As mamas, we need certain things - like breaks, support, encouragement, and sometimes even forgiveness. It seems to me that us women have a tendency to expect these things to come from other people in our lives. Often rightfully so. In a perfect world our partners, for example, would be steady resources of emotional support (not to mention clean dishes and thoughtful gifts), but just like us, our partners are only human, and relationships are hard.
The truth is that you can't always count on the people that you love to give you what you need. Sometimes you just have to take it - like a pirate. Sometimes I have to leap onto my husband's ship and commandeer his time or attention by scheduling that date night or plopping the baby in his arms so that I can go take a shower or escape the house for an hour or two. He doesn't have to understand. He doesn't have to like it. I'm a freaking buccaneer, and I'm going to take what I need to get through it all.
That may seem mean - bossy even - but pirates aren't all bad. They've been known to share the booty upon acquisition of sufficient plunder. (Giggity.)
What do you need, mamas? Do you need a break? Do you need a hug? Do you need a drink? Whatever it is, I encourage you to go and get it. To Hell with waiting for someone else to bring it to you.
I've always been a big fan of chubby babies. The pudgier the better. A week or so before my due date I visited Deep Eddy with a girlfriend and saw an adorable specimen of infant portliness. "I hope my baby is nice and fat.", I confessed to Keeley. She laughed and reassured me that my own little one would surely be the perfect chunk.
Though Charlie started out on the extra-tiny side, he's been working very hard at making up for his low birth-weight. In four months he has more than tripled in weight. First came butt cheeks, then a round little belly. After that, Charlie's arms and legs plumped up. It was around that time that little rolls started springing up all over his body. According to my last count he had no less than three chins.
He truly is the baby of my dreams, but all of that darling chub comes with a price. Things can get awful funky inside those rolls. Keeping them clean and dry is an ongoing battle. For a while I thought cleaning them out daily would be enough, but eventually I wised up and started using baby powder too.
Commercial baby powder is often made of talc, a surprisingly nasty ingredient linked to all kinds of horrible health issues including cancer. You can find talc-free powders from fancy-pants baby brands, but making your own is relatively cheap and easy. If yeast isn't an issue, plain cornstarch will do just fine. Adding Arrowroot Powder or Kaolin Clay makes homemade powder even better. Here's a super simple recipe for Homemade Baby Powder that you can make in about two minutes.
Simple Homemade Baby Powder
- 1/2 cup White Kaolin Clay
- 1/4 cup Cornstarch (or Oat Starch)
- 1/4 cup Arrowroot Powder
Whisk ingredients together, then pour them carefully into a jar or powder sifter.
Tap a small amount into the palm of your hand, then carefully rub it onto baby's skin. Avoid baby's eyes, nose, and mouth.
If you really want to go all out, you can whip up a batch of this Aloe & Chamomile Baby Powder I created for The Natural Beauty Workshop. It includes pulverized Chamomile Flowers and Spray-Dried Aloe Vera Juice, two ingredients that are great for soothing sensitive skin.
By the way, you can find all of these ingredients (and many more) at www.FromNatureWithLove.com. If you order from them, use this code MMGOOD42. You'll get 7% off of your order, and I'll get a little commission that helps support this blog.
Baby finally falls asleep after two hours of resistance. Right on que the doorbell rings and the dog begins to bark madly.
I open the door to find a girl dressed like a hipster Ellie Satler standing there with a clipboard.
"HI! I'm -"
"Look, I'm really sorry but I just put my baby down and the dog is barking and going to wake him up so you have to go."
While attempting to stick her entire head in my door so I can't close it she says, "But we're the ones who fought to get BPA out of baby bottles and sippy cups so really -"
Look of death.
"You really have to go."
"Should I come back later?"
"No. There will still be a baby and a dog here later."
She looks at me with like I'm eating fried baby seal eyes while driving a Hummer on my way to vote against women's rights.
This interaction really burned my britches. I wanted to tell her I already give money to help the environment. I've rallyed. I've marched. I recycle. I eat local food. I drive an electric car. I wash my hair with vinegar. I'm doing my part, dammit. Don't judge me you little twerp. Just because I don't have any time or money to give you today doesn't make me a facist.
One day, many years from now. May Hipster Ellie Satler lay her own baby down in his crib just to be interrupted by an unexpected 19-year old asking for money to fight a cause she's already dedicated plenty of her own life toward. Let's see how she likes it.
It's been seventeen weeks since a tiny naked Charlie was plopped into my arms. When he was born his entire torso was just about the length of my outstretched hands. When I hold this great big boy in my arms now, just under four months later, it's hard to believe he was ever that small.
He smiles all the time now - laughs too, and he's starting to appreciate music. He sings along when I sing to him, or when Scott plays guitar. He sits at the piano and bangs on the keys. While I have no idea how much of this behavior is purposeful and how much is coincidental, it's still pretty neat. His favorite songs for me to sing right now are Emmy Lou by a First Aid Kit and I'm a Little Tea Pot. Wheels on the Bus is another favorite. Charlie thinks that song is especially funny when his Mama uses it to make fun of his Dad. Tonight it went "The Daddy on the bus says 'That ball's loose! That ball's loose! That ball's loose! Death to the ref!'" Daddy's a Jets fan.)
Charlie has also started blowing raspberries, and can now manhandle objects with both hands. He mostly uses his newfound dexterity to chew on his beanie baby kittens and fish-hook his Mommy. Yeah, ouch. He's starting to sleep through the night but struggles more and more with naps during the day. He's been drooling, fussing, and biting his hands a lot which leads me to believe that teeth may be on the way soon. Whenever he gets cranky Scott asks Charlie why he's getting on the Fuss Bus?
Work is going a little better thanks to some new tech. I bought myself an iPad, and so far it has made it much easier to get things like writing and social media management done during the day. Carving out laptop and kitchen time for graphics and formulation is still tough, but we are making progress.
It's been a little while since I blogged last. Thats partly due to a bit of shyness on my part. I have so many feelings these days, and many of them are conflicting. On one hand I feel completely and utterly blessed. I'm madly in love with Charlie. He has me completely fascinated, entirely devoted, and bursting with joy.
At the same time I can feel myself struggling not to crumble under the combined pressures of at-home motherhood, full-time work, blogging, and writing my first book. Sometimes it's all too much. Sometimes I just want to sell my house, move out into the sticks, and say "to Hell with it all" so I can focus on Charlie-worship exclusively. In that particular fantasy I spend all my free time nibbling his little baby toes and folding laundry. Ahh, how our dreams change shape!
Other times I find myself desperate for my mother or my sister or someone to show up and just TAKE THIS BABY FOR FIVE MINUTES.
It's hard enough to feel all of these things at once - let alone write about them all. I finish a draft one day, then write something the next day only to realize the two posts completely contradict one another. Are my opinions really that fickle, or am I just short on the talent for roping it all together?
Then there's my bitchiness problem. I find that having had a baby has saddled me with an unnecessary surplus of the stuff. I catch myself rolling my eyes at people in public when they start up on a tiresome subject, narrowing my eyes when they begin to take it too far, and shutting them the hell down when I've had enough. Motherhood must have turned me into some kind of honey badger because, People, I just don't give a shit.
Go ahead and tell me how you judge on your neighbor because you think their kid is too old to still be nursing. Let loose your unsolicited parenting advice. Ring my doorbell even after I've plastered a huge sign on the door telling you not to. See what happens.
Hutzpah is great and all, but it can bring out the worst in a blogger. I've written and deleted several posts over the past few weeks after re-reading them and deciding that their psychotic mamma bear vibe was just a hair too strong. You see, I've apparently lost the ability to stop my eyes from rolling up in the back of my head whenever I hear something stupid, but I have NOT lost the common sense to edit. At least not yet.
Oh snap. It's bed time. Mama Honey Badger is OUT. I'll catch you cats on the other side of Seventeen Weeks.
I was a little nervous about the whole thing. What if I dropped him? What if I slipped? What if my nudity somehow traumatized him?
These were my fears as I filled up the tub, but as soon as his little feet touched the water they were erased. His face broke into a huge smile - a look of utter joy. As I eased him into the bath he squealed and squawked in delight. Once his body was submerged he began to float, then to wriggle - as if he wanted to just swim away.
I gave him as much freedom as I could while keeping a firm grip and his head above water. He kicked and splashed - totally at home in this little wet world.
When we were done we dried off, dressed, and nursed. I held him in my arms and realized that having him was the best choice I ever made.
I wanted a baby for so long, and often when we want things so intensely we are let down when we finally get them - the reality never quite living up to the dream. It's not like that with him. Not at all. When it comes to being a Mother, the reality left my dream in the dust.
I hope I never forget the way he smiled tonight, or the way his little face reassured me. It was like he was saying "It's OK, Mama. I know how to do this."
When I stop and think about it, I guess he's been telling me that all along.
After almost three months of drama it has finally been established that little Charlie-Boy had not just one tongue tie - but two! That means that the frenulum (that little flap of skin that holds your lip and tongue to your mouth) is too short for him to manouver properly. It explains why Charlie has been gulping, biting, and pinching while nursing, even when I have him properly latched.
It wasn't an easy road to this point. We've had differing opinions on the state of Charlie's mouth from just about everyone possible. Midwives, pediatricians, lactation consultants, and even an ENT specialist have weighed in. Finally we ended up going to see a pediatric dentist who specializes in laser frenectomy (the corrective procedure for tongue tie). She took one look in his mouth and declared him to be a level four! Not that I have any idea how many levels there are, but four sounded awfully serious.
The procedure was done right there in the office shortly after his examination. Handing my sweet little pumpkin over to the nurse wasn't exactly an easy thing to do - especially when I thought about what was going to happen next. A frenectomy is basically just the clipping of the frenulum. Ouch! The old school method is to perform the cut with a scissor, but there are some advantages to having it done with a laser instead. The laser instantly cautuerizes the cut, so there is little to no blood when the operation goes smoothly. It's also super accurate, allowing the dentist to correct the under-lip frenulum - a spot that ENT specialists often won't or can't treat with scissors.
The only disadvantage of going with the laser treatment as opposed to a traditional treatment, for us, was the cost. While we do have dental insurance for Charlie the one and only pediatric laser dentist between Austin and Dallas (that I know of) was not in our network. We ended up having to pay almost $900 up front. Hopefully the dental insurance will cover a fair amount, and the dentist said that we could also submit it to our health insurance after that to maybe get a little bit more back.
Whenever experts brought up getting Charlie's tongue tie corrected it was described as a really simple procedure. It would be done quickly, without a lot of blood, and without a long recovery. In our experience, we've found two out of three of those statements to hold true.
It will be done quickly: True
Though listening to my baby scream bloody murder in another room for twenty minutes was kind of awful.
There won't be a lot of blood: True
In fact, there would have been no blood at all with the laser treatment except that our little wiggle worm wasn't completely contained during the procedure and ended up with a knicked gum which bled for several minutes.
The recovery is short: False
This is where I call shennanigans. While he was able to nurse right away, this poor kid has been sore and crabby for days. He might have gotten over it by now if we didn't have to keep aggravating the wound, but we were instructed to do "exercises" on his frenulums for ten days following the procedure. Basically, I have to reach into his tiny little mouth and push on the sore spots to make sure they don't heal back together. I'm supposed to do this twice a day for several minutes each time. So far, I can only get away with about thirty seconds on each spot before he starts choking, biting and crying. After that my heart breaks into a million pieces and I die a little inside. Here's a video of what I'm meant to do:
He's also having a heck of a time navigating his new mouth. He's sucking harder, eating faster, and then spitting up all over me. Sleep is also completely out of the question. He's gone from some hard-earned 4-5 hour stretches to 45 - 90 minute sleeps. I've heard from other mamas that this gets better after about seven days. It's good to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but dang! It would have been nice to know what was coming.
To Frenectomy or Not to Frenectomy?
In the end, the health and comfort of Charlie and I as we continue nursing should make all of this worthwhile. There have been times during the tongue tie debate where I was tempted to just let the whole thing go and just put up with the issues we were having. He COULD eat, after all, so correcting the tongue tie wasn't absolutely necessary. Then I thought about my long term goals. I'm hoping to nurse him until at least eighteen months, which would have left fifteen more months of pain, gas, and trouble. That would have been a long time for both of us.
If all goes well, he should be healed up and nursing more efficiently in about seven more days (ten days from the procedure). He'll be able to stick his little tongue out and scoot that upper lip over the booby, forming a much better seal and moving the milk a lot easier. All of that should equal less gas, more sleep, and a pain-free nursing experience for mama. I plan to update this post in about a week to let you all know how it's going.
Charlie discovered splashing tonight! At first I thought he had slapped the water by accident. The surprised look on his face sure made it seem that way. Then when he kicked his legs I thought he must be getting upset. Tub time wasn't always his favorite thing. But no, the look on his face wasn't one of frustration or irritation - it was of wonder.
Suddenly he was wailing his arms and legs in and out of the water, splashing it all over the place. I kept waiting for a giggle or a shriek, or even just a grin to tell me he was having fun, but none ever came. He just kept his eyes wide and his mouth dropped open, seemingly in awe of his new trick.
I let him splash for a while, laughing with Scott as Charlie got water everywhere, before scooping him up into his little hooded towel.
While Charlie has developed a taste for tubby time, he certainly is NOT a fan of post tubby time. Apparently he likes being wet, but hates being damp. I thought maybe it was his wet hair that was setting him off, so I tried putting a hat on him.
As you can see, that plan went over really well.
According to The Wonder Weeks, Ol' Chuck is coming up on a major developmental leap, which may account for his recent wacko behavior. Over the past few days his napping is all over the place, his nursing is treacherous (for me at least - chomp chomp) and his mood is... mercurial.
It's kind of fascinating how these rocky times are freckled with moments like today's bath. If I look carefully I can see him changing; working things out in a new way, moving his body with more precision, and of course, getting BIGGER.
His eyes have also blossomed suddenly, allowing him to see things from all the way across the room. We often find him staring off or reaching out for things; a plate on the wall, Grandma's iPad, a pan full of cookies, the crack between the bedroom curtains, his own feet. Story time is a hit now too. Charlie loves looking at the pictures while his Grandma makes funny voices.
All of this is happening just a week away from his hitting three months. People tell you how "they grow up so fast" but geez. This feels REALLY fast.
Charlie met Sophie the other day. I dangled the little rubber giraffe in front of him, and he locked eyes with her funny little face. Charlie let out a squeal of delight before bursting into a huge grin. Then he did something new. He reached out and wrapped his little fingers around her neck. A look of deep thought crossed his little brow as he paused for a moment, considering his prize. Charlie chuckled for a few seconds before shoving Sophie's head into his mouth.
Watching him gave me a great idea for a B Horror Movie: Attack of the Giant Baby. The little tike could roll around town grabbing people and slowly gumming them to death. If you could see the look on Charlie's face when he's about to eat you would totally get this.
Right before Charlie latches on he gets this crazy look in his eye. It's perfectly manaical, and sometimes it's paired with a crazed, villainous laugh. Whenever he makes that noise I know to watch out. He's about to get his nom on.
In these instances he doesn't wait for me to latch him on. He just goes for it. Sometimes he hits the nipple, and sometimes not. I've gotten a few pretty gnarly hickeys from the times he's missed. If I go in to close for a kiss, my nose often becomes a target. The last time he did it he reached out and grabbed two handfulls of hair at the same time. (The movie, Alien, came to mind.)
He's a good eater, this kid. From the very beginning he has been voracious. During his first month of life he cluster fed like a champion, going SEVEN hours on his longest feed. All that hard work has bumped Charlie into the 50% percentile for weight, no small feat considering he was born at less than five and a half pounds.
Before Charlie was born I often worried about breastfeeding. Would I have enough milk? What if my baby didn't want to eat? These are all pretty common fears, or at least I think they are. I never would have guessed that my biggest breastfeeding challenge would be dealing with my tiny baby's monstrous appetite. You see, when a baby nurses around the clock he teaches your breasts to produce mass quantities of milk. Sounds great, right?
While it is certainly a blessing to produce enough milk to feed my itty bitty beefcake, it comes at a price; eternally leaking boobs (I have to sleep on a towel), mastitis, milk blisters, engorgement, and last but not least, hours on end trapped under an endlessly demanding, but all together darling little creature. It's hard. In fact, it's probably the single hardest thing for me when it comes to being a parent right now. Oh yeah, he's also started biting me. Ouch.
So why do I bother? I've asked myself this question many times - often in the middle of the night while staring at my blissfully slumbering husband. If I put Charlie on formula I'd never have to worry about pumping enough milk to leave the house alone or to catch up on my sleep. My personal freedom would be seriously expanded (and my boobs would probably throw a party). I would be lying if I told you that I wasn't tempted by that freedom, but as great as it sounds sometimes I continue to nurse.
Why? Because despite all the challenges, (the nipple abuse, the sleep deprivation, etc.) I really love nursing my baby. I love feeling his warm little body tucked up against mine. I adore the moments where he smiles at me or wraps his tiny hands around my finger. It feels good to feed him this way. It feels right and natural to me, so I keep doing it. And thankfully, as time goes on it's becoming easier to do.
There were quite a few times that I nearly gave up. I'm really glad that I didn't.
So, to all you new mamas and mamas to be: If you are planning to breastfeed, know that it's normal to feel overwhelmed at times. Each mama and baby relationship comes with its own unique set of challenges. Get help if you need it (I have needed plenty) and hang in there. It does get easier.
Baby Boy got his first round of shots yesterday. It proved to be a harrowing experience for everone involved. One thing about having a baby that doesn't cry all that much - when they do let it rip it can really pull on your heart strings. He went beyond his usual waaaahhhh and into a gurgling, squalling, scream. I tried nursing him as the shots were given, but he wouldn't even take the boob. I ended up handing him over to Scott who has an uncany ability to soothe Charlie whenever he flips out. It actually makes me a little bit jealous to see Scott calm him down so easily, but I try to push that feeling out of the way to make room for grattitude. I'm thankful Charlie has such a loving Dad.
Worse than getting the actual shots was the aftermath. Charlie has been pretty unhappy since then. He flipped out and refused to nurse last night for no apparent reason, suddenly screaming at the top of his lungs in the middle of a feed. Again, Scott calmed him down and then just held him until he started acting like he was hungry again. After that, the kid nursed like there was no tomorrow. I eventually had to take him off the boob to try and coax him into sleeping. (And to save my poor aching nipples.)
This morning he woke up cranky, and has spent the entire morning parked on my chest. After nursing he didn't want to talk, play, or look around like he usually does at that time of day. He just wanted to burrow his little face into my neck and go back to sleep. So I let him, and he's been napping there ever since.
I hope he feels better soon. I miss his smiles, and I'll be relieved when he gets back to normal. Even though I feel like we made the right choice for us and for Charlie, I can't help but feel a little nervous in the aftermath of vaccination. I feel like these decisions that have to be made can be even more painful the physical challenges we face as parents. As tired as I am, I think I'd gladly take sleep deprivation and sore arms in exchange for peace of mind.
I guess noone can ever give that to you though. When you love someone this much the fear of them being harmed or taken away from you is just something that you have to learn to live with. That's why as much as I'd love to eat breakfast at some point today, I won't risk waking him up by moving him. Not today. Today Charlie and I will stick together.
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