.


1. Clean up house a bit more each day and keep it clean.
2. Unpack one box a day and get its full contents put away somewhere or other.
3. Repeat until the boxes are all gone. Ooooof.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Mistakes were made

I took the kid to a program at the library today. Generally I am smart enough to avoid events involving 20-40 small children and their parents mothers. Why?

Well that's complicated in large part by secondary infertility and spending 3.5 years longing for that second baby. It just aches to see those perfect families that have exactly 4 children here (how weird is that? Don't most places people stop at 2 and it's eccentric if you have a third?) exactly 18 months to 2 years apart in very clean and matching outfits with perfect hair. It punches me in the gut. My kid will never have perfect hair, unless she shaves it all off...

In this specific case, the kid and I went alone and the baby spent the day at daycare. Because of complex car shenanigans and a lack of funds for public transportation, we got dropped off and had to walk home (about 45 minutes to stroll with the kid so not too far at all). This meant that I had to pump after the library thing and before the walk home (I. Hate. Pumping.) and silly me, I forgot bottle lids so I had to empty my water bottle and use that to transport the milk home... ugh.

So I got to spend an hour admiring all the very thin, sunburned from being outside exercising yet perfectly stunning moms with 3.5 children including an infant in arms or a trendy stroller (ours is lame and the carseat only mostly fits in it, but we do have a cool baby carrier instead of the awesome stroller). Then I got to lug my kid to a tiny room, give her a typewriter to keep her out of trouble while I pumped for entirely too long, then walk home. It's like I managed to create my own personal torture sequence - think about the missing kid(s) in our family, the gap between the girls, the baby at daycare because of all that icky complexity, then the evil pump, then a firm reminder of how profoundly broke we are that a second car is totally out of the question as are a couple bucks for the bus.

And then. Then the spouse got home in the early afternoon and I explain the plan for the rest of the afternoon: pick up the baby between 3 and 3:30, then acquire a movie either from the movie rental place or the library, then dinner/movie and early bed for everyone. Great idea, except my lunch wasn't done until 2:45 so I couldn't go pick up the baby because I had to pump. Again. ARG.

So I had no real idea what time it was (we have no wall clocks in our house for some dumb reason), and finished pumping at 3:25 with the spouse sitting around doing something or other on the computer... then I totally freaked about the spouse completely ignoring picking up the baby between 3 and 3:30 (takes 10 minutes at least to drive to daycare). Just snapped and snarled and "you never listen when I say stuff" and soforth. At least I was only moderately overreacting because the baby had just finished eating when we got there.

For reference, Little Monster is now a wily 4 month old who has the greatest grin but isn't really napping well at daycare so she goes to bed early. If she gets that last feeding at daycare sometime after 2:45pm, she maybe nurses once more before bed. A total of twice a day. One day this week she had 22 ounces of milk at daycare, up from her usual of 15, so she's growing like a little weed (ok, so slightly larger than average weed) but unless she actually nurses sometimes I wind up spending all my time pumping, fiddling around with bottles and milk storage, and making sure laundry gets done when there's a gap between loads of dishes. And never having enough milk because I get so little compared to when the baby nurses (and I know this based mostly on the gushing that gags the baby that is never seen at all when I pump).

Tonight Little Monster was exhausted when she came home and played for about 10 minutes at the library before the sleepiness set in, with the fussing and the crankiness. We got her home and she went right to bed. Without nursing. A lovely finale to a day that was meant to be really fun time for me and the Kid. Which is not to say that it was miserable at all. She had a blast and it was quite pleasant overall, aside from the gut-punching of all the lives we will never have and the guilt that whatever I do, even when I am sure I'm asking for help and explaining what needs to happen for things to work, it is not enough and I suffer and the girls suffer as a result. Looking around a room and seeing 30 moms and 15 babies and 40+ toddlers on up and knowing it will never be easy and that I'll probably never have a 2 year old to swat at a baby sibling. It eats at me, still. I think it shouldn't but it just claws at me. It makes me decide not to go to things at the library during the day anymore.

Upside is that me being so upset resulted in the spouse caving to take-out for dinner rather than trying to find something in the freezer to eat again.

Best of all is I have to figure out how to distill this for the kid because I keep poking her to tell us what makes her sad instead of keeping it a secret. How on earth do you tell your kid that you're sad because of a shattered dream and years of waiting for... that something that resolves things so it's possible to see typical families without swamps of regret and grief and jealousy?

Bah. Mistakes were made, some mine, some the spouse's, and it's a cheerful Friday night around here... or not. At least the cleaning up of the house is moving along and my peas are growing well. Self-improvement project? Not so much going well, but that's on the docket for tomorrow's post.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Project Dreamcatcher: week 1

In case you missed it, jjraffe's lovely post about the idea of hitting a goal in 8 weeks is named Project: Dreamcatcher . It's just 8 weeks of setting some goals and then reaching them in some steps but it is huge to me. Wait... "just"... no, this is a big thing for anyone, especially a parent, because so much of the time we put ourselves last and our dreams on hold. No more.

So here it is, my goal: I will run an entire 5k race. I am not aiming for fast, just running, for the whole thing.

This week I am actually, at long last, starting this fancy app that I acquired for this purpose. It's an 8 week program, so look at that matching up smoothly.

So why am I attempting this running thing? Firstly, although I have a fancy gym membership right now, I can keep running even with no gym membership. It is me and my pair of shoes.

Secondly, it is working the bunch of muscles that I need the most help with. I expect it is going to be unpleasant but also more rewarding than just about any other kind of exercise. My hips and knees sometimes hurt just from hauling myself up and down stairs.

And my aunt runs marathons. She had a body a lot like mine until she decided it was time to change things and started running. Now marathons and triathalons and such are a big part of her life. She's done some really cool races that I'd like to tell you about to raise money for HIV research, but the specifics are gonna be left to your imagination. So I have a role model and evidence that just running can be enough to go from me to healthy weight.

I am now going to register for a 5K on August 3rd, 8 weeks from Saturday. It's even an emotional one that's a fundraiser for a group that supports families experiencing loss, a difficult pregnancy, or complications after baby's arrival. There's a local support group with a library of useful books and such. It would have been nice to know this existed sooner! Maybe I'll decide to get around to volunteering to do publicity for them.

Here's hoping I don't trip and hurt myself to the point I can't get to my goal. I think I'm going to find some balance exercises to work on during all this running too, just in case.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

More on the feeding of babies

I wrote about this once, about my ambivalence about nursing this baby and my experience nursing the kid.

So now that she's been here almost 4 months (whoa time flies), here are some further thoughts. It's spurred by a lovely discussion over at PAIL about the realities of breastfeeding and how graphically real we should or shouldn't be when talking about it. Great discussion, go read it.

I still don't really like this "nursing" thing. I mean, I do it. I like it better than pumping by far, and it's less fuss than formula (and let's not talk about the cost of formula... ugh...). I will never be one of those folks who is all rah-rah nursing is the GREATEST.

I still have oversupply and it's not the greatest but it's much less terrible than before. There's 2.3 gallons of frozen milk in my freezer and I'm pumping at least 7 ounces extra a day, but that's cool. It's helpful to have a vast freezer stock so I can do this whole week-long field trip in October. Maybe I can even quit pumping early if there's enough frozen milk around to get us to my goal of a year! Oooh that's an inspiring thought.

Do I wish I could do formula? Only a few times a day. Mostly I like that I get extra snuggle time and extra smiles from Little Monster while she snacks. I will say that I'm glad I bumbled into a blog post about Raynault's phenomenon (that's where blood randomly stops flowing to some extremity, usually triggered by cold) and that it happens in nipples sometimes too. I then investigated and determined that it's very likely happening to me, and that's what causes the pretty consistent nipple discomfort. It doesn't fix the discomfort to know the cause, but it makes me less grouchy about it. Unless someone bumps my chest... ahem. Personally I would rather switch to formula sooner than later but if it's possible, we'll nurse to at least 12 months and then consider what's next and there will be pumping to go with it. Blerg.

I feel like the "breast is best!" versus "formula isn't poison!" discussion gets cut into this dichotomy of formula-feeders who feel guilty about not being able to breastfeed and women who didn't realize that breastfeeding was an option. That really isn't the adequately nuanced view of the issue. I think it's two ends of the spectrum, and clearly there are probably other folk out there who are ambivalent in the choice they made. And the reality of breastfeeding is that it might just be all right and not amazing.

So there's bigger things at work, of course, than a choice. We don't make choices in isolation. When I choose what to buy, it's based on what I see in the store or the catalog or wherever. If what I see isn't what I'd really like I can keep looking, hire someone to make it for me, make it myself, or just settle. That's because there's a system in place that limits my choices.

The same is true, of course, for women choosing how to feed babies. The choice happens for a whole pile of reasons that are personal (such as I don't feel like it, I want someone else to feed the baby so I can sleep, this is what's best for the baby so I will suffer to provide the best, I enjoy controlling all aspects of my baby's life and measuring food exactly helps me do that, etc) but lots of reasons are a part of the system that structures our lives.

Since I live in the US, there's the matter of maternity leave to consider. Nobody is guaranteed a paid maternity leave. At most, there's a guarantee for a few folks of 12 weeks of unpaid leave. The first time around with this nursing business, it took us 4 months to get it together to work really well. That's 16-18 weeks where we spent most of our time lounging around and practicing nursing (and me getting mastitis twice and being miserable and arg). Nursing to 13 months wouldn't have been possible without that extended time to get it all together.

I also had a lot of support. That isn't a whole lot of people's experiences. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that oversupply is a benefit to a degree (aside from the screaming, choking, gagging baby who struggles to swallow fast enough, that is) and it helped my mom and her mom succeed at nursing. See, back when my mom was a baby, babies stayed in the hospital while moms went home, so you had to have a really big supply to be able to still have some milk when that baby came home. This good fortune meant that my mom was supported, and my mom was around to be helpful and support me. I also had a spouse to be my cheerleader, and a group of friends in college who cheered me on during all the miserable months pumping between classes. That support system helped me manage to stick with nursing even though it wasn't all roses and snuggles and rainbows with unicorns dancing on them.

I also had/have the advantage of being in school rather than having a job. No boss to negotiate with for time off to pump or a change to the timing of breaks, let alone space to do it. So when most new moms in the US come back to work after far too little time off that probably was unpaid, they have to think clearly enough to lobby for legally protected but still awkward to ask about pumping accommodations. Unfun.

Another factor is doctors. Some docs are really supportive and don't get fussed about babies who are growing but not enough. Many are not so helpful and get all fussed about "not gaining enough weight" or not gaining enough in a short span of time or what have you. Mine have been knowledgeable and helpful and supportive of nursing, but without that cog in the support system, it is hard to stick with it.

There is, of course, peer pressure to think about too. What are your mom friends doing? What are the other moms you see around the community doing? I mostly see moms and dads giving babies bottles or nursing behind those giant nursing tents (or leaving the room to feed the baby). Here there is no peer pressure to breastfeed, but I'd say there isn't much peer pressure to feed formula in my specific microcommunity either. At least what I've seen, the immigrant moms who aren't working tend to be nursing and those who are working or are maybe second/third generation Americans tend to be using formula (and I hardly see any white moms around when I'm out and about, so I don't really know what they're up to). I totally hear those ladies who live in what I'd call a breastfeeding bubble though. The pressure to "do the best thing for babies" is heavy and the guilt if you need formula is immense (as is the misery moms put themselves through to try to increase milk enough to breastfeed). I feel like it's another part of the anti-abortion movement's "babies first" rhetoric that induces that guilt by demanding we put babies before mothers absolutely. It's terribly unpleasant thinking and it makes me mad that more women don't recognize it (imagine Admiral Akbar saying "It's a trap!" here). I'd do just about anything for my girls, but at the same time, I try really hard to remember that I can't do anything for them if I don't take care of me. I have to take care of myself and if that means at some point the baby gets formula, so be it.

So when you say "Success! Exclusive breastfed baby to more than 12 months!" about me feeding the kid, it comes with that system. If we expect other folks to choose breastfeeding, we as a world need to build a system to support that choice.

When the awesome support system is in place, when there are no barriers, then you can truly call it a choice. When nobody has to ask for accommodations to pump because they are offered before a baby is born, then there's a real choice. When there's 12 months of parental leave that's paid at more than 50% of income that the parents can split up any way they like, then there's a real choice. When affordable childcare is available close to the workplace of nearly all moms so less pumping misery is needed to keep those lactations going, then there's a choice.

I feel like so much of the time, we are having the wrong discussion. It isn't a real choice for most women to nurse or give her baby formula. It's a false choice when the system is so busy preventing conditions that could support a choice. There is no choice. If women manage to defeat the systemic barriers to nursing, they totally rock. If they can also defeat any personal physical barriers between mom and baby and be successful, awesome. I just feel like we need to be having the conversations around the system rather than berating individuals for their "choice" one way or the other.