Pain Management

I've been trying to think, lately (when I'm not busy slamming my fist onto the kitchen counter so hard it makes my arm tingle), about how I handle the stress of taking care of these two cuties, and how I could handle it better, i.e. without becoming so ridiculously impatient and angry so much of the time. Let me talk about this in a completely roundabout way:

After I posted Iris's birth story, Meika asked:

Was there a particular pain-control method you used? Did you do anything different than you had the first time around?

Before Ingrid was born, A and I attended Bradley Method classes, which I ended up feeling lukewarm about. The teacher was a pretty dogmatic Bradley Method believer. The right and proper way to get through a contraction was to lie on your side with your arms and legs in a specific position, relax completely, close your eyes, and stay quiet. Most of that (um, minus the "quiet" part) ended up being useful to me, but during the class it bothered me that it was presented as the only way.

The most useful part of the Bradley class, even on top of the inordinate amount of reading I did about birth, was the information about what to expect during labor and how to respond to various interventions that might be offered in the hospital. We got an earful about the untrustworthy medical profession, which I didn't exactly appreciate, but we also got a really good schooling about how x is likely to lead to y and z, so if you don't want z don't do x if you can help it. That, along with a terrific doula and a large amount of luck, is what I credit for my being able to pull off two drug-free hospital births.

What I ended up doing both times was a kind of modified Bradley pain control: as relaxed as possible, but also making a lot of noise.

I also loved the Birthing from Within book, which gives the advice: "Be curious." I tried to pay attention to the pain rather than attempt to block it out; notice where it was, how it felt, how it was changing. As labor wore on, this became more difficult impossible. But for much of labor it was a good technique for me because it matched my motivation for wanting to go drug-free in the first place: I wanted to know what it felt like to give birth.

Shortly before Ingrid was born, we watched the movie Touching the Void, and this was probably the most unusual part of my pain management plan. The film (and the book, which is awkwardly written but with such a devastating scene of manly sweetness at the end it's worth picking up) is about Joe Simpson, a mountain climber who made a three-day, five-mile trek out of a crevasse and across a glacier after being left for dead with a broken leg, no food, and practically no water. I know people do the impossible all the time in this world (i.e. give birth to babies and raise them to be well-adjusted adults), but this was such an extraordinary example of what can be endured if you're just willing to do it one step at a time, I asked A to remind me about it during labor, and he did, both times. Remember Joe Simpson, he'd breathe into my ear in the midst of a horrible contraction.

Answering Meika's question, I started to think that my daily "pain" (and maybe that shouldn't even be in quotes) is not so very different from the pain of labor. It's a natural part of having children. I deal with it, mostly, by the book (because, hey, books! I love them. Rules. I follow them), but with an unauthorized amount of noise (just ask A). And I would be well-advised to be more curious, to float above it more, and to remember Joe Simpson and take it one little delirious broken-legged step at a time.



With two days of day care under our belts, I think I am safe to say things are fine. Even good. Even really good.

We were braced for a tough, tough transition for Ingrid and some disequilibrium may still be ahead, but so far it is absolutely, eerily 180 degrees different from the first week she was at Chaotic Bilingual Day Care. We have done a bit more preparation for it this time. (The teacher came to play with her at our house. Twice. And made her a book about what her day would be like there. Are these people completely on top of things or what?) And, who knows, maybe being three months further into life with little sister made the transition somewhat easier. But mostly I feel ultra-vindicated about the decision to take her out of CBDC, and super lucky to have found this place.

She came home from her first day as cheery and resilient and happy-seeming as I've seen her any time in the past several months, if a little wired. She volunteered all kinds of details about her day. She went to bed (and down for naps and bed every day following) just fine and slept all night. (First week at CBDC? She woke up screaming six times a night.)

She seems to have learned the phrase, I'm doing my best, and she uses it frequently, in a positive, chirpy little voice.

It sounds like there were sad moments in the day, and we've talked a lot about how it makes sense to feel sad and lonely there sometimes, because it's a big thing to be someplace new all day without Mama, but that she can feel proud of herself for doing something so big, too, and excited about all the new friends and things to do.

The place is just great and I'll have to write more later about what's terrific about it. But let me just compare the art projects she brought home. First day at CBDC: paper with outline of flowers pre-printed on it, colored in with green and blue water colors. Crunchier Than Thou Home Day Care: birthday hat made of rectangular construction paper rolled up and secured with clumsily torn masking tape. Guess which one inspired more hilarious stuffed animal birthday parties?

Iris's situation is a bit more complicated: She is at CBDC in the baby room. It is hard to be unreservedly thrilled with a place where Ingrid had such a rough time, and if we'd found an acceptable alternative before I started work I think we'd have taken it. But we didn't, despite lots and lots of looking, and I honestly think this is going to be fine. A big day care center with 12 babies and three or four caregivers is not my top choice for any baby, but then neither is a home day care with one caregiver and ten giant pre-schoolers trying to poke her eyes out. And she is an adaptable one and interested in activity rather than put off by it, and for two days a week I think this is going to work. Plus, maybe she'll become the first in her family to learn to roll her Rs.

She slept well, apparently, and drank decently from a bottle, which I was afraid she wouldn't do.

And me? Eight hours in the office was like medicine. Wow. Eight hours of thinking whole thoughts straight through and not being touched by anyone. By the end of the day I missed my girls, and I relished the feeling of missing them, of going to pick them up and genuinely being glad to be with them again.

They both came home smelling like other women: Iris like perfume, some clean soap, and orange cleaner, and Ingrid like lentils and carrots and tea.

We have three infected ears in this house and have just spent two and a half hours at the urgent care and pharmacy and I have to pump before bed. (They go through a ton of milk to get three ounces into her a few times a day. Yeesh.) So I can't be any more analytical and useful than this. I just want to write down that, although my days are not without their stretches of deep grumpiness, things are better.



Many days this past week have been awful, in the sense of "I am yelling at my daughter and I don't even know WHY and I can't seem to stop myself." I was so tired last week, one morning I tried to make tea without a tea bag (but with honey), and last night I went to bed at 7:30. Now Iris's sleep is getting slightly better, but not so much that a sane person would notice, you know what I mean? Anyway, I am certainly not depressed, because there are all kinds of things I'm dying to do (write, knit, clean up this goddamned house). But it turns out I am sick of being a parent. How come no one ever says that? Maybe everyone else is mature enough to just say "I need a little break." But to me it doesn't feel like that, it just feels like I am sick of the whole thing.

Regardless, I am getting some sort of break: I am going back to (two days a week) work tomorrow. And the girls both start day care tomorrow. I am sure that the books say not to do that. To stagger the starts so it's not everyone's first day at once. But we love to flaunt the rules, so here we go. Bags are packed. Clothes are labeled. Milk is pumped. I can only hope that eight-ish hours in the office will do something to renew my affection for my family, because for the past many days it's been at an all-time low.


Is it only Wednesday?

In my carefree youth I did a brief stint as a secretary at an architectural firm. It was a super-traditional, old-fashioned place where there was no voice mail and if you called you had to talk to a receptionist (i.e. me) before being connected with anyone else in the office. Several of the architects and draftsmen were fathers of young children, and their wives would call, it seemed like, several times a day, asking in pitiful tones of voice to speak to their husbands.

What is wrong with those women? I'd fume to A, reclining on the couch in our peaceful apartment after a grueling eight-hour workday, gazing forward into a long evening of doing whatever the hell I wanted. Can't they go eight hours without talking to their husbands? Can't they just deal with whatever it is and leave their husbands alone at work?

The past few days I have become familiar with the taste of those words as I've eaten them over and over and over again.

There are colds here all around and ear infections on babies, and several nights this past week I swear Iris hasn't slept more than a half hour at a stretch. During this afternoon's desperate phone call to the husband, I suggested in a pretty serious tone of voice that a good solution would be for me to go back to work full time, and also for me to move out of our house to someplace where I can be by myself. For, like, six years.

Crazy as that sounds, I don't think I'm actually depressed. I think I just don't like sitting on the floor all morning, holding a cranky baby, trying in vain to satisfy toddler of my interest in the day's fifth reassembly of the Wonder Foam Giant USA Map Puzzle. While exhausted. And unable to breathe through my nose.

Thank you for all of your sweet delurkitudes on the last post. Eight bucks for Moms Rising. Nine if Emmie follows through on her offer to moon me, which I think would be a perfect way to perk up the mood this week. Don't you?


Delurking for Moms Rising

Cat says it is (or was) delurking day, so it must be true.

So, delurk already! For every commenter on this post—whether you're a lurker or a regular commenter—I'll donate $1 to Moms Rising. Come on, friends—make me whip out a twenty.

And if you've got a second while you're in that comments screen, let me know how on earth you found me and whether you'd come along if I moved this to Typepad or Wordpress.


Eye of the Mama

Yesterday I brought the girls by a coffee shop to kill some time before the end of the workday. I chose some snacks for Ingrid and me—a fruit leather, a banana, a cookie (guess who got the sugary one)— and ordered a cup of coffee. I had Iris in one arm, the diaper bag over my shoulder, and Ingrid wound around my legs.

I turned around to notice that the guy behind me was someone I sort of know—a friend of a friend of A's. He's a physician and lives somewhere sort of nearby, and we had a little chat about the neighborhood as I waited for my drink.

As the barista set my cup on the counter, the guy sprang into solicitous mode: Looks like you're going to need some help getting all this to your table! and picked up the snacks and cup to carry for me.

It was nice of him to offer the help, and I accepted it gratefully, if a little awkwardly. (If I didn't have to carry all that stuff, what would I do with my free hand and the extra three fingers on the hand holding Iris?)

But it made me realize how accustomed we parents are to doing the impossible, and how invisible (to us, I mean) our amazing feats can be. This guy, a doctor, thought it obvious I wouldn't be able to get myself to the table, but it hadn't even crossed my mind that this was anything more than a routine trip across a room. Carrying snacks, coffee and baby? No sweat, Dr. Helpful. Try getting them dressed to play in the snow. Try getting them both to sleep at once. Come over and help me carry laundry around the house any day of the week and gasp with awe as I tote laundry basket and baby down the basement stairs at once.

What do you do every day that your average childless doctor, physicist, sky diver, or literary hero would believe to be impossible?


When you've got a minute...

We're back. We've been back for more than a week, but since then we've had two colds (well, one cold per child), a four-hour time change, many unsynchronized naps, and zero hours for me to be awake alone and writing anything. Also, I have been grumpy. Sunshine withdrawal?

I have things I want to write about:

creative life or lack thereof
a meta-complaint about all my complaining (I bet you can hardly wait)
childcare again
Iris's name
a general Iris update, complete with mysterious blood blister

For now, I'm finally posting the story of Iris's birth. It is scandalously long, and you will only enjoy it if you really like birth stories. For ages I wanted to write a shorter, more pretty and lyrical version, but you can imagine what happened to that plan.

Re-reading it and editing it, I've gotten all wistful about pregnancy and birth. We are, as they say, "done." There is no way we should be raising a third child, nor do we really want one. But I'm ridiculously sad that the whole business of growing and pushing out babies is behind me forever. Anyone out there looking for a 33-year-old, lactating gestational surrogate?