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.

bless her

Bless my friend, mom of two and imminently practical, who said “just feed him the boob today”. For giving me permission out. Out of a day where Spud sipped and spat his full feed. Where he cried at everything (oh, leap. goodness me). Where I was going to be late to pump and late to put him for a nap and he was starving because he didn’t swallow any of the milk I’d offered. When it was just too much work.

As she said, Spud will always associate me with the boobs. I won’t be the one feeding him from a sippy cup or bottle or (damn it) syringe (if it comes to it). I won’t be pumping when I’m also trying to care for him, around his schedule.

It has been a lot of work. Monday he drank 2 oz and refused the cup violently for the rest of the day, which was worse than the full week before. Tuesday he drank 8 oz in 6 hours, for the ~11 I pumped. Wednesday he drank five ounces in five hours, for the ~8 I pumped. A steady deficit, despite eating technically enough. Today he spat out 4 oz over three attempts, and I caved. Fed one side, drove home*, and pumped the other to get 1 lousy ounce. A steady decline in output too, for reasons unknown.

EEF moms are frigging superheroes, my goodness. All the work, none of the benefits of either method of feeding.

* drove home from swimming!! Met my friend, and we took our three boys swimming, Spud’s first time in a pool. He frigging loved it, kicking away in this hilarious rhythmic stroke. Best moment of the week so far, by far.

fiscal responsibility

I am almost done my mat leave. I am 18 months into living in New City. I am 35 years old. I am taking stock.

I have some savings, but they are only, when all pooled together, enough to buy a non-luxury car. Which is not much when one considers I’m pretty deep into my working years, but, if being fair, is pretty good considering I spent a full eleven years in post-secondary education and have no debt to show for it.

I have watched my mother pick up the shambles of her finances following the passing of my step-father, who, it turned out, was merrily driving them into ruin. I am currently watching my father and step-mother navigate an extremely rocky path forward that appears to be driven more by financial dependency/greed than affection.

I do not want my retirement plan to be “Pea’s got us covered”, because that leaves me deeply vulnerable. I have made a good salary for 18 months now, where before it was, if not hand-to-mouth exactly, certainly not plush enough for any significant retirement planning.

I have spent the last 18 months buying a house (equity!), and, frankly, throwing a lot of money at a lot of problems. I have had both more money and more problems than usual. I have not had the bandwidth to do more than solve problems however problems needed to be solved. Airplane tickets. Hotel rooms. Trains, so many trains. I do not have much in the way of savings to show for a year and a half of salary, and I can directly attribute that to the year that it was.

I have not been able to account for my money for the past 18 months, and that is so far out of character that it makes me blink, twice, hard. I spent some desperately-needed-elsewhere time today making up a spreadsheet to track my finances moving forward. I set up some direct transfers to a retirement account, so some saving happens without me thinking about it.

We are going to have to add childcare into the mix come September, and I want to know where I stand before we negotiate how to split that cost. Pea’s tax return this year was the size of a salaried care-giver (the joy of doubled tax on foreign investments once he moved to Canuckia; at least he got most of it back), so I know we can afford it. I want to know what I can afford.

And I want to be sure that I’ll be ok no matter what life throws at me down the road.