Beets Turn Urine Pink

I don’t love beets. I love most vegetables, including many that others don’t generally like, but not beets. It is because of this that I have not eaten many beets in my life and I did not know that eating beets could turn one’s urine pink or red. I had no clue. Last Friday, when my 3 year old went potty and her poop and pee was red, I assumed she had blood in her stool, freaked, and called her doctor. The advice nurse asked a bunch of questions, but not whether she had eaten beets, and then said I should take her to urgent care the next morning (this was because it was after hours on Friday).

Four hours later, my daughter went potty again. This time she only peed and it was red. Further freaking, as this meant the redness came from pee and not poop, and could thus be related to kidneys and whatnot. Again a call. This time, advice nurse advised we go to urgent care that night. As it was 9:30, the only urgent care in our network was a half hour drive away. Yowza.

We all bundled into the car (we all being me, Milla, and Isabel) and headed out to the middle of nowhere to sit in a waiting room. We were finally escorted back and Isabel was urged to pee. She could not. They gave her apple juice. She peed. They tested it. No more pink and no issues. They could not find anything. Finally, someone asked if she had eaten beets. Well, I did not know. She had been to preschool earlier in the day. Although they were not normally on the Friday, perhaps she had eaten beets. The doctor sent us home with 2 prescriptions for bottom cream and a directive to go to our primary doctor as soon as possible during the regular week.

The next morning I called her preschool and left a message asking if she had eaten beets. We were not able to get into the doctor until Wednesday. In the meantime, no more pink pee and preschool did not return my call (she told me later while apologizing for not calling back that she rarely checks her home line messages–oops!). On Wednesday, while waiting for our dear doctor, I decided to call preschool again, this time the owner’s mobile phone. Lo and behold, it turned out that my darling daughter had indeed eaten beets.

In case you didn’t know it, eating beets turns one’s pee and poop pink or red. This is my public service announcement for the day (or maybe it is a pubic service announcement, but that is a really bad pun).

Autumn — Chapter 11

Read Autumn — Chapter 10

Autumn was seven years old when she began having bladder infections. Always fanatically clean and unwilling to wet inside, she began peeing uncontrollably wherever she happened to be standing when the urge overcame her. We had purchased a dog door insert for the sliding glass door to the backyard, so none of the animals ever had to wait to go potty. Autumn couldn’t even make it to the door. She would get up from wherever she was lying and head for the pet door, then stop and squat, trying to urinate. There would be a dribble, and nothing more. I could see the fur on her back end quivering as she strained to urinate, feeling the pressure, but getting no result.

I took her to the vet’s office near our duplex. Unlike Dr. Fletcher, when this vet would examine Autumn, a technician would take her from me in the lobby and do something with her in the back room. Autumn never liked this. She would pull towards me on her leash as she was led away. The doctors were kind though, and always explained things thoroughly to me.

The vet ran a culture on Autumn’s urine and prescribed antibiotics. She would get somewhat better on the antibiotics, but then the infection would recur as soon as the course ran. I would take her back to the vet, get another culture, get more antibiotics. This went on for several months.

Finally, frustrated, I told the doctor we needed to do something more drastic. The vet decided that we should give Autumn some very powerful antibiotics and work to kill the bacteria once and for all. After the course had run, she seemed better, and did well for several months.

There was a great deal of stress going on in Autumn’s life at this time. Actually, there was a great deal of stress in all of our lives. I had begun my first term in law school, Bjorn was completing his final year of his engineering program, and we got another dog:  a Jack Russell terrier we named Poppy.

Bjorn had always wanted a Jack Russell. I saw this dog advertised somewhere and chose her for his birthday. She was living in a small cage in a man’s nearly empty apartment in Gresham. Another dog was in a cage next to Poppy’s. There were urine stains under the cages because he left them there to do their business. It seemed he left them there all the time. If I could have, I would have taken both of the dogs, just to get them away from the man.

The entire time Poppy lived with us, she suffered severe skin infections. She would get fungal infections in her ears that required oozy medications. After she scratched herself bloody, I had the vet run allergy tests, and it turned out she was allergic to about ten different things, several grasses among them. We lived in the Willamette Valley, the grass capital of the world. Not a great place for a dog allergic to several varieties of grasses. Considering all the problems she had, I wondered if the man who sold her to us had bred her in some inbred puppy mill or something. We had not requested her papers, although he offered to get them for us for an additional price. Since we planned to spay Poppy and keep her as a pet, her papers were meaningless, but I wondered later if we could have seen the issues coming if we had known her breeding.

When I got Molly, Autumn was not pleased. She saw the acquisition as a betrayal and competed constantly for my attention. When Poppy came along, however, Autumn enjoyed her new friend. The two of them ganged up on Molly and had a grand time doing it. Molly seemed to suffer more stress over the transition than Autumn did. However, being Molly, she didn’t act out, but spent more time under the bed.

While this was going on, we moved from the duplex to that lovely little farmhouse on two acres in the middle of the suburb.

Autumn loved it. We fenced in about a half an acre in an attempt to provide the dogs with a large place to play and also to attempt to keep Autumn from running off.

All of the dogs seemed to really enjoy this new arrangement. We would let them out in the yard and they would wander around sniffing the bases of the trees, marking each other’s urine, and chasing squirrels.

In spite of the fabulous new digs, Autumn managed to get out and disappear for a couple of hours every week. Ever since she was a puppy living near the field in Tennessee, if she had the chance to go wandering, she would take it. Most of the places we lived had fences so secure that her escapes were not much of an issue. She would return from her adventure and bark at the door to be let in.

Escape was easier at the house in West Linn. Autumn would take off, often for a couple of hours, then back she would be at the door, barking to be let in. We diligently searched the fence for signs of escape, and repaired any areas that looked like possibilities, yet she managed to get out again. Of course.

For a while Autumn did quite well. There were no bladder infections and she seemed happy. Then Poppy starting causing trouble, urinating on the furniture and getting into things and chewing. I almost wondered if Poppy was ruined for potty training because she had been left to pee in the same kennel where she slept for the first nine months of her life.

One evening, Bjorn was in the kitchen cooking, and I was playing with Milla on the floor in the living room. Autumn and Molly were lying on the floor next to me when Poppy jumped up on our nubbly, brown love seat, squatted, and peed. I screeched and jumped up, grabbed her, and tossed her out the back door. The other dogs sniffed the spot, then Molly slunk off and hid, while Autumn looked at me quizzically. Luckily, the love seat was new and came with a cleaning warranty, so we were able to have the urine taken care of, but this was the sort of thing Poppy would do.

Unfortunately, there was no way to lock up just Poppy and leave the other dogs with a way to get out to go potty, so all three had to stay on the porch when we were away to keep Poppy from destroying the house in our absence.

Autumn hated this. After locking them on the back porch, Autumn would bark and bark, venting her frustration. Once she thought I was gone, she would settle down, but soon after the dogs had to start staying on the back porch, Autumn got another bladder infection.

I did not realize it at the time, but I know now that the stress of staying on the porch when she had previously had the run of the house contributed to her getting another infection. And as in the past, it took several courses and a final strong dose of antibiotics to get rid of the infection.

I will never forget the moment one sunny afternoon a few months after she had been off the antibiotics when I let Autumn out to go potty in the front yard, and she peed a stream of deep red blood, contrasting brightly with her fluffy blonde pantaloons. I learned the true meaning of my own blood running cold. I felt my face blanch, and it was as if the world stood still for a brief moment as I questioned whether this was really happening.

I went over and sought to examine the place on the ground where Autumn had peed. The spot was a mix of scrubby grass and hard packed earth. I could not see anything. I called Autumn to me. She seemed to be fine except for the desperate urge to urinate. She continued trying, although nothing came out. Whenever she managed a little, there were chunks of bloody tissue in it. It was gross and terrifying. I thought for sure my little dog was dying.

Heart pounding and choking back sobs, I called the vet. She said to bring Autumn in right away. I grabbed a towel and covered the front seat with it so if she bled again, none would get on the upholstery. I gathered the baby, diaper bag, my purse, and the dog, and we loaded into our compact, green car.

Driving to the vet’s office, I tried to hold back tears, little hiccuping sobs kept escaping my mouth. What if Autumn had cancer? What if she was going to die? Milla sat in the back seat, her eyes wide. She knew something was not right.

We arrived at the vet’s office. The technician wanted to try and get a sample of the bloody urine, so we led Autumn around out front in the strip of grass between the parking lot and the road, hoping she would try to pee. She made several attempts, to no avail. We were ready to give up when she urinated, and some small bloody chunks came out as well.

After the technician took Autumn into the back examination room, the doctor came out to discuss what steps would be taken.

“There are several possible prognoses,” she said. “It could be cancer, but this is unlikely, given the overall symptoms. It could be that she ingested some rat poison. Rat poison causes animals to bleed out. Is there any chance Autumn got into some rat poison?” she asked me.

Anything was possible. Autumn escaped all the time. She also ate anything and everything. I had tried to teach her “Leave it” when it came to food, but this had only ever worked when I was standing right above her, forcing her to leave something alone. She would sit with her head up at an angle, her eyes cast down at whatever food item I was forbidding, a gleam in her eye, licking her chops, hoping against hope I would give in and let her have it.

“Well, we will run the test for that and if she did ingest rat poison, we can take steps to alleviate any harm if we have caught it in time.”

“Okay,” I answered, unsure and worried. There was more. I could tell. The doctor had that anticipatory look about her.

“The other big possibility, and this really matches her history, is Cushing’s disease.”

Cushing’s disease? I had never heard of it. The main symptoms were increased water consumption (check), increased urination (check), accidents in previously fastidious dogs (check), increased appetite (well, Autumn was always hungry, or so it seemed), stealing food (same as hungry), a bloated tummy (check), a dull coat (not so much), and exercise intolerance, lethargy, general or hind-leg weakness (check, check, check).

I was dumbfounded. This described my dog nearly exactly, and actually illustrated parts of her that had been showing up for years, but I had overlooked. She was only a few years old when she began to refuse running with me. Could that have been the beginning of Cushing’s and I did not know it? The vet told me there were other symptoms that also showed up, but these were often the most obvious features. She said it is usually either the increased water intake and urination, or the coat changes which prompt an owner to have their dog examined by a veterinarian, because Cushing’s dogs don’t suddenly become dramatically ill. It is also much more difficult to ignore a dog that is peeing on everything, eating trash, and losing its hair.

The bad news was that Cushing’s was notoriously difficult to diagnose because there were many false negatives. In addition, the medication to treat it was prohibitively expensive. She told me we would rule out everything else first, then look at doing the primary test for Cushing’s. She also thought Autumn should have a scope of her bladder to see what was causing the bleeding.

“How much would that cost?” I queried.

“About 750 dollars,” she responded.

Oh my holy Christ! 750 dollars! There was no way we could afford that, but it seemed necessary to rule out bladder cancer and to try and figure out what was going on in there, because Cushing’s wouldn’t cause bladder bleeding, even if it did seem like all the symptoms fit my dog.

After much hand-wringing and consternation, Bjorn and I conversed and decided we would approach our friends Debbie and Robert for a loan.

I met Debbie when I began working at Oregon State. Poker-faced with a constant smile reminiscent of the Cheshire cat, Debbie worked as a graduate assistant at the university. I worked as a general office assistant. She and I hit it off nearly immediately. We shared the same ridiculous sense of humor, and could entertain one another for hours repeating the lines of simpletons in movies or pretending to dance the river dance. Bjorn and Robert would shake their heads in consternation as the two of us spent hours on the phone laughing until our sides hurt and tears ran down our faces at basically nothing at all. Most of what we found hilarious would cause most people to wonder whether we should be incarcerated in a mental institution.

Debbie and I also shared an interest in politics.  We could spend hours discussing whatever was happening politically in the world.  Debbie was the first person I called the morning the twin towers burned.  We sobbed together, realizing the world would never be the same again.

Because Debbie became my very best friend in the entire world and she shared her life with Robert, Robert became a friend as well, and later my de facto father. I never knew my biological father, and was certainly never close to my step-father. In a sense, I had no father figure really, certainly no one had ever filled those shoes for me, so after the birth of Milla, Robert stepped in and took the job.

While I was pregnant, I decided Debbie was the person I wanted there with me as my support. Robert drove most of the time, and on the night before Milla’s birth, when we called them at 3 in the morning to let them know her arrival was imminent, Robert drove. The birthing center where Milla was born provided birthing “suites,” much like hotel rooms. Robert plunked himself down on a couch to wait for Debbie. Debbie took care of me, and Robert managed Bjorn and kept him company.

In the end, both of them were present at Milla’s birth, and forever after, she was Robert’s heart. He loved that child like she was his own. For the rest of his life, whenever he had the opportunity, Robert would tell the story of Milla’s birth and how, after the doctor plopped her up on my belly, he could see her tiny, quivering cleft chin. He then turned his head slightly and saw an identical chin, only slightly bigger, quivering on me.

Robert loved telling that story, and he utterly adored my daughter. Robert also cared for me in his own way, fighting with me when he thought I was being “dumber than a bag of hammers” (his words), or I thought he was being a “stubborn pain in the ass” (mine).

The two also thoroughly understood my love of Autumn and Molly. Debbie has a human child, and Debbie and Robert lived with the previously mentioned cat named Misty whom they loved completely. They cared for our dogs while we were in the hospital after Milla’s birth. They also welcomed our dogs whenever we visited their house. And they knew I would not have considered having Autumn euthanized for the medical issues she was experiencing unless it were the only option.

Between the two of them, Bjorn and I found emotional support often lacking in our own parents. We would have done anything for them, and in this time of need, they provided us with a loan so Autumn could have the tests deemed necessary by the veterinarian. We paid them back a few months later after Bjorn graduated and received a signing bonus at his new job, but if we hadn’t gotten that loan, I’m not sure what we would have done.

And so the tests were begun. After all the blood work and examination on the day she peed blood, nothing was found or conclusive. Rat poison was ruled out, and surprisingly, so was a bladder infection. There wasn’t any bladder infection bacteria in her urine, once they were able to obtain a sample. They also tested for diabetes mellitus, but that was negative as well. Also, based on the blood tests, cancer was unlikely, but the vet wanted to wait for the results of the scope to rule it out completely.

The vet’s office helped us to schedule the bladder scope at the specialist’s office. They also scheduled the Cushing’s disease test, which required that Autumn fast for twelve hours, then come in and leave a blood sample. She had to stay at the vet’s office all day for the Cushing’s test because first the doctor would inject her with a substance called dexamethasone, which was a synthetic steroid. She would then take blood samples four and eight hours later. In a normal dog, the body would recognize the steroid and suppress cortisol. Cushing’s dogs would not suppress the cortisol because their feedback loop was messed up.

After making all the schedules, I gathered Autumn into the car with the baby. She had stopped urinating blood because the doctor had given her something to relax the muscle walls in her bladder. The vet had also dosed her up on antibiotics, as she had the last time Autumn had a bladder infection, even though there had been no signs of that type of bacteria. The heavy antibiotic doses had worked in the past, so she figured we should do it again.

I called Debbie and Robert, and described everything we had experienced so far, all the tests, all the speculation. Then I called Dr. Fletcher and discussed what was happening with him. He asked me to keep him posted and let him know if we came up with a diagnosis.

I wasn’t as scared as I had been before because everything described to me so far could be managed, but I could hardly wait for the bladder scope that was scheduled for the following week. I was hopeful it would provide some clarity into what was going on.

Read Autumn — Chapter 12

Autumn — Chapter 10

Read Autumn — Chapter 9

The spring Milla was born, we decided to move to Portland. Living in Corvallis had worn thin for me. It was too small and too far from the activities we enjoyed. I liked bigger cities and had mainly stayed in Corvallis because first Dan, then Bjorn attended university there. Bjorn had grown up in a suburb of Portland, and during a visit shortly after Milla’s birth, we realized we could move.

I remember clearly the moment it occurred to me that we could leave Corvallis and live somewhere else. We were driving along in the car in Portland near Bjorn’s childhood home. I was a passenger in the back seat next to the baby (because I was always a passenger in the back seat next to the baby), and as we slid past orchards and neighborhoods, the idea we could actually leave where we were and go somewhere else popped into my head, and I said to Bjorn, “Let’s move. Let’s move up here now.”

Milla wasn’t even yet a month old, but I wanted a change, wanted out of Corvallis with its memories and limitations. Bjorn had one year left towards his engineering degree, and I was planning to apply to law school. We held a garage sale, packed a moving van, and headed north. Autumn was six years old.

We started out renting a room in Bjorn’s dad’s house, but this proved unsatisfactory nearly immediately. I had learned the hard way what living with family can do to a relationship, and within a month we had rented our own apartment on the third floor of a complex that had been, only months before, a filbert orchard. There were still filbert orchards across from our apartment, and we taught the dogs to run out the door, down three flights of stairs, and out across the median to the trees to do their business.

In spite of the fact the apartment was rather small, near Christmas the year we moved in, my brother Derek asked if he could stay with us for a short time while he looked for a place to live.  He had been living with our parents in Jefferson, a town about sixty miles south of Portland.

For years, Derek had struggled with drug addiction.  He would go to treatment, move out on his own and get a job, then for various reasons end up back living with our parents and near the people who always helped him get into trouble.  This cycle had run through about four times at this point.

At the time Derek wanted to live with us, he had been back to our parent’s, and we all believed that if he could just get away from the area, he would have a better chance at success in beating his addictions.

Bjorn and I discussed whether to allow Derek to stay with us.  Bjorn actually didn’t have any problems with it, but I was worried if we allowed him to stay, we would have a difficult time getting him to leave.  Unless he did something awful, I didn’t want to have to call the police simply to get him to move on.

We finally decided that we would allow him to stay, but with certain limitations.  Namely he had to get a job and he could not stay with us longer than two weeks.  We also did not want his girlfriend to live there.  Neither of us I liked her very  much, but we did not tell Derek this.  Even if we had loved her, we simply did not have the room.

Derek moved in. We let him sleep on the couch and keep his belongings in Milla’s room because she slept with us in our bed.  Nearly immediately, he was able to secure a job during the swing shift, so we didn’t see him very much except in the late morning before he left for work.  One afternoon when he did not have to work, I took him over to the management office to help him fill out an application for an apartment of his own.

For Christmas, I invited my parents and my sister and her family to our house for Christmas.  The apartment was tiny, but I had decided after Milla’s birth that we were not going to do the usual holiday run-around anymore.  On Christmases past, we would drive to my parent’s, then Bjorn’s dad’s, then his mom’s family, and often to my sister’s, or some other version of it.  No one ever came our way.  I did not want my baby to spend her holidays driving all over the place.

We pulled out the leaves to the table and made room for everyone. The kitchen was not large, but it served its purpose, helping us to serve dinner to eleven.  Once the family was satiated, we all opened gifts, our families left for home, and I straightened up the mess.

For years I had gone to the movies on Christmas day, me and many others.  Apparently Hollywood figured out this trick because movies started opening on Christmas, which was great since we saw a lot of movies and frequently needed new choices.  During movies, I would breastfeed Milla and she would fall asleep in my arms.  Derek was with us so we all bundled up and headed out to the car and off to see a show.

Three hours later when we arrived home, things were not in order.  We had only opened gifts for my family and one another, but there were still many gifts left for Bjorn’s family and for our friends.  The wrappings to most of these gifts were now spread throughout the house.  Little pieces of ribbon, bows, wet wrapping paper, and tags lay everywhere, in the living room, across the rug in the dining room, down the hall, and in both bedrooms. The cork stopper to a jar of nuts was half shredded, bits of cork speckling the carpet.  Pieces of candy cane were littered everywhere, the chunks obviously sucked on because they were coagulated in their plastic wrap.  A thorough mess.

Normally if we had arrived to a scene like this, Autumn would be standing happily in the middle of it, tongue out with some incriminating evidence on her muzzle, and Molly would be hiding, but both dogs just stood there, looking at us.

“What in the world is going on?” I asked them sternly, knowing of course there would be no response.  “Did you eat our gifts?”

Looking further, we discovered several food items in the hall and in our bedroom.  It did not look like much was eaten, but they had certainly seemed to have had a party opening all the presents and spreading them all over the place.

“What in the world were you thinking?” I hollered?  “Why did you do this?  Do you really think I want to clean up a mess like this on Christmas?”  They ignored me.  Neither of them seemed in any way concerned, which for Molly was completely strange.

I began picking up the pieces and pulling the presents together to rewrap.  Bjorn and Derek took the dogs out on our patio to keep them from getting into anything else.

It wasn’t until years later, after Derek had been to rehab a couple of more times, and long after Bjorn and I were no longer a couple, that I learned the real truth of what happened that night.

Apparently my brother had hidden in his backpack a rather large, brownie-sized cake of hashish.  When the four of us returned home to the mini Christmas disaster that night, Derek quickly realized what was up.  His bag was askew, the pocket in the front of the bag where the hashish had been stashed wide open.  The hashish had been wrapped in aluminum foil with a sticker on the front that read Acapulco Gold!  This foil was lying smashed and spitty in a pile on the cream-colored carpet, the Acapulco Gold! label torn in half.

Derek immediately pulled Bjorn aside and told him he thought the dogs had eaten his hashish.  The two of them dragged the dogs to the patio to confirm their suspicions.  Apparently what I failed to notice was that our dogs’ pupils were the size of platters and rimmed in red.  The reason neither dog had reacted in any way to my tirade was that they were both completely stoned.

When I heard the story, so long into the future, I laughed, recalling the picture of both dogs baked and confused.  I can only imagine how it must have been from their perspective, discovering Christmas goodies while they were high on hashish.

Yet Derek and Bjorn were right that I would have blown a gasket if I had known at the time. Even later, the implications were not lost on me.  Derek had kept drugs in our apartment, and had done so with our small daughter there.  She was mobile by then, crawling about and getting into things.  He assured me the stuff had been zipped up tight in his bag, and that Milla would never have been able to find them, but his concealment had not been enough to keep our dogs from making their discovery.  They were very lucky they didn’t get sick.

Ultimately, Derek fulfilled his end of the bargain.  He moved into his own apartment in the complex and got a job.  His story then continued on its own trajectory.

Meanwhile, Bjorn and I were both ready to move less than a year later.  The apartment was so tiny and located in a suburb that seemed designed to stop all drivers at every traffic signal, which drove me crazy. It was also too far from the university where Bjorn attended classes and the law school where I planned to attend classes a year later. I wanted more than an apartment. I wanted a yard where the dogs and baby could play. I wanted space, and not to be able to hear our neighbors arguing.  Bjorn, nearly 6’7″ in height, wanted room to stretch his legs without banging them on another wall. And so, less than a year after moving north to Portland, we moved again into a high-ceilinged duplex with a rambling yard. An ancient oak shaded half the yard and kept our home cool.

I loved that duplex. Too bad there were drug dealers in the park next to it. We could hear shouts and shots and all sorts of unmentionables there, at all hours of the day and night, which frightened me somewhat, considering the blonde, curly sprite living with us. The dogs also barked at all hours, warning off interlopers, causing us all to jump as we studied and played.

Finally, after witnessing a police officer throw a half naked woman and several baggies filled with white powder across the hood of his patrol car, cuffing her and tossing her carelessly into his backseat, we decided that it might be best to move on yet again.  During the years Bjorn and I were together, we had a knack for moving into places that suited one need and not another.

Our next choice was the perfect little farmhouse. Charming and comfortable, the house was yellow with white trim, and sat on two acres in the middle of one of Oregon’s wealthiest suburbs. The acreage was grandfathered, allowing us to keep livestock, so we fenced it and brought home my old childhood pony, as well as some ducks. We could have stayed there forever. Unfortunately, the little house was a rental and the manager a son who was waiting with bated breath for his mother to pass so he could develop the property, which he did not long after we moved out. There was a five-story cherry tree in the front yard, which was promptly chopped down, along with the house, in his zealous desire to destroy the land and fill his greedy hands with cash.

Our next place was our first purchase and horribly ill-suited for us, too far from town, and too much suburban sameness, block after block. In purchasing this house, Bjorn and I took the advice of a well-meaning, but misguided friend who assisted us in making the purchase. It was only years later after Bjorn and I broke up that I finally bought a house that was suitable to me. We learn with age that which we will no longer tolerate.

However, at the time we chose the duplex, we were a long way from buying our own home. Bjorn was in his last year of school and I was in my first of law school. We both worked and studied and parented our child. The duplex was spacious and shared only a small wall with our quiet neighbors. Built in the sixties, it had sloping, vaulted ceilings and two bathrooms. After the dinky, third-floor walk-up, this was paradise!

During our move from the apartment to the duplex, I saw a sign over the mailboxes at the apartment complex advertising a free cat. According to the sign, the cat liked children and other pets.

Milla and I headed over to visit the prospective cat. The apartment was on the third floor. The people who owned the cat ran a daycare service out of their home. The lady of the house wanted to find the cat a new home because her husband would not allow the cat to come into the house, and he had therefore been living on the balcony for his entire short life. She had gotten him from the humane society when he was a kitten. Except for a few visits with the daycare children where he was dressed in doll clothes and pushed around in a stroller, he had spent eleven months living on a 3 by 6 balcony with one other cat. His name was Friday and we fell in love with him on the spot.

For the rest of his life, Friday adored us. I swear he was grateful to his bones we had released him from the prison of that godforsaken balcony and the daycare children dressing him up in baby clothes.

Autumn had never been a big cat chaser. There had been cats living at the apartment complex in Tennessee and in every neighborhood we had lived in since. She and Molly were both nonplussed by the newest member of the family. After some initial sniffing, the three all ignored one another.

I suppose after Milla, as far as the dogs were concerned, any new family members were acceptable. The two of them had both settled into life with a tiny person running around. First she was a lump they could sniff and mostly ignore, but then she began moving about and carrying food with her, and suddenly she was a much more interesting prospect.

They also relished her diapers. Their’s was a disgusting and foul habit, this desire to eat diapers. No matter what steps we took to keep used diapers away from them, they would somehow manage to get into them and eat them. This would be followed by yellowish turds filled with chewed up plastic and diaper innards.

We had purchased for Milla’s room a widget called a Diaper Genie. The thing had a weird hole in its top through which one placed a used diaper. The diaper would slide through a convoluted plastic contraption and into the bowels of the Genie. A door on the front of the Genie allowed access into the bag which held the diapers. Its point was to ensure that the smell of the diapers did not escape into the room where the Genie was placed.

Both our dogs could open that Diaper Genie and get the diapers out. We would come home from wherever we had been to discover diaper shreds, baby shit, and pieces of soiled diaper spread from one end of Milla’s room to the other. Molly, of course, would be hiding in our bedroom under the bed because, in spite of her biological urge to eat diapers, she knew that our discovery of them would result in lots of hollering and hand-wringing, and this terrified her half to death. Autumn would sit among the diapers, her tongue lolling, breath smelling foul and wrong, wondering where she could find some more.

We attempted to avoid this problem by placing the Diaper Genie into the closet in Milla’s room. To no avail. Autumn was always a clever getter into things, and she would simply open the closet and proceed to dismantle the Genie in there instead.

Finally, I went and purchased an industrial strength, outdoor garbage can, the kind with a lid and bungee cords for closing. We put the Diaper Genie in this, put the whole contraption in the closet and, as long as we remembered to keep Milla’s bedroom door shut, the closet door shut, and the lid on the industrial garbage can securely fastened, we could avoid diaper catastrophes. It was also imperative that we remove the filled bag from the diaper genie to the outdoor garbage can once it was full. On a couple of occasions Bjorn left the full bag on the floor in the bedroom, which may as well have been a giant, flashing invitation to the dogs to come in and have a diaper smorgasbord at their pleasure. It only took a couple of misses on this one for Bjorn never to make that mistake again.

Milla celebrated her first birthday at the duplex.  I invited our family and our closest friends to a little garden party.  I baked a cake that looked like a caterpillar and covered it with fondant.  I sat up half the night stringing together green and yellow, construction paper, daisy chains, which I hung all over the kitchen and living room.  Clearly, Autumn’s birthday parties were just a warmup.

Within weeks of her first birthday, Milla walked across the living room.  She had been cruising for a while, walking everywhere as long as her hands held a couch, the wall, or some other support.  Then one afternoon while holding a marbly green, plastic ball, she took off and walked twelve steps across the room.  It was as if the ball were her support.

Once she began walking, she kept going, and only became faster.  Up to this point, the dogs were interested in her usually only when she sat in her high chair.  Both Milla and the dogs had discovered that the high chair could be quite fun.  Milla would toss whatever food item she happened to be consuming, and then laugh hysterically as the dogs pounced on it like starving lunatics.  Occasionally this would cause arguments between the dogs, which only made Milla laugh more.  First lessons in cause and effect.

During her crawling phase, when things became a little too silent, I would often discover her on all fours, both hands in the dog water dish.  She was also quite fond of making dog food soup, mixing together whatever food stuffs were left in the dogs’ dish with their water.  I kept the dishes on a place mat in the kitchen, and after these escapades, the floor around and under the mat would usually be a watery mess.  Autumn especially loved eating the soupy mixture, and would wait to one side while Milla mixed it for her, then dive in as soon as the baby crawled off to explore elsewhere.

When Milla began to walk, she also began to carry different food items with her.  I usually put her in her high chair to eat, but sometimes, especially if I was busy trying to study or straighten the house, I would pour some cereal in a little dish for her to carry around, or give her a cracker.

One night I sat at the kitchen table studying.  Milla had finished her dinner, but was wandering around with a sandwich in her hand.  Molly was hiding under the dining room table, doing her best to remain as unobtrusive as possible.  Autumn, of course, was following Milla, trying to get the sandwich she held in her hand.  Milla kept telling her “No!” and holding the sandwich up, trying to keep it out of Autumn’s reach.

Finally, frustrated at her inability to get the food, Autumn jumped up and tried to grab the sandwich, snapping at it, shoving Milla backward into the cupboard.  Autumn tried again to snatch the sandwich, but she got Milla’s cheek instead, high up, underneath her eye.

Milla cried out in pain.  I jumped up and raced over to her, shouting, “Autumn!”  Autumn ducked and backed up as I gathered Milla into my arms, sobbing.  Bjorn raced into the kitchen, screaming “Autumn” in a loud and ferocious voice.  He grabbed her by the ruff of her neck and threw her across the room.

“I could kill that dog!” he shouted.

“Leave her alone,” I screamed.  Milla wailed.  “She was trying to get the sandwich.  It was an accident.”

“I don’t care if it was a fucking accident,” Bjorn raged.  “She bit my daughter in the face!”

“It wasn’t on purpose.  She just wanted the sandwich,” I answered.  Milla hugged me and sobbed in my arms.  I grabbed a washcloth and set her on the counter to investigate the damage.

“Go get some antiseptic cream,” I instructed Bjorn, hoping that a project would separate him from his anger.  He stalked out of the room to go search for the medicine.

I wet the washcloth and gently rinsed Milla’s face.  She had suffered a small scratch under her right eye.  Thank goodness the bite was on her cheek and not her eye.

I looked around to see where Autumn was at.  She was cowering in the corner near the glass back door.

“Autumn, it’s okay,” I cooed to her.  “I know it was an accident.”  She was trembling.  I opened the back door and let her out.  From wherever she had been hiding, Molly came running and scooted out past me as well.  Neither dog was comfortable with yelling and violence.

Milla calmed down.  I swabbed some ointment on her small wound and then took her into the bedroom to nurse.  She was none the worse for wear, but Bjorn was still quite angry, and never forgave Autumn for this bite.  For days he told anyone who would listen that he should have killed my dog.  Eventually his anger wore down, but I made took extra care with Milla and food to ensure nothing like this event ever happened again.

Read Autumn — Chapter 11

These Breasts were Made for Feeding

This article was published on Huffington Post and can be seen here. If you like it, buzz it up and feel free to share, with proper accreditation of course.

These Breasts were Made for Feeding

~ by Lara M. Gardner

Time magazine recently ran a cover story about long-term breastfeeding. It depicted a cover photo of a woman standing and staring into the distance, a three-year-old boy standing on a chair in front of her, attached to her breast. Needless to say, the photo and article caused an uproar. Some people thought it was obscene. Others, myself included, thought it was misleading, to say the least.

It doesn’t surprise me that breastfeeding and breastfeeding to an age that more naturally suits biology has come to the fore in the public consciousness. It fits right in with the resurrection of the right-wing war on women, statements by politicians that women should never have been able to vote, laws that force women to share their sex lives with employers, and basically anything that says women cannot and should not be able to determine anything about themselves, and most especially their sexuality or anything related to their bodies (unless they are getting their breasts cut off because they have cancer, then it is okay).

All this furor over women breastfeeding children beyond an age our culture has deemed appropriate (corporate profits aside) belies a greater underlying issue. Ultimately, any discussion of breastfeeding as obscene is part of this American cultural hostility against women. Our culture would like to maintain that women’s bodies are property and should be available at all times as sexual playthings. Seeing the female body as life-giving and nurturing (i.e., breastfeeding) is a far more powerful message, and certainly not something that can be owned and controlled.

The Time photo is offensive precisely because it is obscene, but it is not obscene because the young child in it is breastfeeding. Rather, it is obscene because it has taken something that is nurturing (and arguably scientifically best for children and women), and turned it into something salacious and indecent.  Nothing about the photo is in any way representative of breastfeeding as it is. It seeks to make breastfeeding seem suggestive and forbidden, something tawdry that should be stopped before it gets out of control, something that should be hidden under a blanket.  No matter that breasts are flaunted as sexual playthings in advertising and on magazine covers. In the latter context, breasts are kept in their place. It is the former that touches a nerve because it suggests that breasts might have another, more fundamental purpose, one that doesn’t involve breasts as property or women as objects.

Perhaps the editors of Time intended for the photo to inflame and kickstart further discussion about women’s bodies and women’s place in our culture. Perhaps they understood that breastfeeding is something so fundamental to being a woman, something as life-giving as the birth process itself, that it should be acceptable in our culture, without question and without blankets. Perhaps they wanted to make it loud and clear just how ridiculous it is to claim this act is obscene. Maybe they weren’t just trying to sell magazines. I doubt it, but it is possible.

(In the interests of full disclosure, this article was written while my 2 1/2 year old daughter nursed in my lap.)

Time Changes

Baby is perfect. She curls up her arms in sleep, her chin tucked, breaths even, and I want to nestle my face in her hair, breathing her in. She is utterly delightful. I love this baby like nothing else. I loved Milla like that. I still adore her, but it’s different from the crush of baby love. It is more established, the older child love. There is a solidity in her being there. She still lets me snuggle her, but not like the baby does. She doesn’t smell so sweet either. It’s like new marriage versus old, kind of. I love them both, dearly and completely, but the love for Milla has shifted into something like the love of an older marriage.

I have been keeping the self pact to write at least a page a day. It has resulted, every day, in more than one page, which I suppose is a good thing. What is different in the writing of this book from the last one is that I started the narrative knowing where it was going, then I veered off into other pieces. I now have these various pieces written as separate files that I will meld into the main later. Today I finished one of the pieces and had a place for it in the current narrative. What will be harder down the line I think is going through from beginning to end and reading it as one narrative because it is already so familiar. I am afraid I won’t know if there are holes. I need an editor. A good one. I need someone to read it and say This works or This doesn’t or I don’t get this, it needs more information, or You go on too much here, or Move this here. I need someone I can trust who will not criticize because they are not living up to their own potential and want to bring me down, or someone who will not criticize enough because they don’t want to hurt my feelings or they can’t see the flaws. I’ve experienced both. Neither is helpful.

Time for bed. The time change is hurting me. It always does, whether up or down. I wish we could leave our time on the sunny side all year around. I hate the dark winters, nights ending early. I could simply live the daylight time, but the world’s schedule would make this extremely difficult. I’d be at odds with it all the time.

It is time to snuggle the sleeping darling. I get to smell her hair, her skin, her breath. I feel this love for her in my belly. It’s the best way to fall asleep.

February 29: Leap Day

February 29. Our odd little calendar balancing act. I feel as if I ought to commemorate it in some way. Today is leap day. Rather than take a day away from a 31 month here and there to give February 30 all year round, it gets only 28, but every four years it gets this unusual and special friend. I know it has to do with equinoxes and whatnot, but still. It does seem that it wouldn’t be difficult to let February have 30 days and maybe March and July could share one of their 31s or something, and become 30s, and it wouldn’t mess things up too terribly. Oh well, what do I know. It’s weird, but I always see this day as kind of green and kind of red. February is always red to me, mainly because of Valentine’s Day. Yet Leap Day seems green to me, mainly because of frogs. I associate it with frogs because of the leaping. It could just as well be some lords, but I don’t see them, I see frogs. Okay, I’ll stop.

I still want to move to Australia. I think about it periodically, go look up immigration rules and whatnot, but it’s a pipe dream I know.

My littlest dear is developing language skills so rapidly. Every day she takes it a step further. She can basically communicate nearly anything she wants to. Her words are vividly clear. Mainly at this point she leaves out determiners and prepositions, although sometimes they are there. For instance, she just took her doll to knock on Milla’s bedroom door, and she said, “Baby knock Lala’s door.”  She calls Milla Lala. She can say Milla. She sometimes calls her Mimi. She also sometimes calls her Mimi Lala.  She can say, “Milla.” Then she calls her Lala. I think she likes calling her Lala. We’ve taken to calling her Lala too. It’s sweet.

I found my diary from when Milla was this age. Isabel is quite similar to her sister. She loves counting and referring to things in twos. In my diary I read that Milla, who called her breastfeeding “Milky,” said she had “two milkies,” which meant my two breasts. She would tell me this all the time, just like Isabel now tells me all the time that I have one “Maa maa.” This is what she calls breastfeeding. Maa maa. It sounds like a sheep’s baa baa. I’m Mama and the boobs are Maa maa. Cutie.

Tomorrow is a big day for baby. She starts preschool in the morning, which she’ll go to every Thursday for four hours. Then later in the day she has her first swimming lesson. I expect all will be fun.

I’ve been personal training. It kicks my ass. There is no other way to describe it. I’ve been doing it a month now and I don’t notice that my body is any different. I don’t feel fitter. However I’m able to do many of the exercises with more ease, so the muscles must be strengthening. My trainer pushes me hard. Really hard. He has way more faith in my abilities than I do. He pushes me until my muscles are basically at fail. We do many different strengthening and cardio exercises for the full hour. I vibrate for hours afterwards. Tomorrow I have to go and then go to baby swimming lessons in the evening. I hope I can manage. I expect baby swimming lessons will be low key.

In any case, this is my update to no one. I don’t understand the urge to post goings on in my life in this manner. I have a private diary, but of course I won’t share what I say there here. No.

Time to go take Milla to get a bus pass. Fun stuff.

Virtually Useless Post

This is one of those extra special posts where I say virtually nothing and put it in a blog post.  Come to think of it, isn’t that what all of my blog is, actually?  I’m gradually discovering that I have nothing of any value to impart via the written word.  Nonsense, nonsense, all of it.  This is not an attempt to fish for compliments from my friends, but truth.  Really, going back through every single post, if none of it had been posted, no one would be any the worse for it, except maybe for the Pure Med Spa posts, and that was a complete accident.  Happenstance.  Fortuity.  Anyone could have gone online and bitched about Pure Med Spa and it would have been them to whom all the traffic on the issue would have been directed.

Anyway, all this was a sidetrack. What I really wanted to say was that I have the most adorable little dog in the world.  I love the adoration of dogs.  I love how they pick you and you’re their person, which means you’re the one they follow when you get up to go in the bathroom or the kitchen or across the room.  I love how when I climb into my bed, for whatever reason, little Ava isn’t far behind.  And even as annoying as it can be, I love her shrieky little bark and licking.  I wish she would not lick most of the time, but it’s her, and therefore I love it. I hold her little face in my hands and ruffle the bed head fur on her puppy head, and completely melt. Keeping a dog like this one is like having a baby around all the time.  Having my baby around all the time is joy in and of itself as well, so the combination of the two of them makes life pretty sweet a lot of the time.

Isabel, a Polar bear, and a Giraffe

Isabel went to the zoo with her cousin Sarah yesterday.  We saw lots of animals because it was early and the sun was hiding behind clouds (as opposed to the last time we went in the middle of a sunny day when they were all napping). I felt sorry for the animals.  Many of them were exhibiting behaviors associated with severe boredom.  Also I found it ironic that the zoo was filled with many signs describing the effects of climate change and the corruption we are causing our planet, and begging us to redefine our behaviors, yet at the same time they were selling tons of plastic junk.  Something of a hypocrisy there…

Anyway, here are photos I took of Isabel, a polar bear, and a giraffe.

Introduction to Brain Rules for Baby

This is an excerpt from Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina.  I have fallen in love with his book Brain Rules, and discovered the baby version on his website.  I wish the school system would read this and stop trying to stuff reading in five-year-olds like they are pate’ geese on the way to slaughter.

From the introduction.  See it here:

Scientists certainly don’t know everything about the brain. But what we do know gives us our best chance at raising smart, happy children. And it is relevant whether you just discovered you are pregnant, already have a toddler, or find yourself needing to raise grandchildren. So it will be my pleasure in this book to answer the big questions parents have asked me—and debunk their big myths, too. Here are some of my favorites:

Myth: Playing Mozart to your womb will improve your baby’s future math scores.

Truth: Your baby will simply remember Mozart after birth—along with many other things she hears, smells, and tastes in the womb. If you want her to do well in math in her later years, the greatest thing you can do is to teach her impulse control in her early years.

Myth: Exposing your infant or toddler to language DVDs will boost his vocabulary.

Truth: Some DVDs can actually reduce a toddler’s vocabulary. It is true that the number and variety of words you use when talking to your baby boost both his vocabulary and his IQ. But the words have to come from you—a real, live human being.

Myth: To boost their brain power, children need French lessons by age 3 and a room piled with “brain-friendly” toys and a library of educational DVDs.

Truth: The greatest pediatric brain-boosting technology in the world is probably a plain cardboard box, a fresh box of crayons, and two hours. The worst is probably your new flat-screen TV.

Myth: Telling your children they are smart will boost their confidence.

Truth: They’ll become less willing to work on challenging problems. If you want to get your baby into Harvard, praise her effort instead.

Myth: Children somehow find their own happiness.

Truth: The greatest predictor of happiness is having friends. How do you make and keep friends? By being good at deciphering nonverbal communication. Learning a musical instrument boosts this ability by 50 percent. Text messaging may destroy it.

Research like this is continually published in respected scientific journals. But unless you have a subscription to the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, this rich procession of findings may pass you by. This book is meant to let you know what scientists know—without having a Ph.D. to understand it.

Barcelona

I have noticed since being in Barcelona, and indeed I have noticed in all of our European travels this summer, a lot more men carting around children than I see in the states.  And here in Spain I have noticed many, many sets of grandparents or a grandparent caring for young children.  I wonder if instead of placing children with daycare centers, more people here utilize family for childcare.  I’m talking about babies and very young children.

Today while swimming in the Mediterranean I was drifting in from a swim out a ways from shore, when a turd floated by.  I immediately exited the water, packed up the baby, and went to take a shower.  I just could not swim with turds.  Call me particular.

Düsseldorf

We spent 2 days in Düsseldorf, Germany.  Actually, we stayed in a suburb called Ratingan at the in-laws of my friend, Anne. However we went into Düsseldorf both days we were there.  The weather the entire time was pretty abysmal, especially for August, but this did not stop us from exploring.  Sunday morning in Ratingan we were all soaked on our way to breakfast at a lovely bakery.  Breakfast, while damp, was quite delicious. There was a lot of construction going on downtown, which Anne says has been going on for years.  I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing.  I don’t know enough to judge.

In any case, we made it around the construction zone and wandered up and down lovely alleyways to the Rhine. At the Rhine, the sky in the distance looked quite menacing, so we beat a fast track back to the car.  We seemed to miss the rain, which was a first for the trip.

I snapped some photos of my beautiful daughter along the Rhine and with her umbrella.  Her smile is truly breathtaking.

Milla on the Rhine, August 14, 2011

Milla in Düsseldorf, Germany, August 14, 2011.

Anticlimactic

The interesting thing for me in finally finishing one of my books is how anticlimactic it has been.  I finished it, then sat here and thought, Okay, it’s done.  I will have to read through it and edit, but the bulk of it is complete. It seemed as if the occasion deserved something more, but it really didn’t.  If there has been a sincere shift in my thinking over the last few years it is this:  life is about the ride, not the destination.  This book just proved to me how much this has sunk in and become a part of me.

Time to rouse baby and get her dressed.  I love the smile she gives me when she awakens.  This morning before I got out of bed, I was lying next to her and she wakened for a moment, then patted my chest for milky, and gave me her lovely smile before latching on and going back to sleep.  Ah, baby love is the best love of all!

Monday

One of my several books is finally coming together.  I have been plugging away steadily and actually making a dent in getting it done.  The result though, is that when I have time to sit and write, it doesn’t happen here.  Many days, like this one, the choice is eat, write, cello, or French.  Usually only eat wins.  Tonight I bought plant starts for the garden, and since it was not raining I decided to plant those instead of all my other potential projects, so I managed only eat and plant.  Oh, and pull weeds.  First I had to pull weeds out of the planter boxes in order to plant the vegetables in them.  The ground was soft and loamy, perfect for pulling weeds and also for planting.  Oregon’s weather today was as schizophrenic as ever, unable to decide between warm sun and pounding rain.  I’m a bit dismayed by the rains we are getting.  They are more like east coast rains than typical Oregon rains, but things are changing in the weather world, so I should not be surprised.

In any case, it was pouring rain when I bought the baby plants, but by the time we got home, I made dinner and we ate it, the sun had decided to come out and stay out until dusk when I completed the planting.  This was quite satisfactory.  I love digging in the dirt and growing things.  It makes me feel centered.  Isabel came outside with me and helped. She scolded Ava whenever Ava barked at the wind, or the walking neighbor, or the squirrel, or the cat, or the way her fur fell across her face.  Isabel also made her hoo sound and showed me plants, helped me to pick weeds, and showed me how her coat snaps.  She liked pulling out the old leaves from the flower bulbs that have already bloomed for the year.  She stacked them in the stack of discarded plant parts and old rooty things.  Then she watched closely as I dug holes and placed baby lettuce or baby corn into them.  Adorable.

I finished this gardening project at dusk and my hands were filthy, so I figured it was as good a time as any to take a bath.  However, taking a bath and getting baby ready for bed took up the whole evening, leaving me basically no time for cello, French, or writing.  Now I should be sleeping but I’m typing this.  Why?  I have no idea.  I just pulled out the computer and started to go.  I can’t say what insane motivation drove me to it.  I am going to overcome this motivation now and go to sleep because the only time I’m going to get writing done during the week is in the early morning, which means getting up early, and if I am going to get any sleep at all (which is necessary in my brain for coherent writing), I have to stop this now and turn out the light.

Personal, Life, Weather

It’s raining again today, but it was sunny for three days in a row even though they said it would only be one, and I got to wear shorts yesterday it was so warm, so I can’t complain about rain today.

Apple took away my brand new MacBook Pro.  I have to say, my apple products are on the shit list right now.  I bought a new MacBook Pro.  Immediately upon bringing it home it started having this issue where the screen would not light up when I opened it.  It did not happen every time I opened the computer, but a lot of the time.  I figured it was brand new and should not do this so I exchanged it for another one.  What a mistake. The new one had the same issue, only it happened every single time I opened the computer, and it was difficult to get it to come on.  So I called Apple.  They said it was a “known issue” and told me some key fix while turning it on.  It didn’t fix it.  Every morning I have a tiny window in which to write before my baby wakes up.  I spend most of that tiny window trying to make the computer wake up, so the other day, in complete frustration, I called Apple again about this issue.  During the conversation with the Apple support representative, my ear touched my iPhone and hung it up.  Ears aren’t supposed to hang up iPhones.  I tell you, at that moment, Apple was at the height of the shit list and I was mad as hell.  While on hold during my call back, the guy I had been talking to called me again.  He apparently used my serial number to get back to me, which is a good thing because it was the only information I had given him before the call hung up.  We spent the next half an hour working through a bunch of repair things behind the scenes in the guts of the computer’s programming.

Didn’t work.  Yesterday I opened up the computer and the damn thing would not come on no matter what I did.  Here I have been touting Apple products to anyone who will listen and I am having all these issues, although I can say I am typing this on my 3-year-old MacBook that still works just fine.  I just wanted a computer with more space and RAM, which is why I bought the Pro.  Maybe I shouldn’t have.

Anyway.  In frustration, I made a Genius Bar appointment between court and my next client.  I took it in there and left it with them.  Of course the piece of shit opened up and worked just fine in front of the Genius Bar guy so I looked like a hysterical female.  However, he looked at some history thingy in the guts and saw something that backed up my story, and agreed that they would do some tests and get back to me.  They had not gotten back to me yet by late afternoon yesterday so I called, and they said it would not be ready until today.  They said they “had not finished looking into the problem,” which means “We have not gotten to your computer yet.”  Duh, I’m not dumb.

My small writing window is rapidly closing here.  Isabel woke me up today, but she has been running around and is now eating the pancakes Milla decided to make for breakfast before school (I wonder who will do THOSE dishes?). It will not be long before I am the only person in the world with whom my baby would like to interact and there are other writing things I need to do that are more important than cheering the sun or complaining about computers.

Isabel

Isabel, have patience!  Have patience, Mama? I’m only 1 and a half years old.  How am I supposed to have patience? And then I realized, today Isabel is exactly 1 and a half.  Happy 1 and a half birthday, Isabel.

Today Isabel also quacked at me. She picked up her new orange and white duck and said Wuack!  We wuacked back and forth a bit.  She is big into animal sounds.  For the longest time it was only barking, but lately, meowing is the most popular sound in her repertoire.  Maooooow, maooooow.  And now the duck.

If we blow in Ava’s face, she tries to eat the air we blow at her.  Isabel finds this completely amusing and has taken to blowing in Ava’s face as well, only she isn’t that great at blowing yet, so there is not a lot of air and Ava doesn’t respond quite as vociferously.  Instead she licks at Isabel’s blows.  Isabel, hoping for a bigger response, tries harder.

Love

My little daughter is perfect.  I have moments sometimes, when I’m holding her hand or looking at her, when I think to myself that I am a human and she is a human, she is my cub, my baby.  I held her hand tonight as she lay against me in the crook of my right shoulder. I could smell the warmth of her body wafting upward, see the tiny curls forming in the sweat along the base of her neck.  She held both my hands with her hands, each of her fingers warm and soft.  I picked at her baby fingernails with mine, catching the ends and pulling off the sharp places.  This is my cub, I thought. This is my little human.  Here we are, two humans, lying together in this bed in this house in the twilight as she moves into sleep.  The moment was so basic, so contented, so perfect in its simplicity.  I love my human child.  I love every moment with her.  She brings me grace and contentment.  She is perfect.

Life Goes On…

Man, it’s pathetic how little I write on this anymore.  It seems like my days start so early and are filled to the brim until late and then I fall into bed completely exhausted, only to start it all again the next day.  Work has been a living hell.  I have been hating my job so much, trying to focus on what I like about it, trying to help people, but shit just keeps coming up that I have to deal with and it takes time away from the stuff that actually feels useful.  Today a client told me she thinks I’m wonderful and that she knows I’m fighting for her, and that part is true, I do want the very best for my clients.  But I’m not so sure about the wonderful part and I am barely keeping my head above water.  It was nice to hear though.  She brought a smile to my face.

My infant daughter brings the most smiles to my face.  She is so happy and growing and changing so much.  She smiles and makes a little hoo sound all the time about everything.  She call me Maa Maa and says bye bye when she waves.  She is the most adorable little person.  She laughs all the time. She loved Christmas.  She opened her presents one by one, handing me pieces of wrapping paper as she went.  She and Milla are the reason for the holiday for me. They enjoy themselves so much and it is utterly delightful to watch them enjoy and experience everything.

I can’t believe how tall my Milla is getting.  She has passed my friend Rita and is on her way to passing my friend Sara. She’s lanky and tall and completely gorgeous.  Luckily she is also still very much 11 and into dogs and knitting and being as comfortable as possible so she goes around dressed like a hippie all the time, which is totally fine with me because I don’t need the boys chasing her yet.  I think she will manage to be taller than they are for several years to come so by the time they figure out how amazing she is, she will be older, which can’t hurt.  She is a smart girl.  She knows how these things roll.

I have to go to bed.  It’s 11 and I get to work all day tomorrow. Lucky me. I’m grateful to have a job, but I sure wish it wasn’t such a pain in the ass sometimes.

Ewww

Someone asked me how many times a day I have to change Isabel’s diaper, the implication being that I must change cloth more than I would change disposables. It should be the same.  If someone is changing their child less frequently because the child is wearing disposables, that means their child is sitting around in plastic soaked urine. That is just gross.

Pointless Rambling

Ahh, Lara never writes here anymore.  I’m tempted to stop using this blog and use the other one I started some time ago.  I like that one because the one person in particular who stalks me here doesn’t know where that one is at so I can say what I want without worrying I’ll get grief for it later.  It’s the Pure Med Spa thing that keeps me keeping this blog going.  I get a new note every few days from people screwed over by that company.  It has gone through about four or five incarnations since being called Pure Med Spa, yet it keeps on ticking and stealing from the public.  Seriously, the FBI needs to get involved.

My baby girl is getting bigger and bigger.  I do write on her blog DaysofIsabel.  I don’t keep it up as often as I envisioned in the beginning, but more frequently than I would have expected.  I love my babies, both the 11 month old baby and the 11 year old baby!

This has been a weird week of running into and reconnecting with old friends.  First, I ran into a lawyer friend I had lost touch with a few years back.  Then I reconnected with a guy I dated so long ago, all the major grownup things in my life had not happened yet.  Then I ran into my old paralegal from the toxic snake pit. Then yesterday I visited with a high school chum at his garage sale.  It really has been interesting reconnecting with all of these people.  I hope we can maintain better contact going forward.

We live in a neighborhood of old, lovely homes.  They are high-end homes from the turn of the century.  What I like about most of them is that they are sedate and solid, without being ostentatious or pretentious like so many of the disgusting mansions are these days. There are a few that are a bit too large, but mostly they are just really gorgeous older houses along a ridge that overlooks the city.

Apparently, one of our neighbors in one of these houses either passed away or moved to a nursing home.  There has been an estate sale going on for the last three days.  On the second day, after fighting yet again to get out of my driveway because of all the foot and parking traffic, I discovered what was going on and went over to investigate. It isn’t often I get to go inside one of these lovely old houses.

The surprise was how truly unspectacular this particular house is.  It certainly has the potential to be restored back to its original splendor, but as is often the case with old houses, it has been bombarded by ugly from the last several decades.  Hideous carpet covers much of the hardwood floors.  The bathrooms are tiny, the fixtures old and nothing special.  The kitchen is dated circa 1960, but not in a good way.  And the worst transgression is that someone built a covered porch thing out in the back that blocks the view from the house.  It’s hideous and large and seems not to accomplish much in the way of being a nice place to sit outside.

There were signs offering the house for sale at $632,000.  If I had that to spend on a house, I would not buy that one.  I think $400,000 is more its range, considering all the updating that will have to happen.  I also overheard some discussion about issues with the plumbing.  Of course, based on the prices these estate sellers were asking for simple junk, I’m not surprised someone is thinking they can get that amount for the sale price.  There was a set of big, old speakers they had priced at $800.  For some reason there was  a lot of old stereo equipment and they wanted 100s of dollars for each piece.  I have been looking for an older stereo and record player and based on what I have seen out there, those sellers were smoking crack to think an old set of speakers could bring $800.  They had a couple of old amps similar to those I have seen at other sales for which they were asking $250 and $300.  Nuts.  That’s how most stuff was there.  Some things were cheaper; they were offering 50% off anything under $50.  I bought a Shaft record in perfect condition for $1.50, a ceramic pot from Italy for $6, and a stuffed bunny for Isabel for .50c.  But most of the stuff was overpriced and nothing special.  They are going to have to drastically reduce to get rid of a lot of it.  Much will likely end up in a landfill.  This is how it goes at the end of our life if we have collected a bunch of not much.

Today I have a lot to do.  I have to finish some applications, pay some bills, finish an article, go shopping for baby party invitations, make a risotto, get the house ready for the busy week ahead, type a petition, and get some other petitions ready for hearings on Tuesday.  Tomorrow I have “oral surgery,” what they call it when they inject bone into the hole in your head where a tooth fell out 15 years ago in order to make bone grow for an implant.  Fun stuff.  They say it won’t hurt as much as a filling, but we will see.  I am not working though, in case it hurts more or for longer.

Isabel is up and crawling around.  It is time to get started on our day. We cuddled for several moments when she first awakened.  I love snuggling her. She is my joy.

Baby Love

It doesn’t matter where I’m at or what I’m doing, rubbing my baby’s back is like mainlining bliss. There must be some kind of direct Oxytocin hit for moms there or something.  Same with rubbing her head.  I could sit and rub her head and her back and get that blissed out feeling all day long.  She is heavenly.  Who needs the afterlife when this is available?  Ahhh, I love it.  I love her.

Day 16

Fifteenth day of life.

Not much exciting to report.  Today we went over to Gramma’s house for dinner because Daddy’s birthday was the day after Isabel’s.  We had turkey dinner and Gramma, Aunt Sarah, and Cousin Caroline held Isabel.  After dinner, Isabel and I took a nap that felt amazing.  I’m so tired all the time, so any nap is welcome.  Milla dressed doggy Ava up in baby clothes, then retired to the basement to play Rock Band and sing.  Isabel and I slept through this.  Other than that, we didn’t do much today.  It was nice to relax.  Isabel is beautiful.  I took a lot of photos of her, but then left the camera at Gramma’s so I could not download them as I had hoped to do tonight.  Ah well.  I will get it done later.

Two Weeks Old: Pumpkins

Today Isabel is two weeks old. She had an adventurous day, of sorts.  Considering she slept through most of it, I’m not sure how much of an adventure it really was.

photoFirst we went to Sauvie Island to the pumpkin patch.  We were going to go to the main big one with the giant corn maze, but when we arrived at about 2 in the afternoon on a Saturday a couple of weeks before Halloween, we discovered that everyone else in Portland had the same idea. There was a line of cars a half a mile long on the road to the patch so when we got there, we just kept driving on past the patch.  We told Milla we would come back during the week when things would likely not be as crowded.  She was amenable to this when she saw the crowds and lines.  We drove on around part of the island and in the process, discovered another, more unknown pumpkin patch with animals, caramel apples, a smaller corn maze, a hay maze, hayrides, orchards, and flowers.

Milla and Daddy went off in search of a pumpkin while Isabel nursed on my lap as I sat on a hay bale under a fruit tree. The sun was beaming and warm, and sitting under the heat nursing baby Isabel was quite pleasant.  After she had milk I changed her diaper in the shade under another tree.  By then Milla had found her pumpkin.  She and I and the baby went to check out the corn maze and animals, I picked out a pumpkin for me, and Milla picked out a little one for Isabel. Milla pulled the wagon up to the checkout where we stopped first to buy caramel apples and cider before heading on our way.  It was certainly an enjoyable afternoon.

Later in the day, Daddy was playing with the Portland Jazz Orchestra doing a tribute to Buddy Rich.  Isabel and I went to watch him.  The Jazz Orchestra is a 17 piece big band.  I sat in the way back because I expected the music to be loud.  It was loud, but Isabel slept through the whole thing.  The only time she wiggled a bit was after a piece when the audience erupted in applause.  She was not terribly fond of the clapping.  The music was fantastic and the stories from the band member who played with the Buddy Rich band in the sixties were entertaining.  It was a fun show.

After the show, right after I got Isabel strapped into her car seat, she pooped.  I removed her from the car seat and changed her diaper in the front seat of the car, bundled her back up, strapped her in the car seat, whereupon she promptly pooped again.  Silly girl!

Overall the day was lovely. Milla is looking forward to carving her pumpkin.  I’m looking forward to sleep.  Isabel is looking forward to milk.  Easy goals, I think.

Day 13

Twelfth day of life.

I love my baby.  She is lying her on my arms as I type, completely sacked out.  She is so cute.  She just drank a bunch of milk and crashed.  She loves her milk.

Today she had her second checkup with the midwives.  They weighed her (8 pounds, 15 ounces) and pronounced that she would likely be back up to birth weight at two weeks after birth (this Saturday).  They checked her belly button because it has been kind of oozy and said it looked normal and the ooziness would heal.  They had to perform the second half of the heal stick test where they take blood to send to the state.  Isabel did not like this but she didn’t flat out cry.  Rather she whimpered.  This was not fun for Mommy and Daddy.

I called a friend today who has been expecting a baby to adopt.  It turns out his baby was born on the same day as Isabel!  He and his wife have been waiting for a baby for nearly two years.  I am so happy for them that they finally have a daughter to love.

I have been having baby loss fears like I had with Milla, where I worry about SIDS and other disasters taking my baby from me.  I force the thoughts from my mind and do my best to avoid dangers, but the thoughts still lurk there, worries unbidden. I just love this little person so much and do not want anything to happen to her.

Today I bought her a night light for her changing table and some pictures of duckies to hang there as well.  Cute stuff.

Oh, she just made me laugh.  She is lying here sleeping on my lap and started to squirm a bit then pooted a big poot that made her jump, her eyes flying open in surprise.  This made me giggle.  Now that the bubble is out she is sleeping soundly again.

Isabel has more and more alert awake times.  She coos and talks, waving her arms and making faces.  She is a sweet baby.  She is wonderful to sleep with. She wakes up to drink milk then falls promptly asleep.  She hasn’t awakened to chat in the middle of the night in a few days, probably because she has been having an alert, awake time right before we go to bed.  I am going to check and see if the next time she doesn’t have an alert, awake time right before bed if she wakes up in the middle of the night.

In spite of these mostly sleeping nights, I am still really tired and have been taking daily naps with her.  I just can’t feel completely rested when the longest sleep stretch is three hours, but that will come later.  I am enjoying having her this age.  She is delightful.  I love her so much and am so thankful she was born.

Day 11

Tenth day of life.

Oh, tired.  Tired to the bone.  I sleep.  I actually sleep many hours.  I just don’t sleep that many in a row, so I’m tired.  Isabel and I took three naps together today.  I was falling over in my soup I was so tired.  I had to just get up and go into the bedroom and lie down on the bed.  Normally I tend towards insomnia and cannot sleep deeply without earplugs.  Since my baby sleeps with me I am not using the earplugs and have learned to sleep without them.  This is useful.  The funny thing is when I had bad insomnia and was a walking zombie I could not fall asleep without them.  Maybe it helps to be flooded with baby love hormones.

Isabel has a cold.  I have instituted a no visitors policy.  When visitors do come again, they cannot touch my baby without first washing their hands.  She has congestion and this morning she had a fever.  She is so tiny, I hate her feeling ill at this age.  Apparently it is good for the immune system, but I still don’t like my babies to be sick.  Breastfeeding helps, considering it has immunities in it she doesn’t have and won’t for a couple of years.  She has been drinking a lot of milky.

Cutting the frenulum helped immensely with nursing.  She gulps her milk now.  I have also discovered that I basically cannot eat sugary things at all.  It gives us both gas. Since making this discovery both of us have felt better in the gas department.  I wasn’t even eating that much, just dessert after a meal.  I don’t sit around forking candy into my face or anything.  But the amount was enough to bother both of our digestive systems, so no more for me.  I’ll have fruit for dessert instead.  It’s healthier anyway.

Thoughts certainly fritter off into the ether when I’m tired.  I had a thought about something I wanted to write when I was writing about fruit for dessert and by the time I get here the thought is gone.  This is how it has been for me, but oh well, I have a baby to love so I don’t care.

One Week Old: The Land of Cuteness

Lara Gardner’s Weblog, so long full of angst and loneliness, heartache and concern, now a lovefest to her new baby.  I’m giddy in love with this little person.  She is lying here nursing right now and making these little hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm noises between gulps.  Her little right hand is resting on her cheek, her left hand on her chest. She is so relaxed, so content, such a delightful little human.  She sighs, then hmms, then takes another drink.  Pure and utter bliss.  How boring I must be to read right now!  I don’t even care.  How wonderful it is to be bathed in gobs of loviness.  I cannot complain.

Today we went to the little shop where I bought her g diapers because I could not figure out how to use them properly.  I bought a couple of newborn sizes, and received several small sizes from Daddy’s mom.  The newborn ones didn’t work.  The small ones were too big.  It turns out that the cloth inserts really don’t work that well when they are really little.  There are disposable, biodegradable inserts that work for these little ones.  We went and bought some of these inserts and lo and behold, they work!  I’m pleased because we have been using some disposable ones, but they just aren’t as soft. They are supposed to be biodegradable.  Maybe that is why they aren’t very soft, but the non-biodegradable ones aren’t soft either, so that’s probably not it.  They just aren’t cloth, which is softer.  That’s all there is to it.

Our little dog Ava is very curious about the baby, but she is also very good.  She sits a bit of a distance away and leans her head forwardly, cautiously sniffing.  What is that thing? she seems to ask.  She looks at the baby, then looks at me, then looks back at the baby, giving her a good sniff.  Between Milla, Ava, and Isabel, we live in the land of cuteness. It is nice place to be.

Day 7

Sixth day of life.

Tomorrow it will have been a week since Isabel was born.  Wow.  What an amazing week.  The first days with a baby are so visceral, so present.  I love it.  I spend time simply looking at her, memorizing her face, her hands, her feet, her body.  Baby love is wonderful.  Pure bliss.

Today was an eventful day for Miss Isabel.  She had her first pediatrician visit, and because she had a short frenulum, her first surgical procedure.  I really like our new pediatrician.  He is a naturopathic doctor, very practical and down to earth.  I adore his bedside manner.  He’s been a physician for years, and his relaxed manner and confidence is evident in all he does.

As I said, Isabel had a short frenulum.  The midwives pointed this out the day she was born, but I didn’t think anything of it.  After five days of nipple hell though, I decided to look up the ramifications of it.  One of the most common is the inability to latch on properly.  Isabel was doing her darndest to try, but it just wasn’t working.  Her little tongue didn’t reach far enough.  No wonder she was nursing all the time–she was hungry!!

All the websites on short frenulums (otherwise known as being tongue-tied) said clipping it was quick and painless.  I’ll agree with the former, but to call the procedure painless isn’t quite accurate. The doctor takes a pair of scissors and clips the skin under the tongue, the frenulum.  It is a cutting and it stings and bleeds.  Isabel cried for a minute until she was able to get on my breast, but I have little doubt the mini wound was sore for a little while.  I’ve cut that skin before and it smarts.  Things seemed to heal up quickly though, and the differences while nursing are remarkable.  The procedure was definitely worth it.  Isabel gets tons of milk now and her constant nursing has stopped.  The nipples appear to be on the mend, although they are still very sore.  They had cracks and scabs on them. Ouch!

Later this evening  my friend Sara came to visit, bringing her little daughter Leah and dinner for the two of us.  Daddy had a concert tonight and Milla went to watch him, so it was girls’ night here with my friend and our daughters.  It was a pleasant way to spend the evening.

Milla came home excited from the concert.  She apparently fell asleep at the end of the first set and then danced through the second!  Silly girl.  She loves big band music.  She also loves dressing up, so the evening provided her with pleasure on both counts.

Tomorrow it will be a week.  This has been one of the best weeks of my life, filled with baby love.

Day 6

Fifth day of life.

Today was fairly uneventful.  Miss Isabel decided to be awake again last night, which was actually pretty wonderful.  She woke and ate around 1:30, then woke again around 3:30 and was up for about an hour and a half.  We went into Milla’s room to hang out because Milla has some pretty butterfly lights she leaves on at night. The light in her room is cozy and warm, perfect for a middle of the night Mama/Daughter hangout.  Isabel cooed and kicked, waved her arms, stretched her neck, and looked directly at me, practicing using her eyes. Long-legged Milla snuggled next to us, the dog at the foot of the bed.  It was a most pleasant manner in which to spend the darkened hours.

Once we went back to bed, Isabel awoke again around 7 for some milky, then fell promptly asleep until 11.  We both slept until 11 actually.  When she woke up she stayed awake for several hours.  We went for a quick visit to the store and she slept the entire time in the front-pack carrier.  We also had 2 visitors.  My friend Rita came for an hour at 2 and my friend Kathleen came for a couple of hours at 6.  Both times she slept through the visits except to have a small bit of milk.  I guess those long stretches of being awake just wore her out.

Seriously?  I am in love.  I know I have said it before, but it is true.  Baby bliss is truly blissful and amazing.  I love it.

Isabel goes for a ride in the car.

Isabel goes for a ride in the car.

Day 5

Fourth complete day, starting the fifth.

Today Isabelle pooped.  The funny thing about babies is that it is easy to be happy about things like poop.  She has not pooped since the first day of her life when she pooped a bunch of meconium. This isn’t much of a surprise since my milk really didn’t come in fully until yesterday so she has only been eating colostrum, which generally doesn’t make poop.  Today she pooped really early this morning, like 3:30 a.m.  Then she did it again this evening.  Sweet darling little pooper.

Last night was very different than the night before.  Something I learned with Milla is that the only thing one can count on with babies is that the will always change patterns on you.  Isabelle is too young to have developed any patterns anyway, so I’m just observing how she is.  The night before she was awake for several hours.  Last night she ate at 12:30, then woke up at 3:30, fell promptly asleep after, then woke again at 7:30 and fell promptly asleep after.  She had a couple of days where she was awake a lot. Today she was asleep a lot.

Today was also her first venture into the world outside.  I needed several baby things and also really just wanted to get out of the house so she had her first car ride and visit to the store.  She slept the entire way to the first store and through the whole visit.  I wore her in my front pack and she snuggled against me.  Oh, I love her so much.

We then needed to go to JC Penney because we need a curtain to cover this high window in our room, the light through which really bothers Isabelle.  It is in the wall behind our bed so when I sit and nurse the light comes right in at her face.  I also needed some nursing bras.  This trip was exhausting.  I fed her in the car before we went in, but she did not want to be in the carrier anymore and was awake.  I did not want her hanging out in the mall.  I hate malls and especially did not want my tiny baby there.  We sat in the curtain area and she nursed some more, but when we tried putting her in the carrier with Daddy, she got upset again, so I just carried her to bras.  They did not have a bra with a normal fastener.

An aside here.  Why is it all the maternity bra companies have gone to these horrible clips that cannot be opened with one hand?  Is it a conspiracy by formula companies to keep women from breastfeeding?  Damn annoying.

Anyway, I nursed her a bit again in the bra section, then just put her in the carrier.  She fell promptly asleep.  We decided to look for bras at Motherhood Maternity since we were already there, I was tired, and wanted to get something and get it done.  The trouble is that store is at the other end of the mall.  The walk there and back wore me out completely.  Motherhood Maternity bras had the same unworkable clasp as every brand at Penney’s so I just gave up, resolving to look on the internet.  I fell asleep in the car on the way home I was so tired.

Now we are home and Isabel is still asleep.  After I get off the computer I get to snuggle and nurse my little baby again.  Right now Isabel, Milla, and Ava the dog are sprawled across the bed sleeping together.  I love my girls. They are wonderful.

Day 4

Third complete day, beginning the fourth.

Little Isabel Lorraine, love of my life.  So far she likes being awake at night.  She finishes drinking her milky then wants to look around at us and everything.  Last night she had a long awake period, beginning at about 3:30 a.m.  Lucky for mommy, during the day she seems to like to sleep for a while between nursings, so I slept too.  I was tired.

Day 1: Isabel Lorraine is Born!

I awoke this morning at 6:59 a.m. to a pain that hurt like a terrible menstrual cramp and ran down the insides of my legs.  Considering how many false alarms I’ve had with painful contractions, I considered that this too might not be real.  However, the pain was real enough I could not go back to sleep.  I lumbered out of bed and went to the bathroom.  In the bathroom, I started having very real, very painful contractions.  I called out to the others in the house, but they were asleep.  I was having gastrointestinal problems because the night before I made the mistake of eating cheese pasta with truffles.  I knew better.  I am allergic to milk.  Not just intolerant, but allergic.  This means that if I drink milk or get its protein in cheese or other things, I get allergy symptoms and severe gastrointestinal upset.  However I had smelled the truffles in this pasta and they were so heavenly, I thought one small scoop would not hurt.  It did.

As I sat there having contractions and going through the unpleasant side effects of eating cheese, I knew this was it.  I finally was able to get up and go tell Daddy to set up the birthing tub.  I then tried to straighten a few things in between contractions.  At 7:30, I gave up bothering to try and time them and called the midwives.  The contractions were hurting so much by then I couldn’t function when they were happening.  The tub was filling slowly, but I decided just to get in.

The contractions were intense and painful, so close together there really wasn’t any breather in between.  I begged anyone and everyone to make them stop.  I was not one of those serene women, suffering in silence.  I moaned and groaned.  My hips were hurting because the muscles were so stretched from walking around pregnant for 42 weeks.  I finally had the urge to push and at 9:19 a.m., September 26, 2009, Miss Isabel Lorraine was born.

I cannot stress enough the pleasure of having our baby at home.  As quick as my labor went, I don’t know how we would have made it to the hospital without more torturous pain anyway.  Yet after the birth, our experience compared to the birthing center in a hospital experience was so different, so mellow, so peaceful and wonderful.  My little baby was with me the entire time.  She was weighed and measured on our bed.  She snuggled closely skin to skin with a blankie wrapped around her.  She found my nipple right away and started suckling.  Perfection!

Milla was so enchanted with the entire experience.  She video-taped and helped keep the dog out of the way.  She was right there the entire time.  Mostly the midwives, Daddy, and Milla just stood to the side providing encouragement.  I did not want to be touched, but was grateful they were there. After she was as delighted with her sister as we were and could not wait to hug and hold her.  She is as in love as we are.

Isabel weighs 9 pounds, 1 ounce, and is 20.5 inches long.  A big baby!  She looks like a little peach.  Her face is round and perfect, her hair soft and blonde.  I am completely in love.

Pregnancy Insomnia

It does not matter when I go to bed, I wake up at 6:43 a.m. every day, usually to pee, then cannot go back to sleep.  By the time my body might consider going back to sleep, it has to pee again.  Pregnancy is so fun.  There is also often the problem of a numb hip or arm.  My middle is so much heavier than I’m used to, it seems to cut off circulation.  I noticed a reflection of myself yesterday while waiting in a line.  I look funny.  I have skinny legs and skinny arms and then this watermelon in the middle.

I am carrying differently than I did with Milla, but this does not surprise me.  Milla obliterated the flat and tiny stomach muscles I had enjoyed my entire life up to that point.  I think she also shifted my guts around.  This baby also seems to like to hang out up in my ribs more than Milla ever did.  My sister complained about her babies (she has 4!!) bruising her ribs.  I had no context.  Milla liked to lie on my pelvis.  That hurt.  I think wherever baby hangs out inside us eventually hurts.  Anyway, this baby moves all over, but she does hang out near my ribs and it is quite uncomfortable.  I push and shove and rub and move her back down.  Lately she has been lower in my pelvis (in fact she’s wiggling there now), but it’s getting closer to birth time.  In fact yesterday was 2 months to due date exactly, so there isn’t a lot of time left.

I do believe I have the sweetest child in the world.  As I sit here I see the little pile of jewelry she made me last night while I was working away on the computer.  She and I were talking yesterday about some girls she met in our building.  They told her they could not imagine having no television (we do not have one).  I reiterated to Milla that I think it’s better not having one, that I never even notice not having one.  The jewelry-making provides an example why.  When we are home in the evenings, or even during the day, Milla finds things to do with herself.  She knits.  She crochets.  She draws and draws and draws.  She makes me jewelry.  When she grows up, I will have all these mementos of a childhood spent doing things rather than staring at the idiot box.  That’s a good enough reason for me not to have one.

Baby One is growing up.

Baby One is growing up.

Baby Two sucks her thumb.

Baby Two sucks her thumb.

Beached Whale

I’m just stuck, energetically, physically, mentally.  I think it’s pregnancy, but I’m not totally sure.  There have been so many changes in the last six months that could be attributable to this logjam.  However, I have experienced major changes before and not felt so inept and unable.  It’s weird having been a person with a quick mind and quick body turning into someone who has difficulty thinking of words and can’t just leap out of bed or a chair.  I feel like a beached whale, stuck here on shore, lying in the salt surf, seeing what was all around me, yet unable to do anything about it.

We recently took a trip back to Portland. While there, we ran around hither and thither, visiting and seeing family and friends.  In the past such a visit would have been delightful to me.  If there had been a free moment, I would have wanted to fill it.  This time, I was exhausted a third of the way into the trip.  A couple of times I just ran into a physical wall in the middle of the day.  I had to say Enough is enough! and go lie on the bed and take a nap.  Pregnancy was definitely the culprit there.

The first trimester of this pregnancy was a nightmare.  I suffered severe perinatal depression without knowing such a thing existed.  My boyfriend thought I was an alien, and wasn’t very supportive as a result.  I still looked like my normal self, but I was not the same person.  I overreacted to the smallest things.  I would sob and sob and sob for hours.  My brain completely fogged up.  I finally realized I was experiencing something physical, so I decided to do some research.  In the process I found Brooke Sheilds’s book on her experience with postpartum depression and discovered that a pregnant woman or one who has just given birth who has gone through an enormous amount of stress prior to the pregnancy is much more likely to suffer from depression.  Considering the level of stress in the years leading up to being pregnant, coupled with the stress of moving across the country, moving in with my new boyfriend, getting pregnant, moving away from Milla for the first time ever in her life, and I was a perfect candidate for peri or post natal depression.

Based on this information, I did further research and discovered that the leading expert on peri and post natal depression was based in New York, not far from where we live.  Her name is Dr. Margaret Spinelli.  She was conducting a study to determine whether counseling a pregnant woman to improve her interpersonal relationships would improve her depression and reduce the likelihood of it occurring after pregnancy.  I had a consultation with Dr. Spinelli and she admitted me into the study.  Since going, my moods have improved dramatically.  It also seemed to help just to know that I wasn’t actually going nuts but suffering from a physical response to being pregnant under stress, and to understand that the troubles in my relationship were making things worse.

I’m still waiting for my boyfriend to understand that my emotional reactions to most things are normal for a pregnant woman, and especially a woman with perinatal depression, but I feel better understanding that how I feel comes from a diagnosable source, one that will go away when my hormones settle down, and if they don’t, there is medication available to assist me.  Considering the level of improvement I’ve experienced without drugs, I am genuinely hoping to avoid that route completely.  I also make sure to keep my sugar intake to a minimum and exercise, because I definitely feel worse when I eat sugar or don’t exercise.

Even without perinatal depression, the physical demands of pregnancy aren’t much fun.  I did not like being pregnant with Milla.  This pregnancy is no exception.  When I was pregnant with Milla I would hear about women who said they never felt better that when they were pregnant.  My response to that was they must have felt pretty crappy the rest of their life!  I like having a clear brain.  I like having a lithe body.  I can’t wait to have the little baby out here so I can get off this beach and back into the ocean.

Giving Birth to a Kitten

I dreamed I gave birth to a kitten. Giving birth to the kitten was normal. It was black and white.  As it tried to nurse I realized that it was not the human I had been expecting. I remembered registering for baby things on Amazon.  I realized I would have to tell everyone that I did not need those things because I did not have a baby, I had a cat.  I knew why the birth had happened months before it should have, because the kitten’s gestational period was shorter than a baby’s.  I missed the baby that was not human.  I loved the kitten but was so sad it was not a human with arms and legs.

Damn weird dream.

Pitiful

It just makes me sick, those poor babies made ill by milk powder in China.  It reminds me of Nestle going into third world countries, telling the women to stop breastfeeding and to “use formula like western women,” all the while ignoring the fact that the water is unsafe to drink.  The result is a 50% infant mortality rate in these countries because the babies die from dysentery.  Now we have over 59,000 babies sickened and killed in China from drinking poisoned milk powder.

Fifty percent infant mortality rate.  59,000 sick and dying children.  All these giant numbers, all these sanitized words used to cover one salient fact:  some parent’s baby got really sick or died.  Each of those hurt or killed had a mom and dad who either had to sit up worrying about a sick baby or they lost a little baby they loved, not to mention the fact that these little kids had to suffer through sick stomachs, diarrhea, and vomiting.  Use sanitized words and it becomes so easy to forget that.

The other piece of this that strikes me is how truly sad it is that formula is fed to children instead of breastmilk.  I wrote a law review article calling for laws requiring employer accommodation of breastfeeding women.  For that article, I did extensive economic and medical research to back up my arguments.  The conclusion I drew was that breastfeeding saves lives and money.  We never should have switched to a system where it was not the norm.  Of course, money drove the trend on many levels.  Money, money, money.  Everyone wants it.  Everyone wants everyone else to think they have it.  Stupid decisions are made because of it, from the decision to make our babies sleep in other rooms to the decision to feed our children milk made from powder to prove we can afford it.  Later these decisions became the norm to the point where children who want to sleep with their parents are considered problems and babies drinking from mothers’ breasts is considered obscene.  No one questions why it started and what was normal for thousands of years becomes disgusting and unnatural.

I continue to marvel at the ridiculousness of human beings. We’re too smart for our own good.  Unfortunately, we aren’t smart enough to make milk that is as good as our own and the result is that it makes babies sick and kills them.  Pitiful.  Truly pitiful.

Why We Celebrate Birthdays

I love the movie Waitress.  I saw it twice at the theaters and now I own it.  It’s an amazing movie.  So well-written.  So funny and sad at the same time.  That moment when she says to the nurse, Give’er to me.  Then looks at that baby and the rest of the world fades from view.  Nothing else matters.  I have never seen a movie capture that feeling, that moment when your child is looking at you for the first time and you know in the marrow of your bones that you have fulfilled your life’s biological purpose; you know why you were born.  There is nothing like it.  When Milla was born, the doctor put her on my stomach, I laid my hand on her back, she lifted her head and looked at me and I told her Hi Baby.

I will never forget that moment for as long as I live.  It was the best moment of my life.  I know now why we celebrate birthdays.