Saturday, March 28, 2009

Bassinets are SO Passe

The time has come for Otter to leave the snug comfort of her bassinet and move into the wide, uncertain world of the crib. For most babies, this step down the road towards independent living comes at 3-4 months, when they outgrow the tiny, portable bed. Otter, being a petite young lass, has lasted 7 months.

But for the past few weeks, we've been noticing the bassinet tilt precariously as she shifted her weight. And with her not-so-feeble attempts to sit up on her own, its only a matter of time before the bough was to break and the cradle was to fall.

The process began with the undoing of a lot of hard work: clothes needed to be removed from Bree's dresser and the crib, which had been meticulously assembled in Otter's room before she arrived in this world, had to be disassembled, having never been used for sleep.

Then, furniture musical chairs began. The dresser had to depart for greener pastures, making room for crib (which would then have to be put together again). And since all of our doorways cannot accomdate human sized furniture passing through, the game had to be played with a detour through the living room and out into the back yard.

Bree was in charge of all things furniture, while I made helpful suggestions from a safe distance. To his credit, Bree both demolished and re-molished like a champ. The rooms were repurposed (Otter's for clothes, ours for housing even more beds) and then it was my turn to convince SB that this new space, where she'd formerly enjoyed rolling around and playing, was now to be considered ideal for her afternoon siesta.

It took some convincing. The first few times, I came back to find SB rolled to the other end of the crib, lying on her stomach, while screaming at the top of her lungs. But, after wedging her so tightly into her sleep positioner that breathing, let alone turning was a challenge we achieved success. Either tiredness or lack of oxygen overtook her and after a few more plaintive moans she fell asleep (or passed out, whatever).

Now, we have a few more weeks to get her used to her bigger-girl bed before ousting her from our room. At which point Musical Chairs will have to be performed in reverse. Rest up, Bree.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Happy 7 Months, Otter!

In spite of me trying to kill you with peas, you've made it - only 5 months to go 'til you get cake!

On a side note, parsnips blow hard. Apples, on the other hand, are amazing...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Near Death Experience

Every family has anecdotes about nearly killing their baby. At least that's what I choose to believe, lest I feel like my family was more flippant than average in their approach to my care.

For me, it was the time my mother let me fall off the dining table. Or when my father fell asleep with me on the couch and I crawled off the edge, earning a concussion.

Well, today the baton of near-death has been passed from the older generation to me. In an effort not to follow too closely in my parents' footsteps, I decided to forgo furniture mishaps and focused instead on peas.

Otter had just settled down to lunch when I made my move. Since she had a month and a half of solids, we've been slowly moving towards more texture in her food. So after cooking and mashing the peas, I skipped the step of running them through a strainer. I wouldn't want SB thinking I was treating her like a baby.

The first few spoonfuls went down the hatch without a hitch. And I was just starting to feel quite self-satisfied when Otter choked. I don't mean the kind of gagging that leads to some polite coughing and a few dabs of the napkin. I'm talking no air going in or out, turning bright red, eyes popping out of her head kind of chocking.

We didn't panic. We instantly leaned her forward, and firmly tapped her on the back. And nothing happened. Otter stayed red and un-breathey. My Cool Hand Luke demeanor went out the window as I tried to extricate her from her chair while simultaneously ransacking my brain for any useful information on the Heimlich maneuver. The only readily available facts were these: I had half-assed learned the Heimlich in 9th grade health class. No one pays attention in health class. We never actually tried the Heimlich on anyone, rendering my barely there knowledge hypothetical. Oh and, assuming we were not parents at age 14 (incorrectly for some of us, I think), the school failed to instruct us in performing the technique on a baby. In a word, Otter was screwed.

But before I had a chance to publicly and tragically prove my lack of baby first aid (followed by my nonexistent of knowledge of Baby CPR) SB did me the favor of vomiting voluminously and thus dislodging the pea obstruction.

Lucky for us both, I suppose.

Food Update

Sweet Potatoes - even better than carrots!

Broccoflower - the crazed love child of broccoli and cauliflower was met with an utter lack of enthusiasm. Otter did make up for it by barfing up the few spoons she manage to swallow with some gusto.

Parsnips - today's culinary adventure. The verdict is still out.

photo by Gaetan Lee

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Breastfeeding is Kicking My Ass

Do a search on the Internet, and you will surely find posting after posting exalting the virtues of breastfeeding. Aside from the obvious benefit of not having your baby starve, the pluses of becoming a food group for your child are many: they get your antibodies and (as personal, anecdotal evidence suggests) can survive the bubonic plague that knocks mom on her ass; using human milk to feed a human makes more sense than using altered, powdered, reconstituted cow milk to feed a human; it's free; and as the life is (quite literally) sucked out of you, those baby pounds just melt away.

Yet by 6 months, less than half of all babies are still being nursed. And the reason why is apparent to me - no one tells you about the fine print...

As I've already addressed the indignities of pumping, I won't rehash that here. But here are some new tidbits that I hadn't been aware of when I signed on the dotted line...

1) Since returning to work I've been on breastfeeding twice daily, and pumping 3 times. That means that 5 times a day, I have to stick my boob into either mouth or machinery. During the day, when I just want to finish my work, I have to stop down, find a quiet space (with an electrical outlet) and stick my boob into machinery. At 11 pm, when all I want to do is sleep, I have to stick my boob into machinery.

2) I can't speak for other babies, but Otter is a very goal-oriented infant. She approaches nursing with a very pragmatic, get in - get out viewpoint. SB's not just going to hang out at the breast waiting for some meager droplets to come. Nor will she work too hard to get what she wants - immediate gratification, and then she's on to the next activity. Which leads to...

3) At least once a week, I am now suffering from blocked ducts. This is what occurs when milk isn't thoroughly removed from the breast and the ducts get, well, blocked. What then happens in the real world is the formation of a rock-hard, excruciatingly painful lump (or lumps) that varies in size from pebble to a rock about 3 finger widths across. Yeah, look at your hand. that's a LOT of lump. Of course, the likelihood of getting the pebble sized version is about 1 in a million.

There are numerous suggestions for the treatment of recurrent blocked ducts from cabbage leaves stuffed into your bra to hot showers, massage and ultrasound waves. And I have tried nearly all, with a consistent lack of results. All I can do is hope that Otter does the job while nursing, at which point milk will again flow freely and abundantly and the cycle can start all over again.

It is during these weekly bouts of feeling like my boob is permanently squeezed into a vice that I question how long I'll actually breast feed. Nearly all the babies I know have not made it this far - I myself was a formula baby from 2 months, Bree from 4. Yet I've made it past the half-way point... And maybe I can last out 5 more months. Though right now, the pump whirring away as I write this, that sounds like a lot of months to go...

photo by blmurch

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

No Poopy Puffy Otter

According to all the conversations I've had, certain things are inevitable once you become a parent. For one, you begin giving cutesy names to things. This would have caused bouts of nausea in you a mere year ago, but now you're embracing it and pushing ahead, full throttle. Note the name of this post as evidence thereof. Second, is the inescapable topic of baby poop. Apparently, the day-to-day workings of Otter's intestines have become the yardstick against which all other events are measured. And so, with a feeling of impotence tinged with shame, I bow before the unavoidable...

Assaulted by a plethora of new food sensations, Otter's digestive system has gone on strike. While her intestines were willing to play ball with rice cereal, carrots and peas, the introduction of bananas was more than they could handle, so they closed up shop, picked up the signs and are walking the picket line for the 4th day now.

It should be noted that the situation was not helped by a certain someone who gave Otter a double portion of both cereal and carrots (neither of which is poopy-friendly) when he used the wrong size bowl over the weekend, while I was at work. Not that I'm placing blame or naming names. Be that as it may, Otter may as well be wearing a "Not A Through Street" sign by her mouth.

Operation Poopy Otter is now in effect. All food groups have been replaced by prunes, which SB is lukewarm about, at best. Cereal is not diluted with the water the prunes were stewed in. Prune juice will be added to the repertoire starting tomorrow. Leg circles and stomach massages have also been incorporated, with little immediate effect.

Through all of this, Otter's remained surprisingly good-natured. She smiles away, seemingly oblivious to her own plight. Perhaps the blithe mood can be attributed to another inevitability: sooner or later, Otter will explode. And then the joke will be on us.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Food Update

Here's what the Otter's had so far...

Rice Cereal - after spitting it back at us for two days, she's accepted it, though she still prefers it with flavor "mix-ins."

Carrots - rocked Otter's world. She tries to grab the spoon out of our hands which invariably results in her hurting her gums and crying.

Peas - sadly, not carrots.

Bananas - the mouth end of the Otter was thrilled. The business end suffered, which leads us to...

Prunes - intriguing. And extra messy, which garners bonus points.


At various points, all parents must wonder how their offspring are going to grow up. A baby is, after all, just a stranger that gets plopped into your life. Most of us hope that once we do get to know the kid, we'll find that we have enough in common with them to make co-habitating for the next 18 (or, in today's recession-era climate, 25) years bearable at worst, enjoyable at best.

We can roll the dice on genetics or, barring that, keep our fingers crossed that nurture does trump (or at least even the playing field with) nature. But in truth, all you can do is hope and wait.

Occasionally though, one gets an advanced preview of what may be waiting down the road. Today we got ours. I was standing in the kitchen holding a glass of (ok, I admit it) bourbon in one hand and Otter in the other. Fascinated, she kept reaching out, running her fingers over the cold glass while trying to appropriate it for herself. At that point I got distracted by a conversation I was having with Bree and briefly stopped paying attention. The girl used the opportunity to pounce. I felt an unusual pressure on my glass hand, and turning to her, saw Otter's mouth firmly planted on the side of the tumbler, seeking out the contents. Yes, Otter wanted to get herself some of my Manhattan.

Welcome to the family, my dear.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Breastfeeding 101

Returning to work after having a baby has a unique set of challenges. Doing it while continuing to breastfeed adds a whole new level of difficulty.

First, there's the social awkwardness of approaching your various co-workers to find a place where you can pump, only to discover that while you work in an office that is 99% women, all the people with access to private, locking rooms seem to be male. Next, there is the indignity of pumping while sitting on the floor of the voice-over booth, all the while hoping you won't be interupted by people who are looking to record voice-overs. Of course there's the task of trying to inconspicuously disappear while carrying a giant black bag that contains a machine which, when plugged in, makes a buzzing noise loud enough to wake the dead. Finally, once you've given up on the previous pursuit, there's the inevitable Q&A session that ensues.

While shooting our latest show a few weeks back, I attempted to be discreet, informing people I was "going upstairs" when the need arose. By the end of the first day everyone knew that Natalya was upstairs, pumping! A litanly of questions arose. So for those of you interested, or out of earshot when this was all being loudly discussed, I'm here to educate.

1. What are you doing up there (upstairs)?
I am pumping.

2. What does it feel like?
Like attaching a vacuum cleaner to your nipple and turning it on and off really fast. While I've never actually done this myself, I'm fairly sure it's an accurate analogy.

3. How often do you do it?
Usually 2 times during the workday, and once at night. No matter how tired I am.

4. How do you know when you need to pump?
How do YOU know when you need to eat or drink? I can feel it.

5. How much do you pump out?
Depends on how long it's been between pumpings. Usually, between 4 and 6 ounces.

6. Have you ever tasted the milk?
I did, after being met with disbelief when I originally said no.

7. Has your husband?
No. "Mother's Milk" may sound hot to some, but after you've actually seen me going through the motions, you realize that pumping is about as sexy as darning socks.