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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Hooter Hider Caped Crusader

It has been four months that I've been tackling two kids at the same time. Multitasking became a new normal. I have read a study somewhere that suggested multitasking is not truly possible, that it is just what our society likes to boast about, but our brain is only able to focus on one task at a time. My brain is not able to focus on anything at all. Sometimes I doubt it is still present, but that does not mean I can afford not to do five things at the same time. Even as I type this, I am making soothing sounds at Fiona, who is getting increasingly pissed at a parrot on her jumperoo, answering "yes, honey" every thirty seconds to Kai who keeps asking "did you see that, Mommy?" pointing to the TV screen with a dragon show on, and sipping iced coffee that is supposed to keep me awake.

If you have ever heard about mothers being compared to superheroes, I can confirm that the transformation has happened. I have, in fact, become a caped crusader. The cape is pink and you can purchase it for $25 - $35. It is also known as a nursing cover. I applaud women who breastfeed in public and don't give a damn. I, personally, prefer to hide myself and the baby, but I absolutely refuse to limit my public appearances on that account. 

The first time my caped crusader alter ego showed up, Fiona was maybe two months old. I was in a park I was not familiar with. It was a huge park and on a sunny Saturday afternoon it was crowded with people big and small. I found a bench, parked the stroller and told Kai that I have to feed Fiona and he can go play. He hesitated - he prefers my company when we are in a new environment. I settled down, pulled the nursing cover over squirming Fiona and started nursing. 

"Yes, Kai?"
"I need to go potty."

Have I mentioned he is three? Do you know what three year olds do? They wait until the very last second to tell you that they need to go to pee or poop and if they don't get to the potty within 30 seconds,  they pee their pants. At least mine does. I scanned the park. I found the bathrooms - on the other side. My diaper bag was clipped to the handle bar of the stroller and my wallet was buried somehwere in it. There was no way I would leave it behind. 

I got a good hold on Fiona trying to keep her in place (do you know what babies do when you take a nipple away from them just when they started eating? They show you the meaning of "wail of the banshee". At least mine does.) Then I started to run. Holding Fiona in one arm, pushing the stroller with the other, I was jogging across the park with my pink Hooter Hider flapping behind me, yelling: "Go, go, go!" at Kai. It paid off. We made it.

Today I took them to the Children's Museum. When the time came to feed Fiona, I asked Kai to go to the bathroom first. I knew better. I learn from my mistakes.

"I don't need to go."
"Honey, but..."
"OK, OK, OU KAY! Stop yelling. I just want to make sure you won't need to go while I am feeding your sister."

We walked to the outside area and I sat down on a bench. Kai is into dragons now, so we put dragon toys we collected in the museum on the table. He was wearing his Halloween dragon costume over his clothes. I settled down, pulled the nursing cover over squirming Fiona and started nursing. 

"Yes, Kai?"
"I need to go potty."

Oh for fuck's sake, are you fucking shitting me with this? No - I didn't say it. I just let it bounce helplessly around my head. Then I grabbed the diaper bag (the wallet!), got a good hold on Fiona (who is now 16 pounds) and ran with Kai to the bathroom, my pink Hooter Hider flapping behind me. I took off his dragon costume with one hand and pulled his pants down. I lifted him onto the toilet seat (he is now 40 pounds), while still trying to nurse the baby. He started peeing. Half of it splashed out and spilled on the floor. I did my best to clean it with one-ply toilet paper. I dressed him, washed his hands and got back to the bench. I practically collapsed on it, exhausted and sweaty, still cursing in my head. I took a deep breath and adjusted Fiona.

"Yes, Kai?"
"I need to go poop."

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Second Child Syndrome

No babies were harmed in this photoshoot

I have heard plenty about the second child syndrome. I have never doubted its validity. It was enough to go to the playground with Kai and watch. There was I, following one step behind him, my arms stretched out in a catch position, climbing up the playground structures and fitting through impossibly small openings and tunnels just to make sure he won't fall or bonk his head. There were the parents of multiple kids, casually standing on the side, chatting away merrily while their offsprings collected bruises, scars and bloody knees.

Fiona will be 7 weeks on Thursday and this is what I have to say - she is a second child. Here are some examples:

- Baby #1: I did not let anyone hold baby #1 until he was about 9 months old. At that point he would freak out if the person holding him was not me, so I kept holding him until about two years of age.
- Baby #2: We went to a birthday party yesterday. Other than a quick feed, I did not even know where my kids were. The older one played on his own and the younger one was in a loving embrace of somebody else than me. Paaarty!

- Baby #1: Before taking a shower, I would write up a manual on how to soothe him (complete with pictures and demonstrations) and suggest solutions to a number of unpredictable situations (alien attack and zombie apocalypse included). OK, maybe I didn't, but I really wanted to.
- Baby #2: Me, to our house guest this morning: "I am going to jump in the shower. If she starts crying, just ignore her. I will be done in 10 minutes, she can survive that." If I rushed with the shower it was not because of the potential discomfort to the baby, but rather the potential discomfort to our guest, in case the baby would, indeed, start crying.

- Baby #1: "Oh, he pooped, we have to pull over and change his diaper. I don't care that we are in a dodgy part of Los Angeles, he needs a clean diaper NOW!" 
- Baby #2: Me, loading groceries in the car: "Honey, I think she pooped." Peter: "Do you want to change her now?" Me: "Nah, let's go home. I'll change her then."

When Kai spat up he would get a new, clean, dry shirt immediately. When Fiona spits out, I just turn her towards the sun, so it dries quicker. While Kai's cries made me jump and drop everything the very second they departed his lips, Fiona's are merely a mild inconvenience that has to be tolerated until I finish folding the laundry.

Maybe she gets less attention because she is such an easy baby. Or maybe she is an easy baby because she gets less attention. I can't tell. But she is definitely, unmistakeably baby #2.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Dreadful Internet (or Follow Up On Vagina Snot)

I went back and forth on writing this blog post forever. With forever I mean at least two months. I could not decide what the best course of action should be. I am still not convinced the road I chose is the right one, but here it is - I have decided to share this story with you, because as mortifying as it is, it is also hilarious and I can't keep a hilarious story from you, can I?

On May 1st, I wrote a post titled "Vagina Snot Or I Am Too Sexy For This Pregnancy". I expected it was going to create a bit of a stir. I was hoping for some laughs, but mainly, as with every post on this blog, I wanted to shed some light on those aspects of pregnancy you don't read about in pregnancy magazines.

The blog post became a popular one. At first I just chuckled. Then I became a little curious. It's one of those things - you write something you think is Pulitzer worthy and no one cares. You throw something together before going to bed and it's a hit. I am not saying it wasn't good, I just didn't think it was that good.

Then I started noticing pattern in the search term that led people to my blog. It was "sexy vagina". Now, I am the last person to judge anyone...but "sexy vagina"? Somebody actually thinks a vagina can be sexy? Not only thinks it, but searches for it on internet? And not only somebody, but a whole lot of people all over the world, including those who can't spell it properly, but still give it their best shot? 

After seeing this over and over in my stats, I finally mustered the courage to google the term myself, to see how far in google results I stood. I have a couple of blog posts that rank #3 in google search results - one is From Couch Potato to Half Marathon Runner...And Back and the other is When To Announce Your Pregnancy. I was dreading seeing a link to my blog on the first page when entering sexy vagina (I am not sure how to get around "entering sexy vagina" without giggling. Giggling, googling, all the same). But it wasn't on the first page. It was not on the second page, or the third or fourth and then I figured something was off, because surely people won't go through 10 (or 100) pages to get to my blog. I could not understand it. I told Peter about it. And then he spoke the words...

"Have you tried images?" 


I typed the words. I hit image search. And there I was. My photo in the middle of...well, you know...vaginas. Sexy ones, supposedly, even though I truly couldn't tell. I was mortified. Absolutely, completely mortified. I am not exactly uptight or prudent. I come from place where you can go to sauna without a swim suit and both men and women attend at the same time. Still, this was way beyond my comfort zone. 

First I took the photo that was included in the post down. Then I changed the name of the blog post. Eventually, I vanished from the company of sexy vaginas. Then I thought about the whole thing again...and again...and then I decided that the photo was quite important for the post and the name change didn't do much anyways, and today I changed it back to the original. Internet is a crazy place. I know that. I always knew it. If you share your thoughts (and photos) with the world, it can come back and bite you in the ass (ehm...vagina?) but I don't want to censor myself because of it. The whole point of starting this blog was to be honest. So there you go. Sexy vagina.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

How to Survive a Newborn

I don't usually give advice, especially if nobody asked for one. I have read somewhere that advice is the lowest form of conversation. Yet I am going to make an exception this time. This is something I have come to realize just a few days ago and now I find myself repeating it to myself again and again, because it works. 

For those who have been following my blogs, I have a shocking revelation. I am enjoying baby #2. I was so shell shocked and unprepared and helpless when I had Kai that I assumed I am not a baby person. I expected that the first weeks, or months, or the whole first year with Fiona will be the same struggle. But that's not the case. The main difference is that now I know. I know what to expect. I know how to handle things. I know that the lame, annoying and irritating cliche "they grow up in the blink of an eye" that feels so untrue and pointless when you are trying to survive a day as a parent has some truth to it. I know this is my last baby. There will never be another newborn that smells like milk, goes limp like a little rag doll and sleeps on my chest like a cat. 

The one thing I came to realize is this - taking care of a newborn takes all your time. Every single second of your day and night. It doesn't matter how easy the baby is or how super organized you are. There are no breaks and no escape. You are on. For a moment, after I had Fiona and admitted I actually liked having a newborn, I forgot about that. It briefly led to anxiety and frustration that I felt with Kai all the time. Then I realized that there is no other way around it. When you have a newborn, there is nothing else for you to do, but taking care of him or her. My advice is this - accept it. For a few weeks or months, you don't belong to you. You have no rights and privileges. You are not a master of your time. The sooner you accept this, the easier life will be for you. 

Don't set any goals other than you and your newborn surviving. Forget your job if you are on a maternity leave. Forget housework. Forget taking care of the rest of the family other than basics. Make peace with eating sandwiches for lunches and dinners. Plans and timelines will only bring you stress and high blood pressure. There will be days when you will be covered in spit up, milk, pee, blood and sweat and you won't have a minute to take a shower. It happened to me two days ago and it made me cry. The fact that I can't even take a shower. And then it dawned on me that this is the way it is going to be for a short while. That being mad about it and taking it personally won't help me. Once I accepted it, I felt better. I was still stinky and disgusting, but I felt better. 

It's not going to last long. Don't take me wrong, you will be busy even later on. Once you have a child, you will be forever busy. But eventually there will be some sort of a schedule, with naps and longer stretches of sleep. Eventually you will be able to finish the tasks you set for yourself. Like writing a blog post. In one sitting. With enough time to edit it, so it doesn't read like a bunch of random stuff pieced together by a sleep deprived analphabet. Without jumping at each whimper, wondering if you need to leave your computer right this second or if you can type one more sentence before you forget what you wanted to write about. 

Maybe this advice won't work for you, but for me it is a mantra that makes the day easier - the only thing that I have time for is my baby, and that is OK. It's meant to be that way. It won't last forever. Sooner or later, they won't smell like milk, they won't go limp like a little rag doll and they won't sleep on my chest like a cat. 

PS: It also helps if you have a glass of wine every now and then and if your husband makes you a cup of coffee in the morning. But for the most part, just accept things the way they are for a while. 

PPS: Possibly this is only achievable with baby #2. It's hard to imagine that it will truly be over one day if you never got to experience the over part. In that case, read my old blog posts rather than this one, because they will probably feel more relatable.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Magic Boobs, Poop and Milk

It has been two weeks since we became a family of four. Four humans that is, not to offend our cats (offended cats can cause a lot of troubles). Or to be even more precise, two humans, one little caveman (he would argue he's a dragon) and one yet mostly unidentifiable tiny creature.

I am still getting used to having a daughter. I refer to her as "him" fairly often. Kai does also, or he says things like "I want she to be quiet" or "I'd like to give she a pacifier". She sleeps a lot. It brings on a whole range of emotions, especially after having one child that did not sleep at all. At first I was in awe and could not believe my luck. This baby sleeps! All the time! Then I reluctantly admitted to myself I should probably be worried that something might be wrong with her. Mostly I felt guilty that I wasn't as worried as I thought I should have been. I mean - I got a newborn that can sleep through the night! Isn't that the same as winning the lottery? Why do you want me to worry about lottery winning, you mean pediatrician?

The (mean) pediatrician worried because Fiona kept losing weight and was not pooping. When you are a baby, all that matters is food and poop. There is a whole science dedicated to baby pooping, or at least that's how it seems to me. I assume it's called poopology (with the most famous publication "Crap! I did it again.") Fiona sleeps so much she refuses to eat. Well, that's not exactly true. She does not refuse. There is no arguing or rejecting, she just falls asleep before she can as much as finish one gulp. It is as if one look at my boobs knocks her unconscious. I am not quite sure what to make out of it, and I am slightly concerned about what am I to do if they will have the same effect on my husband. I don't dare to try. With that said, I still don't know if I worried at first more about her health or about potentially creating a non sleeping monster again, by forcefully waking her every two hours to bottle feed her, since the bottle does not seem to cast the same magic spell that my boobs do. 

I have never experienced breastfeeding being easy. We went to hell and back with Kai before we finally figured it out. With Fiona I thought I got it all covered. Not only did I breastfeed one child successfully for a year, I also had to troubleshoot. I knew all the tricks. I knew everything - other than a sleepy baby. So here we are. My day schedule looks like this - I put Fiona to my breast in hopes she'll stay awake this time. She glances at it, latches, gulps once or twice and checks out. I pour a bottle of pre-pumped milk in her throat. I consider if this is the beginning of her future unhealthy eating habits and potential overeating. Then I remind myself of the poop, or the lack of it. Feeling like half idiot, half jerk, I proceed to trying to wake her so I can force feed her some more. Then I pump. Then it's time to start all over again. I am a milk factory. I am a Mom and a wife and a writer and very many other things, but right now, all that matters is that I am a milk factory.

This experience made me realize two things - I truly don't know how working breastfeeding mothers do it (you are heroes, ladies, for real), and I feel deep sympathy for women who want to breastfeed but can't. I had no idea how emotionally challenging it can be. Now I get it. So cheers to milk and off I go try to wake this baby once again.