Friday, March 27, 2009

A Blog to make you cry

I have a good life. An amazing life. A wonderful, loving husband. A safe, warm home. And I am able to spend three full days a week with my baby. Even on the days when I take her into daycare, I get to spend almost an hour of happy morning time with her before we need to get into the car, and after I pick her up after work I am able to cuddle with her all evening. That’s good stuff. So I may describe frustrations in future entries, but I’m resolving to keep things on the positive productive side and stop whining. Some families have far greater tragedies than separation by daycare.

Which brings me to the blog I read today. One of the amazing thing about blog-land is that it isn’t just about posting pictures of your cute kids, it’s about sharing histories and experiences. Sure, some of what you read might be lies. But much of what is out there are honest truths, expressed via the vehicle of anonymity. And even though you don’t know these other people whose blogs you read, you become a community. A community of pen-pals, sure, but a community nevertheless. You boast, you bitch, you inform, you inquire, you laugh, you get inspired, and you cry with this on-line group. And today was a tearjerker.

I have several blogs I check regularly.  One of them directed her readers to this site, asking for prayers for the family. Oh, their story broke my heart.  Last week they woke up thinking it was a normal morning. Went into the baby’s room, checked his crib, and found he wasn’t breathing.  I can’t imagine. To watch your husband perform CPR on your infant when just 60 seconds before you were waiting to nurse him. I went from having a typical lunch to sobbing in the bathroom.

Today I was thankful that I have the luxury to hate having to drop Uli off at daycare. Because for at least one poor mother, last week was the last she ever spent with her baby.  I honestly just can’t imagine.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

milk, Milk the magical fruit

Uli’s been gassy lately and I think it’s because of me. But I can’t see any way around it. It’s a lesser evil. Since returning to the office, I’ve had a dramatic reduction in milk production. I’m still making plenty for her when we’re nursing directly one-on-one, but the amounts I’m pumping while I’m apart from her have been less and less.

Initially, the first few weeks back, I’d consistently pump 13-15 ounces during the workday. Plenty for her to drink the next day as well as a few ounces to stash away in the freezer for growth spurts. But then the separation thing started to hit. Not having her hormones mingling with mine. Not seeing her little cheeks. Not feeding her every 40-90 mins. My milk flow adjusted to the absence of the baby and the amount I was pumping reduced. I started bringing home only 7-9 ounces a day even though she was drinking 10-12. The ‘extra’ freezer stash was quickly depleted. Several times I had to call Justin and ask him to stop-by my office on his way home from work to pick up the milk I’d collected so far that day so that Emily would have something to put in her afternoon bottles.

It’s a terrible feeling, not being able to feed your own child. Obviously we’re not talking about starvation here. We’ve other options than just letting her go hungry. But I am determined not to let the fact that I am away from her during the day interfere with our ability to nurse. If we start introducing supplements, I’ll have an even more difficult time keeping up my supply. Plus, it’s not that I have a truly low milk production, it’s just that I’m having trouble pumping.

What you get when you pump is not what the baby gets when she nurses---babies are so much better at extracting milk than a machine. And mama’s response to a baby suckling is different than her response to a vacuum-hosed whirring pump. Just not as cosy, ‘feeding’ a bottle. What I really need, in a way, is an over-supply of milk, so that the lesser amount I extract via pump is still enough for Uli.

Enter fenugreek. Trigonella foenum-graecum. The wonder herb. Commonly used in Indian curries and Egyptian beverages (thank you, Wikipedia), fenugreek’s fabulous quality (besides being tasty) is that it’s a galactagogue:  it increases milk supply.

I’d been taking fenugreek as a supplement for the past month without much luck. Frustrated, I spoke with the lactation consultant again (wonderful Arlinda, who gave me so much help and encouragement when Uli was first born). She told me that the single dose I was imbibing per day wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough. I had to take at least 2 capsules with each meal as well as with snacks. Give it four days, she recommended, and see if that does the job.

And did it ever. I went from an average of 8 oz pumped back up to 13+! Like a miracle. But there are side-effects. It can make some babies gassy. I think it’s having that effect on Uli. I’m going to try taking fenugreek one week on, one week off, and see if that helps with her fussiness. (Because, really, it could just be that she’s been sick.)

Also, fenugreek makes me smell like maple syrup. No kidding. At first, before I spoke with Arlinda, I’d noticed my skin smelling sweet and worried that I was developing diabetes (based on the very educational CSI: Miami where they recognized the killer because of his diabetic scent). But no—it’s the fenugreek. Arlinda mentioned it and I realized immediately that that’s what I’d been noticing—maple syrup. Weird, but not unpleasant.

And now I’ve taken a closer look at Such good info on there! I wish I’d consulted the site before now. I’d heard other mothers talk about it as a resource but felt overwhelmed when Uli was first born by the ENORMITY of information out there. “Information” you can never be too sure about. But I’m now a convert to kellymom. Good stuff. Check it out. Here’s what it says about moms in my situation (so helpful):

We didn’t take Uli to Libby’s on Monday or Tuesday, since baby was still under the weather. Tomorrow (Thursday) is the day. I’m hopeful that with the use of fenugreek and maybe a bit more nursing at night (I’ve slept with her the past three nights and she’s been eating every 2 hours—more often than has been typical) we’ll have our buffer of extra milks and keep the production up. No more emergency calls to Daddy, stealing from tomorrow’s milk to provide today’s. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Because FAFSA is on my mind...

I first matriculated in 1995, but it wasn’t until 2008 that I finally earned my Bachelor’s. Thirteen long years. Private college, dropping out, community college, dropping out, part-time attendance at the university, then squeaking-in one full-time semester. Finally graduating. My problem wasn’t that I lacked the study skills. I wasn’t flip-flopping between majors (though there was the short time during which I had the exciting, if improbable, double-major of Zoology). I didn’t abandon my pursuit to backpack across Europe (I wish!). Nope. I was a repeat drop-out because I couldn’t pay tuition. Money, money, money.

It was (and I suppose still is) embarrassing to be (have been) a college drop-out. I felt like a failure. Had to go back to redeem my intellectual reputation. Graduating did serve to heal part of that wound. I felt as though I’d finally achieved something that I’d deserved. But what was I expecting for the day after, exactly?

Having graduated allows me to bask in a general feeling of  self-satisfaction. A “Hurrah! I had a goal and I did it!” But warm fuzzies aside, the degree has gained me little that’s tangible. Yes, I learned some fascinating things at college. However, there hasn’t been quite the amazing life revolution that it appears I’d been unconsciously expecting. I didn’t become known as a super genius. I didn’t learn how to write a novel in thirty days. I didn’t get a new and perfect job. I didn’t even get a raise (my office prizes experience over degrees, dedication to the desk rather than to the books—as do many businesses—so if anything, I lost points by taking time off for classes).

So here I sit, piece of paper in a fancy red holder in a box somewhere upstairs, and instead of feeling like my collegiate pursuits sincerely helped me, I am bogged-down by the thought of all the debit I incurred during said pursuit.

It’s because I’ve been thinking more about being a stay-at-home-mom. It’s my dream. It’s always been my most sincere ‘plan’ for my adulthood, even beyond attending college. And it’s frustrating because I’m not able to live it out now as I’d hoped. I understand that it just isn’t a “now” type thing, sure. But when I delve into how to make it happen someday, I can imagine how we’d save money by growing some of our own produce and buying the rest through CSA. I can plan how we’ll buy second-hand everythings. We already use cloth diapers. We can hang our laundry on a line to dry. We could sell one of our cars. We could wait for me to stay at home until we’ve paid off the credit cards. All that seems very doable. But. Then I start thinking about the one big debt that won’t be going away any time soon. School loans. They are GIGANTIC and scary and freak me out whenever I think about them. And even if we were to claim bankruptcy and move to a yurt and survive off of the land, we’d have those loans hanging over us. Haunting us.

Not to say that I’m unhappy I’m edumacated. I’m just dismayed at the thought of spending the next thirty years paying-back my loans. It makes me wonder whether I might have been better-off accepting the fact that I couldn’t afford college and dedicating my days to enriching my mind via the public library and lectures while working to excel in the office and saving my pennies for a rainy day. Like now, when I have an infant and would love to stay home with her.

If I had to live the past 10 years over again and knew what I know now—that getting a degree would mean I would need to leave my infant with a caregiver so I could pay off my loans—I believe I may have rethought the pursuit of a degree. And I wonder how many other people jump into the college system without truly realizing that it has the potential to limit their future options as much as it may expand them.

The Feb 2nd ’09 issue of Forbes published an article that suggested Americans take some time to reconsider our mass pursuit of higher education. The article states that “the premium that college grads earn over high schoolers has remained relatively constant over the past five years, [but] the cost of acquiring a degree has risen at twice the rate of inflation.” So, even those who never wanted to stay home with kids—those who were pursuing an actual career track—are still finding themselves in debit up to their eyeballs and no grand way to pay it off. Their post-grad jobs are just not enough. We collegiate folks are all fighting over the same $16/hr jobs that we would have been working in had we never darkened our alma maters’ doors.

Now, I don’t particularly care for the lens through which Forbes views the world. The ideas found in the magazine are often of a nature that focus on keeping the status quo intact, so the magazine’s wealthier readers remain on top of the world. Certainly, dissuading others from education while enjoying it themselves would continue to perpetuate their well-honed system. Most realistically, the point of the article is to dissuade those who have from lending to those who have-not (either directly or via their voting powers) in what they appear to describe as a benevolent act of kindness. They know best, after all. Hey there,  you don’t need to go into debt, why don’t you just work in my factory. Nevertheless, the theory has its interesting points—that persons are being duped into believing that a degree is necessary to attain success by a society claiming to be interested in betterment, when rather than being empowered by the pursuit they’ll be losing their financial freedom. Obviously, for many the broadened avenues of thought that might be achieved are still worth something that, if they can’t be measured as a monetary earning, are nevertheless extremely valuable. And I have to believe that for many there will be a monetary gain even with loans. But I understand the argument about college not being a guaranteed ticket to a white-collar job, a hearty paycheck, and a house in a leafy suburb. Nor, it turns out, does it help you become June Cleaver.

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