Saturday, April 25, 2009

Turkey Day

After pumping, feeding, and hitting the sack by 11:00 last night, I woke at 6:00 am with Kate cooing in the monitor and my boobs hard as rocks (Sorry, TMI.) So, I got up quickly and pumped, hoping to finish before Kate woke up fully and started screaming. By the time I'd filled a couple bottles (it had been eight hours, after all) Kate was back sound asleep, so I had a choice to make:
1) wake and feed her, then go back to bed for an hour or so
2) just go back to bed and wait for her to wake me
3) stay up and actually enjoy the early morning in solitude (what a novel idea)

I opted for #3, and after wandering into the dining room, I saw this outside our front window:
Okay, I actually had to go outside and follow the bird around to the side of the house to get this photo, but it's the same one that was out front. I thought this was pretty cool, since we often have wild turkeys in our back yard, bobbing along in packs of three or four, but they rarely have their feathers all puffed up like this.

Then I glance down the street, and see another four or five turkeys a couple houses down, one standing in the middle of the street, all puffed up:

Okay, so he wasn't puffed up any more by the time I got the shot. And yes, the guy in the red SUV saw me walking barefoot down the street in my bathrobe, holding a digital camera, but given that he had to dodge the turkeys in the road, I think he understood what I was doing out there.
I proceeded to walk a few houses down to get as close as possible. Did you know turkeys make kind of a hissing sound when they feel threatened?
Actually, I don't know if it comes from their mouths or if it's just the sound of their feathers puffing up or their wings dragging on the ground, but it might have scared away a less diligent predatorazzi.

As much as I prefer living in Nashville... I have to admit we did not have the simple joy of random fowl wandering down the street in Green Hills.

Gobble Gobble.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

More Milk Mania

What an interesting time to be a new mother! Apparently, due to some recent articles in the Atlantic and the New Yorker, as well as the NYT piece I wrote about the other day, breastmilk v. formula is the hot topic of debate right now. Last night, I saw this article on Christianity Today's website, once again discussing the merit or malice of the breast pump. Drawing on Jill Lepore's New Yorker article that apparently sparked this debate anew, the CT piece discussed an interesting angle they referred to as "the human milk gap." This is the idea that the pump "lets employers off the hook" by enabling breastfeeding even when women return to work, rather than allowing longer, paid maternity leave like many European nations do.

I'm not going to get into the whole issue again--except to say that if I had been the woman mentioned in the article who had two days worth of milk poured in the garbage by an airport security official, I think I would have physically attacked the guy! Anyway, if you're interested in the topic, it's another good article to read. Yesterday being my first day back at work, it really struck a chord. I pumped twice at the office, and it all went fine.

To update on that, it's definitely quite an adjustment and I feel very sad being away from Kate for so long. I felt more upset last night after my measly two waking hours with her than I did during the day at the office. I feel like I should be with her more. I feel like I'm slacking off in my role as her mother. Hopefully today will involve fewer tears!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wordless Wednesday--Tiny Toes

P.S. Pray for me today, please. It's my first day back in the office as a working mommy.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

First Trip to the Zoo

We took Kate to the zoo on Saturday, and had a great time. We met our friends Tracy and Thomasjohn there, since they were in the area for the weekend and had yet to meet our little one! Tracy, especially, was more interested in the North American Infant exhibit than in the wild animals, but we all had to be conscious of moving out of the way of other people when we were staring more at Kate than at the cute baby tigers and other animals!

I'd never been to the Nashville Zoo either, and while it was missing certain key animals that the Louisville Zoo does have (lions, bears, polar bears, rhinos, hippos, etc.), the atmosphere is a lot nicer at the Nashville Zoo, with winding, wooded paths and a really great playground that we'll enjoy a lot when Kate is older.

We promised Kate we'd buy her a puppet at the gift shop, and she lit up when she first saw the cuddly, bug-eyed tiger puppet that we've dubbed Bartholomew the Storytime Tiger. As you can see, Bartholomew is now a fun and special member of the family!

Liquid Gold

I am part of a small, strange sisterhood known as "exclusive pumpers." For whatever reason--our own physical limitations, those of the baby, or inexplicable happenstance--we do not nurse our babies at the breast, but spend hours each day expressing milk with which to bottlefeed our infants. When people ask "are you breastfeeding?" we don't know exactly what to say. Many nursing mothers pump when they have to be away from their babies--at work, for example--or to help relieve engorgement early on, but for us, this intermediate step becomes a lifestyle unto itself. Lacking the self-regulating nature of nursing (by which the breasts make just as much as the baby needs), we take special care to keep our production up, counting and preserving each ounce as if it were liquid gold.

After Kate had trouble eating those first few days, and lost 13% of her birth weight by day 5, the pediatrician told me to start feeding her pumped milk ASAP. If she did not gain enough back by day 7, she would have to be admitted to PICU for Failure to Thrive. (Talk about terrifying a couple of new parents!) We went home, began feeding her expressed milk, and witnessed a swift turnaround as Kate immediately began to have clear, content wake and sleep periods, and gained eight ounces in two days. I offered her the breast some during that second week, mainly for my own sake as I worried about bonding and felt disappointed that we were unable to nurse. She never really took to it, though, and I got over it surprisingly quickly--within another week or so.

Those days feel like a distant memory, as pumping has become such a part of our lives. At first, it felt overwhelming, pumping every three hours, even through the night, setting alarms to get me up, keeping track of how many ounces I was producing, watching our electric bill go up significantly from the two or more hours a day the pump is on, and the water bill too, from the washing of the pump parts after each session. I set up shop and type one-handed at the kitchen table multiple times a day (at first, about eight, now just five or six), and we pack up the pump to go with us when we're going to be gone more than four hours or so. I even pump in the car, using the battery pack, when necessary. It's a labor of love, and now as natural a part of childcare to us as feeding and diapering. We have a whiteboard on the fridge to keep track of feeding and pumping times (one schedule, my brain could handle, but two requires ink). A metal tray lined with paper towels lets the pump parts dry on top of the fridge between pumpings. I produce almost twice the amount we need, so my frozen stash in the garage's chest freezer will last us even beyond the time I stop pumping.

Matt, who has been very supportive of my decision to be an exclusive pumper, recently stumbled on a New York Times article called "Ban the Breast Pump." The writer, Judith Warner, isn't down on breastfeeding altogether, though she rightly decries the current trend of bashing the formula-feeding mother. However, she thinks the breast pump is so degrading to women's "physical dignity" that women who must work or otherwise can't nurse their babies should just give up on giving babies breastmilk and switch to formula. Now, I've got nothing against women who choose to formula feed--that's what works out best for some families, and that's fine. But, I do find Ms. Warner's degradation of the pump and women who use it as slaves to a barbaric and archaic torture device somewhat offensive. She not only doubts the AAP's findings on the benefits of breastfeeding, she even seconds another writer's assertion that husbands don't want to have sex with women whose nipples have been so literally put through the ringer. She also comments that pumping made her feel like a cow. Honestly, I don't feel so much like a cow as like one of the women in Monty Python's "Christmas in Heaven" scene, with my boobs out all the time while otherwise fully clothed! (Wish I could have found a better photo online, but you get the idea!)

Personally, I find the practice of pumping for Kate very satisfying and gratifying. I'm glad to be able to give her my milk. The AAP identifies many benefits to breast milk (which, unlike Ms. Warner, I believe), and despite the aforementioned pump-related costs, I'm pretty sure it's still much cheaper than formula. It's costly in terms of time (I've been hooked to the pump a total of 6.5 of the 84 days Kate's been alive) but I do feel proud of putting this natural female ability to work (picture 29 gallons of milk!) and I feel it's worth the time and effort. If I came to resent Kate for it, or felt it was robbing me of too much interactive time with her, I would stop. But for now, exclusive pumping is working well for our family, and I plan to keep it up as long as I can.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Thoughts on Infant Baptism

We're baptizing Kate Sunday after next. Ten years ago, I never would have thought I would baptize my children as infants. In the Disciples of Christ tradition in which I was raised, a voluntary confession of faith was very important. People came forward (often in their older elementary or early teen years, if they were raised in the church), answered affirmatively the question "Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God, and do you accept him as your Lord and Savior?", and were baptized a few weeks later.

When I started attending an Episcopal church during my junior year of college, infant baptism was one of the harder things for me to get on board with (and not just because the congregation had to stand for such a long time during the baptismal liturgy that I nearly fainted!) The decision to follow Christ should be made by each person themselves, when they are of an age to cognitively do so, I thought. The decision to start a journey of faith was a personal one that should not be made on someone else's behalf, I thought.

Over time, however, I realized that--for those raised in the church--the journey of faith did not begin at the time of that voluntary, public confession. A child's Christian life begins so much earlier, when parents read them Bible stories and pray before bedtime, and when Sunday school teachers and others nurture them as part of the faith community. Cognitive belief in certain doctrines, such as Jesus' messiahship, takes one's faith to a new level, beginning a significant new leg of the lifelong Christian journey, but it is not really the beginning, nor is it a point of arrival.

After years of learning Bible stories and songs, prayers, Vacation Bible School etc., I made my confession of faith and was baptized at age nine. But there was no time that I remember NOT believing. Like many who grew up in the church, I did not have a "conversion experience" to speak of, but rather it just felt like time to publicly acknowledge the belief in Christ that had been nurtured in me for years. Several years after that, in the summer of 1997, I entered a new stage of my faith journey, in which my relationship with God became much more "real" to me. Fall of 2001 was another period of intense spiritual growth, and on it goes...

Few would argue that the confession of faith is the end of one's Christian journey, but I would say it's not really the beginning either. So, if that is the case, why not baptize at a time closer to the real beginning of one's journey of faith--that is, the beginning of one's life? Matt has more theological reasons for supporting infant baptism, which he will explain in another post and/or podcast, but as for me, April 26 will celebrate the inauguration of Kate's walk with God. We will vow to raise and nurture her in the faith, and induct her into the worldwide community of Christ-followers, each seeking God and growing in relationship with him, step by step.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Weekend

Happy Easter! We had a fun weekend with our little bunny. The Easter Bunny kindly came Friday night so Kate could get her basket Saturday morning (since Sunday would be so busy). She got a couple of books, a rattle, and a spinny suction cup toy. She wore her cute bunny socks, and sported bunny ears for a few photos...

On Sunday, Kate wore her pretty Easter dress (a smocked sundress from Baby Gap that I bought on eBay for $.99) and a big pink bow. I hated bows as a kid, and am still picky about them, but I think Kate looks adorable.

Daddy carried her around the church yard for the Easter egg hunt, and she did well for a while, but started to lose it when her diaper got wet. (This may be awful, but I think baby-meltdown photos are hilarious. We have one from St. Patrick's Day where she's really red and screaming. It's cute.)
After church, we went to Granna and Opa's house for lunch, and took some family photos, all in our pink.

With all the child-centered activities, I admit it was easy to let the real meaning of the holy day slip into the background if we weren't careful. The 10am service, however, was a great celebration of Jesus' resurrection and conquest over death. Matt preached on Jesus' message of radical inclusion and acceptance, and we observed communion with the sung responses, which as a former pseudo-Episcopalian (for a couple years in college) I found spiritually exhilerating.
Blessings to you all. Christ is Risen!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Priority Shift

I am ADT's target customer. I have always been terrified of burglars, home invasion, fire, etc.--anything threatening my home and belongings. Those commercials with the shadowy figure breaking down the door absolutely terrify me, though I have still not purchased their product. Fortunately, the material thing I'd most hate to lose--my scrapbooks--is not high on the list for most robbers, but the threat of housefire positively terrifies me.

This fear extends to natural disasters as well, especially tornadoes. When I was younger, still in my parents' home, I remember loading the scrapbooks into a laundry basket to take them to the basement with us during tornado warnings. In recent years, our cat, Charlotte, has taken precedence when the sirens blare. We would get her carrier from the garage, load her in, and huddle there with it in the hallway. I remember an evening in November 2005, right after Matt and I got engaged, I was in Davis-Kidd at Green Hills Mall, shopping for a wedding organizer binder, when store employees told everyone there was a tornado warning. They led us back into the cinderblock hallways under the mall. I was unable to reach Matt, and I was nearly in tears, thinking of Charlotte alone in our duplex a couple miles away.

Yesterday, a bad storm system blew across Tennessee, and as you can imagine, scrapbooks and other items were the furthest things from our minds when the weather radio went off repeatedly. Our thoughts were almost entirely on keeping Kate safe. (I say almost because I did shut Charlotte in the bathroom before we fled to the neighbor's basement, though she had escaped by the time we returned home--she has retractable opposable thumbs, we believe.) We held Kate close, ready to cower with our bodies over her, if the dark skies decided to crash down on us.

If you've watched the news at all, you know that the only actual touch-downs in Tennessee were in Murfreesboro, about the same distance southeast of Nashville as we are northwest. Many homes were destroyed, and there were two deaths... a young woman and her nine-week old baby girl. Matt and my heart broke when we heard that. The husband/father is in the hospital with multiple injuries, and Matt says he can't imagine having the will to live if he were in that man's shoes. No doubt he wanted nothing more than to keep his wife and their tiny daughter safe, and yet he lost everything.

We pray for that family, and all those affected by yesterday's storm, as we hold each other and our own little one closer than ever.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Growing Girl

Kate had her two month appointment on Friday (at 9 1/2 weeks), and she has grown from 7 lb, 15 oz (at birth and at her two week appointment) to 11 lb, 3 oz. We're marking her growth with photos of her with Marcel the Monkey, so check out how much she's grown so far!

One week

One month
Two months

What a big girl!


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