Sunday, November 30, 2008

Friends and thanksgiving

This week marked the return of a semi social life. One of many transformations since Valentina's birth is the friend circle. My closest girlfriends - Gaby, Laura and Judith (all single and childless) keep wondering when I'll be back to our weekly late night dinner/wine events. Judith - farthest from breeding or even monogamous coupling wants to know when I'll be back with the running team. Gaby joined a new adventure running team and has been going on spiritual retreats. Judith went to Club Med Brazil with two other single gals from our running team last week. Laura's been calling 3 times a day wanting to visit and not understanding why I can't make solid plans or why entertaining is more draining than fun. Where does Ambi the tired new mom fit into all of this?

For Thanksgiving, fellow expat and writer friend Amanda invited us to her place for a civilized turkey feast (Photo 3). Three other couples with kids were there. It was the kind of evening I would have abhorred a year a go but it turned out to be fun and a relief. Kids running and crying, adult conversation constantly interrupted, pumping on the go for the first time, Valentina mostly sleeping but then ultimately crying and us making a made dash for the door, two hours spent outside of the house in a semi-normal social setting with our baby - a true milestone and for that and many other blessings, I am thankful.

Yesterday we invited Italian friends Mara and Matijas over for a mate (Photo 1). They brought a huge tub of Persicco gelato and their two month old boy who loved Valentina's swing. We talked about being new parents and life in our adopted country. Later that night we ventured out to friend Brad and Laura's thanksgiving dinner party (Photo 2). I didn't want to go (what if she cries, what if we can't get a cab home in time for me to pump, what if I miss my window for a nightly nap?) but knew they'd be disappointed if we flaked even with the fussy 4 week old as an excuse. Valentina slept through dinner and had a massive crying attack just before dessert so we headed home after a respectable appearance. Brad's testing two new cookie flavors for his business so we indulged in oatmeal raisin and chocolate butterscotch tasties at home.

Where do new moms go? A good friend of mine from San Francisco literally disappeared for 6 months after the birth of her first child. We went from talking every day and seeing eachother a few times a week to nothing for six months. No calls, emails or visits. She had no help and her husband worked long hours. At the time I was incensed and hurt. Now I see...

Friday, November 21, 2008


I'm not a boobologist but I've learned a lot about boob mechanics the past few weeks. With all of the prenatal yoga and childbirthing classes I took during my pregnancy I somehow failed to attend a lactation talk. Turns out this was real important.

Since her birth day, Valentina has latched on to the boob. No problem finding it nor knowing what to do once it made its way into her super sucking orfice. I hired Maria the doula/lactation specialist to help me get adjusted to this new activity. I thought things were going ok the first few days. Valentina sucked and although there was no milk yet, she was eeking out the bit of colostrum they say is so key to her immunity. Then she started to look a bit yellow - jaundice warning. Pediatrician said it was likely due to my milk coming in a bit late - 5 days after birth. Finally it came in and her color improved. I also took her outside on the balcony for a bit of indirect sun exposure. Then the right boob got clogged. Turned splotchy red and hard. Hurt. Doula advised me to massage it, hot showers, try to express the milk out. OB Dr. Lodeiro suggested taking Ibuprofen to release the milk. Meanwhile, all this time breastfeeding is excruciatingly painful. Nipples are war wounds and Valentina never seems satiated. Doula suggests different positions, opening her mouth wider, keeping her more awake, nursing for more time each boob, nursing for less time each boob but more frequently. Is there anything we haven't tried?

Last friday, Valentina goes to pediatrician for her checkup (had been 12 days since last visit). She weighs less than her birth weight. WHAT!!!! They send me up to the lactation center at Hospital Aleman. They pump my breasts and only 20ml comes out. She's starving. My boobs are so wounded I cry during the pumping. Tears of pain and extreme frustration. I thought this was supposed to be natural and easy? Do I have to become a boobologist to get my kid some nurishment? They advise bottle feeding with formula to supplement my breastmilk until production increases. Boobs no longer a body part - they're a machine. I cry some more. Not the evil formula. After all this yoga, natural birth, no I have to give her formula? boo hoooooooo They treat the boobs with special salve that is supposed to heal them fast.

I tried for two days to breast feed and then give a bottle of formula. She sleeps more and seems calmer, well fed. No problem taking to the bottle. She'll suck on anything. She also gets a pacifier. Boobs are still a mess and all I feel is pain. Yesterday broke open the pump. Now I am pumping milk into a bottle to feed her and adding another bottle of formula. The "bad boob" that once had a clog gives two squirts of milk and then stops. The lactation people at the hospital said I am too exhausted to produce enough milk. Have to get more rest. Monday starts a full time maid/nanny person to help out. i dream of mrs doubtfire.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pretend Anniversary

Eight years ago Monday Nov 10th, Hugh and I stood on the steps of San Francisco City Hall and pledged our I do's to ex-Mayor, sometimes wedding officiant Willie Brown. Later that night we dined in high style at Fleur de Lys - one of if not the nicest french restaurants in town.

This year's celebration was....not like that.

In the afternoon we got a delivery from one of Hugh's work associates. He sent a dozen long stemmed red roses for me and two adorable pink (there is no other color for girls in Argentina) outfits for Valentina. I said to Hugh "let's pretend you gave me these flowers for our anniversary!" It set off a game of let's pretend I let take hold of my mind.

Let's pretend we'll dress up fancy tonight and go out for a decadent meal instead of scarfing down leftovers separately while one holds a crying infant.

Let's pretend we had time to get each other cards or a gift.

Let's pretend I got more than two hours sleep last night.

Let's pretend the baby didn't have an hour long crying fit in the midst of the air conditioner breaking and leaking pools of water all over the living room.

Let's pretend we went on that family walk around the lake I wanted to take but ultimately had no energy for.

Let's pretend being new parents is nonstop fun and easy.

Let's pretend we know what we're doing.

Let's pretend we'll soon get back to our old lives.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Who's in charge

If I could pick two photos to sum up the last week, these two are it (the bathtub shot is incidental). Valentina is either a monster or a typical newborn. She is happiest when held which makes sleeping or doing anything else nearly impossible. This is the first handsfree moment I've had in a week when I'm not trying to catch up on some precious zzz's. All the veterans of parenting are probably nodding, smirking and remembering their own trials of the first weeks and months.

Yesterday I walked us with stroller the one mile loop around Rosedal lake. My week of repose inside the house gave way to the spring blossoms of Jacaranda trees. Everywhere I look now the bright lavendar branches burst out for attention. This is my favorite time of year although our spring is hotter than usual (already in the 80's) About halfway around the lake I got very tired and Valentina a bit cranky. I sang her a lullaby so she'd know i was still there which seemed to soothe. When we got home I was exhausted and wanted to collapse for a two hour siesta. Instead Valentina had a crying fit that lasted an hour while I bounced her on the ball, danced, swayed and sashayed. Then she nursed and then we both slept for nearly 3 hours.

I looked around at all the baby stuff we have and to my surprise, we are using all of it. At first I thought - some of this has got to be superfluous clutter. But no, the muslin swaddles, the onesies, little hats and socks, blankets, swing, sling, burp cloths and boppys, nursing pads, and ointments. We have used everything. But, if I had to give an award to the most helpful item so far, I'd say the book I didn't even know I needed "The Happiest Baby on the Block". The 5 S's(swaddle, shush, side, swing, suck) to soothe her work miracles. That doesn't mean she wants to be put down but at least she is not screaming her head off. Thank you again Fowlers and other friends that recommended this book.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The first few days

She sucks, cries, sleeps.

Utta worries.

Daddy cooks and coos.

I recover and marvel.