Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Weighty Issues

Here's what I hate: post-baby belly fat.

It's not a pretty sight. The other night, as I lay awake working way too hard to succumb to sleep (it seems those weeks upon weeks of being up with a newborn have rewired my brain to require less of it, and lately I'm an insomniac before 1 a.m.), I reached down to feel my abdomen, which I admittedly do from time to time to assess the state, size and scope of things (and maybe discover the baby fat has magically disappeared?). It felt like a topographic map of childbearing. I imagined a hushed, official-sounding voice (would Ben Stein do it? James Earl Jones?) narrating: Here is the deep canyon formerly known as her bellybutton. To the north, an overhang of loose terrain; to the south, the permanent fault line of the c-section scar. To the east and west, the shallow crevasses of stretch marks she thought she'd never have. This is treacherous territory.

I admit that going into the whole pregnancy thing I didn't think much about the effects it would have on my body; when you work so hard for a baby it's just not the priority. I figured I would be one of those women who was "all baby," and for the most part, my arms, legs and derriere didn't suffer much. My face exploded in that pregnant-lady swollen way, and my nose looked like about twice its size, but that went back to normal almost immediately after giving birth. But the thing is, "all baby" isn't code for Heidi Klum. All that baby fat has to go somewhere once the baby is no longer in there holding it up, so you better be ready to starve yourself and train for hours daily a la Ms. Klum if you want to rock it in a Victoria's Secret fashion show mere weeks after delivery (note to Ms. Klum: please don't give us that nonsense about the pounds falling off due to nursing and kid-chasing. We're pretty smart.).

What I've done so far to try to put my body back together is, admittedly, sort of lame. After the requisite six-week rest period, when I finally felt my bearings return and the weather began improving I started walking again. I felt my muscles start to stir from their more than a year-long IVF/placenta previa/bedrest/c-section-induced slumber and I knew it would be a long road. I'm just now starting to feel normal in that I can go for a long, athletically rigorous walk and not be totally wiped out after it.

I also picked up the Tracy Anderson Method Post-Pregnancy Workout. I put it in the DVD player, turned it on, tried a few of the isolation exercises, threw my back out and collapsed. So that went well.

As for eating, what I expected was that the party would be over when I got home from the hospital after H arrived. I did my fair share of indulging during the pregnancy, although I suspect that what I consider indulging would be standard fare for lots and lots of people. But when I got home, what I found was that the nursing made me even hungrier than I was during pregnancy, which I never would have thought was humanly possible. So while I tried to make healthy choices, I still consumed shockingly large volumes of food.

The sum total of all of the above is that it's taken me longer than I would have guessed to lose the weight. I haven't really spent a lot of energy trying -- frankly, I've found sleep and other vital activities to be more important ways of spending my free time -- so I can't really complain about it. I have noticed that the pounds have started to come off more quickly over the past few weeks (coincidentally, as the nursing has dwindled down to about one feeding per day. Which supports what I've heard about your body storing extra fat to make milk, and pretty much flies in the face of the whole nursing-as-weight-loss-panacea theory.), and that is encouraging. But my closet is still a mish-mash of a few older clothes that now fit me, the handful of things I've bought to fit my new voluptuous (read: chubby) figure and the few maternity things that still are the only items in their category (jeans) that currently fit.

So I'm hoping for more, hoping to get closer to the thin/healthy body I had, even if it's not precisely the same body -- even if it's a new landscape. And it looks like I'm going to have to step it up and use some elbow grease if I want to get there.

Where are you on the whole postpartum weight loss thing?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Like a Racehorse

This one falls squarely in the category of oversharing. But I've got to talk about it, to see if I'm alone and to bring this important issue to light. Here goes. Don't be frightened.

Once upon a time, I would go to a public ladies room, pick a stall as far from the others as possible and get down to business. Now, I have a shy bladder anyway, and always have a hard time getting things going if someone else (particularly someone I know who, God forbid, is trying to talk to me at the same time) is in an adjacent stall. Invariably, though, as I would be trying to pee, someone would clomp into the stall right next to me, sit down (did they even put toilet paper down, I would wonder in quiet horror, so quick it all sounded) and start peeing.

And at times, the sound of that stall neighbor's pee would be so forceful and so loud that I would actually be sort of afraid for her. Good grief, I would think, what is wrong with her. It was no stream -- it was torrential rapids. The truly frightening thing is that I noticed this happened quite a lot. It seemed to me there was an unspoken epidemic of aggressive female pee-ers. I would shake my head and silently applaud my dainty urethra for taking its sweet time and tinkling like a lady.

Well, clearly I should have been more charitable in my consideration of these women, because sometime in the last weeks of my pregnancy and first weeks postpartum, my demure urethra turned punk. And now? Now if I drink one drop of water too many and there's any urgency behind the need to pee, it is off to the races. And the crazy thing is that I seem to have no control over the speed and force of it when this occurs -- I'm either peeing loudly enough for my husband to hear outside the bathroom door (I am not kidding: He asked me if it was me in there or a 300-pound man) or not peeing at all. There is no in between, no happy medium. And oh my goodness, how embarrassing.

I'm sure there is some perfectly reasonable medical explanation for this. Something about the pressure on the bladder or shifts in the other plumbing down there. All I know is that my polite peeing ways are, at least for the moment, resting in peace along with my former bellybutton and my ability to recall information five minutes after I hear it.

And now I know what was "wrong" with all those women: They've given birth.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Milking It

The other day, I went to a breastfeeding drop-in group at my local maternity resource center (or as I call it, the pregnancy/baby theme park). All around me were brand new mothers, still glowing, all nursing their quiet little newborns. And I? I whipped out a bottle and a container of powdered formula when H started clamoring for it. It felt gleefully rebellious.

It also felt a little sad. The breastfeeding thing has not gone the way I'd hoped. But since I was also prepared for the worst -- I fully expected, given my body's propensity to never do what it's supposed to do, to never make a drop of milk at all -- I haven't been devastated by our inability to exclusively breastfeed. I really can't even think of one friend who hasn't had some sort of issue when it comes to nursing -- undersupply, mastitis, you name it.

So when they encouraged me to start supplementing in the hospital when H began to exceed the allotted ten percent loss of body weight, I felt like I was already primed to make that decision. I mean, it's not hard. Your baby is fading away despite your feeding him 24 hours a day, and the doctors are actually concerned. Digging in your heels about exclusively breastfeeding sort of seems like missing the point.

At first, I followed what the nurses and lactation consultants advised and tried to breastfeed him first at every feeding, followed by an ounce of formula. And then pump. So basically? I was feeding the boy around the clock. I don't care how much you love your baby -- if you're human and have a human need to rest and eat and pee, this kind of schedule is unsustainable. And also, all the nursing and pumping wasn't doing anything to build my supply and H was still really fussy. What ultimately ended up working for us was to do whole feedings with formula, as my supply would build back up with the passage of time. So we'd nurse in the morning, do formula late morning and sometimes early afternoon and then nurse again for the next couple of feedings. We were on a roll and things were going well. And then I went back to work.

All kidding aside about the weirdness of taking your boobs out at work -- and it is weird -- I found pumping to be a real pain in the neck. I know I'm should have had a happier attitude about it, because it was for my baby's well-being, but I found that by the time I got into work, got settled, grabbed my coffee, read a few emails and then pumped, it was already 11 a.m. And frankly, nursing is a lot less gratifying when plastic suction cups take the place of an adorable baby. It's hard to feel maternal when you're staring at office supplies and servers in a tiny office closet.

So all of that added up to my being very bad about pumping on a consistent schedule. And even when I would pump, I think I was so wound up about being at work that I hardly got anything at all. Which means that now that I'm back at home with H and able to nurse again, I hardly have anything left. Which led me to the nursing drop-in group, where I committed the blasphemous act of feeding my baby Good Start formula from a bottle. The lactation consultant leading the session tried to act nonchalant about it, but I could see she was horrified.

The advice I got was to try pumping again a half hour after every feeding. I'm also trying to drink more water and considering trying fenugreek as a last resort. Because, while I think I have a pragmatic view of the benefits of nursing (my Harvard-educated and -trained pediatrician says the literature is grossly overstated on this), my goal was to get us to six months. And I don't think we're ready to be fully done just yet.

Anyway, I would love to hear any experience/advice along the same lines.

Finally, a word about lactation consultants. It is amazing to me that two of them can possibly share the same title, because in my experience they can vary dramatically. I had two while still in the hospital; the second came to me only in the last hours I was there. But I think if she had come first (because her colleague? Oh no. No good.), I may have had a different experience. That's how influential these people can be. You're a new parent, you're vulnerable, and let's face it, you've never done anything like nursing before. So you're at the mercy of their advice and approach. If they tell you to stand on your head and sing "Surrey with the Fringe on Top" while nursing, you'll try it. So pregnant/soon-to-be-pregnant girls, if you take anything from this, please take this: Get yourself in touch with a good lactation consultant before you even deliver. I don't have to tell you what makes a good one. Talk to a couple and you'll soon see that a good LC is like pornography: You'll know it when you see it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's Not My Bag

When I was in my nesting phase, researching and gathering baby gear, I smugly decided that people who bought more than one diaper bag were misguided. Clearly, if you chose right, you could get one perfect bag that would hold everything and go with everything, and call it a day. So I did my requisite research and determined that the Skip Hop Studio bag was the end all, be all.

Two things ultimately sent this theory to the same place as my pre-baby theories that pacifiers are for wimps, you shouldn't send the baby to the nursery while in the hospital and newborn care can't be that stressful since they sleep most of the day. First of all, the bag is too mushy. It lacks structure, so basically all the myriad stuff you need to carry -- diapers, wipes, burp cloths, hats, bottles, your own wallet and keys, clothes, etc. etc. ad nauseum -- sort of ends up all smashed together in the bottom of the bag and you have to take everything out to find anything. And second, the thing is already ripping. I'm definitely not carrying anything inappropriate in it, like, say, the baby himself, but after just a couple of months of use the seams on the pockets are already shredding and it's starting to fall apart.

So. I'm in the market for a new bag. This new one still needs to look like a semi-normal bag that your former self would not be embarrassed to carry. It has to have interior pockets and some structure to it, to keep things in their place. And it has to be reasonably priced. I'm no longer working and I don't really want to spend a ton on a bag that will carry gear associated with poop and spitup.

Do you love your diaper bag? Do tell.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

If This Isn't Multitasking, I Don't Know What Is

If you came here from Good Egg Hunting, you know I quit my job after four weeks back following my maternity leave. I'm continuing to do freelance work, which is proving more challenging with a four-month-old than I would have previously thought (those visions of productive afternoons spent quietly working, iced tea nearby, while the baby napped? were the visions of someone without a four-month-old still not on a schedule). I had a conference call this afternoon, and while I prayed very hard that the baby would be asleep by then, no such luck. So here's what I did while I was on the call:

-Finished giving him a bottle
-Tried putting him down for a nap
-Wasn't having it
-Changed the crib sheet after he spit up on it while I tried to get him to sleep
-Changed his diaper
-Comforted him after the nap attempt
-Pulled a piece of my hair out of his hand after he yanked it out
-Played with him on the floor
-Lulled him to sleep
-Put him down
-Crossed my fingers
-Breathed a sigh of relief when he went to sleep

I'm exhausted.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

One of Those Days in Babyville

Has anyone else noticed that when it comes to being a new parent, some days you feel like a genius who totally has this thing DOWN, and some days you feel like you know nothing at all?

Yeah, today is one of the I-kn0w-nothing kind of days. It's kicking my butt. I still don't have H on any kind of schedule, and what's worse is that I have absolutely no clue how to get to one. He does nap once in the morning and once in the afternoon, but they're at wildly varying times and have no consistent pattern in terms of length. He's been fussy for most of the day and I'm not really at all clear on why.

Also, the spitup? The spitup that no one warns you about before the baby is born but the constant cleanup of which basically rules your life for the first few months? It's back. With a vengeance. I'm wearing eau de Good Start formula today, and it's not a scent you'll find at Neiman Marcus. We need more burp cloths -- we never have enough burp cloths.

So yeah, the boy is giving me a run for my money today. I feel like I've mastered nothing lo these four months and it's a little discouraging.

Anyone else having one of those days?

Monday, June 14, 2010

My New Commute Is a Walk Down the Hall

When you feel – right down to your fingernails and pinky toes – that you've never been more content than you are on this new little planet with your new, amazing baby (and still amazing husband) and also know for sure that the day job you just returned to is not making you anywhere near as happy (and, indeed, that you would rather work nights at Starbucks than be there, away from your baby), the thing that you do is, you quit.

So I did.

And now, just like that, I'm an at-home mom and freelance writer. Welcome to my new adventures in diaper management, spitup catching and a long list of one-handed feats. Hang onto your hats.

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