Friday, June 18, 2010

Working Mom


I started this blog about my precious baby when he was six months old. Since I had lots of pregnancy and newborn stories to share, I’ve been “catching up” by sharing a current story followed by one from a year ago. Since both the current and prior year stories center around working outside the home, I’m going to start with last year’s this time, when it all began.

Just about the time I started enjoying staying home, it was time to go back to work. It was mid-June last year and is hardest thing I’ve ever done. It set woman’s lib back years in my brain, renewing the concept of a woman’s place being in the home. The problem, as I see it, is that our society has painted that image negatively. My greatest desire now is to stay home with my child, a place I envision as challenging and rewarding. I’m still all for a woman’s right to work, but wish we had not somehow lost our right not to. Had society not painted a negative picture, I might not have dismissed the idea of staying home until it was too late to do so.

He was nearly 3 months old – beginning to smile and develop a personality. He was still a bit colicky, but for the most part he had settled into mild grumpiness. I got into a daily routine of going to bed getting up around the same time, going for walks and the occasional outing, and spending time away at the gym a couple of days. The baby love bug bit, and suddenly I couldn’t look at him without brimming with pride and adoration. I got about two weeks of this before I was run over by a giant freight train called employment.

My husband quite his part-time job to take over childcare.
I was set to return on a Thursday, which I recommend to avoid talking the first whole week all at once. However, my sister had the audacity to graduate out-of-town that weekend, so I pushed my return date until Monday. I decided not to take my pump with me on the trip, thinking this would get my production in line with what he ate.

It was during this trip I realized the impact of all the extra pumping I’d been doing to freeze for later – I became extremely engorged and uncomfortable all weekend. We returned late Sunday night, and when I tried to pump Monday morning, I was dismayed at the reduced supply. I called the Lactation Consultant who gave me all sorts of tips to build my supply back – take the herb Fenugreek, pump more often, keep pumping 5 minutes after the milk stops. It worked. However, I soon learned it was unnecessary because my baby was not drinking half the bottles I was pumping. I freaked. Not only did I think my production was down, but I thought he wasn’t eating normally. Turns out he just didn’t drink that much. All that wasted pumping! Supply was not going to be a problem.

Time was a problem though. Once back at work, it became painfully clear how short evenings are. My second day back I put my gym membership on hold. After using all my breaks and then some pumping 4 times at work (which I later weaned down to twice once I realized I’d been pumping too much), I’d rush home and try to fit in a few toning exercises before it was time to nurse the baby. The first week I tried cooking dinner - my husband was a little more overwhelmed being home than anticipated and wasn’t doing the cooking and cleaning yet. That weekend I cooked for the whole week on Sunday.

Adding to my exhaustion, I still got up at night to feed him too, not wanting to relinquish this feeding to hubby now that I was away so much. I missed my baby terribly. I remember sobbing on the shoulder of my coworker, saying I felt like I was failing my baby.

She reassured me that all the moms went through the same feelings. She told me I wasn’t failing him because he needs a roof over his head and a financial future, which my employment provides. The only thing that got me through was reminding myself it would get easier as time went on. Every woman is different – many enjoy working outside the home. It kills me to have to work. But I sure do cherish the time I do have with the little one and am proud I kept up the breastfeeding along with work.


It’s been a year, and though things are easier than in the beginning, they’re not easy. The hardest part of being a mom continues to be working outside the home. I know, I know all the stay-at-home moms want to work, and maybe the grass is always greener on the other side. But I KNOW I would like it. I have so many things I want to do with my child while I am stuck in an office all day. I think about play groups and homemade meals, trips to the park and fun craft projects.

I suppose I should feel lucky that he’s home with his dad and not in daycare. That saves me stress over other working moms – I don’t have to get him ready to go in the mornings and dad relieves some of the housework responsibilities. But no matter how hard dad tries, he’s not me. He will never want to get our son out of the house much because he’s a homebody himself. He will never cook wonderful homemade meals because he doesn’t love it like I do. I went back to work because I made substantially more money. Even if there was a way to trade, my husband doesn’t want to.

As good as my husband is with our son, no one can replace Mom. I thought it would get easier after breastfeeding, and it did, but there’s still so much I want to do at home. At 14 months, I feel like it is time for our son to start playing with other children regularly. But as a working mom, I can’t go to the Mommy-and-Me groups at 10m on Wednesdays. We’ve looked for Dad groups and can’t find them; maybe all the other stay-home dads are homebodies too. I’m almost to the point of sticking him in daycare one day a week just to get him socialized. I think competition with other children would help his motor skills too.

The advantage over daycare of dad being home is dad can do his motor skill therapy with him. It’s better to have a parent who attends the meetings with the therapist do them than trying to explain them to a daycare person who has other children to take care of. The therapist’s prescription is short exercise session at least 5 times throughout the day. She says to think in seconds not minutes for each activity, don’t push past 5 minutes at one time, and make it fun!

This month’s assignment is bending knees and bearing weight on shoulders. Translation to keep it fun is to get him to play with his toys on tummy time over a parent’s leg. That way he has to hold himself up with an arm. Or while he’s sitting to play, bend his knees Indian-style. She said to keep doing the exercise from the class where I put him on all fours, but to ditch the pulling up help and practice walking.

“Go ahead and do it for fun,” she said. “But it’s not going to help him walk.” She explained that he is missing some “links” for walking that date back to his lack of rolling before crawling and other factors. Skipping ahead to more complex therapy will not fill those gaps. The first goal is to build up his shoulder and core strength and get him used to bending his knees. She put him at about 8 months in the gross motor category.

She explained that the skill categories don’t always develop at the same pace. She observed his fine motor skills, labeling them advanced. When I told her how much he talks, she said “He’s probably brilliant.”

Brilliant! That’s encouraging in contrast to watching him trail in size and walking to his peers. And she thinks if we’re consistent with the therapy, we can have him caught up in six sessions. The tough part for me is trusting my husband to do it right without seeing for myself. I just wish it was me home! OK, so maybe I am just a bit of a control freak, but it’s hard not to be. Would it be wrong to nanny-cam my own husband?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lessons for Walking and Colic


When I looked at my son this week, I did a double-take. I picked him up, looked in his ears, peered in his mouth, and checked under his shirt. I asked him, “Where’s the baby? He’s got to be in here somewhere!” He giggled like a baby, but he sure looks like a little boy. In many ways, he is acting like a little boy too. He says several words – daddy, kitty, dog, mamma if he’s crying – and randomly repeats even complicated words when others say them. He can color with crayons and in play does the correct action with the correct object, like strumming his toy guitar.
In other ways, he is still more “baby” than I would like. At 14 months, he is not doing many pre-walking activities such as pulling up, crawling on his knees, or cruising. His 12 month old playmate literally runs circles around him. He is still just army-crawling or scooting on his butt. Although he has gotten pretty fast at these!
Last month we went to a group class through Kaiser called Help Me Move and they taught us some exercises for him. My husband and I sit a couple feet apart on the floor facing each other and help him walk back and forth between us. I also place him in an all-fours position on his knees and press down gently on his hips, as well as rock him slightly. This apparently sends messages to his brain that the floor is solid under his knees. We do the same thing with him sitting on a small stool – pressing on his hips to let him know the seat is solid. Then I let him use my hands to help pull him to standing from the stool.
The exercises seem to be helping. He is getting much braver! He used to hold onto my hands or whatever furniture I propped him against with a death-grip while standing. Now he is brave enough to lunge towards the other parent in the walking game. The other day, I had him propped standing against the couch, and he turned around to grab the coffee table! Now when I sit him on a stool, he pops back up on his legs (holding my hand), and I’ve seen him pulls his knees up under himself momentarily in army-crawl.

We went back to the class this month. The instructors felt he had not made enough progress though, and recommended we start physical therapy. It sounds scary, but I’m actually happy about it. I’d rather work with him now, while it is still normal for him not to be walking, than wait until he is behind to act. We haven’t had our first appointment yet, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it helps.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to enjoy his still-babyness because I know I’ll be sad when it’s gone completely. I love cuddling with him while feeding him a bottle, rocking him when he wakes up crying, and bouncing him on my lap. And baby-talk is so cute!


At this time last year, we were knee-deep in colic. Colic is a very general term for often-unexplained crying that occurs for more than 3 hours a day (it doesn’t have to be in a row). At about 2 months, my baby started crying enough to qualify, and his fussiness carried over to feeding time. He would begin nursing, only to pull away and cry after 5 minutes (down from calm 30 minute sessions). When we went to the doctor she brushed it off, saying babies get more efficient as they get older. I called into the Kaiser Advice Line a couple of times, mentioned his colic, and they brushed it off too. “Aw,” they said, “hopefully that clears up by his next appointment at 4 months.”

The colic compounded my frustrations coping with life as a new mom. I stopped being able to take him for long walks because he would start crying before we got back. The naps and feedings both got much shorter and more frequent, never seeming to satisfy. I was heartbroken that my child was unhappy.
Often the cause for colic in babies remains unexplained, but I tried my darnedest to pinpoint it. Sometimes things breastfeeding mothers consume upset baby tummies, so I went off coffee for 3 days. No change. I stopped drinking milk. No change. One day I ate a bunch of pizza and his colic was much worse that evening. Hello! Cheese is milk. So I cut out all dairy. This seemed to help. Gas-X for babies provided some relief as well.

But we still dealt with a grumpy baby every day and a fussy one most evenings. The doctor recommended a video called Happiest Baby on the Block that offered the best calming advice I received. I will try to describe the technique here, but I highly recommend the video. It’s worth every penny! The technique basically consists of swaddling the baby, then cradling him stomach down in a football hold, so that your arm supports his body, your palm supports his head by cradling the side of his face, and his feet stick out between your elbow and side. Then you can gently jiggle him and sing or “shhhh” in his ear. It calmed my baby instantly. The best part was I had a free hand, and could sit, stand, or walk while holding him like this.
Despite the methods I found for soothing, I was at a loss for resolving the colic. I tried to call the lactation consultant a couple of times, but always got a voice mail. I never left a message because I was afraid they would call back while baby was sleeping. The doctor kept telling me over the phone not to worry about bringing him in unless he looked like he was losing weight or stopped pooping and peeing. Finally, I gave up and just coped.

Boy do I wish I had left that message and talked to lactation consultant! What I didn’t realize at the time was that my baby had stopped gaining weight and there WAS a problem. It took until our 4-month check up to find out. Devastated, I finally left a message at 4 months and talked with the lactation consultant. She turned out to be an amazing resource. Between her advice and an article I read at Le Leche League’s website, I am confident the problem all along was overproduction of breast milk. From about 2 months, I had been pumping copious quantities for the freezer in preparation for my return to work, completely unaware this could cause a problem.

I sat there pumping every day, hating the pump but thinking I was doing a good thing. Only later did all the pieces fall into place for me. Kaiser advice nurses had dubbed green poop normal, but the lactation consultant later advised that frothy green is a red flag for overproduction. Additionally, overproduction can irritate the bowels and cause a secondary lactose intolerance in the child (aka he was sensitive to me drinking milk) due to consuming too much lactose in the foremilk. Because I was producing more milk than he could drink, most of what he got when he nursed was just foremilk. Foremilk is lower in calories and fat than hindmilk, hence the halt in weight gain.

Tragic! I still tear up talking about it. The hard lesson I learned and share with other moms is to listen to your instincts as a mother. If you feel there is a problem, of course there is a chance you are worrying for nothing, but don’t let the doctors brush you off so easily. Push until you feel truly comfortable. My baby is still paying the price as he trails in size and development, always just on the lowest possible curve to still be in the “normal” range but far behind most babies in the neighborhood. He’ll be OK, but could be better if I had trusted myself.