April 2012

When I was in 5th grade, our teacher, Mrs. Catanzaro, read us the headline of an article (or news clipping, or hand-out, or pamphlet, or SOMEthing) in class. Something about how we should not use warm or hot water to brush our teeth. The class of 10-year-olds was obviously not that interested, and probably habitually tuned out anything that had to do with hygiene. Mrs. Catanzaro told us then that we should be thinking, “We shouldn’t brush with warm water? Why not? What would happen? *I* sometimes brush with warm water.” That was the first time it occurred to me that maybe I ought to care about something I don’t care about. I guess that was the point of the lesson, to instill curiosity and a love of learning or research. She then went on to read the rest of the whatever she was reading from, while stopping every so often to tell us how we should respond mentally, what we should be thinking as information comes out.

For the life of me, I can’t remember at all why we shouldn’t brush with warm or hot water. I guess back 25 years ago, I was so fascinated by the thought that I OUGHT to be curious, that I was too distracted from being actually curious enough to pay attention.

I think about this quite often when I’m leaning over the sink, about to brush my teeth. I sometimes hesitate when my left hand reaches out toward the left faucet handle, toward the side that controls the hot water. If I’d used the left side recently, say, to wash my face or hands first, then the water would be already “warmed up” and I’d end up brushing my teeth with hot water. But if I didn’t, then there’d be enough cold water coming out first that my brushing water wouldn’t be warm. But how much does this really matter? WHY does it matter? Would it really be detrimental? And I kick myself for the millionth time for not paying attention in 5th grade on that fateful day when the oh-so-important information was being handed out.

I just got a call from the vet regarding Dodo’s Saturday lab test results. (I love this vet, btw; she’s so pleasant and loving, always very responsive, seems very sharp, and loooves Allie and always asks about her. BTW, she’d also recommended the sleep book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” by Dr. Marc Weissbluth, and I told her I was already using it.) Dodo’s kidney values are down to the NORMAL range! AND…his red blood cell count has gone up a few percent, so that’s great. He also hadn’t lost any weight between this visit and the last one. It’s been about a week since he vomited bile (just this morning, in fact) so I hadn’t given him the antacid meds, altho I’d received it mid-week last week, and she said that’s fine, I can use it when the bile vomit gets more frequent. She wasn’t able to get his blood pressure on Saturday because their doppler broke, but going by his test results, Dodo’s doing well. She said it’s surprisingly good news given that he’s an old cat with severe polycystic kidneys, but apparently the core of the kidneys are doing their job filtering. The reduced protein diet helped (so the kidneys don’t have to filter as hard) and the blood pressure meds helped (so the “firehose blasting through a weak strainer” analogy no longer applies). Since the yowling has reduced, he must be getting less headaches, too.

I noticed that Dodo seems to be a little constipated. He strains in the litter box and scoots a little in there. Over the weekend he strained with no results, came out, drank water, went back, tried again and got poopies out. This morning, same thing. I’ve never heard a cat do little soft mewing grunts before, and it’d be cute if it weren’t so sad. The vet said that this is “normal” considering the kidney disease, because his kidneys are using every spare drop of water to do their jobs. This makes his poop harder. If it becomes a big issue, we can treat that symptom with stool softener meds. *picturing Dodo with one of those old-people multi-tiered pillboxes*

I asked how she thought Dodo would do if he’s unmedicated for a few days while we go on this road trip. She hesitated and said that she certainly wouldn’t recommend it because we’ve made such great headway in treating his kidney disease symptoms, and I agree, but I don’t see that the stepdaughter is able to medicate Dodo twice a day. She’s uncomfortable around cats because she hasn’t had much exposure to them, and when we were in Europe when Dodo got sick, Ann found out just how scared of picking up Dodo the stepdaughter was. I think people assume all cats scratch and bite, altho Dodo doesn’t. Anyway, fighting down a struggling cat and squirting meds in his mouth twice a day is going to be a little much for the stepdaughter, I believe, assuming she’s able to get up in the mornings to do this, and will be around at nights to do it again (we rarely see her at home). So the vet offered another alternative: the vet hospital technicians do house calls! I spoke to the office manager and she agreed to come by the house for $10 a visit to medicate Dodo when we’re gone. Now I’ll have the peace of mind to know Dodo is getting medicated effectively and on time.

I love this vet clinic.

Since Allie started sitting by herself this week, we thought we’d introduce her to different places she could sit. So today, she got her introduction to grass.

She plucked at it with her fingers, hung on hard to the tough little blades, but didn’t try to bring any into her mouth, which surprised me. Pulling sideways one time, she rolled herself cheek-first into the lawn. No reaction. I guess she’s pretty comfy out there.
Later, we sat her outside to wait for my parents, who’d called to say they were coming over. We waited and waited.

Good thing Allie enjoyed herself, since my parents were running on “Asian time.”

So Mr. W decided to introduce Allie to sand in our zen garden.

I think grass is a clear winner. Unless you count this:

Allie’s napping now, but I don’t know what’s going on with her naps this weekend. Every nap except yesterday’s morning one, she wakes up and cries at the 35-40-minute point. I leave her in there until she’s been in her crib an hour so she’s not “rewarded” for forcing herself awake early to come play. Yesterday, that meant on both her noon and afternoon naps, she slept half an hour, cried half an hour, and was picked up. Today, each time she cried she was able to (within 15 mins or less) roll her left arm free and curl up sideways sucking her thumb and fall asleep, but still. Aggravating. I’m hoping it’s a developmental thing as she’s learning to roll, so it’s an exciting new thing that’s keeping her up, and that she’ll be used to it soon and just go back to sleep.

In preparation for introducing Allie to solids this weekend, I’ve been reading up on how to make this transition. You know what my research has mostly showed? That it’s best to hold off for another month. Keeping the baby exclusively on breast milk the first 6 months lowers the chances of obesity, of childhood asthma (by as much as 50%!), of ear infections, allergic reactions to food, all sorts of stuff. Plus, early introduction to solids has warnings attached: increased chances of constipation as the digestive system may not be mature enough to handle the foods, tons of foods I’ve gotta remember I CAN’T feed the baby yet until 6 months (grains with gluten, such as barley, wheat), and I have to be careful to cook, strain and peel everything until she’s 6 months. Everywhere I look there’s a caveat of “…but if your baby is under 6 months, add this step,” or “…wait until 6 months to feed this food to decrease chance of allergic reaction.” So I may as well wait instead of memorizing all the exceptions.

Here’s something interesting about the magic of breast milk: it is a medicine cabinet. We know it’s sterile, and has antibacterial and antiviral properties. Some uses aside from nourishment include:
* diaper rash treatment – applied topically, breast milk improved diaper rash slightly FASTER than those zinc oxide diaper rash creams you’d buy over the counter (a 2009 study shows).
* nose clearer – I’ve been using saline drops for clearing Allie’s nostrils, but apparently, you can squirt 2 drops of breast milk in each nostril and then suck it out with an aspirator, just like I already do with the saline, and the breast milk antibodies in the nostrils may help relieve nasal irritation.
* eye treatment – itchy eyes from pinkeye or conjunctivitis (mild cases that don’t need prescription meds, I mean) can be relieved with 2 drops of breast milk in the infected eye twice a day as an antibiotic. So for my mom friends who have felt a little bad about squirting their baby in the eye during breastfeeding at times…you’ve been keeping the eye healthy!
* skin ointment – dabbing some milk on a scrape or scratch helps heal the area like antibacterial cream.
* soothing eczema – blot the dry patches with a cotton pad dipped in breast milk; it also makes for a great lubricant.

I’m thinking I should just store up a bottle and place it in my medicine cabinet. (Kidding, I know it has to be refrigerated.)

The kid bit me for the first time this morning during nursing. She acted like she was done, turning away, but I thought she was just distracted because she was on that side half the time she normally is, so I put her back on. A few seconds later, a sharp pain. I tried not to say “ouch” but it was too late because she caught me by surprise. I was also surprised she didn’t just bite and let go; she kept the pressure on for a few seconds. I tried to press her face into my skin to get her to let go but she was in an awkward position where it really didn’t do anything, but she let go on her own anyway and acted like nothing unusual had happened.

She may have been getting me back for putting her on when she was done eating. Or it may have been for letting her sit up by herself unsupported, which she’s able to do until she reaches to her left or right for something (and she’s ALWAYS reaching for something these days, even if it’s just the blanket she’s sitting on) and then falls over on her face in that direction. I laugh when she does that because it’s funny and she’s clearly unhurt. Maybe her little budding ego is hurt when she’s laughed at now, who knows.

Looking back, it’s interesting how insecure and incompetent I felt with the baby stuff from Allie’s birth until…last weekend. I was completely overwhelmed and feeling underprepared, and was constantly playing a game of catch-up, researching and reading everything I could, trying to be a more effective parent by trying to anticipate her growth and symptoms and how to best address potential upcoming issues. I’m finally at the point, thanks to the very successful naptraining over the weekend, of feeling like, “Hey, I’m not a totally sucky mother, after all.” It could be because I was SO freaked out at how crazy everything was going at home the first week Jayne was with Allie (I cried in the bathroom at work last Wednesday), by comparison, the weekend felt totally do-able. And also, because this week is going well and Jayne is “getting it” with Allie’s routines and stuff now, I’m feeling much more comfortable. The constant nagging nausea and anxiety hanging over me actually dissipates here and there. People at work with young grandchildren and helpless-feeling new-mom-children are coming to me, asking advice, and my advice is actually WORKING for them (especially in the areas of sleep training). There are more learning curves coming up immediately ahead such as when we have her try solids for the first time this weekend, but hopefully nothing that kicks my emotional butt like the first 4.5 months of Allie’s life. At least, until teenagerhood sets in. Ugh.

Dodo has a vet appointment this Saturday to get an update on his kidney disease condition. He started vomiting bile more often over the weekend, and I relayed that to the vet, who’d called to check up on him over the week. She explained a process from the kidneys’ failure to do their job efficiently which ends up with excess acid production in the stomach. The end result is that I have to add another medication, this time an antacid, to his morning and evening medication routine. Luckily, I was able to get it in liquid suspension form, also tuna-flavored. It should be delivered directly from the pharmacy this week. I think the stages of this disease are progressing faster than I’d initially expected.

Allie has been doing well this week. Jayne has been following my written instructions/diagram, so Allie’s had all 6 naps on time Monday and Tuesday. Monday was picture-perfect and she had substantial naps. Jayne had to wake her at the 2-hour mark from her Monday noon nap so she doesn’t oversleep, and she had to again be awoken from her late afternoon nap yesterday. She did take a short morning nap yesterday (about half an hour), but she was left in her crib until the full hour had passed before she was picked up and fed. The feedings are in normal stretches after the naps, too. So as long as I can avoid looking at the cameras in the day, I don’t feel too much anxiety.

Milk production dropped dramatically in the past week, but yesterday appeared to pick up a little again. I’ve given up trying to pump at night before I go to bed as the amount I’d get out makes the exercise a waste of time, but I’ve pumped in the mornings prior to Allie getting up, which has been working out. I’m usually so engorged at that time that I don’t need a let-down to get out at least 4 ounces, and I’m finding that I’m more engorged earlier in the mornings, so overnight milk production has increased. This morning I got out 7 oz an hour before Allie was to be up, still leaving enough for her to nurse with in the morning. I’ve also gotten out a half ounce more in each work-pumping yesterday than I had the day before, so I’m hoping it’s an upward trend. I think it helps that I’m less freaked out about what’s going on at home.

It’s been a pretty light week as far as court hearings go for us, so I’ve been taking advantage of it by washing out and drying the pump parts after each pump session (when it gets busy I’d only have time to wipe the parts out), and by hammering the 30+ divorce cases sitting in the bin waiting for me when I got back. The relief clerk who was at my desk most of the time, Andy, did his best in keeping up with those and did process a gi-normous quantity of the cases, but I heard the clerk’s office was so behind in getting the defaulted divorce files farmed out to the courtrooms for processing that they put 5 people on the default desk to clear the backlog, and each courtroom was hit with 7-8 cases a day in addition to the courtroom’s regular work. Everyone’s grumbling and everyone’s behind. Well, after a week and a half of pounding on these cases, I cleared my cart yesterday and got caught up. I still see it as what may stand between me and my baby at the end of the day, and I don’t ever want to give a supervisor a reason to tell me I can’t leave for the day because I’m leaving work behind.

“Cindy daringly took a shower 15 mins after Allie went to bed, aiming for the deep sleep part of Allie’s sleep cycle…& Allie reportedly didn’t move from the shower sounds! This could mean a shower daily is now possible! *moved to tears of joy*”
That’s huge! Allie’s finally outgrowing the overly noise-sensitive sleep phase of her babyhood!

“Cindy would love to take a field trip back in time to see the day when ice cream was invented. Was it an accident? Was it a stroke of genius? What was everyone’s reactions when they tasted it for the first time? What flavor was the first ice cream? Who came up with adding vanilla? In fact — oh, look at that, it’s 8:50. Time for bed.”
I think I’m gaining a little weight back. I’d like to gain it back by hitting the gym, but having to be back from lunch to pump at 1pm, gymming is out of the question for now. Altho…hmm…I should be able to do some stuff at home (floor exercises), and at least do some walking or SOMEthing at lunchtime.

Nap re-training went really well over the weekend. After the stunt Allie pulled on her first nap on Saturday when I had to let her cry for 23 minutes before she went back to sleep for 2 hours (I had to wake her so that she didn’t oversleep), she didn’t try it again. She hit all her naps on time and woke up from them at the right times, usually about one hour and 45 minutes. No fits in between REM cycles, no rolling around in her crib. I did notice latency has increased (taking longer to go to sleep during soothing); it used to be about 10 minutes, now it’s up to half an hour on some naps, with sometimes a few minutes of protest crying before she zonks out. I wrote detailed notes of her naps and her behavior before and during them. I also did a 12-hour daytime timeline with color-coded brackets and instructions for naptimes and feeding times. Jayne got here late again this morning so I didn’t have a lot of time to go over all the specifics, just went over things generally. I hope she reads the chart and notes. Stepdaughter conversationally said yesterday that she was hanging out with Jayne and chatting and they saw Allie wake up and cry on the monitor, and that they waited 5 minutes before Jayne went up and got her. Stepdaughter almost said it in a defense, like, “We did wait, though — we waited 5 minutes.” 5 minutes is not effective, obviously, because Allie then learns she can easily outlast Jayne and get picked up early from the nap. The point is to have Allie in her crib for an hour whether or not she sleeps the full hour, so she doesn’t expect to play during naptimes. Given the chance (i.e. she isn’t getting picked up after her first REM cycle), Allie sleeps for at least 90 minutes in a nap, and soon doesn’t even bother moving much during that initial REM wake-up, but goes right back to sleep. Altho Allie was crabby and would cry for no reason on Friday, we got our happy smiling well-rested baby back on Sunday. We also got black-out curtains for her this weekend and Mr. W installed them right away. They block about 70% of daytime light. I don’t want it black in her room cuz I still want her to know the difference between daytime naps and nighttime sleep.

Pumping didn’t go so well. I get consistent advice from other pumping mothers to keep at it, pump before going to bed. The timing is fine because it would be about 3 hours after Allie last ate for the night when I go to bed, but I can’t get letdowns anymore. Squeezing the hell out of each side as I’m pumping on the hand-pump with the free hand yields about 5 mL per side in 10 minutes. Basically it’s a total waste of time because it takes me longer to clean the parts afterwards. The time could’ve been better served by sleeping. I finally pumped at 5:30a this morning before Allie’s first feeding of the day and got almost 4 oz total by squeezing until my skin burned. I know there’s milk in there, my body just won’t release it. The only reason I got out what I did this morning was because I was engorged from no release overnight. I wonder if my doing that would get me less at my first work pumping later.

Dodo yowled every 15 minutes starting at about 10:30p last night, lasting for 45 minutes to an hour. Then he started yowling every 10 minutes starting at about 4:30am this morning for over an hour. He yowled more over the weekend, too. Not sure what changed. His yowling is even louder. I’m still medicating him as instructed.

This weekend, I discovered that staying at home and just doing babycare is, surprisingly, easier than going to work. I’d expected to feel better knowing I’m getting a break from 24/7 baby issues, but it’s harder psychologically at work because not only am I not free from baby issues as I worry about Allie’s routine going nuts at home, but I have to worry about pumping (whether I can get away, where, how long I can afford to pump/store/clean, whether it’s productive). The baby stress is compounded, and I have work stress and obstacles on top of that. There’s a giant backlog of divorce cases the clerk’s office is distributing like crazy so I’ve been working like mad to try to get rid of the ones they’re assigning to me. I’ve made a sizeable dent, but not good enough. I don’t want anyone to have a reason to say I can’t leave work on time because of workload unfinished. It’s really hard to concentrate on each file’s details, however, when my anxiety level is so high about what’s going on at home. I think that may be affecting my (lack of) letdowns, too.

I’m re-nap-training Allie right now. After a week, she has learned that if she wakes up after a natural REM cycle during her nap and cries, a really fun nice nanny will come get her, and they’ll play. Toward the second half of the week, she’s learned that not only will she get picked up if she forces herself awake and cries instead of going back to sleep, but she’ll get a big bottle, too. The result is that for the past few weekdays, she’s had 30 minute naps, a big bottle, a tiny bit of play before she’s tired because the last nap was insufficient, so she’ll get another unscheduled nap which will last for 30 minutes (because now it doesn’t match her biorhythmic tired time anymore), she’ll get up and cry, she’ll get picked up and another big bottle, and this repeats for 4 little naps and 4 big bottles in the day until we get home. She’s flying through the stored milk, pooping a lot, and becoming more cranky from nap deprivation without a nice long consolidated restorative nap.

So today, I played with her until 8:30a, when I started soothing her for her morning nap which is supposed to occur around 9a. She fell asleep in her crib at 8:45a, and sure enough, in half an hour, she was up and crying. She had a FIT in there, but I didn’t go in to get her. This has happened before and the crying would last about 10-15 mins before she’d just go back to sleep and sleep solidly for an hour or more, but this time, because she expected to be picked up, she kept it up for 23 minutes. I watched anxiously on the monitor, and when Mr. W came out of the bedroom to see what was going on after HIS nap, I immediately hissed, “Don’t go in there!” He didn’t. I can see her sucking her thumb to self-soothe here and there, but she’d pull off and yell and cry again. Clearly she was still tired and needed to sleep, but wanted to play. Finally, she got the hint (altho 23 mins felt like an hour) and went back to sleep at 9:44 am. She’s still sleeping now. She’s woken up in between REM cycles since then, but would immediately put herself back to sleep instead of fighting it and waking up.

Now I have the opposite problem — if I let her sleep too much longer she’s going to be off schedule in the other direction. She’s already missed her 10a feeding, and I don’t want her to miss her 1p nap due to this nap going long. I’ve gone in there and opened the doors, but she simply soothed herself right back to sleep again and I didn’t have the heart to wake her because she clearly is exhausted after a week of irregular naps.

All week at work, I’d been seeing my milk supply gradually diminish. I’d kind of expected this, because the baby is able to get out more milk than the pump, so pumping 3 meals out of 5 tells my body that less milk is needed. The opposite is true, however. I was dismayed to go home yesterday and learn that Jayne had again bottlefed Allie 4 times in the day, despite each bottle’s quantity being a lot more than before. Overall, Allie took 23 ounces by bottle alone yesterday, whereas I only brought home 12 ounces from the 3 pump sessions at work. Even as the day goes, the milk supply drops by about an ounce each time. Feeling the pressure, I pumped last night at 10:30pm, after I’d napped for about 45 minutes. I figured that since it’d been 4 hours since Allie had her bedtime feeding, that I’d be able to get out a good amount. My body was not cooperative; after half an hour of working with the hand pump, alternating from side to side, hitting each side twice, I only got out one ounce total. I was frustrated and upset. That’s a long time spent pumping, storing, washing and drying pump parts, and losing sleep for very little gain.

I’m hoping that the 4 bottles a day at 6-7 ounces each the past 2 days are just Allie doing catch-up for the 3-day calorie deficiency she went through the first half of the week, and that she’ll go back to a more manageable pace soon. I have a stockpile of milk in the freezer, but she’s going through them really quickly. At this pace, I will fall behind in about a month even if I breastfeed exclusively on weekends. It could be that she’s going to be ready for solids earlier than I’d anticipated, if it seems that a liquid-only diet is failing to keep her full anymore. And that’s the next huge learning curve for me and Allie.

Oh, and I feel the bond with Allie stretching thinner. Yesterday, despite my holding her, she kept turning to look left and right, pulling away from me, refusing to look at me. She doesn’t do her big welcoming smile of recognition at me anymore. 🙁

Thanks to her nutritional needs now being met, Allie had two poopie diapers today. This is a camera screenshot of her second nap today. (Her morning nap was 1.5 hours, yay! This nap you see below was only 40-some minutes, boo.) I’m scared to look to see if she’s napping her 3rd nap right now.

Okay, I just looked. She’s NAPPING AGAIN! YAAAAAAYYYYYY!!! Now I’m off to pump again.

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