Where was I? Oh, right. O. is
Attempts at essay writing have been laughably fragmented, kind of like most mental processes I assail with the grace of a zombie these days. But to provide an update, I thought I'd offer some high/low entertainment for the few who are still checking in here to make sure we haven't completely fallen off the earth. (By the way, you all mean the world to me and the shadow of my former self who misses this space more than I have words even on less sleep-deprived days to use to express my gratitude.) So, for those who've been asking how we're doing ...
High: O. is turning into quite the social little guy. He discovered the world at around ten weeks old and started cooing at everything. Somewhere between an owl's hoot and a dove's cry, his little invitations to converse go out to people and inanimate objects alike, and when he gets a response, his delighted smiles are so enormous that they almost don't fit between his ears. That's made introducing him to others hugely rewarding -- and it's motivated me to keep making lunch dates with pre-baby friends, even if getting out of the house requires precision organization and timing as well as a good bit of luck to make it to an engagement and back before the next scheduled pumping.
Low: Pump schedule anxiety. As you get off by a few minutes here and there throughout the day because you wanted to go have some social time or run errands that you'd otherwise have to depend on your husband to do (which means he'd have to do them after work, depriving you of any time together before you have to go to bed), you're suddenly out an hour or more of sleep because you have to shorten the time between pumping intervals overnight to play catch-up. That sentence probably makes no sense whatsoever if you've never had to do pump schedule math, but just trust me when I say it sucks (ha!) to have to choose to give up even more sleep time, when you already get so little of it, or accept the alternative -- living in near-total isolation five days a week. Hard to say which is more detrimental to one's general mood since the former continues to deplete serotonin, which you need proper sleep cycles to make, while the latter just makes for a very lonely existence. And no, listening to your husband snore in blissful oblivion in the same room while you pump does not count as time spent together.
High: Did you know dark chocolate has been shown to promote serotonin production? I've been leaning heavily (no pun intended) on this brand* of tasty goodness to keep the sleep deprivation from pulling me completely under.
Low: I've been leaning heavily (pun intended) on the aforementioned chocolate. I don't have much baby weight to lose, but it's not going anywhere as long as I'm going through a few bags of these morsels per week ...
High: O. has discovered how to bring his fists to his mouth and keep them there, which means he can self-soothe for much longer periods of time. Hello, three-hour naps!
Low: O. is only successful at self-soothing when he's on his tummy. Putting baby to sleep unsupervised on his front is a big no-no until he can roll over. Enter three-hour sleeping baby-watching sessions. I have nightmares about infants who find creative ways to asphyxiate (self-strangulation with swaddle blanket, among others) the moment someone takes an eye off them. While this is not nearly as great a threat in real life, O. has managed to get his swaddle inside out and up over his head in the throes of slumber:
Note too that he was aligned with the long axis of the crib when I put him down and was able to rotate 90 degrees on his back (how?!) also while asleep. I hope this doesn't mean he's going to be a sleepwalker.
High: Two Skype accounts + two laptops + USB camera = instant video-equipped baby monitor. Skype even puts a video window on your computer screen when you've minimized the application but still have a call in progress. Guess what I'm watching right now as I type. Indeed, I can now take some advantage of O.'s developing nap schedule to do things like exercise. Yes, the laptop is perched on the elliptical at this very moment -- we're big fans of multitasking these days. I wonder if I can also pump while working out on this machine ...
Low: Protecting the nap schedule means even less opportunity to go out. Disturbing your baby's daytime sleep on a regular basis can supposedly lead to poor sleep at night, which is the last thing we want to encourage, and already we know O is much more difficult to get to sleep whenever he gets overtired. Of course, O.'s longest wakeful period happens to occur right before rush hour traffic begins, and you really have to want whatever it is you're going out to get if it means you risk being stuck away from home for way longer than you'd anticipated. Lunch dates may soon give way to afternoon coffee dates. See pump schedule anxiety.
High: Since O.'s become more successful at getting his fists to his mouth, he's done some good work on his jaw to loosen up the muscles. We're now getting him to latch much better, even though he's still not efficient enough to take a full meal on his own. This device, which has a reservoir he can drink from simultaneously at the breast, is helping us. Recently, O.'s occupational therapist increased our "homework" from two nursings a day with the feeder to four, with the goal of eventually doing every nursing this way until we can wean him off the feeder as well. There is hope! I can't believe I can say this after so many weeks of feeling that there wasn't.
Low: More frequent nursing = erratic, delayed pumping + clogged ducts + more nipple damage. We're forever trying to walk the line between getting O. more nursing time and not injuring me to the point of increased infection risk. Unfortunately, we're battling what we think is thrush. I'll spare you the details, but if you're fighting the same fight, there are some decent (though scary) resources available on what you're working with -- consider yourself warned if you really want to go looking. Latching is, to the say the least, way more painful with all of the above going on. One step forward, two steps back. We now log additional time running pump parts through the dishwasher (three cycles daily) and sterilizing every set by steaming it in the microwave afterward.
High: Out of sheer frustration with the limits of being attached to a pump 7 hours a day plus all the extra cleaning time, I've gotten shockingly adept at pumping in unusual places and situations, even with O. in tow. I can now set up and use the pump entirely on my own in a public location (with the help of two nursing covers) as long as there is a flat surface I can set the apparatus on and a safe place to put O. so I don't have to hold or wear him (assuming he's amenable to that in the moment). I have also figured out how to nurse and pump simultaneously to address, at least some of the time, the conflicting demands of maintaining milk supply and getting O. more latch time. I feel like a one-woman circus every time I have to do either of these things, but I'm also weirdly proud that I have developed working solutions to get around these rather sizable situational obstacles. A car adapter even makes it possible to take the show (literally) on the road -- we managed to have our first road trip as a family over Mother's Day weekend. It was just 200 miles to Portland to see some good friends of mine from college, but it might as well have been twice the distance, as it took twice as long to get there with our various stops to dig out or put away pump parts and milk storage supplies. Fortunately, after a few rounds, we started to develop a better system, but it still needs some streamlining to be space-efficient. I think the pumping equipment occupied more of the seat than I did for most of the ride, which won't work for longer trips.
Low: Speaking of which, we have been somewhat arm-twisted into going to Florida for Troubadour Dad's destination celebration in honor of his 60th birthday next week. Feting this occasion will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, which we certainly consider to be a good thing. Working out the logistics of said trip, however, has been a nightmare. There is that whole problem of space limitations when pumping on a plane (and we thought the front passenger seat of a car was a squeeze!) while simultaneously juggling a lap child. There is also the fact that breast pumps, as medical equipment, are subject to certain FAA rules and individual airline policies. The hospital-grade model we had rented isn't permitted for use in flight because it only works when plugged in. Because our airline does not wish to be liable for any passenger's medical needs because of power loss or failure (the outlets on planes are sometimes turned off by the pilot at certain points during flight, according to our airline's Special Assistance desk, which handles queries from folks like us), I had to spend the last several weeks chasing down a hospital-grade rental with a battery that could be recharged and would last for more than a single pumping. I found one after a lot of research (hey, what is overnight pumping time for?) but its battery had been run down so badly that it wouldn't hold more than 15 minutes of charge when I tested it at home. Which meant I had to find more time to take the whole mess back to the renter and have them send it to the manufacturer to exchange for a new pump. See pump schedule anxiety. Oh, and let's not even think about how we're going to make that schedule work across two 14-hour travel days ...
So there you have it -- apologies that it's taken a month to write. We are zeroing in on our departure date with alarming speed, which means I should be using this time to deal (further) with trip logistics. Tips for air travel with an infant and/or taking a baby to the beach are very, very welcome! (Please ... forewarned is forearmed.) I have to say, as the ringmaster of this Cirque du So-Lait, I never thought things could get this crazy. The silver lining, I suppose, is that when O. either figures out how to breastfeed well or he's old enough to get his nutrition in other ways, getting through a normal day, with or without travel, will feel so much easier. At least, I'm counting on it!
* The experts recommend that you consume dark chocolate that is at least 70 percent cacao, and I haven't determined if this product qualifies as such, but given my food sensitivities, this was the only option available to me. If you're dealing with postpartum slump and can consume something clearly marked 70 percent cacao or more, do it!