Archive for the 'Baby' Category
The theme of the year: If it doesn’t work, change something. Now, not later.

Only a couple of weeks into the New Year, and my resolutions need adjusting.  Because I am rushed for time, and only have 5 minutes, I will say this:

  • I haven’t exercised once this year.  On New Year’s Day I went for a nice long walk, but other than that, nothing.  I still want to exercise once each week, but I clearly need something more structured in place to make it happen.
  • I’m doing awesome with limiting my screen time.  I’ve only logged onto Facebook a handful of times, and only to send critical messages to friends/family who I don’t have any other way of contacting.  And I’ve only taken a few Instagram shots, all of which were to document sleep, since I felt like it was such an unusual event that deserved documentation.
  • Not included on my short list of resolutions here, was my commitment to reading 3 journal articles/week for my research.  Shouldn’t be too tough, right?  Well, 2 weeks in, and I’ve only read 3 articles in their entirety.  Certainly, I’ve gone through many more articles than that to fact-check certain small details, but do those really count?  I’ve decided that I’ve set the bar too high for myself.  I’ll try to read 2 articles/week instead, and see how I fare.
  • I’m doing better with being present and patient with my kids.
  • I’m having second thoughts about submitting my grant.  There are many reasons for this, all of which deserve their own post.  For now, I’m going to try to focus on how lucky I am to have a job where I can work part-time and learn new things.  I’m going to try to focus on learning things that will be useful for careers in the private sector, because I just don’t know about this academic stuff.  More on that later.

So that’s my little update.  How are YOU faring this New Year?

Join the Resolution

New Year’s resolutions can be tedious, disappointing, and trite, but I do value the whole process of reflecting on my life and how I choose to spend my time.

Over the past week at home, I’ve been editing a document that contains random bullet points of minor and not-so-minor things that I’d like to focus on this coming year.  Some of these things are concrete.  Some are not.  But I think some of the more meaningful items are more oriented to how I approach my life, how I think about myself and my family, and how I will regulate my behavior so that I can have a more peaceful, restful, and enjoyable year.

I’m not going to detail the whole list here, but I’d like to mention some of the more important resolutions.  In no particular order:

  • Stay far, far away from all social media and avoid all blogs (except this one, of course!) for the entire month of January.  I did this one last year, and it was GREAT.  It got me off on the right foot for the year in terms of directing ALL of my screen time to academic endeavors.  I felt like I had renewed focus on research, I wasn’t constantly checking my phone for status updates or other interruptions, and I wasn’t unfairly comparing myself to everyone else under the sun.  This is a resolution I will have EVERY year, and I’ll probably also adopt it for the month of June as well, for a mid-year reality check.  Let the palette-cleansing begin!


  • Exercise once each week.  Why not 3 times each week?  Because I don’t think I can fit it in.  If I aspired to 3 x/week, I’d get stressed, frustrated, and would feel like I had failed.  Once each week—-I can manage that.  I’ll get *some* exercise, which is better than nothing.  And I know that I can do it, especially if it’s only once a week.  As for the type of exercise, it will really be whatever I’m able to fit in, or whatever I’m in the mood for.  I start tomorrow.  Tomorrow I run.


  • When I get stressed/anxious/agitated/frustrated, stop what I am doing, take a breath, and try to figure out where those feelings are coming from.  Do less if I have to.  Always do less if it means maintaining my sanity.  I’ve been overwhelmed this year.  That much is clear.  I don’t always feel like I have the tools to manage those feelings, but I think I bring much of it on myself by trying to do too many things at once, and being completely unrealistic in my expectations of myself.  So this year I am going to devote a lot of effort to trying to do LESS and to being aware of my limitations—and when I feel like I’m stretching myself too far, training myself to reign it back in.


  • Be present.  Talk about not being quantifiable!  This is the kind of thing that gives me the fantods as a researcher—how does one MEASURE “being present?”  I don’t know, but I think we all know what this intangible state feels like.  When we’re present, we’re fully experiencing something, we are more empathic, we are better listeners, we feel more connected in our sensory and interpersonal experiences.  For months (particularly in the summer and early fall), I felt like I had a cloak around me, or like I was in a fog.  Like when I was with people, I wasn’t really with them.  Something was separating them from me (or me from them), and it was almost like a physical barrier at times.  I could touch my boys but not be touching them.  Or cuddle them and nurse them, but feel nothing.  My mind was somewhere else, and I knew it, but I couldn’t bring myself back.  I know it was (or is) anxiety and depression, and I’m hoping that my awareness of it will help me get over it.  My research group incorporates meditation into our meetings on a monthly basis, so I’m hoping that these sessions will help me with this resolution.  And/but/so the first resolution up at the top of this list is related, in that disconnecting from social media will help me reconnect with what is happening around me here and now.


  • You know, I wasn’t going to have this resolution, but since there is so much snow on the ground, I’ll just go ahead and say that I really want to learn how to cross-country ski.  Wouldn’t that just address everything on this list in one fell swoop?


  • Continue to do something nice for myself once each month.  In January—cashing in my massage that Rob got me as a Christmas gift.  Can. Not. Wait.

I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year’s.  Take care of yourselves and hug your loved peeps tight.

A crazy December, a crazy year

We are less than 2 days away from Christmas at this point, and I am just now wrapping my mind around that fact.  We had a very emotional and intense December, to the extent that I didn’t do a lot of thinking or planning for Christmas.  At the beginning of the month, I was still somewhat settling into a work routine, and trying desperately to get Emery to sleep more.  Also at the beginning of the month, I started on a project to spruce up our bathroom which was in dire need of TLC.  I wanted to keep costs down, so I did all of the painting myself, Rob and I installed the floor ourselves, and we updated some of the hardware and other items with relatively inexpensive replacements (before and after pictures to come within the next week or two).  I know it seems crazy to embark on a project like that when sleep is in such short supply, but I really wanted to fix up the bathroom as a little Christmas present to ourselves.  I was tired of mopping the bathroom floor and having it still look gross.

On December 9th, we got some awful and unexpected news.  We found out that my brother-in-law and sister-in-law had lost their baby at nearly 40 weeks.  It’s a nightmare that you don’t hear much about anymore, which makes it all the more shocking.  We headed to Maine the following weekend for a memorial service (which sadly ended up being held on the day of the massacre at Sandy Hook).   I worried all week about the reception following the service, as this would be the first time that my brother-in-law and sister-in-law would meet Emery, and I was super sensitive to how this might make them feel.  Luckily, they were OK with having Emery around, and they even smiled and talked to him.  Even on the hardest of days, little E was able to bring a smile to someone’s face.  I had various unexpected and surprising emotions around this event, too many to even chronicle here.  Most notably, though, it strengthened my appreciation and love of my children.  I guess that this is the only silver lining that can be taken away from such tragedies.

Also on December 9th, my boss’s husband suffered a massive stroke.  He died 3 days later.  My boss has only recently completed her chemotherapy treatments, and everyone is worried about how she’ll fare in the coming months.  Because of her husband’s death, my boss was out of the lab for most of December.  So, it looks like I will not be able to submit my grant, as she hasn’t had the chance to fill out the relevant paperwork in support of the application.  I’m actually OK with this setback.  One day at a time, right?

Just 2 days ago, I went downstairs into our mudroom, only to find our little pet rabbit laying in her cage motionless.  She was alive, but she couldn’t get up at all.  She couldn’t eat or drink, and she couldn’t assume a sitting a position.  I took her out of her cage and put her on a towel.  I petted her, gave her kisses, tried to comfort her.  Rob came home from work early and we took her to the vet where we had her put to sleep.  She died in my arms as I petted her.  I didn’t cry.  I had her for 10 years, and I didn’t even cry when she died.  I was really too busy thinking about how I’d explain it to Holden.  Only 2 weeks ago I had to explain to him that his much-anticipated cousin had died right before she was born.  Now we had to explain that his pet rabbit was dead, too.  But we explained it, and he took it in stride.  He was disappointed and sad, but almost immediately those emotions gave way to acceptance and peace.   There’s no other choice in these situations, other than to be honest, and recognize the resilience of young minds.

So now we are headed into a new year.  I feel like the only good thing about 2012 was that Emery was born.   I’m sure that there were lots of other good things too, but they seem to be flickering and amorphous.  This year was very hard for me.  I was challenged by a lot of things going on with my family in the months following Emery’s birth.  Health issues were always at the forefront of my thinking, and I was plagued by constant and intense anxiety for most of the summer and early fall.  Things are better now, but I still have a lot of work to do to feel like my mind is free.  If I have [re]learned anything from my niece Grace, it is to let all inconsequential events slip by me, and to instead focus on my precious and sweet boys.  My Emery is crawling now, pulling himself up, babbling, eating lots of different food, sledding for the first time, and of course, resisting sleep.  My Holden is obsessed with The Hobbit, loves drawing scenes from books and listening to They Might Be Giants, while also talking about his favorite planets and speculating about the origins of the universe.  I love both of these guys so much.  I look at them smiling and laughing and wonder what challenges they will face.  What pain they will endure.  What situations will push them to their mental and emotional limits.  And I hope that I am capable of giving them the tools they need to cope with this life.  This life can be brutal.  It can take things away from you without explanation.  But this life is also good and rich and filled with limitless opportunities to learn and be connected with others.  Can I model this resilience for them?  Will 2013 be a better year?

Yes and yes.



Now that I’ve been back to work for a full month, I’m starting to feel like I’m settling into a bit of a routine.  Mornings are still batshit insane and incredibly stressful, but I think that’s probably unavoidable.  I end up yelling at H a lot in the morning, and he gets kind of sullen, then I feel guilty, and everyone has a wonky start to the day.  But DUDE, PUT YOUR FUCKING SHOES ON THE FIRST TIME I ASK!!!!”

He’s only 4, I need to remind myself of this.  But also, he’s 4, so he needs to get with the program.

The pumping is going fine…it’s a chore, but it’s a chore I’ve gotten used to.  I have plenty of milk, and I’m not worried about running low.

Work itself is good.  I’m learning a lot, I feel challenged, I’m kept on my toes.  I like the people I work with.  I will admit, though, that how I feel at the end of the work day varies greatly from one day to the next.  Some days I feel very competent and that I made a good choice about where I am working and what I am doing.  Other days I have intense anxiety and intrusive thoughts about not being smart enough, not being capable, etc.  I know a lot of this is normal anxiety that anyone might experience in a relatively new job after a long hiatus from work.  I also know a lot of this is probably attributable to the chronic sleep deprivation that’s been going around our house.  The last time E slept through the night was the beginning of October, and before that, it was sometime during the summer.  He gets really worked up if I don’t go in and nurse him every time he wakes up.  One night recently he was up 6 times before 9:30PM.  I thought I was going to die.

I’m getting really frustrated with it.  I remember H was a terrible sleeper too, and I know that he outgrew it eventually, but geez, I’m tired NOW, and I’d like a reprieve from this NOW.  And the thing is, I’m not even being unrealistic about it.  I EXPECT one or two awakenings per night.  I don’t mind one or two awakenings, and I can generally function pretty well after one or two sleep interruptions.  But this constant getting in and out of our bed, laying on the floor with E, putting him in our bed, rocking him, nursing him, God knows how many times per night.  I don’t even count anymore.  It feels like I’m trying to put him to sleep all night long.  Probably because I am.

One of the worst parts about the sleep deprivation is the physical pain that my body is in.  I end up sleeping in really weird positions, usually with my neck bent down and my back arched to try to nurse E.  And so my neck and shoulders hurt all the time.  I haven’t been able to turn my head all week.  When I back out of the driveway, I have to ask H: “Hey little guy, do you see any pedestrians, animals, motor vehicles or children on bikes??”  You think I’m kidding.

This will pass.  It will.  I do love my 22-lb, 7-month old E.  He is lovely, snuggly, and sweet, even if he’s a shitty sleeper.

On the agenda for the weekend:  sanding, priming and painting the bathroom; holiday picture self-portraits; dinner with friends on Saturday, lunch with friends on Sunday, and hopefully, some fucking sleep.

First week back

The end of this week marks my first week back to work.  It turns out I did have a job to go back to, and I was welcomed back eagerly by all.  My boss was having issues with e-mail when I was trying to contact her earlier this fall, which explains why I didn’t hear from her after sending her so many messages.

I felt very free to be at work— able to drink water as I worked, use the bathroom when I needed to, and eat lunch when I was hungry.  The work is challenging, and I will have to work hard to make progress, but that is what I want…I *want* a challenge.   The tough part about going back to work is getting out the door in the morning—-I found myself having to brush my teeth while feeding the baby, reading journal articles while quickly eating my breakfast, pumping breastmilk while talking E out of a hissy fit, showering while settling a sibling dispute.  I had to ask H to put on his socks no fewer than 27 times before finally getting out the door.  But once we were out the door, and H was dropped off at school, my day began and I could relax a bit during my commute into town.

The best part of the day by far was coming home to a very happy Emery, who clearly had a wonderful day with my beautiful neighbor who is taking care of him during my absence.  On Monday night, I cuddled E like I had never cuddled him before, kissing his smooth forehead, stroking his downy baby hair, and breathing in his light baby scent.  After a full day of work, I felt refreshed and relaxed and ready to shower both of my boys with the love and adoration they deserve.

I know I desperately needed this time away.  I think I’ve been chronically sleep-deprived and socially isolated.  And going back to work was exactly what I needed to make me feel more connected to other people.  As for the sleep,  I’ll get more eventually.  I know enough about kids and babies to know that you can try your hardest to get them to sleep well at night, and if they’ve made up their minds that they’re not going to be consistent sleepers, then there’s really nothing you can do about it except wait for them to outgrow it.  H didn’t sleep through the night consistently until he was about 3, and even now at 4.5, he still wakes up in the middle of the night on occasion.  And this past week, it seems he’s been up every night due to nightmares, but what can anyone really do about that?  The other challenge with going back to work is the absolute necessity of staying on top of the pumping.  E is PLOWING through his frozen milk supply in a big way.  In a single day, he goes through 3 bags of frozen milk, plus a bottle of freshly pumped milk.  So, if I want to keep my supply up and meet my goal of nursing E for a full year, I’m going to have to pump at least once each day, every day, for the next 5 months.  A little daunting, so I think I need to cut myself some slack in some key areas.  First, I need to let go of some of the housework.  I had been really staying on top of the housework—the laundry was done in its entirety twice each week, the shower and tub were cleaned each week, the whole house mopped each week, rooms vacuumed twice each week, etc.  The house was cleaner than it had ever been.  But this is just not sustainable with all of the pumping and working I have to do.  So, I’ll probably commit myself to a more relaxed cleaning schedule to see if that alleviates some of the pressure.  The other thing I want is to commit to doing something nice for myself once each month.  I actually already started this earlier in the fall because I really felt like I needed something to look forward to.  So in September, I got my hair cut.  I know that sounds like not much of splurge, but I choose to get my hair cut by a stylist who knows how to deal with curly hair, and it tends to be a little bit pricier than a run-of-the-mill haircut.  Last month I bought myself some fancy facial cleanser that I lurve.  And this month, who knows….maybe I’ll really splurge and get a facial.  The idea is that I do something for myself that gives me something to look forward to.  Tonight when I am done blogging, I’m going to paint my toenails.  Just so I feel like I’m taken care of.  The other thing I want to do is exercise more.  I REALLY need to ease into it.  I’ve been seeing the chiropractor regularly for my hip pains, and at this point, I can do some very light running.  I might ease into a slow half mile run over this weekend.  That would be nice to have that activity back in my life.

All in all, a solid start back to work, although I will need to tweak and experiment to get the balance right.