The Baby Bean Blog

Friday, March 31, 2006

Meeting Peter Donor and Dinner with Mr. Could've Been

Last night, we had an old friend over for dinner. I called him John Doe a while back. He's the guy I asked to make his deposit in a cup and hand it over. At one point, I thought he might say yes, but then he didn't, and it was off to the sperm bank to pick sperm from a list, and the sperm we ended up picking originated from a guy named Peter, which we found out when Ella turned three months old. And Peter is who we will be visiting in about a week. Yep, tomorrow, we board a plane bound for California. After a week in Carmel, we're going to spend two nights in San Francisco, and while there, we will meet Peter.

It was kind of interesting to be having dinner with the man who could have fathered my children right before we leave to meet the man who actually did. John Doe, by the way, is doing well. Since we asked him to shoot in a cup, he's moved to Boston. He's down here for about a week because of an art exhibit featuring some of his paintings.

I'm not going to say that I'm glad he turned us down. He is a really great guy with all the features I would want for the other half of my children's DNA. But it certainly is easier not to have to deal with a human being to get the goods. Well, we deal with the guy who runs the sperm bank, but the goods are already there, ready and waiting to be shipped off to eager, child-hungry women. You know, like us.

So we're off to California tomorrow. I doubt there will be another post here until after we get back, late on Monday, April 10.

Well, I have a million things to do between now and 5:30am when we're heading to the airport. So see you on the flip side.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Problem With Owning a Life

The problem, obviously, is that you have the power, the "right," to decide to end that life. Those of you who have been reading me since I started out on the now abandoned Bean Blog, already know a lot about my dog, Chester. If you don't know about him, that doesn't much matter. You now know that he is my dog, and that's probably enough for you to understand this post.

Here's the deal: Chester probably has Cushing's Disease. We haven't run the definitive test for it yet, but I'm sure that he has it. Now the question is, "What to do about it?"

Chester is 12 years old now, certainly towards the end of the lifespan of a Labrador Retriever. However, we have owned him for less than 3 years, having gotten him from an animal shelter in August of 2003. I wanted a dog that played fetch, and that is what Chester loves more than anything. In the time we have owned him, we have spent about $6000 on his medical expenses, approximately $5000 of that being repairs to both of his knees. We spent that money because without those operations, he would not have been able to play fetch anymore, and if that were the case, life would not be worth living for him. That money was hard to spend. We're not rolling around in the stuff. But there was a cut and dry resolution that allowed us to make that decision: get the surgery, dog fixed. Period.

Things aren't so cut and dry now. Cushing's Disease is not something that gets cured--it gets managed. To manage it would probably be in the range of $1000. To add complications to the matter, managing it may or may not improve Chester's quality of life. The high level of cortisol now in Chester's bloodstream--a side effect of Cushing's--is probably the reason he has not been suffering much from his arthritis nor his allergies. Treating the Cushing's will undoubtably bring these issues back to the forefront. Not treating it will mean that his body systems continue to be damaged by the coritsol in his system, including weakening his leg muscles, a side effect I have noticed recently while playing fetch with him.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Both of these repercushions mean that playing fetch will get more difficult.

On top of all this (I know you'll be surprised to learn), we've got a baby on the way. In case you're not keeping track, that will be two babies under 1 year old. Fun! And even more fun with a dog whose health is making him more and more time and energy consuming.

Chester does not seem to be that miserable right now. But as cold-hearted as it is to say, it would be a hell of a lot easier for us to put him down now than in six months or a year. I mean "easier" in a household management way. When we're taking care of two babies, dealing with a dog that is getting sicker and sicker will be the last thing we want to do.

But, as I said, he's not that sick right now. Putting him down now would really be for our convenience, not because it's "his time," whatever that means. But nonetheless, the fact is that his quality of life will deteriorate, one way or the other--treat the disease or not. If we put him down now, he'd go never having been incapable of being all Chester, not a shadow of himself. Or am I just saying that to try to make myself feel better?

What is comes down to is this: my head versus my heart. My head says that we've already done much more for him than almost anyone else ever would. Few would blame us for calling it quits right now.

My heart says that is bullshit. Who am I to decide that he should die? Yes, I am his "owner," but I've never felt that I owned the light within him that means he is alive. I guess what I understand ownership of another creature to mean is that I own the responsibility to act in his best interest.

And on top of that, Ella loves him. He lets her pull his tail. She laughs when he goes clump, clump, clump down the stairs. He gives her big, moist, face-covering kisses. And he looks at her with kindness in his eyes when she grabs his toes.

Friday, March 24, 2006

If Cheeks Are Your Thing, This Is Your Girl

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sleeping, Part 2 of 2: The Nighttime Situation

We co-sleep. We started off with Ella in between us, and that's how it was for the first 5 months or so. At first, I tended to stay in contact with her physically while sleeping, but eventually, it became clear that Ella wanted her space. If my partner and I gave her enough space so that she could stretch out her arms and still not touch us, she slept more soundly and for longer stretches. That was great. Except that with a queen size bed, that meant that my partner and I had about 18 inches of bed each, while Ella laid spread out, oblivious, in the middle. Like so:

Okay, in my crude drawing, it looks kind of spacious, but trust me, it wasn't.

That's when we decided to get a crib to "sidecar" to the bed. Basically, we left off one side of the crib and put it up next to the bed. And that's what we've done for the past two months or so. Initially, it worked like a charm. Ella slept soundly. We had the bed to ourselves. When Ella wanted to nurse during the night, it was quick and easy to pull her back into the bed. It was great. Then our sleeping situation looked like this:

Then a few weeks ago, Ella did not want to sleep in the crib anymore. When we moved her over there (sound asleep), she woke up and we had to go through the getting to sleep process again. We were quickly trained to leave her in the bed.

This wasn't so bad for my partner, because she is at that stage of pregnancy where the bed becomes a world of pillows. It doesn't quite marvel the world of pillows I had created during my pregnancy. But she still has time. And anyway, it's been kind of fun seeing my old friends come back to the bed, returned to service. One friend, though, takes up a lot of room. This one:

It takes up about half of the bed. Remember how I was already uncomfortable with my 18 inches of bed space? Well, with my partner set up with just about half of the bed, Ella taking up about two thirds of the remaining half, I'm down to 12 inches or so. Really, I know you think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. I'm amazed that most nights I manage to sleep--somewhat--in that small of a space, but I do. Sort of.

I guess the point of all this is that even though I do manage to get some kind of sleep on 12 inches of bed, I'd like things to change. Right now, I've taken to sleeping partway in the crib.

But the ideal situation is that I sleep entirely in a bed. A bed that consists of more than 12 inches of space. So we've decided to bite the bullet and buy a twin size mattress to put next to our queen size bed in lieu of the crib. That way, if Ella settles herself into my space on the the big bed, I can comfortably settle myself into the twin bed. And with the Expected One on his/her way, having more space is probably a good idea anyway.

Getting a twin size mattress for the bedroom could solve not only the nighttime situation, but it could also solve the napping situation, as the most likely destination for the crib in the bedroom will be the living room for naps. Maybe. I'm still considering another option as well. The downside of getting a twin size mattress is that I want another one like our queen size mattress. Yep, I want another Tempur-Pedic like this one, and those bad boys aren't cheap. I just remind myself (and the Bread Winner) that we do spend about one third of our lives asleep, and when you think of it that way, perhaps the cost isn't so extravagant.

And that's that for sleeping these days. Hopefully it will all improve soon.

Monday, March 20, 2006


Ella rolled over! Tummy to back!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sleeping, Part 1 of 2: The Napping Situation

You might have noticed that the number of posts on this blog have fluctuated up and down through the months. That is almost entirely due to the napping situation. In general, when Ella naps, I am free to accomplish all the things that one can accomplish when one is not holding a baby. When Ella does not nap, I am not free to accomplish those things. Not an unusual state of affairs for a mother of an infant. You might also have noticed that this blog's post frequency has declined in the past few weeks, and now armed with the above information, you might assume that is due to the fact that Ella is not napping. But you would be wrong to assume that. She is napping. That's not the problem.

The problem is that she is only napping on my lap.

Some of you out there might remember when Ella would nap for hours at a time in her swing. One of you even mentioned in a comment that I should enjoy it while I could. And I did, trust me. The swing now sits, forlorn, taking up a massive amount of space in my tiny living room. It hasn't been napped in for weeks. I don't think I've even tried to put Ella in it for a nap for well over a week because it's pointless.

The problem with the swing is that it positions her at an incline, and being partway to sitting up makes her want to sit up all the way. She loves to be upright. Being horizontal is very silly, apparently. So I'll put her in the swing, asleep, and she'll sort of open her eyes a bit, realize that she is so temptingly close to the upright position, and then she'll fully wake herself up, trying to get to a full, upright sit. Bye bye nap.

But she will nap, anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, on the boppy, in my lap, with some occassional help from me, the human pacifier via nursing.

At first, this didn't really bother me. I could watch TV. I could surf the net, read blogs, bulletin boards, email, and the like, while she slept on my lap. It was fine. I made sure to have a full drink beside me before she drifted off to sleep, and I was all set. Initially, I tried to write email--and write posts for this blog, too. But Ella would not allow me to type with both hands, because that involved one of my arms crossing over her face, and that could not be. So I had to do those things one-handed, and after a very short amount of typing that way, I would become annoyed, and I didn't want to be typing posts on this blog in an annoyed state. Well, at least not annoyed because I was typing one-handed.

So while I didn't mind the new napping arrangement at first, it's now apparent to me that it must change. Not just because of writing posts here but also because of all the other things I could be doing during that time.

We do have a crib, but I'm not crazy about the idea of her napping there. I like seeing her face when she wakes up. As I've written before, she generally wakes up with a smile, and I love that smile. Although people all over the world put their babies in cribs and know they are awake because they hear them crying, I just don't want to do that--make it so that Ella must cry everytime she wakes up.

And that's my perogative as her mother. End of discussion.

So what to do then? Well, at first I thought I might get a swing bassinet. The swinging motion does keep her asleep (when she's napping on my lap, I'm in a rocking chair). I thought that might be a good solution because it would keep her horizontal and swinging. But bassinets are designed for newborns, and newborns don't weigh 26 pounds. The highest I've seen one go up to is 25 pounds, and although I'd be willing to ignore the weight limit for 1 pound, obviously Ella will keep on gaining weight, and I don't see the point in buying an expensive item like that if she'll just grow out of it in a month, tops. So that's out.

I don't want to put the crib in the living room, because as I mentioned, our living room is tiny. So I'm thinking about building a bassinet that would be strong enough to hold 30-40 pounds. But that's a big time commitment, and I don't have a lot of time. There are too many other things I need to do with what little free time I have.

So I'm in a bit of an impasse right now. I don't see a solution, but I'm sure one will present itself at some point. And besides, with a baby, nothing remains the same for very long.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Seven Month Letter

Dear Ella,

This month has been wonderful. You are definitely aging well. You laugh and smile and grab onto my shoulders when I hold you, and that is even better than mint chip ice cream, and if you knew how I tear through that stuff right now, you’d really appreciate the compliment I’m bestowing on you.

You’re getting a very clear idea of what you want these days. Or maybe the truth is that you’ve always known what you want, but now you are getting to the point where you can communicate it. Your thoughts are a bit more transparent. For instance, for your first month or so, you seemed to have two thoughts. The predominant thought was, “This sucks!” “This,” of course, being life in general on the outside. The other thought ran along these lines: “Eating is good.” Honestly, even now at the ripe old age of 31, I can tell you that your initial findings continue to hold true.

About your transparent thoughts. I’ve noticed one in particular, which is a little bit…well, disconcerting in some ways. You definitely feel some ownership of my breasts. They, clearly, are yours. When you see them outside of a nursing context—if I’m getting out of the shower or getting dressed, let’s say—you stare at them as if to say, “What is going on with my food dispensers?” As you get older, you’ll learn that the way to a woman’s heart (including your own) will probably involve the object of your desire looking in your eyes instead of eight inches south of there, where you currently focus your attention.

Speaking of my (okay, okay, your) breasts, you still like to bite me. I try not to deny you the things that you want, but in this instance, I do draw the line, and boy does that ever PISS YOU OFF. My technique when you bite me involves my putting my thumb on your cheek, near the corner of your mouth. The pressure there makes you open your jaws, thereby releasing my nipple from your razor sharp teeth. This, apparently, is wrong of me to do. Very, very, VERY wrong. The screams you produce at this action on my part come close to shattering glass. And I’m sure I’m not actually hurting you because I’ve tried this on myself, and while not pleasant, it doesn’t hurt. So you’re just angry that I’m separating you from your favorite object. While my breasts are flattered, they do prefer their natural state—the one without bite marks.

But enough about my your breasts. You have discovered another love this month, and that is the doorway jumper. After your four month check-up, when you weighed in at 22 pounds, I started getting the jumper out because you’re supposed to be under 25 pounds to use it, and the way you were gaining weight, I figured we had three to four days until you hit that mark. But although being in the jumper was okay with you, you did not grasp the concept of jumping. After a few weeks, the jumper went back into its box, and that was that. But this past month, I decided to get it out again, and viola! You revealed yourself as a jumping baby. (I’m putting that whole 25 pound weight limit thing out of my mind for the time being.) In fact, right now, you are very tired, but you are jumping away in your jumper because you cannot resist jumping in your jumper, even when you are tired and cranky.

You really do get more wonderful and more fun with every passing month. I can’t help but smile when I look at you, especially right now as you are trying out one of your new favorite sounds: mum, mum, mum…..


Monday, March 13, 2006

The Big Post

I've been meaning to write a post for a while now about Ella's size. She's a big girl. At least one of you, my readers, have commented on her cheeks. Yes, they are quite chubby, which is good in a way because if she didn't have chubby cheeks, her face would look very weird sitting on top of that chubby body.

Ella had her six month check-up last week (she's actually closer to the seven month marker than the six). She weighed in at 26 pounds. That's right. 26 pounds. When the doctor shows her weight on the standard growth chart, her growth curve looks down on the 95th percentile curve from far, far above. Her length is 27.5 inches, which puts her in the 90th percentile for length, I believe.

Not infrequently, people come up to me and exclaim over Ella's cheeks. "Oh my!" the woman (it's always a woman) exclaims. "How much does she weigh?" When I tell the nice woman, "26 pounds," her eyes widen and her hand invariably lands on her chest. More often than not, she'll pull over her own child and say, "Here's little Timmy! He's 12 and he only weighs 20 pounds!" Okay, I'm exaggerately a bit there, but I've certainly heard, "Here's little Timmy! He's 2 and he only weighs 24 pounds!"

So my little girl is, in fact, a big girl. It's very apparent at my moms group when I pick up one of the other babies. They're all the same age, within a month. There's a little girl and a little boy who weigh 15 pounds each. When I pick up one of them, if I don't remind myself beforehand, the tiny baby is at risk of being flung into the ceiling as I go to lift him or her, braced for Ella's weight. Seriously, I was holding the little boy once and I had to be careful to make sure he didn't slip through my arms as I was walking. He's just a little slip of a thing, small enough to fall through the natural gap between my elbow and my side. Just last week, he spilled his mother's soup on his pants (the soup wasn't hot), so I lent him Ella's spare pants from my diaper bag. He could have set up camp in there and still had room to invite a friend.

I have found myself worrying about Ella's weight lately. For one, she's 26 pounds and only (almost) seven months old. The convertible carseat I bought for her is only rear-facing for up to 30 pounds, and Pennsylvania state law requires that infants under 1 year old be rear-facing. It seems unlikely to me that she will gain less than 4 pounds over the next five months. I've seen a carseat that goes up to 33 pounds rear-facing and (an ugly) one that goes up to 35 pounds. We'll figure it out, I guess.

Her weight gain has slowed down, believe it or not. Between birth and two months, she went from 9.5 pounds to 16.5 pounds, so a weight gain of 7 pounds. From two months to four months, she went from 16.5 pounds to 22.3, so a weight gain of about 6 pounds. And from 4 months to 6.75 months, she went from 22.3 pounds to 26 even, so a weight gain of only 3.75 pounds.

Ella has never had a drop of formula and hasn't had much in the form of "solids" (her early enthusiasm seems to have worn off, by the way). When the doctor who performed her check-up asked about what Ella ate, she said that Ella should be the poster child for breastfeeding. Nothin' but cream, baby. That's all I make, apparently. But it was great that the doctor was so reassuring about her weight. She says it's nothing to worry about, and that once Ella starts moving around, she'll burn it off.

That made me look at the rolls of fat on Ella in a new way. Are they merely energy stores? And if they are, holy shit she's got a lot of energy available to burn! Seriously, I don't think I'll be able to keep up.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

One of Those Mornings

Well, IT happened this morning. Ella fell off of the changing table. She actually flipped over it. I had her sitting on it (yes, I know I am the worst mother ever). I turned away, and I believe that she leaned forward to play with the tags on the changing pad and then tumbled over the edge. I turned in time to see her land, flat on her back, on the floor with a rather loud THUD. My first thought was OH MY GOD. My second thought was, At least she didn't land on her head. Her head hit the ground, certainly, but she didn't land full force on it.

She cried afterwards. Okay, that's a lie. She SCREAMED. I could actually make out some words in her screaming. My baby's first words! They went something like this: "AHHHHHHH YOU ARE A HORRIBLE MOTHER AHHHHHHHHHHHH YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO PROTECT ME AHHHHHHHHHHH YOU HAVE FAILED AND YOU ARE GOING TO HELL AHHHHHHHHHHHH." My sweet little girl. She speaks the truth.

She was on the changing table because I was getting her ready to go to the doctor for her six month check-up. We got into the car and headed there, and I kept looking back at her in the mirror. She sort of drifted off and I kept thinking, "I hope she's not slipping into a coma."

We got to the doctor's office, and I confessed how I had let my baby almost fall to her death. (I should make a note of this in one of those books: You know, March 3, 2006, Ella's six tooth. March 8, 2006, Ella's first near death experience.) So the doctor checked her out during the normal exam and she's fine. Whew.

But Ella's trauma was not over yet. A well visit to the doctor means one thing: shots. So then we had to get through that experience, too. No fun. And she bled, my poor baby. We're doing a delayed schedule, so these are her second round of shots. I'm pretty sure she didn't bleed the first time. So now she's got a bandaid on. Rather than rip that off and make the day a trifecta of misery, we're going to try to soak it off.

Okay, the morning is over. Let's hope it gets better from here on out.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Back in the Swaddle Again

Well, we've had several nights now with multiple night-wakings. We're talking every 2 hours or less. Not so much fun really. When you bring home a newborn, you understand that is the deal. Plus, you're so hopped up on adrenaline and protective momma-bear hormones that you wake up at least every two hours to make sure the tiny baby is still breathing. But after six months or so of consistent, constant breathing, you've come to value your sleep.

The problem seems to be face rubbing on Ella's part. When sleeping, she's been keeping her hands near her face and then rubbing, rubbing, rubbing. Why? I don't know. Maybe it has something to do with this sixth tooth coming in. I've seen the new tooth through her gums for a couple of weeks now, and when it finally cut through yesterday, I had high hopes for a good night's sleep last night.

But no dice.

When she was waking up for the fourth time around 1:30am last night, I slid out of bed and went to the bathroom, figuring I had enough time before the whimpering turned into full out crying. In the bathroom, dazed with exhaustion I thought, "If only I could keep her hands away from her face...."

And then the idea occurred to me. So simple. Could it work?

I went back into the bedroom and got out the swaddle blanket. Ella's eyes were still closed, her hands rubbing her face, whimpering, as I laid out the miracle blanket and prayed for my own miracle. I put her in the blanket and then tucked in one arm and then the other. She hadn't been swaddled for months, but desperate times called for desperate measures. Her eyes stayed closed throughout, but I walked her for a few minutes anyway. Then I laid her down and....

She slept.

For four hours.


Friday, March 03, 2006

Makes Sense

She's six months old, so she should have six teeth, right?

Maybe now we can go back to that thing where we sleep at night for longer than two hours at a time.