Blogroll

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!)

Archives

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.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sanity, regained


O. is nursing.

At five months, he finally -- finally! -- figured it out and is now able to get what he needs from me without causing either of us trauma. We started giving him the opportunity to nurse without a supplemental feeder just over seven weeks ago, and, within a few days, he was completely off his training wheels. We are ecstatic.

There have been a few bumps along the way since that first day entirely free of the pump -- some frustration on O.'s part, heat waves that have thrown his appetite off, plugged ducts from having to adjust to less frequent feeding demands -- but that's been nothing compared to the brutal routine of juggling so much nursing equipment in the preceding months (see photo). For the first time since O. was born, I've been able to sleep more than two and a half hours at a stretch. This may go without saying, but I have to write the words because I've wanted to for so long: I am a different person -- a sane one -- once more.

Sleep has meant the return of coherent thought. Instead of falling asleep while pumping -- not something I recommend, by the way, as the pump doesn't quit when it's full -- I've had the gift of quiet moments to reflect on what the last five (almost six!) months have been. O. is easily distracted these days, so there's no catching up on Netflix while he's eating. He'll even turn a nursing cover into a toy, so we keep to his room, lights down, for most feedings. He grabs at my hair, my shirt, my hands. And I sit, thinking in twenty-minute stints about the road we've traveled.

For the first two months of O.'s life, I felt robbed. Not of the breastfeeding relationship some books tout as sacred -- believe me, we didn't have any holy notions about my providing nourishment; in fact, we deliberately steered clear of any conversations with well-meaning people who were self-proclaimed boob enthusiasts because we didn't want to get into debates about lactation philosophies and politics. We just hoped breastfeeding would work and we could check it off the list of things to learn to do, like burping and diapering and giving the occasional bath.

But as a few days' nursing strike turned into weeks, I felt my ability to handle the expected abnormal of having a new baby leaching from me. I had no emotional energy left to love O. with. What I would have traded just to have fragmented sleep and unstructured days only from an infant's erratic waking, not his middle-of-the-night cries and the demands of the pump. It wasn't supposed to be this way, I kept repeating to myself, even though I knew it wasn't helpful. I'd look at O. in his rocking seat and dread the next time he'd rouse himself and then feel guilty that I couldn't enjoy him when he was awake. Every interaction we had was too fraught with the frustrations of getting him to eat, figuring out why he wouldn't eat, allotting precious time I could be using to bond with him to contact doctors who could help us help him eat. Eat already! I wanted to scream. "If it weren't for that damned risk of food allergies," I repeated to D. over and over, teary and spent, "we could just stop the insanity and give him formula. I don't care about the rest of the stupid benefits of breast milk. This is crazy."

But the risk was very real because of my family history. And putting ourselves through a few months of pumping to avoid a potential lifetime for O. of eating the way I have since we discovered what was making me sick was worth the heartache. Or so I told myself at my lowest points, when I wanted to quit and said so to O. in no uncertain terms. Fortunately, he understood none of it. He'd grin at me while I mumbled obscenities through gritted teeth, a smile plastered across my own face to disguise the misery I was feeling. I was scraping bottom then but still determined not to let him see or hear it after slipping just once on the phone with D. D. was held up at work, I was on my fourth pump-and-feed of the day (flanges attached, bottle and baby also in my lap), and I was fighting what I didn't realize was a nasty breast infection. "I just need you to come home," I all but wailed at the phone, balanced on speaker mode on a nearby table. At the sound of my agitated voice, O. burst into tears -- not a cry of hunger or tiredness, but alarm. I picked him up immediately, apologizing into the impossibly soft crook of his neck as he rested his head against my cheek and sighed a shuddery half-sigh.

If only everything could be fixed so easily, I thought.

As these recent weeks have brought a new rhythm to our days and nights, I've been drawn to the idea of putting O.'s story into a more formal body of work. Partly to process it all with the tempering effect of distance, partly to reclaim and recast some of those early memories in a way that I couldn't when we were in the midst of the chaos. Hindsight is a gift -- especially with a positive ending.

I don't know what this project will become. Maybe some of it will appear here; maybe it won't. I've learned more than I ever wanted to about making decisions for the life of someone entirely dependent on my good judgment when I was the least objective mind in the room. I know, I know -- this is just the beginning, you say. But had I had the words of experience to hang on to from someone who had once been in our position, I think I would have felt just a little less hopeless at the worst moments. That is a reason, if any, to write all this into something coherent.

Long-form work and I have had a tenuous relationship in the past (think: the MFA thesis that almost wasn't). But the story I was writing then had no resolution. O.'s does. I'll take it as an auspicious sign that I've actually acquired nearly two dozen books from the library just to read what's already out there for mothers who face what we have. There are a surprising number of resources from those shelves that provide information on what we had to learn the hard way or gather in fragmented fashion from so-called lactation consultants. Interestingly, all of the books I requested were readily available -- no waiting lists for holds -- unlike the majority of the popular pregnancy and childbirth books in circulation. I may be jumping to conclusions based on our experience, but I suspect they're hanging out in the stacks because no one knows they exist -- or knows to go looking before they're needed. I certainly didn't.

I hefted my finds into two big canvas bags at our library on one of the hottest days of the summer, wearing O. in his carrier as I bent to remove each title from the holds shelf. He squirmed against me, eager to be free of his constraints or just hungry; I wasn't sure. But he was motivated and so was I. So I'm putting whatever this is -- brainstorm, project, as-yet-formless cloud of inspiration -- out there to give it weight. Matter, in its many senses, because it does matter. And I'm actually a wee bit convinced, dare I say it, that I can carry it for a while.

P.S.: For those of you who have asked how that trip to Florida went, it did indeed get postponed -- and relocated. Stay tuned for our first plane trip coming up in September, as we fete Troubadour Dad's 60th in the Texas panhandle ...

5 comments:

loveeachstep.com said...

This is so very beautiful. I have nursed three children-- all with different experiences and difficulties, but none so frustrating as what you have lived through. I can only imagine how challenging it was.

I'm sure you have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with other mothers who might encounter this same circumstance. I look forward to hearing how it goes as you write your book!

Kristen @ Motherese said...

I love your honesty here, and am delighted to know about the redemptive end to your struggle, trying and hard-won though it was.

A link to share, inspired by a conversation we had at my blog and your mention here of formalizing your story: https://www.creativenonfiction.org/submissions/oh-baby

C. Troubadour said...

Heidi -- thank you for the kind words. I'm not surprised to hear your experience with each child was different as so many mothers I talked with when we were in the midst of our challenges with O. had such unique stories. It's good to know for any future siblings O. might have! (Hopefully, any issues will be less extreme ...)

Kristen -- how exciting about the anthology! Timely and motivating :). I hope you'll send something in too.

As for a redemptive end, oh thank goodness it was. Admitting in the worst moments that I was miserable because of O. was hard because of the guilt that came with that feeling. I suppose the dance between managing our own needs and those of little ones is one we get used to, though, as we learn to share our lives with these tiny beings who can't be reasoned with yet!

Sharone said...

This is such a happy-making thing to see (even though I'm a few weeks behind on it!) I've never dealt with pregnancy/nursing at all, but I can certainly relate to the feelings of guilt tied to the ways we think we're supposed to feel vs. the ways we actually feel. It seems especially hard for mothers to talk about. There's a corner of the internet where it seems to be ok, but in real life (including facebook, ha!) it doesn't seem to be something most people feel safe talking about. Given the knowledge you've gained the hard way here, I'd encourage you to listen to those whispers about a more formal project. I think you're on to something, and I like the sound of your voice. :)

C. Troubadour said...

Sharone -- yay for happy-making! (As I know you've also been up to, in a different fashion.) Thank you for the encouragement :). I'm still working my way through that stack of books from the library, which is a good sign. I feel like I'm sidling up to this project like trying to befriend a stray cat. Move wrong and it'll bolt ...

Posts by date

Posts by label

Air travel Airline food Allergic reactions Astoria Awards Bacteremia Bacterial overgrowth Baggage beefs Bed and breakfast Betrayal Blues Body Boston Breastfeeding British Columbia California Canada Cape Spear Clam-digging Colonoscopy Commuter marriage Cooking CT scans Delays Diagnoses Dietitians Doctor-patient relationships Doctors Eating while traveling Editing Endocrine Endoscopy ER False starts Family dynamics Feedback Food anxiety Food sensitivities Gate agent guff GI Halifax Heart Home-making House hunting Hypoglycemia In-laws Intentional happiness Iowa Journaling Kidney stones Knitting Lab tests Little U. on the Prairie Liver function tests Long Beach Making friends in new places Malabsorption Massachusetts Medical records Medication Mentorship MFA programs Miami Monterey Motivation Moving Narrative New York Newark Newfoundland Nova Scotia Olympic Peninsula Ontario Ophthalmology Oregon Oxalates Pancreatic function tests Parenting Parents Paris Pets Photography Portland Prediabetes Pregnancy Process Professors Publishing Reproductive endocrine Research Revision Rewriting Rheumatology San Francisco Scenes from a graduation series Scenes from around the table series Seattle Sisters Skiing St. John's Striped-up paisley Teaching Technological snafus Texas Thesis Toronto Travel Travel fears Traveling while sick Ultrasound Urology Vancouver Victoria Voice Washington Washington D.C. Weight When words won't stick Whidbey Island Why we write Workshops Writers on writing Writing Writing friends Writing in odd places Writing jobs Yakima

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sanity, regained


O. is nursing.

At five months, he finally -- finally! -- figured it out and is now able to get what he needs from me without causing either of us trauma. We started giving him the opportunity to nurse without a supplemental feeder just over seven weeks ago, and, within a few days, he was completely off his training wheels. We are ecstatic.

There have been a few bumps along the way since that first day entirely free of the pump -- some frustration on O.'s part, heat waves that have thrown his appetite off, plugged ducts from having to adjust to less frequent feeding demands -- but that's been nothing compared to the brutal routine of juggling so much nursing equipment in the preceding months (see photo). For the first time since O. was born, I've been able to sleep more than two and a half hours at a stretch. This may go without saying, but I have to write the words because I've wanted to for so long: I am a different person -- a sane one -- once more.

Sleep has meant the return of coherent thought. Instead of falling asleep while pumping -- not something I recommend, by the way, as the pump doesn't quit when it's full -- I've had the gift of quiet moments to reflect on what the last five (almost six!) months have been. O. is easily distracted these days, so there's no catching up on Netflix while he's eating. He'll even turn a nursing cover into a toy, so we keep to his room, lights down, for most feedings. He grabs at my hair, my shirt, my hands. And I sit, thinking in twenty-minute stints about the road we've traveled.

For the first two months of O.'s life, I felt robbed. Not of the breastfeeding relationship some books tout as sacred -- believe me, we didn't have any holy notions about my providing nourishment; in fact, we deliberately steered clear of any conversations with well-meaning people who were self-proclaimed boob enthusiasts because we didn't want to get into debates about lactation philosophies and politics. We just hoped breastfeeding would work and we could check it off the list of things to learn to do, like burping and diapering and giving the occasional bath.

But as a few days' nursing strike turned into weeks, I felt my ability to handle the expected abnormal of having a new baby leaching from me. I had no emotional energy left to love O. with. What I would have traded just to have fragmented sleep and unstructured days only from an infant's erratic waking, not his middle-of-the-night cries and the demands of the pump. It wasn't supposed to be this way, I kept repeating to myself, even though I knew it wasn't helpful. I'd look at O. in his rocking seat and dread the next time he'd rouse himself and then feel guilty that I couldn't enjoy him when he was awake. Every interaction we had was too fraught with the frustrations of getting him to eat, figuring out why he wouldn't eat, allotting precious time I could be using to bond with him to contact doctors who could help us help him eat. Eat already! I wanted to scream. "If it weren't for that damned risk of food allergies," I repeated to D. over and over, teary and spent, "we could just stop the insanity and give him formula. I don't care about the rest of the stupid benefits of breast milk. This is crazy."

But the risk was very real because of my family history. And putting ourselves through a few months of pumping to avoid a potential lifetime for O. of eating the way I have since we discovered what was making me sick was worth the heartache. Or so I told myself at my lowest points, when I wanted to quit and said so to O. in no uncertain terms. Fortunately, he understood none of it. He'd grin at me while I mumbled obscenities through gritted teeth, a smile plastered across my own face to disguise the misery I was feeling. I was scraping bottom then but still determined not to let him see or hear it after slipping just once on the phone with D. D. was held up at work, I was on my fourth pump-and-feed of the day (flanges attached, bottle and baby also in my lap), and I was fighting what I didn't realize was a nasty breast infection. "I just need you to come home," I all but wailed at the phone, balanced on speaker mode on a nearby table. At the sound of my agitated voice, O. burst into tears -- not a cry of hunger or tiredness, but alarm. I picked him up immediately, apologizing into the impossibly soft crook of his neck as he rested his head against my cheek and sighed a shuddery half-sigh.

If only everything could be fixed so easily, I thought.

As these recent weeks have brought a new rhythm to our days and nights, I've been drawn to the idea of putting O.'s story into a more formal body of work. Partly to process it all with the tempering effect of distance, partly to reclaim and recast some of those early memories in a way that I couldn't when we were in the midst of the chaos. Hindsight is a gift -- especially with a positive ending.

I don't know what this project will become. Maybe some of it will appear here; maybe it won't. I've learned more than I ever wanted to about making decisions for the life of someone entirely dependent on my good judgment when I was the least objective mind in the room. I know, I know -- this is just the beginning, you say. But had I had the words of experience to hang on to from someone who had once been in our position, I think I would have felt just a little less hopeless at the worst moments. That is a reason, if any, to write all this into something coherent.

Long-form work and I have had a tenuous relationship in the past (think: the MFA thesis that almost wasn't). But the story I was writing then had no resolution. O.'s does. I'll take it as an auspicious sign that I've actually acquired nearly two dozen books from the library just to read what's already out there for mothers who face what we have. There are a surprising number of resources from those shelves that provide information on what we had to learn the hard way or gather in fragmented fashion from so-called lactation consultants. Interestingly, all of the books I requested were readily available -- no waiting lists for holds -- unlike the majority of the popular pregnancy and childbirth books in circulation. I may be jumping to conclusions based on our experience, but I suspect they're hanging out in the stacks because no one knows they exist -- or knows to go looking before they're needed. I certainly didn't.

I hefted my finds into two big canvas bags at our library on one of the hottest days of the summer, wearing O. in his carrier as I bent to remove each title from the holds shelf. He squirmed against me, eager to be free of his constraints or just hungry; I wasn't sure. But he was motivated and so was I. So I'm putting whatever this is -- brainstorm, project, as-yet-formless cloud of inspiration -- out there to give it weight. Matter, in its many senses, because it does matter. And I'm actually a wee bit convinced, dare I say it, that I can carry it for a while.

P.S.: For those of you who have asked how that trip to Florida went, it did indeed get postponed -- and relocated. Stay tuned for our first plane trip coming up in September, as we fete Troubadour Dad's 60th in the Texas panhandle ...

5 comments:

loveeachstep.com said...

This is so very beautiful. I have nursed three children-- all with different experiences and difficulties, but none so frustrating as what you have lived through. I can only imagine how challenging it was.

I'm sure you have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with other mothers who might encounter this same circumstance. I look forward to hearing how it goes as you write your book!

Kristen @ Motherese said...

I love your honesty here, and am delighted to know about the redemptive end to your struggle, trying and hard-won though it was.

A link to share, inspired by a conversation we had at my blog and your mention here of formalizing your story: https://www.creativenonfiction.org/submissions/oh-baby

C. Troubadour said...

Heidi -- thank you for the kind words. I'm not surprised to hear your experience with each child was different as so many mothers I talked with when we were in the midst of our challenges with O. had such unique stories. It's good to know for any future siblings O. might have! (Hopefully, any issues will be less extreme ...)

Kristen -- how exciting about the anthology! Timely and motivating :). I hope you'll send something in too.

As for a redemptive end, oh thank goodness it was. Admitting in the worst moments that I was miserable because of O. was hard because of the guilt that came with that feeling. I suppose the dance between managing our own needs and those of little ones is one we get used to, though, as we learn to share our lives with these tiny beings who can't be reasoned with yet!

Sharone said...

This is such a happy-making thing to see (even though I'm a few weeks behind on it!) I've never dealt with pregnancy/nursing at all, but I can certainly relate to the feelings of guilt tied to the ways we think we're supposed to feel vs. the ways we actually feel. It seems especially hard for mothers to talk about. There's a corner of the internet where it seems to be ok, but in real life (including facebook, ha!) it doesn't seem to be something most people feel safe talking about. Given the knowledge you've gained the hard way here, I'd encourage you to listen to those whispers about a more formal project. I think you're on to something, and I like the sound of your voice. :)

C. Troubadour said...

Sharone -- yay for happy-making! (As I know you've also been up to, in a different fashion.) Thank you for the encouragement :). I'm still working my way through that stack of books from the library, which is a good sign. I feel like I'm sidling up to this project like trying to befriend a stray cat. Move wrong and it'll bolt ...