Working Daddy

Do you know that I have a running list of blog topics that I want to post about.  I didn’t want our blog to become one of those pregnancy blogs that disappears after the kiddo arrives, but it’s looking a little like that these days, huh?

My 11 week leave was a magical time. I got to learn all about how this little creature we created likes to be cared for.  I was able to see the beginnings of his personality.  I could devote every minute of everyday caring for E if I wanted to (which is sure easy to do as a new parent).  It wasn’t always perfect, or easy, caring for E by myself during the day.  He really struggled with terrible reflux, and it took a while to get the proper treatment.  There were some days that were a blur of epic vomiting and terrible screaming after very meal. I give a lot of love and credit to C who went back to work so soon after his birth so we wouldn’t be too financially impacted.  She didn’t get as much time home with him, and while I worked hard caring for him, I also got to experience all the joy that comes with spending hours and hours with a cuddly new baby.

And then it all came to an abrupt end……and I went back to work on Monday of this week.  It’s been a rocky transition.  I miss the way his head smells and the way his breath smells. I miss staring at him all day long (and let’s be honest—taking pictures of him all day long).  I miss knowing what he is doing every second.  I miss, and have anxiety about, making decisions about every little thing he does, and how he/we spend our day.  (I know this sounds real crazy.)  Now I have to trust that his other caregivers are making the right decisions and taking good care of our little guy.

The good news is I love his daycare.  I love the staff, the philosophy, the community of other working parents we are meeting there.  Without these positive feelings I would have never survived this week.  I know I don’t need to worry about the quality of his care, and that is a huge burden to let go of.  Now I just am left feeling heartbroken and missing him.

On my first day back I  managed not to cry all day.  I was emotional a little on the car ride home, probably out of sheer exhaustion.  I waited until Carrie and E were sleeping. Then I broke down and bawled, crying myself to sleep. The thought of leaving him again and getting up and doing it all over again (the 2 hour commute, the stress of playing catch up at work, the exhaustion, all the extra chooses that come with parenting that need to get done on a weeknight) was overwhelming.

photo (3)

Who could leave this face?

While I muddled through Monday and Tuesday, I was feeling pretty decent on Wednesday.  Today I had a few moments where I forgot I was just off for almost 3 months.  There are some benefits to being back at work. Eating lunch slowly, uninterrupted feels downright decadent. I really love what I do, and genuinely like 90 percent of my co-workers. While the work I do doesn’t save lives ( or feel as important as child rearing) I do know that I’m doing good work and contributing to patient communication and shared decision-making fields. If I have to work outside the home it’s a pretty great job.

I’m having a hard time not feeling envious of other families who have more flexible schedules, work part-time, or are financially able to have someone stay home. I hate these feelings, and feel embarrassed to be complaining about being securely employed. I also hate all the guilt and the thoughts I sometimes have like….”if you couldn’t stay home with him why did you even have him!”  I know that is so DRAMATIC, but if I’m being honest, I’ve battled thoughts like these a lot for the past 3 weeks.  

I’m working on not feeling sad or angry about our reality. I want to remember those lovely 11 weeks when all I did was take walks with E and watch him take in the world. I will never take an hour for granted on a weekday night, and will fiercely savor the weekends.

Many people this week have told me that it gets easier as time goes on.  I can say that C and E are sleeping, and I’m up late blogging instead of crying my eyes out.  That’s some progress right?

New Parenthood Pet Peeve

One of the most difficult things we’ve experienced so far about being a new parent – despite battling reflux – has been the near constant unsolicited advice. This is not to be confused with resource sharing from veteran parents when asked for help, though sometimes there’s some grey area between these things when a new parent’s venting is interpreted as a request for help. It’s also differentiated from comments such as, “This is what worked for us.” “I” statements are so very different from “you.”

In my previous update, I referenced a common theme of unsolicited advice we’ve received: that we should change formulas to a dairy-free variety. Again, some parents have said, “We had similar symptoms and eventually discovered that our little one had a dairy sensitivity, so we switched,” and that’s so different. I mean, flat-out, judgment laced, “Why haven’t you tried another type of formula?” as though it would be the simplest thing in the world and is clearly our fault for having not yet solved the problem of reflux.

It is especially annoying when this judgy, unsolicited advice comes from people who haven’t parented a newborn in several decades. It’s also hurtful when these people are family members, which, in turn, reopens any sort of outstanding wounds from familial baggage. This was very much the case when we recently visited my parents.

To give a little context, it is important to note that my parents are kind of anti-medicine. In order for the use of medicine to be considered valid and appropriate in their minds, it must be some sort of very grave or emergent diagnosis, in which case, it must be swiftly handled so someone can move on with their lives (read: without medication). For the majority of their lives, my parents have not taken any sort of medication, and when they have, it’s been for very short periods of time. They visit doctors regularly and believe very strongly in preventative health, but will judge the dickens out of someone they think is “resorting” to medicine when they don’t think it’s necessary.

My parents also have a really messed up relationship with food. They rarely eat, sans a small breakfast and a large, late dinner. Sometimes they have a snack during the middle of the day. In keeping with their judgment of others who do not share these practices, anyone who eats differently or more frequently in their presence is the subject of their scorn. Throughout my entire life, being a larger kid, then teen, then adult, my parents have judged me for my weight and have attempted to police the frequency and contents of my meals.

I’m not sure why I thought this, but, before I became a mom, I had assumed that their prejudices related to food and medicine would only extend to their daughter and the rest of the world, and not bleed onto their perfect, few week old only grandchild. Clearly, that was delusional.

During our visit, I kept hearing little barbs about the frequency of his meals:

  • “Again?! Didn’t he JUST eat?!”
  • “I swear, we didn’t feed YOU this much.”
  • [While E was rooting and starting to fuss] “I don’t think he’s hungry ag-aaaaain! He’s probably just bored.”

I did my best to keep my cool and diplomatically educate them as much as possible, but I really wanted to just scream, “YES! He’s hungry again! I’m his mom and know all of the hunger signs and patterns for my child. If you didn’t feed me ‘this much,’ it probably explains a lot about why you just said that I used to cry all the time.”

I had previously explained the laundry list of E’s reflux symptoms and told them all about our reasoning for advocating that the pediatrician prescribe medication for him. During dinner on our last night there, I had to leave the dinner table to administer his evening dose of medication. When I announced the reason for my departure, my father made some judgy statement along the lines of, “Meds?! Who puts such a tiny baby on MEDS?!” as though it was the first time he had heard about it and clearly didn’t approve. I continued to administer the medication and when I had completed, even though the conversation had already moved onto other topics, I brought the subject back up. I said, “I told you all of the reasons why this child is on medication and i don’t appreciate you questioning my parental decisions on the matter.” He made another comment about whether or not it was really necessary, and I said, “If you’d watched your baby writhing in pain for days in a row and changed multiple outfits each day because of projectile vomiting, you’d make the same decision.”

I was infuriated by their questions, unsolicited advice and judgment of our decisions, and was very glad that we were leaving that very next morning. When texting back and forth with a very dear friend about the problems with my folks, I told her that the experience was extraordinarily triggering to me, given past conflict with my parents about these very matters. I also told her that, in advocating for our little one, it felt like I was also standing up for the little C inside me.

Important note: Baby E ate twice during the time I was drafting this post. Yes, Mom and Dad, TWICE.

A random, early morning update

K has been taking the majority of the middle of the night feedings and sleeping longer in the morning while I get up with Baby E for his first few morning feedings. My body has gotten used to being “on” at around 5 a.m., but for some reason, baby’s feeding schedule was slightly off last night, leaving me with no official reason to be awake as early as I am right now. I figured it was one of the few opportunities I seem to have these days to post an update.

We convinced the pediatrician to “try” Zantac for a month for E’s reflux, which has gotten increasingly worse. She said that it typically takes about four days to notice an improvement, but several other sources I’ve ready indicate it could take up to two weeks. We’ve already noticed about a 50% improvement in symptoms, especially as it relates to spitting up, but he still has long stretches of inconsolable crying/fussing about every other day. It’s exhausting to watch our baby be in such discomfort and not be able to do anything about it, and the constant need is also draining, leaving us as not our best selves (ok, mostly me. K is a gem). I ordered a hazelwood necklace yesterday, which many say has the ability to improve reflux symptoms by absorbing acid from one’s body. Let’s just say I’m desperate enough to try anything, evidence based or not.

Everyone in our lives, sans the pediatrician, seems to think we need to try E on a different formula. I think part of this stems from the commonplace assumptions in the late 70’s through the 80’s that babies had dairy problems if they showed even the slightest sign of gastrointestinal issues, promptly switching kiddles to lactose-free varieties. Couple that with increased current awareness around food sensitivities in general (which is a great thing, really), and you have the perfect storm for unsolicited advice around what we should be feeding our child. Sadly, not much of this advice is based on anything scientific I’ve researched, as our baby shows zero symptoms related to dairy sensitivity, unless these symptoms happen to be shared (or are even MORE commonly exhibited) with reflux issues. So reflux it is.

On a more upbeat note, Baby E is starting to show signs of social smiling (vs. the common early infancy gas/poo-related smiles). It’s as though he knows the exact right thing to do with his exasperated parents, who want nothing more than to see their baby happy and comfortable… and he truly is most of the time. Even when his reflux issues pop up, he can go from being smiley one minute, to a full on reflux-related meltdown, and back to smiley. I really feel like he’s a happy baby trapped in an unhappy body. His gummy, lopsided grins make my heart melt.

I think we’ve gotten past the point in which the skeptics in our lives, who thankfully held their tongues, had assumed we’d have long since given up on our hippy idealism as it relates to cloth diapering. Sorry, haters, but I’m even more invested in it than I was when it was all still a theoretical plan. Baby E is starting to fit into more of his pockets, which have way cuter designs than anything else in our cloth diaper stash, and it’s fun to try to pick out which diaper to put on him at every diaper change. I think even E likes them – and I can’t imagine a baby preferring a wad of absorbent chemicals next to their body instead of something so soft and fluffy. Even the laundry has been a breeze! I’m sure it’ll get slightly hairier as I make my transition back to work at the beginning of June, but perhaps not. I was handling it just fine when I temporarily suspended my leave to deal with a much more stressful work pace and project than I’ll be facing upon my return.

K and I earned another new parenting merit badge this week when we went on a date without E for the first time. He stayed with his grandparents (K’s parents), who fed him and changed his cloth diapers without incident. Wouldn’t it figure that he also didn’t really exhibit many reflux signs while with him. (I swear this kid wants to make us look like hysterical new parents who are exaggerating his symptoms!) A good time was had by all and it increased my confidence around carving out the very crucial time for K and I to continue to have an adult relationship that doesn’t entirely revolve around our roles as parents.

As I am anticipating a hunger wail pretty much any minute now, I should probably conclude for now. At some point, I will have to update you all about our recent visit to my parents’ place, which was, at many times, stressful and infuriating.