Thursday, October 30, 2008

View from the other side

If you're wondering where I've been lately, the answer is sleeping. For the first time since Eggbert was born, I now have a reasonable expectation of 7-8 uninterrupted sleep every night. It doesn't happen every night, but it happens more often than not. Several times in the last two weeks or so, I've caught myself thinking "what is this feeling, I feel great!" and then realizing that this is what it feels like not to be sleep-deprived. Now I've never been one to take sleep for granted--I've always had a healthy respect, nay, love, for the stuff, but I am still finding myself astonished at how much of a difference a good night's sleep makes.

Yes it's true that I'm still bf rather a lot, despite the closing of the all-night bar. I had originally planned to exclusively breastfeed until age 6 months, wean by 9 months, and be doing another IVF cycle by now. It kind of cracks me up to think about it. I clearly had never met myself, or Eggbert, if I thought that was going to fly. It might have worked if Eggbert had been a different baby, actually. I do have a spine somewhere under all of the mush, but I just wasn't equipped to deal with denying the boob to a baby that was (well, actually, is) absolutely passionate about it. I expected that she would like it, but I had never expect that she would love it so much. To this day, she cackles with glee when the boob comes out, and dives on it, making little happy sounds, whenever she sees it. Every. Single. Time. It doesn't matter if she just ate 3 seconds ago. The boob always fills her with delight.

I did try to get things under control earlier. I tried night weaning in August, and it was a disaster. The first time she woke up at night and a boob wasn't forthcoming, she screamed blue murder for what felt like an hour. She never really seemed to settle down, she just finally seemed to collapse with exhaustion. I was holding her and trying to calm her for much of it, but she was just so angry and upset that nothing that I could do helped. It was awful. I really think that even the staunchest CIO supporter would have been shaken. I held out for three nights, counting the minutes until the sun rose, so it would be "morning", and I could give her the damn boob already. After the third awful night stretched into the third awful day (she was horribly cranky, I was horribly cranky), I decided that maybe for whatever reason, she just wasn't ready. Since then I have felt like a terrible wimp, so it felt really validating to my instincts as a mom that this time, she whined a little for five minutes the first night, was easily soothed, and that was pretty much that. I don't think she's even woken up at night in a week, and when she does, it's just for a quick cuddle and then back to sleep (and let's face it, that's almost better than uninterrupted sleep).

So here we are. These days, I'm nursing her in the morning, and then not again until about 7 pm, then again at 8, and occasionally again when I go to bed, if she happens to wake up. I stopped pumping over a month ago, and will finish my frozen breastmilk stash early next week, so she'll soon be on cow's milk throughout the day. There are still no signs of my period, but I'm trying not to stress about that. In a while, once I'm sure she's doing well with the cow's milk, I'll work on phasing out the 7 pm feeding. After that, well, I don't know. We'll have to see.

That wasn't even what I was going to post about. Last weekend I spent some time with a friend from my Korean language class that I hadn't seen since the week that Eggbert was conceived, because she no longer lives in Korea. She is now 15 weeks pregnant with her first child. I realized that this was the first time that I'd had a friend be pregnant for the first time after me. All of my friends had their first kids years ago (mostly about 10-20 months after I started trying to conceive, as if to torture me), so it was my first time being the one in a position to offer advice. I'd love to say that I was graceful about it, and carefully kept from spewing assvice, but honestly nothing could be further from the truth. So many words spilled out of me on a huge number of topics from birthing and breastfeeding to how to choose the right stroller/pram, that I thought I might drown in my own verbiage. It wasn't pretty. Luckily, my friend had the patience of a saint. I hope that she understood that I was just excited for her.

The most interesting thing about this encounter, though, was seeing how nervous she is about this pregnancy. She conceived easily, and has never suffered a loss, yet even at 15 weeks, she can't stand to buy anything, or plan anything, because she's so conscious of all of the things that could (but probably won't) happen. She could barely even mention the due date without saying something like "if we make it that far", and she admitted that she had tried to arrange an ultrasound during her four-day visit in Korea, just to reassure herself that the baby was OK. Hearing all of this really challenged my own stereotypes about "fertiles", and the difference between "fertiles" and "infertiles". It turns out that there are nervous types on both sides of the fence, and that conceiving easily doesn't necessarily guarantee peace of mind. Who knew?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The bar is closed

Dear customers of Mommy's Milk Bar,

This notice is to inform you that MMB will no longer be providing 24-hour service due to staff exhaustion. Our new hours of operation are 7-8 am, 6-10 pm weekdays, and 7 am-10 pm weekends and holidays. We apologize for any inconvenience, and as always, we appreciate your loyalty.


The Management

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bedside manner?

Yesterday Eggbert and I went to the doctor for flu shots. We have been going to the same International Clinic (nested within a major hospital) since we got here, so the nurses all have known me and Eggbert since before she was born. Eggbert's appointment went swimmingly. She was weighed and measured (15th percentile and 12th, respectively), had her temperature taken, and was pronounced cute, smart, and healthy by the doctor. She didn't like the shot much, but got over it quickly when offered a boob. (My doctor's office is great. They have a private place to nurse little ones right there.) All in all, a good visit.

Then it was my turn. I had to go to a different doc to get the vaccination prescribed. I didn't request my normal doc, since I wanted to get an appointment right after Eggbert's for the sake of convenience. They ushered me into an office, and there was the Asian version of Doogie Houser. I swear this kid was 12. He said that he was a resident and would be taking my medical history. I wasn't thrilled, since I knew this would take forever and Eggbert and Mystery were waiting outside, but I know that residents have to learn somehow, so I said OK. He asked a million questions in just about the worst English that I've heard since I've been here. (This isn't a criticism--my Korean is abysmal and I'm grateful that there is a clinic where I can get care in English--I'm just setting the stage here.) I answered them all to the best of my ability--3 or 4 times in some cases because his comprehension was about as good as his speech. Then he asked the question. "When was your last menstrual period?"

I laughed and said "it's been almost two years now--well, not quite, I think it was February 2007. I had a baby last November and am still breastfeeding."

He stared at me and said "two years?"

"Well, not quite," I said, "more like 20 months. 10 months since the baby was born."

"Is there something wrong with you?" (Remember, this is the DOCTOR!)

"No, I'm still breastfeeding and haven't had my period yet. I have a baby. I'm breastfeeding."

"Have you been diagnosed with menopause?" (Again, remember, this is the DOCTOR!)

At this point I was shouting. "It's called lactational amenorrhea. It's perfectly normal!"

He kept staring at me, lip trembling.

Finally the "real" doctor came in, and prescribed the damn shot.

I am still livid. I really don't feel that I should have to PAY for the privilege of explaining the facts of life to a so-called professional. I wish that I could attribute it to language problems, but he clearly understood the word "baby", and had my chart right in front of him, so the information was all there. And the bedside manner? Imagine if I hadn't been a neurotic infertile (which he obviously didn't know, because he clearly hadn't read my chart), and didn't know that lactational amenorrhea is, indeed, normal. I probably would have been terrified.

Actually, I am terrified. I'm terrified by the fact that someone could pass medical school without learning even the basic facts about female reproductive biology. Horrifying.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Perfect moments

Since I started the IVF cycle that ended up producing Eggbert, there have been, interspersed among the normal ups and downs of life, a series of moments so perfect, so sublime, that they take my breath away. The moment that the second line popped up on the pregnancy test. The first time I felt movement. The first time I saw her, wet and confused and so, so beautiful. Her first smile. Her first laugh. A million quiet moments just being with her. Kami reminded me the other day that these moments are worth sharing.

Last Sunday, I had one of those moments. It was the first cool weekend at the end of a long, sweltering summer. While I'm a hot-weather fan in general, the weather has put a damper on our ability to take Eggbert on fun outings, since she tends to get too hot and fussy pretty quickly. So, we were quick to take advantage of a cool but sunny day.

The Han River runs through the city of Seoul, and a long narrow park runs along much of the south bank of the river. It's a typical city park--only 50 meters or so from one side to the other, but it's a precious green space in a sea of concrete. There are bike paths, playgrounds, and lots of nice places to sit and just be. We took Eggbert to the park, and she had her first ride on a swing, and took her first steps on grass. She was both confused and delighted. Watching her toddle along, wearing a cute outfit coupled with the ugliest shoes known to man (more on those another time), holding Mystery's hands and laughing. I realized that I was completely, perfectly happy. There is more to me than being a wife and mommy, but I can't think of anything that could bring me such complete joy than just being with the two people that I love most in the world, healthy and strong, sharing an adventure on a sunny day.