Not a good time for tragic plots

No, I did not watch the game last night. Who cares about baseball anyway? Considering that women are being forced to have abortions in China, new brides in India are being murdered by their in-laws for the dowry money, and J-Lo is finally, finally, pregnant, can we really even bother to call ourselves decent Christians if we get all wrapped up in such petty things as sports?

Besides, I hate crying. It gives me a headache.

Instead, the kids and I watched Bridge to Terebithia. I loved this book when I was a kid. Unfortunately, that was about 25 years ago, and my memory is a bit sketchy. So, we’re all happily munching popcorn and enjoying how these two adolescents engage their imaginations to create a fantasy world, and then, the next thing you know, Leslie is dead.

My husband, working on the computer across the way, has a very sensitive wife-has-lost-it-emotionally warning system (or perhaps he just could hear my sniffles and sobs), and he came over to see if I was okay. He’s not watching the movie; he has no idea that this girl has died. For all he knows, it’s just more post-partum weepiness which has me crying, at times, over completely insignificant things. But he knows, without duly expressed concern and compassion, he runs the risk of a snowball effect wherein I cry also because nobody cares, and then I cry more because I’m crying over something stupid, and how could I expect anybody to understand that…it can get quite ugly around here for these (thankfully) brief episodes.

“Blast it. I forgot the girl dies. I’ll be fine,” I managed to croak out, wiping away my tears, and regretting we didn’t just watch baseball instead. He expressed his concern, patted me on the head, and then went back to work.

Then Jenny started asking me, “Where did Wesley go?”

Leslie died, honey.”

“But where did Wesley go?”

“Heaven, honey, she’s dead.”

This kept up for a few minutes until she said, “Is she in the graveyard?”

“Yes, she’s in the graveyard.” This satisfied her, and finally, the topic could rest in peace.

After the movie, Fritz offered his opinion. “Why did they have her die? This is a kids’ movie. People aren’t supposed to die in kids’ movies.”

I nodded empathetically. “I agree. I think her death was completely superfluous.” Everybody just stared at me. Instead of asking for a definition of superfluous, they all just pretended I didn’t say anything at all. My words of comfort were wasted.

Off went the kids to bed, and then Bill had someone come over to work on a report, so I retreated to my TV-free bedroom. It was only later, as I was feeding the baby at her usual 11 pm oh-I’m-sorry-you-weren’t-trying-to-sleep-or-anything awake time, that I remembered to check the score.

It’s okay. It’s time to move on. Baseball in October is obscene. Instead of watching the World Series, maybe I’ll get some more kid-and-mom friendly movies.

Like Old Yeller.

I am not the enemy. I am the parent.

Denise says it all so well:

It is now taken for granted that the school will teach about sex, the doctors will decide what immunizations are given, and the parish religious education office will teach children the faith. Too many parents are just passive observers. They just blindly chauffer their children from one indoctrination activity to another. And when a parent tries to wrest control from one of these institutions they are labeled as a trouble-maker, a fanatic, or an unfit parent.

Update on Mary

Thank you to everyone for their advice, sympathy, and virtual hugs. I know it’s going to be fine; I’ve done this before. But it’s hard, and it’s frustrating…and I’d much rather have an easy life.

The pediatrician wants her patient to gain weight. I understand that she isn’t going to care much about how that is accomplished. Even if I did exclusively bottle feed formula for a week (I’m not!), it doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed my child eventually. It would just be even harder. And I’m all about making my life easier.

Mary gained 3 ounces between 1 pm on Wednesday and 11 am on Thursday. I recorded giving her a total of 6 ounces of bottled nutrition – only 1 3/4 ounces was formula. Nobody is suggesting that the pump is measuring my production – I just preferred to give her breast milk and was attempting to keep my own supply stimulated.

But there is no way that I will be able to continue to pump much – not long term. I need to be present for my other five children, and it is very difficult to pour juice and tie shoe laces while pumping. Plus, the pumps (I have an old, but reliable, Medela pump that I used when I returned to work after Fritz was born…plus a brand new Medela pump the midwife loaned me) are only yielding about a half ounce for thirty minutes of pumping. That’s too much time for too little result.

I prefer to stimulate the milk production naturally, and the midwife gave me a nipple shield. I need a bigger size, but am managing to use it, and it does work. It’s very annoying that my daughter seemed to prefer the rubbery taste. I also managed to have her latch on without it, but only after the other kids went to bed and it was very calm in the house. And it wasn’t for a long time.

I also have some breast shells, and we’ll see if that makes a difference.

I’m guzzling Mother’s Tea. It contains fenugreek.

I’ve been in touch with a lactation consultant. I have her number if I need any more help.

I have an appointment this afternoon and Monday afternoon to weigh the baby. A normal, healthy weight gain is one ounce per day. As long as Mary is gaining weight, it doesn’t matter how the nutrition is delivered to her little body. Right now, my plan is to nurse the baby as often as possible (au natural or using the nipple shield if necessary), and supplement with formula up to about 6 ounces in 24 hours.

I’ve switched to using a syringe to give her the formula. This is a tedious, messy procedure, but delivers nutrition and avoids nipple confusion by denying her the pleasure of sucking. I did use a bottle around 1 am, because I wanted to get some sleep, but during the day time, I don’t intend to use it. We’ll see how it goes. The proof is in the weight gain.

We’ll get through this. And it probably won’t be very long until it is all resolved – maybe a week or two. I remember looking back at some dated items when I was suffering through this with Jenny, and I realized that the whole ordeal was about three weeks in duration. I was shocked. It really felt like it had taken months.

It’s kind of like when I ran the Army Ten Miler. The finish line is around a bend. I ran with Bill, who had run the race the year before. He kept telling me, that last agonizing mile, that we were almost done. I couldn’t see the end, though, and despaired at how far I had to go. If I run that race next year, as I intend, I will know where the finish line is. I won’t need to see it.

I can’t see the end of this situation, but I know it is not too far up ahead.

Frustration and misery

Generally, I expect the silver lining of experience, especially painfully-earned experience, to be the ability to avoid the same situation in the future. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and I find myself going through the same thing again. All experience gets me is a calm reassuring pat, and the knowledge that this too shall pass.

Last evening found me sobbing in a black pit of misery. I am still miserable – woefully so – but I have the advantage of a fresh morning and some good hours of sleep to bolster me. Experience tells me that I will be feeling every depth of despair this evening after yet another difficult day.

I really can not believe that once again I find myself, as I did over four years ago, pumping milk, using bottles, and praying a novena to Our Lady of La Leche for her intercession with my starving child. The baby has lost entirely too much weight in her week and a half of life. Even supposing an inaccuracy in the midwife’s scale used at her birth, it is still too much. I have to take her to the doctor’s again this morning to reweigh her and see if she’s gained anything in 24 hours.

When this happened with Jenny, it was assumed that the stress of Bill’s deployment affected my milk supply. Although I’m sure it was a major contributing factor, I think more so it was her difficulty in latching on strongly. Pete seemed to have some trouble too and was diagnosed with a tied tongue (I’m not too sure that this is true, since he has no speech problems and seems to be able to stick his tongue out now), and I had to take him twice to be weighed to prove that he was thriving. He didn’t lose that much weight all told.

Mary, like Jenny, has had difficulty in achieving a firm latch. We’ve been banging our heads in frustration since her birth, and she has spent most of her days and nights either struggling to latch on or nursing. Much to both our exhaustion, she has rarely been out of my arms and, if so, has usually been crying. Being hungry constantly will do that to you.

Despite her extreme weight loss, it’s not been as bad as it was with Jenny. Jenny experienced dehydration and lethargy. It was a scary time. Mary’s constant nursing managed to bring in my milk supply, and she was producing wet diapers. We were making painful progress. With Jenny, I was scared into supplementing with a lot of formula. I then had to wean her off bottles (she had nipple confusion) and gradually increase my milk supply by pumping. With Mary, the doctor wanted to record how much she was getting, so I have had to pump, and, if the pump failed to produce enough (and sadly, this seems to be the case), supplement with formula.

I’m worried about my milk supply. I’m worried about nipple confusion. I’m worried about my child’s health.

And after she drinks one ounce of expressed milk and then sits alert and content in someone else’s arms or falls into a good, deep sleep for two hours, I remember that it’s not normal for even a newborn to cry all the time. I feel guilty and frustrated for failing to take care of my child properly, for failing to be a good mother.

It’s a dark pit.

Experience soothes me. With Jenny, one week I was crying because she would sleep for two or three hours, satiated on formula, and the next week I was crying that she was up every hour to nurse. It’s a black pit, but, not only do I know there is an exit, I know the way out.

Our Lady of La Leche, pray for me.

Mary’s Birth

I promise not to make this account a graphic one to protect the sensibilities of the handful of readers who might object to too much information. Perhaps another time I’ll record some of the grittier information with ample warning. I don’t know why, but we women just seem to love those details. Also, I know this post is long, and don’t blame you if you skim through it. I’ll try to highlight the most amusing sections so the racing eye doesn’t miss the best parts!

The last conversation Bill and I had on Sunday night had him remarking that this pregnancy seemed to be ending worse than any of the others. While I did agree that I was very uncomfortable, I didn’t think that it was any worse than any of the other times. I just think we forget those things. At least I try to forget them. That night, I told myself and Bill that it was almost over – a week more or less. I just didn’t realize how much less.

As per usual, I woke up around 230 am needing to go to the bathroom. I happened to have a pretty strong Braxton-Hicks contraction at that time. There was nothing particularly unusual about this, but the contraction did seem stronger than most. An hour later, the scenario was repeated, and I paused to consider my “birth plan” wherein my water breaks in the early morning hours while using the toilet. Alas, this was not to be the case.

My morning progressed much like most mornings, even though it was a federal holiday and both Bill’s school and the public schools were closed. Bill left, hoping to get an upcoming assignment finished, and I did an abbreviated school day with my crew, knowing that the neighborhood would be jumping by lunchtime and getting anything done after noon was a lost cause.

Bill actually came home in short order; his classroom was locked. It was just as well. I continued having pretty strong, but irregular in frequency and duration, contractions throughout the whole morning and into the afternoon. For me, this was classic pre/early labor. With my first labor, I suffered like this for two full days before I had my son. With the others, it was shorter, but not “short” – a night and a day, perhaps. So, I knew the baby was coming, I just couldn’t be sure exactly when. I thought I was in for a long night and guessed the baby would come the next day in the early morning hours.

I tasked Bill with monitoring the kids, and I did my best to rest. I napped. I took a bath. Thank goodness I had put ribs in the crockpot first thing in the morning, and I had dough for rolls waiting in the fridge. I really took it easy.

Fritz had an orthodontist appointment that afternoon at 4 pm. Bill was loitering in the front, watching Pete on his tricycle and waiting for Fritz to get ready. Our next door neighbors were out, and Bill told them I was in early labor. I came out, and there was some discussion about which neighbors were likely to be available to watch the kids and when. I was still thinking that everything was going to be happening later – in the middle of the night or the next day.

When Bill and Fritz came home, we had dinner, but I was really getting uncomfortable. We tried to time the contractions, but they were sometimes 8 minutes apart, sometimes 5. Sometimes they lasted for a minute and a half, but sometimes only for 40 seconds. And although my back was beginning to get a little achy, it wasn’t my usual back labor, so I felt that it was still very early in labor. I left dinner before anyone else was done to take a bath, but I asked Bill to see about setting up the labor pool the midwife had brought over the week before. I knew that being able to fully immerse my body in hot water would really help. He asked me where I preferred the pool, and I said in our bedroom, if the hoses would reach. They had to go from the hookup at the washing machine in the basement up to the second floor.

He got to work running two hoses up the staircases and setting up the inflatable pool. By this point it was around 630 pm, I was out of my bathtub, and we decided to get the kids washed up and in PJs despite the early hour. I really, really thought that perhaps I would just labor in the pool for a while and do my best to relax. I would be fine, even if I were alone, until the kids’ 8 pm bedtime. Around 7 pm, we said bedtime prayers, and I suggested the kids watch a movie to keep them occupied until bedtime. This was a popular idea. Bill called the midwife and asked her to come over – maybe in about an hour. She said she’d be there in a half hour. I suggested to Bill that we ask our neighbor’s daughter (almost 12 years old) to sit with the kids until the movie was over.

But FIRST, I wanted that pool filled. He went to the basement to turn the water on, and I went to the bedroom to hold the handle on the nozzle. The water started pouring in, and after a minute was nice and hot. But the pressure at the nozzle was too great for the old hose and suddenly a hole burst about 18 inches from the end. Water went everywhere in the bedroom in the few seconds it took me to crimp the hose and gain control of the spray. Bill, unaware of situation, was coming up the stairs. I called to him and he entered the disaster scene briefly before learning that I needed the water turned off. When he returned, he stood there in eye-blinking shock while I laughed so hard I could barely stand up. It was another minute before he understood that the hose had a hole. He actually assumed his blond-at-birth wife had lost control of the hose and allowed the water to spray at will. Nice, huh?

He got towels, and we began mopping up the floors, the antique desk, the laptop, the schoolbooks and the walls while water dripped on us from the ceiling. The various artwork in the area was left to dry on its own, and miraculously, The Whiskey Rebellion, which is nicely framed but, being a canvas print, is not behind glass, seemed to have been spared a drenching. Patton seems to be none the worse for his bath.

Just then the phone rang, and it was our neighbors across the way offering to take our kids in. God is so good, and our neighbors are such a blessing. Bill went to escort the children across the road, with movie in hand, and along the way let the midwife into the house. Momentarily distracted by The Great Flood, my contractions weren’t too bad, but now that the crisis had passed, I was really starting to feel them again and this time they were definitely in my back. My midwife had brought over a TENS unit, and when she came up to my room, I was in the middle of trying to figure out how to attach it. She helped me with that, and then we decided to see how far I had to go: I was 7 cm. The baby was still a little high, but I couldn’t believe I was that far along and only beginning to have significant back pain.

And then…things stalled. An hour later, I was in the pool, relaxed most of the time, and having only moderately strong contractions. The midwife checked, and I was still at 7 cm. I wasn’t surprised, but I was disappointed nonetheless. The midwife suggested breaking my water, and although I am normally reluctant to do that, it was approaching 9 pm and I didn’t want to be doing this all night. It took about 10 or 15 minutes for the contractions to begin to pick up. It was back labor, but between the hot water and pressure applied by Bill and the midwife, it wasn’t too bad, and I was able to relax between contractions.

I was almost, but not quite fully dilated, and I seemed to stall again. I ended up getting out of the pool and trying a few different positions for what seemed like forever before I got to the pushing stage. And that stage, too, seemed to take a long time – it was certainly longer and more painful than with any of my other children. The midwife said she was a little sideways, and when I found out her weight – 8 pounds 12 ounces – I realized that her size probably contributed to my difficulty as well.

But all is well that ends well. Like my two other daughters born with no drugs to numb the pain, I was not at all interested in holding the child responsible for such agony. But everybody always insists that you do it, and it’s good, because my pain begins to recede immediately as my motherly love kicks in.

She was born a little after 10 pm, so those last phases really didn’t take as much time as they seemed to while I lived through them. Bill retrieved the sleeping children from another neighbor’s house (they were moved next door at bedtime), and the midwife cleaned up and did paperwork.

It was after midnight before she was ready to leave. Her final instructions to Bill included how to administer drugs in the unlikely event I were bleeding to death and what paperwork he would need to bring with him to the emergency room just in case. My poor husband! Exhausted, but terrified of the possibility of waking up to a dead wife (and having to care for 6 kids all by himself!), he vowed to not sleep at all that night. I’m quite certain he was kicking himself for not having installed that baby car seat yet in the van, and what if she needed emergency treatment? Fortunately, I felt well, and suggested that he set his watch alarm to go off every hour, and he could make sure I was still alive. Of course, we all made it through just fine.

And that is Mary’s birth story. I hope to do a post on home birth, and also on things I did differently this pregnancy, and if I think they helped at all. But those will wait for another time. This post took three or four days to write – life with a newborn. We’re getting through these dizzy days one at a time.

Go, Tribe!

How in the world could anybody sleep through the bottom half of this fifth inning?

Be the mother of a one week old baby, that’s how. I would rouse myself briefly whenever my husband would exclaim loudly at a play, glance at the score, and then head back off to LaLa Land. At the top of the 6th, I went to bed.

When Bill came up later, I asked him, “They did win, right?” You never know with those Indians.


You know, it’s tough to blog with a baby in your arms.

I tried to get a good photo of Mary. All babies look better with their eyes open – it adds personality. But the flash made her blink. And turning the flash off required both her and me to be very still or else the photo would blur.

So, no good photo of Mary. Instead, one non-blurry, eyes closed photo…

pictures 003

…and one blurry, eyes open photo.

Trust me, she’s beautiful. She’s also my first daughter to have blue eyes at birth. Contrary to popular myth (“All babies are born with blue eyes”), my other daughters were born with murky, dark eyes. Jenny was two years old before we declared her eyes green. I don’t know if Mary will keep her blue eyes, but that they at least started out blue is nice.
Brown and green eyes are nice too. Especially when surrounded by a lovely, smiling face.

But I confess partiality to blue eyes like these (like mine).

Perhaps I’ve been reading too much Jane Austin?

I’m about two-thirds of the way through Mansfield Park, and my mind is currently operating in a world where certain civilities are required and the dos and don’ts of society are well spelled out. Things that would seem so minor or inconsequential today would be considered gross offenses back then.

And so, it is possible that my judgment is clouded, and I’m too sensitive regarding trivial matters.


God blessed us with pouring rain and thunder storms today. Bill and the older boys should have spent the whole day doing this big outdoor Scouting extravaganza: archery, crafts, other stuff like that. Everything was canceled, and the boys were terribly disappointed. But Bill, behind on schoolwork, and I, eager to have his help with just getting through the day, were grateful for a chance to sit and read without the doorbell ringing and the constant traffic of children in and out of the house.

After lunch, Fritz wanted to go over to a friend’s house. We like this family a lot, and their three children play with our kids quite a bit. We phoned over and gained permission for him to go there for a while. About ten or fifteen minutes later, the phone rang and Caller ID told me it was their house. Now, they had taken advantage of the Columbus Day holiday and gone on vacation for a week. They had only returned late on Thursday, and naturally missed the initial buzz surrounding the baby’s birth on Monday. I was actually expecting the wife/mom to be calling with the usual questions one would have when one finds out that a pregnant neighbor is now a new (again) mother.

Silly me.

It was actually the 9 year old daughter, who frequently escapes the masculine din of her brothers’ games by playing dolls and house with my daughters, asking if she could come over here to play. With a gentleness that belied my irritation, I explained that because I had just had a baby, a baby she had met while inconveniently playing in my yard the afternoon before, I was not yet ready to host people inside my home. I did suggest she ask her mother if my daughters could play over there.

She never called back.

I’m trying hard to assume that her mom was unaware of the phone call. Perhaps, even, the girl didn’t mention to her mother that I had suggested that my girls go over there. Maybe, possibly, the girl had acted behind her mother’s back and after her mother clearly told her no she could not come here.

But since two other neighbors didn’t seem to think it was a big deal that their children play in my yard yesterday afternoon, something that required me to sit outside in the chill with my not yet 4 day old baby to make sure that my 2 year old did not escape the yard (by older children leaving the gate unlocked) and wander throughout the general vicinity, I highly suspect that my own expectations regarding polite behavior in these circumstances is a bit more strict.

I guess it’s just the Jane Austin in me.

Some things never change

Fritz and Jenny in 2003.
Fritz and Pete in 2005.

Fritz and Mary in 2007.

Daily blogging to resume, Eric, after daily showering resumes. We’re working on it.

Better pictures, (some) gory details will be forth coming. For now, suffice it to say that birthing a baby closer to 9 pounds than 8 is quite painful.