Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I'm Not Debbie

All my life, people have kept trying to call me Debbie.  I can understand that in America Devorah might seem like an unusual name, so people go to the closest name they can think of and say, "Oh, so your name is Debbie."  Um, no.

I thought that all those troubles would be behind me when I moved to Israel.  After all, having a Hebrew name in a Hebrew-speaking country shouldn't be a problem, right?  Wrong.

You see, whenever an Israeli hears that you're from the States, they try to speak to you in English and show off their knowledge.  Or play Jewish geography ("I have a cousin who's sister-in-law once visited New York for a week.")  So when they find out that I'm American, they say, "Oh, so your name is really Debbie."  Um, no.

I have a copy of my birth certificate and I can assure you that the name Debbie appears nowhere on it.  I see the name Devorah in nice, clear letters in the little box that say "first name", but no Debbie.  I have even offered to show it to people who were especially difficult to convince, but no go.

Generally speaking, I'm a stickler for getting people's names right.  Either you get it right or it's not their name, right?  I may have gotten this partially from my father, who is a public school teacher and comes across some pretty wacky names sometimes.  Many of them are foreigners and my father goes to great lengths to learn and memorize the proper pronunciation.  After all, if you don't call the kid by their correct name, then how do you expect them to act towards you?  Show them a little respect and they'll return the favor.

Really, people.  My name is Devorah.  I promise.  A little respect.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The dangers of co-sleeping

People always go on and on about the dangers of co-sleeping for the child.  They neglect to mention the dangers to the parent.  Aside from bruised ribs, falling out of bed, crushed noses, and sore backs, there is another danger to parents: suffocation.

Last week I was putting L.H. to bed and dozed off a bit laying beside her.  I wake up a while later a bit hazy and out of it and feeling as though I'm not getting enough air.  As an asthmatic that happens sometimes, but this felt different.  Finally I fully woke up and realized that the problem was that L.H. had shoved her pudgy little arm into my face in such a way that it was completely blocking my nose.  And voila, there you go - parental suffocation.

In all seriousness, though, I think that co-sleeping gets a really bad rap.  There was recently an ad campaign in Milwaukee which pictured an infant in bed sleeping with a butcher knife, with the caption "Your baby sleeping with you can be just as dangerous."  The AAP also recommends against co-sleeping (baby should be in his own bed in his parents' room).

I do agree that co-sleeping can be dangerous - if you don't do it properly.  We made a safe environment for our child.  N. and I are never under the influence of drugs or alcohol; I stopped sleeping with a comforter and instead just use a top sheet and lightweight, breathable blanket - pulled up only to my waist; I didn't give up my pillows but kept her head at least six inches away; and made sure that the sheet was tight-fitting and the mattress wasn't too soft.

There aren't very many statistics available on the topic, but what I have gleaned off of what was available was that most co-sleeping deaths occurred when the parameters for safe sleeping were not met.  As a breastfeeding mother, sleeping with my babe just about saved my sanity.  It took several weeks until I was comfortable sharing my bed with her and until she and I mastered nursing laying down, but once everything clicked into place - suddenly I was actually getting sleep at night.

I don't advocate this practice for everyone.  I just think that there are a lot of scare tactics being used out there that shouldn't be.  If the AAP says that co-sleeping is bad, there are still people who will do it.  Really they should put out a comprehensive list of guidelines for making bed sharing as safe as possible so that those who still decide to do it at least know how to do it right.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The joys of breastfeeding

After having such a terrible pregnancy and always wondering if the baby would come out okay, it was such a relief when L.H. was born skinny but wholly healthy.  I was blessed with a relatively fast, easy labor and delivery.  I think I may have mentioned before that when L.H. was born she took one breath and immediately started looking for food.

It was such a relief to me that I could finally feed the poor kid, and I was confident that I would somehow find my way in breastfeeding.  Thankfully, we both caught on pretty quickly and I never had any terrible issues with it.  That's not to say that it was easy, but it was fine.

Even though I was worried about my body being low on nutrients and therefore not being able to provide her with adequate nutrition, my fears were quickly dispelled.  L.H. was born at 2.948 kg, dropped to 2.750, and at 11 days old was up at 3.5.  For those of you who don't do metric, she gained more than a pound and a half in under two weeks.  Now if that's not cause for celebration, I don't know what is.

From being somewhere around the fiftieth percentile in weight at birth, L.H. quickly rocketed up to the ninetieth and above and has stayed there.  At 12 months she was the size of an average 18-month-old.  She is often mistaken for an older child because of her size and the way she looks at the world.

I exclusively breastfed her until 6 months when I started adding in solids.  But to know that her size and remarkable growth comes from me, from my milk - it can't get better than that.  I felt like a bit of a failure at pregnancy (not my fault, I know), and suddenly not only was I doing something right for the babe, but I was doing a super job of it.

We recently visited the pediatrician for one of L.H.'s rare bouts of illness.  This doctor commented how L.H. was really big and asked if she was born large, to which of course I had to reply no.  "You must be breastfeeding, then," was the reply.  It made me so proud to hear the from the mouth of a professional - to have someone say gee, you've been working hard and you did a mighty good job.

I can only hope that my breastfeeding relationship with my future children goes as smoothly and produces such amazing results.  I have such nachas when I sit and look at her.  It's the best thing in the world.

Coming soon: DIY bra conversion tutorial

So you know how it can be difficult to find a bra that fits nicely and is comfortable, plus a good price?  Now imagine adding in an additional parameter - a nursing bra.  Yep, you got it, really not that easy to find.

Which is why I was ecstatic earlier today when - 16 months after starting to use nursing bras - I discovered that you can convert your regular, comfy, slightly cheaper ones into nursing bras with a minimum of effort.  Of course I ran to my drawer and pulled out all of my regular bras to see which ones were convertible and to my pleasant surprise, almost all of them are.

I am currently waiting on my materials to arrive in the mail (nursing bra clips and elastic), but as soon as they do I promise a pictorial tutorial that will be easy to follow.  I did find a few tutorials online, but none of the ones I saw used the clips that I like so much and weren't exactly what I was looking for.  So here will be another one, floating around on the internet.

In case you couldn't tell, I'm super excited.  Now I never need to worry about not being able to find a store that carries nursing bras or tanks, or ordering online from America.  I can just get pretty much any bra that's comfy and make it work for me.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Respecting other's hardships

When you are living your own life with your own good and bad bits, it can be very difficult to step into someone else's shoes for a minute and realize that they have their own good and bad bits, as well. Life isn't a contest to see who can one-up the next person (oh, your baby isn't crawling yet? Mine's been crawling for ages). This goes both ways (oh, you have no idea how hard it is - you just have one baby. That's a breeze. I have twins).

I am on various parenting boards with other mothers of children around the same age as L.H., and today one of them said something that I appreciated so much and is so true. To quote: "Kids are hard regardless of how many you have. I know it's especially hard if the twins are your first but any firsts are hard."

I can't even begin to tell you how many times I have people ask me about L.H. and then proceed to tell me that
she's just the first; that's nothing. Wait until I get to (insert number of children said person has).  What people don't realize - and I am undoubtedly guilty of this, as well - is that each person must pass through each stage of life, and just because you have already passed through it and gotten out fine doesn't mean that the next person won't struggle with it.

We each have our struggles.  You might find a mother with twins who are perfect angels and relatively easy to take care of; or you might see a mother with one child who is colicky, doesn't eat well, doesn't sleep well, and is generally a holy terror.  Which one of those is having a harder time?  There is no way to tell.  Even though babies are babies, comparing those two situations is like comparing apples and oranges.

To apply this to myself, just because I had severe HG doesn't mean that the other pregnancy complications some of my friends had are any less serious or difficult (and I am very careful about not making it seem that way, either).  I have one friend who didn't want to tell me she was pregnant because I was having such a tough time with my pregnancy, and then when we talked about her pregnancy she would never complain to me about her severe heartburn and back pains, even though they really bothered her a lot.  She felt that she had nothing compared to me.  And you know what?  As much as I appreciate the thought, I wish that she would have shared it with me.  It would have brought some small sense of normalcy back into my life.  It would have been nice if for five minutes I could be there for someone else, instead of everyone else needing to be there for me for eight months.

The bottom line is, until you have been in someone else's shoes - you can't say anything.  And even if you think you have been in their shoes chances are you haven't.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Communal caring

One of the things I love about Israel (and I think I've mentioned it before) is the population's great love of children.  When you're walking down the street people really pay attention to your child and will often offer you friendly advice, usually involving piling on more and more blankets until you're suffocating your child.  They're not doing it just because they're being nosy and in your face and trying to get into your business; they're doing it because they want the best for each and every child.  Having gone through the Holocaust, the survivors who made it to Israel put such a high value on each and every life and that value has been passed down to today.

Case in point: today I was patiently waiting on a corner for an old man to complete his turn before I crossed the street.  His window was open and as he turned he called out to me to make sure that L.H. was drinking enough because it was a hot day.  And yes, I know that it's February, but today I was walking outside without any sweatshirt or anything and I was sweating.

But my point is, that would never have happened to me in America.  Here there seems to sometimes be a mentality that each child belongs to everybody, which gives everybody the right to look out for that child's well being.  It can sometimes be annoying when you're out and people are telling you, "don't let her touch that" or "put on her sweater" or "take off her sweater" or "where's her hat?"  As annoying as it is, however, it is also comforting to know that other people truly care.  I just hope that they show equal caring and forthrightness if they see a child who is being neglected and abused.  I can only hope that they speak up then - to save the children.

Squash tea

Today L.H. and I went over to visit my friend I.  She was busy making orange soup from yummy squash.  She prefers her orange soup to be based on milk, not water, but she cooks the squash in water first before separating, mashing, and mixing in milk.

That's a shame, you might say.  All that cooking water, full of valuable nutrients, and she's not even going to use it.  Except that she does - she drinks it as tea.  It may sound a little odd at first, but let me tell you - it is really, really yummy.  She adds a little bit of brown sugar, some milk, and then drinks down this delicious, nutritious beverage.  It's not the kind of tea that I would necessarily want every day, but boy is it yummy as a once-in-a-while kind of thing.

So the next time that you are cooking up some squash and don't plan on using the cooking water for anything, keep this in mind.  Squash tea is simply amazing.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Friends vs. Children

I got a little bit of a lecture today from a friend who was telling me that some people (in her eyes, most people except for me) make sure to make time for friends and put their friends first.  They force their babies to be okay with taking a bottle so that they can go out whenever they want.  Either the baby takes the bottle or the baby goes hungry, end of story.

How did this all come about?  We are a group of four friends who met in university and have kept in touch.  We try to get together every so often to catch up and whatnot, but since we live in two (soon to be three) separate cities and we all have different work/school schedules and three of us have babies, things don't always work out.

Getting together with them is always nice, but it's such a headache to go back and forth until we finally agree on a time and place.  Basically, as nice as it is, these get-togethers are usually very stressful for various reasons.

So to cut a long story short, we were planning on getting together on Monday this week and then that didn't work out for various reasons.  So then it was changed to Wednesday evening - in a different city.  First I was made to feel bad by one of them for saying that I can't go because I have to work so that we can put food on the table.  Can't I change it?  Why no, I can't.  It is the night before and the plans still aren't fully finalized.  I can't just take off work on a whim.  If I go to this play date then I'll be losing out on around $50 - and that's quite a lot.

Then, in speaking with another friend, I happened to mention that anyways I couldn't go because it was too late in the day and would conflict with bedtime.  That's when I started getting the lecture on putting myself first and how I made a mistake in not making L.H. take a bottle and how I made a mistake in nursing her to sleep more often than not.  "Oh, not to say that your parenting is wrong, or anything."  Yeah, right.

I will concede that sometimes having a baby who is tied to you is not the most convenient thing.  However, I still wouldn't change the way I have done things.  As far as I'm concerned, if a breastfeeding mother has the opportunity (in our case, necessity) to stay home with her child, then there is really no reason to give the baby a bottle.  She wants it straight from the source - and I can't blame her.  Mind you, for the first 7  months of her life I was still in school and of course I always left bottles for her when I was in class, but mostly she would just drink enough to take the edge off her hunger and wait for me.  She clearly was unhappy with bottles so since I wasn't working outside the home  I saw no reason to push the issue.

Does this sometimes limit me?  Sure, but I think it's in a good way.  Yes, it's nice to get out with friends every now and then.  But you know what?  I'm so tired by the end of the day that I anyways am not interested in going out in the evening.  Getting home at 10 is late for me and aside from the fact that N. most decidedly can't give L.H. her bedtime nursing, bedtime is one of those sweet moments of the day that I wouldn't trade for anything.

Sure, I frequently gripe about it and ask N. why he can't just put her to sleep.  But then when L.H. and I are laying there side by side and she's snuggling into me or she suddenly pops up on hands and knees to smother my face with kisses - well, those moments are priceless.  She will only be this small once.  I don't want to just go out and do whatever I feel like doing whenever I feel like doing it because it would be a missed opportunity to have that wonderful quiet time with the babe - the time that allows both of us to sort of de-stress at the end of a long day.

Friends are important - very important - and always will be.  But when seeing them comes with so much stress and at such a high (to me) cost - well, I'd rather stay home for cuddles. :)

To soothe the crying babe

In case you couldn't tell, I am very into attachment parenting.  It just makes sense to me and it feels right.  I have gotten comments from several people who have negative views of extended breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, etc.  And you know what?  They aren't my child's parents, so I just ignore the comments.

One of the things I struggle with, though, is how to approach her crying.  Of course I pick her up and try to comfort her and if I know what's wrong then I fix it.  But let's say that she falls down and bangs her head against something on the way, causing her to dissolve into a screaming puddle of tears.  There are two conflicting ways of comforting her that come to mind every time: pick her up, comfort her, and tell her that really it's nothing; or pick her up, comfort her, and tell her that I bet that really hurt and it's okay to cry.

The first approach tries to tell her that falling down and bumping your head isn't the worst thing in the world and that happens in life.  But it also, in a way, invalidates her feelings and her pain.  Telling her that it's nothing is like telling her that she shouldn't be crying - when clearly she needs to.  Maybe if she had the words to come to me and verbally tell me that she fell down and she got an owie then she wouldn't need to cry, but at 15 months L.H. can't quite get the message across with words or signs.

The second approach empathizes with her and validates what she's feeling, giving her a comfortable outlet to express her pain and frustration while also helping her calm down.  On the other hand, one must be careful not to overdo it.  If you make too big a deal of it, then I would think the child would learn that a small little bump really is a big deal and worthy of a meltdown.

I think that the best thing is to find the balance between the two.  For a younger child who is still very far away from being able to express himself through words, I think that the validation is very important - within reason.  For an older child who already has language and other means of communicating aside from crying, I think that it is worthwhile to downplay small bumps and bruises enough so that they learn not to get too upset about them, but not so much that they feel that you are uncaring and don't understand them.

I suppose that that's really what parenting is all about - finding the balance.

Fruity Wheat Berry Salad

As part of my quest to include more whole grains in the family diet, I have been experimenting with all sorts of different salads based off of bulgur, kasha, and wheat berries.  My friend L. has a fantastic wheat berry salad that she makes and everyone loves, but I was looking to change things up a bit and make them more interesting.  So after some internet searching, I recently found a new recipe here and then modified it to fit what was available in my cabinet and the grocery store.  So here it is:

1.5 cups wheat berries
1/3-1/2 cup Craisins (or raisins or dried currants)
1 red bell pepper
1 cup chopped peaches (preferably fresh, canned and frozen also work)
1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
2 T honey
1 T lemon juice
1 T vinegar
2 T canola oil
1/2 tsp salt

Rinse the wheat berries.  Place in a pot and cover with enough water to be about 2 inches above the wheat berries (around 4.5-5 cups, usually).  Bring to a boil and then simmer for around an hour, stirring occasionally, until the wheat is soft.

After cooking, allow the wheat to cool before adding Craisins, pepper, and peaches, and then topping with the dressing.  Taste and adjust as needed.

This salad is a big hit with L.H., who tends to be a little picky.  N. and I also enjoy it very much and it's great because you get a whole grain, a fruit, and a vegetable all in one delicious dish.  It can also be easily transported for lunch away from home and will survive the long hours out of refrigeration.

The end of co-sleeping: continued

Now I know why I didn't try this transition sooner - I don't operate too well when I don't get enough sleep.  L.H. loooooooooves her new sleep area (I made it very fun for her).  The problem is that she doesn't sleep through the night and never has.  When she was in my bed that didn't bother me so much since I just had to wake up enough to get her started nursing and then I could fall asleep again.  Now, though, her nighttime wakings involve me getting up, going to her bed to nurse, staying awake until she's finished and back asleep, and then somehow crawling back into my (now cold) bed and falling back asleep.  Even if this entire process only takes 10 minutes, it's still very annoying and really breaks up my night.  Some days now I feel like a zombies, and I am drinking caffeinated coffee every day - if not twice a day.

I know that the smart approach might be to try to night wean her and somehow teach her to sleep through the night, but I'm also not so sure about that.  What if she's not ready?  Not all people are wired to sleep through the night until later.  What if she really does need those extra feedings because she's too distracted to eat properly during the day?

I know that I can't live off of caffeine forever and that I need to find some solution so that everyone gets proper sleep.  On the other hand, I also don't want to force L.H. into something that she's not ready for.  Sometimes it's hard to find the proper balance between the two, and I know that she is looking to me, as the parent, to make the right decisions for her.  I just hope that I can find a solution that will make all of us happy and well-rested.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Music lessons

We have, thank G-d, been blessed with a musically talented child.  At least, from what we can tell so far.  She sings, she dances, she plays her instruments - and she is absolutely mesmerized by music.  Need to get something done?  Play some music and you've got yourself 10 minutes.

Of course the music that a 15-month-old can produce isn't exactly Mozart, but it's still pretty amazing to hear.  Just last week she discovered how to blow through the recorder to make sound, and she is always handing it to me to hear me play it before she tries to copy me.  The same thing with the xylophone - she'll bang on it a bit and then give me the sticks to play something, then try to copy me.

I can't wait for the day that we can get her some music lessons.  Of course it's too early now, as she doesn't have the coordination or the ability to sit still for longer than three seconds.  I just think it would make her so happy to be able to make the music herself, not just listen to it.

I grew up with a piano in the house, and I think that was really great.  In fact, once we get on our feet financially I definitely have my eye on buying a used piano to keep in our home so that our children can learn music on a real instrument.  We already have a clarinet, but that's a tough instrument for a little kid.  Piano is much easier to start with.

Do I see my child becoming a musician?  Not necessarily, no.  But I think that music enrichment is such an important part of life that to neglect it would be sinful.  Especially when you have a child who shows aptitude and who loves it so much, why not encourage that?  So when L.H. is old enough and when we have the means, I plan on getting her serious lessons.  If she loves them - fantastic.  If she doesn't - it didn't hurt to try.  Who knows, maybe something will come of it after all.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

And the worst parenting award goes to...

There are some parents out there who make me feel like a really bad parent.  You know, the ones who are "supermoms" and run themselves ragged trying to make everything perfect for their little ones.  And then there are parents who make me feel thankful for having a brain, some common sense, and a background of having had good parents.  Compared to them, I feel like gold.

I encountered a set of the latter parents today.  L.H. and I were strolling down the block when we saw a little boy, probably around 20-22 months old, standing in the leg space of a scooter with his grandma sitting on the seat.  The scooter was off and parked so I thought it was a little odd, but I know how much L.H. loves motorcycles and scooters so I figured she was just taking the chance to let him explore one a little bit.  Then the kid's mother comes out and stands there chatting with the grandma, smoking a cigarette in her little boy's face.  Just to set the record straight, I have very little respect for people who smoke next to their children.

In the meantime, L.H. was busy investigating some weeds growing by the side of the sidewalk.  The next thing I know, the boy's father comes out wearing his motorcycle helmet, gets on, and starts up the engine.  What about the little boy, you ask?  Oh, he's still standing on the scooter.  His father starts driving the scooter up and down our (one-way) street with this little toddler standing on it and holding on to the handlebars.  I was shocked, to say the least.  The women of the family were standing on the sidewalk cheering them on, and from the behavior of the kid I could tell that this wasn't his first ride, either.

I debated back and forth a little bit whether or not to speak up to them about the dangers of the whole situation.  In the end I decided not to.  First of all, I'm not sure that I have all of the vocabulary needed to tell this people how much harm they could cause their child.  And secondly, if both the boy's parents and his grandmother were all participating and they all clearly thought it was fine, then why on earth would one little person on the street telling them it was dangerous change anything?

I just love how the father wore a helmet and heavy leather jacket, while his son was just in sweats and a ponytail.  You care enough to protect yourself, but not your precious child?

It is days like today that I feel like a good mother for not doing stupid things with my daughter.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Disconnect

When I look at my daughter, my mind knows that it is courtesy of her that I went through the terribleness that is HG, but my emotions don't know that.  Intellectually speaking I know that my body couldn't handle the hormones necessary to build her little body from scratch and therefore it rebelled against me.  From the first moment I saw her, though, I couldn't connect that suffering with this squirming little bundle of beauty in my arms.

I always say that if babies weren't so darn cute, their parents would kill them.  I'm not talking in general, I'm talking after weeks of no sleep, a colicky baby who just threw up everywhere and pooped through five sets of clothing in the past three hours.  The only thing that saves babies in times like that is that they are so ridiculously lovable and cute.

It's the same thing here, in a way.  I bonded with L.H. in a very limited fashion when she was in utero because I was simply trying to survive and she was making that quite difficult.  But if I looked at her today and saw her as the cause of those eight long months of hardship, then how could I love her as much?  How could I bond with her?

They say that women forget the pain of childbirth, and that's why they go on and have more.  After all, if each woman only had one child then the human race would die out.  HG is awfully difficult to forget and in many ways I don't want to forget how horrible it is so that I go into pregnancy the next time prepared for the worst.  But if I was to look at my child and think to myself, gee, look what she did to me - then I would never consent to go through it again.  She didn't ask to be grown inside me; we kind of did that one on our own.  So as much as it's "her fault", she is blameless.

As much as I hate the disconnect and the fact that I couldn't really relate to her prenatally, in some ways it is good because it preserves a perfect, clean relationship between us and ensures that at some point in the future, a little brother or sister will join her.

Baby sign

I frequently hear new mothers asking about baby sign and if it's beneficial/harmful/worth it.  I never really knew anything about it until my two older sisters started using it with my nephew (one sister nannies the other one's child).  They had such wild success with it that when I was looking forward to the birth of L.H., there was no doubt in my mind that I would use it, too.

Let me just clear up a few common misconceptions that I hear.  Most people are convinced that teaching your baby sign will delay their speech development.  There are no studies that have shown signing causing any speech delay.  In fact, it seems that signing gives babies an earlier understanding of language and a bigger vocabulary once they do speak.  Not to mention that if you use real signs from ASL or IS (or any other real sign language) instead of making up more "baby-friendly" signs, then you are actually giving them some basics to communicate with those who use sign due to deafness or other special needs.

Think of it this way: my seven-month-old was able to tell me when she wanted milk or when she needed a diaper change.  How many times are parents left guessing as to what their infant or toddler wants?  How many parents have wished that the kid could just talk so that they could fix whatever it is that is making the child scream?

L.H. is hearing two languages at home (English from me and Hebrew from N.) and this is causing some people to be concerned that she will not talk until later.  Aside from the fact that this concern is unfounded (at 15.5 months she has a vocabulary of nearly 20 spoken words), she also has the signing to rely on.  She has basically the same number of signs and spoken words and for the most part they don't overlap.  But imagine if she didn't speak until the age of two or beyond - with the signing, she would still have the words she needs in order to communicate with us.

Many people think that signing will be too difficult for them (or the babies) to learn.  Keep in mind that you're not learning the full language; you're learning individual words and the alphabet in order to spell words that don't have a sign.  If I actually encountered someone who communicates through sign then to them I would sign like a baby - no sentences or structure, just disjointed thoughts.  You can learn as few or as many words as you want.  I started with the things that were most important to her and as time goes on, we add more and more.  Whenever she shows interest in something, I look up the sign so that she can talk about it.

The best part of it all is that L.H. can communicate with us and is confident that her needs will be met without her screaming.

Mommy award

As I lay awake in L.H.'s bed last night, trying to convince her that she really did want to sleep there and not in my bed, I was thinking: all mommies should get an award and reward at the end of each day.  I know, I know, the wonderfulness that is children is our reward.  But seriously, we work hard.

It doesn't matter whether you stay home with the kids or work outside of the home; whether you have one kids or many; whether you are a single parent or you have a partner.  It also doesn't matter if it was a day where you had to spend the entire time with your cranky little one or a day when you played with the babe, cleaned the bathrooms, did three loads of laundry, cooked healthy food for the family, cleaned the kitchen, changed two poopy diapers, and fished five toys out of the toilet.  Both of those days are equally challenging and exhausting in their own way.

I recently saw an article that went through what a typical stay-at-home mom does every week and tallied up how much money she would make for each of the marketable skills she does (kissing away boo-boos isn't on the list, unfortunately).  You know what the total was?  Nearly $100,000.  Man, do you know how many years it will take me to earn that much at my current job?

A friend of mine several months ago told me that I don't know anything about working and having a babe and that I've never had a 'real' job so how can I know how it is?  Sorry to break it to you, dear friend, but I have had many different jobs since the age of 15.  I don't know what you count as a 'real' job, but just because my job is at home instead of in an office doesn't mean that it's not real.  In order to do my job, I sacrifice all the personal time I would otherwise get (as well as a clean house).  Baby's asleep?  Want to take a shower?  Nope, you've got to go work.  Why waste precious time when you so desperately need the income?

Unfortunately, real life doesn't just hand out awards like that.  Out of the millions and millions of hardworking mothers in this world, how many of them actually get mommy awards on a regular basis?  And why, oh why did I move to a country that doesn't celebrate Mother's Day?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Co-sleeping: the end

Before L.H. was born, I thought that I wouldn't co-sleep.  To be honest, the idea of it kind of scared me.  What if I rolled over on her?  What if she fell out?  What if, what if, what if.  Then she was born and things changed.  She slept mostly in her crib for a few weeks, I think (my memory is kind of foggy) until we mastered nursing laying down and I discovered that the only way I actually got any sleep was by keeping her with me.  I also discovered that what 'they' say is true - my own sleep patterns changed, I completely stopped moving in my sleep, and I was super aware of the babe nestled by my side.  N. could be making noise downstairs and I would never no, but the slightest little sigh from L.H. woke me.

From one side of the family we had people who were very against it and kept trying to talk us out of it (actually, they still do, and have already voiced opinions about the next baby's sleeping arrangements) and on the other side we had former co-sleepers who were very supportive of whatever decisions we decided to make and offered tips for any situation.

And so L.H. shared my bed for 15 months.  I must say, waking up to that precious face every morning is unbeatable.  Nowadays she pats my face and smothers me with kisses to let me know that it's time to get up in the morning.  Not to mention that if I'm ever worried about her - or even if I'm not - she's right there and I can hear her steady breathing and feel her little fit wiggling around.

All good things must come to an end, however.  She is huge and my bed is small and I miss being able to sleep in comfortable positions without worrying about squishing the babe.  I'm also hoping that if she's not right next to me she won't smell my milk and will sleep more consecutive hours, thus affording me more sleep as well.

It is with mixed feelings that I make this transition.  On the one hand the time has come and I know that she has to grow up eventually, not to mention that at some point there will be another baby who will sleep with me.  On the other hand, I don't want her to grow up and me say that I didn't cuddle her enough.  Not likely, I know, but still.

I am sure that there will still be many nights where we will find a little body mysteriously crawling into bed to look for comfort or a nursing or warmth, but it won't be the same.  Our little baby isn't so little anymore, and we have to accept that.  Right, Ima? :)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Donating eggs

A friend of mine recently showed me a Craigslist ad for a Jewish family dealing with long-term infertility looking for a Jewish woman to donate eggs for implantation.  What a wonderful idea, I thought.  Such a simple way to give two people their greatest joy in life.  The compensation for such a donation isn't bad, either.

If you had asked me two years ago, I would have thought this was a great idea and would probably have willingly given away a few eggs to help another couple.  Now, though, I'm not so sure.  Of course the infertile couples are looking for eggs from a healthy woman, and for the most part I fit that bill.  After having HG, though - research indicates that there is a strong genetic component to it; a component that can be passed even through the men.

I know that however many daughters I myself bear are unfortunately at high risk for following in my footsteps.  I don't feel that I could inflict such a thing on someone else's daughter, however.  When my daughters reach their childbearing years, I will know what to look out for and how to help them.  For a family that has never dealt with the horrors of HG, though, this would seem even more terrible and very daunting.

Egg donation is a great idea and a great option for couples who can physically carry the baby to term but who can't, for whatever reason, use the woman's eggs to begin with.  I would be so happy to donate my eggs.  Heck, so long as they covered my medical expenses I would even do it without compensation because I think that it is so important and wonderful.  To them the HG might not even seem like a big deal.  First they have a 50/50 chance of having a girl.  Then, it's still not guaranteed that she will inherit the HG.  Either way, it's something that she wouldn't have to deal with until she is an adult.  But still, it wouldn't feel right to me.  I can inflict my own children with it (kind of unavoidable, if you want kids) but inflicting someone else's kid just isn't fair.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Mourning pregnancy

I very much mourn my pregnancy.  What do you mean? you might ask.  You have a happy, healthy child in your arms, and you yourself are happy and healthy.  You didn't lose your baby, so what are you mourning?

What do you think of when you think of pregnancy?  As the youngest child in my family, I never saw my mother pregnant or had any real contact with pregnant women before becoming one myself.  I knew that there are things that go hand-in-hand with being pregnant that make it less than fun.  I knew about morning sickness, and heartburn, and backaches, and preterm labor, and gestational diabetes, and high blood pressure, and other various and sundry ailments.  I wasn't looking forward to any of that but I knew that it was all normal or within the normal range of complications.

I did not know about HG.  It was this terrible monster that reared its head around six weeks in and just wouldn't go away.  I didn't understand what was going on and didn't have the strength (physical, emotional, etc.) to find out.  I spent months mostly confined to my bed, when my biggest accomplishment was to make it through one more hour, even one more minute without throwing up; when 100 calories was a normal day and 400 was a miracle; when my social life didn't exist because I couldn't even talk much without risking losing what little I had gotten in.

So when a woman says that she's mourning her pregnancy even though she has a healthy babe, it's not that she's mourning something she lost - she's mourning something that was never there.  How I wished that my biggest complaint was terrible, debilitating back pain!  How I wished that I 'just' had gestational diabetes or high blood pressure or something - anything - that could be controlled.

There are women with HG who have had medical terminations due to the disease.  Sometimes they feel that they simply can't handle it, and sometimes the doctors advise them that either they terminate or they risk losing their own lives.  I, thankfully, was not put in this situation.  But I would never in a million years judge someone who was.  Never would I just a woman for terminating her pregnancy due to HG.  She would probably beat herself up over it for a long time, though.  The effects of HG fade so quickly, but the pain of losing your baby lingers on.

Not only am I mourning those lost months and the lack of normalcy, but I also regret the lack of connection I had to the little person growing inside of me.  It is hard to love and bond with a creature that has turned your life into a living hell.  Okay, so it was our fault, not hers, but when you're in the middle of things you just know that that tiny little heartbeat is what's causing all this illness and you just want it to end.

Can you imagine that?  A perfectly healthy fetus, a very wanted pregnancy, and you just want it to end.  You  haven't even gotten past the first trimester, you aren't anywhere near viability, and you just want it to end.  Everyone wants a baby in their arms at the end of it all, but sometimes that journey is unbearably long.  I was bitterly disappointed when I didn't give birth early, and the stress and disappointment nearly crushed me when I wound up delivering nine days late.  Even though I was greatly improved by the end, it was still nine extra days of hell.

So my mourning is not, as one insensitive person suggested, coming from a place of me expecting the perfect pregnancy.  It is not coming from me comparing myself with others and being jealous (although I do get jealous, at times).  I went through a legitimately traumatic and potentially life-threatening event, and I am mourning the normalcy that I should have experienced instead; the connection with my baby that couldn't happen until later.

Baby wipes

I love baby wipes.  They are one of the most amazing inventions ever.  Spill something on your white shirt?  No problem, whip out a wipe.  Blood, poop, wine, food?  All magically gone with the help of a wipe.

I have recently expanded my use of baby wipes.  They used to be just for L.H.'s butt or other baby-related cleanups, but the other day I accidentally pulled out a wipe when I meant to take a napkin to clean something up.  It did such a good job that I just kept going.  My most recent baby wipe awesomeness came when I decided to clean my stove with them.  Who would have ever thought to clean the stove with a baby wipe?

Under our kitchen sink we have various cleaners, especially one that is specifically supposed to do good work on stoves, counter tops, and ovens.  It works okay, although there is still some scrubbing involved.  Then I tried my trusty old wipes and voila - everything was gone!  No more oil, spilled things that are hardened and cooked on, splashes, dust - nothing.  Everything came right off without me even needing to work at it.

True, it left my stove kind of streaky and true, it seems a little weird to clean my kitchen with the product that I usually reserve just for poopy butts, but hey - it's cheap and it works wonders.  Baby wipes are my new hero.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Where to live?

It's amazing how hyperemesis can wind up effecting your life in ways that you would never have considered.  I am no longer pregnant/not yet pregnant again, and yet I find myself planning my life around my next pregnancy. I am gaining a few extra kilo, I am planning ways of arranging the house, thinking ahead to what special toys/games/treats I can have on hand for an active toddler on my bad days.

And I'm choosing a place to live.  The city we live in now is not one that we particularly care for, but it is right next to the university where I learned and where N. is finishing up his degree at this year.  We are living here out of convenience, and already from the beginning of our marriage we agreed that this wasn't long-term and we would move away as soon as his degree was finished.

We wanted to move to a small community (100-500 families small), and even researched several different options.  We are limited by several factors such as cost, public transportation (can't afford a car), availability, etc.  And then it hit me: we're planning on having more kids.  This means that I'm planning to be pregnant, and that in turn means that we need to live near a hospital so that when I get dehydrated I can get the help I need without an hour's nauseating drive into the city.

Now our options are very limited, especially given that Israel doesn't exactly have hospitals on every street corner.  Heck, not even every city has one.  So suddenly, instead of looking at small communities like we wanted, we are back to looking at cities or smaller towns that are next to a big city.

While I am a city girl by birth, I really like the idea of a smaller setting to raise my children in.  There are many bad things that come with living in a city.  Unfortunately, they are also very convenient in many ways and offer by far the better medical care.

It is very frustrating that the HG rules our lives so much that it is now dictating where we can and cannot live.  How is that fair?  Why can't I have my dream place to live and also my dream of having more than one child?  Why do I have to give up one for the other?  Obviously children will always come first, no matter what the decision is, but I can always wish for the other.

I never would have thought the HG would dominate my life to this extent.  It seems as if I will never be free of it and its long-reaching effects.