Thursday, December 21, 2006

Yay for me!

I just found out that I received an $800 Liberal Arts award for completing my preliminary exams ahead of schedule! I didn't even know such a thing existed, but I'm happy to have it, and it will certainly come in handy...

Double yay! I just got back from a fabulous meeting with my committee chair, who informed me that my proposal is ready to go to OGS (Office of Grad. Studies)! She also gave me a much needed boost of confidence in my project by explaining what features make it so unique and interesting (I look at texts from ballads, bank books, and gambling records to domestic advice books, drama, and early novels). Considering the fact that she's a Distinguished Professor in our department, and one of the most published and respected members of the faculty, I'm grateful for any little kernel of praise she stoically throws my way. Now I can relax a bit and enjoy these last few weeks of alone time with the baby before she goes to daycare in January...I positively won't do any dissertation work during that period!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Dissertation Fear

So, my dissertation proposal was well received by all faculty members at my oral exams, and they recommended only minor changes in the form of including an outline of the project and a bit more detail about what I want to do with the material on which I'm focusing. I made these changes, submitted the revised copy to my committee chair, and she commented on what I "super" project this is. After looking at the newest draft, she only had one suggestion, which related to identifying more clearly the texts I'll be using in my work. This, however, is a PROBLEM right now....

Because the kind of project I'm working on hasn't yet been done (seriously, there's this black hole in the literary scholarship), I don't know which texts will be best served in my work. I'm looking at British literary texts (fiction, non-fiction, women's life writing, advice books, economic ledgers, wills, etc.) between 1695-1722 that reflect women's access to, representation of, and participation in the discourse of credit. As an 18th c. scholar, I'm familiar with the canon of the long 18th c. My project, however, covers the period before the canonical novel is established and just as the first professional female novelists are coming to popularity. And because much of my focus deals with non-fiction texts like advice books, wills, women's letters and journals, etc., I've only had minimal contact with them up to this point. Basically, the problem is that I haven't yet read enough material from these specific years and in these specific genres to know which texts I want (or should) use for my dissertation. I don't want to simply cherry-pick works at random for the sole purpose of finishing the proposal and submitting it to the Office of Graduate Studies either. Argghhh! I'm meeting with my chair tomorrow for coffee, so we'll see what she recommends, but for now I'm really feeling like I'm flying blind. That's both a good thing (because I don't have any particular agenda or biases), and a bad thing (because who knows what I could inadvertently miss).

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The good fight is over....Day 4

So I found out on Monday (Day 4 of relactation efforts) that it would cost $55/mo plus $80 for the kit to rent the pump needed to continue the relactation process. This is honestly not in our household budget, especially at this time of the year. Not to mention that this would completely elide the closeness that I'd normally be sharing if I could actually nurse my baby at the breast, and the cost for the pump is only part of it. I'd also have to continue the medication ($30/mo) and herbs ($20-$40/mo). There are just too many factors riding agains me at this point, so I've decided to make my peace with not being able to breastfeed my baby.

My husband asked me if I'd be "okay" with it this time, or if I'd continue thinking there was something else I could've done. I can truly say that this time, I gave it my best shot. The baby doesn't seem to be any worse for the formula feeding. She's 7 weeks old and almost 12 lbs, and our schedule thus far has allowed us to keep her at home, away from germs, viruses, etc. while she builds up her immune system. I don't know if I'll ever be completely guilt free about it, but I certainly feel like it's out of my control at this point. And though I hate it when things are out of my control, I'll just have to deal with it....this one time...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Relactation Efforts - Day 3

And now, I'm bleeding....again... Since I had to stop taking the birth control pills I was on, I've begun a "mini-cycle" (the term the lactation consultant used). "Mini" my ass! For the sake of not providing TMI (too much information), I'll withhold the details. Even worse, I woke up today with some sort of rash on my nipple, complete with burning and itching. I've stopped using the nipple shields because I'm afraid they're partly to blame, and because I can't get Eliza to nurse properly with them on. Things aren't looking good, and I'm starting to feel like a complete loser for getting my hopes up so quickly before I had the chance to realize just how many things could still go wrong with this process. However, I'm certainly feeling like I've definitely given breastfeeding my best effort....I'm going to check into the breastpump tomorrow, but I'm not keen on the idea of losing out on the closeness I'd get with the baby actually on the breast. And, I know I wouldn't be able to pump as much as she'd be able to get if she were nursing. This has been a roller-coaster weekend, and I'm looking forward to hopefully getting some work done at school tomorrow.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Relactation Efforts - Day 2

Well, I got the nursing shields today. Not what I expected. They have a GIANT tip for the nipple space, and I still haven't figured out how the hell I'm going to get the baby to get the tip plus the bottom of my areola in her mouth. I finally just took the thing off and nursed her even with the pain. I also got the Fenugreek and the Blessed Thistle. They didn't have the capsules of the latter, so I'm taking 40 drops of the liquid form 4 times a day. It tastes disgusting, like rancid tea that's been sitting out way too long.

I also thought of a potential problem to this whole relactation thing...I'm supposed to try to nurse her every 2-3 hours (once we get the SNS), but she only rarely eats that frequently. Her schedule is more like every 3-4 hours...I'm guessing this will require me to rent the pump.

The last nursing attempt of the evening left me pretty discourged though. What I thought was a good latch-on turned out not to be, and my nipples were onces again bloody. This doesn't look good. I'm starting to feel like fate is completely against me breastfeeding this baby. I'm looking forward to seeing if pumping will help, as I have yet to see any drops (which isn't unusual).

Friday, December 08, 2006

Relactation Efforts - Day 1

Well, within 24 hours, Baby has already managed to mangle and bloody the nipples again. She is still not getting enough of the bottom of the areola in her mouth, which results in her pinching the nipple right through the middle. I went to see the local lactation consulatant, who supervised our nursing and couldn't believe the baby had already done some damage. She gave me a Rx for Reglan - not so good. After just two pills (I have to take 4 a day), I was hit with nasea, dizziness, and drowsiness. In addition to the Reglan, I'm supposed to take 2 pills 4 times a day of both Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle (herbs to help with milk production). She advised me to go ahead and buy some nipple shields and a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) until my milk comes back. She also said, after watching the baby nurse, that she thinks I should start seeing drops in a few days, and as long as baby will nurse and is getting formula from the SNS, there shouldn't be any need to use a pump. I will only need to resort to the pump if baby stops nursing.

However, after talking it over with my husband and feeling the pain of the latch-on problem again, I've realized that one option might just be that baby won't get the hang of this, and to save the nipples, I'll have to rely on the pump alone... For now, I'm continuing the Reglan and we're going to get the nipple shields tomorrow. If they work - AND I PRAY THEY DO - then I shouldn't be in pain any more, and baby can continue nursing away until the milk comes back. We'll see how it goes!
This just in....RELACTATION!

Okay, so after blogging about my inability to move on and try to get over my sadness and guilt about having to stop breastfeeding, I decided to ask...just what if there was some magic pill or magic way of being able to BF again. As it turns out, THERE IS!! It's called relactation, and after much initial web research (all I've had time to do since 5:00 yesterday evening), I've decided I'm going to try it. The stories out there on this are amazing, with some women even being able to BF adopted babies and toddlers, despite the fact that they were never pregnant themselves - WOW! I continue to be amazed by what the female body can do. I understand that this will require LOTS of committment, time, and patience, but I'm willing to do anything to share that experience again with my daughter. I've already put her back to the breast several times, and we're off to get a super-sized hospital-grade pump and supplemental nursing system today. I go to the Dr.'s office on Tuesday to talk about getting a Rx for Reglan, which is used to stimulate milk production. With luck, according to most of the information I've read so far, I should be able to regain full milk prodcution in about 4 weeks. Keep my relactation efforts in your prayers (if you pray), meditations, and/or thoughts...Or, just wish us luck!

Thursday, December 07, 2006


(you'll need to read Part I to understand how I got here)

I went through 4 days of almost constant engorgement. I would wake up at night having soaked through 2 layers of breast pads, my bra, my shirt, and the sheets. I began to smell like rotten milk, and my breasts were so much pain I had to use the Vicodin Rx my doctor had given me at the hospital (which made me even more tired than I already was). I breasts finally dried up (I hate that term).

Now, here's why I hate bottlefeeding:

1 - Bottles are ALWAYS in another room; they're never where you are.
2 - They have to be washed and assembled EVERY day.
3 - They have to be toted along with you wherever you go (a problem if you're going anywhere for an extended period of time).
4- Bottles must be filled with formula that costs a shitload of money!
5- Formula must be mixed for the day every day (unless you're rich and you can afford the no-mix, ready-to-drink kind). Precisely measured and mixed.
6- Bottles have to be heated to a perfect temperature (not as easy as you'd think).
7- Bottles can be given to baby by anyone (I don't want just anyone to be able to feed my baby!).
8- Bottlefeeding requires (usually) both arms/hands: one side to cradle the baby, the other to hold the bottle, leaving no hands to do anything else with (I used to be able to actually eat while breastfeeding).
9- Bottlefeeding results in much more spit-up (and thus spit-up stains) and much stinkier poop (sorry, I really do have a super-sensitive stomach, even when it's my own child's poop).
10- Last but not least, bottlefeeding sucks because it's not what I wanted for my baby!!

This last reason is the most important one because this is an issue I'm STILL dealing with! It still breaks my heart that I couldn't continue nursing. I still feel guilty about not being able to do for one daughter what I did for the other. I'm still paranoid about every germ out there that she could possible come into contact with (as if breastfeeding would've provided some sort of magic shield against all illness). I'm still jealous when I hear my friends mention nursing their babies. I feel like this is a horribly unfair punishment to me on some cosmic level and - most of all - I don't know why I can't get over it.


So here's my take on bottlefeeding. A little history first. I breastfed my first daughter for 6 months. We had a super minor latch-on problem at first, but fixed it in no time, and everything after that was cake! I truly enjoyed the experience, and she flourished physically and continues to do so. She wasn't sick once until she was around 6 months old, and only had 1 ear infection through her entire infancy, toddlerhood, etc.

When I conceived my second daughter (who's now just 6 weeks), I had planned to breastfeed again. I looked forward to doing it all over again, stocking up on all the appropriate equipment (pump, Boppy pillow, nursing bras and pads, you name it). I didn't anticipate any problems as I had already done this before, thus I knew what I was doing. Upon her arrival, the only breastfeeding problem we seemed to have was that she was rarely awake to eat! I mean, seriously, she was the picture of the ultimate sleepy baby. In the hospital, the nurses brought her to me every 2 hours and expected me to scrape the bottom of her bare feet with my fingernail in order to wake her up....only to have her fall right back asleep again once she latched on. Skip ahead...

A few days after we got baby home, I noticed that I had a line right down the middle of my nipples. They were sore, but not intolerable. I just chalked it up to initial soreness and kept nursing. Soon, the pain got worse. I called a La Leche League consultant, and she advised me on how to use the cross-cradle hold. This didn't work; it simply made the line cross a different way on my nipple. In addition, I noticed my nipples were starting to get cracked where they meet the areola. Not good...but I kept going, assuring myself that it would get better soon, and if not, then I'd call a lactation consultant.

By the time baby was a bit over a week old, I was almost in tears every time she latched on. This situation only added to the baby blues I was suffering from. I called a lactation consultant, and she couldn't even see me until the following day. When I went in, she said the damage to my nipples was bad enough that she was worried about mastitis, staph, etc., but she showed me how to use the football clutch and said my nipples should heal in 24-48 hours. The clutch was very difficult to use, but I nursed on, tears and all. 48 hours later, no healing. The cracks in my nipples would re-open every time baby nursed, and even when I pumped. The pain was so bad that I would break into tears every time I nursed, and I didn't see any hope for healing in sight considering that the pump re-opened the wounds as well. After MUCH wrestling with the situation, I felt like I was forced to give up nursing if I wanted to have any sense of normal mental and physical health. After 10 days, I switched to bottlefeeding my new baby, and I've HATED it ever since!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Read about the "Motherhood Penalty" and the research and data on discrimination about mothers (and parents in general) in academia at
WARNING: not a nice post; includes foul language, resentment, mild depression, and a bit of rage...
My husband has found himself on my shit list again (unbeknownst to him course). When I got home from work yesterday...No, wait...before I even went to work yeterday, I spent my half of the day taking care of the baby, and I STILL managed to make breakfast for my 7 yr old, get bottles washed (a blog on that coming soon), make the day's formula made, pick up the living room, change baby's clothes, make a chef salad to take for lunch, and spent my normal hour or so getting showered, made up, dressed, etc. for work. When I left, my husband was taking the sheets off the bed to wash them (he does all the laundry), "yeah for him!" I thought. When I get home from work (at almost 6:00 pm), what do I find??? The sheets never made it past the washing machine, and my husband is sleeping on the living room floor next to the couch where our baby is sleeping. What the fuck?!

I ask him if it had been a rough afternoon with baby? If she had been fussy or fighting sleep? He says no, that everything has been fine. Mind you, this comes on a day where he hadn't even had to get up for the middle-of-the-night feeding - I did! So now, my husband reveals he's had a 2 1/2 HOUR NAP, there are no sheets on our bed (the pillowcases and comforter still have yet to be washed), and we're just a couple hours away from one daughter's bedtime...Don't even get me started on the homework projects our 7 yr. old is supposed to work on... In short, I'm pissed!!

I don't get fucking naps!! EVER!! There's too much shit that needs to get done. I resent the fact that he seems to use his time home with baby to do nothing but recover some sleep. I resent the fact that he waits until a weekday, late in the evening to start thinking about finishing the load of bedding he put in at noon! I resent the fact that he didn't even ask if he could fucking help with anything last night, especially considering my 7 yr. old was able to pick up on my frustration and ask if I was okay. This is not fucking rocket science - I can't do it all!! He was such a great help the first few weeks after the baby was born, but now I think it was only because I was having an obviously difficult bout with the baby blues. What happened to the considerate man I came home from the hosiptal with? I can't say anything to him right now because I can't say anything nice. I know I probably sound like a bitch, but I don't even have time to care about that image right now.... I thought I'd feel better after this blog, but I don't. As usual, the anger just turns to more tears (still a lot of those these days)...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Back....after baby..

Okay, baby has arrived. Well, arrived a while ago - October 23rd actually. And now I'm back to work. Except something is different this time around. After my first daughter (who's now 7) was born, I couldn't wait to get back to work (she was 6 wks. old). My mom had quit her job to stay home at take care of the baby so that I wouldn't have to deal with the daycare nightmare (which I couldn't have afforded as a then-single mother anyway). I had the best of both worlds: a job that resulted in a paycheck and relatively free childcare that gave me total peace of mind. Not the case this time around....

Our newest arrival just turned 6 weeks old, and my husband (also a PhD candidate) and I are sharing the childcare duties equally. He works the first half of the day, then comes home to be with baby while I go to campus for the rest of the afternoon. This seems to working okay, except that here I am blogging instead of working on my dissertation research. And I really LOVE what I'm working on for my dissertation. But, I find myself still thinking about the baby (not worrying, just thinking) and how much I will detest having to send her to daycare in the Spring. I know this is a necessary evil if I actually want to earn my PhD, but that doesn't make me feel any better about it. I'm terrified the daycare workers won't hold her immediately when she cries, try everything to console her, sing to her like I do, or let her quietly study all the beautiful things she can see when looking out a window. They won't be ME. And I'm scared that some sort of negative impact will exist for my baby because they aren't me.

I try to keep reminding myself that millions of parents have their babies in daycare, even when they're as young as my baby is now (a situation I couldn't even conceive right now!), and that these babies remain healthy and happy. But do they? How do I know for sure? I don't have any close friends with children older than mine to offer as proof that babies who go to daycare from a very early age are just as healthy, happy, and well-developed as babies who stay home with a parent or private caregiver. I hope I'm just being silly or over-emotional (that still happens a lot these days), but I keep thinking there must be some difference in the outcome for these children. Say it ain't so...