Wednesday, January 25, 2012

10 Things I've Learned about Mommyhood

Inspired by Shotgun Korea, now Shotgun Adventures (as they are on the West Coast of the U.S. these days), I thought I'd post 10 bits of mom wisdom I've acquired in the 8 weeks (really, 8 as of tomorrow!) I've been a mom.  Don't expect profound secrets here.  Just stuff I've figured out.

1.  My emotional repertoire has stretched to new limits.  The highs are higher, the lows lower.  My heart feels like it just woke up in technicolor Oz after living in black and white Kansas my whole life.  It's not that having a kid makes me happier or sadder or anything like that--it's that I had no idea there were emotions left I still had not experienced in my life.  And there is no greater feeling in the world than uncovering a limitation that you didn't even know you had and pushing through it.  I loved being a teacher because I could put kids in touch with that feeling, but I really wasn't sure I'd ever experience it again the way I had as a student in high school and college.  What intellectual discovery was like as a young adult student is what the emotional discovery of being a parent is like.  Amazing.

2.  Being a mom makes you ridiculously proud of completely mundane things your baby does.  Like poop.  And eat.  And smile.  And sleep.  Because to you, none of these things are mundane or boring.  They are endlessly, endlessly fascinating.  And you talk about them.  Sometimes too much.

3.  The sleep deprivation you've heard about?  It's bad.  Really bad.  But you'll be amazed how fast you adapt.  Before having the baby, I was one of those people who was practically nonfunctional without my eight hours.  Even in high school and college, when all of us were seriously sleep deprived but it was ok because we were young and our bodies recovered fast, I wouldn't pull all-nighters.  I would crash for a couple hours first because my brain does not function well without sleep.  And especially since getting ulcerative colitis, I've found that lack of sleep sometimes sends me into a flare, so of course I was terrified about the newborn sleep deprivation winding me up in the hospital.  But I've adapted--my body has adapted. There are still moments at 3 or 4 a.m. when the baby is crying for his 4th or 5th feeding of the night that I'm so exhausted I worry I might drop him and we end up co-sleeping the rest of the night, but I recover from it.

4.  Don't talk about anything important with your husband when one or both of you are overtired.  It leads to fights.  Sometimes nasty ones.  Just go to sleep.  Talk about it tomorrow.  It's not as urgent as you think it is.

5.  Go out, with and without the baby, as soon as you can.  It is overwhelming, exhausting, and scary at first, but it helps you feel more like you.  Being you is good.  Being a mom is grand.  But at first it's really hard to reconcile your image of yourself with motherhood.  Getting out of the house helps this process immensely for some reason.  And most babies like going out--mine certainly does.

6.  Use a pocket diaper overnight for cloth.  The pocket diapers wick moisture away from the baby's bum so he doesn't fuss about his wet diaper and goes back to sleep without you having to change it for a wee.  You still have to change it for a larger mess, and boy does he stink in the morning, but it is worth it for the glorious, glorious sleep it gives you.

7.  Breastfeeding is hard.  I have dealt with bruised nipples, plugged ducts, painful engorgement, crazy hormones, a let-down so powerful that it sometimes gags my poor little guy, and a tear-filled night in the hospital where I forced the poor little newborn (2 days old) to feed for three hours straight so the doctor wouldn't make me give him formula and she made me do it anyways.  And I'm actually one of the "lucky" ones who have had very few problems overall.  In the mommy groups I've joined, there are brilliant, accomplished, lovely women--lawyers and scientists and therapists and teachers--reduced to tears because their kid never can quite learn to latch or they are in so much pain when they feed that they can't sleep or their doctor is "concerned" about the weight gain of the baby, even if everything else is going well.

8.  Even when breastfeeding is "easy", it's tempting to give it up.  Why?  Dude, after 3 HOURS of feeding him and then he sucked down 2 oz of formula in about five minutes with no problems and then slept four hours straight, I got it.  I finally got why even well-intentioned women who CAN breastfeed might choose to give it up.  Furthermore, in some ways, especially in the early weeks, breastfeeding ties you down.  Feeding every 2-3 hours doesn't sound so bad until you realize that it's start time to start time and when the baby is learning to feed (about the first 2-4 weeks), it can regularly take 40 min to an hour to complete.  Then you burp him, change him, nap for like 20 min, and start the whole damn thing over again!  It's exhausting.  Breastfeeding babies take longer to sleep through the night--mine still has yet to do a stretch longer than five hours.  Our culture doesn't support it (I get dirty looks at restaurants all the time--and I use a nice modesty shield!).  Formula is convenient (and also free if a mom does WIC).  Until the personal electric pumps became widely available, working women had few options but to wean at least partially.  Even with the pump, you have to learn all this stuff about freezing and storing and thawing which is complicated (and some babies won't take defrosted milk, so those women can't build up a back-up supply).  And still few workplaces are supportive of nursing moms (see my point about cultural non-support).  I breastfeed, but I completely understand women who have chosen not to in order to preserve their own sanity.

9.  Breastfeeding makes you feel powerful.  Really powerful.  Almost like a superhero.  Beyond the bonding with the infant skin-to-skin stuff, I've never been prouder of my body than when it produced milk successfully for my baby.  Even my healthy pregnancy didn't feel so... powerful.  Boobs are awesome.  And I mean like I am in awe of them.  But...

10.  Breastfeeding makes you feel less sexy.  Not un-sexy, just that two of your main body parts that used to be just about exclusively sexual have this whole other function.  And they are constantly being touched in a way that feels good, but not sexual.  It throws your whole pre-baby sense of who you were as a sexual being off.  There's a really great post I read recently that touches on this and goes into other details of postpartum sex.  I recommend it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Random Insomniac Update

My Little Monkey Butt

Baby J now has me so conditioned to middle-of-the-night feedings that when he throws off his routine by sleeping right through one, it causes me to stay up until the next one.  At least I can catch up on blogging!  (And of course, my punishment for being awake from 12:30-2 am was that when he finally did wake for a feeding he would NOT go back to sleep until 4.  Ugh!  No more caffeine for me!)

This week has been a little odd.  Some things that have happened:

Milk Drunk

1)  I'm down to 212 lbs (3 more lost), so all is going relatively well on the health front (except this nasty back pain that just won't go away and of course I can't get enough proper rest to allow to heal).  I have my six week postpartum checkup tomorrow (later today, I guess), so we'll see if that goes well, too.

2)  I'm becoming more social with the baby.  We've been out to restaurants a couple times, on long walks many times, and to a new mommies group I was recently introduced to by a friend.  I also went out on New Year's Eve, leaving the baby with his grandparents and way too much expressed milk (you know... in case I was kidnapped and held for ransom in Mexico or something.  I was paranoid!) and called only once an hour to check on him.  It's nice to feel less stuck on the couch.

Baby J and Min Gi with my high school friend, Jonathan and his lovely wife at our first restaurant outing.

3)  The baby has grown a lot.  He's really long (outgrew newborn sizes and even 3 month onesies are getting a little short on him) and his head is enormous.  He's still pretty skinny baby-wise, but when I went to the new moms group, he was more like the size of boys a full 4-5 weeks older than him and girls 2 months older than him.  The other 6 week olds looked so tiny by comparison.  He's also started "talking" to us, which is super fun:

5)  Min Gi has notified his job he is quitting at the end of this month to become a full time dad (and work on his business ideas), and I have told my boss I will be returning full time to work February 11.  Jeongmin will be 10 weeks old.  I actually kind of look forward to being a working mom.  It will be hard to be away from him, but I know he and his dad will have a great time bonding with each other.  Luckily, I've had no issues with pumping, so I should be able to continue to exclusively breastfeed.

Always excited in the mornings.

6.  My father is in the hospital again--probably for two weeks.  I don't think it's too serious, but it's still soon to see where it goes.  He needs another surgery and has a small foot infection.  I'm really sad because he's missing out on bonding time with Jeongmin. 

7.  American healthcare sucks.  We're in limbo with the baby's insurance because we wanted to put him on Min Gi's insurance, but it turns out the agent who applied for us told the insurance company that nobody in the household was pregnant, even though I specifically asked her about that when we applied for his insurance, so now the matter is "under investigation" and not only does Jeongmin not currently have insurance, but Min Gi may lose his coverage because of this.  With us going down to one salary, we're eligible for state care for the baby, but I can't even apply for that until I know what's going on with his application to the other agency.  It's a giant mess.  I will be calling around some public clinics next week to try to keep at least his vaccinations up, but the whole thing makes me want to punch people in the face.  (And in case you were wondering, it's not really feasible to add him to my company's plan--it would be $500/month just for him).  I really hope he stays healthy, especially over the next few weeks as this gets sorted out.

8)  My younger brother turned 29 yesterday.

9)  Another friend had her second baby this weekend (at the same hospital where my dad is now... funny).  Can't wait to meet her.

My boys.

That is all for now.  I should really try to sleep if I can.  If you'd like, there are more cute baby pictures in the full album:

Baby: Weeks 4-6

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012: Year of the Dragon, Resolution!

I'm going to try a single resolution this year.  Of course, I always have numerous goals I'm working towards, but I would like one big fat goal that I achieve this year.  That goal is health through weight loss.

Currently, I weigh 215 lbs.  When I got pregnant, I was approximately 190 (high for me, mostly because of the depression) and when I checked into the hospital, I weighed in at 240, so I'd like to pretend that I've already lost 25 lbs, rather than think of it as a 50 lb gain.  This makes me feel good and like I can accomplish my weight loss.  My ultimate goal is to be under 70 kgs (154 lbs), but I have never weighed that little in my adult life, so I may have to adjust the goal as I approach it.  I have broken this into interim goals of being under 200 lbs (I would like to achieve this by the time I return to work in mid-February) and being under 180 lbs by the end of April when some of the Korean relatives will be visiting.  From there, I will re-assess the weight portion of my goal.

Really my goal is threefold:  1)  to be in a healthy weight range for my height, 2) to have eating habits that I would like my son to emulate, and 3) to build my activity level back up to a high level I used to enjoy before I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.

The ways I plan to achieve this goal are as follows:

1)  I want to start doing meal planning.  Since one-month cooking sounds a little intimidating, I plan to start with once-a-week cooking.  This will help eliminate the random eating out that really should only be on special occasions.
2)  Make water my primary liquid.  I should not be drinking much else.  I may try quitting soda.  Right now, I'd rather focus on other things, but I am going to reach for a glass of water FIRST and then have something else if I still want it.
3)  Exercise in some fashion everyday.  I've noticed it has a huge impact on my mood when I go out in the stroller with the baby, even if I at first feel like I'm too tired or overwhelmed by my to-do list to bother.  Honestly, 20 minutes of walking is sometimes even better for me right now than a 20 minute nap or a 20 minute laundry session.  And it's good for the baby, too.
4)  Track my weight.  Possibly keep a food journal.  Whenever I do this consistently, I tend to lose or AT LEAST maintain.
5)  Observe and journal about my emotional relationship to food and focus on fullness/food cues.  I may share some of this on the blog, but a lot of it is very personal.  I may just note it in my offline journal.  But I think this is a key element of long-term weight loss that I sometimes don't put as much work into as I really should.

If I implement all of these things, but I don't quite hit my weight loss goal dates, I know that's ok because these habits are really the ones I need to become healthy.  Being a mom has really underscored the significance of health and of being a healthy role model.  I want to be able to chase after my little guy as he grows up and for him not to have to struggle with the emotional food issues I have dealt with in my life.  For him to learn this really well, I need to learn it better myself.

This is my resolution for 2012.  It is my only one.  I have other things I hope/plan to accomplish, but this is the one thing I will focus on this year.  I will keep you posted now and then.

Happy New Year!


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