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Monday, February 25, 2013

ErMahGerd! Pictures!

I just realized that even though I shared them all over Facebook and yes, even Google Plus, I didn't share pictures from our shoot back in November with the amazing Darbi G. She's a fantastic photographer out of Kansas City who is from Omaha, so when she comes up here she tries to put together mini-shoots - and I was lucky enough to snag a spot!

You can check out her work at the above link if you're in the area and need some pictures - she's wonderful, both as a person and as a photographer.

So are you ready to enjoy 200 beautiful pictures of people you don't know or care about? Well, too bad, it's only 98. 

"Whatever, dudes, I'm out of here."

Friday, February 22, 2013

RIP Breastfeeding : 7/7/20011-2/18/2013

Warning: Some amount of boob flesh present in this post. More than you'd see on an episode of "19 Kids and Counting" but less than you'd see on an episode of "Keeping Up with the Kardashians." So plan accordingly.

I can see it now: "UGH, mom. Gross. Why did you write this??" as she slams the computer shut or throws the tablet or swishes her hands through the virtual display in front of her. So I apologize in advance to 16-year-old Carys and say to her: I have no excuse other than everyone is doing it.  Ok, maybe not everyone is blogging about breastfeeding, but everyone is blogging embarrassing things about their kids. Trust me, future Carys, Google the name of that popular girl, and her mom probably posted a picture of her first poop in the potty on Facebook. I promise you I will never post a picture of you pooping. Unless it's REALLY funny.

So for the rest of you in present time...

She's weaned. We had our last nursing session on Monday, February 18, 2013, in the morning. Nineteen months and eleven days. She's nursed every single day since the day she was born until yesterday morning at least once a day. And oh, my gosh, it's so bittersweet to be done. Honestly, mostly bitter. I'm sure the sweet will come.

We did not have an easy start. We had a hellacious start, actually. I had a c-section (which I truly don't think was related to any issues we had) and we didn't get to do skin to skin time immediately, but I was holding her within the hour. In the recovery room, they tested her blood sugar (routine for 9lb or larger babies) and she failed, so they gave her a bottle of sugar water. I was devastated that I wouldn't get to feed her first, but after she downed the bottle in five seconds flat, she still latched on and ate like a champ (and from that moment on was pretty much an addict). From what I recall, it was uncomfortable in the hospital, but not painful.

Within the first two weeks, though, it had become excruciating. She was a sleepy eater, who would nurse for a couple minutes and then fall asleep. Because of that, she seemed to nurse around the clock, which meant pain around the clock.  What came first: the nursing around the clock or the pain? Did the nursing constantly cause the pain or was she nursing constantly because of the pain and she hated me a little bit for kicking her out of the womb?

I remember a friend visiting when Carys was eleven days old and she watched me get her latched on, and I was stomping the floor and clenching my fists and grimacing while doing it, and I'm pretty sure I scared the shit out of her. I remember putting off nursing her as long as I could just to delay the pain a little bit more. I literally had to psych myself up to do it. I remember the awful, godforsaken nights. The nights were the worst, when she just wanted to eat and I just wanted to feed her and I was too tired to help her with a good latch and the pain seemed a million times worse. I cried. A lot. I tried ice and heat and Soothies and lanolin and anything I could think of to help with the pain. I'm fairly sure that I took the pain meds that they'd given me for my c-section in order to help with the pain - and I hadn't needed them for c-section pain since day two.

I had mastitis. Twice. (Surprising remedy? Potato slices. Google it.) I made the mistake of all mistakes and avoided having her nurse from the painful side, because it hurt SO bad. The second time, I learned my lesson and sucked it up, which helped it clear up more quickly.

I had thrush. And endless case of thrush. At least twice officially, corresponding to the antibiotics I was on for the mastitis, but it might have just been one really long bout or a hundred short bouts but whatever it was, thrush fucking blows. It's like a hundred pins being stuck into your nipples at once.

I had vasospasms. If you don't know them, just...I don't even know. Imagine thrush. And the Soothies and cold packs that I'd been trying to use to help the pain that everyone swore by? Made the vasospasms even worse.

I even had a serratia infection, which tinted leftover milk and her diapers hot pink and was diagnosed via an episode of "Mystery Diagnosis." That led me to see an infectious disease doctor (diagnoses: yes, a minor case, but my body was fighting it efficiently and the drugs are very strong and you can't nurse on them, and me nursing her was probably what was keeping her healthy, so just keep on nursing and it should clear up on its own, and it did).

I went virtually topless for weeks on end, as wearing any clothing was excruciating. It became such the norm that I may have (did) answered the door for the UPS guy without a top on. And it was not a positive experience for him, I'm sure - I was just a few weeks postpartum. Not pretty.

I went to support groups and La Leche League meetings. I got advice, but nothing ever helped. She would latch on with a wide mouth, but then she'd pull back her upper lip. And I would cry.

At seven or so weeks, I saw a doctor in a city an hour away who specialized in breastfeeding. She diagnosed Carys with a slight posterior tongue tie. She said they could clip it, and it'd be 50/50 whether her latch would improve. I was desperate. She clipped it. It did not help. We discovered at that visit that Carys had lost weight since her last doctor appointment, and that my output had dropped considerably thanks to the mastitis. I went home with instructions to follow a strict nurse/pump/bottle schedule, where I would nurse Carys and then pump while Chris gave her a bottle. It took a good two hours to complete that routine, and she wanted to nurse every two hours, so I was tied to either a baby or a pump 24 hours a day for two weeks. Or so it seemed at the time. I probably got minutes away here and there. After the first couple of days, I wasn't pumping enough to keep up with the bottle demand and we'd used my frozen stash, so we had to mix powedered formula in with the breastmilk - usually an ounce of each (insert story here about how our dog ate all my frozen breastmilk and contributed to the lack of a frozen stash) (insert story here about death of said dog) (insert 'just kidding' here but seriously I contemplated it).  Eventually, she weaned herself off of the bottles by taking less and less after each nursing session and nursing more, and she gained the weight back. This goes back to the sleepy eater: she wasn't getting enough food to stay awake and eat as much as she needed. Once she started getting more milk delivered via bottle, she was able to stay awake longer and exert the energy needed to complete a full nursing session.

But none of that really helped with the pain.

Everyone says that breastfeeding should not hurt like that, but no one had a solution that helped.

They kept telling me that if I could just survive the fist six weeks it would get better.

It did not get better.

Until it did.

For us, that magic point was around nine weeks. I don't know if she just got bigger (and therefore her mouth got bigger and fixed her latch) or if I did something or if she did something or if all the nerve endings in my nipples just decided to say "fuck you, we're outta here" and packed up and left, but whatever happened....it stopped hurting.

From that point on, it was amazing. And truly, it was amazing even in the midst of the struggles. If it hadn't been, I wouldn't have pushed so hard to continue. Minus the pain, I loved nursing her.  For whatever reason, it was important to me to be able to nurse her, and I persevered  Almost anything else in my life, I would have easily given up by then, but this I stuck out, and I am so fricking proud of myself that I did. I know at one point in the story, you probably asked yourself, "Why the EFF did you keep going?? Formula is not poison!" and thought I was being a martyr (At what point did you hit that thought? The crying? The mastitis? The serratia? All valid choices - for me it was the first time I cried!).   And I know formula is perfectly fine. She had some, after all. Granted, it was only maybe 2oz a day for two weeks, but I know she'd be the same amazing kid whether I nursed her or not. But for some reason, I wanted to keep going, desperately.

It was not easy for those first two months, but I did it. I did it. Okay, WE did it.

I'm so glad that I stuck it out. Our nursing relationship ended up lasting for almost two years, and for most of that two years it was something I looked forward to every single day. It was our chance to reconnect, our chance to sit still and gaze lovingly at each other* (*toddler gym-nurse-tics excluded), a way to soothe her when she was in pain or scared or sad, and relief at not having to worry too much about illnesses or nutrition or vitamins or that she was getting enough food. It was also free and it was also easy (see: not having to pack bottles or formula to go anywhere). And let's be real: those two things are huge. But the relationship between a nursing mother and her nursling is unlike anything else.

"Milk" was the first sign she learned, and one of her first words (sounded more like "mauck", except cuter). The last few months, she'd try to dive into my shirt to get at her "mauck."

Each morning I'd bring her into bed with us and we'd all have a short reprieve from waking up while she nursed for an hour or so. We joked it was her morning coffee. When she was done, she'd pop up with a big grin and say, "Hi!"

Each night, we'd read books and get PJs on and then nurse to wind down for the day. She nursed to sleep until she was maybe 15 or 16 months old, and then as she got older she'd nurse til she was drowsy and I'd lay her down awake.

We nursed in public and in private, with covers and without, alone and in groups, while sitting, standing, laying down, walking, driving (well, I wasn't driving). I pumped at a Ke$ha concert and at a comedy show and in cars and at work for over a year. Nursing and pumping where huge parts of my life and of her life.

I knew no matter what, it would be hard to give up.

In the end, she weaned with a combination of my nudging and her readiness.

As I've said before, we're starting to try to conceive number two, and I think nursing is what has kept it from happening. I know many women are able to get pregnant and nurse at the same time, but it doesn't appear that I'm one of them. I'd been doing "don't offer, don't refuse" for a few months when I decided to step it up a notch. I started to limit her nursing time by singing the ABC song and limiting the daytime sessions to the duration of the song. She didn't fight the time limits at all. Then we went on a trip to Des Moines, two hours away. My dad and sister drove her out, right when naptime was starting, so she didn't nurse to go down for a nap. I didn't get out there until after bedtime, so she missed nursing to bed that time too (she'd been able to go to bed without nursing or a bottle if I wasn't the one doing it for a long time). When I did get there, we kept so busy that she didn't nurse to nap or to bed for the next two days, with no protest. That was a huge step. When we got home, I decided to keep up the momentum and had Chris put her to bed that night. And just like that, she was night and nap weaned, at the same time.  She asked for it once, and I said, "How about hugs?" and she hugged me and laid her head down on my shoulder, and didn't ask again.

Monday the 18th of February was President's Day, and no one had to work or be anywhere, so I knew we could lounge in bed as long as we wanted. I told myself that it would be the last day of our morning sessions - and therefore the last day to nurse. The next day, I woke up with her, and instead of laying in bed and nursing, we immediately started our day. She didn't even notice that we didn't nurse.

The good thing about knowing it was the last time is that I could plan and prepare and cherish and soak it up and yes, have Chris take a million pictures of it.

I miss it most of all because this girl is not a cuddly child. She's a mover - a runner and a dancer and a climber and a rider and a player. She's not one to lay still with you or let you hold her. Nursing let me wrap my arms around her, feel her warmth, smell her skin, nuzzle her neck, stroke her soft mullet-y hair. Since we've stopped, I've gotten maybe one cuddle out of her. I don't think she's trying to break my heart, but.....

She's asked for it once since then, and I said, "I'm so sorry, the milk is all gone," and she drank water instead and she was okay with that.

She was ready (but was I?).

I'm not going to lie, if we gave this up before I was entirely ready and I don't get pregnant, I am going to be pissssssssssssed.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A new look and a new name!

Yes! You're in the right place (if you were here for "A Girl Named Carrots," anyway - wrong place for midget porn!). I just updated the look. What do you think? Better? Worse? Whatever, you don't care, just get on with the kid pictures already?

As for the why...it's all Carys, all the time right now, which is just how I like it...but if we ever have more kids, I'll probably write about them too (assuming I like them half as much as I like her) and thought this would work better.

(And no, the ute is currently not occupied, so this isn't in direct preparation for another child - just theoretical!)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Letters to Carrots : Month Nineteen

January 7 - February 7, 2013
Dear Carys,

Yet again, you're a month older. And yet, again, I wonder how the heck it happened. I mean, I get it, what with the spinning and orbiting earth and all that, but Einstein was really onto something with the whole "time is relative" theory.  Each month I feel like there's less time to get this written!

You are such a BIG girl. Big ideas, big moves, big words, big spirit, big heart, big love. You're a happy kid who goes with the flow (usually) and has a smile for everyone (usually). At not even two years old, you have presence.  You have a confidence about you that belies the fact that you're just a small toddler. People notice when you're in the room. And it's only sometimes because you're throwing a fit. Actually, you have yet to throw a big fit in public (knock on wood fingers crossed salt over the shoulder fairy dust). People notice you because of your personality. Also possibly because you will yell "HIIIIIIIII" at them until they look at you and acknowledge your existence. But mostly, because of that sparkling personality. You're just a really awesome little person.

Don't get me wrong: you're almost two. So while you're generally enjoyable, that means that you can have some SERIOUS attitude and SERIOUS opinions. You want THIS coat and THAT toy and mommy to sit RIGHT HERE and no NOT THERE MOMMY THAT'S TWO INCHES FROM WHERE I SAID OMG WHY DO YOU HATE ME YOU'RE RUINING MY LIFE. One time, you threw a fit because I peeled a banana the wrong way. No lie. Complete with dramatic fall to the floor.

You'd never know it, but this is you completely disobeying me.

I am eternally grateful, though, (and I'm probably jinxing myself by saying this out loud) that at least right now you're still light on the tantrums and you're almost always over them in seconds. I know I still have a good number of years yet for that to catch up, though, and to get some good two-hour-long crying fests out of you. I won't be mad if you skip that forever, though. I promise.

At your 18 month appointment, you were just a hair shy of 34 inches tall and 25 pounds. Your head remained 19.5 inches, which is still just insanely huge. Full of brains, right?  You still have your gorgeous dark gray-blue eyes and golden, light brown hair. Hair that, if I'm being frank, is pretty much a mullet. A mullet-rat tail. Something that would be the pride and joy of a redneck dude in Alabama.

It's thin, semi-wavy hair (so sorry about that...and the glasses that are sure to come....and the braces....) that has long wisps at the crown but is short everywhere else. It's so tempting to cut off those wisps, but I'm waiting it out to see if the rest of it will catch up before I take scissors to it.  Plus, I've taken to putting it up in pigtails or a ponytail, which look ridiculous since you have so little hair, but ridiculous in the CUTEST. WAY. POSSIBLE., and if I cut it off there would be literally nothing to put up.

You have the biggest, cheesiest, fakest fake smile ever. And you have the biggest, happiest, most contagious real smile ever.

The biggest change this month was starting daycare two days a week. It's long been a plan of mine to get you in a daycare/preschool program a couple days a week at some point for some social interaction, routine, and just something different. I think you love it. You went from crying for me at drop-off (but stopping as soon as I was out of sight, you sneak) to going quietly to one of the teachers but clinging to them for a bit to just running in without looking back at me. Now I can barely get a good-bye kiss out of you! When I come to pick you up,  I come in quietly and stand back to watch you interact and play until you notice me, then you run to me, give me a huge, and grab my hand and show me around the room; we can never leave right away. I love seeing what you love there, through your eyes.

You dress yourself: an unsnapped pants romper under a blue button down. 

My cousin Mo watches you the days I work when you're not at daycare, and you think he's awesome. He's totally unflappable, though he does send me daily texts about how gross your poop is. Is that one of those sentences I'll regret writing about you in fifteen years? The first time I came home after he watched you, you wouldn't come say hi to me. You just wanted him to keep reading to you while you sat in his lap.

You are a fiercely independent little girl, but you still have your moments when you just want to be held (usually, of course, when I CAN'T hold you: cooking, doing laundry, juggling knives, etc.).  You're an explorer. An engineer. Nothing is safe around you; it's coming apart. You're feisty. If you think you're about go get in trouble, you'll run up and tickle me, or run away with the forbidden item and giggle, or try to hide it behind your back. I just want to laugh and scoop you up and hug you for being so funny, but I usually manage to wait until after the discipline. Usually. Sometimes I just have to hug you, though. The cute is impossible to resist, for real.

You love to be read to and to read to me (it's just babbling, but that babbling is the greatest story I've ever heard).  You love to take care of your dolls. You even take care of your friends - when your friend Charlotte was visiting her shoe fell off, and you totally unprompted tried to put it back on for her.

You absolutely love to dance. I'm ashamed to admit that your favorite song to dance to is Macklemore's "Thrift Shop," which is positively RIFE with bad words. And since you've become a parrot recently, I really need to stop letting you listen to it, lest you bust out a "This is fucking awesome" at some totally inappropriate moment.

You parrot not only what we say, but what we do: if I'm cooking, you want to be cooking. If I'm vacuuming  you have to help me hold it. If I'm on the computer, you want to be on the computer. When you were sick, you wanted to give me and your babies eye drops and use the Nose Frida on us.  When I give you a horsey ride, you had to give your baby a horsey ride.

For the most part, if it's not incredibly dangerous, I'll let you participate as much as possible. You help me cook a lot, and you really love it. Let me rephrase: you "help" me cook a lot. It's messy....very messy...but I figure your joy and learning far outweigh the two minutes of sweeping it wil take to clean up.  I fill the measuring cups and spoons, you pour them into the bowl. You have to have your own utensil to stir the concoction  I cannot help. I can hardly look at the kitchen without you yelling, "Cook mommy!" That you know what cooking involves is frankly incredible since my definition of "cook" is usually pushing "Start" on the microwave. Which you also know how to do.

You have such a sense of humor now: the usual things make you laugh, like fart noises, but you also love when we point at daddy and ask if it's mommy, or if I call you a doggie and try to pet you, or hold you like a baby and rock you (this is something you ask for now), or if I put a bowl on your head as a hat, or if I try to put a puzzle piece in the wrong place (because of this, you can't do a puzzle without trying to fit the piece in all the wrong slots purposefully, saying, "No. No. No. No. YES!").  You sit and concentrate so hard on whatever you're working, and you rarely ask for help.

You love to dress up, whether in true dress up clothes or my clothes or new clothes or a scrap of fabric you found lying in the street. Most hilarious, though, was when you tried to dress in last month's snow suit as I was packing away too-small clothes.

(Not pictured: the giant wedgie this gave you or the way you had to scrunch your neck to get the hat to stay on, or the way you walked carefully around the house giggling in it)

We've been working on weaning you. I'm trying to keep it child-led, but also give it a nudge. When you ask to nurse, I try to distract you first, and/or offer you water or snacks. That works sometimes, but when it doesn't, I'll let you nurse for a couple minutes and then I'll tell you that I'm going to sing the ABC song, and when it's over, nursing is over. It's surprising how well that has worked - you can anticipate the end and you'll stop completely on your own.

You climbed ont your dad's computer desk, into this cabinet, and hid. 

You were sick - really sick - for just the second time in your life. We've been lucky. I don't know if it was pink eye or just a cold that settled in your eye (the doctor just prescribed eye drops over the phone) but you had a rough couple of days there. Your dad loved it, though, because for the first time since you became mobile you spent most of the day cuddling.

We went to the Children's Museum and the Zoo (where you tried to feed the animals through the glass and then I died because adorable) and continued swim class and had some play dates. I love doing these things with you; experiencing the world through your eyes is like being a child again myself. Everything is new and wonderful and maybe a little scary, but nothing you can't handle.

Children's Museum (where you made your cown cape and painted your own face)


Carys, I love you so much that sometimes I think about going and waking up up after you've been asleep for a few hours. You bring more joy to my life on a daily basis than I can handle. I'm so delighted and lucky to be your mommy, far luckier than you are to have me - although your love for me is pretty damn thrilling. I genuinely want to hang out with you and am sad if I can't take you somewhere*. I'm so excited that I get you for at least the next 16 years until you move out. I'm looking forward to the fist eight of them. Please be an awesome teenager who loves her mama?


*Like 80% of the time. The other 20% I'm happy for some adult time. Let's be real here.

P. S. Nineteen months is a messy age.

P. P. S. Just for myself and my records (because one day I want to print these letters for you HAHA YEAH RIGHT but seriously), I wrote down a list of words that you will spontaneously say without prompting (you're still calling most animals by the sound the make: a monkey is an "ooo ooo eee eee" and a horse is a "neigh". Although you know what a "horse" is and can point it out, when you're talking about it you use the sound, so I didn't include those). It's probably not close to complete and is just what I could come up with looking around the house as I type. You're not quite reading Tolstoy yet, though. Slacker.

all gone
apple (said for oranges)
baby (bubby)
banana (nana)
bye bye
choo choo
color (caca)
Google (this isn't as weird as it seems - Chris works there!)
Grandma (Amma)
Grandpa (Anpa)
helicopter (copter)
ice cream (i-keam)
Kimberly (Imma)
night night
open (ohpee)
patty cake (packey)
Pingu (a show we watch sometimes)
please (peas)
thank you (tankoo)
uh oh
water (wawa)
Where'd it go?
Where is it?
work (usually as in, "Daddy work?"

P. P. P. S. I really love you. A lot.