End of the Boob Train

My little boyman is now 6 months old.  Someone please tell me how the frick that happened.

In many ways, I feel like we won the baby lottery.  I got exactly the features I had hoped for (dad’s blue eyes, my strawberry blonde hair, overall cuteness). He’s always been a champion sleeper.  He’s never been picky about bottles, formula, or pacis.  Most of all, I am amazed at how happy his default disposition is.  He’s usually making eye contact, smiling, cooing, laughing, but what amazes me the most is that even when he’s crying or whining or just generally upset, we can usually still make him smile or laugh, even if it’s just for a moment.  He wants to be happy even when he’s so hungry or tired that he’s cranky.  I love this guy and he amazes me every day.

That said, our hardest struggle by far has been breastfeeding.

Dylan didn’t latch with any consistency until day 8, and up until then he would only latch in front of the lactation consultant.  She manhandled my boob and smashed Dylan’s face into it, and for some reason it worked…but the second we got home and I tried the same rough technique, he’d push and struggle and kick and scream at my boob for 20 minutes until I was crying and gave up.

My milk came in rather late, and even then I wasn’t making very much.  All this created a yucky feedback loop/catch 22: Dylan wasn’t latching, and so my production wouldn’t increase, but my production was already late and low, and so Dylan didn’t want to latch cuz he knew he wouldn’t get much.  Talk about frustrating.

I did everything I could to increase my supply and nothing helped very much.  Nevertheless, I kept at it and Dylan and I slowly worked our way into a routine that worked for us that included breastfeeding, pumping, and formula.

After 6 months of hard work, I think we’re at the end of breastfeeding.  My supply recently dipped even more, and lately Dylan’s been getting frustrated.  The experience isn’t fun or cuddly anymore and I have done all I could to get him this far.

I’m pretty sad about stopping.  Before giving birth, I had assumed that I’d be breastfeeding as long as I was at home with Dylan during the day.  I’m currently fighting guilt and telling it to take a hike.  I’m frustrated with my body, for not doing what I expected or wanted.

There’s a part of me that feels some relief about the decision to stop.  Breastfeeding and pumping has been hard work and very time consuming, and I am looking forward to daily life being that much simpler.  But, I’m gonna miss the cuddles, the oxytocin rush, and the feeling of motherly pride that came with it.

I keep reminding myself that Dylan’s gonna be just fine.  Like I said above – he’s crazy happy.  He’s such a good kid.  We also just started solids and so far there isn’t a food he hasn’t not liked – that’s my boy.

And…now that I think about it, I’m gonna be just fine, too.  Just like everything else, we’re getting through this together, my little boy and I.

Was breastfeeding hard for you, too?  I’d love to hear your stories.  Thanks for reading!

My Happy Thought

Robin Williams died on my son’s due date.

I loved this guy.  I loved his work.  I went through the stages of grief when I found out – starting with disbelief, of course.  I was (and still am) so sad that depression took this very talented human being from us.

After Robin’s death, in watching all the memorials on the news and daytime TV, and in seeing all the clips strung together on Facebook, I started counting all of his movies that touched me, that I grew up with.  It’s a lot.  His movies were so emotional; I’ve long known that his were the ones I went to when I needed to tweak my mood – which usually meant inducing tears and reconfirming my faith in the human spirit.

In going through my movie collection, I realized I didn’t own one of my absolute favorite Robin Williams movies – Hook – so I bought it and ended up watching it soon after my son was born.

I absolutely adore the story of Peter Pan.  There isn’t a more fabulous story that captures the sheer joy and adventure it is to be young and to remind us that we can always go back to Neverland in our hearts (second star to the right and straight on til morning) whenever we want.

In re-watching Hook, I was prepared to feel that joy and excitement that comes with the story, and I was also prepared to feel sad that the person I was watching who was once so full of life and youthful glee was now gone.

What I wasn’t prepared for was my new reaction to the story now that I am a parent.

Remember the scene where Captain Hook starts teaching Pan’s kids about how parents hate their children?  He very eloquently describes how kids’ whining and demands (“He took my toy! She hit my bear! I want a potty! I want a cookie! I want to stay up! I want, I want, I want, me, me, me, me, mine, mine, mine, mine, now, now, now, now…”) drive their parents crazy.  Maggie (fun fact – it was her character I played on the playground with my friends when this movie first came out) points out that her parents read to her, “because they love me very much!”  And Hook retorts back that parents read to their children to shut them up.

In to end the lesson, Hook gave Maggie an F (to which she freaks out…probably why I was suited to play her character) and then declared that her parents were happier before she was born.

This scene struck a new chord, one that hadn’t been struck before.

Holy shit – Captain Hook was right.

There I was, hopelessly sleep deprived with a wee infant attached to my boob and tears running down my face because I got it – but not the it I was expecting to get.  This movie was supposed to remind me how joyful life was!  Instinctively I knew I wasn’t supposed to be listening to the words of this dark and sinister man, but for the first time in watching this film, my eyes were opened.  The guy had a point.  In my very short career as the parent of a newborn, I already knew I’d do things I previously said I’d never do if it meant my kid would sleep.  I wished for my old life back on a daily basis.  I fought with my husband about nothing and everything.  Some days, I was kind of miserable.

I considered growing a beard and joining the crew of the Jolly Roger.

Thankfully, the movie continued and we came to the scene in the Lost Boys’ tree house where Peter was desperately trying to find his happy thought.  He picked up his old teddy bear and had a flashback to a hospital room where his wife was handing him his brand new baby son, saying, “Peter, you’re a daddy!”

That was it.  This is why I wanted to watch the movie in the first place.  He was flying again, and so was I.

I was bedridden for the first 12 hours of Dylan’s life due to some minor complications, so when we were in the recovery room at the hospital, Brian started changing his first diapers and rocking and soothing and being a daddy.  It was amazing for me to watch, and it had reminded me of that same hospital scene in Hook.  Through tears in my eyes, I shared my thoughts with Brian and my heart was bursting.

Hook really got it right in more ways than I first realized.  It fascinates me how quickly and profoundly popping a baby out of me has changed my perspective on the whole world, let alone this movie.  Before, I had thought that the story was more about “always being a little boy and having fun,” and now I see this whole new layer about the love (“It’s the L-word, Captain!”) and struggle between parents and their children.  Yes, it’s about learning how to stay young, but it’s also about learning how to grow up.  And most importantly, it’s about finding (and keeping) that happy thought that keeps us all going.

Well, Dylan is our happy thought.  Our poopy, screamy, cuddly little happy thought.

There are so many great lines to quote and parallels to make about this movie and life in general, but the best is at the very end, where I don’t feel like Robin Williams was really having to act much at all.

He said,  “To live would be an awfully big adventure.”

Thanks for sharing your talent with all of us, Robin.  I am so very glad that you’re not in pain anymore.

 

 

Lucy

She was the runt of the litter, and she was the only one who actually let me hold them.  That’s when I knew – she was mine.  We were going to bring her home and love her.

She was kinda like me, actually.  Nervous, cautious, quiet, but also an observant wallflower, kind, playful, and very sweet.  And weird, because she really loved to lick human hair if we let her express her need for social grooming rituals.

We rescued her from the local animal shelter and she was in a cage with her two brothers Calvin and Hobbes.  She was a tuxedo cat: black, with a white chest, tummy, and feet.  Every other toe was alternately black and pink.  Her shelter name was Susy, but I renamed her Lucy on the car ride home.  That was 1998 and I was 15.

This past weekend, my family had to help her die because she had come to the end of her life and my mom could tell she didn’t feel well.  I’m so sad to have lost one of my very best friends.

We grew up together, Lucy and I.  She listened to my secrets and napped with me and kitty-massaged my calves and licked my hair.  We chased her in this game that always went the same way where she’d  lead us to her rug where she’d stop and fall over so we could rub her belly and brush her.  I clipped her nails, gave her treats, cleaned up her vomit.

1998

2011

 

We (everyone but my dad) fought for a while to get a pet.  I joked that we slowly worked our way up the food chain.  First we had three goldfish who, one by one, committed suicide by jumping out of the bowl.  I can only guess that the first one was depressed, and then the other two were overcome with grief.  Years later, we got a female rat.  She was really sweet, but didn’t live long.  Next, we tried two sister rats.  They lived a bit longer and were fairly fun, but cleaning the cage was a huge chore.  Finally getting Lucy was wonderful because she gave us a moderate amount of love (she was a cat, after all) with only a moderate level of cleanup and care.  My dad eventually warmed up to her, too, which was an added bonus.  I think she made it pretty easy to love her.

Lucy was the oddest, most well-behaved kitty I have ever met.  She didn’t like people food.  Seriously, we tried.  The only food she’d eat was ice cream, and even then we had to dab it onto her nose so she’d lick it off.  She had her claws and never destroyed anything.  She never bit or clawed – quite the opposite, actually – she’d allow herself to be manhandled by my brother and never fought back.  She was the most docile creature.

She came to us with a bunch of health issues.  Yes, she was the runt and was underweight, but apparently this stray from Oakland also had fleas and mites and had had a tough time.  My mom’s friend commented on how little Lucy was so lucky,  “She won the lottery, because now she has all of you to love her.”  She was right, but the feeling is mutual.

I won the lottery that day, too.

I want you to know, Lucy, that I really wish I could have been there for you during those last few days.  I desperately wanted to be there to comfort you, to hold you, to whisper my secrets to you again.  I am very thankful that the rest of my family was able to be there for you, and that my mom held you in her lap when the vet helped you die.  I just want you to know, that I wanted it to be me.  If I could’ve, I would’ve been the one to hold you.  I held you on that first day when you picked me and I wanted to hold you on the last day, too.

I love you and miss you, baby girl.  I’m so glad you’re not hurting anymore and I hope you’re licking ice cream off your nose right now.

Adventures in diaper-changing: a dialogue

The scene: I am changing yet another diaper while the babydaddy is preparing a lovely meal that the two of us will no doubt share under the din of high-pitched screams.

Me: Oh god!

Babydaddy: What?!

Me: …The baby just farted in my face.

BD: Ew, gross.

Me: I know.  And it was forceful, too.  A quick, hard puff of air to the face.  Kind of like a foul-smelling glaucoma test.

BD: Ha!  We should rent him out for that.

Me: We could sure use the extra meth candy bar money.  But who would pay for something like that?

BD: Maybe people without good health insurance?

Me: Let’s look into it.  (pause)  Hey, this would make a great blog post.  I’m really behind in my blogging.

BD: Phrasing, lady.

Me: But seriously. Help me flesh out this conversation we’re having so I can post it.

BD: Again, phrasing.

Me: What would be a good ending for this post of dialogue?

BD: Phrasing.

Me: I still got it.  Now start making flyers for our new mobile infant glaucoma test machine.

 

The Opposite of Awesome

I was weighing myself because I’m pregnant and it was Monday.  I lead a very exciting life, I know.

Brian: “I wonder when you’ll weigh as much as me?”

Me: “What?  I’ll never weigh as much as you.  You’re always going to be fatter than me.  Always.”

Brian:  “Oh yeah?  Let’s see then.”

I write down my new weight for this week.  On average, I’ve been gaining about 2 pounds a week for a while now.

Brian then weighed himself.  To my horror, it was only about 3 pounds heavier.

Me:  “I don’t think so!  You didn’t eat enough for dinner!  Here, have this muffin.”

Brian:  “See?!  Only about another week and a half and we’ll be the same!”

Me:  “Hang on, let me pee and I’ll weigh myself again.  I probably have a few pounds of pee in here.”

Brian:  “But now you know how I feel!”

Me: “Please, Brian, tell me how it feels to be you.  Because this is so the same.’

Brian: “…it feels awesome?”

Me:  “Yes.  My swollen hands and feet feel awesome.  So does your baby’s head pushing on my cervix.  Do you know what that feels like?”

Brian:  “…the opposite of awesome?”

Me: “Now get in the kitchen and go eat some muffins.  But make sure to save me one.  Or ten.”

Fast forward to last night – another Monday night weigh-in.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s happened.  Brian and I now weigh the same.

He did an odd sort of happy dance.  I got into a sumo stance, pushed him over, and sat on him.

It felt awesome.

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Lady

Hey, this is Brian.

Yup, the husband-of-a-pregnant-blogger-Melissa Brian.

I’m here to school all the partners of pregnant ladies so that they get through the experience relatively unscathed.

Can you believe Melissa actually let me on here to write my very own post?

Yeah, neither can I…because this is Melissa, and I am writing this from Brian’s point of view with his general oversight and mild approval.  Learn from these tales, my friends.

 Brunch-tastic

I decided to wait to eat breakfast on this lovely Sunday morning, opting for brunch instead.  Of course, Melissa wolfed down two bowls of cereal and about ten lemon poppyseed muffins before I even got out of bed, so I figured she’d be good for a while.

I walk into the room with my beautifully prepared brunch and I see that she’s on her computer.  I sit down next to her.  She looks up expectantly.  “What’s that?”

I paused, realizing my mistake too late.  Could I still get away?  Maybe I could pretend that I didn’t hear her.

I faced my fate head-on: “Uh…it’s a sandwich.  Made with this delicious bagel, pesto, lettuce…and from diseased deli meat and unpasteurized cheese.”

At Melissa’s rageful silence, I got up and backed away slowly, and once I was a safe distance away, I threw another muffin at her for good measure.

 The Hangry Plan

Pregnant ladies have gold medals in being hangry, so Melissa and I have learned to try and plan for the worst when we go out shopping or to run some errands.  We bring water and snacks, and we also conjure up contingency plans, especially since she’ll be less able to run and defend herself in the event of a zombie apocalypse breaking out mid-outing.

For this particular outing, I wanted to go clothes shopping, and I gave Melissa the option of staying home, but she insisted on getting out of the apartment.

Melissa: “If I get hangry, just drop me at Cinnabon.”

Me: “You mean when you get hangry.”

Pregnant glare.

Me: “And we may have to think of somewhere else, because they went out of business.”

Wide-eyed, panicked Melissa: “What?!”

Me, making sure I was more than an arm’s length away: “Ha, just kidding.  You totally believed me!”

Melissa: “You are dead to me.”

 

The Sperm Whale

We’re at the doctor’s office, and Melissa has some fetal heart monitors strapped to her belly to check some things out.  Everything was awesome, and when they took the monitors off, they had made two round impressions on her very pregnant belly.

As Melissa was getting dressed, I giggled.

Melissa: “What?”

Me: “Nothing, it’s just that you reminded me of a sperm whale.”

Melissa, her tone of voice flat-lining: “…a whatnow?”

Me, as I point to her belly: “You know, the sperm whale surfaces and the squid has been attacking it, and you can see where the squid’s suction cups were stuck to the whale.”

Melissa: “And that makes me a sperm whale?”

Me: “…a small, cute one!”

Melissa: “You know what else sperm whales can do?”

And without waiting for an answer, she sat on me.

 

The Jungle Cat

It’s 6 in the morning, and Melissa got up with me because she couldn’t sleep, so she was naturally hungry again.  But also because she loves me madly and couldn’t bear to miss seeing me off to work.  As you recall from previous blog posts, it’s my responsibility to feed the meowing, howling cat at this time of day.

After spending a few minutes in the bathroom doing disgusting boy things, I entered the kitchen and threw some kibble in the cat’s bowl.  The howling stopped, replaced by sounds of frantic gulping as she turned all of her attention to her food bowl.  I looked up and realized that my cat and pregnant wife mirrored each other – each were hunched over their food in intense focus, like jungle cats tearing their fresh prey apart.  Melissa even had on adorable cheetah print skivvies.

Foolishly, I reached over and patted Melissa’s bum.  “You’re like a cheetah!” I told her. And then I growled for good measure.

Melissa looked up from her peanut butter and jelly topped onion bagel.  “Huh?!” she said with her mouth full.

I pointed at her underwear and growled again.

She looked down and then quickly looked back up.  “Yeah, I can’t see what underwear I am wearing from this angle.  Thanks.”

“Well…it looks fabulous!”

And then I threw another muffin and ran away.

 

My feelings are not to be fixed

Unsolicited advice really doesn’t help.

In fact, it’s always made me feel worse.

A lot of people refer to my job as a professional advice-giver, which really misses the mark.  I’ve often had clients come in and expect direct advice – they’ve even asked me straight up what I think they should do. I get that with some cultures, this is the expectation of coming to see an expert.  Others just desperately want “the answers” (whatever those are), they want a quick solution, and they are afraid or not ready to put in the work to get there on their own.

I always pull back and slow down when a client asks me for advice.  Sometimes I’ll ask why they are wanting to be told what to do, because often their answer reveals a lot about their world view.

And then I lay it right out for them.  I explain that, while I’ve gone through training and I am qualified to help, I don’t know all the answers.  And I certainly don’t know what’s best for one particular person from Adam.  Sure, I have my own opinions, but I see clients for typically only one hour per week, and each client is really the expert on their life – they know better than anyone what may help and what won’t.  Most importantly, a client has to live with whatever consequences their decisions bring, and that’s why they should be making these decisions – not me.  My job is simply to help them make that decision, whatever it is.

And all that is just for advice that was actually invited.

I got onto this topic because 1) It’s one of my biggest pet peeves ever, and 2) Being pregnant seems to invite unsolicited advice, like a lot, and 3) I revisited a comment I made on a similar post, Tolerating Sadness:

I hadn’t really thought about it before, but I do hesitate to post sadder things on Facebook, mostly because I don’t want unsolicited advice or the other unwanted phrases I mentioned in the post. I don’t want to feel judged, dismissed when my sadness makes people uncomfortable. What a shame.

Number 1 is just me, and I tend to not like to be told what to do, unless I am specifically asking for help.

Number 2 is, in my opinion, an example of the (horrible) concept that a woman’s body and sexuality is everyone’s business and is to be regulated.  Do we ask men how their erectile dysfunction is going today?  No.  Do we inquire about the state of their prostate?  No.  Do we give random advice about how to get their sperm count up?  I seriously doubt it.  I could be wrong about this, since I am not a man, but I do know that women’s bodies are more regulated than men’s due to the fact that men have no trouble getting Viagra and penis pumps covered by their insurance, while women have trouble getting birth control and access to safe abortions without unnecessary ultrasounds in some states.  But I digress – this could be a whole other string of ranty posts.

Pregnancy, once a woman starts showing, is also a very obvious, visible condition, and I think this contributes to women getting unsolicited advice from strangers, not to mention getting their personal space violated. (By the way, always ask a pregnant lady if you can touch her belly BEFORE you touch it.  And if she says no, then don’t.  Please.)

Back to the advice-giving.  It all boils down to the fact that advice serves to help the advice giver, not the recipient.  I’ve found that when I am expressing some aspect of my life and feelings that is less than optimal, (sadness, frustration, fear, some icky pregnancy side effect, etc.) that sometimes creates feelings of discomfort in the listener.  One way people try to alleviate that discomfort is to give advice as a means of maybe fixing the problem, or at the very least, feeling like they’ve helped and thus the uncomfortable-feelings-burden has been passed back to me.

Let me be clear.  When I am expressing discomfort, it is not my intention to pass a burden onto the listener to fix my problem.  If you feel discomfort while listening to me, please know that means that you care, you’re tuned into me, and that’s awesome.  Seriously.  But please, don’t take on my discomfort as your own.  It’s not yours to carry.  And it hurts my feelings when you try to deflect the discomfort with advice.  My feelings are not yours to fix.

What I would like instead is empathy.  I know you already feel it for me, hence the advice-giving.  So, instead of covering up empathy with advice, try to give a voice to it.

I’m so sorry you had to go through that.

My heart aches for you.

I wish I could make your pain go away.

Let me know if there’s anything I can do.

These sound wonderful to me.  They are vulnerable.  They keep the two people on the same plane, as equals, as opposed to one who is suffering and one who gives advice as an expert.  I think they are harder to say than advice is.

I’d much rather have someone come join me in empathy than try to slap a bandaid on my feelings.

So please, I invite you to pause the next time you feel the urge to give someone advice.  Why do you feel like giving it?  How are you feeling in relation to this person’s news/problems?  What would it be like to refrain from trying to fix, and instead try to feel?

It might feel uncomfortable, and that’s ok.

Because my feelings (and yours) are not to be fixed.

If you feel like a chicken without a coop

Brian and I often chat online while he’s at work and I am at home eating muffins.  He likes to check in on me to make sure I know just how much he loves me more than he loves designing planes (which is marginally, but I’ll take it).

Last week, he begins his daily chat with this:

B – Dude.  I’m a genius.  I have something for your blog.

Now, usually Brian rolls his eyes when I declare this is going on the blog! so, at hearing this, my interest was definitely piqued.

Me – What?

B- Check your email.

I checked my email, starting reading, and began laughing to the point of crying.

Me- Did you write this?!

B- Yes.  I’m so proud of myself right now.

He had written very special alternative lyrics to the song Happy by Pharrell Williams.  Before I get any more specific, allow me to back up and give some background.  Most of you know I enjoy a good poop joke.  Jamie Lee Curtis really doesn’t lie – when your colon feels good, you feel good.  It’s really that simple.

Now, my colon has a history of having a rough time (or not having one, as the case may be).  Yet another parallel between my cancer experience and this pregnancy is that constipation has been an ongoing challenge, and that’s putting it very delicately.  I’ve been working with my doctor and trying various remedies, and we may have found a regimen that doesn’t leave me feeling miserable every day.  On Mothers Day, of all days, I was given the best gift ever – an empty colon.  I was singing in the bathroom when I heard Brian sing back.

Me- Sing that again!  What was that?

B- …because happiness is a poop!

Me- You’re so right.  Sometimes happiness is a poop!

And unbeknownst to me, this idea grew in Brian’s head, and instead of designing planes, he rewrote the lyrics of Happy to describe a particular brand of happiness.

In B’s words, it is something for pregnant women to sing when they’re constipated.

He gets me so well.

So please, play the video whilst following along with the new lyrics.  We hope you find it as amusing as we did.

 

 

 

Crapping by Pharrell Williams and Brian

It might seem crazy what I’m about to say
Sunshine she’s here, you can take a break
I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space
With the air, like I don’t care baby by the way
[Chorus:]
Because I’m crapping
Crap along if you feel like a chicken without a coop
Because I’m crapping
Crap along if you feel like happiness is a poop
Because I’m crapping
Crap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m crapping
Crap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do
[Verse 2:]
Here come the push trying to take a shat, yeah,
Well, I’ll give it all I got, and won’t hold it back, yeah,
Well, I should probably warn you it’ll take some time, yeah,
No offense to me, it smells just fine
Here’s why
[Chorus]
Hey, come on
[Bridge:]
(crapping)
Bring me down
Can’t nothing beat my brown
My level’s too high
Bring me down
Can’t nothing beat my brown
I said (let me tell you now)
Bring me down
Can’t nothing beat my brown
My level’s too high
Bring me down
Can’t nothing beat my brown
I said
[Chorus 2x]
Hey, come on
(crapping)
Beat my brown… can’t nothing…
Beat my brown… my level’s too high…
Beat my brown… can’t nothing…
Beat my brown, I said (let me tell you now)
[Chorus 2x]
Come on