Tuesday, October 31, 2006

In Praise of Tylenol

Well, the Dark Angel of Feverish Misery has once again visited our household (I must have forgotten to mark the door with lamb's blood again!) And once again, there has been the fussiness and poor appetite and high fevers (which always, inexplicably, burn hotter and fiercer throughout the midnight hours, causing fitful sleep and multiple nighttime wakings soothed only by yet another bottle and a cuddle on the couch while watching the always riveting programming of late-night PBS.)
But this time hasn't felt as awful, honestly. The fever came on very suddenly, but as soon as my lips touched that flushed little forehead and I realized my baby was sick, I began bracing myself for sleeplessness and fluid pushing and hourly temperature checks and all that so that I would not be caught unprepared. Also, there has been less sniffling and congestion this time, and more fever and body aches and lots of daytime sleeping.
So maybe that's why it's been easier, or maybe I'm just more prepared this time, but whatever the reason, I am calm and patient and have had no strong urges to burst into tears or pound my head against a brick wall or anything like that. I have, however, called the local hospital's hotline to ask at what point, exactly, a fever becomes dangerously high (answer: anything over 100 degrees for a small infant, anything over 105 degrees for a child over one.) Adelay's ear temp was reading 104 on Sunday night, so we kept Tylenol in her every four hours and checked the temperature vigilantly, and by morning it was down to 102. It has since crept back to 103, but is usually hanging out at a manageable 101.
Now, let me reiterate: I didn't freak out once, even when I felt compelled to call the hospital. I was still calm and controlled. Nor did I overly berate myself when the nurse on the phone informed me that we had been giving Addy only about half the dose of Tylenol that her weight called for, and that was probably why her fever had continued to go up. I just sighed with momentary guilt, said, "Live and learn," and upped the dosage the next time. What parenting evolution is taking place in me that I did not panic and have to be talked off of my unfit mother ledge?
I don't know; maybe it's just necessity- after a certain number of mistakes, perhaps one simply numbs themselves to the onslaught of guilt in order to survive and go forward. You just cannot get hysterical every time you slip up, or you'll be in your room, calming yourself down with a time-out, more often than your temper-tantrum throwing kid.
Anyhoo, just wanted to give a shout-out to Baby Tylenol, which really does work a happy magic on hot, cranky little babies (when administered in proper doses, of course.) And let me also say this about a cool bath to bring down fevers: it does work, temporarily, but when one's child begins to shiver in the cold, and then has a shudder run through her that shakes her legs uncontrollably... Well, one might in their vigilance completely panic, thinking that their child is having a fever-induced seizure, and further traumatize their baby by snatching her out of the bath to check that her eyes are not rolling back in her head. Just, you know, a hypothetical example of something to be aware of. Not that this has happened to me, because as I stated previously, I have been cool as a cucumber this entire time. Not a single freak out.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Another Link

Hey, no blog here today, just a link to another good one from Catherine Newman! So funny, and so true. http://wondertime.go.com/parent-to-parent/blogs/catherine-newman-blog/10232006.html

Friday, October 20, 2006

Designer Babies

Do we look on our children as accessories? This thought has crossed my mind many times when doing a double take at some of the babies in the mall (and- guilty as charged!- when I have dressed up my own daughter for the portraits which I wrote about recently.) I love hairbows and cute little outfits as much as (or more than) the next person, but there is definitely something creepy about the way some moms seem to tote around their little ones as though they were the finishing touch on their perfect suburban life. Even their baby gear- strollers, playpens, diaper bags, etc. Of course we want the safest and cleanest equipment in which to tote and transport our children and their stuff. But does it have to be the newest and coolest and most expensive? The kid's gonna get it gross in under three months anyways; would gently used hand-me-downs not be smarter?
And the same definitely goes for clothes and shoes and all that. Addy has a ton of cute clothes, I will admit, but the vast majority of them my mom found at fairly inexpensive prices on eBay. This knowledge has made me very happy every time I've had to put away an adorable but outgrown outfit that Adelay wore a grand total of two times. It would have been a lot more painful to say goodbye to that cute dress if it had cost thirty dollars rather than five or six, you know?
But all this grumbling about commercialism in the childrearing realm is actually about something much bigger and scarier than BabyGap. It's about the morality of gender selection, my new focus of obsessive research! Gender selection used to mean abortion of otherwise healthy fetuses who were found to be of the undesired gender. But now it can simply mean IVF methods which require no abortion, but allow you to select the gender of an embryo and then implant it. See, many people now (usually upper class- they're the only ones who can afford it) want to design their own perfect little families, built to specification, a boy first, then a girl, then done, for example. It sounds a little strange, I know, but I have to confess that, coming from a family of four girls, it's very scary for me to contemplate that same fate revisiting me in my adult life- or in other words, I really want a boy! It doesn't have the be the next child or anything, but at some point, it would really relieve me to have a son. Not because I think boys are better or more desirable or anything-far from it!- but because I know what can happen to a household when the testosterone and progesterone levels are severely unbalanced! I love all my sisters dearly, but I can certainly see the benefits of having a brother or two around.
So I did a bit of looking around to see if there's any way, beyond the expensive sperm sorting techniques and in-vitro fertilization, to just kind of up the odds a bit of having a boy. But as I read more, I began to feel a little weird about it, and then I found an article which put into very articulate words all that weirdness I was feeling. Basically, "Maybe this is wrong." (Here's the link: http://www.gene-watch.org/genewatch/articles/17-1darnovsky.html) Certainly I don't think it's wrong to wish or hope for something, but to try to take matters into your own hands... It's a little strange, and beyond that, a little humanistic in the very worst sense. It's so untrusting, so fearful, to be too scared to leave it in God's hands. On the other hand, maybe you could say that about birth control, too, couldn't you? That it's untrusting, it's taking something natural into our own hands, etc.
I don't know what the answer is, I really don't. I've actually given it a lot of thought (the birth control thing) and I have arrived at no real conclusion. Because where does it stop? Couldn't you also say that taking a medication is wrong because God intended for you to have that disease? Or that wearing glasses or braces is wrong because maybe God meant for you to have those handicaps? Is cosmetic surgery wrong? Is wearing makeup wrong? Coloring your hair? At what point, exactly, does controlling or altering our physical bodies cross the line and become immoral?
I guess I have a problem specifically with the gender selection because it's not just altering a physical characteristic or solving a health problem for an already existing person as much as it is rejecting the person itself. You are choosing a boy and not a girl, or vice versa. One person over the other, even if just hypothetically. So I have decided that much as I may hope to one day have a son, I would just not feel right about taking measures to try to ensure that my next baby is a boy. I ultimately trust that God will send us exactly the right children for our family, and I wouldn't want any children but them!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Read This Blog

Here is your mission: go read this article. (Actually, read everything written by Catherine Newman.) Have yourself a chuckle. Then realize that I could have written this word-for-word and it would have all been true except for the names of the kids. And also that she left out my own personal version of catastrophizing: hearing noises in the night and immediately assuming, not that the wind is whistling in the chimney or that our fifty-year-old house is experiencing normal shifting and settling, but that there is a psychopathic killer cutting through the chain lock on the backdoor and slipping in to murder us in our beds (all while our supposed guard dog snores away in the closet.)
Every night that I can't sleep, after about an hour of lying awake, flinching and sitting up at every sound, I begin to think, "I really need to see a shrink about this, I do. This is insane." And then in the morning everything is fine and I think, "Oh well, I just need to cut down on my caffeine intake and not eat such crazy snacks before bed. That's what is keeping me up at night." When the truth it, what is keeping me up is this very thing that Catherine describes in her latest blog: this constant certainty that the worst possible scenario, the one-in-a-million chance that it's actually going to happen to me kind of tragedy, is in fact happening.
So... any ideas on how to fix this? I just sort of pray myself to sleep, but to be honest it doesn't always soothe my fears that much. I still jump at every sound until finally I'm so physically exhausted that I sleep. Am I insane? (You can tell me if I am.) Or is it just a normal new mom thing to be paranoid and irrationally fearful after you have children?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Capturing the Moment (Or, New Ways to Torture Your Child!)

So here's a quickie for you. I know I already blogged like two days ago, but bear with me 'cause I have no life.
This is an ode to the photographer on duty at a certain portrait studio I took Addy to today (I won't tell you the name of the place, but it rhythmes with "Benny's." "KDBenney's," to be exact.) I have never had a bad experience at this place before; granted, of course, that could be due to the fact that my child is just naturally gorgeous and photogenic and endlessly cooperative. Or was anyways, when she was seven weeks old and not yet mobile enough to crawl away from the photographer, crying in terror.
Because that's what happened today! But I would have cried too, if I had had a cloyingly patronizing voice cooing out my name so loudly that the entire second floor of a department store could hear. Also, I probably wouldn't enjoy having a total stranger shove a ratty, germ laden bunny in my face at random intervals while bellowing, "Who's got her nose? Who's got her nose?"
Really, this woman was just not a baby person, if you get my drift. She was all business while we were hammering out the details of the package price (so grimly that you would have thought we were negotiating a prisoner exchange, in fact,) but when it came time to take the actual pictures, she suddenly morphed into this chirpy little derranged clown. Some people seem to operate under the delusion that children are not small people but are in fact some completely foreign species that responds positively to behaviors which we ourselves would find insulting and annoying. This lady, she was one of those people.
But of course, Addy pulled through for me and managed a few weak smiles, and then I got the heck out of there as fast as was possible while lugging an unhappy twenty-pound child, a diaper bag, and various and sundry toys brought along to amuse said child.
Anyway, the point of this rant is just to question why I feel portraits are some important rite of passage. Why do I need a new 8 by 10 every six months or so- am in some danger of forgetting what my own baby looked like at any given age? Are regular snapshots not enough; I need a shelf of dressed-up poses?
I don't know. It's a little superficial and shallow of me, I suppose, but I really do love how her professional pictures turn out, though- somehow I see her in a little different light when it's just her beautiful, cherubic face aglow against the black velvet backdrop. I spend so much time wiping applesauce and just plain old goop off those cheeks that I seem to forget sometimes how angelic they are. It's the old missing of the forest for the trees problem that I think even the best, most in-the-moment moms fall prey to at times.
So I guess those fancy, overpriced, phoney portraits do serve a purpose for me. No matter how burnt out I am on taking care of a baby who's been yelling and pooping and smearing up her high chair all day, I can walk by the portrait shelf and remember that somewhere in that grumpy monster baby is that same sweet, clean, smiling baby in the picture!

Monday, October 09, 2006


Well, the birthday bash is over- all the cake crumbs and wrapping paper scraps have been cleaned up, the new toys have been put away, and all the leftover ice cream and chip dip is slowly but surely finding its way to my thighs. You know, the usual party aftermath. And now my baby is a big girl. Sigh.
I can't believe it's been a year since we brought home that tiny, five pound bundle of pink blankets, laid her in the bassinette, and then stared at her and wondered what we were supposed to do next. Could I have guessed then how much of a little person she would become in just one year? How intimately familiar I would be with every aspect of her habits, whims, sleeping patterns, and bowel movements? Could I have comprehended the difference in the love one feels for a helpless newborn and the love you feel for a child you have watched growing more and more into herself , her very own personality, with each passing day? Could I have estimated the number of parenting mistakes I would make in the next year? No, no, no, and no.
Here is a brief summary of the things I have failed at:

-my breast milk didn't come in fully at first because Addy was early, and I was never diligent enough about pumping to get it to come in, so by six months I had weaned her completely- and I said I was going to breastfeed until she was a year old.
-I (gasp!) bought the store brand formula after a while, after wising up to the fact that the other brands are probably only more expensive so they can pay for their advertising.
-Along the same lines, I now buy the generic Wal-Mart diapers instead of Pampers. Not the Meijer brand, though. Those things are crap!
-I didn't puree organic vegetables to make my own baby food. I buy jars. I have NEVER pureed anything. There, I said it.
-I often put Adelay to bed with a bottle of milk, even though the doctor always lectures me about it.
-Adelay has four teeth already, and I have yet to buy the little Baby Orajel gum and tooth cleaner stuff.
-I once forgot to give her Baby Tylenol before I took her to get her vaccinations.
-I sometimes don't turn the baby monitor on because when she's restless in her sleep it wakes me up (she is only a wall away, so I can hear her if she actually cries, however.)
-I used to always dilute her juice with water to cut down on her sugar, and now I hardly ever remember to.
-I never buy the jars of peas or green beans because I tried them once and they make me want to vomit.
-She watches a Baby Einstein movie almost every day. Not only that, but while hanging out with her negligent parents in the evenings, she has seen her fair share of more, shall we say, mature viewing material. (The Godfather, anyone?)
-I once had to call Poison Control Center because I found her chewing on an ant trap- and I had been in the same room the whole time!

So, there it is, people. Am I a bad parent? A lazy, selfish one? I think the last one is probably true at least some of the time. There have been days when there was too much TV and playpen time and not enough mentally stimulating interaction, and there have been times when we've kept her out past her bedtime because of our own social agenda. There have been days when I've been more preoccupied with getting my house cleaned up than stopping to smell the roses with my baby. These are not things I'm proud of, but I am facing them, taking an honest look at my parenting thus far. I am striving every day to do better.
And I am hoping that always when parenting I will keep things in perspective- juice consumption and TV watching are not issues to stress about too much, although they certainly have their place. But in the grand scheme of childrearing, there are so many, many things to worry about that you have to pick a few big ones to be a diehard about and then just be flexible about the rest, or you'll drive yourself insane, I think. Big things for me will be honesty, learning healthy ways to express emotions, and just generally being a nice person (i.e., kind, helpful, polite, not slapping your mom in the face, that sort of thing.) And most importantly, of course, is to make sure my kids feel grounded and secure in the love of their parents, and that they have a relationship with God. Everything else is just kind of a bonus. If they eat their vegetables, great. If not, oh well. There's always vitamins.
So there's my parenting philosophy in a nutshell. We'll see how it has evolved by Adelay's next birthday! Terrible twos, here we come.
P.S. I am doing much better about the miscarriage, by the way- the doctor told me that he thinks an embryo may never have formed at all, but only placenta tissue, since we never saw a heartbeat. That thought- that I may not have actually lost a child at all, but only a chance at pregnancy- has comforted me a lot the last few days.

Monday, October 02, 2006

A Surreal Life

First I should apologize for not blogging in over two weeks (that's based on the somewhat far-fetched and egomaniacal assumption that anyone had noticed or cared, but I thought I should begin that way just in case.) The reasons for my absence from bloggerville are ones of joy and sadness both- so, life, basically. Another case of real life getting in the way of my obsessive reporting on it.
Now, I know that some people who read this blog are not intimately familiar with the details of my life, but most of you are, so I am going to go ahead and sum up my last few weeks as simply as possible: I was pregnant, and now I am not. And if you don't know the details of the story, then read on.
I have been on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster lately, plummeting from the wild peaks of joy and disbelief to the depth of... well, resignation, I guess, and gratitude for what I have already. And in between those two points was a lot of sadness and fear that I just wasn't ready to talk about until now.
I was thrilled to be pregnant, but was very aware from the beginning of the fragility of my condition, and wasn't ready to announce it to just everybody yet. First there had been the words of caution from the doctor about my low hormone levels, and then had come the bad news that there was no heartbeat. A few days after that, I lost the baby and was then sent into surgery. Basically, my doctor was afraid I had had an ectopic pregnancy rather than a simple miscarriage, so for a while there things were pretty scary. But fortunately it was all over in a day, and by Saturday afternoon we knew that I was going to be fine and that there was no tubal pregnancy. It was all a little overwhelming, although in truth I had had the sense that there was something wrong from the beginning.
So that's where I've been lately. And even as I write this, I'm a little doped up on Percaset, which I probably don't need anymore, medically speaking, but it does take the edge off. There are some unpleasant side effects such as nausea, but it is well worth enduring them to get to take that blissed out trip to la-la land every four hours. When they first gave me the drugs, about an hour out of surgery when I was beginning to get really uncomfortable, I couldn't believe how suddenly euphoric I felt- euphoric and chatty! I couldn't stop telling everyone how much I loved them, how much their support meant to me, and how they shouldn't worry about me because I was just so grateful for my health and for the beautiful baby I already had. I repeated these thoughts about a dozen times to anyone who would listen.
So now, two days later, I really should wean off the prescription-strength painkillers and get back to life as usual, since I'm not really experiencing much pain anymore- now it's more of a depressed, back-to-the-ole'-grind kind of feeling, which I'm pretty sure Percaset is not FDA approved to treat. Now the fuss and the sympathy is over, the blur of condolences and flowers, and it's back to the drawing board, where we must wait for three months before we can even think about pregnancy again.
And it all feels like such a waste, and such a tragedy, even though I know it happens to almost every woman at some point. I can't help wondering why I was even allowed to get pregnant- why, if it wasn't God's will (as people keep reminding me) did it even happened at all? And why to me, when I am so young and in such good health? If there was anyone who should have had a problem-free pregnancy it was me, right? Am I being punished for something- was I too cavalier, too presumptious in thinking nothing could go wrong for us? Or was it a mistake to get pregnant again- did God know I wasn't ready to handle being the mother of two yet? These are horrible things to think, and beyond being horrible, are completely useless and unhelpful. And yet there they are, surprising me at random moments just when I think I'm actually getting over it.
I don't like admitting to this struggle, but I don't want to pretend that I'm totally fine about everything either, that I'm just gracefully accepting and submitting. I'm dealing with it, but it feels insane at the same time- we're in a big rush trying to get all our projects around the house finished in time for Addy's birthday party this weekend, and sometimes I'll stop in the middle of painting or whatever and think, "This is crazy. I just lost a baby. I should be sitting on the edge of the bathtub crying." It's so surreal that it can be over, just like that, and then life is back to normal. I was pregnant, and now I'm not. This is the fact, but it is much harder to comprehend emotionally than it is to explain medically.
I did take some time to grieve, I really did- I did the whole sitting on the edge of the tub crying thing. In fact I frightened my daughter by randomly bursting into tears while I was feeding her lunch, which in turn made her cry and made me totally lose it and flee to the bathroom to sob in private. But I have to confess that throwing myself into my projects and party planning has in some ways been just as cathartic as all the crying in the world. Or maybe that's just what my good friend denial is telling me...
But I guess you just do what you have to do to get through the day, right? I don't know if there's any normal way to feel or to deal with a miscarriage, because everyone's initial feelings about pregnancy are so different. To some women it's not real until they feel the baby move, or even until they hold it in their arms. To others, it's real the minute they see that positive sign on the home test. I'm pretty much in the latter category, but this time I had found out that I had very low progesterone levels (a sign of an increased chance for miscarriage) just a day after I found out I was pregnant. So even though we went ahead and told our families the news, there was a part of my heart that was holding back, afraid to get too excited for fear of the pain if something went wrong. Turns out that was a good instinct, but of course it didn't entirely protect me from the sinking in my heart when I learned that my baby was gone. No matter how much you try to prepare yourself, there's no softening that initial blow, I guess.
And maybe it never really goes away. I suppose you always remember the loss of a child, even very early; you always mentally remember that the number of children you have should be one more. I find myself wishing that I had known the gender, that I could have given it a name to remember it by. And simultaneously I am grateful that I lost it too early to know the sex- maybe it is better that way. Though of course, there is no good way.
The only good things I can say I have come away from this with are, one, a more profound gratitude for my beautiful, healthy baby girl, and two, a more humble and realistic perspective on any future pregnancies. I now know that I am not guaranteed perfect health just because I am young, and and I realize more than ever that each healthy baby born is a miraculous gift! Oh yeah, and the third thing I have come away with is a stronger marriage. My husband and I have really had to be there for each other, especially during that difficult day when the doctor was worried that my fallopian tube had ruptured and that I might have complications with further pregnancies. Both of us want a big family, so to hear this news on top of the loss of our baby was really hard to take in, but we had to be strong for each other, and I think we came out of the experience closer.
So.... that's what's been going on on with me lately. Sorry if that was too much information at all, but it felt good to write about it. If anyone has their own stories to share, please do. And to those of you who have been so supportive this past week, and who were praying for us, thank you!