Monday, April 20, 2009

Breastfeeding (Still) Makes Me Smile...

I started writing this post something like 3 or 4 months ago, and then life just managed to get in the way. Ironically enough, I went through a difficult period of breastfeeding in December and January, when Emma started teething (although to this day I STILL don't believe it was her teeth that were bothering me...) and having a poor latch. Even today she still sometimes gets lazy and doesn't latch so well (whereas when she was a newborn she was a champion latcher!), and obviously this causes a lot of discomfort. I'm inclined to think that this may have led to my breast infection back in early January when I traveled to the U.S. and showed up at my parents' house with a 103° F fever... Thank goodness a doctor had prescribed me some amoxicillin before I left France, because she told me at the time she thought I had the flu... In the end, this was the one antibiotic I could take while continuing to breastfeed, and apparently it nipped the infection in the bud -- to my enormous relief! Needless to say, those first 10 days or so back on American soil were a bit difficult, for both of us, what with the addition of baby jetlag, teething, and re-adjustment. Otherwise, Emma did really well.

I re-read this post and thought back to this particular moment; I still have times like this, when Emma looks up at me with that happy, satisfied look after nursing -- they call it "repu" in French, another word I learned as a new mother! -- but for the most part she's now all business, most of the time, and in particular in the morning she's in a mighty hurry to latch onto my breast because, boy howdy, she's HUNGRY after that long night!

Early morning IS one of my favorite times with Emma, even though on the whole I still remain a non-morning person in general. But both my boy and I cannot resist listening to her gurgle and chatter in her crib until she catches sight of me awake and then INSISTS on my picking her up to feed her -- in a jiffy! I love to hear her quietly wake up from a nap during the day as well, chitter-chattering away in the bedroom and not even calling out for me to come get her -- just enjoying her quiet moment alone.

And all in all I am still in a happy nursing mode -- and I'm still thrilled to be breastfeeding Emma, one choice that I stuck to, even when the going got tough. My goal at this point is to nurse her through her 1st birthday, but if she weans herself before then, that's fine too. (Oh, and on a sidenote, it's funny to see the reaction from a LOT of French people when I say that I'm still breastfeeding -- it's mixed, of course, but more often than not they seem more than a little surprised, sometimes even shocked, particularly the pharmacists! Isn't that interesting...) Of course, it clearly has helped that I chose to stay home with Emma a bit longer before returning to work, and this has been a blessing all around -- this time with her is something that I know I need to cherish, because it flies by fast. I really hope I will keep good memories from this year with her that will last me a lifetime.


November 23rd, 2008

I never thought I would say this, but I am SO, SO happy that I stuck it out with the breastfeeding. And I hate to get all sappy and stuff, but I am really enjoying the quiet moments of breastfeeding that I share with Emma these days... The tough times back at the beginning were totally worth it, I can assure you -- sure, I still have a few difficulties from time to time, and I've definitely had my share of rocky points, but on the whole, the experience has become nothing but positive for me. Emma occasionally gets distracted and pulls off when she's unfocused on her latch, and sometimes when she's really hungry she can be anxious while on the breast, but for the most part she leans into me and enjoys the special time we're sharing together. I think my favorite moment is when she has already nursed on one breast, so she's feeling pretty good already and is nearly full, but decides to nurse a bit on the other breast anyway and looks up at me with a little sparkle in her eye, as if to say, "Well, I'm not really that hungry anymore, but I'm a little gourmande like you, Mommy, so I'll stay on here for a while longer..." And she smiles a bit, espiègle and as cute as a button.

I also like the early morning nursing sessions, when I wake up to her quietly gurgling away in her crib beside me, waiting for me to come out of my own deep sleep and reach into the bed to get her and bring her close to me. She'll smile again, turn her head to me and open her mouth like a baby bird, then concentrate on a very serious nursing session for about 10 minutes. I can tell how fulfilling these morning times are from how happy and satisfied she almost always seems afterwards. And it really is a good feeling!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Magical Moments and Milestones...

There are too many to even try to put down here, and at the risk of sounding like a complete cliché, I have to say that these special moments with Emma are unforgettable -- I know, I know, it's getting old, hearing all the Proud Momma statements, but I just can't resist! Emma's 4th month has officially become pretty eventful, as we found her first official tooth yesterday morning -- yep, my suspicions were confirmed! I had thought she had been acting a bit strange lately, not quite herself, what with the general fussiness, not just in the evenings, as usual, but at other moments during the day. And then there was the drooling and the chewing on darn near everything -- not just Sophie La Girafe! Thanks again, Linda, for that wonderful gift -- I don't know what we'd do without it these days! She gnaws on that famous giraffe enthusiastically, until it drops out of her hand and she gets frustrated wondering where it has gone until Momma picks it back up for her again. She hasn't yet hit that stage where she does it on purpose just for the fun of it -- BOY are we looking forward to that one! I remember my little brother doing that...

Already last month, at her 3-month check-up, I mentioned to the pediatrician my suspicions about possible teething, and she said that of course all babies at her age are discovering things by putting them in their mouths, and of course drooling pretty regularly -- which I do realize is true. But the accumulation of signs just led me to believe that more was going on, and that our little peanut was going to be precocious in the tooth department in any case! Last weekend she had a low-grade fever and inexplicably fell asleep on her activity mat in the early evening, not long after waking up from a nap... Another sign! Plus, she has been nursing differently for the last week or so -- her behavior has changed, and I know that this is pretty normal as well, depending on the baby's mood, etc. She has been pulling away at my breasts while nursing and then pulling off pretty regularly, looking up at me like she doesn't understand what's going on -- as if I could explain it myself! As it turns out, I read that when a baby is teething, he/she has pain when nursing, as the sucking puts pressure on the gums as well...

So when she grabbed at my fingers yesterday morning in bed and started sucking away at them, I let her go at it, until I felt the sharp stab in the front part of her mouth -- YIKES! That's when I went in for a closer look and, lo and behold, discovered the tooth! And it even looks like the one next to it is coming in as well. Bottom front, of course. Poor thing...

Right now she's been going through a lot of moodiness, which is understandable, and I do hope we'll get through this pretty fast... It can vary from one baby to the next, and I know the teeth all come in gradually, so I just hope it will be in spurts and not constant months of teething pain!

Just the other night we had one of those magical moments that I had to write about as well: after her evening bath in the kitchen (how incongruous does that sound? But we don't have a bathtub...), I usually get her dressed and finish up all the little toiletry stages, including cleaning her ears, nose and eyes with saline. Sometimes I'll use some lotion on her, but in general I try not to use too much in the way of "extra" products -- she really doesn't need them! She smells good, baby-good, just the way she is, if you ask me, without the help of any products. I turned her over on her belly for a moment and put her arms forward, as I've tried to do on occasion on her tapis d'éveil, and whereas usually she flails her arms out to the side as if she were swimming, this time she lifted her head up high while pushing on her arms and looked at me. I clapped my hands and said, "Bravo, Emma Bear!" And she burst out laughing, so proud of herself! It was just perfect.

I've tried to capture some of the "lifting up" on camera, but it's been pretty tough so far... I managed to score one, but unfortunately it was blurry. We'll keep trying!

Yesterday's 4-month visit with the pediatrician went well, and Emma was a champ, as usual. I half expected her to be fussy, precisely because she hadn't been doing so well lately, and on top of all that, she hadn't had a real nap since early in the morning, and after falling asleep in the stroller I had to wake her up to see the doctor... But she smiled and sailed her way through the exam, so I worried for nothing... She's weighing in at nearly 16 pounds now (7.150 kilos) and is 68 centimeters long -- she's getting bigger and bigger! She hardly flinched for this month's first shot, but did cry a bit for the second one. Luckily next month there won't be any more vaccinations before we leave for our trip to the U.S. -- thank goodness! The doctor confirmed that she has two teeth sprouting, and we discussed other little concerns of mine... When we left, Emma fell back asleep in the stroller and Momma ran her around the neighborhood for some errands -- I was about exhausted as she was by the time we got back home!

The days are just flying by... And at this point, I still can't see myself leaving Emma at home. I'm not sure what the future is going to bring, but I have some tough choices to make in the next couple of weeks... I know that for the moment, yes, my blog is one of those blogs, but -- well, that's my life right now! So please be patient and bear with me.

Oh, and I know I did get tagged AGES ago by my dear Lauren and Meredith at Poppy Fields as well, but I wonder if I should even bother taking my turn at this point? It's been so long...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Little Bubbles of Happiness

It goes without saying that I am beyond grateful for the arrival of baby Emma in my life... In our lives, really. But I am ever so thankful also for moments like the one I just shared with my daughter, in which she quietly finished nursing and stretched out like a cat, that milk-drunk look on her face, and then smiled up at me. I smiled down at her and the feeling of connection was so strong, I knew this was a moment I would remember forever. Perhaps not in detail, but just that special feeling of bonding, that exchange of smiles, that warm strength that comes from knowing how very much I love her. I wanted that moment to last forever, to engrave it in my heart to be able to bring it out in moments of difficulty and sadness.

Oh, yes, I am grateful and thankful for the joy that Emma has brought to our lives, to both her daddy and me, and to my whole family... The past four months have been a roller-coaster of emotions, in more ways than one, and I know that there is so much more to come -- I just hope I'm up for the ride! I'm working on becoming better organized, but I'm also trying to treasure these little bubbles of happiness we share together, because I know they are finite and oh-so-ephemeral.

But yes, thank you dear Lord, thank you Universe for bringing Emma into our lives. The magic is only just beginning.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Up in Arms!

Okay, I don't know where to begin with this, so I'll just get straight to the point: I've been trying to book a plane ticket for Emma and me to travel to the U.S. over the past few days, and Friday night I thought I was set after having found a great fare on -- but no, it was too good to be true! The next day I get an e-mail and a phone call telling me that the flight can't be confirmed at the quoted price on-line because in fact the "class" for an infant has been changed, or something or other, and that in fact Emma's fare will be 210 AMERICAN DOLLARS MORE -- supposedly for fuel charges!!?? In essence, her ticket will cost nearly as much as MINE, and she doesn't even get a seat! She will be sitting on my lap and may very well get a bassinet, IF I'm lucky enough to get a bulkhead seat.

Folks, as you all know, my daughter will only be 5 months old in December, and I decided to travel with her in January, after the New Year, because I figured that by then the fares would be much cheaper than traveling over the holidays. It wasn't absolutely crucial that I be in the U.S. for Christmas this year, as Emma is still really little, and I figured we would celebrate Christmas here with my boyfriend's family, and then just celebrate things a bit later with my family back home. In the future, further down the road, I hope to take Emma back to the U.S. for an actual Christmas, when she's older and can really appreciate the Christmas carols, baking cookies, the atmosphere around the holidays -- the whole shebang, quoi. This is pretty much the ONLY time I'll have to be this flexible about my travel times, too, because I'm not working right now. Once I go back to work it will be much tougher to figure out the best times to travel. And this time around I don't need to fly over on a particular date, so I was open to many different possible options.

Basically I was looking at flying over around January 8th and staying nearly a month at my parents' place. But I am BEYOND SHOCKED by these new supposed fuel charges... Does anybody know anything about this? Have you heard anything about this before? Suppposedly the woman at USAir told my mother (who called for me as well, as she was helping me to try to book the tickets) that this was some sort of new international regulation for infant passengers -- but WTF?!?! I thought the whole benefit of traveling with a child under the age of 2 was that the cost was much lower, and this is because she doesn't even get a seat! She weighs less than 15 pounds for goodness sake! How can they say this is for FUEL charges, both ways? Is this some money-making scam, the way the airlines are trying to make up for their own financial losses? Has anyone encountered this? I know I basically have no recourse, but I just don't understand how these Internet companies can quote certain fares and then 24 hours later call you to tell you that no, in fact your fare is NOT what you thought it was going to be, as the airline you're traveling with has decided to add this extra charge...

With the extra taxes and fuel charges, Emma's fare will be pretty much as much as mine, and once again, she DOESN'T GET A SEAT! I'm trying not to get steamed over this, but it's definitely not working... I just got off the phone with my mother again, and we're both simply flummoxed by this whole situation. And they've got us good, these damn airlines, because we obviously can't do a thing! And here I was thinking that I wanted to be able to travel with my daughter while she was little, like everyone has told me, because it's financially beneficial, in addition to the obvious fact that it will be a nice way for us to spend time with my family back in the U.S. But NOW what are we supposed to do? Just bite the bullet? I have a feeling that we'll simply have to do exactly that, because we basically have no recourse. I'm just stunned that the international airlines can just UP and do something like this, out of the blue, and inform passengers about it in such a roundabout way, instead of doing it up-front.

Anyhoo, sorry for the rant. I usually don't get so up in arms and upset about things, but this is just extremely disappointing and unnerving for me, particularly since we're really trying to watch our pennies these days, with me deciding to take a few more months away from work with Emma at home. The last thing we need is to have to pay for an expensive airfare in JANUARY, pretty much the lowest season and what I would think would be one of the least expensive times of year to travel to the U.S. from France.

OK, I'm off to grumble some more to myself... And drag my butt to bed.

P.S. ~ On a brighter sidenote, Emma was adorable today -- gurgling away like crazy and being just the sweetest thing. She even took a 3-hour nap from noon to 3:00! It's her smile that makes everything else fade away into insignificance.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Progress... in More Ways Than One!

Right now I'm feeling the need to write about Emma and all that we're experiencing together these days: her discoveries, her reactions to everything around her, our exchanges... And I'm realizing that if I don't get some of this down, NOW, that I'll regret it later. I'm trying to recall now some of the things that she has done over the last couple of weeks that have really made me laugh or smile, thinking to myself how important it is that I remember that particular moment. For example, when I was lacing up my tennis shoes a few days ago, she looked up at me from her transat chair and just started giggling -- I haven't the slightest idea what made her laugh (maybe it was how big her mommy's feet are?), but it was of course contagious, and I started laughing too... She's been giggling more and more like that, but often for completely inexplicable reasons. She'll also laugh a lot when I'm playing with her little feet or goofing around with her before her bathtime. Sometimes she seems like she's outsmarting me, even now, and she blows my mind with her intuitiveness... Just last week I took her to the pediatrician for her 3-month check-up (which involved a second set of vaccination shots -- UGH!), and as I started getting her out of her winter coat in her stroller, she looked up at me as if to say, "What are we doing back HERE, Mommy?" Her lower lip trembled and she started crying. At the time, I couldn't figure out for the life of me what had provoked this reaction, and it was only later when I told my boy about it that he said, "Well, maybe she recognized the place where she was given the shots last month..."

I couldn't believe it! Granted, we're only surmising, and maybe she simply had a bellyache, but she doesn't usually get that trembly lip thing going on unless she's really upset about something. I'm always talking to her, just chit-chatting away, and my boyfriend commented to his father that I basically have a constant "monologue" going on -- and while he thinks this is hilarious, he also felt like it must be good for Emma. I hope so anyway! But the thing is, I'm almost always either being silly or talking in what I think is a positive tone of voice, so she has really come to sense when something is wrong. After nursing her early on Tuesday morning this week, we fell back asleep, as it was a national holiday here in France and Daddy was home with us as well... When Emma woke up around 9:00, Daddy brought her into the bed and we spent some time together before he took her to change her diaper. I joined them in the living room a few minutes later, but I was still trying to drag myself up out of sleep. As I looked down at Emma, I noticed that she had scratched her face again in several spots -- she hasn't done this in a while, and I've been trying to be vigilant about trimming her fingernails on a regular basis. But since she started sucking her thumb, she puts her fingers up around her nose like a claw, often in the middle of the night, trying to get her thumb in just the right position... And hence the dragging away at her nose and the scratches.

A bit dismayed, I said out loud, "Oh no, you've scratched yourself again!" And of course my tone of voice was a wee bit negative... Poor Emma took one look at me and the trembling lip came back! She burst out crying, little sweetheart, and I felt terrible. I reassured her that of course it wasn't her fault, and started talking to her as usual, and she calmed down. But it was just incredible how she sensed immediately that I wasn't talking like I usually do! And she felt like she had done something wrong and I was yelling at her...

Other times her understanding of things impresses me as well, like at bedtime. After nursing her, usually she'll fall asleep on my shoulder when I'm trying to get that last little burp. And I'll gently put her in bed for the night. But once this week she woke up with a start and looked bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I thought, oh man, now she's really awake! But I told her quietly that it was bedtime, and that she needed to sleep now; I laid her in bed, and she looked up at me with a big smile. Ten minutes later, when I came in to check on her, she was sound asleep. Again, incredible! At least I felt like it was... In any case, her personality is really beginning to shine, and it's really exciting to see how much she's changing all the time.

Last weekend was really nice as we spent a couple days up in Le Havre again, at my father-in-law's house, where I was finally able to cook for the first time in months. I cracked out a new recipe I had wanted to try for a canette aux figues. I'm crazy about figs and hadn't had a chance to cook with them at all this year, and as the season is coming to an end, I didn't want to miss out. I didn't know whether I'd pull off this particular recipe, but it turned out really well, even better than I had hoped. Definitely one to try again, maybe even before the end of the month! Here's hoping the figs will hang in there for a couple more weeks at the local market... I'd also like to bake my fig tart again, the one I first made last year, with an almond cream.

So I'm gradually adding some other nice things into my days and I'm working on finding a better balance of my time -- although I still need some major improvement in the housecleaning department! Ugh. At least Emma's laundry gets done in a jiffy -- I can spend a good half-hour scrubbing away at her poopoo stains, and it's looking like I'll need a new bar of Octagon soap when I head over to the U.S. in January -- at least if all goes well! I still need to book our plane tickets, but I'm hoping that because it will be low season and after the holidays that I'll be able to find a decent fare. Next Monday we're heading off to the American Embassy to put through Emma's paperwork for her passport, so that will be a step in the right direction!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Emma in the morning...

Emma in the morning...
Originally uploaded by alwaysace
What can I say? She entertains me. And makes me smile, all the time! It's just a shame that her funny little sneezes got cut off the end here...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What a Champ!

Emma B., sitting pretty in shades of blue

OK, so I know I took, like, an unannounced two-month blogging hiatus without saying anything, and there's probably no one out there reading me anymore *chirp, chirp* -- but I have to admit that this blogging gig has never been a very consistent thing for me (um, as if I have to point that out...). And most of the time I can only really post something when I feel GOOD about it and what I have to say and can't wait to get it out there in the blogosphere -- either that or when I really need to rant, which of course has happened on occasion, from time to time... Ha!

But the truth of the matter is, it's not easy for me to talk about my fears, anxieties and concerns when it comes to Emma and doing my best in raising her. I know I have so much to learn, and I do hope most of it will come naturally and with some help and advice from those around me, but I have to admit that I SO wish I could avoid transmitting my neuroses and worries to her, even though in the end I know it's ultimately inevitable... They're just a part of my nature and one of the hardest things to change about me. And virtually impossible to disguise or smother, for that matter.

Emma has been a doll, truly an angel, and I know THAT will probably change a million times over as well, but sometimes I can't get over how wonderful she is... Smiling all the time like crazy, especially in the morning after just waking up, when she's just Baby Sunshine. In the first two months I really did worry about everything and anything, and I imagine that will more than likely continue for a while as well, but these days I'm settling into the whole momma gig a bit better and starting to gain a little more confidence in myself and my capabilities. I still need to learn to be better organized, but, well -- one day at a time! I'm thrilled that I've been able to continue with breastfeeding, especially since that first month was so damn difficult... And I honestly thought so many times that I was going to have to throw in the towel, give up and start doing formula, or at least mixed nursing. But I stuck it out, stuck to my guns if you will, and persisted in my desire to do only exclusive breastfeeding. Bizarrely enough, I never had a major "montée de lait" in the first few days after Emma was born, and that's perhaps where all my anxieties first began (wondering if I had enough milk and all...), because I worried so much about having done something wrong from the get-go, namely letting Emma be taken to the nursery the first couple of nights because I was so wiped out after the delivery. I know SO MANY of the books and experts say not to do it, but I was truly a wreck -- and again, sometime soon I'll try to write more about my delivery experience, so I can explain things in more detail. My experience was far from the most gruesome, truly, but it was far from easy too... In the end, though, my milk did gradually come in, probably much more gradually than for most moms, but the important thing is that I did finally have enough milk!

My little blossomed bean has been growing like a weed in any case, and we'll find out exactly how much she weighs and measures next week at her three-month check-up. Of course TODAY is her official 3-month birthday, so Happy Three Months Emma B.! While my parents were here she was a big show-off, smiling all the time and taking in everything around her. My older brother spoiled her like crazy and kept her constantly entertained with Elmo and Cookie Monster skits and conversations -- my brother is just the best uncle! :-) My parents were of course thrilled to spend so much time with her and only wished they could stay longer... As did I. My dad was particularly good at putting Emma to sleep on his shoulder, as well as making her giggle on her changing table. Speaking of which, how funny is the fact that that's one of her favorite places to be? On the changing table, I mean. Who woulda thunk it?! I know I've got to keep a particularly close eagle eye on her these days, as she starts rolling around even more, but when I lay her down there, she's almost always happy... She loves to be taken care of and to have attention showered upon her (she ain't a Leo for nothin'!), and she fixates on this poster that I have hanging on the wall right above her changing table, a print from a museum in Le Havre. Which always brings back memories of my boyfriend's mother...

Emma's also getting stronger and stronger... Aimée pointed out back in late September, when my parents and I stopped by l'OisiveThé for lunch, that Emma was already starting to hold up her head "like a champ" -- and she's been doing it more and more! She's constantly staring around her and is what the French call "très éveillée", aware of so much and crazy curious about everything. Her latest thing is talking to her buddies in her stroller as we take walks around the neighborhood. The other day I bent down to check on her and found her garbling away to Mr. Turtle -- once again, she made me smile like crazy!

I managed to make a return trip back to l'OisiveThé about two weeks ago, when I finally hauled the MacLaren into the city and realized that, in fact, it's not all that hard to carry around -- once Aimée showed me how to REALLY carry it, that is! And here I thought it was going to be such a hassle... But this is one of the main reasons why the Techno XT is so great, and I'm SO grateful to Aimée and Philippa for telling me about it. And here I thought I was going to have to carry the stroller separately while carrying Emma in the Baby Bjorn! Silly me... So thanks to dear Lauren and Aimée's generous help while balancing the business in the teahouse, I was able to get my hair cut in the adorable salon across the street and have a delicious lunch with the gals. It was a wonderful afternoon, and I'm so glad I braved it into the city that day -- especially since Aimée also showed me a new route for my trips back and forth into her neighborhood. So I hope to make it back again sometime soon! Thank you SO much, Aimée!

Oh, and I can't sign off without mentioning Emma's other latest discovery -- the THUMB! Yes, that's right, it's official: Emma B. has discovered the fascination and soothing powers of her thumb... I didn't know how to feel about it at first, as I've heard such horror stories about children sucking their thumbs into early adolescence, but what can you do, really? She seems so calm and happy when she has it in her mouth, and I can't argue with that, especially when she's having a hard time going to sleep... Then again, the funny thing is when she pops it in her mouth when she seems downright bored, or if she feels like she's not getting enough attention -- that's something that worries me a bit! Of course, she's never really cottoned on to the pacifier, which I was initially relieved about, but which is the worse evil? Thumb or pacifier? Therein lies the question... And I know there are two schools of thought, two opposing camps, and I have no idea where my thoughts really fall.

But one thing is for sure, Emma is on her way to becoming an enchanting baby girl! This coming from an entirely biased Mommy, of course...