One perfect day

6:50 am – Spud wakes up, having slept through from 8 pm the night before, despite being overtired and fractious and difficult to get down. It is Pea’s weekend morning to sleep in, so I get up, nurse a smiley Spud, and change him. We look at a photobook of people who love him (made last week and an instant hit), read a story, and Spud practices crawling. I make tea, and a piece of toast.

8 am – Spud yawns and rubs his face. Off to the nursery we go, where I nurse him and change him and pop him in his sleep sack. I leave, and he’s asleep in ten minutes.

8:20 am – I drink my still-warm tea, and finish a report for my main sampling site, who are overdue for an update. I dig through site maps and concentration-of-chemicals data to come up with a reasonable plan for field work in September. My brain functions, as it has gotten 6-8 hours in one piece nine nights of the past ten. It is glorious.

10 am – Spud stirs and coos. An epic nap after yesterday’s 40 min stints! We have a nurse-tussle*, which I lose. I wash both our faces and change Spud into a onesie. We play, and roughhouse, and then Skype my father and step-mother. They are in good spirits, and Spud very obligingly crawls for them, smiles, and tries very hard to eat the camera on my phone, to their delight. Spud nurses properly while we have an adult conversation, which is unheard of in these distract-a-boy nursing days. We hang up and Pea emerges from the bedroom.

11:40 – Spud starts looking sleepy, so I nurse him and Pea puts him down for a nap. I make French toast, with berries leftover from dessert the night before. After brunch, Pea and I take each other to bed, in our own bed, which hasn’t happened in months – we’ve had to be a bit creative about locations when the crib was in our room. We snuggle and chat, and then get dressed for the day.

1:50 pm – Spud wakes up after another 1hr 45 min nap. Just in time for a nurse and change, and our friends arrive at 2 pm for desserts and croquet, in that order. My friend has made banana-fig cookies that are dairy and soy free. They are awful. I am delighted by them. We play one game of croquet with my childhood rules (which is apparently called “golf croquet”) and two games using the official rules. As adults, the real rules are much more interesting. Spud charms our friends, rolls the length of the living room, plays in his outdoor playpen, and then goes down for a nap at 4 on the nose.

4:40 pm – Spud wakes up, our friends entertain him (and themselves) with the exersaucer for a bit, and then head home. We cook spears of chicken for Spud and corn on the cob for all three of us. Spud repeatedly puts gigantic amounts of chicken in his mouth, gums them aggressively, and then spits them out. He makes better progress with the corn, and seems to really enjoy it. We eat our corn to be sociable and so I don’t get hangry.

7:20 pm – I bathe and nurse Spud, sing lullabies, and put him down (I do bedtime because I’m not home during the day. We switched when we swapped who was home). Pea makes our dinner, a lentil hummus that is one of our favorites. Spud falls asleep for the fourth time with no protests, capping a banner day for sleep. We eat dinner while watching the first two episodes of Call the Midwife. We both like it but are worried we can’t handle sad baby stories at the moment. We’ll see.

10 pm – we clean up the kitchen from dinner, I sterilize my pump parts for the week.

10:45 pm – I blog instead of going to bed. Good night, all. I hope you had a lovely day filled with friends and fun and food and accomplishments and that this coming week is a fulfilling one**.

* Spud ate waaaaaay less than normal today, so I ended up using my hand pump three times to take the edge off (and protect my supply). One boob or the other was over-full for most of the day, which was not super comfortable. 

** I am a significantly better person for having gotten a modicum of sleep. Like whoa. 

On babies, at multiple stages

I have a coherent post I want to write, but my brain is all scattered so it’s not in the cards today. So here are some things that have happened with an absence of detailed commentary.

  • My infertility buddy from Hilly Quirky has found herself pregnant with #2. I say “found” because they were not trying, and were preventing, and they do want a second but this is the very worst possible timing both career-wise and financially. She is feeling all the feelings. I weighed in on some pregnancy test pics (“Hubby says there is no line, but I think I see one?” attached to a picture with the clearest possible positive. Absolutely no question. Denial is a force, my friends.). I offered her support, regardless of what she chooses. It is a matter of months, this pregnancy versus when they would have chosen to try, but they are critical months. It took them 1.5 years to conceive their daughter. This fertility business is a fickle one.
  • Another good friend from Hilly Quirky has ventured into IVF, and has used me as a resource while navigating the process. She transferred one genetically normal embryo. Her hcg at 9 dpt was 39, next test on Monday because she was going out of town for a few days. I told her not to google, and to try to stay in the waiting space. It is not really borderline, that is low. Reminiscently low. It brought up a lot of pretty awful spans of time in my life. Hard to know what to hope, aside from “not ectopic”, so I’ve settled on that as my plea to the universe. This fertility business is a fickle one.
  • We moved Spud to his own room on Saturday. He slept through the night Saturday night. Sunday, he nursed at 4:50 am and went back to sleep until 8 am. He did essentially the same thing Monday night. Last night, he went back to his usual 12 am, 3 am, 5 am wake ups, but he resettled himself at 5 am, so only had two feeds (and went to bed massively over tired after either skipping his third nap entirely or taking a 10 minute nap – we’re not sure. Plus no solids dinner because carrots were not a hit). So I don’t know if we are really out of the woods on sleep, but that is massively improved, and I feel like a new person.
  • I checked in with our daycare, and we are 25th on the wait list and the infant spots are full for September. So we will be looking at home care in our neighbourhood or a nanny, neither of which we really know how to navigate. Suggestions welcome for what to look for. Both of us are really sad about Spud going into care. I’m tempted to schedule out what it would look like if we time-shared care, get Pea to look into part-time work, which Golden Company allows and prefers to leave. It is nonsense to think we provide better care than a care-giver, but it is hard to think of him in someone else’s hands, even if they are more experienced. I am having a much much harder time with this than I expected, probably unsurprisingly. I was reading some daycare guidelines which encouraged sending a picture book of parents and family, and a lovey for comfort, and my heart cracked open.
  • Spud is trying really really hard to crawl and is making progress. Now he can get up on all fours, scootch his legs forward, and then flop forward face first. It’s not elegant, but it is forward motion of a sort. He can also lift each hand while on all fours, so it’s only a matter of (not much) time before he puts that all together. We need more baby gates, and soon.
  • Perhaps related to trying to crawl/learning to roll, or perhaps worrying, Spud’s also arching his back much much more often when held. It is new, and coincides with the crawling practice, so we’re currently chalking it up to demanding to be mobile. He still is happy to cuddle and nurse and snuggle with books, so he’s not against personal contact, he just wants to see the world from upside down when we’re walking? It may be a tired cue, we’re still figuring it out.
  • I ordered printed photos to put in Spud’s baby book and went a little mad and got lots to send to family, and now I have a photo of Pea and Spud on my wall at work, and another of just Spud. I hesitated before putting them up. I’m still navigating parenting and academia and how best to be a #scimom from a public perspective – that’s the post for another day.

abundance

A small snapshot in my day:

10:45 am – leave office to go to the bathroom. Run into Dean of Science in the hall, who welcomes me back.

10:50 am – Decide to pump. Usually I pump at noon, but Spud woke up early and it’s been three hours since nursing for one side. Set up pump using this handy trick for nearly-hands-free pumping*.

10:57 am – Stop pumping as both sides have stopped producing for 30 seconds or so. Pour the 7 oz of expressed milk into a larger bottle, and tuck it in my office fridge**. Rinse pump parts and bottles in the student office sink next door.

11:02 am – resume work***.

I can reliably pump between 7 and 10 ounces of milk in approximately five minutes. It is pretty amazing. I did buy the really good pump, which definitely helps, but every day I am quietly grateful to my body for being able to provide such an abundance of milk in such an efficient manner. I generally pump twice at work, and bring home ~15 oz each day. Two of my close mom friends have weaned at or just after six months because their supply dried up, so I’m aware this aspect could be much more challenging than it is.

* At 4 am last night I bought a hands-free pumping bra from Amazon, because it isn’t quite hands free with the hair tie hack, and I want more efficiency and I’m worried I’ll spill a bottle at some point.

** Fridge provided free of charge to pumping mothers on my campus, which is a really nice touch. Before it was delivered I was storing my breastmilk in the student office lunch fridge, which no one complained about but which weirded all of us out a bit.

*** Or blogging. TomatOE tomAHto.

Also not surprising

Week one of Pea’s paternity leave is done, and it comes as no surprise to me that he is rocking this gig.

Spud figured out the sippy cup, and has been matching in consumption what I’ve been bringing home. Someone commented on my earlier sad post about pumping and feeding and failing that Spud would be a different baby in a few weeks, and lo! He is indeed a different baby. One who chugs breast milk from sippy cups. Now the main challenge in feeding him is that he wants to hold the cup, but does not understand angles and supply yet.

Spud and Pea had their first bigger outing together, coming to my work for a baby shower my colleagues threw. Pea was nervous about timings, but it all went smoothly and Spud handled shortened naps and an avalanche of admirers with aplomb. They are set to be grand adventurers from now on in.

I reeeeeaaaaallllly struggled in the early weeks of my mat leave. And the middle weeks. And let’s face it, the later weeks as well. I had a hard time balancing work and home, and, when ignoring work, railed against the feeling of being a home-maker. So I’ve been checking in on Pea with empathy and love, daily, to see how he’s doing with this transition. A key difference between us is that we are at exact opposite ends of the extrovert/introvert continuum, and one thing I found hard that Pea instead enjoys is the absence of daily chatter with multiple people.

Today Pea made bread and our breakfast granola. He swept and picked mulberries and dumped the dishwasher. He’s picked out some new placemats because we only have four. Spud took an epic nap, and Pea was disconcerted because it meant he couldn’t predict bedtime from the spreadsheet he’s built to track Spud’s awake periods and naps*. When I checked in with him about how he was feeling, his main worry was “what if I decide I like this more than my work?”, to which I not-so-fliply replied “nannies are expensive”. Meaning if we didn’t need one, we’d make it work. We could, I think.

Before we had a kid, early in our life cohabiting, Pea had said he’d like to be a house husband once I won my Nobel**. May I say, after one week, that having a house husband is flipping amazing? It is the best.

All this to say I am so grateful for Pea taking this time, and so very pleased he’s enjoying it. It remains early days, and Spud only threw one really frustrating day at Pea (and ta da! TWO teeth!), but so far so good and I’m happier and less anxious than I’ve been in ages***.

* absolutely nothing in that sentence surprises me and I love every bit of it

** a steadfast belief, nay, expectation of Pea’s, despite there being no category for my work within those illustrious prizes.

*** edited to add some of this delirium of goodwill stems from Spud sleeping 11-5:30 last night, the first time I’ve had more than 3 hours in a stretch in a month.

Assumptions

“It must be bittersweet.”

“How are you holding up?”

“You poor dear.”

Seventeen of these. SEVENTEEN.

It was my first day back at work today. I got four “Welcome back!”s, and seventeen comments assuming I was in some way suffering, sad, or regretting my return to work.

Folks, I am ecstatic to be back at work. My situation is such that I could absolutely have taken a full year off – job security, financial security, general demands of life – I could absolutely have done it. I did not want to. I (and this bit is critical) chose not to.

It turns out my pre-parent self knew my parent self well enough to predict that even though I am a mom now, I am still happiest when I am able to be scientist too.

I love Spud to bits. He is the cutest, most fascinating, glorious little butterball of a baby there ever was. He makes my heart full, and my soul glow. He has a tooth and is trying his darndest to crawl – whole new ball games abound.

I am delighted that Pea has this chance to get to know him as well as I do. Today was a banner day for Spud and food (15.5 oz in 8 hours! Nary a spill from the sippy cup! Pea had to go into the freezer stash to satiate our child!). It was a brutal day for naps (two 40 min ones, with the second under protest and the third rejected outright. Spud is teething, and possibly also growing, and Pea didn’t know to use the  sleep sack). Still, all in all a good day!

I found it increasingly unsettling that my conversations at work always started with an assumption that I did not want to be there, gained friction when I asserted that I was very pleased to be back, and had a relaxation of tension when I mentioned Pea was home for the next while. “Oh, that’s nice, that must ease your mind.” “Oh, that’s all right then.”

Is it? Is it all right, this choice I have made about MY life and MY family and MY child? I’m so very pleased you approve, and made it so clear that you wouldn’t have if I had brazenly stuffed my child in the nearest daycare. Where, you know, the staff have actual experience and training with babies and have age appropriate toys, and are not just blindly winging it the way Pea and I generally are. I’m so glad you approve.

I’m a bit steamed. But I also had a really great day at work, and Pea and Spud had fun when Spud wasn’t refusing to nap, and Pea sent me my new favourite photo of both of the gorgeous men in my life (going for a walk. Pea looks delighted. Spud is making the most amazing “whaddafuk is going on and whodafuk is you?!” face). So never mind those commenters, today was a great day.

Not unexpected

Spud turned six months old yesterday, amidst red and white celebrations for our nation.

Pea and I have been so excited to feed Spud solids, but as he’s not shown excess signs of readiness, we’d held off til he was fully six months old and we had the ok from his doctor. Spud can sit unassisted, though briefly, and he’s definitely interested in food, and spoons, and bowls. Only in the past week did he start baby birding when I was eating near him. We figured he was ready, but were prepared to wait a while longer if he still had the tongue thrust reflex or wasn’t interested.

Spud, uninterested in food. Ha. He ate the entire serving of baby oatmeal, with one bug-eyed look of surprise at the first bite and a growing enthusiasm with each subsequent one. He looked worried each time the spoon was retrieved and returned to the bowl: “there’s more in there, right? Right?”. He cried when it was done. He did not spit out any, concentrating fully on maximizing food ingested. His hands needed a wipe at the end, but his face was almost pristine.

We could have fed him more, but his gut will need time to adjust and his gut has issues on good days. He slept normally last night – down at 7:30, up at 11, 3:30, and 6 for the day, which is a bit early for him. I’d love for solids to allow dropping one of those feeds, as I remain very very tired.

We’re planning a mix of baby led weaning and purées, and will introduce foods spaced out a bit to see how his gut reacts. Current research says to introduce allergens early and often, so peanut butter will be second or third on the list of foods, with eggs and shellfish and strawberries coming up in the next few weeks. 

Food is fun! Also, food is work! It is a little bittersweet to no longer be the sole source of nourishment in Spud’s life, but I’ve taken him from 8.5 lbs to 20.5, and at this point I’m glad to call in some reinforcements.

The week that was

Things I have done this week:

  • Co-chaired a 450 person conference over four full days of scientific programming
  • Pumped 2-3x a day, during coffee breaks and lunches
  • Popped home once a day, to give Spud a full feed at least once, as he insists on subsistence feeding, and to spell my mother in law who was finding grandmothering to be rather a lot of work (but loving it, bless her)
  • Generated a 30 oz freezer stash because of the pumping and the subsistence feeding
  • Held Spud from 4-7 am three of the four nights of the conference because he had a cold and possibly dairy contamination and was a miserable sniffling wreck

Things I have not done this week:

  • Tweeted or otherwise promoted my student’s poster, the first time someone from my lab presented research from my lab. I did send some bigwigs over to see it, which she was thrilled by
  • Attended more than 50% of any given day’s scientific programming. That we co-chairs got to see any of it is actually a huge testament to how well organized the conference actually was
  • Attended any of the evening events, leaving all of them to my co-chair (who has two kids of his own), aside from the final banquet where I left early and he had to kick all the drunk dancing scientists out at midnight
  • Slept more than three hours in a consecutive chunk

The week is done. I leave tomorrow for Capital City, a flying visit with my dad before I go back to work. I have so far today dropped my mother in law at the train station, made granola, a sweet potato and red lentil curry with rice, and banana bread*, done five loads of laundry, and huffed the sweet baby smell off Spud’s head like a relapsing addict.

I missed him. I also revelled in my freedom and resented the daily return to the house mid-day. It was really really weird being immersed in science all day, but that was partly because most of the science was happening off-center to my focus, which was on the logistics of the meeting.

I have nine more days of maternity leave after today. Four are allocated to this trip to Capital City. One has a doctor’s appointment and vaccinations for Spud. Three are a long weekend with Pea. The Friday of next week is mine alone, and I’m going to check out from work and social media and everything else and just have a day with my baby.

* all food for the trip, because I can’t eat unless I bring my own, which is getting very tiresome.