Confession

I woke up this morning in a wet spot.  Before you finish that smirk, you should know that the “wet spot” being referred to here was due to the fact that my husband and I are currently bed-sharing with our wee little one, who likes to wee a lot.  Hiccup wet the bed, and here’s my confession: I realized his diaper had leaked sometime around 3:30am but did not get up to change him (or myself or our sheets) for another three hours.  His sleeping through the night is a relatively new and suspect development.  After experiencing one sleep disturbance after another – wonder week upon wonder week, an insane holiday-schedule that is not to be repeated, teething (One. Tooth. At. A. Time) and then yet another wonder week – we’re understandably skeptical that this will last.  Considering how many months it has been since his birth, nothing – NOTHING – is a big enough deal for me to risk waking him when he is sleeping peacefully, not even the realization that I am lying in the dampness of another person’s urine.

The kid’s a light sleeper and the kind of full wardrobe/set change that was required at 3:30 this morning, I can say from experience, would have been more than enough to usher him into full-mode wakefulness.  It then would have been an hour and a half to two hours before he was tired enough to shoosh to sleep again and by then, well it would have been time to get up.  So this was a legitimate dilemma and I stand by my decision!  This story illustrates a new trend in my life however that I’m not exactly proud of.  A trend towards grossness.  In my previous life, I was fastidiously ungross, especially when it came to what I was willing to touch, taste, smell, or lie in; but motherhood is making me gross and the evidence is really beginning to stack up.

For instance, this is not my first “it’s only pee” story.  In my early weeks back at work, there was one morning when I sat down with the baby for one last nurse before I ran out the door and his diaper leaked onto my skirt.  It was a black and white, patterned skirt so you couldn’t really tell and there wasn’t another outfit lined up that was pumping friendly; so I just went to work in the pee skirt.  It dried fairly quickly and didn’t really smell.  No one knew.

The other day at the park, I brought graham crackers for us to snack on but forgot wipes to clean up my little cookie monster’s face.  In hindsight I could have just wiped the mess off with my hands and then onto my jeans but no, not this mama.  Without even hesitating, my instinct was to lick the pasty cracker streaks off his cheeks.  In my defense, I once read there are some cultures in which parents do this with their babies’ runny noses, which is probably what planted the idea in the deep recesses of my baby-addled-brain (so if you’re going to judge, do so within the context of knowing that!).

If I’m not going to work, I don’t always bother taking the time to brush my hair or wash my face (FYI, real life messy ponytails are not that cute).

That partially sucked-on piece of cheese on Hiccup’s tray that he was clearly done with yesterday – I ate it.  Waste not, want not.

Cleaned poop out from under my finger nails the other day.  Not my first time.

Made dinner…after cleaning poop out from under my fingernails.

Speaking of poop – we’re cloth diapering.  Our laundry is gross now too.

I frequently wear the same tank top for two or three days (and nights) in a row.  It’s comfy with easy boob access (I should probably just buy more though).

Squished a spider with my bare fingers when it got too close to the baby (pretty proud of this last one actually – that fight or flight instinct finally resulted in a fight, and it was a fight to the death!).

All I have to say for myself is that being a full-time working mama (which basically means having two full-time jobs…two and a half even) is very consuming.  It doesn’t leave much time for sissy stuff like napkins and personal hygiene.  What I’m realizing is that this is totally fine.  For the record, we’re all ridiculously healthy here at Casa Lovejoy; and Hiccup couldn’t care less that his mama sometimes smells like old man sweat.   You might be thinking, “Poor Professor!” (I certainly do some days); but this is where I get to brag because my hubby loves me with a heart so true, he doesn’t seem to see my grossness.  The days I’m feeling particularly worn down or unattractive are frequently the ones in which he will spontaneously take note of how beautiful he thinks I am, how huggable, how kissable, and then quickly take steps to prove it to me.  Somehow he’s able to look at me with my greasy hair pinned back from my makeup-less face, still wearing that milk-stained tank and just see his beautiful wife.

That’s a pretty lavish love…I must confess.

La Leche Said There’d Be Days Like This

Happy Pump Day!  Huh?  The other day at work I overheard one woman greet another by saying, “Happy Pump Day!”  Having had a terrible pumping day myself, her words stirred up startled feelings of self-consciousness.  Relief and a bit more self-consciousness set in when I finally realized it was Wednesday and what she had actually said was, “Happy Hump Day!”  I may need therapy.

The La Leche League book on breastfeeding that I read while pregnant said there would be days like this – bad days, when I’m barely able to pump an ounce.  What the book didn’t mention, or what I failed to comprehend in the optimistic glow of prenatal innocence, was that the inability to pump might have nothing to do with my supply.  That there would be days when the milk was there but simply unable to release.  As stated in a previous post, if you know anything about milk production (human or otherwise), you know that’s a problem.  While my body’s ability to produce milk may stretch to meet Hiccup’s demand, its ability to store milk comfortably caps at around six ounces (about four ounces on the right and two on the left – don’t ask).  Pumping’s not as simple as sitting back and pushing a button though.  You have to actually relax while doing it; something we have already established I’m not too good at.

Now that Hiccup is on solid foods, I’ve cut back to two pumping sessions instead of three.  Even so, on a good day, I can still net 10-14 ounces (for those without a point of reference, that’s an enviable take).  A bad day however looks more like four ounces which means dipping into the freezer stash next time I’m away.  On what turned out to be the hump day of pump days, I took home only two ounces – in the cooler that is.  The day began promisingly enough.  Around eleven o’clock, I drew my screen, turned on the wave sound generator, and got pumping.  Normally, 15 minutes later, I’d be bagging 4-6 ounces of milk and getting back to work.  Instead, I sat there for 20 minutes growing increasingly agitated by the fact that, though my girls were full, the milk would not come.  Barely an ounce had leaked out.  At noon, my coworker and I headed outside to play a weekly inter-office game of bocce (I know, I know – what aristocrat died and left me their life?).  Someone on the other team asked me about the baby and BOOM!  Release.  There I was the winner of my own personal wet t-shirt contest.  The same thing has happened in meetings.  Thankfully, I always carry a sweater.  Heading back to my cubicle after the game, I fired up my pump expecting great things only to be disappointed again.

Looking at pictures of Hiccup helps; closing my eyes and visualizing him in my mind is usually more effective; and even more poignantly – picturing him a little bit sad and holding his arms out to me seems to be most successful at stimulating a release.   Some days though the stress that comes from continued sleep deprivation, various work issues, and certain familial pressures just gets to me and focusing on the baby becomes impossible.  The cold, clinical nature of pumping doesn’t help either.  You try relaxing to the mechanical whooshing and whirring of a plastic pump motor which on my darker days sounds like the whispered chanting of redrum, redrum, redrum

That evening, after coming home to my little boy and sitting down for a cuddle, all was well.  I was even able to pump five ounces from one side while Hiccup nursed on the other.  My goal is to continue up to his first birthday and then retire the pump.  Just two and half more months to go.

Lastly, and really as just a side note, I think we should stop saying “Hump Day.”  We could probably remove the word hump entirely from our vocabulary and things would be just fine.

Adventures in Breast Pumping

​After serious contemplation, some testing, and repeated assurances from my immediate neighbors (all blessedly female) that they cannot hear the motor, I’ve settled on a new location in which to pump at work.  My cubicle.  Risky choice, I know.  Other places were of course considered.  For example, the car.  I have used my pump in the car a couple times other places and it wasn’t so bad.  We have several multi-floored parking structures at work, the top floors of which remain relatively unused, so at first this seemed like a great solution.  However, upon closer examination it turns out these structures are all regularly patrolled by security guards, which means that 1) I have to assume the parking lot may not be the safest place in the world to partially disrobe on a regular basis and 2) at some point the woman who sits in her car and partially disrobes on a regular basis might actually fall under some sort of suspicion.  Also, this thing takes like eight batteries when you’re away from an outlet, and I’m cheap.

Due both to a growing sense of desperation as well as to it’s being such a hot button issue these days, the bathroom did unfortunately keep coming to mind as a possible spot.  I am fairly certain that I’ve heard other women with their pumps in there from time to time; but while the restrooms are kept relatively clean, I couldn’t stop imagining all the super gross microscopic pathogens that most certainly hang on every surface and even in the air!  I also couldn’t help but think that if I didn’t want to actually use the bathroom on these trips (which I wouldn’t), I would then have to be making additional trips for more… traditional purposes.  This would most likely add up to at least five, perhaps six or seven, trips to the loo (three of which would last 15-20 minutes) in an eight hour period – a habit which in the long run might actually prove to be more suspicious than hanging out in the parking lot topless.

I also briefly considered running home to simply feed my child au naturel, but that was just ridiculous.

So my cubicle was the clear winner.  I have a privacy screen to pull across the entrance (which I’d already been using for the occasional lunch break nap session) and an ocean wave simulator on my computer for added white noise. At first I tried playing music, but needing to avoid any potentially offensive or irritating musical genres, the more neutral ones weren’t quite cutting it in terms of sound masking, and I quickly tired from listening to the same carefully crafted playlist three times a day.  So there you go.  Now everyday (once in the morning, once on my lunch break, and once in the afternoon) I draw the screen, turn up the waves, bare my breasts and hope there’s not a fire.

The Pump Dump

Does your office have a pump room?  Do you know what I mean by that?  In my state, companies with nursing moms in their employ are required by law to provide a private space (not the bathroom) in which to express milk for their babies.  So the institution I work for has a room designated for pumping.  In theory this is great.  The sign on the door actually says “Nursing Mother’s Lounge” (fancy) and the door locks.  Honestly, that should be enough, but inside there’s also a cushy chair, a sink with soap and paper towels to wash your hands, some Anne Geddes style baby art on the walls (you know, to help with the transformation of what most likely used to be a utility closet), some pens (for writing the date on your collection bags), and a laminated page highlighting tips for successful pumping.  Really, the whole setup is very nice.  I feel respected, protected, and supported by my place of work.  Unfortunately, I just don’t think the room is working for me.

First of all,  the “lounge” (closet) is in another building.  Once inside this other building, in order to get to the room I have to walk through multiple doors, down multiple hallways, up multiple stairs (passing by multiple people, who I am convinced can tell what I’m doing there, three times a day/everyday).  Tack on all that extra travel time to how long it takes me to pump, and I end up being away from my desk for over half an hour (three times a day!).  As an hourly employee, any time spent not working over and above my protected breaks and lunch hour has to be made up somehow.  For me this would mean staying later instead of getting home to Hiccup and the Professor as soon as possible, which as much as I like my job is all I want to do once the clock strikes five.  Furthermore, once you find your way to this magical Room of Requirement (in this blog, Harry Potter references will not be explained, you’re simply expected to know what I’m talking about), you see that it’s wedged in a little corner right next to… a man’s office (if we both came out of our doors at the same time, we’d bump into each other).  While there is a loud fan in the lounge that I’m sure drowns out the sound of everyone’s pump motors, he most likely hears the fan and therefore knows (thanks to the sign) whenever a woman is in there milking herself like a cow (yes, I said that).  You know what? Bless him, because I’m sure no one consulted him before christening the closet next door with its new moniker; and the situation is most likely just as awkward for him as it is for all of us new mamas.  Whatever.

These are not my only issues though.  In addition to the cute pictures of other people’s babies on the wall, there is also a sign-up sheet and a clock.  You have to reserve the “lounge” for half hour time slots.  Apparently, the women here are a pretty fertile bunch, because the pump room is seeing more business these days than a West Coast zen kids’ swim class.  My first time there, I was a bit flustered (naturally) and did not make note of the time or sign-up sheet.  Well, tick tock, halfway through there was a knock at the door.  I panicked, spilled milk everywhere, let out a warbly “One second!,” cleaned up the milk, threw all my stuff in my bag, and then had to actually open the door and face this other mom upon whose own precious time I had infringed.  She was very nice about it.  She asked about my baby, explained a little better how the room worked, and even told me to let her know if I ever needed any hand-me-down baby clothes as her son was just a few sizes bigger than mine.  Really, that last part was downright saintly.  So I signed up for three slots, which I couldn’t help but notice was one more than everyone else had signed up for (am I doing something wrong here?), and got out of there!

It’s been a few weeks.  At first, it was working okay, but sometimes I get held up with a work issue and miss one of my reservations.  Sometimes the woman with the appointment before mine runs late (leaving me standing outside the room with my pump and my cooler hoping the man doesn’t show his face before I have a chance to get in).  Also, the fan in there is so loud, the noise scrambles my brain.  Basically, I’m neurotic and the whole scenario is stressing me out to the point that once I’m in there, I can’t actually express any milk.  It just won’t come.  If you know anything about milk production (human or otherwise), you know that’s a problem.  So I’m just going to have to find somewhere else to do this (not the bathroom).

Twelve Weeks, Five Bags, and a Baby

Not too long ago I returned to work after twelve weeks of maternity leave.  It’s funny, but prior to going on leave, whenever someone asked how much time I had off from work, I would always say “three months” with a big grin.  Three long, luxurious months (a quarter of a year, if you will).  Plenty of time to bond with my little squish and oh the projects that would finally get done! (play laugh track here).  Life seemed rosy with expectancy.  At some point along this crazy mama saga however, my perspective changed and the answer to that question became a still-grateful-but-nevertheless-subdued “twelve weeks.”  You see, twelve weeks turned out to be one week short of three full months.  I know because we’ve been taking those monthly birthday pics of Hiccup every month to the day since he was born (you know the ones with the little stickers that say 1 Month, 2 Months, etc), and we weren’t due to snap the three month pic until the week after I was back in the office.

Twelve weeks is still a lot and it’s more than many women receive so this is not a complaint; but what I would have given to have had just one more week!  One more week of snuggling.  One more week of not caring how many times I had to get up in the night, because we didn’t have to do anything but nap-nurse and watch Netflix the next day.  One more week of friends bringing over their babies (and tacos) and of not having to care that I hadn’t showered in… a while.  One more week of not worrying how my husband, the Professor, who is wonderful but who had zero baby experience going into this (and by experience I mean any exposure whatsoever), was going to do being the primary caregiver for our infant son part of the week.  One more week to bottle train, which I selfishly put off until the last minute causing our last few days at home together to be filled with tears (ours and the baby’s) and some angry yelling (again, both ours and the baby’s).  Hiccup did end up taking the bottle my first day back, by the way (with me out of sight and out of smell).  So scratch that last part (those last few days of hell were a small price to pay for all the awesome bonding time we had leading up to that point). One more week of not having to pump outside of the privacy of my home.  In short, my first day back came way too fast.  I didn’t feel like we were ready.

Feeling ready for something when a baby is involved I’m learning is a luxury though (like taking twelve weeks off from work with pay).  Getting out the door in the morning continues to be really difficult and not just emotionally.  It is physically difficult to get out the door, because being a working mom who’s trying to continue breastfeeding means taking so much stuff with me to the office that it looks like I’m headed to the airport.  Seriously, it takes exactly five bags worth of stuff for me to be away all day. There’s my purse (which these days could double as an overnight bag), work laptop, lunch bag (gotta save money where we can), breast pump (stylishly camouflaged to look like another purse), and a cooler in which to store my expressed milk (it has a bottle key hanging on the outside because it was actually designed to hold a twelve pack of beer – it’s my little private joke with myself).

All this being said, it has been good to be back these last few weeks.  Thankfully, I have coworkers who over the years have become friends (friends who have the good grace not to ask what’s in the cooler and who didn’t underestimate the positive impact of finding flowers and a giant cinnamon roll waiting for me on my desk upon return). I have a job that helps provide for my family, the opportunity to sometimes work from home, and a husband, who despite being blindsided by how much havoc one tiny human can wreak, is still totally willing and even excited to take on this frightening thing called parenthood with me.

I think it’s going to be okay.