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When I'm not here, you may find me wandering the pages below. (If I'm a regular visitor to your site and I've left your link off or mislinked to you, please let me know! And likewise, if you've blogrolled me, please check that my link is updated: thisroamanticlife.blogspot.com. The extra (a) makes all the difference!)

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For posts sorted by date or label, see the links below.

For posts on frequently referenced topics, click the buttons to the right.

To search this blog, type in the field at the top left of the page and hit enter.

Body: in sickness and in health

I won't lie; this body and I have had our issues with each other for many years. Body image -- sure. Physical and mental overextension -- comes with being a Type A kind of girl. I still struggle with these things, so they show up from time to time in my writing.

More recently, illness, pure but not simple, has added itself to the mix in a multi-system sort of way. And the challenges in figuring out exactly what's gone wrong are many. As problems have revealed themselves in the last few years, beginning with reactive hypoglycemia in late 2008, I've documented them here, partly to gain a little clarity on managing complex conditions but mostly to give voice to vulnerabilities I feel but don't normally share with anyone face to face. Better out than in, they say, right? (Oh yes, humor is one way I deal.)

The links below cover the different angles I've examined (and from which I've been examined) within that experience.

Travel: neither here nor there

When the person you're married to lives two time zones away, you log a fair number of frequent flier miles. And if you blog about commuter relationships, you log quite a few posts en route too.

Since we're no longer in separate places, I blog less often from airports. But we do travel -- together now! -- which is much more fun to write about. So in addition to thoughts on our years of commuting, the links below cover the places we've been as a pair and, in some cases, the adventures that have happened on the way.

Writing: the long and short of it

Why do I do it? Good question. Maybe it's not so much that I like to write but that I have to write, even when the words refuse to stick to the page. Believe me, I've tried doing other things like majoring in biochemistry (freshman fall, many semesters ago). Within a year, I'd switched to English with a concentration in creative writing and wasn't looking back.

After graduating, I taught English for a few years and then worked as an editor, which I still do freelance. In 2007, I applied and got into an MFA program at a place I like to call Little U. on the Prairie. I finished my degree in 2011 and have been balancing tutoring and writing on my own ever since.

The following links cover the writing I've done about writing: process, content, obstacles, you name it. It's not always pretty. But some part of me loves it, even when it's hard. And this is the result.

Heart: family and friends

I'd have a hard time explaining who I am without being able to talk about the family I grew up in as well as the people I've met beyond its bounds. But even with such context, it's not easy! In the simplest terms, I'm a first-generation Asian-American who has spent most of this life caught between cultures. That, of course, doesn't even begin to describe what I mean to, but there's my first stab at the heart of it all.

That's what this group of posts is reserved for -- heart. The essential parts of my life whose influences I carry with me, for better or worse. The links below cover what I've written as I've learned how these forces work within me, for me, against me, in spite of me. They anchor me even as they change me, and they keep life interesting.

Recommended reading

What do I do when there's too much on my mind and my words won't stick to the page? I escape into someone else's thoughts. Below is a collection of books and articles that have been sources of information, inspiration, and occasional insight for my own work.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tongue-tied

Friday, March 29th, 10:55 a.m.

Today is D.'s first day back at work after his month of paternity leave, and it's just the two of us, O. and me, in the bunker of our bedroom. A pile of clean laundry sits on the unmade bed and random receipts and invoices from the last few weeks, most of them for medical care, are stacked on the floor and the ottoman to the nursing chair I don't use for nursing. Instead, I sit there solely to pump these days, every two hours. O., asleep in his rocking seat just within arm's reach, is snoring to the rhythm of the pump motor as I type.

Saturday, March 30th, 8:20 a.m.

I could write this as if it were one continuous post, but the reality is that I can only put down words every so many hours, when O. doesn't happen to need feeding while I'm pumping. I've rigged a hands-free flange holder from a strapless bra that always threatened to slip down whenever I wore it -- there was little for it to grip. It's serving its new purpose with much better success. Even when I'm holding O. in my lap, his powerful little legs kicking in protest when I take the bottle away to burp him, the bra does not yield when his foot swipes the collection containers dangling by his toes. Brings new meaning to the mother of invention indeed.

10:20 a.m.

We determined, after seeing a lactation consultant and an occupational therapist who specializes in infant feeding problems, that O. was born with a tongue tie. The ligament under his tongue was too tight and couldn't allow him to nurse properly, even though he made a remarkable effort for the first three weeks of his life. I had no idea he was struggling -- I just knew he was chewing me to pieces, but I thought it was normal. Breastfeeding is supposed to be painful at first, the on-call pediatrician who saw O. for jaundice said when he was three days old. I accepted that -- I'd planned to breastfeed unless there were extraordinary circumstances preventing it in hopes that O. would be better protected against developing the kinds of food allergies I have. I assumed the blistering would eventually toughen me up. As it was, O. was gaining weight at twice the average rate once we got through the initial postpartum weight loss every baby experiences.

4:15 p.m.

But then O. hit his first growth spurt and couldn't get the milk he needed, despite all the clamping and gnawing he'd been doing to compensate. Once we discovered the tongue tie, it was clear we had to get it clipped -- he was making himself gag too often when he tried to pull his tongue back and he couldn't stick it out far enough to form a proper latch. So we took him to yet another person who could do the procedure. It's a quick one, but I could not watch. The last I saw of O., drunk on the sugar water he'd been given before the frenotomy, was his tiny body swaddled in a hospital-issue blanket, his large, dark eyes gazing up at the nurse who would hold him down. And then the nurse practitioner who performed the clip was pressing gauze into his mouth and dancing from foot to foot with him in her arms while his face turned pink with his silent scream.

6:20 p.m.

We are 10 days from that afternoon and O.'s attempts to nurse are no better, at least from a nutritive standpoint. He no longer leaves me bloody, but he can't get a satisfactory latch, even though we both try so hard. We are now being sent to a group of occupational/physical therapists at Seattle Children's Hospital -- it seems there are more issues with O.'s mouth that we won't be able to address until he has an oral motor evaluation. The residual sensitivity he appears to have -- namely, that hyperactive gag -- is preventing him from being able to suck effectively.

Sunday, March 31st, 5:30 a.m.

It is hard not to be consumed by the quest for answers and assistance. It feels as if for as long as I've been stuck in this seat to pump -- the entire month, as of today -- I've been making appointments for O. and looking for recommendations on the most effective ways to increase milk supply. As he began to have more trouble nursing, I stopped producing as much milk because he wasn't extracting it well. Now we're playing catch-up. D. has a spreadsheet going for the data -- volumes, time elapsed between pumping sessions, time of day. Yes, we're geeks. But if charting will tell us whether we're actually gaining anything, then I can decide whether the hours I'm investing are worth what I'm losing in sleep and, more importantly, time with O.

8:30 a.m.

Of course, O. doesn't understand this when all he wants is to snuggle on my chest, flanges be damned. It's my heartbeat he wants against his cheek, to lull him to sleep when he's tired and to be comforted in his alert moments. Try as I have, I can't find a way to hold him in that position, so we are stuck at best at arms' length, which for both of us is an enormous disappointment. O. knits his little brows, throwing fists in all directions in search of something, anything, to pacify himself.

10:30 a.m.

"Talk to him," D. suggests. But I'm a mediocre conversationalist with the non-verbal set. I feel ridiculous narrating what I'm doing -- really, I'm not doing anything, just waiting passively for the pump to finish its business -- so that's out. And I sense O. is smart enough to know I can do better. D., an extrovert through and through, just has to stick his ever expressive face in front of O. to fascinate him; chit-chat is a bonus.

12:30 p.m.

So I practice my Cantonese on him. Very basic things, as my own retained vocabulary from childhood is scant: the words for parts of his body or a narration of what he's looking at. I follow with the English equivalent. Nothing like doubling the time from one sentence to another when you don't know what to say to replace the language of touch.

Monday, April 1st, 3:55 a.m.

Does he really recognize my voice from his time in utero? I wonder. For D.'s month off, I've had to spend so much time tied to the pump that D. has been O.'s primary caregiver. Bottle-feeding, changing, playing, walking him around the living room in the middle of the night -- it's no wonder I've had trouble finding a connection to this intense little soul now that I'm all he has during the weekday. For the last two weeks, when my face has been in front of his, he's stared past me into my hair. I tell myself it's because he's attracted to high-contrast things, but I worry he's forgotten who I am.

9:10 p.m.

It's also amazing the difference a day makes. Today was our second on our own with this pumping schedule, and for most of it, O. made eye contact with me. And he smiled.

Tuesday, April 2nd, 8:05 p.m.

We've been given exercises to do with O. to help loosen the muscles of his mouth and increase the range of motion of his tongue. He hated having our fingers in and around his mouth right after the frenotomy -- no surprise -- but I've figured out how to make that more, shall we say, palatable. I wait until he's looking at me and then do one of the lip stretches with my fingers on myself while making an interesting noise, such as clicking my tongue, in rhythm with the left-right motions -- we have to push and pull the upper and lower lips sideways. Then I do the same on him. He thinks it's a great game as long as I stay on the outside of his mouth -- he opens it almost as if to laugh and makes cooing sounds. He still doesn't like my touching his gums or tongue, though. He used to welcome having a finger to suck on for comfort, but now he grabs our hands and forcibly pulls them away when we go for the exercise where we have to press on his tongue to encourage him to form it into a trough (it'll help him maintain suction at the breast). I did manage to get him to take my finger briefly when he was sleepy today, just for pacification. It's as if regaining his trust is part of his therapy too.

Thursday, April 4th, 4:15 a.m.

Tomorrow we'll have made it through a work week. I've measured the hours until D. returns each day by pumping intervals -- five, on average, before I can have his help again with O. I consider it a victory if I can feed myself and accomplish one other task in between sessions if O. is asleep: folding laundry, paying bills, anything that can be done not seated in front of my laptop, which is where the pump is set up. I baked bread yesterday. Two beautiful, springy-centered, golden-crusted, gluten-free loaves. I'd mixed the dry ingredients Monday afternoon and was never able to get enough time until 48 hours later to add the wet and then put it all in the oven. But I anticipated that. And I even mixed two extra rations of dry ingredients and bagged them for next time.

9:15 a.m.

I've realized after these simultaneously long and short days -- long when you can never get more than three hours' sleep because of pumping demands, short because there is never enough time in between to finish tasks that you used to count on being able to complete in one attempt -- that a to-do list is laughably moot. So I've renamed it the Wish List. I jot down what I'd like to get done on it and impose no time limits. It gives me the sense that those things still matter, that it is okay to prioritize the time for them, even if it means an entire day's scattered free minutes have to be used to get one wish fulfilled. The bread was worth it. It also keeps me from forgetting the little things that would otherwise nag at me every time I'm reminded of them while I'm attached to the pump or have my hands full with O. (sometimes both). Move ottoman was one of today's wishes, the one that came with the nursing chair. I've wanted to get it out of our bedroom for the entire month as it's not usable at the moment. (Never lean back while pumping unless you really do want to cry about spilled milk.)

7:25 p.m.

I won't say I've accepted all this as the new normal yet. But we're surviving it until the next turn in the road. We'll see the occupational/physical therapy group in just under a week, and then, who knows. At least we've proved to ourselves that some form of life as we once knew it can continue -- only in discrete chunks. O. is worth it. I just can't wait until the pump is no longer between him and me.



*

This post happened to coincide with a prompt from Mama Kat's weekly Writer's Workshop. Check out more stories and essays by clicking the button below.

Mama’s Losin’ It

2 comments:

D. A. Wolf said...

CT, It's so, so hard. The fatigue. The newness. OMG... the breastfeeding thing (mais tu sais déjà que je n'ai pas pu, et au bout d'un certain nombre de semaines affreuses j'ai dit non, non, et non... et tout allait mieux après).

Sending you love and hugs. To all of you, and your beautiful boy.

xo

C. Troubadour said...

Oui, je sais -- de semaines affreuses, c'est ça.

On a fait un petit pas en avant cette semaine. O. is taking two meals a day at the breast with the help of a supplemental feeder (tubing and an external reservoir). Next week, perhaps more ...

xoxo

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tongue-tied

Friday, March 29th, 10:55 a.m.

Today is D.'s first day back at work after his month of paternity leave, and it's just the two of us, O. and me, in the bunker of our bedroom. A pile of clean laundry sits on the unmade bed and random receipts and invoices from the last few weeks, most of them for medical care, are stacked on the floor and the ottoman to the nursing chair I don't use for nursing. Instead, I sit there solely to pump these days, every two hours. O., asleep in his rocking seat just within arm's reach, is snoring to the rhythm of the pump motor as I type.

Saturday, March 30th, 8:20 a.m.

I could write this as if it were one continuous post, but the reality is that I can only put down words every so many hours, when O. doesn't happen to need feeding while I'm pumping. I've rigged a hands-free flange holder from a strapless bra that always threatened to slip down whenever I wore it -- there was little for it to grip. It's serving its new purpose with much better success. Even when I'm holding O. in my lap, his powerful little legs kicking in protest when I take the bottle away to burp him, the bra does not yield when his foot swipes the collection containers dangling by his toes. Brings new meaning to the mother of invention indeed.

10:20 a.m.

We determined, after seeing a lactation consultant and an occupational therapist who specializes in infant feeding problems, that O. was born with a tongue tie. The ligament under his tongue was too tight and couldn't allow him to nurse properly, even though he made a remarkable effort for the first three weeks of his life. I had no idea he was struggling -- I just knew he was chewing me to pieces, but I thought it was normal. Breastfeeding is supposed to be painful at first, the on-call pediatrician who saw O. for jaundice said when he was three days old. I accepted that -- I'd planned to breastfeed unless there were extraordinary circumstances preventing it in hopes that O. would be better protected against developing the kinds of food allergies I have. I assumed the blistering would eventually toughen me up. As it was, O. was gaining weight at twice the average rate once we got through the initial postpartum weight loss every baby experiences.

4:15 p.m.

But then O. hit his first growth spurt and couldn't get the milk he needed, despite all the clamping and gnawing he'd been doing to compensate. Once we discovered the tongue tie, it was clear we had to get it clipped -- he was making himself gag too often when he tried to pull his tongue back and he couldn't stick it out far enough to form a proper latch. So we took him to yet another person who could do the procedure. It's a quick one, but I could not watch. The last I saw of O., drunk on the sugar water he'd been given before the frenotomy, was his tiny body swaddled in a hospital-issue blanket, his large, dark eyes gazing up at the nurse who would hold him down. And then the nurse practitioner who performed the clip was pressing gauze into his mouth and dancing from foot to foot with him in her arms while his face turned pink with his silent scream.

6:20 p.m.

We are 10 days from that afternoon and O.'s attempts to nurse are no better, at least from a nutritive standpoint. He no longer leaves me bloody, but he can't get a satisfactory latch, even though we both try so hard. We are now being sent to a group of occupational/physical therapists at Seattle Children's Hospital -- it seems there are more issues with O.'s mouth that we won't be able to address until he has an oral motor evaluation. The residual sensitivity he appears to have -- namely, that hyperactive gag -- is preventing him from being able to suck effectively.

Sunday, March 31st, 5:30 a.m.

It is hard not to be consumed by the quest for answers and assistance. It feels as if for as long as I've been stuck in this seat to pump -- the entire month, as of today -- I've been making appointments for O. and looking for recommendations on the most effective ways to increase milk supply. As he began to have more trouble nursing, I stopped producing as much milk because he wasn't extracting it well. Now we're playing catch-up. D. has a spreadsheet going for the data -- volumes, time elapsed between pumping sessions, time of day. Yes, we're geeks. But if charting will tell us whether we're actually gaining anything, then I can decide whether the hours I'm investing are worth what I'm losing in sleep and, more importantly, time with O.

8:30 a.m.

Of course, O. doesn't understand this when all he wants is to snuggle on my chest, flanges be damned. It's my heartbeat he wants against his cheek, to lull him to sleep when he's tired and to be comforted in his alert moments. Try as I have, I can't find a way to hold him in that position, so we are stuck at best at arms' length, which for both of us is an enormous disappointment. O. knits his little brows, throwing fists in all directions in search of something, anything, to pacify himself.

10:30 a.m.

"Talk to him," D. suggests. But I'm a mediocre conversationalist with the non-verbal set. I feel ridiculous narrating what I'm doing -- really, I'm not doing anything, just waiting passively for the pump to finish its business -- so that's out. And I sense O. is smart enough to know I can do better. D., an extrovert through and through, just has to stick his ever expressive face in front of O. to fascinate him; chit-chat is a bonus.

12:30 p.m.

So I practice my Cantonese on him. Very basic things, as my own retained vocabulary from childhood is scant: the words for parts of his body or a narration of what he's looking at. I follow with the English equivalent. Nothing like doubling the time from one sentence to another when you don't know what to say to replace the language of touch.

Monday, April 1st, 3:55 a.m.

Does he really recognize my voice from his time in utero? I wonder. For D.'s month off, I've had to spend so much time tied to the pump that D. has been O.'s primary caregiver. Bottle-feeding, changing, playing, walking him around the living room in the middle of the night -- it's no wonder I've had trouble finding a connection to this intense little soul now that I'm all he has during the weekday. For the last two weeks, when my face has been in front of his, he's stared past me into my hair. I tell myself it's because he's attracted to high-contrast things, but I worry he's forgotten who I am.

9:10 p.m.

It's also amazing the difference a day makes. Today was our second on our own with this pumping schedule, and for most of it, O. made eye contact with me. And he smiled.

Tuesday, April 2nd, 8:05 p.m.

We've been given exercises to do with O. to help loosen the muscles of his mouth and increase the range of motion of his tongue. He hated having our fingers in and around his mouth right after the frenotomy -- no surprise -- but I've figured out how to make that more, shall we say, palatable. I wait until he's looking at me and then do one of the lip stretches with my fingers on myself while making an interesting noise, such as clicking my tongue, in rhythm with the left-right motions -- we have to push and pull the upper and lower lips sideways. Then I do the same on him. He thinks it's a great game as long as I stay on the outside of his mouth -- he opens it almost as if to laugh and makes cooing sounds. He still doesn't like my touching his gums or tongue, though. He used to welcome having a finger to suck on for comfort, but now he grabs our hands and forcibly pulls them away when we go for the exercise where we have to press on his tongue to encourage him to form it into a trough (it'll help him maintain suction at the breast). I did manage to get him to take my finger briefly when he was sleepy today, just for pacification. It's as if regaining his trust is part of his therapy too.

Thursday, April 4th, 4:15 a.m.

Tomorrow we'll have made it through a work week. I've measured the hours until D. returns each day by pumping intervals -- five, on average, before I can have his help again with O. I consider it a victory if I can feed myself and accomplish one other task in between sessions if O. is asleep: folding laundry, paying bills, anything that can be done not seated in front of my laptop, which is where the pump is set up. I baked bread yesterday. Two beautiful, springy-centered, golden-crusted, gluten-free loaves. I'd mixed the dry ingredients Monday afternoon and was never able to get enough time until 48 hours later to add the wet and then put it all in the oven. But I anticipated that. And I even mixed two extra rations of dry ingredients and bagged them for next time.

9:15 a.m.

I've realized after these simultaneously long and short days -- long when you can never get more than three hours' sleep because of pumping demands, short because there is never enough time in between to finish tasks that you used to count on being able to complete in one attempt -- that a to-do list is laughably moot. So I've renamed it the Wish List. I jot down what I'd like to get done on it and impose no time limits. It gives me the sense that those things still matter, that it is okay to prioritize the time for them, even if it means an entire day's scattered free minutes have to be used to get one wish fulfilled. The bread was worth it. It also keeps me from forgetting the little things that would otherwise nag at me every time I'm reminded of them while I'm attached to the pump or have my hands full with O. (sometimes both). Move ottoman was one of today's wishes, the one that came with the nursing chair. I've wanted to get it out of our bedroom for the entire month as it's not usable at the moment. (Never lean back while pumping unless you really do want to cry about spilled milk.)

7:25 p.m.

I won't say I've accepted all this as the new normal yet. But we're surviving it until the next turn in the road. We'll see the occupational/physical therapy group in just under a week, and then, who knows. At least we've proved to ourselves that some form of life as we once knew it can continue -- only in discrete chunks. O. is worth it. I just can't wait until the pump is no longer between him and me.



*

This post happened to coincide with a prompt from Mama Kat's weekly Writer's Workshop. Check out more stories and essays by clicking the button below.

Mama’s Losin’ It

2 comments:

D. A. Wolf said...

CT, It's so, so hard. The fatigue. The newness. OMG... the breastfeeding thing (mais tu sais déjà que je n'ai pas pu, et au bout d'un certain nombre de semaines affreuses j'ai dit non, non, et non... et tout allait mieux après).

Sending you love and hugs. To all of you, and your beautiful boy.

xo

C. Troubadour said...

Oui, je sais -- de semaines affreuses, c'est ça.

On a fait un petit pas en avant cette semaine. O. is taking two meals a day at the breast with the help of a supplemental feeder (tubing and an external reservoir). Next week, perhaps more ...

xoxo