Monday, January 26, 2009

Sage advice

Recently, it has become quite clear that the person who should really be giving advice in our family is Leigh. Two recent incidents:

1) Gail is picking up Leigh after work and mentions something about feeling hungry. Leigh quickly launches into "You need to eat lunch at work, Ima. You be crabby if you no eat lunch." Rinse. Repeat. All the way home. And ever so true.

2) A few days ago we had a rushed evening and were both bustling around to try to get dinner on the table in time to eat together before Leigh's bedtime. I, however, hadn't eaten since lunch (bad idea given how hungry I am these days). I finally decided to give up on a well-timed dinner and sit down to eat some crackers instead of pushing through and making everyone else miserable in my desperation for food. As I sat down, Leigh said "Mama, you just do what you need to do, and don't whine about it."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

In which we answer all your questions

As I surfed through our stats earlier today, I became worried that we here at FTST aren't giving people what they really want. Many of you get here via google searches, and I don't want you to leave empty-handed, without your questions answered. So I'm going to try to address some of the searches I've seen that you are making.

Questions about pregnancy

"at home insemination 2 times insert directions"

So, the answer here depends on whether you are a heterosexual couple or a lesbian couple. If you are a hetero couple, I just have to curse our educational system. What are we teaching kids these days? If you are a lesbian couple, here's the quick-and-dirty directions:
  1. Thaw sperm according to directions given to you at sperm bank (not in a couple of water, that stuff is worth about $5 a sperm and you don't want those boys leaking out)
  2. Get ready. One of you should drop your drawers. The other needs to have a sterile pipette and a speculum.
  3. Visualize the cervix. We had a midwife help us learn to do this. Some folks just stick the junk up there without this step.
  4. If you are holding the pipette, it's time to squirt. If you hanging out with your tush in the air, it's time to visualize your baby. I successfully used a book of baby sweater patterns for this purpose (and it worked -- we got a cute one!)

"how easy is it to get pregnant the first month of trying"
"how difficult is it to get pregnant the first month of trying"

If you are a teenager, it is wicked easy. You might even get pregnant without taking your clothes off. This is why adults hate you.

If you are an adult lesbian, it is both difficult and expensive. Sorry.

"trying to get pregnant for the 5 time"

Obviously, you don't need any help from me! But seriously, I think you have enough already.

Questions about lactation

"how to induce lactation in a weekend"

Well, that's a tall order. If you are babysitting, I recommend just using expressed breastmilk or formula. If it's your baby, then it will probably be around for longer than a weekend. According to one protocol, you'll need at least a month, but some folks just start putting baby to breast as soon as it arrives (with supplementation of course). Remember that there's more to breastfeeding than just the milk, and comfort nursing can be wonderful! Oh, and if you've just given birth then congratulations, and remember that lactating happens naturally for most -- it's a perk of pregnancy!

"what to look for to know that the induced lactation is working"

Milk. Coming out of the boobs.

"moms are breasting baby"
"four breasts"
"induced lactation for sex is it safe"

It's called nursing. They're a perk of being a lesbian. I don't see why not.

Other Issues

"meet other non bio moms"

You can start a blog, or head over to the IVP for great conversation. If you leave a comment here and say "Hi" you'll have a chance to meet several!

"mother too possessive with our baby"

This one could take a whole blog to answer. But the short answer is: talk to her about your feelings and about the fact that the baby is a joint project, have her practice letting go by taking the baby out on short outings, and ask her to sit down rather than hovering over you while you try to change diapers.

But Seriously

Lyn is a frustrated advice columnist. She really wants to answer people's questions. So leave a question in the comments, or just send us one anonymously to firsttimesecondtime at gmail dot com. Ask about anything from feminist parenting, to being a nonbio mom, to how to get your kid to nap, and we'll try to answer. However, we don't really know the answer to the last one for our own kid right now.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A small miracle

I was home with Leigh yesterday. After wrestling her into presentable clothes, walking to school in the bitter cold for a portion of "picture day" (which was scheduled on a day she is not usually at day care), and her flat out refusing to sit for a picture (you can't really blame her, the giant flash umbrellas were pretty intimidating and she is rightly skeptical of strangers who smile too much and want to fuss with her), I feared the day might be off to a bad start.

Naps appear to be a thing of the past in our house, so at least for now, Gail and I have decided to give up the ghost, and embrace the nap free life. But if I'm going to live with no toddler breaks, the day had better contain some things I enjoy (not that endless rounds of books/puzzles/pretend-rocket-ships/pretend-food/pretend-elevators for 7 hours straight isn't enjoyable, I just usually have had my fill at about the hour mark), so I decided I could sew some curtains that have been waiting for me to get to them for only about a year and a half, but that if Leigh asked to help, I had to say yes.

It actually worked great. With very close supervision, Leigh "helped" with the ironing (my hand on top of hers), and sat on my lap to "help" feed the curtains through the sewing machine. She grew tired of the proceedings at intervals, and ran off to her own pretend games. I stopped several times for 10-15 minute rounds of books and games that seemed to keep her very happy. We actually managed to finish the curtains before Gail got home, though the house had seen better days. It felt like a miracle. Apparently our child doesn't actually need undivided attention all day. I'm guessing other folks figured that one out already, and that probably this is one of those things that parents with multiples sit around laughing about.

Monday, January 12, 2009

In which I probably stick my foot firmly in my mouth

Now that I've been moving into a healthier place (I'm damn near perky), I've been feeling extremely grateful, both because I'm doing better at realizing what a treat this pregnancy is, but also because from this new perspective, I'm finding a lot to be proud of in what I built with Leigh, and how Gail and I have handled these first few years of parenting together.

I've been doing lots of thinking about online friends who have worked very hard to get to the place that I am now, who have struggled (or are struggling) to get pregnant while they are already parenting a child that their partner birthed. I'm thinking of people like Bree (who just made her fabulously smart and snarky blog public, you really should go read her if you don't already) and Chicory, and others who haven't gotten to this lucky spot yet. This is going to be tricky to write because it's going to sound like I'm almost saying things you should never ever say. To be very clear, in what follows I am not saying something like "Oh, you should be grateful for what you have" (i.e. at least you have your first child).

Before this pregnancy, I knew that I'd done a good job with Leigh, and I knew that Gail and I had navigated some of the trickier parts of two-mom family building. I didn't doubt my parenting of Leigh or my place in our family, but also obviously wanted very much to carry a child. Now that I'm here, I'm finding that it is less of a change than I expected. In looking forward, and looking back, it seems much clearer from this vantage point, that even though I am absolutely gaining something I really wanted (an awful lot-- i.e. the experience of pregnancy), that gain, as delightful as it is, pales in comparison to what I already had.

This may be partly because, try as I might, I can only come up with two regrets about Leigh's early months, and one is just barely a regret. The first is that I wish we'd taken a picture of me giving her a bottle. I was always alone when giving her bottles, so we have about 3 million Gail nursing pictures, and no bottle pictures, even though those are some of my fondest memories of her first year. The second (this is the barely one) is that shadow of doubt about my role as Leigh's mom that kept me from seriously considering inducing lactation, but honestly, even without that doubt, I'm not sure it would have been a good idea, or significantly changed my relationship with Leigh. If I had more regrets, or if there were areas where I held my tongue (ha!) deferred to Gail, relying on more of a "tit for tat" with our then-very-theoretical second, I might not be feeling this way. But even though I'll be nursing (fingers crossed), am excited to birth, and hope to see something of my looks in this new baby (yes, as Gail said, I am secretly hoping for a red-head, but with Leigh's beautiful tanning skin, though genetic probability is unlikely to smile upon me in this regard), all of that feels like a bonus as opposed to something central, even though these were all things I was truly prepared to go to the mat for (Yes, despite my doctor avoidance, I would have done multiple IVF/FET rounds if necessary. Absolutely).

So again, to be clear, I'm not saying to folks trying to walk this bumpy road that they are so lucky to have their existing child that they should just count their blessings, give up and be quiet. Not at all. Instead, I hope this is more of a voice from the future, or perhaps a voice from a different path, saying that what you have really is precious, and that hopefully when/if you get your BFP, you'll see that you have a lot to be proud of, too. Hopefully you already know you have a lot to be proud of.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A family divided

Even before Lyn became pregnant, we were concerned about the impact that a new child, genetically and physically connected to Lyn, would have on the unity of our entire family. In switching to another birth mother, would we run the risk of splitting our family in two, each of us having our "own" child? Physically, would we look like two families, one dark and one fair (Lyn is secretly hoping for a red-haired baby that tans easily)? We worried a little, and we thought of strategies to combat the problem, realizing that we needed to pay attention to the links that could be in danger of weakening -- the link between Lyn and Leigh, the link between me and the new baby, and the link between the two of us as we respond to the demands of a larger family.

Then we had dinner with our friends Marc and Amy and we realized that this is not a problem just for lesbian families! Marc and Amy told us about heterosexual families they knew that felt like two families for sometime after the birth of their second child. After the birth of a new baby, the birth mother is in need of rest and recovery and time with the new baby to establish nursing. As a result, NGPs, whether they are fathers or mothers, end up spending more time with the older child.

In some ways, this can be a positive development. The stress and additional time demands of a new baby can lead a father (or other NGP) to become more involved with the care of an older child and thus more involved in family life. It can lead families to become more equally sharing and lead to increased bonding between fathers and older children, but can also stress the relationship between parents, and delay bonding between a father and the new baby.

It was nice to realize this is not simply of problem resulting from our ususual family structure, although in our family we run the additional risk of reinforcing genetic/biological divisions. So we have tried to think of ways to ease the transition from a family of three to a family of four, to make space for a new baby without causing fracture.
  • Take time together as a family after the birth of a second child. We will have an embarrassment of riches here, as we'll both be taking two months at home.
  • "Switching" children whenever possible. The constraints of nursing give a birth mother plenty of time with a new baby and an NGP plenty of time with an older child. Whenever the baby is not nursing, we'll be looking for opportunities for me to hold the baby (and change it) and Lyn to focus only on Leigh.
  • Play to your strengths as parents. Post-birth Lyn will be needing to focus on physical recovery, so during my time with Leigh I will work on getting her plenty of active play and outdoor time. Lyn and Leigh can then enjoy quieter indoor play together.
  • Getting alone time and social reinforcement for NGP and new baby. We always advocate having the NGP get as much alone time with a new baby as possible. Once nursing is well established, it is particularly important for the NGP to get out in public with the baby. After about three or four weeks, I will likely be going on short outings with the new baby that will last through one feeding. This will give me a change to get out in public, get reinforcement and support as a new parent, and get used to doing solo care. In other words, I'll be developing a relationship with the new baby independent of Lyn's influence, and being in public gives an opportunity to have that relationship reinforced by the outside world. This will also be time for Lyn to focus exclusively on Leigh, with no distractions.
  • Look for opportunities to create solid threesomes. There are four ways to create a threesome in a new family of four: parents + new baby, parents + older child, two children and parent #1, two children and parent #2. We'll still have Leigh in childcare part-time during our two months of leave together, so we'll automatically get plenty of quality time as a couple with a new baby. We'll be looking to grandparents and friends to help us get quality time with Leigh alone, possibly by calling on willing grandparents. We'll also be looking for opportunities to get Leigh involved with her younger sibling. For instance, we'd love to have Lyn read a book to Leigh while nursing the new baby, or have Leigh help me change the baby.
  • Prioritizing the older child. When all four of us are at home together, we'll be looking for opportunities to prioritize Leigh's needs and to do the things that she wants to do so that she feels fully included in our new family. Once we feel like we have our "sea legs," we hope to have summer fun as a family, going to hear music, swim at the pool, go to the park, and do other things that Leigh loves to do.
  • Taking time as a couple. Ha! Dream on! We hope that if we don't allow our worlds to diverge too much, then we will wake up one day and find the chaotic newborn time is over and that we still connect as a couple. As I write these words, we are taking the last adults-only 3-day vacation that we'll have for several years. But we have faith that a time to ourselves will come again.
Most important to us is avoiding the creation of a rift in our family that will require repair work later. We want to create within ourselves the mindset of a whole family together and to do what we can during those crazed and dazed newborn months to hold onto that picture and work toward bringing it into reality.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

In the club?

I've always been a person who is most comfortable at the edge of an established group. For example, in many ways, I was much happier as a Jew before I actually converted last spring. Prior to converting I was pretty much the most deluxe non-Jew you could ask for. I'd been participating in Jewish holidays and rituals, learning a lot and enjoying them, for about 5 years. I was 100% on board with our family raising Jewish kids. I took a Hebrew class. I was fine giving up Christmas. What more could you ask for? I was outside the center of our community, but I was still an active participant. Anything I did was great. Now that I'm really a Jew, all I notice are the things that aren't up to snuff. I can barely keep up with services. I'm still dreadfully embarrassed whenever being called to the bimah, and I can't even muster the gumption to say the simplest blessing by myself, in front of anyone other than my immediate family. Now that I'm official, all I notice is what I do wrong. But this post wasn't supposed to be about that actually (as delightful an insight as that might be into my social hang-ups).

These ruminations started on Tues night, when I attended my first prenatal yoga class that contained other real life pregnant women (I did go once before, but I was the only one there). The class was lovely. I slept wonderfully afterwards. I'll absolutely be going back. But I didn't get the expected buzz from hanging out with other pregnant ladies. I've finally got the golden ticket. I have met pretty much the only requirement to be in this club (that being the pregnant club), and I still felt so out of place. Now, part of it might have been that the class was very much full of straight women. Part of it might have been that in my situation, it is just awkward to answer the question "is this your first?" (and for the record, my current answer is "It's our second child, but my first pregnancy. My wife gave birth to our toddler."-- which sometimes feels like too much information, but if I only give partial information my subsequent comments about either keeping up with a toddler or birth preparations don't make any sense). When we were going around the room, I identified so much more with the other women's husbands (especially the husband who can't sleep because his wife has a giant nest of pillows and can't get comfortable. I remember that well). All but one of my classmates are expecting their first. They seemed so starry eyed and innocent.

But this seems to be coming out wrong. I really wasn't bothered by my classmates. All of them were very pleasant. But I guess I expected to feel like I was in the club. I understood not feeling like I was in the club when we were expecting Leigh, because, well, I just wasn't. Or at least I wasn't before Leigh was born. In many ways, becoming Leigh's mom via Gail's uterus suited me well, since I had to start on the fringes of an established cultural group. Once Leigh was born, I saw working my way into new mom circles as a challenge and I took it on with gusto (I'm not sure if you can tell, but I take on most things with gusto). This time though, I thought I'd just fit in, after all this is my shot at doing this "like normal." And it is lovely, especially now that I feel better and hardly ever throw up, but I actually find myself ever so slightly pining for how it was the last time, which in reality may just be a craving for the familiar, but still, I never expected that to happen.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hypnobirthing Class

This weekend, we had our first hypnobirthing class. When Lyn first proposed the class to me, I was nonplussed. Why should we spend money to take a class on childbirth and hang out with hippies? We've already had one childbirth class, we hang out with hippies all the time, and we've been through one labor already. However, I'm the backseat driver this time, so I told Lyn I'd be up for whatever kind of class she wanted. Lyn researched several options and then signed us up for a privately led hypnobirthing class. We got a book in the mail. Lyn read the book from cover-to-cover immediately. I poked it a few times to see what it would do. Still pretty inimpressed.

Then we started listening to the CDs of hypnobirthing scripts. I was hooked! I love this self-hypnonsis stuff like crazy. I want to be hypnotized all of the time. So I was excited for the first class. We got to see some great birth videos (which were surprizingly quiet and subdued). Having been through birth before, I get a really really big kick out of watching babies get born. It's like getting the high from the birth all over again, but you get to go home and sleep through the night.

I think that hypnobirthing will be good for us. We had planned for a homebirth with Leigh. I labored hard from Saturday afternoon through to early Sunday morning to no avail. We tried lots of things to move labor along, but nothing worked and finally Leigh passed meconium and we were off to the hospital. I had an epidural and pitocin, rested for a number of hours, pushed, and then Leigh popped out at 7pm on Sunday. I'm happy with my birth experience overall, but we're really hoping to be able to complete at home this time. For most of labor, I was in a really great place, singing through each contraction. For hours we thought a baby would be coming at any time, but instead my contractions got more painful (or less comfortable, as the hypnobirthers would say). Singing didn't work anymore and I didn't have any other tools to help me to relax, rest between contractions, and get the job done.

I'm hopeful that hypnobirthing will give us the tools that we need to make it over any rocky places and to restart Lyn's labor if it stalls. I'm also hoping it will help with positioning, not going overdue, cleaning up our house, and making us millionaires soon. Bring on the brainwashing! I'm writing affirmations, erasing the word "pain" from my vocabularly, and pushing Lyn and myself to practice so we can have baby #2 at home.

P.S. WE (both) FELT THE BABY MOVE OVER THE WEEKEND!!!! Sorry for the all-caps, I'm a little over-excited.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Decisions around nursing the first time

Giggleblue left the following question about our decisions to try to both lactate with this pregnancy vs. with the first pregnancy (when I would have been doing the pill-popping).
"It's interesting to hear how this situation plays out in both the first pregnancy as compared to the second. so i have a question. was co-nursing considered during the first pregnancy?

I know lex mentions that they considered it, but her partner was not interested. did you guys consider doing this before or has this been something that has come about more so from your experiences with the first go around and nursing?"
I did write a little bit before about how the reasons behind my/our decision not to have me lactate last time informed my attempts to convince Gail to try it this time, and she's written about how her experience with nursing is prompting her to give it a go (whether or not this ends up panning out).

The short answer is that, yes, we considered it but didn't do it. There were several factors that stopped me, one of them being medications that I was weaning off of, but still did not want to pass through breastmilk to our child. It turned out this was only an issue for the first two months of our daughter's life, and thus it probably wouldn't have been a problem, but the situation was such that there was know way I could have known that ahead of time. It was the medications that really put the brakes on, but as I wrote in the previous post, there was also some amount of discomfort and confusion around whether or not it was really appropriate for me to nurse. I was already quite anxious about being perceived as overzealous, as if I was overstepping bounds by being so enthusiastic to mother this child, one that would already have a mother. Inducing lactation would have brought that into stark relief, and I think that was part of the reason I held off. We were also concerned that we'd end up in competition for limited nursing time, and that in some sense, I would be set up to fail, trying to convince my body to do something using drugs and a pump, that my wife's had been primed for in pregnancy. These decisions were not mine alone and were the subject of many discussions. Gail was open to my trying to lactate, but I think we shared some discomfort around how logistics would work, and concern about setting up direct competition between us.

What we decided instead was that there was probably plenty of parenting to go around, and that the energy that would have been spent trying to get me to lactate would be better spent elsewhere. And, wow, did I ever get enthusiastic about applying that energy elsewhere. We had a battery of at least 6 baby carriers, at least two homemade (by me), before Leigh's arrival. I had studied the babywearer endlessly, figuring out fancy ways of tying woven wraps and practicing using 5 lb bags of flour. I had researched EC/Diaper free (I'm slightly embarrassed to say that I attended a DiaperFree meetup, alone, when Gail was barely out of the first trimester) and set up our cloth diapering layette. I sewed cloth pads for Gail to use post-partum (yes, we are big giant hippies) and zigzagged the edges of endless recycled terry cloth diaper wipes, repurposed from towels passed our way from my father-in-law's chain of tanning salons (yes, tanning salons). I put together astonishing quantities of furniture. I organized our entire household (which at the time, was only 400 square feet, but the vigor with which I took to sorting and labeling was something to behold). And this was all before Leigh was even born.

In retrospect, once Leigh had arrived, I think having developed these areas where I was the "expert" were really helpful. Sure, Gail could nurse Leigh, but I could also calm Leigh wonderfully in a sling or wrap, or by jiggling her just the right way. Sometimes I would take her for walks when she was too fussy to settle and eat, later handing Gail a freshly soothed baby who could concentrate and nurse properly. And yes, Leigh was nursing all the time, like any newborn, but I was so excited about EC and cloth diapering, that I was beyond thrilled to deal with what came out the other end, and that gave me time just with Leigh, even when she was only a day old. Maybe I couldn't nurse, and Gail was doing a great job at that already, but it was really nice to be the one to show Gail how to use our diaper covers, or how to tie the carrier I had made, and convince her that no, really, the baby really would go on the potty sometimes, that she'd wiggle this way or that just before she needed to pee.

I like to think I supported Gail well when she was nursing. I delivered endless glasses of water and snacks, set her up with books and magazines around her nursing chair, and took notes at the lactation consultant. When I was home with Leigh, I treated Gail's hard-won pumped milk like gold, and used it carefully and appropriately. I'm sure she could have some complaints, like how I was sometimes a nag about pumping, but overall I like to think that I did a good job, and that she knew how much I valued the work she was doing for Leigh.

For her part, Gail let me have my areas of expertise. She claimed that she'd been carrying the baby for 9 months, and that I should carry her as much as I pleased. She listened when I showed her things I had figured out. As Leigh grew, of course, I was no longer the complete expert at these things (though I always did a better back wrap cross carry...), but those first couple months, when I was most sensitive about my lack of nursing power, Gail's sensitivity and grace in stepping aside in some key alternate areas made all the difference. I developed confidence as a parent, and had I been trying to lactate during those months, I'm not sure that would have happened.

So I guess what I'm saying isn't that either I wish I had nursed, or that what we did was perfect, but rather that what we did worked. Even though I don't like some of the reasons that I chose not to nurse, and this is part of why I am hoping that Gail can nurse our second, I'm not sure settling in as a family would have been easier if I had.