Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Shots, grasshoppers and wrong turns!

Someone pointed out to me that STRESSED backwards spells desserts. Hmm. Maybe that's why I'm craving ice cream. I have been really stressed out lately! I know that I should relax. I do plan to start doing yoga again soon. Maybe that will help. I need to find my "Zen" again. I wish I didn't let things get to me. I wish I was one of those people so laid back about everything. Just go with the flow. Take it as it comes. I'm a little high strung (it's hereditary.) I can only relax when everything is perfect and everything goes right. Now how often does that actually happen?!

Car trips are often stressful with the baby. I never know if she's going to scream or for how long. I worry about the position of the sun (because even with the screens covering the back windows, sometimes there is full sun on her face and it drives me crazy! I wind up dislocating my shoulder reaching to the backseat to hold up a piece of paper to shade her little face. Have to be especially careful with my sensitive little red haired girl.) I worry if she's going to poo (because she goes so often and as I've learned the hard way a few times now, trying to change her in the car is beyond awkward. It's just short of impossible. And God help you if you don't change her because she will scream bloody murder the entire way until your ears are bleeding and your head explodes. If you happen to be on the highway and can't pull over, you're S.O.L.) or cry for some other reason. I worry that she'll wail the whole time or wait for a really embarassing moment like when I'm at the drive-thru window. Every time I put the keys in the ignition I cross my fingers and hope I get lucky.

It was my brother's birthday celebration, so I set out in the car with Michelle, hoping for the best. At least now I have my trusty soother to help out during the trip. (I have gone from being opposed to the pacifier to absolutely loving it! It really helps to calm Michelle down, keeps her from crying, actually seems to help her fall asleep and so is my magic talisman when we're out and about.) The only problem is that of course it doesn't always stay in her mouth and she cries when it drops. So I pulled over three times during the trip to give it back to her. Then there's the sunlight. For some reason on this particular drive, the sun was on her face no matter which way we went, even when the road curved. It seemed to be coming from all directions. I was afraid she'd get a sunburn. I guess I don't have to worry that she only swallows about half the vitamin D drops when I try to give them to her. She's getting vitamin D whenever we take a drive thanks to the useless screens I got for the windows. I guess I need to install full curtains or black out the windows or something.

At least we made it there for the birthday party but being at my Mom's is stressful in itself. My mother's house is a little crowded to say the least, never mind when there are nearly 20 people there. She had cleared out the family room to make some space but my nephew James and one of my brother's friend's kids were playing with toy cars and had taken up the entire floor. I needed to feed Michelle and my Mom didn't have a private room I could go to. So to get to the couch I had to carefully tiptoe like a Mommy Godzilla through a little village filled with hundreds of toy cars, trying not to slip and drop the baby.

I don't feel comfortable breastfeeding in public. I don't mind as much if I'm just around women but I just can't do it in front of boys. Family or not. I had pumped breastmilk in a bottle but it wasn't enough to do all day so I had to breastfeed her at least once while I was there. My Mom said "Save the bottle for when we're having dinner so I can feed her while you're eating." I put a big scarf over Michelle and I (and it was a hundred degrees under the thing!) for privacy and tried to feed Michelle. It was very uncomfortable. At home I have my nursing pillow when I'm sitting up or I feed her lying down in bed. Trying to feed her on the couch with no pillow and trying to stay hidden from two little boys playing with cars by my feet was not easy. I knew that James was aware of breastfeeding (he had precociously made the comment while I was pregnant that a baby was going to be a lot of work and that I'd have to feed her from my boobs!) but I really didn't want to expose myself to him. Using the nipple shield (which I continue to use and couldn't live without! The first week trying to feed her with my bare nipples left me bleeding and bruised! I'm never going back to that!) makes it that much more awkward especially when you're trying to stay hidden. Michelle and I both wound up soaked. (When she's not on a proper pillow she's a sloppy eater and the milk tends to drip down the two of us.)

Michelle is sometimes fussy, sometimes good. And you never know how it's going to go. Usually the soother will placate her at least but it doesn't always work. She was probably cranky because she didn't get to have much of a nap. She closed her eyes for a few minutes here and there but wouldn't stay asleep. Even if there were room for her to lie down, the TV blasting (we couldn't find the remote to turn down the volume) and the boys playing in the room probably would have disturbed her. At least my sister in law took her for a while which gave my arms a break. Barb was excited to hold her. "She's so small! You forget how small they were!" Barb's youngest is a toddler. She isn't planning to have any more. Holding Michelle almost made her want another. Hearing Michelle cry almost non-stop probably nipped that in the bud.

I had the bottle of breast milk to give Michelle at dinner which she consumed in seconds (120 ml should be plenty. I can't believe how much she can drink/eat!) and then proceeded to cry while I tried to scarf down my dinner. My brother in law joked "This would be a good commercial for Advil!" It's funny because I remember so many get-togethers in the past where my siblings' kids were crying, screaming. Arguing over toys. Crying because they fell. Sometimes it could get pretty loud, especially with a couple of them going at once. I never suspected that one day it would be MY baby who would be crying. Having a child seemed beyond the realm of possibility. Now it's my reality.

My brother in law asked if maybe she was hungry or needed to be changed. "No," I explained, "She's just been fed, burped and changed. She's just a redhead! Mom says I was a nightmare too."
Even little James asked "What's wrong with the baby?"
"She's a baby!" I answered. Babies cry. It's their only form of communication. (Well other than the occasional coo or goo and a little laugh.)

The sound of the baby crying, along with all the other noise and commotion of the family was a bit overwhelming. I wondered what Christmas would be like when an even bigger gang (all of us) will be there. Of course by then Michelle will be 5 months old and hopefully much better behaved. She may even be talking. (I can dream. She has said "Hi" more than ten times now which to me makes it more than a fluke or accident. So who knows? A few times when she was crying it sounded like she said "Mama" even when she was first born. OK that probably was just a fluke...)

Get-togethers with the family are a little different with the baby. Everyone was hanging out in the backyard. Usually I would have been out there with them. We went out briefly but then I had to go in to feed Michelle and after feeding her we were both damp with milk and it was too cold to go out. So I barely had a visit with anyone other than the boys and their cars in the family room. Then even when everyone came in I missed my brother opening his gifts because I had to change Michelle who was screaming (again). I tried to get a group photo of us but there really isn't anywhere to set up the camera at my Mom's. My camera has a self-timer so I'm usually able to get all of us in a shot. Unfortunately on this occasion I couldn't fit everyone in and the baby was crying. It was one of the worst pictures ever. At least Michelle settled down for a few minutes and we were able to get a couple of photos.

By the end of the day I was physically and emotionally exhausted and anxious to get home. Little did I know what lay in store for me...

The baby was screaming. She wouldn't even keep the soother in her mouth a second so I thought something is definitely wrong. I was on empty anyway (of course) so when I stopped to fill up at the gas station, I took her out of her seat to change her diaper (as nightmarish as it is to do so in the backseat of the car.) Sure enough she'd had another HUGE poo (why she couldn't have done this five minutes earlier before we left my Mom's, I don't know. Timing is everything! She usually has at least three really big poos a day but you never know exactly when they'll happen.) So at least she was changed and happy. Unfortunately it seems that while I had the car door open, we picked up a hitchhiker...

I was driving along when I suddenly saw a grasshopper spreadeagle, legs splayed across the windshield. Inside the car! Normally I'm not afraid of grasshoppers but I'm not a big fan of insects flying at my face when I'm trying to drive. I have had insects -- spiders, wasps, mosquitos -- in the car before, long before I had the baby and it was never pretty. It usually involved me screaming and swerving and nearly crashing to my death. I'm a little more cautious now with the baby and knew I'd have to try to restrain my natural instinct to scream and flail like a madwoman, possibly killing us both. I didn't know if the grasshopper might jump or fly or fall on me but he kept slowly inching up the windshield until he was at my eye level. I can't describe how hard it is to keep your eyes on the road when you're whiteknuckled staring at a grasshopper praying that he doesn't jump at your eye. I had to get him out. I just didn't know how. I didn't want to squish him. It made my skin crawl just thinking about it. Then I remembered my friend had given me this handy little diaper bag dispenser for my purse. I could catch him in a bag and let him outside. I finally went for it. It was terrifying but I managed to catch him in the bag and let him out the window. Logically he probably died anyway. If the impact didn't kill him, then a passing car would but in the scheme of things I figured the lives of my baby and I were slightly more important! One disaster had been averted but there was still another in store for me...

The route that I used to take home hasn't been possible for months thanks to an annoying road closure due to a never-ending construction mess (on the main road that I took 50% of the way) so I had an alternate route. Then to my horror as I was heading home I saw that the infuriating construction disease had spread even to my alternate route. It was closed. Great. It was pitch dark out. My night vision isn't great to start with. I thought I had figured out another way home. Turns out the road that I thought I was on was something else entirely. Before I knew it, I was lost. Really lost. Nothing was familiar. I was in the middle of nowhere. There were no lights. I turned from one street to another hoping something would take me somewhere. I didn't even know what direction I was going. North, south, east, west? I hadn't a clue. For all I knew I was going in the opposite direction to where I should be heading. Everything was "Sideroad" this and that. You know you're in the country when they don't even call it a road or a street, just a sideroad. Sure enough, now I was on a dirt road! It wasn't even PAVED. Thankfully Michelle was still asleep through all this but I started to panic. "OMG. She's going to wake up and be starving because I should have been home with her an hour ago to feed her. I don't even know where we are! How will we ever get home?!" I started to pray "Please God help me get home! Soon!"

Now most people have modern gadgets like cellphones and GPS. I don't. I refused to get a cellphone. Yes I think I'm the last person left in North America over the age of 10 that doesn't have one! There are times I wish I had one for an emergency but with money tighter than ever as a single Mom it's not really in the budget. Anyway, so I had nothing to help me find my way and no way of calling for help. I started looking for any lights or signs of life but it was just blackest pitch as far as the eye could see. I was getting more and more nervous. I didn't know what to do.

Finally I saw a house with a light on. Part of me worried that this was just too much like those horror movie scenes where some poor unsuspecting schlep is lost in the middle of nowhere and stops somewhere to ask for directions (or runs out of gas -- at least I had gas) and happens upon a family of inbred cannibals. I was hoping that wouldn't happen! I nervously approached the wooden door and a man came to greet me before I knocked. Thank Heaven he was NICE (and not a murderer/cannibal!)

"I'm so sorry to bother you," I said "but I'm really lost and I have a 2 month old baby in the car..."
He kindly gave me directions and even drew me a map. I was so relieved and grateful. I should have asked him how long I was going to be on each of the roads though because it took so long for me to find the main road that I started to worry I'd passed it. I didn't know how much longer to keep driving. When I finally got to a sign and to signs of civilization I was so happy I wanted to scream "Woo hoo!" but was trying to stay quiet for Michelle who was miraculously still asleep. She didn't wake up until we were nearly home and she started to scream. Poor girl was starving by now. Of course (because we hadn't been through enough already) I got stuck behind some idiot on the one lane road going as slow as molasses. I kept trying to comfort Michelle "It's OK baby. We're almost home! We'd be home by now if it wasn't for this IDIOT in our way!" Of course I was an idiot too. I'd gotten us lost in the first place.

I was ecstatic when we finally made it home. I was like Dorothy in her ruby slippers saying "There's no place like home!" Michelle fed voraciously. It felt so good to be home safe and sound that I swore I wasn't going to leave the house the next day and we didn't. We had a nice peaceful day in our pjs and Michelle was quite mellow and content (probably exhausted from the day before.)

There was still something else coming up to stress about -- I had to take Michelle for her 8 week shots. Needles had always caused me anxiety. The idea of my innocent little baby having to go through it was far worse than if it were happening to me. To make matters worse I'd even read about immunizations in "What to Expect in the First Year." Now don't get me wrong. It's a great book. I like that it's so thorough that it warns you about absolutely everything that could possibly happen. The problem with this (much like "What to Expect When You're Expecting" some sections of which gave me nightmares) is that if you're a worrier and you read about all these negative, horrific things that "might" possibly happen, it's a recipe for anxiety. So when I read that the shots could cause a rash, fever, hours of screaming and in very rare cases, even DEATH I was petrified. Of course the book said that the benefits far outweighed the risks. I hoped Michelle would be OK. I was worried enough about her crying at the needle never mind her having a bad and possibly fatal reaction! After cutting her thumb accidentally when I did her nails I wondered if she'd keep bleeding after the needle.

My Mom came with me for moral support. First they gave Michelle a Rotavirus vaccine which consisted of drops (if drops are an option why use needles at all?!) Then they gave her two needles, one in each thigh, one for Diptheria, Tetanus, Polio, Pertussis and HiB. The other for "Prevnar 13." I'm not very familiar with any of the infections/illnesses. I guess because we've been immunized against them for so long they're not really around anymore. Michelle cried and it was a heartbreaking cry of shock and pain. I comforted her. I had tears in my eyes myself. Poor little thing must have wondered what the heck was going on. At least she didn't bleed much. They didn't even put bandages on her. We stuck around for a bit to see if there was any allergic reaction (rash or anything) but she seemed fine. She calmed down eventually. The doctor gave me some infant tylenol just in case but she didn't need it. She wasn't any fussier than normal and you could barely see the tiny dots where the shots had been. I had worried for nothing. I was so relieved. Unfortunately we have to go through this over and over again. Apparently she has to get more needles at 4 months, 6, 12, 15 and 18 months. Then at 4 years, 12 years, 13 years and 14 years. Gheesh. I don't remember getting so many shots as a kid. I thought it was just one booster shot once in your life and you're done.

Even when I don't have anything immediate to worry about, my Mom will call up and try to give me something new to stress over. The latest was her phoning to warn me that there is arsenic in rice. She heard it on the news so it must be true. There's never anything happy on the news so I avoid watching it but I get to hear tidbits from my mother. I'm never sure if she got the story quite right. (Like when she told me that eating eggs is as bad as smoking cigarettes. Not quite right. Apparently eggs -- cholesterol anyway -- and cigarettes can both contribute to heart disease but I'd prefer the eggs.) Some foods I might be willing to give up (broccoli for instance) but I love rice. I eat it almost every day. I was pretty sure that if all rice was poisonous they might make more of an effort to warn people about it, like drawing a big skull and crossbones on the front of the bag or something. Then again it took them a while to let people know that cigarettes would kill them and even that doesn't stop the smokers out there. I don't know much about arsenic. I remember hearing about a play called "Arsenic and Old Lace" about a couple of psychotic old ladies poisoning people. Anyway, I Googled the rice arsenic thing just to see what Mom was on about. It turns out that there is actually arsenic in air, water and soil. Consequently it ends up in many foods, not just rice. Organic arsenic isn't so bad. But there is also inorganic arsenic (in the form of pesticides and insecticides which wind up on fruits and vegetables.) So while the focus was on rice recently for some reason, apparently there is arsenic in apple juice too (which is fine because I HATE apple juice! My Mom turned me against it because she used to always put it in my thermos and made it smell like apple juice. Even when she started giving me milk in the thermos it still tasted like apple juice. Awful.) Anyway, I'm a big fan of rice, especially Uncle Ben's Express Basmati Rice -- my fave. From what I read online there are only trace amounts, not enough to kill you, so I don't think I'll change my diet too much. The weird thing is that I read the FDA really doesn't have any standards for levels of arsenic. So technically all our food could be poisoned with toxic levels of arsenic and they wouldn't have a problem with it? I don't get it. I'm going to try not to worry about it. Apparently everything is bad for you in some way, even things that are good for you. You can't stop eating everything. Fish is brain food but might have mercury in it. Fruits and vegetables are healthy but might be poisoned with insecticides. My Mom said that when I start giving the baby food, not to give her rice cereal, just in case. I rolled my eyes. I won't give her apple juice either.

My Mother was always a worrier and she's passed a lot of her worrying tendencies on to me. As much as I swore I would never become my mother, sometimes I catch myself doing it. I don't want to turn Michelle into a nervous wreck so I do want to try to relax. I don't want her to think the world is a scary place (even though sometimes it is.) Overall it is a beautiful place, full of magic and wonder. The good things are what we need to focus on. And sometimes it's just your perspective. I remember one boyfriend that I dated could put a positive spin on anything. Even when he got lost while driving he would smile and say "It's an adventure!" He would have loved the grasshopper thing. Maybe I need to work on my sense of whimsy. You can't wait for life to be perfect. You just have to smile at the imperfections. Attitude is everything.

I can't believe Michelle is two months old already. The doctor said she looks very healthy and she weighs 11 lbs 6 ounces now. I figured she had to be over 11 pounds by now (judging by how much it hurts my wrists, arms and back carrying her!) Time is flying by. I am so grateful that she is in my life. Even when it's stressful. Even when she's difficult. The moments when she's happy, when she smiles or coos at me make it all worthwhile.

I just need to lighten up. I need to learn to laugh at life's (and my) foibles. The key to overcoming stress is keeping your sense of humour. I usually find mine after the fact. I can laugh about it later when I recall these things. It's just finding my humour in the moment that proves difficult. I have to remember that nothing is that serious. Nothing is the end of the world. Almost everything becomes an amusing anecdote eventually. As Charlie Chaplin said "Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up but a comedy in long-shot."

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