A friend of mine sent me this poem of Plath’s in response to my post of “Morning Song.”
I think this is by far the most accurate description of active labor that I’ve ever seen:
I talk to myself, myself only, set apart-- Swabbed and lurid with disinfectants, sacrificial. Waiting lies heavy on my lids. It lies like sleep, Like a big sea. Far off, far off, I feel the first wave tug Its cargo of agony toward me, inescapable, tidal. And I, a shell, echoing on this white beach Face the voices that overwhelm, the terrible element...There is no miracle more cruel than this. I am dragged by the horses, the iron hooves. I last. I last it out. I accomplish a work. Dark tunnel, through which hurtle the visitations, The visitations, the manifestations, the startled faces. I am the center of an atrocity. What pains, what sorrows must I be mothering? Can such innocence kill and kill? It milks my life. The trees wither in the street. The rain is corrosive. I taste it on my tongue, and the workable horrors, The horrors that stand and idle, the slighted godmothers With their hearts that tick and tick, with their satchels of instruments. I shall be a wall and a roof, protecting. I shall be a sky and a hill of good: O let me be! A power is growing on me, an old tenacity. I am breaking apart like the world. There is this blackness, This ram of blackness. I fold my hands on a mountain. The air is thick. It is thick with this working. I am used. I am drummed into use. My eyes are squeezed by this blackness. I see nothing.
Why, yes. That is how it is.
Morning Song Sylvia Plath Love set you going like a fat gold watch. The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry Took its place among the elements. Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue. In a drafty museum, your nakedness Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls. I'm no more your mother Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow Effacement at the wind's hand. All night your moth-breath Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen: A far sea moves in my ear. One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral In my Victorian nightgown. Your mouth opens clean as a cat's. The window square Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try Your handful of notes; The clear vowels rise like balloons.
When I was a young girl, I discovered Sylvia Plath’s poetry. I believe I was in high school — a young woman I suppose. But when I look back, I see a girl, young and slight, sensitive, so lonely, and desperately hopeful for a bright and exciting future. I bought a book of Plath’s poetry, and I read and re-read her poems at night, drawing my own conclusions about life, relating SO much and so deeply to her words. I recited “Daddy” in front of my tenth grade class. Ach, du.
Of course, I know now that I understood perhaps very little. And I think I understand little still of this odd and brilliant woman’s writing. But this, this poem. I get it now. I understand it so well that tears come to my eyes when I read it. I see her experiencing it — because this is the poem that is Sylvia to me. It is Sylvia, I imagine, before her life went bad. It was her marriage, her love, her daily being before things started to fall apart, before the thoughts took hold that took her down to a dark place. When I read this poem as a girl, I thought it was lovely. But I get it now.
Sam, my fat gold watch. He is fat, more valuable than gold, soft and pliant, a watch that tells the time of our life and ticks on as we grow old. It was our love that set him going. Yes, just about a year ago. He wasn’t there, and then he was. A brand new watch that had never ticked and then was set for the first time.
I imagine Sylvia Plath, undone, confused, awakened at night, cow-heavy in a worn floral nightgown, meditating on her baby as she feeds her, looking through the window. The stars are now dull, she thinks. And here is the morning. Everything is changed. My child, a statue. Disconnected, wondrous, new, perfect, art.
My fat gold watch.
The day has finally come where Sam is entertained by his Jumperoo! It’s a good day, and I predict more blog posts. As for Sam, he is touching things curiously, staring at his hand, drooling enormously, and chewing on his fingers most enthusiastically.
As for me, I wanted to give you guys a postpartum update about ME. That’s right — I am still considering my life to be postpartum. From now on, it always will be. Sam’s birth was a major event that has changed me physically, emotionally, mentally and … in just about any way you can imagine. I think I always thought that after a certain period of time, you return to “normal.” Alas, that’s just not the way it is. According to my doctor, you get back to about 95% of how you were after one year. I accepted this when I heard it. After I got home, I pondered: “What happens to the remaining 5%?” The answer came to me: It’s gone. My body is permanently rearranged. Now, I’m sure this doesn’t happen to some people, like Kate Hudson or Jada Pinkett Smith, but I think it’s pretty damn common to get a rearrangement of sorts.
So here’s the update …
I am slowly returning to something of a normal size and shape. If I hadn’t gained [actual number omitted] pounds, I would probably be back in my regular size. As of now, I am a size or so beyond that, which I think is pretty okay. The actual diet starts January 1, 2011. Why diet during December?
My pregnancy acne is diminishing. This is very nice. It stuck with me throughout the pregnancy and for a long time after. And now, I’m feeling a little more normal skin-wise.
My bodily aromas have returned to normal. This is pretty great. I was getting sick of showering twice a day and lathering on deodorant.
Night sweats are gone! This stopped around 8 weeks postpartum.
Stretch marks are fading significantly! They are there, but not as noticeable.
The not so good:
My hips and back still hurt tremendously. They feel like they are knitting back together, and in fact, they still are. The relaxin hormone really wreaked havoc on my body, and my hips spread very wide apart. Plus, Sam was a big one, and I think he rearranged some stuff on the way out. I try to stretch, but it doesn’t do a lot of good. The bones and ligaments just have to settle back into place. Hopefully they do!
My hair is falling out. In no uncertain terms, I am losing tremendous amounts of hair. My hair thickened and darkened significantly during pregnancy, and I was hoping to keep the thicker locks. This is clearly not going to happen, and the shower drain is gathering my losses. It is gross. And sad. Just as I was told, this started at precisely 12 weeks postpartum.
The lady parts are still healing. They are in working order, let’s just say, but I have a scar. Soooo, yeah. That’s not yet 95%. Maybe 50%.
The pretty terrible:
Due to the relaxin, my feet grew two sizes while I was pregnant. They have since returned to their normal size, which is good for my shoe collection. In the process, though, no one could put Humpty Dumpty back together quite like he was. In fact, the bones in both of my feet have slipped out of place, and a tendon in one of them is in the top of my foot, when in fact it should be in the back near my heel. It is very difficult to walk or be on my feet for long periods of time, and I actually fell down the stairs because my feet are not bending as they should. (I was not holding Sam, and I am very careful when holding him.) Thankfully, I went to the podiatrist at the beginning of December, and I will have orthotics by next week. I will have to wear them for two years before my feet are in full working order again.
Will this happen to you? Likely it will not — unless you have flat feet. If you have flat feet and are pregnant, you probably shouldn’t be wearing anything but athletic shoes with major support. My podiatrist actually recommends that flat-footed women get orthotics when they find out they are pregnant in order to prevent this major slippage.
I am never to wear heels again. Anyone want to purchase some really cute size 8 heels?
When asked to post about vaccinating, I knew that I would be going into my writing mostly blind. Unlike a lot of other decisions we have made regarding Samuel (natural birth, cloth diapering, not circumcising, staying at home for the first six months to a year, and breastfeeding), I have to admit my research on vaccinating is paltry at best. I have vaguely glanced at Dr. Sears’ The Vaccine Book at my friends’ houses, and I read maybe one article on the subject.
The truth is — I didn’t put that much thought into it. In fact, I didn’t really know that there are growing numbers of parents who chose not to vaccinate — at all. There are still more who choose to put their children on delayed or selective schedules, or who insist on certain brands of vaccines as opposed to others. I hadn’t really thought much about vaccinating until my crunchy chiropractor told me (unsolicited, of course) that he hasn’t vaccinated either of his children, and he believes they are healthier for it. He even gave me some literature on the subject. I found this literature to be quite biased and rather sensational — I wish I still had it so that I could quote it here — but alas, it made its way into recycling long ago.
I think that “literature” on the subject left a bad taste in my mouth. So, by the time Sam was born, I found myself washed along into the expected way of doing things. If you haven’t picked up on my viewpoints, that’s not really how I roll. I actually felt fairly bullied into getting the Hep B vaccine for Sam — that’s the one they give as soon as the baby is born. I held off on getting that vaccine at the hospital — though I did opt for the vitamin K shots, which I figured wouldn’t do any harm. At our two day appointment, we were asked again. I still delayed. At two weeks, I was told we certainly should get the shot. There was no reason not to. You should go ahead and get it. So we did. We got it, even though I figured that Sam would probably never come into contact with Hep B — it’s something you get from shared needles and unprotected sex. Unless he’s up to something I don’t know about, he’s not really getting into any of that. Of course, the pediatrician convinced me to get it for him because of extremely rare cases where children can contract the disease from food or perhaps getting bitten by another child. I went against my gut, and I let the doctor vaccinate my child against something he will probably never be exposed to.
As soon as I got home, I saw this posted on Facebook: Ian’s Voice. (If you are of a weak stomach, you might not want to visit this site.) This is the website that got me started thinking about vaccines. In short, it describes a newborn’s reaction to the Hepatitis B vaccine. He only lived 47 days. I can’t even imagine losing Sam after only 47 days — because of a vaccine that I had chosen to give him. Needless to say, the day after reading that and getting the vaccine for Sam was very difficult for me. I felt that I should have made a different decision — I felt that I’d been bullied into vaccinating him against a disease he may never see. The risk of a reaction like Ian’s is one in a million. But for me, it seemed like a risk to great to take. I will not be getting this particular vaccination for my second child. I believe in medicine, but I also believe in its risks.
As for the other vaccinations — or the option of going on a delayed or selective schedule — I’m not sure what to do. What people fail to mention when they speak of delayed or selective schedules, or perhaps choosing not to vaccinate at all, is that it is difficult to find a pediatrician who will be amenable to your wishes. A pediatrician’s time is very precious, and especially in places like Northern Virginia, appointments are booked on top of one another throughout the day. Asking a pediatrician at your two month appointment if you should go on a selective schedule — or asking them if they can separate a vaccination that comes in one shot into three — is going to get a dour, short response. No. Such an alteration requires considerable planning and research, and so far, I haven’t done it.
Every vaccination has its horror story. Though it has been fairly well proven that autism is linked strongly with genetics, and not directly with vaccinations, there are mothers who will swear up and down that their child’s autism was triggered by a heavy dose of vaccinations, such as is done in the first two years of life. I decided to ask the moms on the parenting forum that I frequent, and this is one of the stories that will stick with me, perhaps for the rest of my life:
[I don't vaccinate] because my oldest developed encephalitis as a result of the MMR vaccine he received at 18months of age. He was a developmentally normal child until 18months of age. He had a vocabulary of 500+ words. He began speaking at 9 months. He made eye contact, enjoyed people and interacted appropriately with peers and adults. He spoke in full sentences (yes I know that is uncommon but I have home videos of him doing just that). His pediatrician spoke with me at his 18month appt about the possibility of enrolling him in a preschool for gifted children so he could get more stimulation (because apparently he wasn’t getting quite enough at home, I had only gotten him to that point LOL). After the vaccine he disappeared. He stopped talking, stopped making eye contact, stopped sleeping. He would just scream all day, every day. He would lay on the floor holding the side of his head and wail. It would start low and increase in pitch until it was the ear splitting scream and then drop low until it was this horrible sound like a sick baby kitten. And it would go on day and night. He wasn’t sleeping maybe 3 hours a day. No one in the house was sleeping. He started kicking, hitting and biting everyone in reach. He stopped eating.[...] It was like the old fairy tales where trolls would sneak into a home in the night and replace a sleeping infant with a troll baby. Some one had taken my child and replaced him with some one else entirely. MRI later confirmed encephalitis and brain damage. The screaming was caused by the pressure.
At 3 [my son] was finally diagnosed with PDD NOS [an autism spectrum disorder] (moderate-severe), SPD [sensory processing disorder] and speech delay (at the time he was considered 2 years delayed). After years of therapy including ST, OT, behavioral, feeding therapy, horseback riding, and non-traditional therapies like Taekwondo, and supplements (B12 injections, magnesium, ect) [my son's] diagnosis at 7 was PDD NOS (mild)/Aspergers and SPD [...].
That is our story.
I can only reiterate this mother’s story — I am not a doctor, nor can I say that I know for sure her child’s terrible transformation was caused by a vaccination. I can say that if you look up whether or not encephalitis can be caused by the MMR vaccine — it seems that some people say that it can. It also seems that this can trigger autism in a young child. Again, I don’t have qualifications in this area, and I certainly hear the people who believe that there is no link, but stories like this make me understand why some people would never want to take the risk of vaccinating.
Not every possible risk is so severe. Some risks — and your pediatrician WILL tell you this in small and large print — involve far more minor allergic reactions. Your child can get a high fever, knots in the vaccination spots, pain, fussiness, trouble eating and even periods of unresponsiveness from typical vaccinations. According to one mom, “I selectively vac after my son continually got 106-107 fevers that our ped now attributes to partials [not a full dose of] vaccine.” Another mother reported that she herself had high fevers and periods of unresponsiveness — she told her pediatrician this, and he decided that she should NOT vaccinate her child because of the risk.
I apparently stirred up some trouble on the forum — the thread contains 37 responses since this afternoon. There are parents vehemently against vaccinations, like the mother quoted above, and just as many vehemently FOR following the full vaccination schedule (with small exceptions like the flu or chicken pox vaccine).
Many moms point out the dangers of not vaccinating. One said, “a family who visits our church frequently had their son die of meningitis a year and a half ago. And there is currently an outbreak of pertussis in our area, with several children who have not yet been fully vaccinated, or who have not received their 12 year old TDaP booster, being hospitalized.” Another recounted the story of an acquaintance whose 14 year old child had died of the measles — her parents had decided against vaccination. In fact, unvaccinated children were linked to a measles outbreak in California. An outbreak is not something to scoff at. Imagine if people had selectively refused the smallpox or polio vaccines — these diseases never would have been eradicated. In fact, measles was thought to be eradicated in the United States until 2000. I bet that that pretty much coincides with the time that some parents started making the decision not to vaccinate.
What’s the middle ground? Well, in theory, you can pick and choose which vaccinations your child gets (though your pediatrician will likely push you to get them all), or you can delay your child’s schedule (this will require considerable planning). Why does this help with the risks? The theory is that overloading your child’s system with tons of vaccinations (which are watered down versions of the viruses themselves, and contain icky stuff like aluminum) at once carries more risks than slowing down the pace and even waiting to start vaccinations until a child has a more developed immune system (at 18 months or 2 years, say). And yeah, the regular schedule gives infants of two, four and six months TONS of vaccines — many I never had — all at once. (Here’s the schedule just to give you an idea.) Spacing this load out is supposed to give your kid less of a chance of having an adverse reaction. Makes intuitive sense, no?
As for selecting your vaccines, I think you can — as I said, it just takes planning. You have to do a lot of research about which vaccines can be spaced out, how they should be spaced out, and which brands contain less supposed contaminants.
But … what should you do? What do I do? I still don’t have a solid answer. For now, I will proceed with caution. Whenever I go to the pediatrician, I ask her to tell me exactly what my son is getting, and what the risks may be. And when you vaccinate, ask yourselves these questions (see the full article here):
- Am I or my child sick right now?
- Have I or my child had a bad reaction to a vaccination before?
- Do I or my child have a personal or family history of vaccine reactions, neurological disorders, severe allergies or immune system problems?
- Do I know the disease and vaccine risks for myself or my child?
- Do I have full information about the vaccine’s side effects?
- Do I know how to identify and report a vaccine reaction?
- Do I know I need to keep a written record, including the vaccine manufacturer’s name and lot number, for all vaccinations?
- Do I know I have the right to make an informed choice?
If you answer yes to 1, 2, or 3, it is important to talk to your pediatrician and/or family doctor before vaccinating. If you answer no to the rest of the questions, it’s important to do more research on the matter.
For now, I choose to vaccinate. I will do it with my eyes open, and I will from now on know about all of my options heading into the doctor’s office. (I don’t intend to vaccinate for the flu yet, or for chicken pox — that particular vaccine can actually GIVE children the pox, and doesn’t prevent it very well for others.) I am planning to look into a delayed and selective schedule for Sam. I do know that neither my husband or I have had adverse reactions to vaccine, so it’s likely that Sam will not. Nor do autism spectrum disorders run in our families — so it’s unlikely that a vaccine will trigger something that is probably not there. I also don’t want to be responsible for a measles outbreak — though I’m quite comfortable with other children in our neighborhood getting the chicken pox. Not terribly dangerous in my estimation — that’s just an itchy part of life.
That’s just my rationalization of my decision. I don’t begrudge other parents their decision making process regarding vaccines. The world is a dangerous place — everything comes with its risks. One of the most important jobs we have as parents is making sure that we KNOW the risks before hand. Only then can we make calculated decisions about those risks, and those are the best kind of decisions that we can make for our children.
You need gear to breastfeed. I mean you really don’t … the boob is the thing … but the accessories make it easier to get through the day (at first) and establish a great breastfeeding relationship with your baby. If you are a pumping mom, or if you want to stay dry while breastfeeding, or if you want the most comfortable position, you need some breastfeeding gear. I’m here to report on my absolute favorite supplies. Put these on your registry or your wish list on Amazon. These will help you out immensely!
I know the Boppy is the in thing to have these days. I didn’t know that there was an alternative to the Boppy when I first created my registry. So now I have both a Boppy and a My Brest Friend. I actually like the My Brest Friend so much more than the Boppy that I have it downstairs on our sofa, which is where I spend the majority of my time feeding Sam. The Boppy is upstairs in the nursery, and in our bedroom (where Sam still sleeps), I use the side-lying position (learn this RIGHT AWAY, new moms … it means sleep for you and your baby and whoever else sleeps in your room!). I like the My Brest Friend best of all because the surface where the baby lies is wider and flatter than on the Boppy. It also buckles around your waist so that it doesn’t shift and slip forward while you are feeding a squirmy little one. For those who have twins, the My Brest Friend is particularly recommended! I’ve even seen Michelle Duggar walking around with two babies attached to her and chilling out on the My Brest Friend. I can’t carry Sam like this because he’s too big … but you sure could with a smaller little one! You can find these used on eBay or Craigslist. (Mine is on loan from a friend.)
I wish I’d purchased my Milkies before Sam was born. I would have been able to store a ton of milk over the past three months. This piece of equipment is pure brilliance. It is designed around one of the physiological oddities of nursing — when you nurse from one breast, milk comes into the other and leaks, usually onto your shirt or a nursing pad. That milk is usually lost forever. Milkies remedies that sad situation — it slips into your bra and onto the breast you are not nursing from, and it collects the milk. You can then pour it into a container to refrigerate or freeze — over the course of a day, I can collect about two ounces this way. For Sam, that’s about 1/3 of a feeding at this point. Over three or four days, I can collect enough to give to Eric or my parents to go out on my own and have some valuable me time. It’s brilliant! No pumping involved. If you are going back to work, it is a crime not to have one of these. You can start freezing milk almost right away — and in this way, you can provide for your little one longer without having to switch to formula. Great idea, great product. Put it on your registry right away!
So far, this is all I have really used. I haven’t had luck with my inherited electric pump — it doesn’t get enough suction and doesn’t seem to fit me properly. The soft cup on this breast pump is very comfortable, and it works really well. The fact that it is manual also allows me to customize how quickly I can pump. As for the double action, I just put the Milkies on one breast and pump from the other. This has been all I’ve needed in the past three months — and especially for a mom staying home, this is all you will need altogether. I promise. I know you feel like you NEED an electric pump, but trust me, you do not. This will get just as much in just as short a time, but it will indeed take up one of your hands. For work, you might want to invest in a good electric pump, but I haven’t needed one yet. I’m even going to try this as my main work pump — we’ll see how it goes. You can’t beat this for price or for quality. It rules. (By the way, new moms, don’t expect to be able to pump a lot when you are nursing your babe. Sam drains me at every feeding, and I cannot get the pump to work between feedings. It will take time for this method to work, or you’ll need to pump at night after the babe goes to sleep for a few hours and your milk comes in a bit better. A pump is best for when you skip feedings and want to relieve engorgement — like when you return to work.)
I LOVE these nursing pads. I have the four layer and five layer variety, all ordered from For Mom and Keiki (an online store based in Virginia — the owner provides free shipping on everything!). After using Lansinoh Disposable Nursing Pads (absolutely the best disposable pads), I got sick of how uncomfortable the disposable feel is. They scratched my skin, sensitive from thrush, and felt sticky all the time. They also got caught in my washing machine more than once and got the paper and SAP all over everything. Ugh. Cloth pads are much much softer, and these in particular are the best! I love that they are contoured too, and don’t show through clothes as much as some cloth pads.
This is the very best nursing top I have — you can simply lift the band of the shirt to breastfeed. I am super all for breastfeeding in public, but I like to balance being discreet in certain situations. I think this is a very attractive, slimming top that accomplishes ease of breastfeeding as well as discretion. And it’s not the samey samey v-neck cut of a lot of nursing tops — in fact, it doesn’t really look like a nursing top at all. I love it. In my estimation, you only need a few nursing tops for going out. The rest of the time, you can lift up your normal shirts or use your stretchy maternity wear for nursing at home. For going out, I have three nursing tops. This is by far the best! I snagged it on a Black Friday sale — look out for deals on diapers.com. Gotta love deals!
I haven’t strayed from my original love of A Pea in the Pod nursing bras. Yes, they are expensive. And yes, they are absolutely worth it. My craptastic Medela sleep bra conked out after repeated washings — like it ripped apart and the elastic came out. That’s what you get for $9.99. (For sleep, by the way, a friend recommended the Majamas Easy Bra … it is the bomb diggity for chillin at home!) This bra, though pricey, is super comfortable, supportive, attractive, and nicely padded to hide nursing pads. I love it! Get one!
Of course, everyone finds their favorites, but these are just some of mine. Hope this helps you in your breastfeeding relationship!
My dear love,
Three months ago today, I went into labor. I’ll say it again — I still get tremendously emotional when I think about that day. The pain was so insane, and I still remember screaming for it to stop, but I got you in my arms at the end of the day. And oh yes, I would do it all over again.
You have finally fallen asleep today — but of course, you are curled up on my chest, and not your swing, or your crib, or your pack and play, or anywhere that I could leave you for a few minutes to get anything done. I’ve had a difficult time with you this month because of your refusal to nap for any extended period of time. I bought The No Cry Nap Solution, but alas, I haven’t had time to sit down and read it. You are always eating, or playing, or wanting to be held. This is simply who you are becoming — it seems you are so aware of the world that you don’t want to miss a minute of it. And it seems that playing is no fun unless mom and dad are participating.
Oh yes. You know mom and dad now. You really do. You smile and smile at us. We make faces and noises, tell you stories, sing to you, and dance around at diaper changes to get you to laugh. You haven’t quite figured out how to laugh, but you go for it anyway. It comes out sounding a lot more like a squawk. When you do laugh, you get so excited, you turn your head from side to side and kick your feet in joy.
In the past few weeks, you’ve learned how to touch the things in your world — the toys on your activity mat and swing, our hands and faces, and anything within your reach. It was pretty incredible to see you touch something for the first time. Touch it with a purpose. You concentrated so hard, your brow furrowed and your beautiful blue eyes intense, as you batted at a rattle and watched it spin.
We think you will roll soon — you are very motivated but can’t quite figure out how to put all of the pieces together. FYI, your head is not good leverage for completing a roll. Keep trying — you’ll figure it out.
There are so many things that I think about when I think about you. I think of who you will be in ten years, twenty. I think about how I will have to limit myself from calling you every day, because I will want to know exactly what you did, learned, and discovered. I think that maybe you will think I am silly, or that I love you too much, but Sam, you’ll never know exactly what that love is or what it means until you have a child of your own. (I hope you do, but it’s okay if you don’t.) My mother always told me that I would never understand until I had a child, and now I do. I don’t know how anyone survives having a child, let alone losing one. It is sometimes overwhelming how much I love you, and I feel it grow within me as I get to know you. My mother says that it is strange to feel that you will do anything for someone else, but that is how you feel when you have a child.
I will try not to overdo it.
I love you –
Welcome to the Savvy Mom Space
I’m a liberal feminist that believes that liberal, feminist ideals should gel with embracing your gender and motherhood (if that’s what you feel like doing). I support all kinds of moms and dads and parents. Oh and, although I totally love that natural vibe and not harming the environment, I supplement my organic milk and fresh fruits and veggies with the occasional Twix, the frequent Oreo, and the daily Coke Zero. I’m opinionated, not easily offended, and a loudmouth in person and on the internet. I am what I am. Welcome.