Wednesday, December 29, 2010

To: Nancy, From: Frying Pan

In all the excitement over my sinus infection, I kind of glossed over Christmas.  I was definitely feeling more bah-humbug than usual this year.  In fact, when Rob and I unsuccessfully attempted to get William to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas a few weeks ago (the old school cartoon version, of course.  I hate CGI.  Don't even get me started), I realized, you know, I like the way that grinch thinks.  Not that I was going to stuff myself down any chimneys and steal gifts.  I really just wanted to close my eyes and put my hands over my ears and have Christmas go away.

Christmas this year seemed particularly grim because we have recently had 2 deaths in my family.  My sister's baby, Jackson, died in April.  I have not written about this very much because it is not my story to tell, and also because I know that my sister reads this blog from time to time and I do not want to say anything that upsets her.  Plus, it just hurts too, too much to try put into words everything that happened surrounding his death and since then.  But I think about the whole situation all the time.  Last year at Christmas, my sister was white knuckling it through hyperemesis, thinking she would have a 6-month old baby at Christmas this year.  I think this was a major reason why for me at least, I just wanted to skip Christmas.  I really did not feel like celebrating.


My grandmother also passed away this year, in late August.  Her death has been sad for all of us of course, but not in that same tragic, horrific way as Jackson's.  My grandmother lived a long, full life.  She had 94 years of memories.  We can sit around and share a story about her and not feel so sad.  In fact, this entry wasn't supposed to be sad when I started out writing it because all I intended to do was write something I remembered about her from several years ago, when she was still in good health.

Grandma was always starting one task before she had completed about 6 others that she was also concurrently doing.  I am the same exact way.  I can never seem to finish anything before something else pops up that I must attend to, and what results is that I am running around making myself crazy, but not getting anything accomplished.  It tends to make one a bit absent-minded.  I was musing on this as I simultaneously wrapped Christmas gifts, folded laundry, and cleaned up the kitchen this year.  At some point, I looked at a gift I had just wrapped for Rob's little cousin, and I realized that I had no idea what it was.  Absolutely no clue.  I had been there when we chose the gift and bought it, and I had wrapped it just 5 minutes ago, but for the life of me, I could not remember what it was.  It made me think of a Christmas a few years ago when my mom received a gift from Grandma and the gift tag read, To: Nancy, From: Frying pan.  I remember how my mother read the gift tag out loud and then all of us were laughing so hard that we had tears coming out of our eyes.  My grandma was laughing the hardest of all... so floored at her own indiscretion that she could not speak.  And trust me, speechlessness was a rare occurrence for Grandma.

I don't know, maybe you had to be there, but whenever I think of the To: Nancy, From: Frying pan incident, I can't help but laugh a little, even if it is just on the inside.

Hoping for more laughter in 2011.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas sinus infection

As it turns out, I've been walking around with a sinus infection for the past week.  I've felt like complete and utter hell, but I couldn't really do anything about it because I had 895,000 final essay exams to grade, and then it was Christmas.  Actually, I tried to go to a "Take Care" clinic on the 22nd, and that was a total fail.  First of all, I had to drive through Mall Traffic 3 days before Christmas, and second of all, when I arrived, I was informed there was a 4 hour wait.  The scare of driving through Mall Traffic and also having found myself in an exit only lane for the interstate by mistake (think: The movie Clueless when the character D accidentally merges onto the freeway in LA) was enough to scare the sinus infection away from me, at least for a moment.  Since I was supposed to be at work and was trying to do this on my "lunch hour," I did not have 4 hours to wait, so I turned around and drove back through Mall Traffic so that I could continue grading the 895,000 essay exams sitting on my desk.

I was determined to power through this.  I mean, come on.  I'm Melissa.  When I was in Nicaragua doing my field research, I put bandaids on things that should have had stitches.  Instead of going to the hospital to get an IV for 2 weeks of Vortex, I drank some coke and just kept going.

Well by today, I am no better, and I am so completely frayed from being unable to sleep for the past 8 nights due to the congestion.  I haven't taken a breath through my nose since December 19.  I'm taking the day off anyway... even though I'm not technically allowed to take sick or vacation days until the end of February, I've worked 20 hours of unpaid overtime in the last couple of weeks, so I just get to use that as "comp time."  What better to do with my comp time than go to a doctor.

There are like 7,000 doctors that my insurance covers, and I have no idea who to go to, so I just picked the closest one.  When I called her office this morning, I found out that in order to be seen by her, I had to have a "new patient evaluation," and the first available opening for said evaluation was January 19.  I think I gave an involuntary sob and said, "But I am sick nowwww," and they told me that they would let me know if there are any cancellations.

I suppose I could have kept calling doctors and seeing if there was another one who would see me, but I decided to try going to an Urgent Care Clinic a few miles from here on easily navigable roads that would not necessitate going through Mall Traffic or the freeway.  The good people at the urgent care place were nice and the whole process did take quite a while, but all things considered, I cannot complain.  They did x-rays and found that I did in fact have a sinus infection, and prescribed an antibiotic (that I hope does not send me into anaphylactic shock) and pseudoephedrine.  I told the doctor that I was nursing and I was concerned about pseudoephedrine drying up my milk supply (I'm glad I knew that because it did not seem like that information would have been volunteered to me).  He said that yes, decongestants can have a drying-up effect for some nursing mothers, but that I could drink lots of water and pump to counter balance that effect.  And I was all GEE.  You have no idea what I have been through to nurse this child.  I am already drinking a lot of water and pumping and making like, I don't know, a half an ounce of milk a day.  After I finished off the domperidone, my temporary burst in supply has precipitously declined.  If I add pseudoephedrine to the mix, I have a feeling that is the end.

So I am completely miserable and even more miserable at the thought that the thing that might bring me relief from these symptoms might also put an end to my fragile milk supply.  There is so much sinus pressure in my face that it feels like I am giving birth through my eyeball.  I know we might be at the end of nursing anyway, but still, I don't to put the nail in the coffin myself.  I keep thinking, if I can just tough this out maybe a few more days, the antibiotics will kill off the infection and then I will feel better.  The pseudoephedrine only treats the symptoms, right?  It would just make me more comfortable in the meantime.  But god, I would really like to be more comfortable.

Thanks for reading.


Saturday, December 18, 2010


I'm pleased to report that I've had a little bit of success in the relactation department, and I am so, so so so so so so glad I didn't throw in the towel and give it up.

A year ago, when after much struggle, Will was 4 months old and my milk supply finally seemed stable, I went off Domperidone.  I had saved a week's worth of pills just in case of some type of emergency, which, as it turns out, was wise.  My milk supply has been dropping ever since Will turned 1 and I started this new job, but after the stomach flu hit me last week, I thought I was done for.  I had a moment when I decided that was alright, that we could just be done with nursing, but then I thought I might as well just try the remaining Domperidone and see what happened.

As it turns out, I started lactating again.  I was also eating oatmeal and taking goat's rue (until I ran out of that), so I guess it may have been one of these other factors, or some combination of thereabove.  But in a matter of a few days, I went from being completely empty and having nothing come out when nursing him or pumping, to actually feeling like I had milk and being able to express some when pumping.  I know it still seems miniscule, but by about Wednesday of this week, I pumped 1.25 oz while at work, and I actually had 2 let downs while pumping.

I was very excited, and Will seems to have taken a renewed interest in nursing, now that milk is actually coming out.  Even when I was bone dry, he would never turn it down or unlatch himself, he just seemed kind of bored while nursing and would often be looking around for dad's iPad.  But now he nurses with fervor, and screams at me when I try to unlatch him after all the milk is gone.  That's not really an improvement in our lives, but it does indicate to me that he was getting luke-warm about nursing only because there wasn't enough milk coming out, not because he didn't want to nurse anymore.

So, I ran out of Domperidone yesterday.  I am taking Motherlove More Milk Special Blend (it arrived on Tuesday) and eating oatmeal, and hoping that all hell doesn't break loose.  I nursed him before his nap today, and it didn't go so well.  Not a whole lot of milk came out, and when I to pry him off (because I didn't want to sit there for an hour and a half letting him sleep nurse), he screamed (shrilly) for about 20 minutes before I could get him settled down.  I just now pumped and only had a tiny bit come out; I don't know if that is because I nursed him not too long ago, or because the Domperidone is coursing out of my system and I am done for again.

Still trying to decide what to do.  I was hoping that a week's worth of Domperidone might jump start me, and I could keep this going for another couple of months if I pump at work and eat wallpaper paste (I mean oatmeal) and take the More Milk tincture.  If I stop lactating now that I'm done with the Domperidone, I have to decide whether to just give it up or order some more from Vanauatu.

Anyway, I've got to take advantage of Will's nap so that I can work and not get paid for it.  Trying not to complain too much, because I do like my job and also because next semester they're giving me a lighter load, that is, if I can hang on until then.  So tired.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dear William (16 months)

Dear William,

Today you are 16 months old!

You started walking this month.  You walked across the room on Thanksgiving day.

Since then, you will sometimes walk on your own a few steps here and there, but by far your preferred form of locomotion is to push a chair, toy box, or laundry basket around the room.


You went to go see Santa Claus this month, in the Central West End.  It was freezing that day, and you hated it.  You wanted me to come up and sit beside you.

With Santa


You love opening and closing drawers, cabinets, cupboards, and doors.  There aren't enough baby locks in this world to keep you out of them.


You have started climbing, or attempting to climb, onto or out of things.  This worries me because you have no concept of the laws of physics.  Yesterday you climbed out of your highchair, while you were still strapped into it.  I'm still not sure how that happened.

You are constantly chattering. The other day, you finished your cup of soymilk and said, "More!" just as plain as day. You still say da and dada all the time, and you say mama or mom a lot too. You say mama mainly when you're mad. Like when I'm changing your diaper and you'd rather be playing, you say this "Mo-oooom" that makes it sound like you're a teenager rolling your eyes at me. It's kind of funny.

You started letting us brush your teeth again.  For several months, you refused to let a toothbrush even near your mouth.  I was so worried you were going to end up with hee-haw teeth.  I am much relieved that you are open to the idea of brushing your teeth again.  Last night you even brushed your teeth all by yourself.



Speaking of teeth, you've gotten all your first molars by now.  I am pretty sure you are working on your canines now.  You are drooling a lot and very congested and refusing to eat and a couple times in the past week or so you screamed for a few hours in the night instead of sleeping.  I am hoping that soon, this too shall pass.

Your dad and I had the stomach flu this month and so far, you've managed to avoid getting it.  That is a miracle.  I'm so thankful. You do have a rotten cold right now, or maybe it's just congestion from teething. You like to sleep in the big bed with mommy and daddy when you aren't feeling well. I don't like it when your teeth hurt so bad that you have trouble sleeping, but I do like to have you all snuggled up in bed with me. You're the best thing on earth.

Love always,


Friday, December 10, 2010

Stomach flu

This past week both Rob and I had the stomach flu.  He got it first, and then it hit me with a vengeance about 24 hours later.  Rob still wasn't feeling good when it hit me, but thankfully he had the wherewithal to function and take care of Will.

I'd often wondered what it would be like for me to have intestinal distress for the first time since my hyperemetic pregnancy.  Unsurprisingly, it wasn't pretty.  I started throwing up about 5am on Tuesday and finally quit at around 10pm.  I threw up every 1/2 hour to an hour most of that time, except for about a 3 hour block in the late afternoon when I didn't puke but just felt like it, which was perhaps even more awful.  I was ridiculously dehydrated.

I took a sick day on Tuesday, even though I am technically ineligible to take a sick day until I've worked there for 6 months, but under the circumstances, going to work was not an option when all I could do was lie in bed and puke into a bucket.  On Wednesday I was back in the office though, very spacey and unable to eat or drink anything.  I couldn't really stand up or walk for long periods of time, and even talking to people was difficult.  Unfortunately, this is the busiest time of year for me... giving 4 final exams and grading 2 papers, all for large intro classes with several hundred students.  I am looking at some serious overtime in the next 10 days, it is crazy ridiculous.  I had about 30 people in my office for Intro to Public Health alone, firing questions at me about their upcoming exam, when I was just like, people, I need to lie down now, please.

Somehow, miraculously, Will has not gotten it.  I almost hesitate to write that, incase I jinx it and he gets sick.  But I feel like he would have gotten it by now if he were going to.  Half of his daycare was out with the stomach flu, as was one of his teachers.  How he managed to come through unscathed is a mystery (or is it just the antibodies in breastmilk?)

So much vomiting did bring up a lot of really scary, dark, unhappy memories of my pregnancy, a lot of anger, a lot of everything I have tried unsuccessfully to forget about these last 16 months.  But it also made me realize a few things.  Mainly, the completely messed up way I felt for several days after giving birth had absolutely nothing to do with giving birth, but because of the 8 hours of vomiting I did during labor.  The vomiting that was caused by the GBS antibiotics that they "had" to give me.  That terrible, nauseous, unable to eat, unable to drink, unable to speak, unable to see straight, unable to stand up without passing out... that wasn't because I'd given birth.  It was because I'd vomited for 8 hours straight and didn't eat anything for almost 2 days.  I still find it weird how nobody at the hospital really gave a shit about how completely messed up I was after Will was born, but that is a different post for a different time.

What this entry is supposed to be about is that the stomach flu has had catastrophic consequences on my ability to breastfeed.  As I recently mentioned, I have been struggling a lot lately to make any milk at all, and I feel like the stomach flu has essentially sealed the deal for us in terms of weaning. I didn't nurse Will on Tuesday, the day I was sick.  I was just too, too sick.  I couldn't stop vomiting/dry heaving and shaking/shivering all over, and I really really did not want Will to get sick.  I was so afraid if I touched him or was close to him at all, he'd get it.  In the morning before Rob took him to daycare, Will toddled into our bedroom and was looking at me and I could see his little blonde head bobbing along as he circled the bed, and it made me so sad because I just wanted to hold him but felt too awful.  I was still too sick to nurse him that night.  I was completely freaking out about it though, because I knew that I am not in the position to be skipping feedings, and that if I did this, it would probably mean the end of it.  Rob knew I didn't want it to end this way, so he bundled up and walked over to my office (where I keep my breast pump) and brought it home to me.  Give him a gold star for this.  I pumped, and I pumped (stopping to throw up at least once) for over 20 minutes, and not a drop came out, not a single drop.

On Wednesday, I nursed Will in the morning (feeling nothing come out) and I pumped later at work (okay, maybe a couple of drops, but that was it).  I know I am still ridiculously dehydrated, but it doesn't seem to be getting any better.  I've still kept nursing him, but it seems very futile at this point.  Just for comfort, not milk.

The thing is, on Tuesday when Will didn't nurse, he was totally fine without it, even at night time.  Rob rocked him and put him to bed, and he slept clear through until 6:30 the next morning. For several months, he really hasn't sought it out, but he doesn't turn it down when I offer it to him.  And he still never, ever unlatches on his own.  Even if he is bored and wants to play with his toys or with dad's iPad, he just tries to take me along with him.  Sometimes I think he might be a little frustrated that there is no milk coming out, but most of the time, that doesn't seem to bother him either.

I don't want to give it up this way, but it would be an easy out right now.  It's just that last night he had a really rough night.  I think he's getting his canines in, and he woke up around 3am and screamed for about 3 hours.  He was trying to latch on to my sweatshirt, he wanted to nurse so bad.  So I just nursed him, and even though there was no milk coming out, it comforted him.  I just wasn't happy about it.  It doesn't feel so great to nurse him without any milk coming out, and the whole situation of losing my milk this way made me really sad.

Sooo.  This morning I broke into my emergency stash of leftover Domperidone from when I gave it up about a year ago.  I have enough for 8 days.  I have no idea if it will do anything, but I had to try.  I also ordered some Motherlove Special Blend tincture, which should arrive on Tuesday.  In the meantime, I'm pumping at work and trying to rehydrate the best I can.  We'll see if any of this works.  Maybe it won't, but at least I won't go down without a fight.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


This is seriously hard for me to write, but I may be about to stop nursing William, and it is not because either of us is ready for it.

Ever since I started this new job (and started nursing him less), I could tell my milk supply was steadily dwindling, but for a long time I thought, after everything I've been through, there is no way I can be going through Low Milk Supply again.  I've fixed that.  We're done with it.  This dwindling is normal.  We've made it past a year, and now there will be no reason for me to stop nursing him until one day he says to me, "Mom, I'm done with that," and I say, "Okay," and we have a piece of (vegan) chocolate cake or something.

But that's just not what's happening.  After my last bout of mastitis, things seemed okay for a while, but then (and brace yourselves for TMI), my long and blissful bout of lactational amenorrhea ended.  Aunt Flo is what seemed to put the nail in the coffin.  Will nurses, but I can't ever feel any milk coming out, and I rarely hear him swallow.  I even took the breast pump to work, to try to increase my milk supply (but recall how pumping between feedings was fantastic failure when I was dealing with Low Milk Supply).  After feeding him in the morning around 7am, I've been trying to pump around 9 or 10am at work.  Maybe it's having some effect, I don't know, but even if it is, the effect is miniscule.  If I pump closer to 9:00, sometimes I get nothing or maybe just a drop or two.  If I hold off till 10:00 or even a little after, I might get enough to thinly cover the bottom of the Medela bottle (so what... 1/8 of an ounce? 1/4?) but never anything more than that.  It is seriously depressing.  Not in the sense that I want to save the milk to give to him (I just rinse it down the sink), but just because it seems to confirm the fact that I've run dry.

Admitting all this is hard because first of all, I am stating that my body is a complete and total failure.  But beyond that, I think the larger issue is that I'm feeling like, oh my god, I've made a huge life mistake.  If I wouldn't have accepted this position, if I would have just stayed home and kept nursing him whenever he wanted to, we wouldn't be in this boat now.  Even though this job (if I keep it until then) will provide him a free college education, and I have tried to convince myself that my working (and this job in particular) has been positive for William, I have clearly not acted in his best interest.

So do I have to go over the reasons why I want to continue nursing him?  Apparently, because the last time I wrote something about my nursing problems, some moron posted a comment insinuating that I was a selfish freak for nursing a baby past 1 year.  (Freak... I can understand why an idiot would think that.  But selfish? WTF.  I didn't delete the comment simply because it was so fucking ridiculous.)

So here are the reasons why I would like to continue nursing William:

1) He still wants to nurse.

2) WHO guidelines indicate nursing to at least 2 years.

3) As a biological anthropologist, arbitrarily stopping nursing at 1 year makes no sense.  Across mammals, weaning generally coincides with the eruption of the permanent molars (which doesn't happen until like, age 6 or 7 in humans).  And cross culturally, many societies nurse for much longer than one year.

4) The immunological properties of breastmilk.  Will has survived outbreaks of stomach flu, hoof and mouth disease, and impetigo at his daycare, all unscathed. He's had a runny nose practically since starting daycare, but in the scheme of things, I feel pretty lucky.  Is breastmilk giving him an edge to stay healthy?  I don't know.  But I don't want to find out by stopping and then having him get sick all the time.

5) I love him so much.  I just want to what's best for him.  And that's not because he is anyone's grandchild, nephew, cousin, whatever.  Please.  As if.  He's mine.

I go back and forth about what I should do.  Sometimes I sit there and think, you know, we've had a good run.  I bet not even a La Leche League leader would fault me for weaning him at 16 months.  Considering how we started out, we've been remarkably lucky.  When everybody and their freaking brother was telling me to give him formula (including my OB and a pediatrician, who both told me that giving him formula would INCREASE MY MILK SUPPLY), I refused.  Thank god I knew my OB and the pediatrician were dead wrong about that, because had I listened to them (and the throngs of other people who told me to give him formula), it would have been a completely different story.  He never had one drop.  I tried everything, literally everything, to increase my milk supply, and I got it to work.  He thrived, and is still nursing at 16 months.  He's made it past the critical 1-year point, so we'd be fine to just stop and move on with our lives.  In some ways, that would probably make my life easier.  I could go running in the mornings before work, without having to worry about leaving enough time to nurse him.  Or I could go running, grocery shopping, etc in the evenings without having to be the one who puts him to bed.  Rob could put him to bed, or we could even go out together and have a sitter put him to bed.  In his whole life, I have always been the one to put him to bed, every single night.  I like putting him to bed, but it would be nice if for some reason I had to go somewhere or do something, someone else could do it and I wouldn't have to worry.  For a while I thought about just cutting his nursing down to once a day, either in the morning or the before bed, or maybe even as soon as I get home from work.  But given the problems I am having maintaining any kind of milk supply on twice a day, I'm afraid my milk would dry up completely if I reduced it to just once.

And the reality of that freaks me out.  I'm Melissa.  I am not going down without a fight.  I've gone to heroic measures before, I'll go to heroic measures again.  I will do whatever it takes.  Breastmilk is this wonderful, magical, substance of perfection, that will keep my kid healthy and have long term positive health benefits throughout his entire life.  Sixteen months is too young to take that away from him.  I will pump, I will power pump, I will quit my job if I have to, but I am not giving up.  I will stop nursing him one day when he tells me he's done with it, or he otherwise indicates that he just doesn't want to nurse anymore.  But not a moment before that.  As long as there is a breath left in my body, I will not give up.

The thing about heroic measures though, is that I'm not sure what measures to actually take.  None of the usual galatagogues (ie, fenugreek, blessed thistle) worked for me during Low Milk Supply, and I swear that pumping/power pumping made it worse.  None of the easy things, like eating oatmeal or drinking lots of water, worked either.  Domperidone was the only thing that worked for sure, so I guess if I was really going to heroic measures, I'd call up Vanautu again and place an order.  One other thing that may have had a slight positive effect was the Motherlove More Milk Special Blend.  I have no idea where to get that in St. Louis, but I am leaning strongly towards ordering some online.

So, that's where I'm at.  Who else out there has been through this?  Anybody?  I feel kind of like, probably not.  But if you have, please drop me a line and tell me what you did to get through.  Idiotic comments, however, will be promptly deleted.

Thanks for reading.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving, walking, squirrels, etc

While on our multi-state Thanksgiving Tour, Will decided to start walking on his own.  For several months now, he's walked if he's holding onto something or pushing something (ie, he pushes around our kitchen chairs and baskets of laundry), but so far he'd remained too chicken to strike out on his own (despite much coaxing).  Well, he finally did it.  Rob got  a video of his very first steps:

Will has been hesitant to walk again after his initial successful foray, but I figure he will be walking more and more as the days go on.  And I'm glad to know, at least, that he actually can do it.

The other issue of excitement in our house is that we've had squirrels in our attic, and we*  finally caught one of them.  Rob set up a "Havaheart" live trap and baited it with whole wheat bread and organic peanut butter.  After a few near misses, one of the squirrels got trapped in there today.  Rob placed the trap in a rubbermaid tub, and we took the thing to a very lovely park several miles from our house.  Hopefully the squirrel decides to stay in the park, because if it tries to head back to our place, it will probably not survive such a long trip through heavy traffic.  Now all that remains is to catch the other squirrel and patch up the holes where they are getting in.  Hm.

Well, there is so much more to say, but I am still carsick from our Thanksgiving adventure.  And that's not helping me get over my hypermesis flashbacks.  Also, I am exhausted and not ready to head back to work tomorrow.  It is going to be insane from here on out to the end of the semester.  Ugh, feels like mile 20.


*And by we I actually mean Rob

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dear William (15 months)

Dear William,

Today you are 15 months old.  You have really grown up fast in the last month.  So many changes!

The biggest thing that happened is that you started talking!  Grandma Nan and Paw Paw were visiting in the middle of October, and one morning at breakfast, you threw your cheerios on the floor and said Uh oh.  I was upstairs getting ready for work and missed the whole thing.  I was a little bit sad, but you said it again and again to cheer me up.  You have said a lot of words since then.  Let's see if I can remember some of them: Mama, Dada, Nigh-Nigh, Baby, and No.  Lately you have been raising your arms up over your head and saying whoa or yay!  I think you've also said "Mo" (your daycare teacher's name) and hi.  You chatter constantly.  You say "uh oh" first thing when you wake up in the morning.  Once when you were sleeping in bed with us, you snuggled up against me and whispered "uh oh" in your sleep.  You are great.


You also started doing sign language this month.  I guess this is something you learned at daycare.  They taught you the sign for "more."  You use it from time to time, but you don't know what it means.  You just think it is fun.  I'm trying to teach you the sign for "please," but so far, you just give me a perplexed look.

You learned how to go up and down the stairs all by yourself.  You are so cute.  Going up and down the stairs is your favorite game.  At night when it is bath time, you are so cute leading the way up the stairs for us.  When you are going down the stairs, you go backwards, one at a time.  You figured out how to do that on your own, nobody showed you.

Showing Grandpa how it's done


You are still a problematic eater.  At every meal, I pretty much have to get out every kind of food that we have in hopes that I can find something you'll eat.  And just because you've eaten something one day does not mean you will ever want it again.  The exception to this is breakfast-- your favorite breakfast for the past couple of months has been a waffle and a banana.  That's the one thing I know you will always eat.  Sometimes you are so hungry that you eat 2 waffles and a banana.  Breakfast is your favorite meal, and I love that about you (because breakfast is my favorite meal too).  You are getting better about holding your food (say, a waffle or sandwich) and taking little bites out of it.  Before, I would have to break it into little pieces or else you would try to cram the whole thing in your mouth.  You are also becoming interested in feeding yourself with a spoon.  You've taken a renewed interest in applesauce, I think specifically because you like to practice feeding yourself.  The other day, you did the cutest thing I have ever seen in my entire life.  You were romping around the family room and started rifling through your diaper bag (one of your favorite things to do).  You found a small container of applesauce and a spoon that I had packed in case you needed a snack while we were out.  You started tapping the spoon on top of the applesauce container and then touching the spoon to your lips.  It was so darling.  I opened the applesauce container and tried to get you to feed yourself, but instead you hurled the spoon across the room and plunged your hand into the applesauce.  I think that's where the cuteness of the whole episode broke down a little bit.

You got your 2 top molars this month, that was an ordeal.  You're working on one of your bottom ones right now.

Show the teeth

You got  a haircut when your Grandma Nan was visiting.  You look so grown up.

You walk if you are holding onto something or if you are holding one of our hands.  You also walk if you are pushing something.  At daycare you walk around with a toy cart.  We don't have a cart at home, but you will push around  a kitchen chair instead.  You have also been known to push around a basket of laundry.  It is kind of hilarious.

We had Halloween this month.  You were in a parade at daycare.  You went as a rock star.  I gave you a green mohawk and you looked real cool.  We didn't go trick or treating on Halloween night though.  Maybe next year.


Ay oh let's go


William, you have become this wonderful little fun-loving person.  You just love to play and play and giggle and laugh and have a great time.  You love anything that involves your body being turned upside down and rotated or spun.  You love giving hugs.  That is my favorite thing in the world, when you come over to me and grin and give me a hug.  You give the best hugs.  I could hug you forever.

Love always,


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Indianapolis marathon

First.  It has been a long time since I had the chance to write a blog post.  To update in a nutshell:  1) I do not know if I had mastitis or not, but it went away with a lot of nursing, hot showers, and tylenol to keep my fever down.  2) Thank you to the people who provided midwife suggestions in the comments on my last blog post.  I've done a lot of investigating since I last wrote, and aside from the one midwife that someone suggested, there are apparently no other midwives in St. Louis.  Not even Certified Nurse Midwives.  The tough anti-midwifery laws (that were only repealed in 2008) have left their mark on this state.  If you are a midwife, please come to Missouri.  We need you.

Now, cutting to the chase.  The whole family went to Indianapolis over weekend, and I ran the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.  It was my 10th marathon overall, and my second one since giving birth to William.  I ran Indianapolis in 2008 and had a major PR that day-- 3:37:49.  Things are a bit different now!  Not only do I have a little child to take care of, but throughout the course of this training, we moved to Missouri and I started working full time.  I've managed to do all of the long runs on the weekends, but since we moved to St. Louis, I have barely been able to run during the week.  In fact, I have never, ever trained so poorly or done so little preparation for a marathon.  I'm not even sure if I hit 40 miles/week during peak training.  I messed up the timing and did my one and only 20-miler 4 weeks out instead of 3-weeks out.  For two of my long runs (a 15 miler in July and a recent 18 miler), I ran through fever and mastitis.

On Friday night before the marathon, we stayed with the MeyPfans.  It was great to catch up with the MeyPfan clan, and William loved hanging out with Bryn, Shay, and Liam (and playing with all their toys).  Will stayed up way past his bedtime.  It was kind of difficult to get him settled down for the night, and once we finally did, he did this sleep-cry thing, wherein he fitfully tossed and turned and would utter a small wail in his sleep about every 20 minutes or so.  He tends to do this when he is either sleeping in a different place or teething (or in this case, both).  I finally brought him to bed with me, where he romped around and cried for a while, and then eventually passed out with his head on my neck (one of his favorite sleeping positions) where he snored loudly.  I do not think I slept at all the whole night long.

On Saturday, we got up at an ungodly early hour to head downtown, where I still needed to pick up my packet.  It was ridiculously cold out. I vowed I would never run a marathon in November again.

During the first mile, I forced myself to keep it in check and run very nice and easy.  I got to the Mile 1 marker in exactly 10:00, I thought, geez, maybe I have taken it too slow.  So I picked it up to about 9:00 minute pace and stayed there for a while.  Around mile 5 I caught up with the 4-hour pace group and thought I would stay with them.  I've never run with a pace group before, so I thought it might be fun.  Four hours hadn't been my goal.  I actually didn't even have a goal, other than finishing.

It turns out that I did not like running with a pace group.  There were a lot of runners in that group and I actually found it really hard to maneuver, especially at water stops.  We were all running so close together that people were clipping my heels or bumping my elbows from time to time.  I don't know, everybody else seemed to be having fun, so that's great.  I just found myself getting claustrophobic.  Plus, a lot of people in that group were all teched out-- meaning, lots of GPS units, heart rate monitors, etc., and there seemed to be a constant stream of buzzing/beeping from dozens of peoples units.  I've got nothing against units-- I've run with various units in the past (though nothing that beeped).  This time, either because I didn't care or was unprepared, I was old-schooling it with just my ancient Ironman watch (the same one I had with me for a year out in the forest in Nicaragua).

Even though I had told myself not to get cocky and pass the 4 hour pace group, I passed them within a few miles and felt a lot better to have more space.  I stayed right off the front of the pace group, running right around 9:06 pace for many miles.  My cheering squad was at Mile 11-- Rob, Will, and Rob's parents.  I veered off the course just slightly so that I could kiss Will (all bundled up in his snowsuit).  He had a little bit of snot on his face, but I didn't care.  He smiled, and that was great.

Melissa @ mile 11

My ugliest marathon to date: red shirt, orange gloves, maroon headband, pink on my shoes. And what is up with my face in this picture? It looks like I just got my wisdom teeth removed or something.

I was still feeling pretty good at this time, but my stomach was kind of weird and I couldn't really eat or drink gatorade at the water stops.  I knew that this was a bad sign.  The only thing I could sort of choke down was Sharkies, so as I ran past the family, I asked Rob if he had brought any more of those with him.  He had.  I kept running and Rob caught up with me in a little bit to hand off the Sharkies.

Mile 14 kind of looped back around where Mile 11 had been, so I got to see the family again.  William was still smiling in his snowsuit.  Rob jumped in and ran with me for maybe a quarter mile.  I gave him my gloves when he broke away this time.  My fingers were freezing and I didn't really want to run bare-handed, but gloves seemed to be making it worse.  Whenever I'd grab water from one of the aid stations, water would slosh out of the cup and get all over my gloves.  No gloves seemed better than cold, wet gloves, though neither was ideal.

The crazies started to creep in around Mile 18.  I couldn't even eat Sharkies at this point, and gatorade was out of the question.  Nothing sweet.  I ate some pretzels, but I didn't enjoy them.  I could hear the 4-hour pace group behind me and I thought, just keep them from passing you until mile 20.  I was feeling worse and worse but still managing to maintain pace.  If my fingers would not have been so frozen, I think I would have fished out my cell phone to call my mom and have her read me the paper or something, just to give me something to focus on.

I saw Rob again at mile 22.  He was on his bike, alone this time.  The family had taken William indoors.  Rob rode alongside me, saying encouraging things.  I couldn't say much back because I didn't feel good.  I kept reminding myself that this is not as hard as giving birth.  Instead of giving in to that terrifying abyss of craziness, I tried to think things like "This isn't so bad."

My pace dropped.  I ran a 9:40.  Rob was still riding alongside me.  "The 4-hour pace group is going to catch me," I said.  He kept telling me that I was doing great.  He said that just up ahead there was a woman from our running club in Urbana.  I really do not know her very well, but I have talked to her a couple of times.  She is some kind of phenomenal ultra-runner; in fact, I couldn't even believe that she was doing a road marathon and that she was doing it at roughly my pace.  Rob told me that I could catch her.  I really doubted that I could, but I figured, why not give it a try.  What's the worst that could happen?  I kept my eye on her, and my next mile was a 9:30.  I could tell I was getting closer.  My next mile was 9:06.  And the 4-hour pace group still hadn't caught me!  I was getting closer and closer.  I didn't care whether or not I finished in 4 hours, I just focused on catching up to Tracy.

It was hard, oh my god, it was hard.  I dug deeper than I thought possible.  Rob stayed nearby on his bike, saying something encouraging to me every little bit.  Finally, I think about mile 25, I caught up to Tracy.  When I got there, I realized she was running with another woman from the club too, Kelly.  I hadn't recognized her in a stocking cap.  It was great to catch up to the two of them, but I couldn't mince words.  It was taking every ounce of my being to keep going at this pace.

And there was mile 26.  I rounded the corner and gave it everything I got, into the finishing straight.  3:59:49.  Under 4 hours by a nose.  Over 20 minutes slower than the last time I ran it, but who cares.  It wasn't the fastest marathon I've ever run, but this was by far, the gutsiest.  I had no idea I had it in me, to dig that deep for really, no apparent reason.  But I really gave it my everything, left with absolutely nothing in the tank.

I shuffled through the finishing zone, completely repulsed by all the food.  Somebody handed me a water bottle, so I took that, but really, all I wanted was to get to Rob and get the heck out of there.

By the time we got back to our car, I was freezing, and I couldn't stop shaking.  My teeth were chattering so loudly that I couldn't talk.  We went back to Rob's aunt and uncle's house, and I really was not in the mood to make small talk or pleasantries; my lips were blue, and I was feeling awful.  I took a shower and tried to convince myself that it made me feel better.  I sat on the couch and watched Will romp around.  The world was spinning though, and I felt all kinds of nauseous.  Like, oh my god I'm having a flashback to hyperemesis kind of nauseous.  I realized that I hadn't even drank anything since I crossed the finish line, so I tried to take little sips of water.

I kept feeling worse and worse and was finally like, okay people, I need to go.  The strangest thing was, even though all other food seemed repugnant, the one thing I wanted was a vegan chili cheese dog-- a weird thing I had eaten at some vegan restauarant with Rob and one of his cousins in Chicago years ago.  When I told Rob that a vegan chili cheese dog was what I wanted to eat, he looked a little pale, like, how on earth am I going to find this?  We piled into the car and drove to a Whole Foods, which I swear was about a half hour away.  I couldn't even get out of the car when we got there, so I stayed with Will while Rob went in and foraged for my survival.  He came back out with a gigantic container of vegan chili.  And I thought, of course! I always eat vegetarian chili after a marathon.

By this point I felt even more terrible, and eating was the last, absolute last thing I could fathom doing.  Which is strange, you know, because I can pretty much always eat.  I gingerly took a spoonful of the chili broth and it stayed down.  Waited a couple minutes and took another spoonful.  I couldn't eat any of the beans or tomatoes or peppers.  Just the broth.  And just one spoonful at a time.  It was slow going, and a time or two I really thought it was going to come back up.  But eventually, I started to come back to life.  I could speak again.  I could eat a couple spoonfuls at a time, with some of the beans.  At last I was feeling much better.

We visited Aimee and Brett and the kids for a while, and I had perked up enough to have a good time.  The car ride back to St. Louis was long and somewhat miserable, but we made it.  My next marathon-- Marathon #11-- will probably be the St. Louis Marathon this April.  Logistically, it will be much easier (right in my own town!), and this time, I think I will not wait for 3 hours after I finish to eat or drink anything.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Show me the midwives, Missouri

First of all, no, I am not pregnant, and no I do not plan on becoming pregnant anytime before, say, they find a cure for hyperemesis gravidarum.

That being said, before I accepted this position in St. Louis, I did a quick little google search on the status of midwifery in Missouri. Again, this was not because I ever want to have another baby, but rather, because I just don't want to live in one of those states where midwifery is illegal. What I found was that until 2008, all midwives were illegal in Missouri. Even Certified Nurse Midwives. Can that really be true? Well, I read it on the internet, so who knows. But still, what the hell, Missouri.

Apparently in 2008, Missouri got its head out of its ass and Legalized It. CNMs, CPMs, the whole she-bang. Birth centers and even homebirth is now legal in Missouri. I was all, sign me up. Coming from Illinois, (where birth centers and homebirth midwives are illegal), this was quite a concept. If I ever lost my mind and decided to have another baby, it was nice to know I could do it at home.

So here I am, living in Missouri. Where midwifery, homebirth, and birth centers are legal, and my insurance even covers all these things. Great, right? Not so. Midwifery may be legal nowadays, but there are no midwives. Seriously. I've googled, I've read the phone book, I've googled some more, and I've studied the practitioners covered by my insurance plan. Although my plan specifically states that it covers all forms of midwives, birth centers, and home births, when I do a search for a midwife in my area, I get nothing. And birth centers? Ha. According to the internet, there is one birth center in all of Missouri. And it's in Kansas City, not St. Louis.

I keep thinking... I must be doing something wrong. I must not be typing the right search term into google when I am looking for Certified Nurse Midwives in St. Louis. The midwives (or at least Ob/Gyn practices that have a midwife on staff) must be listed somewhere in the 10,000 page St. Louis area phone book that I somehow missed.

The whole thing has become more urgent because I have mastitis, again. I've had at least 15 plugged ducts in the same exact area since Will was born, and I've had mastitis now 3 times. Since I don't have any kind of doctor here yet, I have no idea what to do but it seems obvious that this is not going away on its own. Of course I know that. It's mastitis. The affected area is red and as hard as concrete; yes, I know I'm supposed to keep nursing through it, but it hurts so bad each time that it brings me to tears. (On the plus side, Will is thrilled that I've offered to nurse him multiple times throughout the day; he would never dream of turning down an opportunity to nurse). No amount of Tylenol is making my fever go down. Everything hurts. My eyelashes hurt. My teeth hurt. My knees hurt. The stupid insurance company has never sent me my insurance card, and their website is "down" and not letting me print out a temporary ID. If I live through the night, I may try to go to a "Take Care" clinic a couple miles south of here, but I have no idea if they deal with mastitis or not and what they will do if I show up without an insurance card. Can they look me up? Hopefully. Oh, and get this, Will had diarrhea and projectile vomiting today, for the first time ever in his life. I am hoping it was just a fluke, but if he wakes up in the morning and seems sick, then obviously I will have to take care of him first. At least I have found a pediatrician for him, so hopefully they'll be able to work him in if he really needs to be seen. But the larger problem with all of this is that my employer has this policy wherein new employees cannot take any sick or vacation time for the first 6 months of their employment. So somehow I've got to (maybe) get both Will and me to a doctor and recover from mastitis all without taking any time off work.

I feel like that point during labor, when I asked my doula when my midwife would be arriving. My doula had the unfortunate task of telling me that my midwife was not on call that night and the OB in charge of the practice (who I had met only 1 time) would be "delivering" the baby. I became hysterical, beating my fist on the wall of the shower and crying out, "I WANT CAROL!" until I was too exhausted to continue. In retrospect, that is just the tiniest bit funny, but at the time, it certainly wasn't.

At any rate, if anyone out there finds this and has any insight into the midwife situation in Missouri/St. Louis, please do let me know. And if anyone can recommend someone to go to for non-pregnancy related female reproductive care, I am all ears. Ideally some place where I don't have to take 3 interstates to get there. Thanks.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dear William (14 months)

Dear William,

Today you are 14 months old. You have learned a lot of new things this month. For example, you can now pick your nose. You find that hilarious. But your biggest new thing is waving. For many months you have been doing a 2-handed wave, which was really more like clapping than waving per se, but this past month you have started waving for real. You wave all the time, like crazy. You wave at me first thing in the morning when you wake up. You wave as I lay you down in your bed at night. You giggle and wave at the baby in the mirror.


Your dad claims that you have begun stacking blocks, but I have yet to see it. Just tonight, we were playing blocks, and you enjoyed banging them together and taking them in and out of a box, but there was no stacking. I think maybe your dad may have "helped" a little in this picture he took:

Stacking blocks

You have become an expert hugger. You always underfoot, standing and hugging me about the knees. When I pick you up, you wrap your arms around me in a big ole hug. It is so sweet. You also make your preference known as to who you want to hold you. For example, if your dad is holding you and you decide you want me, you hurl your body in my direction, while reaching your arms out.

For most of the month, the entire family unit has been sick, and that hasn't been fun. First, you got sick (presumably from daycare), and then I got sick (presumably from you), and then your dad got sick. It just keeps lingering. You haven't been sleeping very well, probably because your nose has been stuffed up. You haven't slept through the night in a very long time. Usually you wake up at some point in the night and I cannot get you to stop crying and go back to sleep unless I bring you to bed with me. You like to stretch out in the big bed with mom and dad. I don't like being woken up in the night, but I do like curling up with you in bed. One night the only way you would sleep was with your head on my throat. It was kind of uncomfortable for me, but to tell you the truth, I didn't mind. Now that I am gone at work all day, I don't get to see you as much, and I miss you a lot. Maybe you miss me too, and that is why you are waking up in the night and insisting on sleeping with your head on my throat.

We Broke Vegan this month, William. It just got too hard to keep you vegan at daycare. So finally I just gave up and said, fine, give him Nilla Wafers (they contain milk). And then I said, alright, he can have a cheese sandwich. And yogurt, of the non-vegan variety. It has been very hard for me to deal with. I've tried to give you the best, most healthiest foods your whole life. But the past several months, it has been so hard to get you to eat anything, that I've just run out of options. The irony is, you don't really go for the non-vegan things either. Well, you'll eat Nilla Wafers or crackers that contain milk protein, but you won't touch cheese or anything blatantly non-vegan. I don't blame you. Dairy is disgusting.

Speaking of vanilla wafers, though, I found some organic vegan ones at the store and got them the other day. Last night after dinner, we were all eating some, and you got this crazy idea to "feed" some to your dad and me. It was so cute. We would open our mouths and you would giggle and feed us each a cookie. You're great.

Love always,


Cheers to Cheerios

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Is this normal?

I've been at my new job for around a month and a half now, and things are going well. Before all of this started, I had been terrified at the prospect of partially weaning Will. At 12 months old, he still nursed at least 5 times a day, and nursing was by far his favorite pastime. If I went too long without nursing him, he would begin to wail, crawl over to me, and pull down my shirt. I almost did not take this job because I didn't think Will would be able to handle going 8+ hours without the boob. He steadfastly refused to take a bottle, so it wasn't like sending him off to daycare with pumped milk would be an option. Besides, my bottle-feeding mom-friends told me that by this age, you're trying to get them off the bottle, not start them on it.

I just sort of closed my eyes, took a deep breath, trusted that it would somehow all work out, then called the department head and formally accepted the position. As soon as I hung up the phone, I wondered what the hell I was thinking.

But it has worked out. Somehow. Not perfectly. My god this has been stressful. You don't even know how stressful. I couldn't even begin to tell you the half of it. I'm pretty sure Will has developed dental enamel hypoplasias from drinking my stressed out milk and from living and breathing all the stress around him. It continues to be ridiculously stressful, but luckily, I am so busy that most of the time I do not even have the time to notice how stressed out I am. So I just keep going.

At any rate, since the beginning of August, I slowly worked at cutting down the amount of times I nursed Will each day. His nursing took a more dramatic hit when I started work on August 23rd, and an even more dramatic hit when he formally started daycare on September 7. Since then he has nursed only twice per day. I nurse him early in the morning as soon as he wakes, and then I nurse him once again in the evening before he goes to bed. On the weekends I sometimes nurse him more.

The thing is, it has been going pretty well for the most part. At least, I thought it was. He is just shy of 14 months now, and he is perfectly fine going without nursing all day long. That part is wonderful. It is a huge change from an entire year of my life, when I nursed him pretty much every 2 hours, all day long, just to keep him happy. In many ways, I feel like this is the best of the all possible worlds. I'm still nursing him, so he's getting all the health and immune benefits of breastmilk, I'm just only doing it twice a day instead of all day long like we had been doing for his entire life.

Here is the problem though. Now that we've been on this twice a day nursing schedule for a month or so, I am starting to feel like I've got no milk at all. It felt frighteningly like the first several months of his life when we were dealing with the hellishness of Low Milk Supply. I mean, I knew that I should naturally expect my milk supply to decrease as I decreased the amount of times I nursed him. But here is what I am afraid of: I am afraid that my milk will totally dry up and he'll end up weaned before either of us is ready.

Within the past week, I've really noticed how astonishingly little milk I have left. My nursing bras are gigantic on me. There are times when I'm nursing him when I don't feel a let-down and it really doesn't seem like there is any milk coming out at all. That's the thing that worries me the most. I really noticed it over the weekend when we were all sick. Will and I were both feverish and congested; he was fussy and I was too tired to do anything else to entertain him, so I just decided I'd nurse him multiple times throughout the day. And nothing came out. At least, it seemed like nothing came out. I was kind of too sick to notice or care about it a whole lot, but by now I am starting to freak out. Is my milk going to dry up completely? I am so not ready to wean him.

I realize, in the greater scheme of things, having nursed this baby for 14 months (and never given him one drop of formula, not one drop!), is nothing to sneeze at, and even the most dedicated lactivist (is that a pejorative term? I don't mean it to be so) would probably congratulate me on a job well done even if I were to stop nursing him today. Hell, I practically got a standing ovation at a La Leche League meeting when I told my story of everything we had been through to keep nursing and fend off formula when Will was just 4 months old. But I am not ready to quit nursing. I don't really have a target weaning age in mind, other than say, kindergarden. I mean, I personally see no reason not to nurse him until he is at least 3. Or at least 2. Whatever. Just something older than 14 months.

So, I just don't know... is it normal to have vanishingly little milk left at this point in the game, or have I reverted to the terror of Low Milk Supply that I somehow managed to get us through after Will was first born? Am I just extra paranoid about milk supply issues because of everything we went through? Is my milk going to completely dry up? Should I take something to prevent that from happening? Recall that I tried everything and nothing worked. Except for Domperidone, after about 8 weeks of 9 pills per day. I rifled through my stash of nursing supplies and found that I have about a week's supply of Domperidone left. Should I take it?

It's just that this is all kind of emotional for me. Realistically, I will probably never have another baby. I don't think there's anybody out there working on finding a cure for Hyperemesis Gravidarum or Babies That Cry 12 Hours Per Day, and I can't imagine ever living through either of those things again. So once we're done, we're done. Nursing has been hard, unimaginably hard, what with the low milk supply and the constant crying, and did I mention the low milk supply? But I am nowhere near ready to end it, and it makes me very sad to think that one day Will will be done nursing and that part of my life will be over forever.

At any rate, I'm in uncharted territory. I would appreciate feedback from anybody who's been there, done that. Is what's been happening a sign that my milk is on its way out? Or is it normal to have a low milk supply at this stage and maintain it for as long as you and the baby see fit?

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I retract my last entry. Today I questioned them about the Cheez-Its, and they said no, he had not eaten them. He had pretzels instead. It was a mistake that they had written Cheez-Its in his daily information sheet (I hadn't noticed that it said Cheez-Its until I was on my way home); the other children were having Cheez-Its, but William was having pretzels.

They did call me this afternoon, kind of nervous and apologetic sounding, to tell me that he had accidentally gotten ahold of some Nilla Wafers at snack time. (Nilla Wafers contain milk protein). I told them thanks for letting me know.

It's a good day care, really. It is the best we could ever hope for. Well, it ought to be. It costs an arm and a leg and at least one kidney to send him there. It is the kind of place where parents send their kids so that they can build up a "portfolio" and get into a private school and then go on to an ivy league college, where they will graduate and get some high-paying crappy job in order to pay off their student loans. I feel way out of my element. But the staff is so nice, super nice. I really like them. And there are a lot of perks. They're very flexible and understanding about dietary issues (despite my complaint yesterday); they even do cloth diapers. They call me over every little thing (in fact, I can generally expect at least one call every day, just to update me on something). And they send almost daily emails with photos of what Will is doing. It's really nice. If I have to send my kid somewhere, I'm glad it's there.

story time.jpg

Today, Will seemed to enjoy "story time," after going for a buggy ride. When I arrived to pick him up, they were listening to the Beatles, which is his favorite group.

I want him to stay pure and healthy and vegan, but also, it breaks my heart if he wants a Nilla Wafer but can't have it because it has milk protein in it.

Evaluating my priorities. Deciding which battles to fight.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What's a vegan mother to do

They gave him cheez-its at daycare today.


Saturday, September 18, 2010


You may have noticed, I do not have much time to blog lately.

I really like my new job, I just wish that I had about 6 more hours every day. I keep thinking that things will settle down once we get our boxes unpacked and find homes in our new house for all our things. I fear that the unpacking may never happen though, because every day it's all I can do to come home and cook dinner, take care of the baby, do laundry, clean up the kitchen, pack lunches, and get my sh*t together for the next day. Oh, and also I am training for my 10th marathon (which may end up being a casualty of this war). I apologize to everybody to whom I owe emails or phone calls.

I realized the other day though, that I suddenly view the passage of time differently for the first time, at least, since I started grad school. You know, I'm not stressed out by it. In grad school, the clock was always ticking. Writing grants, doing pilot studies and field research, analyzing data and writing your dissertation. All while having to do some other work on the side, like teaching or undergraduate advising. And you only have so much time to do it (not enough time in fact) before they pull your funding and you need to apply for jobs that will have something like 200 applicants a piece and that will require you to work some 60-70 hours a week for a chance at getting tenure instead of getting fired. The whole thing was kind of depressing.

After I somehow managed to finish my dissertation (while also being a full time mother to The Baby Who Cries More Than Any Other Baby In The History Of The World), I could feel the clock ticking even more. If I didn't manage to get some kind of job soon, I was so afraid that I never would. Who would hire somebody who'd been a stay at home mom for like 5 years, when there would always be an overabundance of fresh PhD's out there? No one, that's who.

So I found this job. It's a jobby job. Not tenure track. I get to do anthropology from 9-5 and then come home and do whatever I want (which, I guess, is cooking, laundry, cleaning, and taking care of the baby). And for the first time in my memory, there is no clock ticking. I'm here. I don't have to worry about getting through grad school so I can get a job so that I can get tenure, so that I can become The Next Big Name in Primatology. I was never going to be the Next Big Name anyway. I don't have to worry about publications or grants, or figuring out how to get permits to do research in some far away country. I've got my jobby job and my boys, and despite all the chaos of our unpacked boxes, I am happier than I have been in a long time.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dear William (13 months)

Dear William,

Today you are 13 months old! Lucky 13!

Your whole life changed in just about every possible way this past month. It has been rough on us all, but for the most part you are taking it in stride. Well, almost in stride. You are standing up now, but not quite walking. You do love standing though. When you wake up in the mornings, first thing you do is stand up in your crib and holler for me. You smile when I come into the room.


William, we moved to Missouri this month. That is a brand new state for you. The whole thing was a bit stressful. We lived in an extended stay hotel for 2 weeks before we could get into our new place. (The extended stay hotel was where you first started standing).

I started a new job this month. For the first 2 weeks, your dad took care of you. Then your new daycare opened and you started going there. So far you like it I guess. I had been worried about how you would ever take a nap there (for me you only nap if you are nursing or if we go for a walk in the stroller), but your "teachers" somehow got you to sleep on a cot. They even took a picture to prove it.


You got sent home from daycare on your second day. They said you were acting fussy (you, fussy? Imagine that!) and they took your temperature and it was 99.5 (which is nothing, but they had to send you home). I don't know why you had a fever. You have never before in your entire life had a fever. I think maybe you were stressed from all the major upheavals in your life during this past month, or maybe you were teething. At any rate, you seemed to feel better the next day.

Speaking of teething though, you've gotten another tooth. You're up to 8 teeth now. It's your bottom lateral incisor. It wouldn't surprise me if you're also working on some molars too. Just please, no more fevers or any other type of illness. Not only does it scare the liver out of me if you are ever sick, but also, I cannot technically take time off work to take care of you for the first 6 months of my employment :(

You're nursing less than ever. Usually just twice a day (well, except for today, when I think you've nursed 5 times so far, but it's a weekend and your 13th month birthday besides). You are eating better, at least some of the time. You eat rice and beans sometimes. And sliced grapes. And plenty of sunflower butter and wheat bread.

You love playing with your Fridge Farm, and you've had a renewed interest in Blue Seahorse (see above picture of you napping in your cot). Other favorite activities of yours include crawling over to me, pulling up on my legs, and biting my knees.

You still cry a lot. In fact, you are crying now, maybe because you want me to stop typing and hold you. Guess I'd better go.

Love you,


Lucky red hat

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

First day

Today was the first day of classes here on campus, and I have to say that I am very impressed by both the faculty and students. There is just such a different energy and excitement here compared to where I'm coming from. Maybe it's just because today was the first day, but there was no one texting, facebooking, or sleeping during lecture. Isn't it sad that I find that so amazing? After one of the classes for which I am responsible, several students actually came up to introduce themselves to me and shake my hand. Seriously. For no other purpose. Wow. I guess when you're paying close to $40,000 a year in tuition, you actually take your education seriously.

I think I'm going to like it here.

Monday, August 30, 2010


We're back in St. Louis for week 2 of this thing, after a brief hiatus to Peoria/Lacon for my grandma's funeral. My mother and aunt had asked me to read the piece I wrote about Grandma at the funeral, so I did. People said so many nice things to me about it and about my grandma, and I really appreciate it. But still. If I'd been making a list of Things I Thought I Would Never Do, giving the eulogy at my Grandma's funeral would have been right up there at the top. The good thing about reading a eulogy (especially one you've written yourself) is that because it is at a funeral, no one thinks twice about it if you pass out or burst into tears during the reading. Luckily, I managed to do only one of those things.

Last night after we got back to St. Louis, it was quite a struggle to put Will to bed. He was very tired and fussy, but he would not stop crying. Our previous method (the one that had been working for the last several days) of putting him into his pack and play with Blue Seahorse until he fell asleep on his own was just not cutting it. About the umpteenth time I set him in the pack and play, he grabbed onto the sides of it and stood up. Now, I know your kid has been standing since he/she was 7 months old, but this was the very first time Will has ever stood up on his own. Unfortunately, he wasn't very happy about it. Oh with the screaming. My frustration with his screaming/crying was momentarily overshadowed by the fact that because he was standing, there was hope that he might someday walk.

Last night Will was a wild man

He never did sleep in his pack and play last night. He slept in the big bed between Rob and me, which meant that I didn't get much sleep at all (I can never really sleep when Will is in bed with us). Tonight it went a little bit better. There was a fair amount of crying and standing as I put him down, but he eventually started to play with Seahorse, and after a while of that, he did fall asleep. Keeping my fingers crossed that he stays asleep.

He went over 12 hours without nursing today. For the first time ever. I can't believe it. He nursed this morning when he woke up and not again until tonight right before bed. We've come a long way. It was only a month ago that he was still nursing pretty much all day every day. I guess I am supposed to be happy about this weaning thing, but it makes me uneasy. Like, it won't be long before he is grown up and living on his own and married to some girl I probably won't like and doesn't call me often enough. I just want to hold him and love him forever.

He's been eating a little bit better this past week or so, for the most part. He ate rice and beans for dinner at least 2 nights last week, which thrilled me to no end. He ate some organic blueberry waffles at my mom and dad's house over the weekend. I also gave him his first ever non-vegan food: a sugar cookie. I decided to just go for it. After Grandma's funeral, the ladies of the church served cookies and lemonade, and I knew that Grandma would want Will to have a sugar cookie. So I gave it to him, and he loved it. I had a bite of it too, so I guess I'm not 100% vegan either. Once we get into our new house, I'll make vegan sugar cookies for us, and I will add lemon to them.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

First week (almost)

First of all, I want to say thank you for everybody's kind words about my Grandma Florence. It is sad to have lost her, but it is so nice to know how much she meant to people near and far. Thanks again, it means so much.

Well, by now I've got almost a week of the new job under my belt. The job itself is good, the campus is beautiful, and my co-workers are unbelievably fantastic. When I showed up on my first day, everybody hugged me and they apologized that they didn't have the "Welcome Melissa" banner hung up in time. They're great people. It's just that everything else about this whole situation is incredibly stressful. St. Louis is stressful. I have never ever in my whole life lived in a big city (don't count Paris... I never drove there), nor have I ever wanted to. There are so many cars, and so many lanes of traffic, all the time. I miss Urbana.

We can't move into our new house until Labor Day weekend, and for the time being, we're staying in an extended stay hotel that is about a 30-40 minute trip to campus. Did you know that an extended stay hotel room is pretty much the same size as any regular hotel room, they just jam a kitchenette in there? Said kitchenette was supposed to be fully stocked with kitchen items; there are a few bowls and plates, but as far as cooking items, our only assets are a skillet and colander.

Will's sleep has been difficult to say the least, but it is getting better. The first night we were here, I think he cried all night long. The second night, only part of the night. And so on. What is difficult is that we are all in the same room, and Will is a very light sleeper. So after he goes to bed by around 7:30 or 8, Rob and I just kind of sit here in total silence and darkness. The first two nights, we had a lot of trouble getting him to sleep. Rob finally abandoned the attempts to get Will to sleep and just put him in the pack and play sitting up. We gave him Blue Seahorse and his favorite monkey book and he just sat and played quietly (in the dark) for maybe a half an hour. At some point, Rob looked at him and he was still sitting up, but had his eyes closed and was completely motionless. So Rob gently laid him down on his back, and Will stayed asleep. He was clutching his monkey book in his hands though, and he brought the book up over his face. It was kind of hilarious. Eventually, I carefully removed the book from his grasp and put it over to the side. Miraculously, he stayed asleep... well, until about 1 in the morning when he woke up screaming. But that is beside the point. I still consider the falling asleep on his own thing to be a major breakthrough. The past two nights, we've done sort of the same thing. He nurses but does not fall asleep, I put him in the pack and play (sitting up) and he plays with Blue Seahorse and monkey book until he gets tired enough to lay himself down and go to sleep. It's kind of amazing. I wish he would do that for naps too, but not a chance.

Will's daycare doesn't open until the Tuesday after Labor Day, which is stressful. Rob and I are both trying to work and take care of Will, and did I mention that it was stressful? But in a way, it might actually be less stressful than if he were in daycare. It sort of lets me ease into this not-being-with-Will all day long thing. I am terrified to take him to daycare. What if they forget and feed him something not vegan?! And how on earth will he take a nap there? In the "toddler" room, they have the kids sleep on cots. Cots?! Are you kidding me? When we visited the place, we put Will down on one of the cots to show him what it was like, and he promptly heisted himself off of it and crawled away to go find a toy. I know these people are professionals (it is one of these fancy day cares that costs a million dollars per month), but still, I don't think they have any idea what they are going to be dealing with. I asked them if they ever expel a child for crying too much, and they laughed and told me no. But seriously, they are in for a wake up call. I am terrified to send him to daycare, but in the same sense, I feel that we are all just hanging on by a thread, trying to work while juggling child care.

Little man on campus
Will outside my office

Floor time
Playing on the floor of the hotel room. Gross.

Well, his highness is fussing, so I guess I better turn off the computer and try to breathe very quietly for a while so that he doesn't wake up. We could be in for a long night.

Thanks for reading

Friday, August 20, 2010

Has the mail gone?

My Grandma Florence passed away early this morning after 94 years on this earth.

When I was little, I loved going to Grandma and Grandpa's farm in the summertime to spend the night. I remember how Grandpa would have cornflakes for breakfast, and when he finished the cereal, he would swish together the last bit of milk with his coffee and drink it down. Even in the heat of summer, Grandpa wore long pants, long sleeves, and a seed company cap when he went out to farm. I remember running around in the pasture, I remember the musty, earthy smell of the barn and the sound the cows made as they breathed, I remember the sleek German shepherd Tasha who would run full speed straight at me until the very last instant when she would veer off to the side and circle round me. At night time, Tasha would come in to sleep in the "cellar," and Grandpa gave her a cookie before she went to bed. I remember how Grandpa knew the names of all the birds ("Jenny wrens" were what he called a lot of them). I remember going fishing in the creek (pronounced "crick"), and how we'd always throw back what we caught. When I was visiting Grandma and Grandpa at the farm, it was hard to decide whether I wanted to play outside or inside. The bedrooms upstairs, which had belonged to my aunt and mother, were full of interesting things and toys. One of the rooms was where Grandma stored all of Auntie's and Mom's old prom dresses and formals. There was so much chiffon and lovely high-heeled shoes with impossibly pointy toes.

We would always go to the farm on Christmas morning, and there was always snow. There was every kind of food you could imagine, and an old fashioned Christmas tree with multi-colored lights and tinsel and ornaments from when my mom and aunt were little. In the wintertime, the pasture turned into a sledding hill, and Grandpa would push us on the sleds until somebody made us come inside.

Grandma was the root of us all. Pretty much every trait that my mother, sister, aunt, or I possess comes from Grandma. From her, stems our inability to be idle and the feeling that we must always be actively doing something. Grandma was always working, scrubbing, or cooking. There were strawberries and new potatoes to be sliced, sugar cookies to be baked, beans to be snapped, and corn to be husked. There was bread and butter and pie at every meal.

Grandma knew everybody in the county and was probably somehow related to at least half of them. She knew everybody's name and age, who they had married, and all the names and ages of their children. She remembered all of these things well into her 90's. She read the farmer's almanac cover to cover and knew when to plant everything. She always brought gladiolas when she came over to our house in the summer. She never complained about anything. She just rolled up her sleeves and got to work. Grandpa was nearly deaf from before the time I was born, and Grandma became his ears. When Parkinson's began to take hold of Grandpa, Grandma took care of him so well that for a long time we didn't realize how bad it was. When it got too bad and Grandpa could no longer walk or talk, and he didn't seem to recognize any of us anymore, he went to go live at St. Joseph's Nursing Home in Lacon. It was right after Christmas. We all tried to be strong and cheerful and to not cry as we moved him in. Grandma was the strongest one of all. Only once Grandma's voice faltered. As we were getting ready to leave, Grandma told the sweet nurse who was caring for Grandpa, "This is the first night we've ever been apart; the first night in 60 years." Then she kissed him on the forehead, patted his arm, and said, "All right, George, I'll be back in the morning."

And she was. Grandma went to St. Joe's every morning and stayed there by Grandpa's side all day long. She called it her "job." She sold the farm and farmhouse to pay for Grandpa's ever increasing medical bills and his ever decreasing health. She moved into a little apartment in Lacon, just a few blocks away from the home. She never complained. She just did what needed to be done.

She had a certain way of doing things, a way that has trickled down through the generations. When I was little, I remember being frustrated with the way my mother folded the towels because it seemed unnecessarily complicated. Once as I was trying to help with the laundry and just couldn't get the towels folded right, I grumbled to my mother, "Why do you fold the towels this way?" She thought for a second and then said, "Well, that's the way Grammy Florence folded them, I guess." I vowed that I would never fold the towels that way when I grew up. But you know what? I do. I fold them the exact same way.

Grandma had a certain way of saying things too. I didn't quite realize how Grandma's manner of speaking had rubbed off on me until I was 19 and studying abroad in Paris. I was living in international dormitory with many of the other students from my program, and whenever someone had been past the front desk, the rest of us would ask, "Has the mail come?" Except for me. Instead, what I'd ask was, "Has the mail gone?" I didn't realize that was a peculiar way of saying it until some of my friends looked at me like I was crazy and said, "Melissa, mail comes, it doesn't go!" But still, has the mail gone just seemed like the right way to say it, and I kept trying to figure out where I'd gotten it from. Finally, I realized that's what Grandma said. Has the mail gone. The mail goes if you are mailing a letter, and Grandma often was. She wrote to her many friends and relations all throughout the country. She wrote to me too, and at least a couple of times she sent me a care package of my favorite homemade lemon sugar cookies. She always claimed that she didn't add any lemon to them, but they tasted like lemon, so you know she did.

Grandma's health failed little by little, and in fact, we didn't even realize it at first because Grandma had always been so strong that it seemed inconceivable that she would ever falter. But she had a lot of little strokes, each one taking its toll. She also some big strokes and some grand mal seizures. Eventually she went to go live at St. Joe's, where Grandpa had lived some 10 years ago before his passing. Her once sharp mind faded. She couldn't really talk anymore, and when she did, the words were garbled strings of syllables that didn't make much sense.

Grandma may have just left us, but really, she's been gone for a long time now. Because of the way her health deteriorated, it doesn't seem like she was really Grandma in the later years. Instead of how things were at the end, I'll remember her when she and Grandpa still lived at the farm. She would be working in the kitchen, surreptitiously adding lemon to a batch of sugar cookies. Or showing up at our house on an early Saturday morning in the summer with some fresh cut gladiolas.

I'll miss you, Grandma.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dear William (12 months)

Dear William,

Today you are 12 months old. That is a whole year! Happy birthday!

The past month has seen a lot of changes in all our lives. It all started out when I had a job interview at Washington University, was offered the position, and accepted it. William, we are moving to St. Louis!

Ragfields in St. Louis

Melissa fills out paperwork outside of her new office

We have all been under a lot of stress the last month as we are preparing for the big move. You have been hanging in there and putting up with us as best you can, but at times it does get difficult.

Sign of the times

You got another new tooth this month! You're up to 7 teeth now!

The biggest news is that you started crawling this month. You've been quite mobile for a while--scooting around every which way but forward. And then one day (July 31 to be exact), you just got up on your hands and knees and crawled. You were going after your dad's Nalgene bottle. I was upstairs packing some boxes, and I missed the whole thing. But luckily, you were thrilled with your new skill and kept crawling more and more throughout the coming days. You were a bit clumsy at first, but you kept getting better and better.

This month, you've also started pulling up on your knees, or on one knee and one foot.

You've still been a very fussy eater. You pretty much only eat bread and fruit. William, that is all well and good, but you need to start eating your vegetables again. You just won't eat much of anything off of a spoon. You push my hand away from your face and vocalize quite forcefully if I come at you with food on a spoon. About the only thing I can sometimes spoon feed you is vegan yogurt. I mix your vegan yogurt with sunflower seed butter so that it's more substantial. For lunch most of the time, you have your very own "sandwich"-- I spread hummus on a slice of bread and cut it into small pieces for you. Sometimes you love kiwi or peaches or mango or banana, but other times you refuse any of those things. You have developed this horrible habit of throwing your food on the floor if it displeases you (and it just about always displeases you). I've tried to give you soymilk or apple juice in numerous types of sippy cups, but most of the time you just hurl them across the room. Sometimes you won't eat a single bit of anything at a meal. It is very, very frustrating.

Food goes on the forehead

You have plenty of words, but you do not talk yet. For many months, you have said, "Ba ba ba ba," "Da da da da" and "Ma ma ma ma." But they are really just sounds; I don't think you attach any meaning to them. The other day though, you were in your high chair (refusing to eat), and I went in to the kitchen to try to come up with some other food that you might want, and when I went out of your line of sight, you craned your neck and said, "Ma ma ma ma." I sort of almost wondered you knew what you were saying.

We had a party for you the weekend before your birthday. You had a blast. You didn't like your cake though. It was a chocolate cake. The same kind of cake I baked when I was in labor with you. I couldn't believe that you didn't like it. Your dad got you to eat some the next day for lunch, but you haven't had any more since.

Eating the cake

William, we have been through so much together this past year. I will never, ever forget the moment you were born, the moment I first laid eyes on you. I will never forget that feeling of absolute familiarity, like I had known you forever even though we had just met. I remember how I couldn't go to sleep, couldn't even close my eyes, because I couldn't stop looking at you. William, I love you so much that sometimes it seems like I can't contain all that love inside me. How could I? There's not enough room in the whole universe to contain how much I love you.

Happy birthday, William.


Waterlogged and tender

Sleepy Will


Yeah, I need a nap too

Today was a good day

Poor baby

Splish splash

12 weeks

Kiss from Mommy

Sock monkey

Look me in the eyes


Will says

Show me pouty

Momma's new do


Dr. Mom

Will gets into the pool with Dad

Will in the big city

Book worm

Hi. My name is William.

And the photo shoot is over

Ha ha!

Drop and give me 20