Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Own Special Kind of Water Torture

I don't have enough time to "construct" blog posts these days, I sort of just have to throw posts up and hope that they are coherent. At least my blog posts aren't covered in various baby juices.
Do people say that? "Baby juices"? No, probably not. I am a horrible mother.

So here -- pretend this is a paragraph or 27 where I delicately remind you that I'm the most out-of-shape ever and I really need to do something about that and weight loss is newly important to be because I no longer have:
A) a bowling ball growing inside me, jackhammering my bladder all day long
B) an incapacitating scar from where said bowling ball was removed from my abdomen
C) excuses

Pretend those paragraphs are enlightening, touching and hilarious, while you're at it.

Next, pretend that the faux paragraphs also say something meaningful about how I want to be in better shape so that I will be able to actually PLAY with my child when she's a rambunctious toddler, and not just sit on the sofa while trying to control her with the DVR remote. (PAUSE! PAUSE!!!!)

So now that you've all enjoyed those non-existant paragraphs, let me tell you what I'm getting at: I just added myself to Ish's gym membership. In pretend, I did so for the above reasons. In actuality, I did so IN PART because of those reasons, but also because the gym offers daycare for babies over 2 months old for $5 an hour or $30 a month UNLIMITED. And that makes the gym my new favorite place to go in the whole wide world.

But but. Having failed at attending the gym regularly in my 97 previous attempts, I thought that this time I needed to do something different. Not that the daycare isn't a super motivator, but I thought maybe I'd be more likely to go if I felt obligated to attend an actual class. If I had to be on something of a schedule.

And that is when I decided, after all these years, to take water aerobics. Note: these days, they do not call it "water aerobics" they call it a "hydro-fit" class. Which sounds way more hardcore, even though, well, I'll get to that.

I used to swim a lot when I was a kid. I was on swim teams and loved the water and it is maybe the ONLY form of physical activity I still enjoy. I have long wanted to take some sort of water fitness class.

Except for one thing.

Taking a water class at a gym requires wearing a bathing suit in front of strangers. Right? I mean, need I say any more about this? It's pure nightmare fodder. So, no water classes for me.

Well, until now. But let me explain that there are two, distinct parts to my "hydro-fit" experience. The stuff that happened before my first class, and the punishment that is the class itself.

Part A: The Stuff That Happened BEFORE My First Class

For about a week, I mulled and milled about, determined to go to the stupid class, really wanting to go but fearing the whole thing. I'd decided I'd attend the class that starts at 10:30 in the morning, because anything earlier wouldn't give me enough time to get out of the house. I'd ordered and received a "special" (i.e., plus-size, cover-my-everything) bathing suit. I just had to get over my anxiety.

You know that anxiety. Where do I drop Eve off? Where is the locker room again? How do you work the lockers? What should I pack? Where do I change? What shoes should I wear? Do I bring a change of flip-flops? Do I need my own towel? Do I need a swim cap? Ear plugs? Will the instructor know I'm new? Will she call me out? Will all the women in the locker room feel sorry for me in my "special" bathing suit? Can I blame all my excess weight on my baby? I bet I could...

And then the morning came when I swore I was going to go, and I am not even kidding you. I started getting packed for the gym at about 8:30 a.m. to leave the house at 10. I had to figure out what I was wearing there (it's not easy to change back into clothes after wearing a bathing suit, especially if you're trying to do it quickly behind a curtain with damp skin and you can't let any of your stuff touch the wet floor -- I've tried this before), and what to take with me. Then I had to pack Eve's stuff for her first time at daycare, and I didn't want to just hand over her diaper bag, because it's also my purse.

By the way? Here's the gorgeous bag I purchased from "AnnyandMe" on Etsy to be both diaper bag and purse:


Click on image to see the Etsy store -
there are dozens of patterns available!

And that took forever because I have no idea what I'm doing.

Eventually, we managed to leave the house relatively on-time, which I was kind of bummed about because I would have settled for any old excuse not to go. But we did go.

And I met the ladies at the daycare and they were great. And then I got to the locker room and didn't know how to open the lockers and had to go ask the guy at the desk. But with those hurdles done, I just had to change, rinse off, put on as much emotional armor I've ever worn, and wander out to the pool in time for class.


Part B: The Class Itself

The gym we belong to is gorgeous, and it's part of a hospital. This means that about half the gym's clientele is what you would expect out of a gorgeous suburban gym: lots of personal trainers working with hot housewives and a bunch of Pilates moms coming and going from their spin classes.

What I forgot about, though, was the other half of the gym's clientele. Namely, the people who are there for medical reasons (re: the hospital). 70-year-old men who've had heart attacks, for instance, and folks with severe physical disabilities.

Now, I hadn't really spent much time considering who attends a water aerobics "hydro-fit" class. I mean, my last gym in San Francisco (the Crunch Fitness in Russian Hill) actually teaches that aerobics class for women who want to better wear high-heeled shoes. (Yes, the class actually requires that you wear high-heels during it.) I guess I just assumed that a "hydro-fit" class would be full of Pilates Moms.

Um, no.

The pool was a scene straight out of Cocoon. I just, I was...I was taken aback.

Or, well, okay. Not everyone was that old. But there was only one other girl in a class of about 15 who was under the age of 60, and I think she might be a little slow.

So then I had to recalibrate. Instead of being self-conscious for being woefully out-of-shape, I suddenly found myself self-conscious for being so young and spry. And comparatively thin.

Well! Of course, it's a LOT easier to get over feeling self-conscious for being the most fit than the other way around. It didn't take me long to feel more confident.

But then that changed, too.

Because after just a few minutes -- the young, petite and spunky instructor did ask my name, and did introduce me to the class -- I was saddled with the ridiculousness of it all.

This is the last-resort class! I realized. This is the class they have for people who can't do anything else! And worst yet, I AM ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE!

It was like my own special hell. This, I thought, is what it's come down to.

"Hell" is, of course, too strong a word. It's not that bad. It's just -- this class is a little sad, and kind of hilarious, because it's totally right for me. It's the only class in the gym where I wouldn't feel bad about myself. It's the only workout routine that interests me. It's the only way to get me to go to the gym, repeatedly, and do a full hour workout that actually pushes me but doesn't hurt my body.

It just happens that "my" class is the class where Betty, Doris, and Phyllis (not kidding with these names, I swear) make lame jokes and discuss their grandkids when they should be "cross-country skiing" across the pool.

It happens that "my" class is where the man who looks like a frog and can't use his hearing aid in the pool just basically dances around for an hour making snide comments to mask the fact that he can't do any of the exercises and can't hear the instructor anyway.

It happens that "my" class is the one that allowed me the privilege of watching the (I'm guessing?) 78-year-old man spend 10 minutes tottering from the pool to the locker room wearing a flesh-colored banana hammock.

It happens that "my" class uses the same cracked-out hyper-speed "dance" music that Curves did, i.e., remastered classics turned into upbeat dance-y songs, as sung by God-knows-who but definitely NOT the original artists.

Oh, you have not lived until you've worked out to a spastic, low-budget rendition of Dancing Queen. And you REALLY have not lived until you've done deep-water jumping jacks with ankle weights on while Doris sings along loudly to said spastic, low-budget rendition of Dancing Queen. Especially because Doris does not actually know the words.

YOUUUUUU CAN AAAAAAAAN
YOUUUUUU CAHHH IIIIIIIII
HAVING THE TIME OF HER LIIIIIIIIFE
OOOOH.....EEE AHHHHHR...
BAH.....EEEEEEE
SHE...DANCING QUEEEEEN!

Yup. That's "my" class.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Money Shot

We took Eve out to dinner tonight, because that's maybe the best way Ish and I get to have quality time with each other. When we're home, we each fall into our own trying-to-keep-up-with-household-responsibilities routines and don't tend to have real "conversations." You know.

So we get home, and Eve's awake for whatever reasons. I am sitting on the sofa, in a reclined position, wearing a cute, all-black outfit. I didn't exactly "dress up" for dinner, but I wanted to look different than my usual, sweatpants-covered-in-spit-up self.

Yes, well.

I was holding Eve under her arms, straight up over my chest, her feet on my chest as though she were standing on my breastbone. She was cooing happily, her legs extended and knees slightly bent.

But then, quite suddenly, her facial expression changed, and next thing I knew she was shaking. Almost like a tremor or seizure, but not quite that violent. I didn't like it. Of course, by the time I was sure she was shaking, it had passed.

Still, I said aloud, "I don't like you shaking like that. I don't ever want anything to be wrong with you." And then I laid her on my chest and stomach, wrapped my arms around her and said with great affectation while looking at Ish, "YOU STAY RIGHT HERE FOREVER."

It was a sweet moment: me, holding my daughter tightly in my arms saying I wanted to hold and protect her from harm, always.

Except that the moment I uttered the "-ver" part of "FOREVER," she projectile spit-up all over me.

My neck, chest, breastbone/cleavage, and shirt got doused. It was violent. (But at least it explained the shaking.)

Ish rushed to my side to try to clean it up, but didn't quite make it to me before he bent over in fits of laughter. Eventually he was able to stop his laugh-tears long enough to remove Evie from my immediate vicinity, whereupon he started mopping up my chest. When he thought was done, he pushed my boobs aside -- in a parting of the boob sea kind of motion -- as if to kiss me between them. Which is when he noticed that there at the base of my bra was a virtual POOL of spit-up.

It doesn't get sexier than this, folks.



Friday, September 18, 2009

This Post Is A Little Schizophrenic, So I'm Adding Lots Of Pictures!

This turned into a meandering entry, sort of tying together my post about breastfeeding with general new-mom malaise. I feel happier than this post might suggest, but man -- I suck at being able to blog with a newborn.



I've heard some women say that they gave up breastfeeding because they wanted their bodies back.

Being pregnant means, among many other things, giving up control of your body. Your body just starts doing all kinds of crazy-ass things, and even if you're really good and eat perfectly and exercise, your hormones are still going to go all psycho on you. You just have to waddle along for the ride.

So sure. After nine months of out-of-controlness, I get why women want to reclaim themselves. Breastfeeding is taxing on your body, your psyche, your schedule.



I, on the other hand, haven't managed to have control over my body (weight-wise) in so long, I didn't think being pregnant would bother me much. And it didn't. And now that I'm breastfeeding (i.e., still lending my body to nurture my baby's), I'm still not bothered.

Not by breastfeeding, anyway.

Something happened a few weeks ago that made my digestive system go haywire. I mean, I had problems -- indigestion, acid reflux, cramping, bloating, irritability -- throughout pregnancy, but that's pretty normal. When some of these issues cropped up again a few weeks after giving birth, I figured that, too, was par for the course. But now my problems have gotten far worse, and I'm starting to worry. I haven't (yet) seen a specialist, but my OB examined me, and thought it could very well be pregnancy/post-partum-related. He reminded me that my body's undergone huge hormonal shifts, and is still undergoing them.

Meanwhile...have you heard about how breastfeeding is awesome because it burns so many calories? Have you heard that breastfeeding is a great way to help you shed your pregnancy weight and get your uterus back to the size it was before it enlarged itself x400? Yeah? Because I sure did. I read that over and over again. And then I gave birth and changed my diet slightly (for the better) and started breastfeeding and guess what!

I have gained weight.

OH YES I HAVE. I didn't know this until I asked specifically, but for SOME women, SOME women LIKE ME, breastfeeding can totally fuck with your metabolism for the worse. It can slow it down to a crawl. NOW I hear,"Oh, I didn't lose any of my pregnancy weight until I stopped breastfeeding!" from everyone. BAH! BAH I SAY!

I am not bf'ing for any reasons having to do with weight loss or gain, but come on. I didn't expect this. I look like I'm five months pregnant. My uterus has not, to the best of my ability to tell, re-shrunk. My upper abdomen is taut and my lower "pouch" has grown. AS IF I needed a reason to feel worse about my twice-weekly-showered, boob-leaking, spit-up-stained-top-with-eleventeenth-day-in-a-row-yoga-pants-wearing self.

Ugh.

Eve herself has been a dream baby, don't get me wrong. She is very alert and interested in the world around her, but also totally good natured and chill. She smiles a lot and her fussiness is still fairly easy to address. She still sleeps great at night. She was and is a great traveler.


But that doesn't mean it's easy. Even if she's not screaming all day or all night, she still requires constant attention and tending to. She barely sleeps at all during the day, except in random 10-20 minute bursts.

Meaning I can't just sit down and write a blog post, for example. In fact, the only time I have enough time to put two thoughts together in one post is in the morning before Eve wakes up or at night after she's gone to sleep, but that's only if I'm not also passed out with her. I usually am. (She's been asleep all morning which is very unusual but also why I'm getting to write this now.)

I knew it would be hard. I don't exactly mind the hard. It's just...

Okay. Here.

About a week ago, I put aside a couple cute catalogs I wanted to take a look at. I finally remembered to take them up to bed with me three nights ago. And in three nights and three days, I still haven't been able to look through them. That's what having a new baby is like. I don't need to look at the catalogs, who cares about some stupid catalogs?, but there they sit on my bedside table. Reminders of how I can't manage to do even the easiest, most mundane day-to-day tasks.

But here I am, here we are, closing in on the three-month milestone, and I don't know how to jump "back" into life with a baby.


Personally, I thought I did a helluva good job, gallivanting across the country with a newborn, lah dee dah, no big deal. Except apparently I thought we'd return from the trip and get back to life and I would somehow know what to do next.

But for all its ease, the trip back East was hard, too, and it took more out of me than I expected, and I haven't been feeling well since we returned, and now I'm just here. Home. With a baby.

Again, I understand why women stop breastfeeding, if only to reclaim part of their body. I want to reclaim some semblance of organization, order, control, too. I have no intention of quitting nursing -- it's the only thing I feel like I accomplish all day -- but I wouldn't mind more control over everything else my body does. And hey, while we're at it, more control over my whole day.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

OH MY GOD WITH THE BREASTFEEDING

I think that breastfeeding is a great thing to do for your baby if you can make it work. I also think that there are a lot of reasons one might not be able to make it work, and that those reasons are many and varied and formula is a-okay and let's all just move on.

I am breastfeeding my baby, almost exclusively, and yet I feel defensive about it. I think it's the right choice for me and Eve because I can, because I'm at home with her and because she took to it. Great!

But what if I couldn't?

The information out there -- blogs, books, hospitals, everywhere -- practically criminalizes the use of formula and I just don't understand why.

It seems to me that there are bigger issues in the world than whether or not I regularly stick a boob in my baby's face, but you would not know this from researching anything on the internets, ohmygod.

I guess it's just that I don't know why so many people care sooooo deeply about what I feed my baby. I ask in earnest: What is this all about? Do the strongly vocal "Nursing Nazis" (my nurse's term for herself, by the way, not mine) care equally about what, say, impoverished non-infant children eat? Does the La Leche League take a stand against Lunchables? (I'm pretty sure that Lunchables are far less nutritionally sound than formula.) Maybe it's just my own myopia, but it seems to me like there's some oddly misplaced ferver over encouraging women to breastfeed at any cost that would be better spent on, oh, I dunno, figuring out a way to ensure that all expectant mothers can afford to see a doctor regularly?

I'm not even anti-boob! It's just, well...

Once upon a time, when I knew virtually nothing about breastfeeding, I just kind of casually assumed I would go ahead and breastfeed when I had a baby. I thought breastfeeding was something that would come pretty naturally, and easily, and made sense, and gosh, doesn't everyone do it? Much like having babies in general, breastfeeding is something women have been doing since the dawn of humankind, so what's the big deal?

So.

A few months into my pregnancy I decided, rather haphazardly, to look into formula-feeding versus breastfeeding. I realized I didn't really know anything about either. Oh, I knew it was cause for some debate on mommyblogs, but I assumed that argument was fairly innocuous, like arguing over what color you should paint your baby's room.

HAHAHAHAHA.

Let me illustrate what every website ever developed that has anything whatsoever to do with "breast or bottle feeding?" looks like:

!!!!!!!!!!!!!BREAST IS BEST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!BRRRREEEEASSSSST IS BEEEESSSSSSSSSSSTTTTTTTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!

Forgive my politicization, but I feel like asking the internets what safe and healthy bottle feeding options exist is maybe a little like asking your Catholic priest what safe and healthy abortion options might be.

But before you jump down my throat about that comparison, don't get me wrong. The "BREAST IS BEST" movement is like this crazy omnipolitical rallying point, where people on the far end of the conservative and liberal spectra unite. Those ultra-conservative Christian moms who blog about serving the Lord and their husbands? They LOVE the breastfeeding. Those crazy wacko granola socialist commune dwellers (and their urban SF counterparts I'm so fond of)? They ALSO LOVE the breastfeeding! And the wealthy stay-at-home moms? You betcha! And the power-lunching Type-A corporate types? Yep! And everyone in between! (Well, everyone except moms who have to go back to work and aren't given time or opportunity to pump. But that's a whole separate issue.)

The point is, it took me about four minutes of internetting before I felt like a complete asshole for even considering formula. GEEZ, I guess I should breastfeed, I thought. And left the topic completely.

A few weeks later, however, I happened upon the (aforementioned) Atlantic article called "The Case Against Breastfeeding." The article isn't actually against breastfeeding, it's just the author's take on how breastfeeding isn't the only option, and that research has only proven that the breast is maybe somewhat better possibly than formula even though you'd never know it from all the current pro-breast hype.

I appreciated the article, because it helped put into perspective what I'd already started to feel: guilt. I hadn't even had a child, hadn't even really considered not breastfeeding, and yet I was already feeling guilty about considering using formula.

Well. As my due date drew closer, it occurred to me that "Geez, I guess I should breastfeed" doesn't actually count as being informed about it. So I started gathering information about the details of nursing. I had zero idea about any of it. What tools would I need? Do I buy bottles? Do I need a poncho? How often do you do it? Do I need a pump? When do you start? When do you stop?

And THAT is when I stumbled onto a very popular blog and a very popular blog entry that had something like 200 comments all about the travails of breastfeeding. The author and the commenters were all pro-breastfeeding, but the post was about how it had been so difficult for the blogger that she eventually had to go to formula...and felt miserable about it. I spent hours poring over every comment posted in co-misery.

I'd had no idea it could be so hard. Know why? Because the "BREAST IS BEST" articles do not like to talk about how hard it can be. They like to say things like, "If you have any trouble, there are tons of resources available to help you 24-7," and "There's no need to give up!"

Give up? I wondered. Why would you give up? What don't I get about this breastfeeding thing?

And then I read and learned. I learned two things in particular:

1) Breastfeeding is HARD. At least, it can be. I mean, holy hell. Women who were dead-set on breastfeeding were sharing their stories of how they tried for days, weeks, MONTHS (like, months and MONTHS) of painful, stressful, sad, humiliating experiences before it either "clicked in" or they had to give up entirely.

Until that point, I'd believed that women who didn't breastfeed chose not to because they didn't want to be inconvenienced. (Which, by the way, I think they have a right to feel.) But I did not know that breastfeeding is this life-altering thing, rife with potential difficulties and physical challenges.

2) The ultra-pro-breastfeeding folks can sometimes feel like a cult. To this VERY VOCAL group, it's not enough to want to breastfeed. You must want to breastfeed exclusively. You should breastfeed for a minimum of a year, preferably two. You need to beware all nipples that aren't sticking out of your own breasts (no pacifiers, no bottles, not even bottles with breastmilk in them). "Supplementing" with formula is a baaad idea. Your body produces everything it needs to nurture your baby, period, end of story.

And I got mad all over again.

Here's what it boils down to for me:

I wish the "conversation" about breastfeeding could be a lot more honest.
  • Don't bombard me with all the reasons that breastfeeding might, possibly, potentially help my baby. Just say, "Hey, it's totally natural and clearly good for your baby." And if we engage in this conversation, maybe "...And here are some of the benefits that have been linked to breastfeeding."

  • I don't mind if we all start out saying BREAST IS BEST, but let's not also say, in the same breath, that FORMULA SHOULD ONLY BE USED AS A LAST RESORT. There are benefits to formula feeding. Let's not completely ignore them.

  • Let's not paint a false picture about how awesome breastfeeding is. Can it be awesome? Absolutely! Is it totally cool when it works and everything is in synch? Ohmygod YES! But it's not all nipple-sucking unicorns. There's engorgement and blocked ducts and mastitis and leaking boobs and nursing pads and pumping and trying to plan your day around on-demand feedings. And none of that is any fun. No, not every woman has problems, but many do. Let's TALK about how sucky those things can be (no pun) instead of pretending that they don't exist or that they're just minor inconveniences that women should just work through, la la la.

  • And while we're talking about how challenging breastfeeding can be, let's also discuss how breastfeeding is not the same for every boob size. Women with large breasts can't use the same positions or carriers or methods of "discreetly" feeding that other women can.

  • Let us be honest and sympathetic to women who can't breastfeed. I know several women who were physically unable to, and who were wracked with guilt because of it. Why make them feel worse by telling them -- at every juncture -- that they should really consider breastfeeding! And if they haven't tried it, breastfeeding is really the best way to go! And have you thought about breastfeeding?!

    Side note: It's my personal belief that Eve and I have bonded because I am the one who feeds her whenever she gets hungry, not because the food comes out of my boob. I sincerely believe that bonding happens when the baby recognizes you as provider/nourisher, regardless of where that nourishment comes from. I also feel strongly bonded to Eve when she falls asleep in a sling, skin-to-skin. Which, you know, any mom or dad can do.

  • Let's tone the conversation down just a bit. Some women will breastfeed and some won't and let's remember that one woman's decision doesn't have ANY IMPACT WHATSOEVER on YOUR decision. There isn't just one right way to do things. We're all trying to do the best that we can.

I'd talk more about my personal experience with it so far, but this post is long enough already and I haven't started packing yet and we're getting on a plane first thing in the morning, hoo boy. But I'm looking forward to sharing because I know some of you reading this are pregnant and worrying about what to expect and would probably love to have someone tell you that breastfeeding is no big deal and can be totally easy. Which is what I'm going to say.