Friday, March 27, 2009

"Our Lawyer"

Last Friday, we had a visit with "our lawyer" (it feels so strange to be people who say "our lawyer") regarding co-parent adoption. We're legally married here in MA, which will give Gail parental rights at birth provided we remain in this state, but conventional wisdom says it is still wise to part with our roughly $2000 (and yes, I know some people do it themselves for free, we are not those people) and go ahead and do the adoption. That way we're protected when we travel, and both have parental rights in the whole country (and presumably internationally, though I don't know the legal intricacies there), not just in our little gay legal sweetspot here in the northeast.

I know this whole process really rankles lots of folks, but we found it relatively painless last time (less giving up the money), and aren't the sort to get upset about this sort of thing, especially when we know how few rights some of our friends in less friendly states have. Now, don't get me started on Federal DOMA and how much it messes up our taxes, but the adoption we can handle. It helps that we live in a state where we don't have to deal with home studies or waiting periods (provided the proper affidavits saying the proper things are included...this is why we pay the lawyer do it), or rely on luck to have our case assigned to the "right" judge. It turns out the process also comes with a fun perk.

We get to ask our friends and family to write letters about what great people and parents we are to be included with the materials that go to the judge. It's like asking for letters of recommendation for college, but then getting to read all of them. The letters from last time were such sweet tear-jerkers, they made it into Leigh's half-complete baby book (and plenty of stuff has not made it in...yet).

It is more jobs added to the (seemingly infinite) to-do list, but something about going to the lawyer gave both a kick-in-the-pants. There really is going to be a baby. As we left the office, Gail turned to me and said, "Last time, when we went to the lawyer, that meant the baby was almost here...Oh! the baby is almost here!" We now seem to actually be making some progress on that list. It helps that, for now, us grown-ups are relatively germ-free, spring seems to be peeking around the corner, and Leigh is sometimes even taking her nap.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Facing the Costs of Nursing

Many other folks have weighed in on Hanna Rosin's article The Case Against Breastfeeding, including both Amy and Marc at Equally Shared Parenting and Lisa Belkin at Motherlode, so I'm a little late to the party. But I can't let the article go by without making some comment, because it is an important issue that is difficult to talk about.

First, I want to say, "Thank you Hanna Rosin." Thank you for saying what I've been afraid to say of a couple of years now. Thank you for pointing out the sexism in the attachment parenting philosophy (especially as promoted by Doctor Sears). Thank you for a thoughtful look at statistics, which as a mathematics educator I appreciate. I am a little miffed about the title of your article, but I'm going to blame that on an overzealous editor. The point isn't to make a case against breastfeeding, but, rather, to take the rose-colored glasses off of the choice for breastfeeding. While it has many advantages, breastfeeding also has disadvantages: it can sideline non-nursing parents and make it difficult to share the work of caring for a baby, it can be painful and difficult, and it can be incompatible with working.

As a university instructor with a private office, I still found pumping to be a challenge -- I can't imagine trying to pump if I didn't have a completely flexible schedule and my own office with a locking door. Still, I nursed for 14 months and pumped for 9 or 10 of those months. My daughter's lips never touched formula. Why? Sure, nursing saves money, but it didn't for us. Between pumping supplies and medical complications, I'd say any money we saved was marginal. Yes, nursing provides a way to bond and be close with a baby, but I saw my wife create that same intimate environment through bottle feeding. Absolutely, I think nursing was a wonderful experience that brought my daughter and I closer, but it was also a frustrating and upsetting experience for both of us that at times seemed to drive us apart. Yes, nursing melted away my pregnancy weight (and allowed me to eat anything), but it also cracked my nipples and caused me to develop a painful breast abscess that left me with a scar. Sure, my daughter has enjoyed great health during her 2.5 years, but most of the bottle-fed babies I know have also been very healthy, and some of the breastfed babies I know have not.

For me, every positive aspect of nursing has an equally strong negative shadow. Looking back, I wonder why I nursed for so long. Even more, I wonder why I nursed exclusively. My wife and I had so many stressful conversations about whether I had pumped enough at work that day and whether she could feed the baby now or should try to wait until I got home. Why didn't we just give her some formula? Guilt. And the need to be perfect parents. Like Hanna Rosin, Lyn and I live in a community where breastfeeding is the norm, and where women who cannot nurse usually feel sad or guilty. We are also a two-mom family, and we have unspoken fears lingering in dark places within us that our family, with it's missing father, is deficient. Thus we have to make sure that we are above reproach in all other ways. I still feel occasionally defensive that Leigh and I stopped our nursing dance at 14 months. I was wildly happy to be done, but was I supposed to push for more? After all, many of my friends nursed for much longer.

We're expecting another child in June, so we have a chance to do it over. How will we change things this time? Instead of backup up and deciding maybe some formula is OK, we're going for the four-breast treatment. I'm inducing lactation, so this new baby will hopefully be able to nurse with both it's mommies. Perhaps it will be twice as healthy and twice as smart for all our trouble. I have only one good reason for my choice -- I want to be able to share the care of our new baby more equitably with Lyn. As I've said before, I struggled with nursing, and I'm feeling more anxiety than excitement at the prospect of nursing another baby. But I'm still taking hormones each day, and taking medication to stimulate lactation four times a day. When the baby comes, I'll be pumping while the baby snuggles up to nurse. Every time. Even at night. So I'm already going deep into the minus column in order to nurse this baby. I'm excited at the prospect of getting to share the feeding responsibilities with Lyn, but it remains to be seen if the results will be worth all the effort, or if I'll be wondering why we just didn't relax and use formula.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Travel update and cosleeping fantasies come true

Thanks all for the kind comments to my whiny post, especially to oneofhismoms for the one about only really needing diapers.

We just got back from visiting my extended family out west. My family is spread all over the country, so my parents/sisters and our attendant spouses/kids make a concerted effort to all get together every year and a half. We had 8 grown-ups (two of us pregnant, my sister is due with cousin #5 in September!) and 3 kids under 4 coexisting pretty happily under one roof last week. We came home feeling surprisingly relaxed, despite Gail having to fight off yet another bug while we were away. Leigh absolutely loved spending time with her cousins/aunts/uncles/grandparents, regaling them with her songs and stories, putting my sisters' childhood dolls down for lots of "naps," and creating elaborate scenarios with matchbox cars with her cousins. We really wish they weren't all so far away the rest of the time.

We got back to our house on Sun at 6:30am after a red-eye flight. Leigh was a total trooper all night and when we finally got home, I asked if she wanted to sleep a little on her bed. She said, as is her usual response, "No, I don't need to sleep." Then I asked if maybe she wanted to lay down with me on our grown-up bed just to "rest." That was acceptable to her, so we both tucked in and within 2 minutes we were both out cold.

Before Leigh was born, I had some seriously overdeveloped fantasies about how fabulous cosleeping would be. I vividly imagined snuggling with our peaceful infant, who would of course later become an adorable cuddly toddler. We didn't even buy a crib before she was born. The reality of cosleeping in our family was not nearly as nice as my fantasies. As in, it was more or less impossible, and no one slept at all. We bought that crib a couple months later.

But apparently all I had to do to get my fantasy to turn out was drag our 2 2/3 y.o. across the country on a red-eye flight, because that morning nap was pretty much just like I had imagined. Leigh was snuggled up next to me, we were both sleeping soundly, and when we woke up 3 hours later, she just wanted to stay under the covers with me and talk about a million different things. That was the the first and may be the last time such a thing will happen, but I'll take it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Is this the new normal? (Warning: Very Whiny)

I've been having a serious attitude problem since I got back in town from a conference last week. Every evening, when it's time to do our get-house-and-life under control routine after Leigh is tucked in, I just want to crawl in bed myself. Instead, I trudge through, very grumpily. I'm really not good company right now. And sure, some of this is pregnancy fatigue. After all, sometime soon here I officially turn the 3rd trimester corner, but a lot of it is just feeling really overwhelmed, and like we're already so buried we'll never get our lives back together.

Let's review how life has gone since that coveted BFP:
0) Lots of excitement and happiness. Enjoying lack of 50 million appointments.
1) Serious puking and pregnancy ick until about 16 weeks. Gail holds up OK and we lower standards dramatically, but house and life still slide toward chaos. (and for us, functional house (i.e. clean clothes, decent food, mess only couple inches deep) is essential for a moderate level of sanity.)
2) Entire family taken down by 8 weeks of viral bronchitis. All remaining holds on vaguely organized/functional life are lost.
3) Start to feel better. Get our lives slightly put back together.
4) Develop mysterious leg pain that makes walking extremely difficult. We don't have a car. Gail takes Leigh to/from daycare and does most of the weekend work for a couple weeks so that I can sit on my duff with ice on my legs.
5) Start to feel better. Get our lives slightly put back together.
6) The nose incident. Blessedly rapid recovery, but lose work time just before important conference.
7) Giant work crunch before conference. House and life slide further into chaos despite Gail's astounding efforts to keep the tide at bay while I neglect everything in favor of not making a fool of myself at said conference.
8) Gail gets really sick (4 days of 102-103 fever) while I'm gone at said conference and any progress we've made at all in keeping life in order is completely lost despite the kind caretaking of mother-in-law in my absence.
9) It dawns on us that we've done more or less nothing to prepare for our new arrival, other than wax eloquent on our blog.

I fear we are now *less* prepared for our new arrival than we were pre-pregnancy. And there is not really any light at the end of the tunnel. My next grant deadline crunch starts now. A family reunion is thrown in for good measure. Gail is currently at the "easy" part of her semester and that will change momentarily. Even under the best of circumstances, assuming optimum health, there is absolutely no way to fit the bare minimum of preparation jobs into the remaining weekends (which really only contain one working day due to shabbat).

Then we'll have a new baby, and our tenuous hold on sanity and order will slip even further.

Now, my mother-in-law might disagree, but despite being mathematicians, Gail and I don't demand a perfectly regimented life to stay sane and happy. We can maintain a certain level of chill in quite a few circumstances. But one of the things that helps us do that is that we generally have our life together enough to know our finances are roughly under control, laundry has not taken over the entire household, there is food in the house, and we know what is for dinner. I'm starting to realize that all of those things may not be true at the same time for the next...well...I'd rather not think about how long. It really just makes me want to give up and crawl into bed. Any inspiration for a much needed attitude adjustment welcome, but do be gentle. Assume all proper caveats (thrilled about the pregnancy, excited for Leigh to have a sibling, honored and blessed to be parenting with Gail, just really overwhelmed and crabby right now).