October 30, 2006

Fortunate Son

In a surprise shift in musical preference, Brandon has all of a sudden gotten really fond of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Since I am generally the classic rock fan in the family, I don't look at this as a bad thing exactly. I like CCR and all, sure. But even I probably wouldn't put them on while cooking dinner...every....day.

Anyway, Brandon has decided that not only does he himself like CCR, but Elliot does too. Elliot, he claims, will regularly smile during the choruses of songs! He will! He likes it!

"Dude, he likes the Creedence," Brandon says of his child, and turns up the volume.



blwh: It's the unvarnished truth. We sometimes put his bouncer on the kitchen table, so we can look at him face to face while we grab a bite to eat. Our kitchen radio is also on the kitchen table, putting him in the ideal listening position. He smiled twice the other night during two separate choruses of "Proud Mary", and once during a chorus of "Bad Moon Rising", which immediately followed. We have more to say about his development into humanity and out of catatonia -- his growth into a SMILING THING -- but that's for another post.

My family is doing awesome things for the public good

Note: this message has to do with Elliot in only a tangential way

Can I just take a minute to brag on my friend and relative Sara Shipley Hiles? She is a free-lance journalist and just got a big story published in Mother Jones magazine. Mother Jones! People! Politics! Other Passions! I love this magazine, and it thrills me to my very bones to be related to a contributor.

Anyway, you should all go read it! In this election season it's good to read about people trying to make a difference, and also about how much work there still is to be done.

link to article on Mother Jones site


October 26, 2006

Other things we like

-- We haven't tried the Bobby (Boppy? Bøppii?), the crescent-shaped pillow TH mentioned as a comment on an earlier post, but we do have something really similar we're attached to, which is the long snaking body pillow Sarah bought to help her sleep posture while she was pregnant. It's called the Snoogle and I think it cost fifty bucks (which is sort of a lot, I think, unless you use it constantly for half a year, in which case it's an amazing bargain.) Now she just folds the Snoogle in half, puts it on her lap, and it works out very well. Also, he's getting a bit bigger, so he's getting a little easier for her to hold while nursing. For a while there she thought she might be getting carpal tunnel in her wrists.

-- Boudreaux's Butt Paste: it says what it does, it does what it says. It's like A&D Ointment but more folksy (Dr. Boudreaux invented it himself, or that's the lore) and we agree with its claims to smell "pleasant".

October 22, 2006

Spitting up more

For those readers bored of our accounts of infant nursing, i.e. milk input and its travails, here is quick note for you on the opposite process: milk output. Emesis. Getting things backwards. Inserting slot B into tab A.

The boy doth vomit. [Middle English vomiten, from Latin vomitāre, frequentative of vomere.] And the frequency and volume of vomere has increased. Last night, for instance, we were bedding down quite nicely, Elliot having eaten with satisfaction some while before, but not yet inclined to sleep. So I laid him on the bed on his back, in between my pillow and Sarah's pillow, and I put my face close to his, and I began to whisper white noise in his ear. (I like to think that the warm breath of a big warm thing like a Dad is a sleepymaking spell that it is now vested in me to cast.) My awake child was looking around curiously with big, alert eyes. It's interesting to note that Elliot can move his head in concert with his eyes now--that is, he can deliberately crane his neck at the same time at he turns his gaze, and in the same direction, and in this way he can look at the things he wants to look at, rather than being purely surprised by whatever floats by. Progress.

I turned out the lamp, to give him somewhat less to be curious about. And I laid my face next to his face, and again made the whispering noises that Walter Harvey, my grandad, used to use to soothe me when I was a lively infant, at night, in a pitch-black bathroom, pacing bath and forth--the English version of a sensory deprivation chamber.

Anyway, it was then that Elliot turned his own eyes--I could see them mooning back and forth in the darkened bedroom--on me, and then opened his mouth to jabber something or other, and it must have been the darkness that slowed my reflexes, because it was then that he puked ounces of milk full in my face, with no warning. He didn't even seem perturbed by it. It was effortless for him.*

To be fair to Sarah (and selfish to my own self), by working outside the home at this time in Elliot's life, I buy myself hours and hours per day when the likelihood that the people around me are going to vomit on my face is astronomically low. And what a comfort that is. Sarah, by contrast, is never more than 2 hours from a person who might--who will--spray her with anything they've got on hand, biologically speaking. (For some reason it puts me in mind of that line from The Wild One (1953). Q: "Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?" A:"What've you got?")


* TJ asked me on the phone tonight: "Was it funny?". Actually, I thought it was surreal, so I had to ask Sarah. Sarah says that it was kinda funny. But maybe it wasn't really that funny, because it's just what happens. It's who we are. It's not funny per se to be a tailor or a shoeshine boy or a skydiver, if that is your role--though it's funny to fail at those roles, or to misunderstand them. (Except in the case of the skydiver.) It is our role now to be the ones putting the milk in and dodging it when it comes back out.

October 19, 2006

Various and Sundry

Yesterday, while at the lactation clinic, I was holding a diapered Elliot on my lap. Fifteen minutes later, I realized that there were little smears of poo all over my pants--which was irritating, because a) gross, and b) this is why we buy the expensive diapers, so this doesn't happen. But there wasn't anything to do about it, besides carry on and get weighed, and then hurry home and change pronto. Except that after hurrying home I was hungry and Elliot was starving, so we both ate, and then I unloaded the dishwasher, and several hours later I realized that i was still wearing the poo-pants. This, friends, is something to consider if you are thinking about becoming a parent: you too might be so tired that you forget that there is poo on your pants.

Did we tell you that Elliot outgrew a shirt? He did. One of the little white kimono shirts that was all that would fit him when he was new will now not stay down over his pot belly. Also, he can wear a couple of 3-6 month outfits, but not all of them.

Still, though, he's so little that when you hold him on your lap you can completely wrap around him. It is incredibly sweet. Now that I'm reassured he's growing, I'm also getting nostalgic for his infancy. He's so tidy and reasonable now. I can hardly believe he will ever turn into one of those crazy monster six month olds.

My folks were here this weekend, and Brandon and I took advantage of the free-babysitting opportunity to sneak out for a date--we went to a matinee. It was the first time I'd been away from Elliot for more than an hour, and I was pretty fretful the whole time. I'm still not sure if I was more worried about being away from him, or having to go back to him once the movie was over. Part of me definitely wanted to make a run for the border while I had the chance. It was the first time I really encountered how big and strange motherhood is. Babies are so small, but when you are with them all the time they really occupy your whole field of vision.


Julia wants to know how he got his name

Why is he the little plum? Brandon named him this, when first we learned of his new in-utero existence. I asked Brandon how he came up with it, and all Brandon said was, "I just say awesome things sometimes."* So there you go.

Personally, I think it stuck because we needed a good gender-neutral way to speak about "it," and neither of us were very fond of the more common "little peanut." I like peanuts, but they are kinda static. They are just waiting around. Plums, on the other hand, are luminous and shiny and growing. They ripen. And doesn't it seem sort of grand, to be able to make a bright little fruit? It was a nice way to think about being pregnant.

*Prior to conception, Brandon had once suggested that our offspring should be named "Jinxy McTwatstretcher,"** which is catchy too, but you can see why it didn't take.

**I just asked B if he thought it was inappropriate to mention this name here and he snorted and said, "I'm funny." Then he sang a little song: "I think I'm funnnnnyyy...do you think I'm funnnnnyyy? Probably..." to the tune of "Crazy", the current pop song by Gnarls Barkley. (To hear this song instanter, link to the iTunes Music Store here -- blwh)


October 18, 2006

Dude, he's so big

Indeed! Elliot was weighed this morning at 8 lbs. 12 oz. THAT IS SO BIG! IT IS ALMOST NINE POUNDS! It's crazy talk; I can hardly believe it. His little fingers even look like much bigger little fingers.

What's even better is that he totally ate 3 oz in 25 minutes, which is just what he is supposed to be doing, and which made both myself and the lactation consultant do a little start with glee. She said, "You are done with bottles." She said, "You graduate." She said, "I'm so happy for you both." And then she pointed us out to others as people who "about killed themselves, but look how it worked." That's right, we are rolemodels of the lactation clinic.

October 15, 2006

Elliot's maiden video: bathtime with Baba

note: you will need adobe flash to watch this video. www.adobe.com/products/flashplayer

Titles of Poems Walt Whitman might have written, had he actually raised a child rather than just writing about them

"Out of the cradle, endlessly pooping (just after having a diaper change, dammit)"
"Out of the cradle, endlessly kicking my mother's engorged breast at 3 am"
"Out of the cradle, endlessly puking into my own hat."


October 11, 2006

Adrienne Rich Sniffed My Baby!

That about says it all: Adrienne Rich sniffed my baby. She requested to sniff my baby. She did!

Elliot and I met her today at a reception for her prior to a reading at Northwestern. There'd been a Q & A with students that I'd been invited to, but I didn't quite want to bring Elliot (he would have distracted me, if not everybody else). So Elliot and I just showed up for food.

So, we were at the reception. I'd thrust Sir Elliot into the welcoming arms of one of my girlfriends and was shoveling food into my mouth--delicious baklava. The crowd had thinned down, and Elliot began to rumble so he was handed back to me just as he made a noise loud enough to draw attention to himself. Adrienne Rich, small and elegant and elderly, was holding court in a chair on the other side of the room. She perked up and said--Oh! A Baby!

So, friends, we went over to introduce ourselves. I introduced Elliot to ADRIENNE RICH. She praised him, and I offered to let her hold him. She said she couldn't because her hands were too weak; she made a small eloquent gesture to indicate their arthritis. "But," she said, "I would love to sniff him. I love the smell of baby's heads...." And I held Elliot out like an offering, and she beathed him in. She squeezed his toes. She smiled. "Ah, yes," she said.

As my friend Joanne said, it was like being blessed by the pope.

And I agree. But how much better to receive a blessing from a small and gentle and steadfast woman, a radical lesbian feminist poet. It was so sweet to have that kind of benediction for my little boychild son.



In A Classroom
by Adrienne Rich

Talking of poetry, hauling the books
arm-full to the table where the heads
bend or gaze upward, listening, reading aloud,
talking of consonants, elision,
caught in the how, oblivious of why:
I look in your face, Jude,
neither frowning nor nodding,
opaque in the slant of dust-motes over the table:
a presence like a stone, if a stone were thinking
What I cannot say, is me. For that I came.

New Yorker article about childbirth


Short tour of some of the interesting history: Caesarean sections (illegal for most of history, and probably not used on Julius Caesar); forceps; the trend from home to hospital birth; Apgar scores.



There’s a paradox here. Ask most research physicians how a profession can advance, and they will talk about the model of “evidence-based medicine”—the idea that nothing ought to be introduced into practice unless it has been properly tested and proved effective by research centers, preferably through a double-blind, randomized controlled trial. But, in a 1978 ranking of medical specialties according to their use of hard evidence from randomized clinical trials, obstetrics came in last. Obstetricians did few randomized trials, and when they did they ignored the results. Careful studies have found that fetal heart monitors provide no added benefit over having nurses simply listen to the baby’s heart rate hourly. In fact, their use seems to increase unnecessary Cesarean sections, because slight abnormalities in the tracings make everyone nervous about waiting for vaginal delivery. Nonetheless, they are used in nearly all hospital deliveries. Forceps have virtually disappeared from the delivery wards, even though several studies have compared forceps delivery to Cesarean section and found no advantage for Cesarean section. (A few found that mothers actually did better with forceps.)

October 10, 2006

Deemed Useful

Notes for the benefit of future breeders. First in a series?

1. Little blankets, often called receiving blankets (not the larger blankets discussed earlier) are insanely handy. But only if they're absorbent flannel, which grabs spit-up milk. The slick satiny blankets let that stuff run right off onto your pants. Baby puke still smells like puke.

2. Observation: newborn baby doesn't like being laid down to have his diaper changed. It's disempowering. It makes his face red. Thus: putting newborns babies in things that involve pant legs is counterproductive. Pant legs are for walking; newborns don't walk. (Some baby clothes have pockets. Babies don't keep things in their pockets!) The system of elaborate snaps that's needed to furnish the illusion that your baby is about to amble off for a bipedal stroll in the park just about triples the time required to access that key item -- the diaper -- thus tripling a key quantity -- the baby's rage. Baby gowns are way, way faster. (Just as it says in the books, we change the diaper 10 to 15 times a day.) The onesy, despite our fond hopes, doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense at this age. It leaves their legs totally exposed, and so their feet turn blue. Rage builds, face turns red, etc., etc. So you just end up wrapping them in another layer (see item #1, receiving blankets), and then you might as well have put them in a gown in the first place.

3. Swaddling seems to work. You bind their little arms, and they can't gesticulate with them like they'd like to, so they give up and settle down. Sometimes.

4. Having a laundry machine on the same floor as all the mess is about the best thing ever. The yuppies are dead-on about this one.


No Blankies!

My off-handed remark about the restriction of blankies in contemporary baby-rearing has resulting in a bevy of comments and emails. But, friends, I do not lie: blankies are not currently kosher among the medical community . It is a great tragedy.

from the CDC website:

*Dress your infant in a sleeper or warm pajama instead of covering infant with a blanket.
* If you choose to cover your infant, ALWAYS make sure the blanket stays at or lower than the infant’s waist.
*NEVER place your infant on a sofa, couch, pillow, or waterbed.
*NEVER place your infant to sleep or to nap with any pillows, stuffed toys, bumper pads, comforters, quilts, or sheepskin.

It's a SIDS issue; there are also lots of warnings against having your baby sleep anywhere "soft." God forbid the baby have any comfortable sleep environment! Comfort=death trap, evidentally

But, never fear! Our baby gets lots of blankie time, just mostly during the day. And yes, ms AE: the elephant blankie especially is a great comfort. To me, as well as to Sir Elliot. New moms can have all the blankies they want. Lord knows I need them.


October 09, 2006


At the pediatrician's office today, Elliot weighed in at 8.15 oz. Said weight gain was pronounced "phenomenal" by the pediatrician, and he is not a man who is given to superlatives. So we are feeling pleased with ourselves around here! Yes we are.

The benefits of this weight gain are definitely showing, and not just in E's double chin. First and foremost, now that he is over 8 lbs he has the official go ahead to begin traveling in his baby bjorn. I am extremely pleased about this, as pushing a stroller makes me feel weirder than any other part of parenting thus far. As if this weren't enough, Elliot is definitely much more able to make eye contact. Also, a couple of times now when ready to eat, he's quelled his hunger by actually getting a fist into his mouth and fitfully sucking on it.* Clearly, he is exceedingly dextrous.

The next excitement for the week is that it is going to get cold; it might even snow. And if my primary new mother anxieties circle around milkmilkmilk, my secondary new mother anxieties circle around coldcoldcold. Because how do you know if a baby is cold? And what do you do about it if he is? I'm constantly adding or removing layers, and getting caught outside without a thick enough blanket, and dithering about what he should sleep in since babies aren't supposed to have blankets now and are those fleecy sleepsacks really warm enough? One hopes so.

The good news is that Elliot is pretty great. The feeding thing has been more or less miserable, and the cold thing I'm sure will be a nagging concern forever. But he's so nice and sweet spirited and attentive.

Just now he is waking and starting to rumble a bit. He sends his hellos.


*Julia, I know you will read this, and I must say for at least your sake that Elliot's fist-sucking always reminds me of Mary Rowlandson's puritan-era captivity narrative and her description of "slabbering" over a horse hoof when she has nothing else to eat.

October 06, 2006

Sarah's Day, Overheard

"I went to the store, and then I fed Elliot, then I got ready to cook the quiche, then I fed Elliot, and then I cooked the quiche, and then I fed Elliot, and then I delivered the quiche. And then I fed Elliot."

In other news, Elliot is going bald. He's losing his baby birth-hair in a way that suspiciously resembles male pattern baldness. It doesn't show up in the pictures, but it makes him look like an old man.


October 05, 2006

Birthday Address to Potential Parents

From an email to friends

Elliot is four weeks old! Huzzah!

Birthday message to you, if you have the childers in your future: steel yourself. Become hard like obsidian, and flexible like a reed. Empty your mind. Pay your bills. Clean your toilet. Lay up stores of frozen fruit, yogurt, and forms of protein (more so than when pregnant). Because you know what? At four weeks, our lives are still completely obliterated! I have to think carefully about how to schedule the viewing of a one-hour show on DVD! Someone emailed me to invite me to hear her perform music tonight, and I laughed out loud at my inbox! O yes.

I don't really like how people say, "O, you're expecting a baby? How exciting and/or fun. Don't expect any sleep, heh heh!" Whatever, jerk. Maybe my baby will sleep fine, OK? Maybe I can afford a Brazilian wet nurse. Shows what you know. It really reminds me of people who call out to you when you're walking your dog, "Hey, who's walking who?" ("Heh heh.") It's a sort of mild, standardized, ritualized schadenfreude that also has the advantage of giving semi-strangers something to say. And I'm OK with that in the abstract. It's always hard to know what to say.

But how I rage against the idea that the fix is in, and these comments (both of them) are actually dead on. And: how I love my sleep. (You know this.) How I protect its special curves and proportions against all encroachment. And how long, yes, how long it has been since I did not face the day with a baby hangover. Even on the nights when, thanks to grandparents, I do get 8 hours, I still wake up tired. Elliot drags my precious sleep to the altar like Isaac, but there is no angel to stop his hand. There is no angel!

And this doesn't begin, of course, to cover how Sarah must feel, but she'll have to speak to that herself. I wouldn't know how to begin.

Make no plans! No plans. You know how Daniel Burnham said, "Make no small plans"? Let me second that sentiment with my own candidate for Bartlett's: Making No Freaking Plans. None!

We finally got cable for the first time in our lives, which has been an amusing luxury. Meerkat Manor is awesome. Meerkats are a balm. Their little faces. Also, their use of scent-marking has given me new theories about how Ada behaves.

I also bought a used Tivo through craigslist, and that has been REALLY nice. The ability to pause the TV when the baby pukes on the dog is better than having the TV itself.

That's all I had to say.

October 04, 2006

Elliot the Gourmand

Here's the thing about Elliot: he's not a big eater. At least, he wasn't initially. What this has meant so far is a lot of extra work on our part.

We alluded to this previously, but here's the full story. When Elliot and Sarah first got started as a nursing pair, we were most concerned to make sure that Elliot was getting a good "latch". Fortunately, this was so. He seemed capable of creating some good suction and getting milk.

What we didn't realize until about a week after we came home from the hospital, and started having him weighed at the pediatrician, was that he was not gaining weight. (Interesting fact for baby novices: babies actually lose weight after they are born, and do not come back up to their birth weight until 10-14 days later.) The pediatrician didn't seem too worried yet, for the record. But this is the part of the story where we called the lactation consultant anyway. A lactation consultant is a kind of person we now regard extremely highly around here, because she was able to suss out very quickly that there was a clear problem. Despite his good latch, Elliot was getting only about an ounce of milk in 45 minutes of nursing, where he should have been getting about two ounces. (For you type A people out there who like to schedule things (AE, I'm looking at you), newborns eat 10-12 times a day, spaced regularly through each 24-hour period and yes, it takes 45 minutes or more. Do the math.) Elliot was not a strong sucker.

We immediately got a hospital-grade breast pump and began a regimen of nursing + bottle of 1 oz. expressed milk. The bottle, and all its little bits, and the cleaning of those bits, and the storing and measuring of the milk, etc. etc., adds some overhead to the whole process, and expressing milk also takes a lot of Sarah's time. And this had to happen for every . . . . feeding . . . . day and night. So that's when being Elliot's parents actually got hard.

One other thing about Elliot is that he tends to fall asleep amazingly quickly -- some would say instantly -- on getting a mouthful of milk from Sarah. One drop and he's out. This makes feeding him an incredibly frustrating exercise at times. Depending on the time of day, the phase of the moon, and other mysteries, Elliot may have to be awakened many times to get through one nursing session. (Babies quickly acclimate to your basic Guantanamo Bay wake-up tactics (bright lights, loud noises, soles of feet paddled, etc. -- we don't go beyond that because hey, we're the good guys, right?)), but they are deeply, constitutionally averse to being put down alone on a hard floor. They almost always come to their senses to protest if you put them on the floor. So that, of course, is just what you have to do to get Elliot to eat some more. Nurse, sleep, floor, repeat.

BUT. He did gain three ounces of weight in two days, as we previously chortled over in these pages. That was the start. Then he gained some more weight. This message today is to say that he is now 7 pounds 12 ounces. So from 6 lb 6 to 7 lb 14 in two weeks and two days, or 24 oz in 16 days. That is a lot, people. My Sarah is tired. And there is more news, which is that he saw a lactation consultant today, was weighed, and was seen to get 1.5 ounces of milk in about 25 minutes. It seems like the foie gras treatment is making him a more alert and strong little creature. Thus, he is now more wakeful, for longer periods of time, for more of the feedings of the day, huge swaths of sucking, which makes Sarah's quality of life go way up.

Now that he can eat better we can even begin scaling back the foie gras campaign. A little less pumping and one less bottle a day. After a few days, we can reevaluate, and maybe drop another bottle, and so on. And that's how we do it.