Friday, August 31, 2007

Turning 30

Dear Sammy,

When you were 7 weeks old, you were already becoming a party animal. One day, you'll read this post and find out that my 30th birthday was the first party of your life.

I was suspecting something fishy when I walked up the stairs of Zia Gaia's house. Babulya i Dedulya were visiting us for a few days and Gaia invited us all to her house for a "baby" brunch. Don't worry, kiddo. A baby brunch is not where you eat babies. It's where you meet babies :) Her friend Kate just had a baby boy a week after you were born, and I thought we were getting together to meet him. But as I walked into the dining room, my mouth dropped. Guess whom I saw -- your Great-Grandma. And your uncle Leo, and aunt Megan, and your Grandma Louise. What a surprise -- particularly Great-Grandma. I was so looking forward to have her meet you. She just had a surgery 2 months ago, and I didn't hope in my wildest dreams that she'd come, but she did. She is a real trouper, and nothing could keep her away from you. As I hugged everyone, tears came to my eyes. I found your Dad's eye, grinning and also wet.

Since we decided not to go to France this fall, your Dad decided to bring France to me. Aunt Megan and uncle Leo made France themed decorations, and your Daddy slaved over baguettes and tomato onion tarts the day before in 90F heat. I thought he was crazy! Even an obsessive cook like me wouldn't consider baking in such heat. Babulya was making bayalda (an eggplant dish) and piroshki. She also brought some caviar for a little Russian touch. Everyone was making so much stuff, I simply backed out of the kitchen and didn't go there until it was time for dinner. I kept giving them a hard time with going so overboard for a simple potluck lunch. When I finally dared to come into my sacred territory (one day you'll share a kitchen with me and realize that it's no picnic ;), I just couldn't contain myself. Every board was dirty. The counters were overflowing and the heat was unbelievable. I am sweating just remembering it. What can I say -- I am a little Soup Nazi. Wait, you don't know about Soup Nazi yet. But I am sure that by the time you are old enough to read this, you'll be old enough to be initiated into the wonderful world of Seinfeld. Anyway... So besides cooking and baking, your poor Dad and Babulya had the hard job of calming me down. Well, they did a great job with it all. It wasn't long before I started laughing at the whole situation and they even took over the job of making dinner to help me relax. I don't deserve such an awesome family -- really, I don't!

I've never felt as complete and happy on any other birthday in my life. Just watching your Great-Grandmother (Prababushka) holding you for the first time was enough to make my heart melt. That's just how I wanted to spend my birthday. No restaurants, no big crowds, just family (Zia Gaia and Zio Jerome count as family :)

[Sammy meets Grandma Louise for the first time]

[Sammy meets Great-Grandma Aleksandra for the first time]

After lunch, the heat really got to us, and we headed over to Waltham where out of town family were staying. We had cake and sat around talking while you took a nap. Eventually, it was time to head home, but celebration wasn't over. The next day, your Dad took us all to Isabella Stewart Gardner's Museum for lunch. He knew that I was hoping to go there for your baby shower and since it didn't work out then, he arranged for the 10 of us to have lunch in their garden on my birthday. You were amazing the entire 2 days and joined in all the fun. You started smiling right around that weekend. You probably didn't know what you were smiling about yet, but maybe you'll read this post some day and it will make you smile again.

Love, hugs, and kisses,


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Breastfeeding: Lessons Learned

I know it's hard to believe, but it's having the terrible F word in the house that finally got Sammy and me feeling better about breastfeeding. It's not because we tried it (I mean formula) and realized how bad it is. It's because now I don't panic about what will happen if Sammy will still be hungry and I won't have milk to give her. This means that I am more relaxed and the milk is coming in much better. And since I am more relaxed she is more relaxed and latches on better. I thought my Mom was exaggerating when she told me the kids can sense if you are stressed out, even tiny ones. I guess she wasn't. Ever since I had Sammy, I realized one important thing: always listen to your Mother (unless she is worrying too much :)

Well, since we'd like to have more kids some day, I thought I'll write down some of the lessons I've learned from this breastfeeding experience. In a few years I might forget the important details and it would be nice if the second time it went a little better.

  1. Ask your Ob/gyn for an APNO prescription BEFORE giving birth. This way you can heal the damage as soon it occurs.
  2. Do not attempt to breastfeed as soon as you give birth. You'll be way too tired after labor to pay attention and will likely cause your nipples way more damage than its worth. Just cuddle your baby and relax.
  3. Ask the hospital staff to keep the baby in the nursery overnight and feed him/her formula. You need all the sleep you can get; besides, you don't have milk yet anyway, and there'll be plenty of opportunity to give the baby colostrum during the day.
  4. Print out latch instructions from before heading to the hospital to give birth.
  5. Don't mess around with multiple positions until it's going well for a few weeks. Learn the cross-cradle and stick to it until you have it completely mastered.
  6. Buy "My Breast Friend" (a breastfeeding pillow) and bring it with you to the hospital. Don't attempt to feed without it until it's going well for a few weeks.
  7. If the baby stops sucking, apply pressure to your breast with your free hand until baby restarts sucking and hold there until she stops again. Then apply pressure in another place.
  8. In the beginning pump after at least some feedings to build up a good milk supply.
  9. If you get plugged ducts, apply heat before pumping and feeding.
  10. If using Medela Pump In Style, buy the large size nipple shields (the ones that come with the pump are medium).

Friday, August 10, 2007

The F word

Dear Sammy,

You are going to be 5 weeks old tomorrow and you are growing to be a beauty already. Your cheeks are starting to look like little peaches and your eye lashes are getting long. Just want you to know that you've been the most amazing baby. You eat really well, you make lovely big poops, and you even sleep at night for 4-5 hours straight! You and I have been chatting a lot about the whole feeding thing while sitting there on the blue couch trying to work things out. But I figure you probably won't remember any of our chats. That's why I am writing you this letter. One day, you'll be old enough to read it.

There is this altar we call motherhood. I think women's brains are hard-wired to bring sacrifices on it to ensure their babies grow up to be healthy, happy, and successful. We try to give you the best food, send you to the best school, make sure you end up going to Harvard, and settle for nothing but the best flower arrangements for your wedding. We obsess about these things as if they make all the difference, and if we settle for less than perfection, we think we've ruined your whole life and failed as mothers. The very first of these tests comes in the form of milk and the most important decision of our parenting career so far has been whether to breastfeed you or give you formula.

Yes, breastfeeding is the gold standard for baby nutrition. It's the most perfect food. Unfortunately, life is not always perfect and there is no such thing as a free lunch even when it's baby's lunch. The question we have to answer now is whether this perfection is worth the lofty price. Up until now, I was afraid to even pronounce the F word. I was determined to breastfeed you. When I heard that both of your grandmothers had a hard time with this oh-so-natural task, I decided to get as much education and help as necessary to make it happen. I took a breastfeeding class a few weeks before you were born, I saw 3 lactation consultants in the hospital during your first 2 days of life. I've joined a lactation support group for Moms like me who just weren't getting it right, and when all else failed I've seen one of the best lactation consultants in Boston from 3 private sessions. The most important thing everyone tried to teach me is that you absolutely must breastfeed even if your breasts fall off. The first thing they told us in the breastfeeding class is that you can't go into it with an attitude that you'll *try* to breastfeed. You have to think that you *will* breastfeed. Trust me, I really was going to breastfeed you until you were 1 years old. But after trying the ice, the heat, the tea bags, lanolin, nipple butter, prescription nipple ointment, and pumping, my breasts are still in bad shape. At first, we used to think it's the latch. We've made great progress on that since the beginning -- the left breast is doing pretty well, and the right breast is at least a little better now that I started using the prescription ointment. But the plugged ducts and pores aren't getting better no matter what. We also have the problem of the right breast squirting straight into your little mouth, which I am sure is not much fun. You usually start frowning and squirming whenever I give you that breast. The good news is that you are doing well and gaining weight, though Dr. Kerbel thinks you could be gaining a little more. Seems like I just barely have enough milk and it always makes me panic that you'll be hungry and I'll have nothing to give you.

The worst part of all this is that I've been hanging in there between the states of slight discomfort (on really good days) and pretty strong pain. As much as I try to handle all this gracefully, I've been one very stressed Mommy lately, and this has been hard on everyone. You get edgy when you feel that I am stressed, and Daddy found us both in tears a number of times when he got home from work. So the bottom line is that as wonderful as breastfeeding can be, it's making the mental health of our whole family go down the toilet. So for the first time, we are considering gradually switching you to formula. Whether we'll do it or not, I just want you to know that you are the most important person in our life and we only want what's best for you. We just figured that having a sane and cheerful Mommy is more important than a few more antibodies you could get from my milk.

I am starting to come to terms with the fact that I will not be a perfect parent. And that's ok. Your Dad always told me that no parents are perfect, and somehow kids turn out just fine. He is really wise your Dad. One day, you'll be able to talk to him, and you'll find out that he is the coolest guy ever! But this parenting imperfection is hard for me to accept. I am a perfectionist. I know that this is not the first decision I'll struggle with. I'll probably drive us all nuts about what school you should go to and which AP classes you should take. That's why kids get 2 parents -- to keep things balanced. I'll finish up now because you are about to wake up, and I'll get to hold you, cuddle you, and feed you.

With all my love, hugs, and kisses,

-Your Mommy