Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Okay, I know that in the scheme of things three kids is not so many. I know one lady in town who just had her fourteenth. I know plenty of people whose response to having only three kids at home is, "Now is my time to get things done!" But for me, having three is still pretty new, and if I manage to get ANYTHING accomplished when they're all home and awake, I'm pretty proud of myself.

So, I will say with no modesty whatsoever that today I [sound the trumpets!] went erranding with all of them at once--Barak and Iyyar in the double stroller (which again has a flat tire after a visit to the Car Man just two days ago--I need to go to the Bike Man, I think) and Avtalyon in the Snugli inside my coat. We went to the barbershop, where Barak had a desperately needed haircut; the drugstore, where we finally printed out some pictures; and the produce store, where I put Iyyar in the shopping cart, had Barak (sort of) holding the shopping cart, and did a $60-worth-of-groceries shop so as to be able to have them all delivered tomorrow morning. (No more meals turning up miraculously at dinnertime, alas--time for me to start cooking again.)

Then I came home, nursed the baby, set the big boys to a table of Play-Doh, and started some rice cooking; nursed the baby, put away laundry, nursed the baby, and supervised clean-up (Barak cleaned up his room all by himself! Really! And he did at least as good a job as any adult other than me would have!); nursed the baby, fed the kids dinner (strawberries, bananas, brown rice, and hard-boiled eggs--weird, but not unhealthy); got the boys into pajamas and back at the Play-Doh (reward to Barak for excellent cleaning up). Then I nursed the baby some more. Then Abba came home and supervised teeth-brushing and potty trips; I nursed Avtalyon again, and he's been asleep for the last two hours in his very own carseat in our room. Then I made dinner (rice, vegetable and peanut butter concoction a la uberimma) for MHH, with enough left for his lunch tomorrow. (I can't eat it--too many onions, and they'll make Avtalyon cry. So I got rice parve chicken nuggets and bananas.)


And now, some pictures. Who on earth could this be?

It's baby Avtalyon, looking very very interested in... something. What, you ask, could be fascinating him so?

Why, my sock yarn collection, of course!
This bodes well. This bodes very, very well.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Closer inspection

Avtalyon had a rough night last night. (Was it only last week he was sleeping six hours at a stretch?!) There was much screaming, and much "I cannot possibly sleep unless you are holding me so do not even think of putting me down no no oh God oh God DON'T PUT ME DOWN NO NO NOOOOOO!"

After a couple of hours of this I actually let him cry until he went to sleep by himself, which didn't take very long. If you do not know me and my philosophy on baby-parenting you might not be shocked by this but if you do, you will know that I am morally, philosophically, constitutionally and hormonally opposed to letting newborn babies cry. However there is parenting philosophy and then there are the realities of sleep deprivation; I simply cannot put myself in a position where I am letting him train me to hold him all night. If he were in pain or sick or really bothered by something, ok; but it was fairly clear to me that the only problem was an intense desire to be cuddled all night long. Which... well, sorry, but no.

To make up for it he spent a lot of today in my arms or in the Snugli, and seems to have gotten his quota of snuggles in for the time being. Right at this very moment he is asleep in the very carseat that was anathema not twelve hours ago. It probably helps that he is, you guessed it, parked next to the dishwasher. KitchenAid is not the best for a number of things but when it comes to high-priced baby-soothers boy do they know their stuff. I put my ear next to the dishwasher today, just to see what it is he hears, and danged if there isn't a heartbeat in there. I'm not joking. It's probably the motor, or the sprayer, but whatever's causing it there is a very clear "whumpWHUMP, whumpWHUMP" in the middle of all the rumbling and swishing. When you add in the voices--mine, Iyyar's, and Barak's--he hears faintly in the background of all that noise, it probably adds up to about the closest auditory approximation possible of life inside the womb.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

I've said it before

and will say it again: if we'd never so much as washed a dish in that thing, the dishwasher we bought when we moved into this apartment would still be worth every penny we paid for it. It would also even be worth the grief of the cockroaches (eww) we briefly had to deal with as a result of the water pipes' having been opened.

Avtalyon, who has learned his big brothers' trick of falling asleep nursing/in my arms and then waking up ten minutes after being put down, is currently totally passed out in the carseat in front of the dishwasher, which is now washing the same load of dishes for the second time.

Last night was better sleep-wise than Friday night, but not as good as earlier in the week: he woke up to eat every 2-3 hours from 10 till 4:30, but then decided to be completely awake and perky at 5 am. Every time I put him down, I'd hear those snuffling baby noses, and then I'd look in the cosleeper to see those bright beady little eyes looking up at me. Hi there, Imma! In case you haven't noticed, I'm awake, and that dark ceiling is not providing me with much in the way of stimulation. Do you think you could possibly find me a somewhat more interesting view? A perky-in-the-middle-of-the-night baby is, clearly, much better than a screaming-in-pain baby, but still not conducive to sleep.

Since I'd had a hard time getting to sleep (due to headache now in what, its 17th straight day?) I got to 7:30 am--big boys' wakeup time--with about three and a half cumulative hours of sleep. Not good. But Abba fielded everyone for a few hours later in the morning, so I got a nap, and then this afternoon I got brave and actually went shopping with Iyyar traveling solo in the double jogger and Avtalyon snoozing in the Snugli. It went fine--Avtalyon stayed asleep and Iyyar enjoyed the pita bread he scored at the grocery score. And this evening, I not only managed to cook dinner (whole-wheat couscous with spinach and cheese--what else?) but handled bedtime on my own. Nobody got a bath, but at least bedtime happened without screaming and with brushed teeth--enough of an accomplishment with a four-week-old, I think.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ten things

1. Well, it had to happen sooner or later. Baby Avtalyon appears to have found the Household Book of Newborn Sleep (I thought I'd shredded all the copies, but someone appears to have hoarded one away---@*&%$*! packrats!) , and realized, "Hey! All I have to do is scream nonstop, and they'll hold me all the time! Gevalt!" And so those nice chunks of sleep, for him and for me, are now but a vanishing memory.

To be fair, what really seems to have happened is that he's gotten some pretty unpleasant gas--when he's held over my shoulder (nice warm pressure on the tummy) he calms down and goes to sleep; if I put him down, a few minutes later he wakes up howling. This went on, well, all night last night--it was a page right out of Barak's baby book (which he doesn't have, since I was too sleep-deprived to even think of starting one). A few horrible explosions this afternoon and he was much happier--he's napping in his carseat now. But I'm going to have to go wake him up fairly shortly--if I let him go longer than three hours between feeds that'll diminish any chances of nice nighttime sleep any further.

To be honest this is still a vast, vast improvement over Barak, who never slept while not being held, ever, at all. But the last few weeks have spoiled me. I keep trying to maintain an attitude of "let's just enjoy this temporary phase while it lasts," but...

2. The second nicest thing about having a new baby (after the baby, obviously) is that, at least if you're Jewish and live in a strong community, people bring you food. They bring you lots of food. The baby is now four weeks and a day old and I have cooked one--that's ONE--meal since he was born. Yesterday, signals got crossed and we were brought Shabbos dinner twice. And people always bring much more than you are really going to eat in one meal (lunch the next day, obviously). That meant that when I lit candles yesterday, I had three chickens, two big kugels, a pan of green beans, gefilte fish, chicken soup, a pan of warm chocolate chip cookies, and no fewer than six challot piled in my kitchen. It's been a pretty tasty Shabbos. (What did Barak eat? Barak ate yogurt, cereal, bananas and cucumbers. Of course.)

Now I just have to start returning all those containers, not all of which I labeled...

3. I completely forgot that when I had Iyyar, I was kicking myself for not using all my sick time before I went out on leave. Where I work, we get 6 weeks of short-term disability, offset by however many days of sick time you have stored up, for maternity leave. STD is 60% pay, but no deductions; since I am part-time, it is pretty close to my actual pay. And if I have a pay period with anything less than a full two weeks' of hours, but the usual deductions for insurance etc, STD is significantly more. But since I had so much to do before going out on leave, as much as I would have liked a couple of days off I did not take them; the result was that I still lost the days to my FMLA leave, and was paid less than I would have been if I hadn't had them saved. Grr.

4. Speaking of sleep issues (when am I not?) Iyyar is now in a nap-resistant, sleep-defiant phase. He howls for a long, long time at bedtime. In fact he is at it now. I'm ignoring it. And bizarrely, I think Barak is already asleep.

5. I'm feeling that Iyyar is really getting the short end of things with my time these days. Avtalyon, of course, is taking up a lot of attention, much more these last few days that he's started crying a lot; Barak is perpetually so high-maintenance that Iyyar already didn't get his fair share of Imma, even before the baby was born. And now he's getting even less, and it's starting to show in his behavior.

Tomorrow Abba is planning to take Barak out for some fun activities in the afternoon, and I am hoping to give Iyyar some quality time--of course, if Avtalyon permits it. It occurred to me to wonder how mothers of higher orders of kids manage the one-on-one time, and thinking about the families I know I just don't think most of them have the equivalent of a Barak, who is not only totally Imma-centric but incredibly sensitive to, well, everything. If Iyyar doesn't get all the attention I think he really should, not that much happens--I feel guilty, he acts up, and that's it. If Barak doesn't get all the attention he thinks he really should, the universe implodes. And having vivid memories of attention deprivation myself, I hate that as much as he does. Yes, he's incredibly high-maintenance, but guess what? He gets it from me.

6. I am extremely fortunate to be, B"H, pretty healthy in both the major and the minor regards. I hardly ever get upset stomachs, have not broken a bone in about 25 years, and almost never get headaches. However, the one I have now is now entering its third week. I think I've taken more Tylenol in the last couple of weeks than I did in the previous ten years combined (that's assuming I ever took Tylenol in the last decade, which I'm honestly not sure I did). I've been drinking water by the liter, it's not like I suddenly went off coffee (ha!) and the sleep deprivation didn't really kick in until a couple days ago. What's up with that? I had a cold, but that seems to have gone away while the headache has lingered, and lingered.

7. It's a good thing tiny babies have tiny clothes. They produce incredible amounts of laundry by item count, but each individual thing is so small it doesn't register much in the daily laundry volume. So it's not as much of a shock to the system, although it has derailed my usual laundry-sorting method. As the clothes get bigger, the laundry volume increases gradually, and you notice it less. At least that's my theory. I'll have to ask my husband, the one who actually does the laundry (usually at 5 am) if he agrees.

8. Does anyone out there have six skeins of Classic Elite London Tweed yarn to sell or swap? It was discontinued in 2001 and I bought some on elann. com to make a sweater that promptly became my all-time favorite. Said sweater is now seriously disintegrating, the yarn is no longer available anywhere, and the only person on Ravelry who has any stashed has not gotten back to me after an initial message exchange on the topic.

9. Hey, how about that?! Everybody's quiet! (Or maybe it's just that the heat is coming up now, and it's noisy enough to block everyone out. Which is also possible.)

10. When's the last time YOU tested your smoke detectors? We test ours pretty regularly but apparently I missed one. Earlier this week I had a pan of leftover meatballs from Shabbos warming in the oven and as I took it out it spilled meatballs and sauce all over the bottom of the extremely hot oven. Annoying enough, but I completely did not have the time to clean it then and there so by the time I did get to it it was a huge burned-on mess. Which, apparently, I did not deal with adequately--when I turned on the oven erev Shabbos to warm up the Shabbos food, huge plumes of smoke came billowing out of the vent--but didn't set of the smoke detectors. I got up on a chair and checked, and it turned out that the battery had somehow come loose from its connectors.

Being intensely neurotic about smoke detectors, I [idiotically] connected the battery, with the obvious result of high-pitched beeping right in my ear, etc. I got something to wave away the smoke with, and Barak found a shmatta to come help; then Iyyar, sitting in his high chair ten feet away, wanted to get in on the act, so I gave him one too.

Picture it, if you will: me, postpartum, getting more disheveled by the second standing on chair waving Lands' End catalogue; Barak in car pajamas, peanut butter on face, waving dishtowel enthusiastically around my knees, Iyyar, in hand-me-down green pajamas and covered in chicken soup, also waving dishtowel, making thwacking sounds as he occasionally inadvertently smacks himself in the face. Smoke detector screeching, kitchen full of smoke, baby begins to cry; doorbell rings, and behold! it is the extremely wonderful and amazing family who is bringing us dinner. But not just any wonderful and amazing family. They are possibly the frummest and most chassidish family I know; the father, who is a very respected rabbi with a shul around here, is the only person I know in town who not only wears a shtreiml but has his payes long and curled. I was expecting the mother (whom I know fairly well, since she sends her kids to the same playgroup where Barak goes), not the father, so was a bit taken aback. Being that he is, as I say, extremely nice, he gave no indication at all of having noticed that half my ponytail was, presumably as a result of my catalogue-waving vigor, sticking straight out of my tichel.

I did not remember until after I got over the initial shock (looking in the bathroom mirror later and realizing what had happened) that his was the shul in which Iyyar pulled off my tichel last year. Ah well. Another good reason to have a shtark mechitza.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Deja vu...

I think this is the fourth time I've called Chana, my friend across the street, in a panic asking her to take my kid(s) so that I could go to the doctor/hospital.

Three-week-old baby + 100.3 fever = trip to doctor's office. Not the ER though, fortunately. Last night at 4 am Avtalyon suddenly went from being the calmest, mellowest, least stressed-out baby I have ever seen (much less had) to a sad cranky baby who cried a lot, didn't want to nurse, and was whimpery even while being held. I checked his temperature a couple of times this morning and was nervous to see it hovering around 99-something--all three of my boys tend to have baseline temperatures around 97-98F or so, at all times of day. (I know, I know, but I'm telling you it's true.) But at at around 2, it hit 100.3--close enough to the official "your newborn has a fever and you have to do something about it right now" mark of 100.5 that I called the doctor.

So, Barak and Iyyar went to Chana's (there is nothing like having amazing neighbors, is there...), I called a cab, and off we went--me toting a bag with three changes of clothes and a pile of knitting, because now I've been around the block with these things enough times that I didn't assume we were going right back home. But as it happened, the bag was unnecessary. The doctor thinks he is either a) fine, not having a "true fever" (apparently those 2/10s of a degree matter--who knew?) or b) coming down with something and it's too early to tell. I'm not sure either which it is, but something is for sure bugging him. Avtalyon is not eating so well, is breathing faster and louder than usual, and has lost a couple of those hard-won ounces since yesterday--more worrisome than that to me, though, was the difference in personality. He had little worry lines on his forehead and even while asleep looked so troubled.

Now, if this were Barak or Iyyar at the same age, I would think nothing of it. That was just the way they were--high-need, high-stress babies. But Avtalyon is different, and it was clear even in the hospital before the jaundice. No bets on how he'll be in the months to come, but until now, he's been the sweetest, easiest baby ever. He'll sleep while not being held. When he wakes up, he looks around for a while to see if anyone's coming before mounting any complaints; Barak would (and sometimes still does) start screaming before even waking up all the way. After the trauma of a diaper change, Barak and Iyyar needed time to calm down; Avtalyon protests at least as much (and usually pees all over the wall, just so you are clear that he is ANNOYED), but as soon as you're done he heaves a "Thank God THAT's over" sigh and resumes his inspection of the curtains or my shoulder or the side of the Kleenex box. So far, he's just a lot calmer and a lot more mellow. Ergo, the behavior is seeming odd.

He nursed a little bit when we got home, but not much; I checked his temperature again and it's 99.7. B"H he's sleeping in his carseat now, making little "I'm not so happy" noises but not really waking up. I'm hoping he'll get a good rest, wake up, eat a good meal and feel better. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The secret life of a three-year-old

This afternoon, I was sitting in the rocking chair in the boys' room watching them play. Avtalyon was napping, and it had been a fairly mellow day--the usual number of meltdowns, but since I'd had five straight hours of sleep the night before PLUS a nap this morning, I was dealing fine and all was good. Iyyar was rolling around on the train bed, and Barak was sitting quietly on the floor with a box of toy tools, looking pensive.

I wondered what he was thinking. If I ask him, the answer is always "I don't know," and a giggle. With Iyyar and Avtalyon, there's really no way to know what's going on in their heads most of the time. So I sat there, wondering what he was thinking about just at that very moment, pondering the mystery of little kids' minds. Just as I'd arrived at the conclusion that I would never really know what happens between his ears, he told me.

"Imma," he said, very seriously, "I needa bang someping. What can I bang?"

Monday, February 18, 2008

Tanking up

Last night, Avtalyon slept from 1 am till 7 am.

Now, in general I would not think that this was a good thing. Newborns need to eat, often, and Avtalyon is still only five days past his due date. He's also been pretty sick. For him, not waking up to eat has been a sign that he isn't doing well, and I've been waking him up regularly if he doesn't do it himself.

But last night, I wasn't worried, because for the last few days he's gotten into a routine of tanking up in a serious way between about 7 pm and 1 am. As in, nursing about half of the time. He'll nurse seriously for twenty minutes, nap for fifteen minutes or half an hour or 45 minutes, wake up again, eat until he passes out, etc. While this practice takes a serious toll on my Lansinoh supply, it means that I am much less nervous about letting him sleep as much as he wants at night--especially since he tends to do it again, although not quite as intensely, from whenever he wakes up until about three hours later. And the fact that he turns out loaded diapers on a regular basis, and is steadily gaining an ounce or so a day, also has me less inclined to wake him.

Other nursing-related story of the day (Ellen, you will like this): this evening, Barak and Iyyar and Avtalyon and I went over to Chana's house to have the Lego party I mentioned yesterday. When we got home, it was already past bedtime (they'd had dinner there) and I was trying to move the boys along to bed as quickly as I could--when Avtalyon woke up and demanded to nurse, NOW. That happened just as Barak, who is being kind of emotionally needy lately, was hanging on me asking me to put on his pajamas (which he is perfectly capable of doing himself). I sighed inwardly. "Barak, either you can get your pajamas on yourself or Abba can do it. I have to nurse the baby now. Abba can help you put on your pajamas, but he can't nurse the baby, so I need to nurse the baby now."

Barak thought about this. "Abba can't nurse the baby 'cause he doesn't have dose," he said, putting both hands squarely on my breasts. "Abba doesn't have dose for nursing the baby."

I like to think I recovered very nicely from being, um, not groped exactly, but touched in a rather surprising way by my three-year-old. "Right, Abba doesn't have those for nursing the baby," I agreed. It actually didn't bother me at all, although Abba was slightly horrified by the story later.

Last nursing tale of the day (I promise)--earlier this week I was sitting on the floor nursing Avtalyon (like I said, I do this a lot...) when Iyyar came up to inspect the goings-on. He looked at Avtalyon, and checked out where his mouth was. He watched for a little while. He gave the matter some thought. Then he plopped down next to me, pointed at my breast, and said, absolutely clearly, "I want that!" Sorry, sweetie, your turn at that is over.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

7 lb 2 oz!

I think I completely neglected to mention the whole thing about the baby not gaining weight. When I took him in to the pediatrician two days after we got out of the hospital, she pointed out that he'd lost two ounces since then. She wanted us to bring him back in in two days for a weight check, which I wasn't so into, given the weather, lack of car, &c. So I borrowed a baby scale and for the last two weeks have been waking the baby up every three hours (four at night) to make him eat whether he wants to or not. Much sadistic diaper-changing, tummy-tickling, and clothing-changing has been involved, and even--gasp--the occasional mean mean mean bath. It took a while to get him moving back in the right direction--he stayed at around 6 lb 4 oz for another few days, which delayed his bris by another few days, but B"H he has been moving up at least an ounce a day since

Anyway, as of this evening he is past his birthweight--woohoo! So, celebrating with a picture of Avtalyon modeling the very lovely baby blanket knit for him by Grandma E. I ended up not blocking it--it is an allover rib pattern, and in its unblocked state it is a nice squishy mat for putting on the floor for the baby to lie on.

I didn't really say anything about the bris, did I. It was nice, and the part I was most worried about--getting all of us to the shul by 7:30 am in subzero weather and a foot of snow, sans car--went over fine. I got the boys up at 6:30 and Barak, with his eyes on the prize ("We're gonna eat cake at the bris, right Imma?") was extremely cooperative. The baby cried less at the bris than he does at an average diaper change, and I was hiding in the shul kitchen with Barak, who was taking turns with his buddy climbing up and down the stepstool he found in there. As happened last time, my friend Chana ran around doing all the practical stuff for me--buying the paper goods and the orange juice, and setting up the night before, etc. By way of thanks I ordered her kids some goodies off of, and tomorrow we are going over there to have a Lego party with everybody--for which Barak and I made a castle cake this afternoon.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Almost there

As of tonight, pre-nursing session, Avtalyon was up to 6 lb 15 oz. Only two more ounces till he's back to his birthweight--woohoo!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Naming names

The baby had his bris yesterday. Maybe because this is the third time for me, I freaked out less than I have in the past and even changed the first post-bris diaper myself (not by choice, but I did not leave him in a dirty diaper till my husband came home, which I suppose is some kind of level.)

Having had a bris, the baby also is now the proud possessor of a name. Naming babies in this house is always something of an... well, "ordeal" isn't quite the word I'm looking for. "Process"? That sounds better. Naming babies is a process.

I start thinking names the minute I see that second pink line. First and middle, of course; why have one name when you can have two? And there are many considerations: is there anyone to be named for, is the name already taken somewhere else in the family, how do the two names sound together, do they have a good meaning, are non-Jews going to be able to pronounce the names?

For my husband, things are different. A name should be thought of in the moments immediately before the baby is actually named, or failing that, possibly the night before. Maximal ruach ha'kodesh should be involved--forget this looking in baby name books business, a name should just hit you. But the name should be not only replete with meaning, it should be interesting, and ideally a name that doesn't get used much. A frequently-heard phrase is, "Nobody ever names after him."

So while I was floating names like Dov and Natan and Eliahu, my husband was campaigning for Zebulun and Ovadia and, I am not making this up, Yom Tov. "We are not naming the baby Yom Tov!" I would protest. "It's a real name!" would be the plaintive reply. "And nobody uses it!" With, one might add, good reason.

With Barak, my husband's front-runner name was Chasdai, and I almost went for it. But in the end, we picked the same name used by all of the three boys born to staff members at his school that year. Three little boys, three Baraks. With Iyyar, his name was picked (off a short list) by a friend so there was less discussion. This time around, MHH had his hopes back up--only briefly--with Avtalyon.

"How about Avtalyon?" he ventured one night over dinner.

"Who's Avtalyon?"

Avtalyon, apparently, was the rebbe of Hillel and Shammai. I thought about it. It actually seemed to meet most of my exacting criteria. I liked how it looked in Hebrew, and it was easy to pronounce. I could think of a few okay ways to shorten it into a nickname. I said I was open to the idea. MHH was astounded. "Really? You'd really name the baby Avtalyon?"

Well, I would have until I ran the idea past an Israeli friend. Her reaction--"MA?! Avtalyon?? Ma at CHOSHEVET!?" kind of blew the idea out of the water. "Yes, it is a fine name if you want him to be tortured by the other boys all through school..."

But here on Blogger, there are no playground bullies, and Abba can finally have his way, virtually at least. You'll have to excuse me for stopping here--baby Avtalyon is nursing, and I'm tired of typing one-handed.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Two weeks

The baby is two weeks old today. B"H he's doing much better. He's nursing better, and waking himself up when it's time to eat; I didn't even need to set an alarm clock last night. If the baby scale I borrowed from a neighbor can be trusted, he's up from 6 lb 3 oz on Monday to 6 lb 7.5 this morning. I know a couple of ounces each way can be one feed or even one diaper, but he's been going steadily up instead of steadily down, so I'm feeling pretty pleased with him.

He's also pretty much got that latch-suck-swallow thing down. Between being born at 37 weeks and having had the whole jaundice thing, he had been finding eating--even when awake--a little overwhelming. I got the impression he thought it was like trying to pat your head and rub your stomach while riding a unicycle, and no matter how hungry he might be it just didn't seem worth the effort--easier just to sleep. He's still sleeping almost all the time, but when he's not sleeping he's eating, with much less need for help and interference from me. Which is very nice for me, because now, even though it might take me an hour to feed him, it doesn't take an hour of total concentration and wishing I had a few extra hands. A few times a day now, he wakes up and looks around and makes funny faces. He hardly cries at all, except when I'm doing something really unreasonable like changing his diaper. It's quite a change from our usual newborn routine around here, which has to date always involved an awful lot of screaming.

Our babysitter came three mornings this week, and I availed myself of this well--once she turned up, I absented myself with the baby to my bedroom and slept until an hour before she left, at which point I got up and nursed the baby so I wouldn't have to do it with the other two jumping on me. I'm definitely the best-rested I've ever been with a new baby. It's strange, but I look back at the last two weeks and all I see is yad Hashem moving things in ways that I might not have been happy with at the time, but were so clearly for the best: on Tuesday, when I had just gotten home from the hospital and was feeling so overwhelmed and both boys were being monsters and I hid in my bedroom and cried, well, that was when the phone rang and it was the doctor's office telling me to take the baby to the hospital. Not that I wanted to take the baby to the hospital, but in the end it meant five days of sitting still whether I wanted to or not--which was really what I needed. The delayed bris has taken a lot of the stress out of the first week--we don't have to plan a simcha yet. Having the baby erev Shabbos meant that there wasn't much to do for a shalom zachor, and my friend across the street had it at her house. And having a jaundiced baby in an incubator meant that as much as I would have preferred to sleep cuddling the baby, I didn't really have any choice but to just lie down and sleep--I couldn't hold him even though I wanted to.

Right now MHH is out with the boys--now the big boys--picking up diapers and milk and other sundries before Shabbos. The baby is in his carseat, making the distinctive little snuffling sounds that mean he is thinking about waking up and nursing sometime soon. A friend of ours--the same friend who came to the hospital right before Shabbos bearing a bag full of food, including four Diet Cokes and a whole pound of corned beef--turned up an hour or so ago with chicken and soup and cholent and salads and an entire lime meringue pie. The house is clean, the kids are not too nuts, and MHH's grades are finally, finally done. Things are settling down. The world is coming back into focus.

And tonight, I get to do something I've been waiting to do for what seems like an awfully long time. Tonight, for the first time, I get to light five candles for Shabbos.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

My husband warns you not to read this.

The baby is 11 days old today. I can't quite figure out how he got to be eleven days old, and then when I went over it I realized that it's because he spent 8 of those days in the hospital that it's been hard to keep track.

I think he's doing better, B"H--he is still not waking up on his own when it's time to eat, but it's much easier to wake him than it has been and over the course of the day it's become progressively easier to get him to nurse. Last night he woke once on his own and I thought he would do it again at night--wrongly, as it turned out. I nursed him at 11, went to sleep myself at 12, and woke up at 6 with a horrified start as I realized that my ten-day-old baby had gone 7 hours without eating. Not good. So today I've been keeping a closer eye on the clock and waking him regularly; I plan to set an alarm tonight. In the meantime, he's had longer periods of alertness, and if the baby scale I borrowed can be trusted has even gained a bit since yesterday.

I said I'd write up a birth story, and if I'm going to do it I'd better do it, because the details are already getting sort of blurry. But I should warn you that it wasn't one of your easier deliveries and I'm still kind of traumatized by the whole thing, and if you, um, haven't had a baby yet and think you might want to do it someday, you might want to stop reading here. Unless, you know, you want a convincing treatise on why you should ALWAYS get the epidural. Because otherwise, you might find yourself writing up a birth story blog post like this one.

Let's see. On Wednesday night I started feeling like things were really moving along and mentioned to MHH that I wouldn't be surprised if the baby came that night or the next day. He just about jumped out of his seat. "Tonight?!" "Well, the baby's got to come eventually..." I went to bed, and woke up in the morning--no baby.

Thursday, same thing, with the contractions coming and going, but nothing I could really time. At around 11, though, things changed, and I called my midwife. She told me the usual--rest, drink some water, call back when they're closer together. Instead of resting, of course, I tidied the house and put away the groceries that I'd had delivered that afternoon, and MHH frantically tried to finish his grading. I called the friends who were on call for middle-of-the-night babysitting, and arranged for Ada to come at 4 am when she got off work (night shift at the local children's hospital) and another friend to come if things got moving earlier. Which, as it happened, they did; at around 2 am, after I'd spent an hour or so lying down, I started feeling that I'd really be much happier if I were already at the hospital. Not that I thought I was going to have the baby any second--it was more that, with Iyyar, I had gone from "well, these contractions aren't so bad" when I called the cab to "oh please please I don't want to have this baby in the back of a taxi" twenty minutes later. So, I wanted to be, you know, prudent about it.

I called the midwife back, and we talked a little bit about when I should leave. I told her why I was worried--because things had gone from 0 to 60 so, so quickly last time--and she paused for a minute and then said, "Well, how about leaving now. I'll meet you at the hospital."

I called the friend who had agreed to come, and put labor bag by the front door, and when she drove up it was -5 outside and I couldn't find my gloves, so I hunted down my fingerless ones and the big triangular lace shawl Cecilia gave me a few years ago. The cab pulled up, and I remember thinking, hmm, climbing up there is not going to be so easy. Somehow or other I got in, and climbed over my labor bag on the floor, and sat in the back with my husband, having a nice calm chat that probably made the cab driver relax a bit about whether the pregnant lady in back was going to mess up his nice clean cab.

This is why I should have written this up earlier--it's all already a blur. I remember walking in the hospital, and the sliding glass doors that don't give any visible indication of which piece of glass is wall and which piece is door--if you don't walk in the right way, you have to stand there waving your hand until something moves. I remember telling MHH that when I'd come in to have Iyyar, that had totally thrown me and I'd stood there thinking, "I'm going to have my baby right here because I won't be able to get in these doors." We went into L & D, and there was Fran, my midwife, and she showed us our room--room 38, the same room I had Iyyar in.

Fran was wearing the socks I'd made her after I had Iyyar--not on purpose, she'd just happened to put them on that morning. I took out the gloves I'd started knitting that morning and sat on the bed for a while working on the cuff; Fran checked me and I was at about 5 cm. MHH took out some finals to grade, and Fran and I walked around the floor to try to get things moving a little more. There were some workers there--at 4 am--doing whatever they were doing, hanging plastic over some doors and moving ladders around. Fran gave me a big cup of water and at one point I had to give it to her to hold, as the contractions got stronger and stronger and I was afraid I would drop it. A nurse came into our room at one point, saying she had a 25-weeker in active labor. That baby has been on my mind since--I wonder how he or she is doing. Fran told me that the hospital, which has a Level III NICU, is full of babies that tiny, because they come from all over the state.

I walked, and knitted a little, and talked to Fran and the nurse, and I don't remember now what else. At some point I stopped knitting the glove I was doing, because the fingers were too much to keep track of, and I started the cuff of the second glove, so I could knit some mindless ribbing. Somehow or other it got to be around 7. I remember looking at the clock and wondering where those hours had gone--I know MHH took a nap, and that he filled out the cord blood donation form while I was knitting, and one nurse left and another came. I knitted a little more and walked a little more, and the contractions got stronger, but I could handle them. I stopped knitting. Fran put a pillow on one of the tray tables for me to lean on, and that was nice, and she rubbed my back a little, which also helped. The first nurse told me that she'd had two Diet Cokes a day when she was pregnant--this made me feel better about having had one a day. Fran checked me again and I was up to 7 centimeters. The contractions had gotten strong, but in between the contractions I felt fine. The new nurse mentioned how comfortable I looked, and I said a little grimly that I'd gotten into trouble in the past with my lack of propensity to scream when in pain. Don't worry, I assured her, it hurts plenty--I'm just not a screamer.

Yeah. Well.

Probably the main reason I haven't written up this birth story yet is that I didn't really want to get to the screaming part. Because I really am not a screamer. But, well, I guess everybody has their limit. I hit mine at around 7:30, when I started to feel like I really, really had to push. Fran checked me again and I was only at around 9 cm. "Try pushing," she said, and I did, and she said I was almost there "but there's still this piece of cervix here that won't budge." With Iyyar, the contractions were by far the worst part, and once I could push I felt better about the whole thing--it's not that I didn't scream, but it was more with the effort of the whole thing. This time, I got to nine centimeters and a bit but my water hadn't broken, and then it did and the baby moved down a little bit and then his head turned and he got stuck. That was when I started screaming this time. This screaming wasn't because of the effort--it was me completely losing control.

I remember Fran telling me to push, not with my face, but to push the baby, and I remember crying back that I couldn't, I was trying but I couldn't do it. It wasn't an issue of it hurt too much or I was too tired--I was trying with every contraction, but nothing was happening. I had Iyyar without any drugs and I had Barak with what one might fairly term completely inadequate pain control, and it was still nothing like this--not with the exhaustion I had with Barak, but with a whole new level of fear that somehow or other I couldn't do this, that I was trying to push but it wasn't happening, and I didn't know why, and it hurt so much all I could do was scream and scream. I remember everyone else in the room--the nurse, the midwife, my husband--telling me things. The midwife told me what she was doing to move the baby, and made me move into a position I don't even want to think about now, and at the same time I thought that the world was imploding and there was no way, no way at all, I could survive this, they were all having normal calm conversations with each other, and it was like being on another planet or in a different world or one of those nightmares you wake up from unable to breathe.

Yeah, see, this is the part I didn't really want to write about.

Somehow Fran moved the baby, and at that point I just refused to push because I couldn't handle it. The one thing about this labor that had made it so different, and easier, than the other two up until this point was that the contractions started and then they stopped and I had a rest in between. With Barak and Iyyar, once they started it was just one long contraction that never ended. This time, I had time to breathe in between, and when she told me to push at the next contraction I could feel it coming but just could not bring myself to try to push, because at that moment I could handle the pain and I knew if I pushed it would hurt more and I didn't want that. I told her I couldn't do it, and she said you have to, or this baby won't come out. So I did, and then she said good! Now you're getting somewhere! And my husband tried to say something encouraging too, and I yelled at him to shut up. There was a small hurt silence and I heard, "I'm just trying to be helpful." "You are saying the right thing," Fran reassured her. "She's just not feeling very receptive right now." At that moment, I wasn't feeling terribly receptive to anybody.

I know that right at the end Fran told me she saw lots of dark hair and I just had to push, and then she said you're almost there, and I asked how many pushes. She didn't know. I asked for an educated guess and she said one to three. I said, okay, I can do that--and somehow that was reassuring because the worst part of the pain was feeling that I was getting nowhere, it was never going to end, and I was completely, totally trapped alone in this alternate universe. So I pushed, and I screamed some more, and I think it was more than three pushes in the end but I pushed and his head was out and then I pushed again and the rest of him came out. Someone showed me the baby and said look, is it a girl or a boy? and I said, it's a boy, and there he was on my chest all warm and wet and wiggling and crying and I didn't care at all. All I cared about was that it was over, and I kept saying it, again and again--it's over, it's over, it's over. Someone asked me if I wanted to see the baby and I said no, but all of a sudden there he was anyway, with his tiny little sweet face, but I was shaking too hard to hold him.

They cleaned him up and I cried some more as Fran reminded me that there was still that issue of a placenta, and my reaction to "you have to push some more" was "you have got to be kidding me." I can't deal with any more pushing, no way are you putting in any stitches, just leave. me. alone. Of course she couldn't do that, and eventually she did what she needed to do, and it was light outside now and there was snow and the baby was fine and it was over, and I tried to get the baby to nurse, and he did, and then after a while we called a few people and told them it was a boy.

I guess every birth feels cataclysmic in its own way, but I think mine have all sort of been on the outer edges of what one might term your average cataclysm. Fran stopped by to see me the next day and explained what had happened, and agreed that it wasn't what normally happens in a birth. She used the term "deep transverse arrest," and told me that it was nothing I was doing wrong, but the baby's head had turned in a way that he couldn't come out. I'd been pushing, but the signals, as she put it, weren't getting through. I was sitting there nursing the baby as she talked and I told her I could never, ever do that again. She said, forget this birth--it wasn't you, it was the baby's position. And, she said, if you'd had an epidural you probably would have ended up with a c-section.

Well, anyway. As I said earlier, it's over now, and the baby is asleep in his carseat, and he'll be two weeks old on Friday and I'm up and about again. My husband is wondering why I even wrote this up, and I guess it's because I might want it later, although I might just save this and not post it. I'm trying to think of a good way to wrap this up, but I can't--it's just how it happened, or at least it's how I remember it.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Home again

Where to start?

With the baby, I guess. B"H he is doing fine, so far as I can tell. Right now he is hanging out in the carseat next to me, looking around and checking out the shelves of sock yarn. ("I want her to make me something out of that!") The last hour or so has been by far the longest he's been awake and alert--it makes me want to hold him but whenever I pick him up he gets cozy and goes to sleep, and I'd rather have him awake while I am. So, the carseat it is.

We got home last night, a couple of hours after Shabbos. Iyyar was in bed; Barak, who has been having some, ah, potty regression issues in the last week or so, was sitting in the kitchen eating a granola bar as reward for actually doing the right thing in the right place (we've left potty treats far behind, but Abba wisely thought one was in order yesterday). He didn't know we were coming home, and as I came up the back stairs with the carseat I peeked in the kitchen window and knocked. The effect was electric: he leaped out of his seat screaming, "It's Imma! It's Imma! I SEE HER!" By the time I opened the door he was dancing around the kitchen laughing and singing. It was nice to feel welcome.

The hospital was... well, for starters I never want to see another microwaved box of Tuv Taam fettucine ever again. The fact that I could order a diet coke with my meals was pretty nice, though. I didn't get to sleep much in the hospital--does anyone?--but at least I wasn't running around as I would have been at home. Things with the baby were stressful, because his bilirubin did not go down very quickly and then, once it did go down, shot right back up when he came out from under the lights; he also was so sleepy and lethargic that getting him to nurse was really, really difficult, and kept him out from under the lights for far too long. I had to give him bottles, which I hate doing at this stage but was a far preferable alternative to an NG tube. And the floor was full of serious contagious nasties: almost every door had "contact precautions" or "droplet precautions" warnings stuck on the door. Perfect. Just where you want to bring your four-day-old baby: a great big convention of babies with flu and RSV.

Oh, and the med students. The med students! "So, Mrs. Uberimma, do you have any idea how he got the jaundice?" Um. Yes, I do. Do you? And oy, the residents, who mamash looked twelve years old to me. I'm sure you did fine in medical school, but can I please have a doctor who is at least as old as I am? Please?

On Saturday night, when the baby's bilirubin stayed down at a nice comfortable 11.2, we were scheduled to be discharged, but I was mightily freaked by his intense inability to stay awake. When he slept through a heel stick without a whimper, I asked the nurse to call a doctor to take a look at him before we got home. I got the resident, who checked his vital signs and said he looked fine. "Yes, but he has been difficult or impossible to arouse for 24 hours. He's not waking up when he's hungry and even when I squirt milk right into his mouth most of it runs out the other side. It takes me an hour to get anything approaching a normal feed into him and that's with almost no participation from him."

"But his vitals are fine. We could keep him for another night if you want."

Um. Hello. Do you have any idea why he's not waking up?

"He looks fine to me. Babies do sleep a lot." Dr. Howser, clearly, had no idea how not normal this kind of behavior was for a week-old baby. I know most babies sleep more than my babies usually do, but--hello!

The attending on call, apparently, was not actually on call--"I think she's at a wedding," and when I called my own pediatrician, the one doctor in the practice whom I seriously can't stand was on call so I didn't even bother. Instead, I went back to the nurses' station and asked as nicely as I could how it was possible that in the entire hospital there was not a single pediatrician over the age of 25 available to look at my baby or talk to me. Half an hour later, the NICU attending had been paged, and called me back with a reasonable explanation for the sleepiness (baby 3 weeks early, bilirubin still leaving system, normal sleep rhythms totally shot by going in and out of very very bright lights--I should not expect normal sleep from such a baby) and specifics on what to watch out for at home. He said that I should see a decrease in sleepiness that night, and indeed, while I was on the phone, the baby woke up on his own and then proceeded to nurse like a champ. So home we went.

Back to the pediatrician tomorrow for what would ordinarily be the 2-day checkup; I haven't quite figured out how I am going to work this one logistically but I'll figure out something. And yes, I'll get a birth story post up here sooner or later.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Still here

Bili down to 11 this morning, then after a few hours out from under the lights back up to 15.

So, we're here for Shabbos. We are okay; apparently the boys at home (all three of them) are having a little bit of a meltdown.

Shabbat shalom-