I find that I have a hard time writing about breastfeeding without putting a bunch of caveats onto it. So here they are. I know that this is going to wax a little pro-exclusive breastfeeding, but truly, I think formula is wonderful and I think mothers who feed their babies are wonderful. Period. I know that successful breastfeeding is part hard work, but it’s also part luck. I’ve experienced good luck with that (Will) and really bad luck with it (Eli). So when I talk about this goal I met this week, please know that it’s not that I think anyone else who doesn’t meet this goal is in any way not successful or not a fantastic mom. Because, like I said before, if you feed your babies, I think you’re great.
When Will was born and he latched, and then proceeded to nurse for 6 straight hours the first night of his life, I told my husband that my first nursing goal was just to survive the first few weeks. I had never nursed before, so I did not know about the pain that came with nursing and all I wanted was just to survive it. I wanted to get to the point where I could nurse him without wanting to scream.
When we reached that point and nursing got easier, my next goal was a big one; 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding. I can tell you why this goal is so important to me and it has virtually nothing to do with the benefits of breast milk. It was a goal that was a direct result of having a persistently inadequate supply when I was pumping for Eli. From the first week of Eli’s life, I didn’t make enough milk for him. I tried everything and I couldn’t do it. So for me to be able to nurse a baby, without supplementing, was a lofty goal. One that almost got derailed with William’s GERD induced nursing strike in December.
This weekend, I met that goal. On Sunday William turned 6 months old and we made it the whole way without supplementing. He’s gaining weight pretty well (he’d be gaining more if it weren’t for his GERD), he’s happy and he’s as healthy as a baby can be while in daycare (which is to say, not very healthy most of the time).
I have hundreds of pictures of Williams smiling. People comment all the time about how happy he is and how fun he is and they are right. Will is truly an exceptionally happy baby. Except when he is in pain.
When we figured out that the cause of his nursing strike and associated screaming was reflux, we got some short term relief with medication. And after a few weeks of sad Will, we got our happy baby back. And then the dose wasn’t enough and he started to struggle. We upped the dose and he came back. And we’ve been doing that- a few days of happy Will, then sad Will, Zantac dose adjustment, repeat. We’re on our 4th? 5th? dosage now and he’s still struggling. And it’s heartbreaking.
The current rise of reflux is being made way worse by teething. His saliva is more acidic while teething so his reflux is more painful and ugh. It’s just awful. He arches and writhes and screams this high pitch scream that makes it very clear that he is not okay.
Last night I made the horrible error of trying to do a “dream feed” (where you quietly wake the baby up just enough to feed them and then put them back down) and instead I fed Will for about a minute before he refused to nurse and SCREAMED his face off for a half an hour. We ended up sleeping, poorly, on the couch all night.
This morning, I was trying to get ready for a birthday party for one of my husband’s past and future coworkers and Will would scream, to the point of gagging, if I was not holding him. It was awful. He’s so obviously uncomfortable, wanting to nurse, but then stopping after just a minute or two and then crying.
He has his happy moments and I cherish them, but a large part of the time he is really sad. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to be so small and have so much pain that you can’t control. To have eating, the ultimate comfort, be the source of discomfort.
And on a selfish level, it’s exhausting. I love this baby so, so, so much. Truly. He is the sweetest baby and I cannot for even an instant imagine my life without him. I can’t underscore that point enough, because I’m about to complain. I really need some rest. He went from getting up once a night to getting up 3 or more times a night on the nights he doesn’t end up sleeping on me on the couch. He loves his dad, but at night or when he’s really hurting, I am the only one that will do. I haven’t slept more than 3 hours in a row all month and I’m just exhausted. My biggest concern is Will’s comfort, but my secondary concern is for my own sanity.
Will has an appointment with the pediatrician on Tuesday and we will be discussing this at length. Zantac is clearly not cutting it. We either need a different medication or a referral to a GI who can give us better direction. We’re also checking Will’s weight. If he has dropped below the 25th percentile, they will be doing a series of tests to make sure nothing else is going on. Because he was over the 75th percentile at 2 months and is dropping past two major percentiles (50 and 25th), their office policy requires them to do bloodwork. It’s probably a good thing even if I suspect it’s just the reflux that’s slowing him down.
Basically, things are not great here. And it’s both sad and exhausting. I’m hoping very sincerely that after our appointment on Tuesday we’ll be on the right track to helping our baby be happy again.
I never expected to be a different mom with Will than I was with Eli. I mean, I guess I did want to be happier and more laid back, but I didn’t anticipate that my parenting style would change as much as it has. And yet, here we are, and the second verse is very much not the same as the first.
First baby: Didn’t take a shower for 4 days after giving birth (I know) because I was afraid to leave the baby alone.
Second baby: Had the glorious hospital shower experience and if hospital shower was a religion, I’d now be a member.
First baby: We didn’t even buy a bouncer because “it isn’t good for the baby” and “he can just be held or lay on the floor.”
Second baby: Spends time every day in a bouncer because dinner making, toddler butt wiping, hair drying, etc, require a baby to not be entertained.
First baby: Vacuumed daily for the first several months out of fear of the baby eating carpet lint or cat hair.
Second baby: Hahahahahahaha. I think Will might be half made of cat hair by now.
First baby: So excited for 6 months old for solid foods, new toys and the big countdown to the first birthday.
Second baby: So excited for 6 months for one reason: Motrin. Hallelujah.
First baby: When the baby couldn’t sleep, I’d stay up and rock him. Our bed was no place for a baby.
Second baby: When the baby can’t sleep, my bed is the best place ever for the baby.
First baby: Teething, while difficult, was exciting! Baby teeth are adorable!
Second baby: Teething, while difficult, is not exciting. Baby teeth are evil.
First baby: The nap schedule is firm and sacred. Nothing shall interfere.
Second baby: What nap schedule?
First baby: Introducing solid foods was so. much. fun.
Second baby: Solid foods are so. much. work.
First baby: The instant a pacifier hits the floor, it gets washed with soap and water or a pacifier wipe. Which we purchased.
Second baby: The instant a pacifier hits the floor, the 5 second rule goes into effect and maybe the pacifier gets wiped off on the underside of my shirt. Maybe.
First baby: Had the cats, but no other kids around.
Second baby: Has a big brother who is the coolest. person. ever.
It’s not all bad being second.
So no, your eyes do not deceive you, Will does appear shorter this month. Tonight’s picture was a hot mess due to Will being super overtired and his parents being really set in their ways and unable to get him to bed when he’d like us to. I got 2 smiling pictures and a lot of arching and crying pictures. All the arching caused him to slump and thus he definitely looks shorter. But I swear he’s not.
Hopefully next month he’ll sit up and be happy.
Today you are 6! Months! Old! Half a year! I cannot begin to tell you how quickly that time has gone. It seems impossible that you are already half a year old. It seems even more impossible that tomorrow you will be closer to 1 than you are to the day you were born.
This was a pretty decent month in terms of health and happiness. It did start with a second ear infection and more antibiotics for you, but you really handled it like an absolute champ. You also got your first tooth. I have to say, you didn’t handle it quite as well as I expected you to. Eli was always sort of like, huh, there is some discomfort here and whoa, a tooth. You were like, WOE. WOOOOOOE. WOE. There is something in my mouth. WOE. For days. Basically I have some concerns about the next 2 years of your life.
That sort of makes sense since you have generally become very sensitive this month. You love me the very most and if I’m in the room, I must be holding or touching you in some capacity. And if I’m not in the room, I need to get into the room. It’s pretty delightful for me, I’m not sure your assorted grandparents love it as much as I do. You still do really well with daycare drop off and really like your daycare teachers, but you squeak and squeal and kick your little legs as soon as I walk in the door to pick you up now. It is just the best.
As much as you love me, you’ve also really become attached to your dad. He works pretty horrible hours right now and often comes home right when you’re melting down before bed and truthfully, it had been getting to him. He was worried you were going to associate him with that end of the day grumpiness, but you have not. If he sings your son or even sort of smiles at you, all is well in your world again. It’s the absolute sweetest thing to watch.
You are an increasingly decent sitter these days. When you’re engaged with a toy you can sit independently for 5-10 minutes at a time. When you’re done sitting you just topple right over with absolutely no regard for your safety. No attempt to catch yourself whatsoever. It’s not taking years off my life at all.
Your likes this month include: Mom, Dad, Eli, the cats, Aunt Claire, pups, nursing, the small Sophie the Giraffe tethers, your thumb, swinging at the park, sitting up.
Your dislikes this month include any moment mom isn’t holding you, teeth, ear infections, zantac, the time it takes to go from nursing on one side to nursing on the other, bottles.
I cannot tell you what a delight you are, my sweet baby. You dazzle strangers in public every day and people stop me to comment on you all the time. They are captivated by your eyes and enraptured by your easy smile.
We did a trial swim class with you yesterday and you just took it all in, smiled and were even totally fine when the teacher dunked you. The parents were all so amazed at your reaction, but it’s just you. You’re just happy virtually all the time. I was not the least bit surprised.
We still have some work to do on sleeping, but oh my goodness you want to be a bed sharer so badly. I have gone from a staunch no babies in the bed person to an if the baby is still not asleep after an hour put him in bed so we can all sleep person. And as soon as I put in the bed you just snuggle your little head in and zonk right out. I know that it’s not a particularly good habit but I wouldn’t trade the snuggles for the world.
(In this picture, the pillows were added after I had gotten out of bed, and only to make sure there was no time for him to roll anywhere in the 2 seconds between when he woke up and when I saw this on the video monitor and rushed in to get him up. There is typically no bedding that can smother him. Promise.)
This seems like such a time of rapid change. Tomorrow you’ll eat food for the first time (sweet potatoes!), and I strongly suspect you’ll be crawling in some fashion in the next few weeks. I’m sad that your babyhood is already winding down because I have enjoyed it so much. I want to extract and distill your sweet spirit so that when you’re a rambunctious disagreeable toddler I can go back and remember these months. You are truly the sweetest baby and I am thankful for you every single day. I don’t know what I did to deserve to be your mom.
Happy 6 months, William. We love you and can’t wait to see what next month brings.
Two friends of mine lost their father this weekend. He was a wonderful, kind man, who I had the pleasure of meeting a few times in the past decade. But even if I had never met him, knowing his children would be enough of a statement about what kind of person he was. And his death has given me pause. I think because he died of Glioblastoma Multiforme, a cancer that I hate with the fiery passion of a thousand suns, a cancer that has already taken 2 other loved ones from me, I can’t help but feel heavy right now.
One of the strangest things about dying is that for the living, it feels like there this worldly crescendo. Everything becomes so important, so critical, so imminent. You have all this excess adrenaline waiting for it to happen. Every decision seems tremendously important. You wonder if this will be the day, how it will happen. You say your goodbyes and everything just seems so big, so impossible to manage. You can’t understand how the universe can hold all your feelings, how your body can hold them for that matter.
And then once it happens, everything seems to go silent.
You try to carry on with your life because the laundry still needs to be folded, the dishes still need to be washed. You fold towels and cry. You do dishes and you cry. You go out to eat and you wonder how all these people are living their lives and how is it that they don’t understand that your life has been turned so upside down that you don’t even know how you’re going to carry on? How can dishes still need to be done in a world where your loved one no longer exists?
I have been fortunate to not have many close family members die. And until recently, all those who I knew who died, did so somewhat quickly, which at times felt like a cruelty and at others a blessing. But I have learned recently that there is something uniquely cruel about watching someone die in a healthy body.
My father-in-law looks like he has always looked- like a 20 years older version of my husband. His voice has the same soft tone. His smile is as it has always been. His clothes seem a little bigger on a slightly smaller frame, but he looks essentially as he has always looked. But he is not there. There is a shell of what used to be my father-in-law.
The man left inside is confused. He wants to be helpful so he tries to stay busy, but he has no idea what he’s doing or why. He would try to pack boxes for his big move, but would then forget what he was doing and unpack everything he’d just put into the box. He used to be masterfully humorous with incredible timing and now he tries to tell a joke but can’t remember the words. He can’t participate in big conversations because he doesn’t understand what’s going on. He can remember something that happened 30 years ago with clarity but not what the plan for dinner is.
Watching him fade is every bit as horrifying as watching my grandfathers each die a fast death. Watching this brilliant man die in a healthy body is horrific. Watching his family grieve while he is still living, silently and in secret, is unbelievably sad. Knowing that my son will only maybe remember this version of his grandfather, a man who was so vibrant and funny, is devastating. That my father-in-law can’t remember his newest grandson’s name is even more so, especially when you can see the twinkle of recognition in his eyes and the anguish of not being able to remember the name.
There is no good way to lose someone you love. There is no way to lose someone that doesn’t involve losing them and thus, death is inherently painful for those who live. There are enough platitudes about carrying someone with you forever to sink a ship, but the reality is that even if death was the best outcome of a bad situation, even if there was no suffering, we suffer. We feel that loss in every moment, in ever fiber of our soul forever. Maybe it’s not as noticeable after a while, but it is there.
I fear, in the deepest parts of my heart, that someday I will watch my husband die in a healthy body. I fear that this man, this incredible father, won’t get to be a grandfather. That his amazing mind will shrink, that his often irreverent, always impeccably timed sense of humor will go quiet. I fear the silence that will come after the crescendo of dying. Of seeing his healthy body without his incredible soul, the same death we are watching in his father.
These are heavy things. They might make us stronger, but only because they must first break us so completely.
I’m very much a live and let live person.
You want to breastfeed your kid? Awesome.
You want to formula feed? Super.
You want to unschool? Knock yourself out.
Boarding school? Hooray for you.
Parenting is tough. You have to wade through volumes of information from a wide variety of sources, balance what’s right for you and your child against what’s right for others and then inevitably something changes and you have to do it all over again. And by and large, I have nothing but the utmost respect for your parenting decisions. With one important exception.
Currently, Eli is sick. He came home from preschool with a 103 degree fever (he was fever free this morning). There are a lot of things I should be worrying about. His comfort, whether to take him to the pediatrician, when I can give him more ibuprofen. But I should not, in the year 2015, be worrying about whether or not he may have measles.
And yet, here we are.
I’m not here to preach about how perfect vaccines are, there are other people who can do that better than I can (they’re called scientists, physicians, etc), I’m here to talk about how mad this situation makes me.
In 2000, measles was eradicated in the United States. We killed it. Clearly it wasn’t with superb sanitation, because I’m pretty sure that didn’t get worse in 15 years, but it WAS because of medical advances, namely, a hugely effective vaccine. And it was because of herd immunity. The vaccine is 95% effective at preventing measles in a single dose, 99% effective after the second. 99%. That’s just incredible. Science, man. And enough people were vaccinated that even when people came from overseas with measles, there just weren’t any hosts to infect. We were protected.
And then a former doctor lied, in an attempt to secure a patent for a new MMR vaccine, falsified data and convinced parents to stop vaccinating. A few celebrities jumped on the bandwagon. And vaccination levels began to decline (notably, Autism hasn’t, so…) and hey, guess what? Measles is back. It’s back because we let vaccination levels dip so low that the 1-5% that don’t develop immunity from the vaccine are getting sick because there aren’t enough other people to protect them, as are children, like my own infant, who are too young to be vaccinated and those who cannot vaccinate.
It was gone. 15 years ago it was gone and now it is at my front door, almost literally.
I live less than 30 minutes from Disneyland, a mere few miles from Orange County where the most cases are focused. Someone with measles went to a mall we go to, went to a movie theater we attend. One of the parents of a kid in Will’s daycare is quarantined because he’s an employee at Disneyland and was exposed. This virus, which can hang in the air for hours, is in my neighborhood, threatening my toddler, and truly, genuinely threatening my infant. Measles isn’t like a cold, I don’t need to rub my snot on you for you to catch it. It’s highly contagious even without actual direct contact. If my infant is in the room with someone with active measles, there is an extremely high chance he will get it.
My infant. My tiny boy who is too young to be vaccinated and relies on everyone else.
And I am mad. I am mad that in the year 2015 when we can land a robot on Mars and can circle the globe in airplanes and have cars that run entirely on electricity, we can’t keep my child safe from measles. I’m upset that people have taken the words of liars and discredited quacks as the gospel truth and that it is putting my child at risk. I’m upset that some people are so selfish that they cannot be bothered to care about those too young to be vaccinated and the immunocompromised who cannot receive vaccines.
Because that’s the thing- those of you not vaccinating may believe you’re doing it for the right reasons. But in order to do so you have to make peace with some really serious issues. You may have blog posts from other parents, you may even have a few physicians (ones who, I will add, are making a metric ton of money off of telling you not to vaccinate, by the way), but you don’t have science on your side. You may think that this is what’s best for your child, but you also have to acknowledge that it puts other people in danger. Your child might survive the measles, but will my 5 month old? Will my sister’s father in law who had a bone marrow transplant? Will my 6 year old patient who is recovering from chemo and radiation?
Maybe this post will cost me readers. That would be a bummer, it really would be, but I’d rather piss you off than support a decision that directly puts my family in danger. I wouldn’t support you walking around with a vial of smallpox in your backpack and I can’t pretend to support not vaccinating without a legitimate medical reason. I feel strongly that your parenting decisions are yours to make, but when you choose to do things that put my children at risk, I get an opinion. I am mad. I am mad that you are threatening my child’s welfare. I’m mad that I can’t even go to a grocery store with my child without fearing for his health and safety.
I’m mad that it’s 2015, my child is sick and all I can think about is whether he got measles and how on earth I can keep my 5 month old safe. This shouldn’t be happening and it is because we have chosen selfish pseudoscience over real evidence and have completely forgotten to consider the welfare of others. It’s sad and it’s scary. And I’m pissed off.
We never believed that Eli’s disposition was the result of anything other than sheer luck, but I will say that I have been shocked every step of the way, how very different our boys are from one another. They are both very happy, but they have uniquely different likes and dislikes. They have very different schedules and ideas and just, they’re just not the same. I guess I sort of thought Eli was a baby, not necessarily that he was Eli. I know that sounds kind of stupid, but there it is. And so we’ve done some things differently this round.
The first was sleep. I’m sure plenty of you remember Eli’s sleep woes, but the Cliff’s Notes version is that Eli slept in a Rock n Play until he was almost 11 months old. We tried almost daily from 6 months on to transition him to the crib and he would not have it and I didn’t have the heart to use the cry it out method. We finally had success with a floor bed at 11 months. And basically we didn’t want to deal with this kind of thing with William because it was incredibly difficult on all of us for months on end.
So we did use the Rock n Play, which I think surprised a great number of people. William has terrible reflux, so it wasn’t really safe for him to lay flat when he was tiny and couldn’t really protect his airway. At around 2 months, I started to get the itch. It was time, William was getting a little too cozy. And so we pulled out the Pack n Play and put away the Rock n Play. The first night was a breeze, but after that he started to have some trouble staying asleep, so we started swaddling, which we never really did with Eli. At around 4 months, I started to get the itch to ditch that too and so we slowly weaned him out, one arm at a time. And now, at 5 months, William happily sleeps on his tummy (he rolls there himself, safe sleep!) in his slightly inclined pack n play.
He does not sleep through the night, of course. I don’t make babies who sleep through the night, apparently. But he typically only wakes once to eat, so I will happily take it. He even naps in his pack n play when he’s not sick.
Another thing we’re doing differently is feeding. I mean, obviously nursing is different, but so is bottle feeding this time. William basically feels about bottles the way Eli felt about boobs. But William does take bottles at daycare, thankfully. We started Eli on solid foods at 5 months, but we have opted to wait until 6 months with William. I won’t lie, about 95% of this is laziness. Feeding William means more food I need to make, store, clean, etc., but also, he just doesn’t need it. It’s not that we’re not excited, I am actually super excited, but there’s no rush, and that is kind of glorious.
William also gets waaaaaaaaay waaaaaaay waaaaay more floor time than Eli did. Part of it is him being the second child. I simply have to put him down a whole lot more often than I did with Eli. He does spend some time in a bouncer, which Eli never did, also just out of necessity, particularly when I’m solo parenting and William wants to be in my eye line while I’m cooking or bathing Eli.
Mostly, I think what’s different this time is striking a balance between focusing solely on the future and focusing not on it all the time. So with Eli, I pretended like the Rock n Play wasn’t a problem right until it was, and then focused only on getting him out of it at any cost. With Will, I knew that the Rock n Play had the potential to be a problem, but I didn’t let it consume us in anyway. I helped him ease out of it. I knew the swaddle could be an issue, but instead of panicking and taking it all away, I slowly eased him out of it. It’s a weird mix of looking at the short term and the long term and freaking out about neither. Probably it’s just that I’m more calm in general, but it feels like the perspective we have on parenting is just…right this time.
Honestly, the thing that’s most different is that I’m enjoying parenthood. Really, truly, in my bones enjoying it. It’s not all easy, it’s not all fun, but it is all awesome.
It seems like Will grew cognitively and developmentally quite a lot this month, but based on the picture, the same can’t really be said for size. He is starting to outgrow some clothes so I know he’s growing, but maybe not really as noticeably as some other months. Also, trying to take this picture without my husband home was about 8 different kinds of difficult and a few kinds of dangerous too. There was much tipping. Happy 5 months, Will!
Today you are five months old! I cannot believe that you’re a mere month from being half a year old. It sounds so old and yet you’re so new. You may be new in the grand scheme of time, but you are so far from the days of being a generic newborn. You are persistently and delightfully you.
This month started out rough. What we thought was relatively minor reflux ended up coming to a big apex and after a major eating strike and terrifying pseudo seizures, you were officially diagnosed with GERD and Sandifer Syndrome. And an ear infection, just for good measure. We got you on antibiotics and started Zantac right away. After the first dose of Zantac you slept your longest stretch of sleep ever. I realized that this had really been bothering you for a few weeks and I felt and still feel so bad that you had to suffer for so long before we figured it out.
Thankfully, it didn’t take too long before you were back to your joyful self. You are just the happiest little guy. Last week we were at aunt Claire (who you adore)’s house and you so badly wanted to smile at her. You kept looking at her and waiting and whenever she’d turn your way you’d just beam. You do that sometimes, you just wait so you can smile at people and it’s the best. Like you just want them to know that you love them.
You are also just really, really cute. I mean, I’m your mom so I’m biased, but you have those big giant blue eyes, longer eyelashes than I’ll ever be able to attain, even with extreme quantities of mascara and soft pale skin. You’re just gorgeous and people stop all the time to ogle at you.
You celebrated your first Chanukah and Christmas this month and you were sufficiently spoiled by everyone. You also got to meet one of your (second?) cousins for the first time. He’s only 8 weeks older than you, so I’m excited for you two to grow up together.
Your likes this month include: Mom, dad, Eli, Aunt Claire, grandparents everywhere, sleeping on your tummy, blankets, sleeping with mommy, Sophie the Giraffe, rolling to your tummy, touching mom’s face, pups, baths.
Your dislikes this month include: reflux, Zantac, thrush, your pack n play, being left to play on your own, the car when it’s not moving, being overtired.
As much as you love other people, your favorite person (besides me, I have the milk) is your brother. You want to be persistently touching him (much to his frustration) and no one gets you laughing quite like Eli. It is the most incredible thing, watching the two of you, and it just about makes my heart burst. More than once it’s made me cry because it’s just, oh, my whole heart. You have changed things for Eli in a lot of ways and I think the two of you are someday going to have an incredible relationship.
This month marked your first real developmental milestone- rolling. You rolled tummy to back the day you turned 4 months (and have repeated the feat once I think) and unbeknownst to me, started rolling back to tummy just after Christmas. For a while you only did it at daycare, never at home. I tried, I put toys at your head, sat in places you’d have to roll to see me and you would not do it. I was starting to think your daycare teachers had you confused with someone else.
And then a week ago, I put you on the floor on your back, walked to the kitchen to get something and came back to find you on your tummy. You did it again (again when I wasn’t looking…) a few minutes later and since then it’s become a habitual thing, though you have yet to perform for your dad to see. I’m terribly sad that I didn’t get to see the very first one as it seems like such an important thing. I’m sure that when you’re old and reading this you really won’t care that I wasn’t the one who witnessed it (and trust me, you ADORE your daycare teachers), but right now, it weighs on my heart.
You are growing so fast and I feel like I am never able to stop and savor things the way I did with your brother. But, lest you think you’re getting the short stick, even though I don’t stop as often, I am enjoying your babyhood to the absolute highest degree. I was telling someone just today that this year (academic year) hasn’t been great, but that you’re the glue that’s holding it together. And it’s true. You are the one fantastic thing this year and you have helped us overcome a lot of lousy things, some major losses and quite a bit of stress. You’re our sunshine and we just adore you so very much. Now that we know you, we wouldn’t be us without you. Something would always be missing and that something would be all the joy and love you’ve brought into our lives.
We love you so very much, William. And we can’t wait to see what next month brings.