Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Morning breath

When Will was first born, the thing that I most remember was how familiar he seemed to me. It really felt like I had known him forever. I couldn't stop looking at him because he was so beautiful. Every little thing about him was absolutely beautiful and perfect.

In all my staring at him, there were many things I noticed about him, of course. For instance, he had pointy toenails. I thought they were lovely. I thought maybe pointy toenails were a general newborn baby thing. Six weeks later when Cara and John had their baby, I went to visit them and snuck a peak at Baby G's toenails. Not pointy. Hmm.

Will also was constantly sticking his fingers in his eyes. Seriously, unless we had him tightly swaddled, he would shoot his little hands up to his face and stick his fingers right into his eyeballs. I was so afraid he would poke his eyes out.

During one of those early days, when everything was new and hazy and kind of terrible but also kind of wonderful, I remember that Rob and I stood looking at Will after he had fallen asleep one evening. We had no idea how much time we had before he would wake and the screaming would begin again. We whispered to each other about the things we loved about Will. His knees, his nose, his mouth, and yes, his pointy toenails. "I like his breath," Rob added to the list. He probably doesn't remember saying that, but he did. And Will did have really great breath. So sweet.

About a month ago, we'd been at the Gutzvilles for John's birthday. Will ate his avocado and fruit and Cheerios for dinner, and then he fell asleep on our way home from the party. He actually stayed asleep as Rob unhooked him from the carseat and carried him upstairs to his crib. That had never happened before. I thought he'd wake up pretty soon-- he hadn't nursed before falling asleep. But he slept and slept. Finally he woke up around 3 in the morning, suddenly furious that he had been put to bed in his clothes and without a final drink of milk. I hurried across the hall to his room and lifted him out of his crib. As I held him close and he breathed on me, I noticed for the first time ever, he had morning breath!

Sweet breath or not, Will is great. Today he even took a nap in his crib-- something I haven't been able to get him to do for more than 2 months. It was nice that I could get some things done, but there was a part of me that missed just holding him in my arms while he slept.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Pomp and Circumstance

Today was graduation. Since I skipped my college graduation some umpty-dozen years ago to run a 5K and then get my wedding gown altered, I had decided I'd actually go to the one for my PhD. The whole thing almost fell apart though. Remember how I mentioned in my last post that I had a plugged duct ? ("It feels like I'm getting a plugged duct again, so hopefully that will work itself out without getting too painful.") Unfortunately, as soon as I wrote that, it ended up getting worse. I felt awful and achy and started running a fever. You guessed it: mastitis. Luckily, I got in to see my midwife, and she prescribed me some antibiotics. I started feeling better right away.

I was still kind of run down, but not bad enough to miss graduation. I walked over to the line up this morning, because I'm Melissa and I have this thing against driving places less than 2 miles away. It was a little bit weird to step out of my front door and walk through the neighborhood wearing full academic regalia. Plus, I had decided to enliven the whole garish orange and blue ensemble by wearing these shoes. But whatever. This is Urbana. I'm sure they've seen it before.

Since graduates had to be there before guests, Rob and Will left home a bit later. The ceremony was so crowded that as I filed in, I couldn't see them anywhere. PhD candidates sat in the very front row, so I couldn't see the audience at all. A few times during the ceremony I heard a baby cry, but it was never Will. Then shortly before the end (when PhD candidates were actually announced), I heard a very loud BA-BA-BA-BA-BAAAAAAA," and I thought that's my boy!. Sure enough, it was.

Social sciences graduation

I saw Rob and Will step forward to take picture as I went up to the stage. The announcer called my name, putting a "Dr." in front of it. Then SL "hooded" me, which I guess means I now officially have my PhD.



I am kind of paranoid that SL will read this or that it will somehow get back to him, but I do just have to say that he has been a really great thesis advisor these past umpteen years. I remember being so scared to tell him that I was pregnant, for fear that he would think that I had flaked out and would bail on the program so close to finishing. But not at all. He was amazingly supportive and encouraging throughout the whole thing. In fact, getting an email from him telling me that my thesis was defensible is probably what sent me into labor. And just moments after Will was born, I told Rob, "Text SL" (although I think Rob passed out from exhaustion before he could do so). I think it is great that SL rode his bike to graduation today and that he attended the ceremony wearing Asics running shoes. In a strange way, it made me feel like everything was right with the world when the festivities ended and I saw SL sling his cap and gown over one arm, hop on his bike, and ride away one-handed.

Rob, Will, and I walked home together. Will, of course, had refused to eat his cereal or take a bottle of milk after I'd had to leave in the morning, so he was very hungry. I stopped to nurse him on the way home.

Dr. Mom

I know that getting my PhD is supposed to be a huge accomplishment and whatnot, but really, the biggest accomplishment of all is being Will's mother.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, May 14, 2010

9 month growth spurt?

Everyone always talks about growth spurts, but I've never noticed Will going through any. Or rather, I guess I've never noticed him not going through a growth spurt, what with his constantly wanting to nurse. Ever since the moment he was born, it seems like he has been on one perpetual growth spurt.

This past week though, I did actually notice something. He'd been sleepy all day and at dinner time, he practically inhaled all of his food. Since I make his food, I just sort of guess about how much to give him, and I don't have a good idea of how that compares to store-bought portions. What he ate that night (for starters) were 2 avocado cubes (about 1/2 an avocado), a rice cube, and 2 pear cubes. Oh, and a ton of Cheerios. I mean, a lot of Cheerios. So many, in fact, that I almost googled "how many Cheerios is too many Cheerios to feed your 9-month old" but I was afraid of the answer. I would put several Cheerios on his tray and he would pounce at them--shoving them in his mouth, chewing them up, and reaching for more. And while I had fed him his avocado and such, he was all business. Tracking the spoon with his whole head and opening his mouth wide.

As soon as he was done with all that, he looked at me very fiercely, grabbed the spoon out of my hand, and banged it on the high chair tray while saying, "MMMmmmmm" through pursed lips. It was actually really cute. But it was clear to me that he was still hungry. So I mashed up some more avocado and rice, and he ate that all too-- smacking his lips when he was done. I wondered if I should give him yet more food, but was kind of worried that his little tum tum would burst. So I gave him a bath and took him up to his room, where he nursed ravenously and then slept for 12 hours straight.

In addition to eating more food than he typically does, I think he was probably nursing more for a few days as well. I didn't think it would impact my appetite or calorie expenditure, but there were about 2 days when I was seriously, freakishly, out of control, crazy-hungry. I am generally always hungry and often wake up in the night hungry even after having eaten a ridiculous amount of food throughout the day, but this was over the top even for me. At one point I tried to estimate how many calories I'd consumed during the day and stopped counting at 3,000 because I was kind of ashamed of myself (though also still hungry). I'd probably walked 3 miles that day, plus it was shortly after the marathon, so I thought the hunger might be because partially because of that as well.

As it was happening, I didn't know if this was a growth spurt or just the new normal. I googled "is there a 9-month growth spurt" and didn't come up with much... one of the top hits was some BabyCenter discussion that just made me feel bad because I don't have my kid on a "schedule" of bottles and napping, etc. Things have kind of settled down by now though. Will is still eating and nursing heartily, but he doesn't seem ravenous as he did those few days.

It feels like my milk supply definitely went up to accommodate those days of rapid growth. The result is that I'm producing tons of milk right now, and he isn't nursing as much as he did during the spurt. It feels like I'm getting a plugged duct again, so hopefully that will work itself out without getting too painful.

We celebrated the growth spurt by walking over to the consignment store at Lincoln Square Mall and getting a bunch of new (well, new to Will) duds for the summer. I assume I will cry (as per usual) when I go through his drawers and pack up the things that no longer fit him.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


A while back, I entered a writing contest being hosted by Rixa of Stand and Deliver, one of my favorite blogs. The topic was, "Becoming a parent, becoming transformed." When I first saw the contest announcement, I thought, "Hm, writing. That's something I like to do," but I had no intention of entering. What in the world would I say?

I couldn't get the contest out of my mind though. Not because I intended to enter, but instead because it made me think about think about how becoming a mother had changed me. I hadn't had that transformative experience the natural childbirth books seemed to promise. It wasn't like in the movies or on TV shows when the moment of birth is marked with shouts of joy. By the time Will entered this world, I was just so, so exhausted. And I was emotionally and physically drained from 9 months of constant nausea. The days immediately following Will's birth only got worse. The nausea did not go away, and we didn't have that perfect breastfeeding relationship the natural birth books had led me to believe would be the end result of a drug-free birth. It didn't get better for a long, long time.

I suppose these experiences have transformed me, but somehow the whole thing just seemed larger than that and much more deeply rooted. I began to wonder how I had gotten here, from someone who never planned on having children, to someone who practically felt like Mother Earth herself. I distinctly remembered having a conversation with a female colleague the first time I was in Nicaragua doing research. "That whole biological clock thing," she had said, "never happened to me." "Yeah," I agreed, "Me neither."

So what had happened?!

And the answer, of course, was Eduardo.

My transformation had occurred before getting pregnant, before hyperemesis, before labor, before birth. I felt like I finally had something to write about.

So I sat down at the computer while nursing Will and typed out the story one-handed. I kept it for many days, in fact, until the day before the contest deadline. Until the moment I entered, I wasn't sure that I was actually going to do it. I didn't think what I'd written was all that good. I didn't think it was going to win any prizes. I think I just wanted somebody else to read the story of Eduardo and what he had meant to me.

I sort of forgot about the whole thing. Then, this week, I received a message from Rixa herself, notifying me that I was a finalist. I was completely floored. And then, come to find out, I won. I still can't believe it.

All 5 of you who normally read my blog already know the story of Eduardo. But if you want to read it again, you can find it on Stand and Deliver.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dear William (9 months)

Dear William,

Today you are 9 months old. In many ways, I feel like this is the "golden age of William." Things are definitely a lot easier than when you were first born and you cried and cried all the time, you poor dear. You're a lot happier these days. You crack yourself up. You crack me up. You're a riot.

Just after you turned 8 months old, we took our first family trip. Rio GrandeWe all flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico, so that I could attend a conference. You loved it. You had a blast. You looked around at all the new and exciting things out there, and I could tell you were a born traveller. You went to parks and museums and restaurants and even the Rio Grande. You didn't eat too well while we were there, though. You had to have store-bought baby food, and you just didn't care for it. You didn't sleep that great while we were there either, but I think it was because you were hungry from declining to eat your store-bought baby food. It took us a little while to get back on track, but I think we're doing alright now.

Speaking of eating, you've continued to sample a lot of good, healthy foods. Here's a list of the things you've eaten since we started this whole thing:

rice cereal (store bought and homemade)
sweet potato
sweet peas (store bought)
green beans
prunes (you love them!)

Oh my goodness, with the Cheerios. At first I was so scared to give them to you because I was afraid you would choke on them. I've always pureed all your food so that there were no chunks at all in it. But the other mothers were telling me that they gave their babies Cheerios whey they were younger than you even. So I decided to give it a try. I put a few Cheerios out on the tray of your high chair and you reached out, picked one up, and ate it. Just like you'd always known how to do it! Okay, well I guess it wasn't always quite as smooth as that. You knew what to do with the Cheerios, but making your little fingers cooperate was quite another matter. You don't yet have the precision grip necessary to grasp the little Cheerio between your thumb and forefinger and neatly put it in your mouth. But the opposable digits will come later.

It has been exciting to see how every day you get better and better about picking up your Cheerios and putting them in your mouth. Often as you are eating them you say "MMMMmmmm!!" either because they are so good or because you are so excited. A lot of times I will give you Cheerios as hors d'oeuvres while I am warming your real food. It keeps you occupied and entertained, your dad and I can go ahead and eat our dinner while you are snacking on your Cheerios. I've tried giving you other finger foods, such as bits of banana or kiwi, but if the item is squishy you have trouble picking it up and getting it to your mouth. You'll get better at it, I know, but for now, Cheerios are a must.


Marathon #9Your dad and I both ran the Illinois Marathon this month. It was your dad's 7th marathon and my 9th. It was my first one back since having you though. You had a good time playing with your grandma and grandpa while your dad and I were running, but you didn't eat while we were away. You little stinker!! I don't know why you won't take a bottle or eat your food if mama isn't there! I got to see you at Mile 11, which was the best part of the marathon for me. I tried to run as fast as I could so that I could get back to you sooner. I realized that doing this marathon was the longest I'd ever been away from you. I didn't like that one bit. I was so happy when I finished and came home and got to hold you again.

You don't cry nearly as much as you used to when you were little and newly born. You laugh a lot these days. Just last weekend we were in the grocery store together and you looked up at me and smiled. I smiled back at you, and then you smiled even bigger. Then you started to giggle, which made me giggle, and then the two of us were giggling to our hearts content as we walked up and down the aisles of the store. Neither of us knew why we were giggling, but that didn't matter. It was so much fun.

William, I am so thankful that I have you.



Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Illinois Marathon report (finally)

May 1st was the 2nd Annual Illinois Marathon. Being that I was pregnant and puking last year, I only managed the 5K. This year, when Boston filled up before I had registered, I immediately set my sites on the Illinois Marathon, right here in Champaign-Urbana. In many ways, I was more excited for Illinois than I had been for Boston. After all, it would be the first time I would be able to sleep in my own bed at my own house the night before a marathon.

Although I started running again 8 days after Will was born, training did not go smoothly. I had a newborn baby, for crying out loud. I defended, revised, and deposited my dissertation in the middle of all of this. There was snow and ice everywhere for the first couple months of training. And it was cold. I had injury after injury. Will started refusing to take a bottle, which made my long runs stressful.

A fast time was never my goal for the marathon. I just wanted to cross the finish line in one piece. Based on the pace I was able to maintain during training runs, I thought maybe I could do it in about 5 hours. And I sincerely hoped Will would take a bottle that day.

By the time the marathon rolled around, I was seriously burned out, and not just from taper madness. We have had a recent death in the family, and everything following that was (and continues to be) so, so awful. I wasn't sure if I would or even could still run the marathon after all of that. I finally decided to go ahead and do it because there was no real reason for me not to, but I just could have cared less about the marathon by this point.

The night before the race, I was only able to sleep about 4 hours, and it wasn't because of Will. He sleeps pretty well for the most part now. I was just too worked up in grief and sadness (I'm in the anger stage now, which is actually better in many ways than just being sad about it) and couldn't get my mind to shut down.

I felt like absolute and complete hell as Rob and I got ourselves up and around in the balmy pre-dawn of marathon day. In spite of the awful sadness in the week leading up to the marathon, I'd still been hungry and able to eat pretty well (I guess lactating and long-distance running will do that to you), but on the morning of the race, my stomach was completely uncooperative.

Rob's parents arrived to babysit while I was in the middle of a crying jag in the bathroom. We had about a half an hour before we had to leave the house, and Will was still sleeping. I finally woke him up to nurse him before we left, and he was most unhappy with me. He was groggy and kept falling back asleep while I was trying to nurse him.

Rob and I left the house and I felt completely unprepared to be running a marathon. I finally forced down a Clif Bar but felt for all the world like it would come back up again. I had grabbed a banana before we left the house, but I couldn't make myself eat it. I carried it around for a long time, thinking my stomach would feel better, but it didn't. I ended up running with the banana for the first 3 miles of the race and then ditching it along the side of the road. What I wished I'd brought with me was some water. I was really thirsty before the race began, which even in my hellish state I knew was a bad sign. By 7am, it was hot (how hot I don't know.... I was warm standing outside in just shorts and tank top) and ridiculously humid.

I wished Rob good luck and went to the start line, positioning myself around the 4:30 pace group and wondering if that was a huge mistake (i.e., was it too fast for me?). I stood there and waited forever. I wished that I wasn't so boxed in and could have found my friend Aimee who was running the half. I had lined up near where I thought she would be, hoping we could run together before the half marathon and full split off. But with 13,000 other runners out there, I never did find her.

The 5K runners were supposed to start at 7am, but they were delayed by around 10 minutes for some reason. Their delay translated into an even further delay for the marathon and half runners. By 20 minutes past start time, I was growing ridiculously impatient and frustrated. Every minute they delayed the start was another minute I had to spend away from my baby! Didn't these morons realize that? (I don't really think that the people in charge of the race are morons, but at the time I sure did.)

Finally without any warning, we were off. Rob (who was at the front of the pack) said they actually said "go" or something like that, but way back in 4:30-land I heard nothing other than the conversation of the two girls next to me who were doing the half and both had worn make up and were wondering if their mascara would run (to their credit, I'm sure they were really nice, I was just in no mood). Anyway, at first I wasn't sure if the race had actually started, because we were just sort of meandering forward in a slow walk, then stopping for several seconds, then meandering forward again, but eventually we reached the start line and could pick it up to a slow jog.

It was really crowded at first, and I had a lot of trouble getting into my own pace. In addition, I was very thirsty. I thought, surely there will be a water stop soon. I was running near the right side of the road and saw a hash mark with a number 1 in a circle, and I thought... was that really the Mile 1 marker? No other marking? I wouldn't have even seen it if I'd been in the center of the street. Surely there would be water soon. My mouth felt like there was cotton in it. Along Green Street, there was an area littered with used, empty paper cups-- remnants of some water station. Had there been a water station there for the 5K, and did they remove it for the marathon? Why on earth would they have done that?

Still running, still thirsty and still no water. Out of campus town now. A family had set up a small card table with a pitcher of water and some paper cups outside their house. I momentarily paused, thinking it was an official water stop, but then realized it was too small. Dozens of other runners had stopped there though. I went on past, thinking there was too little water for all those people and sure that there must be an actual water stop up ahead. I was momentarily distracted by a little boy who had come outside of his house and was playing the clarinet. Cute.

Finally I could see a water stop approaching. We had to be almost to the 3 mile mark now. And volunteers were handing out... empty paper cups. "Sorry, we're out of water," they were saying. "You've got to be kidding," I mumbled through parched lips. Just up ahead there were more volunteers, pouring water into our paper cups from a pitcher. I wondered how a single pitcher of water was going to fill the paper cups of hundreds of runners around me and how I would ever manage to get any. I had to wait in a jumbled line of thirsty runners, but eventually got a half a cup full of luke-warm water.

The next couple of water stops were the same... out of water, waiting in line to get a small amount. I was actually getting really panicky. The temperature was supposed to be in the high 70's by the end of the race, and I had been thirsty before it had even begun. I realized, this must be what it's like in the back of the pack. I sincerely hoped that Rob had avoided these problems, way out in front. He has a lot of trouble in the heat, and I knew he really, really needed to stay hydrated.

After the first 3 water stops, I never had another problem throughout the rest of the race. And the miles were marked really well after that too. By about Mile 7, they had gatorade as well, and at each station I took a full cup of water and a full cup of gatorade. I ended up staying really well hydrated, probably better than any other marathon I've done.

At Mile 8 we entered Meadowbrook Park, a location where I have run hundreds upon hundreds of miles in my life. It got really congested again. We'd gone from having the width of the street to run on to the width of a sidewalk. It was a little ridiculous. I'd been running 9:45 to 10-minute miles, but my first mile in the park was 10:30. After that I ran on the grass bordering the sidewalk, so as to not be way-layed by runners even slower than myself. Seriously, if they include Meadowbrook again next year, I think it would be better to do it after the half and full marathon runners split off from each other. Way out front where Rob was, he said he didn't have a problem, so I guess it was more of an issue for us in the back of the pack.

Near Mile 11, I got to see Will, which was by far the highlight of the marathon. He was out in his stroller with Rob's parents to watch the race. I stopped long enough to kiss him and make sure he was okay, and then was on my way. Seeing him bolstered me enough to run faster for the next several miles and ignore the fact that we had left the tree-lined shady streets of Urbana and were running in the direct sun.

Despite the heat and sun, I felt great (actually a lot better than I had at the beginning of the race). At some point in there I caught up with and then passed the 4:20 pace group, and I wondered if I could hang on. By Mile 18, I was starting to feel a little tired. Around Mile 19, we entered the one part of the course I had not run on before. I was still okay, but feeling just the slightest indication that I was beginning to enter the crazy zone. I had my cell phone with me and thought, hmmm, maybe I'll call my mom just to say hi. So I did. My mom thought it was a riot that I had called her while I was running the marathon. Pretty soon I was passing Mile 20 and then 21 and still had not gone over the edge into the crazies. My mom went to her computer and pulled up a map of the course so she could follow along.

I'd only meant to say hi, but by the time I was at Mile 23, my mom said we might as well keep talking until I crossed the finish line. She thought that would be cool to hear all the cheering as I ran through the stadium where the race ended. The course was fairly sparse by that time, but the other runners around me must have thought I was talking to myself and was crazy. I didn't really care though. I knew it was probably using up energy to talk (even though my mom was mainly talking/cheering for me and I was just listening), but for some reason I felt like that was what I needed to get to the end.

In retrospect, I feel really bad for keeping my mom on the phone with me for the last 7 miles of the marathon because I'm sure she had other things to do. It really helped get me to the end though. I never felt bad; I never had any of those ugly terrifying miles when you just want to lay down on the side of the road and cry. Somewhere towards the end, my friend Cara called me too. It was awesome, like having my very own cheering section. Miles 22 through 24 dragged on a bit, but I managed to keep it around 10:00 pace. I knew I would make it. It wasn't pretty, but the faster I ran, the faster I would be able to get back to Will. Once we finally turned onto Armory Street, I knew I was home-free. I have run this part of the course hundreds of times and felt like I was on my own turf.

We turned onto Hessel Blvd and I cruised to the end. Before I knew it, I was entering Memorial Stadium and running across the astroturf to the finish line. I had made it! My finish time was 4:16:10, which was almost an hour faster than I had thought I might be able to run. I guess the key to being happy with your marathon time is to set your expectations low.

Marathon #9

I found Rob and his dad in the stadium and we regrouped to head home. I really just wanted to get out of there and get back to Will. We'd left around 6:30 in the morning to head over to the start line, and it was now after noon. That was the longest I'd ever been away from him. And considering that he hadn't nursed very well before we left, I was in a lot of pain and practically shooting out milk. I had to get home and feed that baby!

When we got back home, I found that my worst fear regarding Will and this marathon had come true. He had pretty much refused to eat anything, either baby food or milk, while I was gone. He nursed most of the afternoon and evening, which was fine by me because I needed to get rid of all that milk, and also I just got to sit there and hold him, which was what I wanted to do more than anything in the world.

I'm glad I ran the Illinois Marathon this year. It was my 9th marathon, and my first one back since having Will 8-1/2 months ago. I figured this would be my slowest marathon yet, but my finishing time was actually about 2 minutes faster than my first marathon, some 7 years ago. It was one of the smoothest marathons I've ever run--the volunteers were great, and I had my mom and Cara talking to me on the phone during the final miles. Plus, after having given birth, everything else feels kind of pale in comparison.

Anyway, everything is just kind of rough because of the awful sadness that is going on in my family right now. Running a marathon just seemed inconsequential. There are bigger things to focus on. Please continue to keep my sister and her husband (and my mom, who is the glue who holds us all together) in your thoughts right now.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


It has taken me a while to figure out whether or not I should write anything about this and if so, what to say. I'll keep this brief, but if reading about loss will trigger painful memories or upset you, please skip this for now.


My sister and her husband were expecting their second child this summer, but the baby died just 10 weeks before he was due to be born. They named him Jackson Reynolds.

We are all devastated. Please keep my sister and her husband in your prayers and send them all your love and support right now.