Mama Duck
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Motherhood

Monday, June 21, 2004

Three weeks down...


Today is Monday of week 4 of stay-at-home motherhood.

I do not miss my job at all. When I think of it, I'm relieved to be gone and glad I don't have to put up with all the nonsense anymore. Yes, there was good, but by the end it was more than compensated for by shenanigans.

The duck had a cold the Monday after his last Friday in daycare. A remnant of daycare? Don't know. What I do know is that his cold was his mildest ever and was gone in 7 to 10 days, instead of the 2 plus weeks of snot-faucet-age that were his previous colds while in daycare. Since then (so, the last 10+ days) he's been healthy and mostly happy. His naps are good, he's getting quite skilled with the sippy cup, he's standing for longer and longer brief moments.

Even during a very difficult day, like yesterday was, I do not regret my decision to quit and stay at home.

We have not, yet, though, entered into true one-income-hood yet. I still get paid out for vacation, and then we'll see how things go.


posted by Mama Duck3:12 PM

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Milestone!


The duck had his first french fry on Saturday. We went to the Convention Grill, which he loves. He can be fussy all day, but take him there and he's suddenly Mr. Personality. He flirts with the waitress, smiles at the ceiling fan, and babbles excitedly the whole time. He is not so approving of other Twin Cities dining establishments. He fussed up a storm at Cafe Brenda last week, though Brenda herself brought him a plateful of goodies. He tolerated the melon all right, but wanted nothing to do with the cornichon. And he would not be appeased while my husband and I tried to enjoy a delicious lunch at Red. I'm afraid the duck doesn't have a sophisticated palate. Given our recent shift to one income, that's probably a good thing.


posted by Mama Duck3:01 PM

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Books


I keep telling the duck that the consumption of books is metaphorical, not literal.

But you should see the chunk he's chewed out of the spine of Pat the Bunny. And he was not pleased when I fished it out of his mouth.


posted by Mama Duck2:54 PM

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Ack, the pressure


I'm finally able to write again and I don't know where to begin.

First, why I haven't been writing. We are in the process of getting our place ready to put on the market, so the past week has been a whirlwind of home improvement. As part of that, we got our carpets cleaned, so we unhooked the computer and were offline for (again, ack!) 48 hours, though it felt much longer.

The good news: the place looks terrific.

The not so good news--it's less baby-proofed then it was before, which was minimal, so the duck will be spending time in his pack-n-play, or we'll be closely shadowing his every move--exhausting.

Also exhausting was the duck on father's day. As on mother's day, he didn't seem to get that he should be better behaved for the occasion. He fussed all day long. It was one of those days when I thought longingly of my old, pre-baby life, when I could accomplish things like organizing, cleaning, reading and watching movies. Instead, I had to try to appease a screeching infant, who wasn't happy if being held and was no more happy when put down, and then had to be pulled off this, that and the other dangerous object. But then he let me have a six-hour sleep stretch (from 10 to 4) and after that slept till 6:30, and took a two-hour nap later and has been mostly happy all day, allowing for much cleaning and organizing to take place. Some days are no fun, but other days make up for it. It pretty much goes every other day. I think that percentage is better than what it used to be at work.


posted by Mama Duck2:52 PM

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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Missing you


or, pick another 80's power ballad title of your choice

I always miss my husband when I'm away from him. He's a warm, stabilizing presence that I am the worse for when without. I didn't know, though, how much I'd miss the duck when I took my trip to England. I mean this literally. I knew I'd miss him; I knew it would be a great deal. Yet how could I begin to estimate or quantify such an unknown?

More and more each day I was gone, I felt his absence. I was frustrated at pouring my pumped milk down sinks across England--in midair over the Atlantic, in Gatwick, in London, at a country manor, a castle, a hotel in Newbury.

I'm certain that when I saw other babies and toddlers the longing was naked on my face. When I heard a child crying I smiled or sometimes teared up myself and offered the parent help instead of wincing, as I might've done in my pre-mom days. At the wedding I watched fathers play with their sons and felt a physical ache, a lack. A part of me, a part of my life, was apart from me. There were times of relief, as when I got nights of uninterrupted sleep, but they were balanced by times of missing him.

Being a mom, or a mum as they say in England, isn't something that I can put on or take off, like an outfit. I can't resign, as I did my job last month. There's no time apart from it even while I'm away. My life has grown new dimensions, which can't be retracted at will, or by circumstance. I was away five days. It was just the right amount of time--enough to justify the 9-hour flights each way. Yet it felt like a stretchy eternity till I saw the duck again. Hearing him down the phone was painful but sweet.

So how did I miss him? Immeasurably. Unimaginably. Fiercely. Deeply. Surprisingly.

Unsurprisingly.

A lot.


posted by Mama Duck6:28 AM

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Sunday, June 13, 2004
Last Wednesday's big accomplishment was that the duck and I dropped off my application to the Loft's Mentor competition and a request for a writer's studio.

Last Thursday's big event was that the duck and I went house hunting. We looked at two properties, both money pits.

Last Friday's big accomplishment? I managed to cut AND file the duck's fingernails, and clip his toenails as well. Thanks to Baby Mozart--and Chrestomanci for the gift of the aforementioned--for the assist.


posted by Mama Duck7:32 PM

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It's not 42


I think there are two secrets to life, as taught to me by the duck.

Napping.

Pooping.

For him, if those things happen at all, and go well, then so does life.


posted by Mama Duck7:24 PM

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Friday, June 11, 2004

Mile-high milk club


Midway through my eight-hour flight plus one hour delayed flight from Minneapolis to London, I performed my first pump-n-dump of the trip. I took my hand held Avent Isis single breastpump to the lavatory while most people slept. It took almost twenty-five minutes to empty both sides. I emerged to a line of folks, who were no doubt wondering what I'd been up to in there.

The Isis, I've decided, is only for occasional or emergency "I don't know when I'll need one" use. Otherwise the quickness of the double electric Medela pump is so much more convenient that I decided to carry it on the flight back.

Having lugged the much heavier Medela on board with me, I warned the flight attendants that I'd likely be in the lavatory for a while. One of them kindly recommended that I use one of the larger lavatories in the back of the plane. I'd just sat down, attached the battery pack, hooked myself up and started to pump when the plane began to buck and jump. The fasten-seat-belts sign came on. I chose to disengage and return to my seat to await a smoother ride--the better part of valor, live to fight another day, yadda, yadda, yadda.


posted by Mama Duck8:43 PM

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Thursday, June 10, 2004
Within the past few years, a number of new books came out on motherhood, such as Misconceptions by Naomi Wolf and Life After Birth by Kate Figes. They were touted as antidotes to the prevailing romantic ideal. I was interested to read them, since I was wondering at the time whether I wanted to be a mom myself. The idea of these books intrigued me--insights from smart women on the whole picture: good, bad and ugly.

But when I looked into actually getting the books, many were poorly reviewed, and the authors were chided for being too negative, for complaining at length about very basic things that the motherhood mystique never pretended to obscure, and for not detailing the positives with the same attention as the negatives.

I fear that I may be doing the same here. In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm trying to share my real-life experience, since no book before, and many books after, have not covered a lot of what I'm experiencing. Yet by writing mostly about these surprises, I think I've given a stilted view of how things are. Yes, they've been tough and are tough, and in ways that were both expected and not. But the same holds true for the positives--there have been some surprises there, too.

Before we found out we were having a boy, both my husband and I were certain it would be a girl. I was shocked when we were told otherwise. How on earth would I raise a boy? I was disappointed; I never said so out loud, because all books said that the baby could hear me from inside. I had wanted to have a girl. Yet when he was born, and snuggled up on my chest in the flannel blanket and funny little hat, I could not imagine anyone else that I'd want to be there. Once he was outside me, I became aware of him as a person, and didn't want him any other way than how he was.

The birth was a tough one. I pushed for three hours, and had to have a vacuum assist. I am still amazed at that singular moment of his birth. I was pushing and people were talking and encouraging, and suddenly the baby was out. That shift, from inside to outside--I'm still unable to find words to describe it.

Also, he's got these giant eyes that refuse to clarify into one color. Sometimes they look green, sometimes grey, sometimes brownish. His hair is also a blend--reddish in sunlight and pictures, but light brown or blond at other times.

I find his voice entrancing. He babbles a lot, and croons quite a bit. When he wakes up happy, which I'd say he does about half the time, he makes quiet little noises from deep in his throat: Mmm-baaa. I wonder what will happen to these sounds as he develops into "real" language.

When my husband or I enter a room, the force of his recognition is almost blinding. His big eyes get bigger, and his smile grows huge, showing his four little teeth.

He still wakes around 3 a.m. for a feeding. It's a struggle to wake up, but when he finishes, he relaxes in a way that he rarely does during the day. He puts his head on my shoulder and snuggles into my neck, sometimes flipping his head back and forth, trying to get comfortable nestled up under my chin. I love that moment more than almost anything in the world.

He loves to be kissed. Under the neck, on the belly. He also loves when I take his leg or arm gently in my teeth, and growl and shake it. He laughs and laughs.

There are other bonuses of motherhood--less emotional, more mundane. The birth was tough, but there are some nice things about my post-birth body that I'm able to appreciate apart from the duck. For the first time in my life, I love the size of my breasts. I know they won't last, but I'm enjoying them while they're here. And I haven't had a period since November of '02. Woo-hoo.

I'll try to be better about writing a more balanced picture. I have a lot of ambivalence, in the true sense of the word--I am often pulled to one extreme or the other. But there are compensating highs for some of the lows that I detail here. I don't want to be like that group of books. I'm glad that the true costs and difficulties are getting more air time, but it's all the more reason to celebrate the good stuff.


posted by Mama Duck8:06 PM

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Wednesday, June 09, 2004
Want to know what's been bugging me most this past week about opting out?

The movie theater down the street showed Raising Helen as its Movie for Moms last week AND again this week.

I finally bite the bullet and quit and am able to make it to Movies for Moms, and they're showing the same crap ass movie two weeks in a row.

OK, I haven't seen it, but I am fairly certain of this evaluation. I read reviews, you know.

Ah, the best remnant of having seen the movie Metropolitan. The review joke.

During a baby nap earlier this week I called to complain. My plan for today was to go and to see Harry Potter instead, even if all the other moms were watching Raising Helen.

But the baby is napping now, we'd have to leave in fifteen minutes, and it would involve dressing him, feeding him and I just don't think it's gonna happen.

Grr.


posted by Mama Duck7:53 AM

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Day two of week two, not so good


Yesterday the duck was all scream, scream, scream in the morning, till I put him in the stroller and we hit the road, first to Marshall Field's to pay our bill, then to the basement to buy Dad a cupcake, then to Target to get cabinet baby-proofers, then to Dad's work to drop off the aforementioned cupcake.

Since we'd been so busy, I was looking forward to him taking a good afternoon nap, since his last several ones had all been over an hour. I put him in his crib asleep, made a potential to-do list, made and started lunch.

Wah. Wah. Wah. He wasn't going back to sleep. He'd only been napping for 30 minutes, which is the bare minimum of actual naps. I hadn't even finished lunch. Then he proceeded to scream for the next forty minutes. Forty, people. Picked him up, put him down, changed his diaper, gave him toys, nursed him, fed him solids in case he was hungry. Scream, scream, scream.

After 40 minutes he did calm down, I fed him again, and then he pooped. That particular event seemed to raise his spirits immeasurably, so I think he'd been feeling a little backed up in the morning, hence the scream-o-rama.

This is not a glamourous life, folks.


posted by Mama Duck7:38 AM

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Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Day one of week 2 of stay-at-home motherhood


The duck and I had a great day yesterday. We played, he ate, he napped, he threw fits when I took him away from non-approved teething surfaces, like the cord to the vacuum and the door hinge. We went on an afternoon trek to Marshall Field's and Target. I filled out a Zagat survey during his afternoon nap.

Yesterday was a compensating up day to last week's difficult one.

One thing has become immediately apparent. When he starts to throw a fit, I can feel my biological response to his cries, and it's not milk let-down. It's stress hormones that go zero to sixty. I am much more aware of my capacity for anger and frustration than I was working in an office. Raw emotions are much closer to the surface.


posted by Mama Duck7:50 AM

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The down sides


I went to England two weeks ago for a friend's wedding. After our last plane trip to Philly, my husband decided that he and the duck were staying home while I would attend the wedding. I was grateful not to have to baby wrangle for 8-hour flights plus 1-hour delays to and from London, plus car trips to and around and from the country. In
a previous post, I noted other up sides of travelling without the baby: uninterrupted dining, sleeping, and adult interaction. There were, however, some quite considerable costs. This was my first time away from the duck for longer than a work day, and I was gone for nearly five days.

The trip took a lot of planning. I needed to build up a milk reserve for the duck, who was still nursing as his main source of nutrition, with solid foods as between-meal snacks. (Since I returned, I think it's now solid foods with nursing as supplement.) Over the course of almost two months, I managed to bank a supply of thirty-three bottles of five to six ounces apiece. A biologist friend laughed when I shared this, and noted that it was so mammalian, a reminder that we're all just animals, and that the ducts are related to sweat glands. To further de-romanticise it, he wondered if I'd saved enough to make cheese. The answer, courtesy of Savage Love, is that any amount of milk can be used to make cheese. I'd saved enough to be able to make at least a pound of cheese.

I also had to pump while I was away. I brought both my Avent Isis hand pump and my Medela Pump In Style. The Isis is small and light, but only works for one side at a time, so it takes about thirty minutes to empty both boobs. The Medela is heavier and bulkier, plus requires 8 AA batteries, but it can empty both sides in less than fifteen minutes. I pumped on the plane; I pumped in a Gatwick restroom. I pumped three to four times a day while I was in England so that the duck could resume (if he wished, which he most emphatically did) when I returned.

Prior to leaving, I'd contacted the UK Milk Bank, which enables donors to bank milk for preemies and other sick infants who don't have acces to their mum's milk. Understandably, they require two medical tests three months apart to screen donors. Yet I could and did freeze some of what I pumped for use in a study on whether foremilk has a greater concentration of good stuff for babies who have tummy problems. For various logistical reasons, this was only 3 pumpings' worth. The other twelve (12!) or so pumpings I had to throw away. Each of the dozen times I poured milk down the sink I felt sad--what a waste, I'm throwing away perfectly good food. In theory, I could have frozen and carted back what I'd pumped, but this seemed far too complicated, and I'm glad I didn't try.

Only once did I have trouble with engorgement, on my second day there. I used my heat pad, which I'd brought along with an electrical adapter--look how prepared!, warm washcloths, then unplugged the clogged nipple pores with a sterile pin. The flat I was in didn't have a shower, so I just did it over a sink. When I was finally able to move the clog, I felt a huge surge of accompishment, since normally it's frequent nursing that helps, and it would have been days until I returned home to the duck. Developing mastitis and having to miss the wedding would have been a big drag. But the clog cleared decisively, I drained it into the sink, and I went on to enjoy the rest of the trip.


posted by Mama Duck6:56 AM

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Monday, June 07, 2004

Development updates


The duck has started to feed himself. Last week I began placing bits of banana and cereal o's on his tray while I fed him. He would sometimes play with them, but he spit the cereal o's out and just mashed up the banana. Yesterday and today, though, he's made the leap. It's amazing to me how he won't be ready, then one day he just is.

His list of favorite dangerous toys has expanded beyond plastic bags and electrical cords to include cabinet doors and drawers. We've already had a few pinched baby fingers, and some very loud wails of outrage. He doesn't seem to have made the connection yet between open/shut and pinchy, so I'm having to run a lot of interference.

I have so much to write, and so little time! He's napping well today thus far, but we're trying to get our place ready to sell, and it's taking a lot of work that my head feels as if it will explode. But he's had two naps of an hour fifteen plus already, and it's just 1:45, so I think we're doing well. We haven't even been out for a baby adventure yet. Next is lunch: apples, peas/rice and banana bits and o's.


posted by Mama Duck11:52 AM

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Thursday, June 03, 2004

Be careful what you wish for


Day three of staying at home. I had the kind of day that I knew would happen when people said "Oh, you're so lucky; you'll have such a good time."

Today wasn't a good time, though it did have moments of goodness. Today was work. So here's the diary. Sorry if it seems as if I'm repeating myself from the other day, but since today was much harder, I think it bears detailing in case anybody thinks the grass is greener over here.

Wednesday 7:05 p.m. Put in crib, he cries.
I check every five minutes, laying him back down when I find him standing. At 7:35 I can smell that he's pooped. I change his diaper and he's back in bed by 7:45, though still crying. By 8:05 he is finally asleep.
Thursday 4:25 a.m. Wakes crying; nursed
5:45 a.m. Wakes super happy, babbling and excited. Extremely cute. Wet, poopy diaper (WPD)
7:10 a.m. Dad leaves for work. Fussy, nursed.
7:20 a.m. Put in crib for nap
7:45 a.m. Not sleeping; playing happily in his crib; I take him out and he plays in the living room
8:15 a.m. Solid foods. He refuses the rice cereal, so I mix it with the yogurt. He toys with the banana pieces and cereal bits, but does not put them in his mouth.
9:00 a.m. PD
9:15 a.m. Fussy, nursed.
9:20 a.m. Nap
[I clean up a disastrous corner of the apartment and find a new location for his high chair, away from phone cords. I get ready for yoga class and want to leave by 11, since this will be the first time I try the childcare at the gym.]
10:35 a.m. Wakes fussy. Calms when I sing him a happy song set to the tune of Hey, Jude.
10:45 a.m. Change him out of p.j.s and into clothes. Continue getting ready and get diaper bag ready.
11:00 a.m. Nurse, plus diaper change
11:20 a.m. Leave for gym.
11:40 a.m. Arrive at gym, find out that childcare ended at 11:30 a.m.
Noon Stop for lunch at restaurant on the way home. Baby starts to fuss and needs to be held, making eating a salad very difficult. Becomes so fussy that I need to leave quickly.
12:45 p.m. Solid food attempt, squash and banana; fussy
1:30 p.m. Fussy; nursed
1:40 p.m. Nap
2:10 p.m. Up and fussy.
2:15 p.m. Solid food attempt, rest of squash and banana; fussy
3:00 p.m. Out for a baby adventure to the comic shop for new comic day. Brief periods of happiness followed by more fuss, so return home.
4:15 p.m. Solid food success; prunes, mashed banana, peas
5:00 p.m. Dad comes home; baby is happy again; outside to play on the grass
6:20 p.m. Bath
6:30 p.m. Nurse and bedtime book
6:40 p.m. Asleep


posted by Mama Duck6:16 PM

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Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Oh, the humanity


Since I returned from my trip, the duck has begun to throw tantrums. If we take away something he's playing with (today's examples: the phone cord, the modem cord and the cell-phone charging cord. Yesterday, the cord to the hand-vac.He loves those cords.) he pitches a screaming fit. Mouth wide in protest, nostrils flared in outrage, eyes shiny with tears of rage and betrayal. He's just had a growth spurt, and his lungs are in fine form. This boy can YELL. After he starts a fit, I pick him up but he tries to arch out of my arms. He's getting strong enough that he may just get his wish. To counteract, I set him down, but he arches, falls backwards and bangs his head.

Then it all goes up to 11.


posted by Mama Duck12:38 PM

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It hasn't really sunk in, yet


I don't think that it feels really real yet--that all days will be more or less the same, and that I won't be going back to work. I stayed at home with the duck one day a week plus when he was sick, so I think it's going to take a string of days in a row for this to feel different enough to feel like a permanent change.

Either that, or the first round of bills when we no longer have my paycheck. I mentally cower at the thought.


posted by Mama Duck8:29 AM

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What happened, and when


Sunday, 6:30 p.m. Nursed, fell asleep
Monday, 2:20 a.m. Woke crying; nursed
4:20 a.m. ditto
5:50 a.m. Awake; poopy diaper (PD)
6:30 a.m. PD again
7:20 a.m. Fussy; nursed
7:40 a.m. Nap #1
[I wrote entries for both weblogs]
8:30 a.m. Awake
9:00 a.m. Solid foods: Yogurt, rice cereal, banana pieces
9:30 a.m. Wet diaper (WD)
10:05 a.m. PD
11:30 a.m. Fussy; nursed
11:40 a.m. Nap #2
[I fixed and ate lunch, called my mom, packed some boxes--we're preparing to sell our place--and got sucked into
this guilty pleasure website]
1:00 p.m. Awake
1:10 p.m. Solid foods; mashed avocado, pears
2:10 p.m. WD
2:20 p.m. Screaming fit; I get us both base-line presentable, throw him in the stroller and we're out the door to walk through the skyways and visit Dad at work (weather was cool, grey, crappy, snizzly)
4:05 p.m. Return home; PD
4:10 p.m. Nursed
4:20 p.m Nap #3 (!?!)
[I packed some boxes, made tea, fixed cheese and crackers and tried to watch TV]
5:05 p.m Awake, and not at all happy about it
5:30 p.m Solid foods; corn/squash, pears, prunes, peas/rice
6:30 p.m Bath
6:50 p.m Nursed
7:00 p.m. Boynton bed books: Dinosaur's Binkit, Pajama Time, Snoozers, The Going to Bed Book
7:30 p.m. Asleep
Tuesday, 3:00 a.m. Awoke crying; nursed
5:00 a.m. Awoke crying; nursed
7:00 a.m. Awoke, VWD


posted by Mama Duck7:49 AM

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Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Day One


It's my first official day as a stay-at-home mom.

Duck report: the baby at 9 1/2 months is frequently pulling himself up to stand, chewing on everything, babbling constantly, and has begun eating 2+ jars of "solid" food at each sitting. I tried giving him cereal pieces yesterday. He managed to pick them up, put them in his mouth, and spit them out. I think we're a ways off from true solid food. He has a gap between his two top teeth. His hair is still reddish, brownish, and blond. His eyes are still greenish brown; I haven't seen bluish in a while.

Also, annoyingly, he may have another cold. He'd been quite well since the fever 2 and a half weeks ago that catalyzed my decision to resign.

One thing I noticed over the weekend is that he wakes between 5:30 a.m. and 6. I feed him, change his diaper, play with him, dress him, and around 7:45 a.m. he's ready for his first nap. This was the time that we were usually bundling him up for daycare, and he didn't nap there till 9 a.m or later. Already I see that having him home means a more consistent routine, one that I hope will contribute to better sleep habits overall.


posted by Mama Duck6:20 AM

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