Wednesday, February 18, 2009

You May Not Want To Read This

I had the big 6-week post-partum check-up today. The basic post-baby MOT which tells you whether your bits are road-worthy yet. If you catch my drift.

Now my lovely old OB moved to a swanky private practice, leaving me at 4 months pregnant with a new OB to find. I was cavalier enough to think that pregnancy was old hat, that I would be blessed with another free ride of a pregnancy and that my choice of OB was not that critical. I really should be banned from making decisions when pregnant. Anyway, my current OB came well-recommended, and allegedly treats all the doctors' wives, and as I hadn't anticipated any problems (muppet that I am) I picked him. If I had to use a word to describe him - other than male - it would be busy. I understand that if you want a bedside manner you should get a PPO not an HMO, that overworked physicians do not generally have time for hand-holding, but sometimes I rather feel like he's got me pegged as a healthy, conventional patient, so no need to pay attention. I also realize, that you should count yourself lucky if a doctor does not pay you any particular heed, no-one wants to be an interesting patient after all.

As expected my follow-up appointment went at mach speed. We screamed through post-partum contraception choices, hurtled through possible thyroid issues, and blitzed through my concerns that my uterus had fallen out.

This next couple of sentences will most likely be considered TMI for some, particularly those of you who have never pushed a melon through your unmentionables, so if you're at all squeamish you might want to click back to that webkinz site right about now.....

So, I'm not a hypochondriac but 2 weeks after I had Lucy I passed some baseball-sized 'matter' that had me wondering whether to pull it out or push it back in. Sorry, told you it was rather ghoulish. Obviously, even after the joy that is recuperating from a birth, this was in the realm of the alarming. I called my doctor and trying to make light of it, mentioned that ha, ha, I think my womb just fell out, and he said 'oh, definitely not, probably just some intestines and you've got plenty of those'. Didn't bat an eyelid. It makes me want to yell 'I have a goiter' just to make him look up from his chart.

I don't have a goiter. God I hope I haven't just jinxed myself again.

Once again, feeling rather invisible, I left his office and met up with LK for lunch so that I could give him the good news. Thunderbirds are go! We went to our usual all-day breakfast place, a lovely little cafe that has excellent food and plays non-stop surf videos all day. After we'd ploughed our way through bacon, eggs and the best pancakes in Santa Barbara, I gave LK the good news.

Me: "So, I just came back from the doctors and we got the green light"
LK: "That's J Bay, Tom Curran I think"
Me: "I said we got the green light"
LK: "North Point, Oahu, man look at that wave"
Me: *glare*
LK: "What. Sorry".
Me: "I said we got the green light"
LK: "Woo-hoo!!!! That's awesome"
LK: "For what?"

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sibling Rivalry

I had wondered how Anna was going to react to her baby sister.

I hadn't been thorough enough to read any books on the topic, well, except for 'Angelina Ballerina Gets a Baby Sister' but I bought that at a yard sale before I was even pregnant so that hardly counts. People were more than generous with their advice though, and knowing that Anna had been on the pedestal of single child-hood for long enough I knew I should listen and listen hard.

The advice mainly fell in to two camps, what to do when first introducing your little dictator to her new sibling, and then what to do when real life begins and you get home. In the first case we were told by numerous wellwishers that it was imperative to have Lucy brought in to meet the three of us (LK, me and Anna) whilst in the hospital rather than have Anna walk in to my room and be confronted by the nuclear family unit of me, LK and Lucy. It was a feat of logistics let me tell you. LK called from the hospital lobby to say he and Anna were minutes away, I scrambled the nurse to whisk Lucy off my boob and into the nursery etc etc. but amazingly it all went like clockwork.

So what was Anna's first response to her new sibling?

She sneezed on her.

Best laid plans etc etc.

Lucy then developed a cold and spent the first few days at home sleeping upright in her car seat struggling with a noseful of baby boogers, while her evil sister, I mean doting sibling tried to hug the living daylights out of her. Lucy is clearly a survivor.

That has been the extent, so far, of the sibling rivalry. Anna is very attentive to her sister, constantly wanting to kiss her (we're on cold #2 and counting....), and squeeze the crap out of her. Her hugs may speak louder than her words as they do border on the 'aggressive' if I've been spending a little too much time nursing Lucy. As far as you could tell, she appears thrilled with the new addition, telling anyone within earshot that she has a baby sister who is very slow to learn to talk.

The backlash, it turns out, has all been directed my way.

This is a typical conversation between Anna and I these days:

Me: "Hey love, will you be a big helper and get Mummy a blanket for Lucy"
Anna: "No, I'm afraid I can do only small helps right now"
Me: "Please love"
Anna: "No, NO, NO!"

It's a joy. To my every question, request, breath, her answer is 'no', and sadly the same is pretty much true of my responses to her. Because, her questions (if permission is ever asked) are usually along the lines of "can I draw with my crayons on the curtains", or "can I mix milk, water and playdough and form a paste to plaster on the couch". Yesterday I came downstairs after putting Lucy down to find Anna painting her toenails on the carpet.

Dear God she's behaving like a three year old!

That's what I have to remind myself. She's only three. Maybe this behaviour was always going to develop. I have heard that 'three is the new two' after all. LK swears she was getting pushier before Lucy arrived, but I think it coincided with late pregnancy when I was unable to do anything more interactive than lie on the couch with a tube of antacids. Clearly she's begun acting out in a desperate bid for attention.

I know the answer is to give LK a bottle of breastmilk (not for him, for the baby for God's sake.....) and spend a couple of hours alone with Anna doing something fun, just the two of us. She is after all, struggling to find her place in our new family.

But quite frankly I think I'd rather poke my eyes out with a sharp stick.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Show Me Das Geld

One of the disturbing things about having a newborn is developing 'baby brain'. It begins with the exhaustion of late pregnancy, and blossoms into full-blown incompetence within days of the birth. I hate it. I hate feeling scattered and out of control. It's obviously fatigue coupled with concentrating too much of your attention on tiny creatures and not the job at hand.

Or maybe I'm just having my brains sucked out of my boobs.

That would certainly explain my recent 'genius alert' moment. I was sitting on the couch, nursing and watching TV *you lead a fascinating life, really, you should write about it*, and a trailer for True Lies with Arnold Schwarzeneggar and Jamie Lee Curtis came on. 'Hmm' I thought, as more brain cells were leached out of my breasts, 'Arnold Schwarzeneggar hasn't really been in anything lately has he'.

There is much truth in stupidity, and this was a classic example, because yes I do in fact realize that he's now the Governor of this State, which would probably explain his lack of recent Hollywood blockbusters. Then again, he doesn't seem to have done anything even so. Take the recent much publicized budget crisis. California is out of money. The 9th biggest economy in the world and we're broke. One of the 'solutions' or 'patch jobs' they've come up with is to delay issuing State Income Tax refunds, unemployment and disability checks, or issue IOUs which banks may or may not choose to honour. Quite frankly if you were a bank - would you? Precisely. This little bombshell was dropped by my friend R. in the hospital the morning after I had Lucy. 'I hope you weren't counting on that maternity leave pay the way we're counting on our tax refund' she said.

Not the new baby gift I was hoping for.

For those not from the States, you pay a plethora of payroll taxes over here, (which you could consider somewhat ironic given this nation's history). In addition to Medicare, FICA & SDI you pay both Federal and State income taxes, and at the end of the year if you've had too much tax withheld you're issued a refund. It's generally a better idea to err on the side of caution when withholding payroll taxes so you avoid owing shed loads of money to the Government. Or at least it used to be a good idea. Now the people who've played it safe are left wondering if they're ever going to get that money back. That would be us.

Doesn't sound much of an incentive to pay your taxes in the first place does it?

With owning rental properties, and having a mortgage the size of Africa's debt we have always 'banked' (ha ha) on getting money back on our taxes. We were counting on that money, just as we were rather hoping that I would receive State disability money for my maternity leave. Not an IOU, not a 'we're going to delay issuing checks for 30 days or more'. I realize that most councils, local authorities, States etc are struggling to make ends meet in the current economic crisis as there are increased demands for unemployment benefits, food stamps and the like, and I also realize that Arnie is not entirely to blame. People are joking that we should write IOUs for our payroll taxes, for our mortgage bills and the like, but really it's not a laughing matter. That our State should even be considering IOUs for State refunds is insulting. Everybody deserves their tax refunds, plenty of people desperately need the money, have already spent it as they've been 'budgeting on it'. Apparently the State of California is guilty of doing the same.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Got Milk?

I got my boobs from my Dad.

I know that because I could fit one of my Mum's bras inside the cup of one of mine. Hell, right now I could probably fit my Mum in one cup.

Apparently my Dad's Mum famously said she could have nursed an entire ward full of babies. I appear to have inherited that trait. Without labouring too much on the size of my nursing rack for fear of attracting the wrong kind of traffic, I'll just leave you with the fact that Lucy put on a pound in eight days after birth. The poor thing opened her tiny infant mouth and was met with a torrent.

She inflated like a water balloon.

I have been very lucky to find breastfeeding pretty easy. The act itself that is, not the constant refrain from anyone holding Lucy which is 'err, I think she needs feeding'. Even Anna will give me an accusing look when Lucy so much as squeaks and yell 'Mom, Lucy needs a boob!'. The buck stops here when it comes to sating my child, which is both lovely and thoroughly time-consuming. It could be worse though. Boobing my infant comes naturally. Apparently, I was genetically programmed for it. My boobs were just itching for the opportunity to engorge, nurse, then shrivel and hang limply by my knee-caps for the rest of my life.

I know - how lucky am I?

I feel for people who try to breastfeed and, for whatever reason, are unable. Except that they probably still have perfect perky breasts. But, jaunty mammaries can be little consolation when faced with the parent-police. I should imagine that confessing to formula-feeding an infant at your local Mums' Group is tantamount to admitting you allow co-sleeping. Not for the faint of heart, but I'm entirely sympathetic to both (as an aside, LK gives Lucy straight formula for her midnight feed allowing me a blissful 6+ hours of sleep a night - more on that later).

What I don't understand is the idea of purchasing breast milk. Can the benefits of breast milk really outweigh the risks? How and why is this deemed necessary? Is it for cosmetic boob-preservation, or are there really babies who refuse all brands of formula (snobs). I thought the days of wet nurses were long gone, but apparently not. I even know of someone locally who buys breast milk for her child, although I'm not sure of the reason - but I will be checking her boobs for perkiness.

According to my research, the going rate is $3 an oz, and it may even be covered by your insurance?! I'm sure the donor/seller must have to undergo rigorous health checks first, because after all this is somebody else's bodily fluid that you're willingly feeding your child. Yet even with the proven health benefits of breast milk to an infant, the risks of using someone else's milk, screened or not, seem absurdly high.

And for the record, no, I'm not seriously considering selling my breast milk, even with the present economic climate and boobs like Krakatoa. After all, I tried donating blood over here a few years ago and was denied because of an FDA ruling against Brits and potential mad cow disease (how ironic, I can't sell my breast milk because I might be a mad cow). However, every time Lucy spits up I do glare at her and let her know exactly how many dollars of my hard-earned milk she has just wasted.

Saturday, February 07, 2009


It's that time again, my Mum and Dad have flown home, having thoroughly enjoyed their three weeks of glorious sunshine - made even sweeter with knowing that it's been snowing almost nonstop back home. I should imagine getting off the plane at Leeds Bradford might have been a bit of a shock to the system.

While I collect my thoughts and emotions, I'll leave you with a couple of photos I've been staring at, trying to convince myself there is a reason to live here after all, when so much of my heart lies elsewhere.

Tidepooling in February

Sunday, February 01, 2009

America: Brought To You By Erectile Dysfunction

I've shied away recently from the typical us vs. them comparisons of the UK vs. US - for many reasons, not least of which was the whole all-consuming gestation/birthing/newborn thing. 

Oh that

Mainly though, it's because I'm growing increasingly aware that I haven't lived in the UK for nearly fifteen years now, and the England I rhapsodise about may or may not exist anymore, so it would be a little dangerous to say 'we Brits don't have plastic surgery before going out for breakfast', when for the last 14 years people in Rotherham may have been doing just that. Although, Jesus Christ, tell that to any American who - to a man - still expects us to have tea at 4pm, wear bowler hats, shirk at showers and flee from physical intimacy. Not me! I love intimacy, particularly in showers! wearing bowler hats! at 4pm! - which is probably how I ended up with the whole gestation/birthing/newborn thing.

I digress.

Legitimate comparisons can be drawn though when you have real-live Brits visiting (seriously depleting my stocks of tea bags and marmalade let me tell you.....). It's only then that you realise things oh, for example, like there are no commercials for erectile dysfunction on at three in the afternoon in North Yorkshire. 

Not judging by the stunned look on my Dad's face anyway. 

Visitors to the US come prepared for endless commercials, for adverts running between the opening credits and the show starting (WTF?!), for 'this show brought to you by the makers of ' -  but then I'd noticed Coronation Street was 'brought to you by Cadbury's' last time I was home. Clearly the UK is making up some ground with gratuitous advertising. What I hadn't considered, was the difference in content, the appropriateness of material that is shoved down your throat (pun intended) each time you turn on the TV. Erectile dysfunction (ED), male enhancement, that itch you can't scratch, embarrassing odour, frequent urination, may not protect against sexually transmitted diseases - thanks to DVR and a heavy work schedule I've been blithely unaware of how many really inappropriate messages are being launched at us during daytime TV. Perhaps not so inappropriate if you're watching Oprah whilst experiencing embarrassing odour - probably quite common - but, not so good if you've got a houseful of relatives sipping tea, having some ginger lemon cremes and playing go fish with your 3 y ear old.

 "Please see your doctor if you experience an erection lasting longer than 4 hours" counsels the TV, - "Well, yes, I would hope so" answers my Dad. Obviously I've been tuning these adverts out, but to Mum and Dad they are new, so they're picking up on it, and asking why there isn't a watershed for this kind of advertising - after 9pm perhaps? - which makes me more aware of my 3 year old sponge sitting there, soaking it all up. She's already asked me 'if I want to get more for my money', and whether we 'use Chlorox', I suppose it's only a matter of time before she starts asking her paediatrician about that 4-hour erection she's been experiencing.