Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Oral Fixation

I have never seen any human being want to put things in its mouth so badly.  Desmond is constantly gnawing and gumming at his fists and the minute he grasps anything - my finger, a plastic ring, Pirate's ear - he immediately starts a long trajectory from his hand directly to his mouth. 

Desmond with his Grandma at Red Rock Brewing Company for dinner.

I used to constantly wash my hands, make sure that there was no dog hair on his binkie, wash the plastic rings, etc.  But now I find that I'm trying to motivate myself to do the aforementioned activities.  I know that Desmond's immune system is still very immature, but I figure that as long as I keep breastfeeding, there's not much more that I can do (realistically...OK, OK I'm a lazy bum and could totally rinse off hands, binkies, playthings if I put my heart in it).  Breastfeeding provides Desmond with tons of antibodies and, if I'm suffering from a sore throat with a runny nose like I am today, my mammary glands will make antibodies against the infection and Desmond will suck those suckers in.  

Des has been exposed to a constant onslaught of germs his whole life.  Since Desmond was born vaginally, his first exposure to germs were those that were in/on my vagina (charming, eh?)  This early exposure means that he's less likely to develop allergies or asthma.  These microbes, Lactobacillus bacteria, those that help to digest lactose, help to extract nutrients from the food and keep the bad germs at bay. After the results from a study showed that babies born from C-Sections were more likely to have immune system problems and have higher risk for allergies and asthma than babies born vaginally.  However, as this researcher in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Michigan is quoted as saying:
“This isn’t damning the C-section, but it may be important to make sure your child gets a mouthful of vaginal material,” says Huffnagle.
(Who says that?)  I'm not suggesting that if your dear son or daughter were born via C-Section you need to do whatever you can to expose your kid to your vaginal flora!  Kids shouldn't be kept in antiseptic bubbles; they need to be exposed to the daily germs that surround us day-to-day in order to keep robust immune systems.  (On another but related note, read THIS interesting article from Slate.com about parents who try to be too perfect in order to raise kids that are too perfect).

I tend not to use too much hand sanitizer as I'm more worried about creating superbugs than I am about possible exposure to germs.  I primarily use it when we go shopping at Smith's and I have to push the cart or when I've handled money that day.  I keep a spray in the car and on my bookshelf that's right inside of the doorway at my house.  Otherwise, I use basic Dove soap and warm water.  So now that he's putting everything in his mouth, I need something that won't leach paint or chemicals into his body and something that is fairly hygienic and could be cleaned easily. 

Desmond's mouth is still too small to accommodate a teething ring.  Besides, although he can grasp objects with his hands, he has a hard time getting them to his mouth.  Does anybody have any ideas for age-appropriate, oral-fixation oriented toys? 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday do-si-do

Now that we're a mini-Thomas Family, we can't go apart and spend Christmases with our respective families: me with my family in Florida or Colombia and he with his family in SLC. Last year, we found out I was pregnant 1 or 2 days after Thanksgiving. We had spent Thanksgiving with his family here in Salt Lake and I was slated to go to Pennsylvania to spend Christmas with my mom's side of the family. However, the thought of telling all these people:

My aunt Gora, my mother, my grandmother, me, and my aunt Christine. The drink in my hand is sparkling cider, people.

all by myself made me really nervous. My family is a very traditional Hispanic family (the blonde in the picture is an aunt by marriage). They have Catholic roots and so all of their morals stem from Catholicism. I was afraid of what they were going to think and all of the talking that would occur behind closed doors. So, it goes without saying, I really wanted Billy to be there to support me when I told everyone.

It was a hard decision for Billy to make. He had never spent Christmas apart from his family and his brother was coming out from Illinois and his sister was coming out from Pennsylvania. However, he understood that I needed him there to tell my family everything. So we booked the tickets. Long story short, my family loved him:

Billy and my mother.

In exchange for him spending Christmas with my family last year, I promised him that I would spend the next Christmas with his family. So, we have decided to alternate holidays between families. Of course it's not set in stone (traveling for Thanksgiving and Christmas is awfully expensive), we are going to try to spend next year's Christmas with my family. When we're a real Thomas Family, maybe we'll be able to have people come to OUR house for the holidays.

Desmond's Thanksgiving Day outfit. I love the whole geek chic look for boys.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Clingy baby

Isn't it funny how childless couples or parents-to-be look at other people's kids - the bad, acting out ones - smirk, and say, "OUR kids would NEVER be like that."  Shyeah right.  Let me tell you this: those books that say that at around 3 months babies go through growth spurts and eat ALL THE TIME and at 5 months they start becoming clingy and at 8 months they start recognizing the word NO and cry when you say it...they write these things because it does happen to the majority of parents out there.  If you're that person reading that book thinking that your kid is going to be all unicorns and rainbows, you're more than likely in for a huge freaking surprise. 

Billy and I used to be those people.  We'd turn our noses up at the slobbering kid, we'd shake our heads at the screaming baby at the grocery store, we'd tsk-tsk at the fussy baby at the dining table next to us.  "We'll be better parents than that...OUR babies will never be fussy."  So we skipped the fussy baby section in the baby books and went along in our twisted version of reality.

And then we had Desmond.  And then what we thought we were going to have bestowed upon us by angels:

Actually turned out to be something that looked like this (35% of the time):

This is the face Desmond has started to make when some of his relatives or strangers (to Desmond) hold him.  He starts off OK and then, the minute he realizes that the person that's holding him is not his trusted food source (me), he starts wailing.  Like the I'm-so-sorry-I'm-really-not-hurting-him type of wailing. 

We've tried to expose Desmond to lots of people and situations and he's been doing really well until a few days ago.  Maybe it's just the holidays and maybe it's because there are so many new people around and he's constantly being overstimulated.  I hope so.  I certainly don't want my kid to be a clingy baby.  I'd love to be able to hand him off to another person...anyone...who wants to hold him for a while, especially while I eat. This is a serious concern of mine because I am looking to hire a nanny to help me and Billy out with Desmond come January (more of that in another post) and I worry that he won't take to her at all and that she'll quit suddenly - stomping out of my house the second I get home in a huff - because she can't handle my "clingy" child.  

It is funny, though, that he tends to be a lot calmer when dark-haired women hold him.  I can't say that it's just a coincidence, but he does seem to be at ease when my SIL Melanie or our friend Suzi hold him .  Here's a little secret: although it sometimes embarrasses me when some well-meaning person wants to hold Desmond and he sticks out his lower lip, pouts, and then screams bloody murder right in their face, I do like the fact that as soon as I "rescue" him and press him against my body, he calms down.  It makes me feel like the only person in the class that got the A on the really difficult exam.

 Des happily hanging out with his Aunt Melanie and Cousin Nico.

Anybody have any tips on how to raise an un-clingy baby?  Is it nature or nurture?  When do kids grow out of it?

Low Milk Supply

Just when I thought I had it all figured out, my milk supply goes wonkers.  Initially, I had way too much milk: Desmond kept sputtering and choking as soon as he latched on, he would pull away before draining the breast, and his poops were green.  We tried block feeding (where I fed him just on one breast per session) and it helped.  For about 3 weeks afterward, our nursing relationship was going beautifully.  However, for the past month or so, Des has been eating every 1.5-2 hours instead of every 3-4 and my milk supply can't keep up.

This is what's been happening: I will start feeding Desmond on the left breast; when the initial let down doesn't occur, he'll pull off and start crying.  I switch him over to the right breast and the same thing would happen on that side.  I would switch him again to the left side but he wouldn't suck long enough to give me another letdown.  So, he would end up crying his guts out and I'd have to resort to feeding him some of my expressed milk that I had frozen.  Guess who started freaking out when the frozen milk ran out?  This lady.

I read online about how to increase milk supply.  There are several ways to do it.  Obviously, your breastmilk production works on the process of supply and demand: the more your baby nurses, the more milk your body produces.  However, I don't think Desmond was nursing long enough to give the signal to my breasts to make more milk.  The trick was to keep him sucking long enough to let my breasts know to make enough milk.  I was worried for Desmond, since he's a little on the skinny side, but my pediatrician said that he's OK and if he's producing 6-8 wet diapers a day, he's getting enough. 

So, in desperation, I contacted my lactation consultant, Julie, who owns A Baby's Choice Lactation here in Salt Lake City.  She recommended I come see her and talk about my problems.  She rented me a hospital-grade breast pump.  Hospital-grade breast pumps are ideal for mothers who have premature babies or mothers who need to pump constantly throughout the day.  The pump is a lot stronger than other electric pumps (I think mine has a piston or something) and does double collection, which means that pumping time is cut in half and more prolactin is released.  However, the pump is about 15 lbs and it's bulky.

The behemoth breastpump.  Sits in the middle of my living room floor because I have nowhere else to put it.

Julie also recommended that I should take fenugreek.  Fenugreek is what's called a galactogogue, a substance to help milk production.  It's also used as an additive for artificial maple syrup and therefore has the (kind of unfortunate...kind of funny) side effect of making your sweat smell like maple syrup.  I haven't noticed it yet, but it's very, very cold out so I haven't been able to sweat.

Since I started the regimen of pumping more in between feedings (never instead of feedings) and taking fennugreek 1 week ago, I've noticed a change already in my milk supply.  I haven't been able to pump enough breastmilk as I would like (one pumping session lasts about 15 minutes and I produce a total of about 2-2.5 oz), but being able to keep Desmond satisfied during a nursing session is so worth it.   

Des patiently waiting for his next meal.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hair woes

Hair is such a funny thing.  If you have straight hair, you spend all your time wishing for curly hair.  If you have curly hair, you buy countless products to fight the poofiness and frizziness of your hair.  If you have long hair, you cut your hair short for a "change."  3 days later, you lament the fact that you cut your hair and wish you had long hair again.

Views on hair and hairstyles have changed so much throughout history.  A quick hair history lesson:

The ancient Egyptians would shave their hair close to their head in order to stay cool in the scorching heat.  For fancy get-togethers, both men and women would wear long and usually braided wigs, adorned with gold or ivory ornaments.  

Ancient Greek women usually wore their hair loose or tied back into a chignon.  They would dye it red with henna and sprinkle gold powder (their version of lowlights and highlights).

In 17th century Japan, the geisha would wear elaborate hairstyles that were highly lacquered.  These women would have to sleep on special blocks in order to keep their hair styled for the next day.

The Mangbetu women grow their hair out and, using the shape of their elongated head and a cone-shaped basket frame, wrap it up and weave it into the frame and then adorn it with long bone needles.  They achieve their elongated head shape by wrapping their babies' heads with cloth.

In the 15th Century, European women would pluck their hairline to achieve a "high forehead" look.  This allowed the women to wear headpieces that they could show off.  Most European women admired the fair hair of those living in the north and would try to bleach their hair by exposing it to the sun (hello, sun-in!) and using onion skins or saffron.  

By the 18th century, the bigger the better was the mantra for hairstyles.  Women would use horsehair and starch wrapped around a wire frame to create large, creative hairpieces.  This meant that these pieces were rarely washed and therefore attracted lots of vermin.  

More history of hairstyles can be found HERE

When I was pregnant, I noticed that my long hair was getting thicker by the day.  During pregnancy, estrogen prevents normal hair loss; hair follicles stay or enter the "resting" phase and don't shed as often as normal.  I already had thick hair, so the extra hair thickness was bothersome to me.  However, now that I am more than 3 months postpartum, my hair is falling out by the hundreds.  Per day.  My hair is everywhere!  I spent 9 blissful months not having to deal with hair in my food, on my clothes, and on the shower curtain and now I am constantly pulling my hair off of me.  This, in turn, makes my "cool mom" haircut look particularly lackluster.  My hair isn't curling as it used to and now it lacks a certain oomph that it did the first month postpartum.

On a separate but related note, I guess the hormones during pregnancy also put my white-hair follicles into overdrive.  I spent the first few months of pregnancy plucking them, but one day, I just said, "eff it" and stopped plucking.  Yes, I embraced my grey hair at 29, 1 whole year before I made the decision to embrace them.  Unfortunately, NONE of the hair that has fallen out has been my grey hairs.  Another interesting note, it seems that these hairs tend to grow in clumps in certain areas: along my forehead and along my part.  I hope that they grow in a white streak along the front of my head, like this:

Stacy from What Not To Wear
Or this:

Rogue, from the X-Men movies.

Hard to see the grey hairs, but they run along my part and my forehead line.

Two grey hairs up close.  They have a different texture than the rest of my hair: wiry and kind of dry.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Are parents like junkies?

When I think of junkies, I think of Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting:

So, when I read the title of THIS article, I cringed.  But then it all made sense.  Of course parents are like junkies or else why in the world would they have another kid after the first?  Having a kid completely turns your life upside down.  It restricts the things you can do and, for the next 18 years, will take first place in the things-I-have-to-think-about-and-worry-about line.  So, why do humans keep having them?  Besides the fact that sex is very enjoyable and the end result of sex is, to millions of people, a pregnancy, children bring such unbelievable and indescribably joy and happiness to their lives. 

I remember taking an anthropology class in college and one of the first topics we discussed was about how human babies look a certain way (large eyes) to help the mothers and other caregivers want to take care of them.  One other method nature has of ensuring that the human race keeps going is to release oxytocin and endorphins when they're taking care of babies.  I know that I could have just a shit day but as soon as Desmond smiles at me or giggles (the other day, I was in the kitchen and Des was in the living room lying on his playmat and I looked over and said, "Hi, baby!", and he gave me the bestest, biggest smile!) I forget every single bad thing about the day and just bask in the ooey gooey feeling of having my son smile at me.  And each day is just a quest to find that same "high" and eek a smile or a laugh out of him.

So, I'm a junkie.  I admit it.  I love my drug (Desmond's laugh) and can't wait for my next fix.

From SLATE's article: Parents of Junkies.

At the end of a long day, after a rotten commute filled with road rage and little accomplished at work, with chores piled up at home and the weekend nowhere in sight, my 4-year-old daughter clambered onto the sofa next to me, cuddled into my arms, and planted a moist, unasked-for kiss on my cheek.
Poof. The exhaustion disappeared, the frustrations of the day melted away. I soaked in a bath of oxytocin. Everything was right with the world.
But wait. We're getting ahead of ourselves.
In the last few months, parents and researchers have been at war. Evidence has piled up to show that becoming a parent does not make people happier; it makes them unhappier. The data show that marriage increases happiness, but children reduce it. Marriages are vulnerable to divorce shortly after the arrival of children.
People who don't have kids think studies that prove kids are stressful are about as interesting as studies that show falling off tall buildings produces injuries. "Duh," they say. If you've been on a red-eye flight where a bawling baby kept the whole cabin awake through the night, you've seen deplaning passengers muttering about how they can't wait for the day when infanticide is legal.
Parents spend endless hours commiserating with one another about the travails of parenthood. Yet when researchers present data about children and unhappiness, parents rise up in protest. Research may depict parenthood as a bile-inducing, rage-fueling, stress-producing ordeal, but parents tell us that becoming parents is the best thing they ever did. Nonparents write off this reaction as defensiveness—if you've screwed up by having a kid and don't want to admit it, you pretend to be happy—but parents regularly choose to have more than one child. If parenthood were as subjectively awful as the objective research implies, wouldn't all parents stop at one child? It's one thing to claim that a stubbed toe doesn't hurt, and quite another to aim a second kick at the chair.
The research into happiness and parenting arrives at its results by measuring how people feel at regular intervals during the day. If you asked parents every 15 minutes how they feel, the data would read:
7:15 a.m.: Max spilled water on the breakfast table and ruined my Mac. God!
7:30 a.m.: Rachel slapped Max. Max pulled Rachel's hair. I need tranquilizers.
7:45 a.m.: On way out to drop Rachel at school bus, Max has diaper accident. Rush back to change him, miss school bus. I need liquor.
8:00 a.m.: Gas needle points to "empty," but I keep driving to get Rachel to school on time. Car stalls in major intersection. Drivers curse me. I discover I left my cell phone at home. I bang my head repeatedly on steering wheel.
And so on.
One of my favorite psychologists, Dan Gilbert at Harvard, often quotes a study conducted by Daniel Kahneman that found that spending time with children makes mothers about as happy as vacuuming.*
And yet. Let's go back to the sofa and that cuddle and kiss. It was a fleeting moment, but it genuinely changed how I felt about the day.
It was at that moment of bliss that I realized how the objective parenting research and the subjective parenting experience could both be right. Parenting is a grind, and most parents are stressed out much more than they are happy. But when parents think about parenting, they don't remember the background stress. They remember the cuddle and the kiss. Parenting is a series of intensely high highs, followed by long periods of frustration and stress, during which you go to great lengths to find your way back to that sofa and that kiss.
We have a name for people who pursue rare moments of bliss at the expense of their wallets and their social and professional relationships: addicts.
Children regularly give parents the kind of highs that only narcotics can rival. The unpredictability of those moments of bliss is an important factor in their addictiveness. If you give animals a predictable reward—say, a shot of sugar every time they press a lever—you can get them to press that lever quite regularly. But if you want irrational and addictive behavior, you make the reward unpredictable. Pressing the lever produces sugar, but only once every 10 tries. Sometimes, the animal might have to go 20 or 30 tries without a reward. Sometimes it gets a big jolt of sugar three tries in a row. If you train an animal to work for an unexpected reward, you can get it to work harder and longer than if you train it to work for a predictable reward.
We've all seen those sad people sitting at slot machines in a casino, methodically feeding coin after coin into the slots. If you made their reward predictable—after precisely every 20 attempts, they would always get a prize—you would lower the addictive power of slots. It's the unpredictability that drives them. Or, to put it another way, it's the hope for reward, not the reward itself, that drives them.
I suspect oxytocin works the same way. The unexpected, kind, and loving things that children do produce chemical surges in their parents' brains like the rush of the pipe or the needle. Like addicts, parents will sacrifice anything for the glimpses of heaven that their offspring periodically provide.
I don't know if there is empirical evidence to back me up, but it's conceivable that the neurological mechanisms of addiction—in all their irrational and self-defeating pathologies—are based on underlying mechanisms in the hidden brain that are designed by natural selection to make us seek out—and enjoy—parenthood.
So spare a moment of compassion for the next junkie you see. And spare a smile for the next parent you run into. Junkies we are—and proud of it.
Correction, Nov. 15, 2010: This article originally said that psychologist Dan Gilbert found that spending time with children makes mothers about as happy as vacuuming. Gilbert has cited that study, but it is not his own. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Visualizing Recipes

I'll readily admit it: I'm a food junkie.  I can spend hours on end languorously gazing at foodie blogs and websites, such as Foodgawker , The Kitchn, and Martha Stewart - Food.  After a long day of school, work, and taking care of a 4-month-old baby boy, I love sitting down in front of my computer scrolling through the gorgeous pictures of food; it relaxes and rejuvenates me. 

My love affair with food started when I got my first cookbook: The New Moosewood Cookbook.  Since then, I've branched out to the Food Network and finally into the blogosphere.  I stopped collecting cookbooks when I found more varied recipes online with nicer pictures.  The pictures are what makes me want to cook that particular meal.  That's why I love food porn sites like Foodgawker; you could just browse through thousands of beautiful food pictures and click on any you like to get the recipe. 

When I saw that there was a new cookbook being published that didn't include any written directions, I immediately went online to look it up.  This book is ideal for those of us who are visual learners.  Having pictures that are set up in a nice flow-diagram-sort-of-way is really helpful when you're low on time and hangry.

 From Katie Shelly's Picture Cook

Check out Katie Shelly's Picture Cook online on her website.  Too cute and would make a great gift for that one special foodie in your life.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Birth announcements

In this day and age, birth announcements seem rather anachronistic.  Why do we have to announce the birth 3 months after the fact when every detail about the birth itself and the baby are announced over email and facebook?   Nevertheless, it's an opportunity to take some really good pictures of your baby and send them out to everyone without seeming too pushy.

I'm in love with my brother's girlfriend's drawing and handwriting capabilities.  I've mentioned her before, but just to refresh your memory, she draws things like this:

Check out her design blog: Hello! Hello! Design.  She also works as a design person for Kate Spade (I think she does the window designs and stationery). 

I also have a newfound love for and appreciation of letterpress stationery.  I think it's super fancy and classy and now know how much work and artistry is involved in making paper products.  Coincidentally, Billy's sister Kseniya happens to be the owner of a letterpress shop out in Pennsylvania called Thomas Printers.  You should totally take a look around her website.  Letterpressed stationery and such make amazing gifts (just in time for Christmas!)

Anyhow, I had seen a birth announcement on my brother and sister-in-law's fridge and realized that I probably needed to send one out soon.  Kseniya was out visiting us (and meeting Desmond), so I took the opportunity to ask if she knew anyone online who did good birth announcements.  She looked at me and said, "No, not at all."  I shrugged and went back to what I was doing.  After a few minutes of silence, she yelled, "I'm kidding!  I can do them!  I DO print things like that, you know!" (or something to that effect).  It hadn't even occurred to me that Kseniya could print something like that because 1) most announcements I see are ones that are on glossy photo paper and include a pre-set design with your information filled in and a picture of the baby and 2) I don't think of "baby announcements" when I think of letterpress.  Anyhow, Desmond's very sweet Aunt Kseniya offered to print them for us herself.  

This is the picture we used.  I made that little Coccoon thing.  If anybody ever wants to borrow it, I'd gladly lend it out.  Picture taken by the immensely talented Jack Allred.

Here is the invitation "suite" (I think that's a word they throw around when talking about things like this...it may just be "set," now that I think about it).  It's hard to see what the writing says, so click on the picture to magnify it in the new tab.  The front of the envelope has a little Pirate (our pug) saying, "It's a boy!" and the quote on the bottom of the announcement is from Bill Cosby.  The silhouettes are our actual silhouettes (Billy, me, and Desmond...in case anyone couldn't tell :))

So, here's my formal and public THANK YOU to Jack, Kseniya, and Katie for making this beautiful birth announcement possible.  Now, any ideas from anybody on how to store/display them?

Trip to Seattle

Billy and I are in Seattle for 3 days and 2 nights for Billy's interview at University of Washington.  It's been raining and about 50 degrees ever since we got here (who'd have thought) and everything is super green and moist.  I'm surprised that there isn't more moss growing everywhere.

Street near where we're staying.  

In Denmark, we stayed in apartments, which we found surfing www.airbnb.com, the BEST site for looking for homier places to stay when traveling.  We found one place in Northgate (a suburb just north of Seattle) that was only $85/night.  It's the basement apartment of someone's home and has a living room, kitchen, nice bedroom, and a beautiful bathroom WITH HEATED FLOORS.  We're able to buy some food and cook it for breakfast, which is so nice and saves us a bit of money.  The owners live upstairs and are super approachable.  They even let us use their car to go pick up some food and buy some groceries one night.  Anyhow, totally worth a gander if you're looking to travel anywhere and don't really want to stay in a hotel.  

The first place we went is to Serious Pie, home of the "best pizza" in Seattle.  When I was here in June, I tried to go with a few people that were with me for the conference, but it was like an hour wait, so we went to another restaurant instead.  The next night, after I had left, everyone was able to go.  So I've lamented the fact that I've missed out on really great pizza up until yesterday.  

Waiting for our name to be called.

Billy's so "serious"

We met up with Billy's friend from high school, Kevin, and his wife, Catherine, who live in Seattle (and who are now moving to Palo Alto because Kevin, who used to work for Microsoft, just got a job with Facebook). 

Me, Kevin, and Catherine.

After eating at Serious Pie, I took Billy down to Pike Place.  I was excited for Billy to see it.  I love going to city markets, even if they are tourist traps.  I love people watching, listening to random people play musical instruments on the sidewalk, and perusing the stalls filled with really expensive touristy trinkets.  Pike's place also has some really great eating establishments, such as Piroshky Piroshky, a Russian bakery, and Pike Place Chowder, home of the best clam chowder ever.

The inside of the market.

Billy photobombing my picture.

We also went to the EMP/SFM (Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum).  As some of you may be aware, I LIKE science fiction a lot.  I've seen pretty much every Star Trek TNG episode and love books like Dune.  I know, totally dorky.  So, this museum was perfect for me and perfect for Billy, since he's a huge music enthusiast.  Part of the building is devoted to music: they have a Northwestern music timeline that highlights some of the major musical happenings here in Washington in the last century (did you know that Ray Charles got his start here, Quincy Jones used to be a trumpeter with a band that played here, and that Willie Nelson was a local DJ here?); they had a whole Jimi Hendrix exhibit; and a room where you can play with all sorts of instruments and crazy cool high-tech music mixing and making devices.  

Listening to music and watching the cool screen change.  Desmond had just taken a really big poop and Billy had to go to the men's room (which had a changing table!  Yay!  You have no idea how important those are now.  I had to change Desmond once on the floor of a bathroom at a restaurant.  I didn't even want the changing mat touching the floor...) to change him.  His entire really cute outfit had to be changed.  Ha ha ha!  

 Instrument sculpture at the entrance of the music part of the museum.

We got there kind of late, so we weren't able to enjoy the science fiction part as much as we would have liked, but we did get to see the Battlestar Galactica exhibit (too bad I know almost next to nothing about Battlestar Galactica) and the science fiction genre timeline.

 Me doing my "boldly go" stance.  I'm finally wearing some pre-pregnancy clothes.  Can't you tell (that I shouldn't be wearing them yet)?

The museum is literally right next to the Space Needle.  Although we didn't go all the way to the top ($18 freaking dollars per adult), we got to take a picture of it coming out of our heads.

Lessons learned about traveling with an infant:

  • Always pack an extra set of clothes.  Diaper blowouts can happen at ANY time.  And probably the most inopportune time.
  • Don't go on all day sight-seeing marathons.  Desmond loves to be worn; however, hanging out in a baby bjorn all day is probably not the greatest feeling.  I'm sure his legs and hips get a bit sore after a while.  Furthermore, we completely disregarded the fact that human beings rest best when lying down and took for granted that Desmond takes naps while being worn a lot of the time.  After a while, Des was skipping his naptimes and just fussing.  He wanted to lie down.  (FYI, his nap times are usually at 11am, 3pm, and 7pm.  He usually goes to bed at around 11pm and wakes up at 830 or 9.  And no, he's not sleeping through the night, either.  He's an infant with a stomach the size of...something small.  He gets hungry about every 3-4 hours).  
  • When sightseeing outside in cold weather while wearing your baby, do not put him in too many layers.  We made that mistake and Desmond was miserably hot.  Poor little guy was sweating so bad that we took off his jacket, hat, and leg warmers.  We put him in the baby bjorn in just his pants and his basic white onesie and Billy zipped his jacket up over Desmond.  We put the hat his Aunt Melanie made for him and he was as happy as can be.  Don't underestimate the power of body heat.
  • When baby starts getting fussy and you think he may be tired, instead of heading home, try taking him out of the carrier and facing him towards you.  He may be overstimulated and may just want to block everything out and sleep.  It's worked a few times with Desmond.

*Christy, thanks for the bjorn!  Billy loves wearing it!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I'm not a natural mother

There are so many women out there who embrace pregnancy wholeheartedly: their burgeoning shape, the morning sickness, the extra hair, the lack of comfortable sleep, etc.

I was not that woman.

I spent the last 7 or so years not wanting any children for myself. I enjoyed my life and the liberty I had to do whatever I wanted on a moment's notice; having a child would stop that lifestyle dead in its tracks. I viewed children as needy little parasites filled with snot and drool and poop. Once I met Billy, however, the need to create a life with him was overwhelming and the more we talked about it, the more I fell in love with the idea. However, I didn't think much about what life would be like with a child. I knew that having a child would cause some disruption in my life, but I never fully realized how it would affect my education, my relationship with Billy, and my relationship with friends and family members. I had thought that once I became pregnant, once I saw my belly grow, once I held Desmond, I'd be transformed into one of those glowing women who embody motherhood and who naturally harbor that maternal instinct. I thought it'd be so easy...it seemed so easy.

The first month and a half of life with Desmond was really, really hard. I was not as prepared as I thought I was to give myself completely to this little being. Throughout my entire pregnancy, I worked really hard to educate myself on every aspect of my pregnancy and the birth. I researched different parenting styles and chose one that would augment the bonding experience with my baby by wearing him, having skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding on demand, co-sleeping, etc. I would never let myself even think that I may not have that automatic maternal instinct and bonding with my newborn that other women have when they first meet their child.

During my pregnancy, I always felt a sort of disconnect with Desmond, or little Nacho as we used to refer to him. I would go to prenatal yoga classes, where we would tune into our little fetuses and send love and energy to them. I would rub my belly, whispering I love you, I love you, I love you over and over. I would imagine what Nacho looked like floating within me, happy as can be. But deep down inside of me, I sometimes resented being pregnant. I can't communicate well enough how much I love sleep and from about 6 months until I gave birth, I didn't have one decent night of sleep. And I hated that. You have no idea how guilty I feel now after having Desmond and having fallen in love with him. I felt guilty at the time as well because I was working with women who suffered from infertility and who spent thousands of dollars to have the chance to go through a pregnancy like I was.

For several weeks after the birth, I struggled with this newfound sense of responsibility, the lack of sleep, the soreness from the birth, the stupid pads they give you for the postpartum bleeding, and breastfeeding. There were times, in between naps and feeding sessions, when my mom would hand him to me and I felt as if he wasn't mine, as if he was my mother's son and I was just helping her babysit. I could see the love and warmth flow out of my mother to Desmond in the way she held him and talked to him and wanted to be with him. I didn't have that and it crushed me. The fact that I felt, at times, resentful of him broke my heart. I felt like a failure as a mother and as a woman.

After my mother left, I knew I needed to step it up and face reality: that I wasn't this baby's babysitter. I was his mother: the only thing that he knew and wanted and needed. I took control of breastfeeding by meeting with a lactation consultant, I read and reached out to the community of mothers that surrounded me here in SLC and online, and I was finally able to admit my feelings to Billy. It was then that I started the process of forgiveness (for myself) and acceptance (of Desmond). I started to slowly love Desmond more and more. It didn't all come at once, not at all. Just like you don't fall in love with a partner all at once, it takes time to get to know each other - to have a few "dates" -  in order to fall in love. That's how my relationship with Desmond has evolved and I think it has cemented my commitment to him and my adoration for him.

It's been 3.5 months since I gave birth and I could truly say that Desmond and I are in this relationship in full force. I am a mother now...maybe not as good as others out there or as cheerful about my status as one, but I love him completely and unconditionally. I can still imagine what my life would be like without him, but I don't want to. I'm writing this post partly because I promised myself that I would be completely honest when writing this blog and partly because there may be other new moms or mothers-to-be who may be feeling these same exact feelings and thinking that they're the only ones feeling this way or feeling embarrassed or guilty about their feelings.

I remember reading something in the WAB or Mothering magazine that made me realize that I'm not the only mother out there who didn't wake up refreshed, who enjoyed every breastfeeding session, who lovingly made and ironed each baby clothing item, and who automatically wanted more children after having their first; in other words, women born to be mothers. The quote went something like this:

I looked down at my son as I was changing him. I said out loud to him, "I would do anything in this world for you...I would give my life for you...but I do not love you."

I had finally found a woman's account that mirrored my own and I felt, for the first time, that I wasn't alone. The woman was asked 3 years later if she still felt the same way and she responded that she didn't even want to imagine what her life would be like without her son.  I felt comforted reading about women who suffered from some form of the "blues" or insecurities after giving birth, even women who had spend the thousands of dollars on fertility treatments sometimes felt that way.  I realized that just because I was a woman didn't mean that childrearing would come naturally to me.  I have to work hard every single day at being the best mother I can be to my son. 

I love Desmond more than anything.  I wouldn't trade him for the world.  I don't even want my old life back now.  I do wish raising a child was easier, but then I guess it makes it that much more worth it when, 30 or so years from now, he, as a father to his own children, could tell me how much he appreciates me as a mother.  As for right now, I'll take all the smiles and chuckles and nestles and spitups I can get to push me to be the best mom for Desmond that I can be. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

The sweetest sound in the entire world

Ok, you guys.  This is what I've been waiting for and dreaming of.  My sweet little Desmond finally laughed.  Not just an intake of breath or a coo, but a real giggle.  Holy shit did that send off TONS of endorphins.  I've never felt such a rush of love and excitement (sorry, Billy, but it's true).  It's seriously the best feeling in the world.  Now if I can only get him to laugh like that when he pees and poos all over us and our stuff, life would be good.

Open Letter to Desmond: 3 Months

Dear Desmond:

I can't believe we've made it this far!  It's been a bumpy ride, but I've loved every single second of it (in retrospect, at least).  You weigh about 10 lbs now and are about 24 inches long.  Your hair is getting fuzzier on the top, which is good, since it was pretty scarce to begin with.  Your face is filling out and your thighs are getting chunkier, which is good since I've been feeding you approximately every 1.5-2 hours.  Your eyes are starting to turn brown.  I wonder if they're going to be dark brown like mine or light brown like my mother's.  They're definitely not going to be blue like your dad's.

You're starting to become more interactive.  Whenever your dad is holding you, you look around the room for me.  You always want to know where I am and I swear your head rotates almost 180 degrees.  The other morning, I fell asleep breastfeeding you and your dad told me that you spent 5 whole minutes looking up at me while I slept.  It made me fall in love with you that much more.  It makes me think that you're starting to love me a bit more and more each day.

You still come to school with me sometimes and you're such a good baby when you do.  You're very quiet and you either stare intently at what's going on or you fall asleep.

You are doing such a great job holding your head up while you're on your stomach.  You can also stand for a few minutes at a time if I hold your hands.  You always get this look of extreme concentration and satisfaction when you stand up.  You love your playmat and are now able to grab at the toys.  It's so funny how a seemingly insignificant action (grabbing) can become the highlight of my day and make me seriously think that I have the smartest baby in the entire world.

You are starting to put your fists in your mouth constantly.  I guess it's pretty easy to fit your fist in your mouth if you don't have any teeth.  You're drooling a little bit more and making tons of spit bubbles.  You talk back to me a lot and will wait for me to finish what I'm saying before you start babbling.  It's adorable.  You're adorable.  Everything you do is adorable.  Even peeing on my side of the bed and pooping up and out of your diapers (which is understandable, since as of tonight, the longest you've gone without pooping is 7 days).  

I'm starting to talk to you more in Spanish so that you are able to understand the cadence and rhythms of the language.  I'm trying to get your dad to join in but he's hesitant to do so, says that his Spanish isn't that good, but I think it's just fine.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Billy's letter of apology to me

Have someone you need to apologize to?  Do you need to send someone a happy birthday message?  Do you love madlibs?  Then go to www.bureauofcommunication.com and send someone you love a heartfelt message.

Monday, November 1, 2010


As we were going to our friend Ryan Bird's house tonight for the 2nd Annual Grown-up's Halloween Party, Billy and I commented on how great it was to get out of the house and do something besides sit on our comfy couch at home staring at our computer screens the entire night.  It's very important to us to keep ourselves interested in each other and sometimes, it seems that our days are so taxing that all we could do is veg out on the couch and spend the whole night engrossed in Google Reader (me) and It's Always Sunny and The Daily Show (him).  But when we do go out, even if it's just for a walk around downtown Salt Lake after dinner at Ekamai, we always remark about how we should do this more often.

Anyhow, we were very excited to showcase our costumes.  Last year, Billy and I went as Billy and Gloria from White Men Can't Jump.  Remember that movie from the 90s?  I wore a tacky black and turquoise ruffled skirt and a matching shirt with some leggings and sneakers.  Billy wore a random white shirt, some washed out surfer shorts, those reebok pumps shoes where you pumped the little basketball thing on the tongue of the sneaker, and a backwards hat.  Unfortunately, we don't have pictures from that night, but this is what we were supposed to look like:

This year, we were more focused on what Desmond would wear than on what we would wear, so when it was time to pick out something to wear this weekend, we had to look to our closets for some inspiration.  Desmond already had 3 ready-to-go Halloween outfits: pumpkin (his grandma Donna gave him that), Bear (his uncle Jack and aunt Lauren gave him that), and sushi (we bought him that).

Desmond's in his pumpkin costume.  Picture was taken in Rockford, IL and includes all the members of the Thomas family, plus me.  

 This is Des's bear costume.  We were on our way to the Rally to Restore Sanity here in SLC.

Let me take a sec to explain the outfit: The onesie contains a felt cutout of a piece of shrimp tail.  The band around his waist is supposed to be seaweed.  On his head are the wasabi and ginger on the plastic green leaf thing.  He's also wearing some kick-ass legwarmers (not just for girls anymore) and grey socks.  Adorable, eh?

As far as the grownups are concerned, I knew that what I had most in my closet was black.  Lots and lots of black.  As I tried to think of people to be, I remembered how much I thought my hair looked like Trinity's from The Matrix when Kelli (my hairdresser) wet it down and combed it straight in order to cut it.  

I mentioned the idea to Billy and we decided to go with it.  Billy bought some black pants from Smith's (pants that still had the magnetic anti-stealing device attached to it), black hairspray dye stuff, and some guns that we had spraypainted black.  I just threw on a black tank top, black jeggings, and black boots. 

Billy with black spraypainted hair and black-filled-in eyebrows.  Billy's eyebrows are so light that it looks like he doesn't have any.  On the backs of our necks, we drew the hole where they could get plugged into the Matrix.  The whole costume looks so much better with our sunglasses on, but walking around a foreign house at night with glasses on carrying a big bowl full of sangria and a baby is not the wisest thing to do.

This cute little boy is Taven.  He is our friends Jack and Heather's kid.  He really didn't want to take the picture with me.  By the way, he was supposed to be a candlestick.  Cute, eh?

The Matrix: Postpartum.  OK, so I think we make a pretty good Neo and Trinity if you could overlook the fact that Billy looks more like Matt Damon than Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss (Trinity) has a more kick-ass body than I do.