Growing

"Who is this baby and why is Mommy holding him?"

“Who is this baby and why is Mommy holding him?”

Between Frederick’s 2-month well visit and his 4-month well visit, he grew three inches in length, going from 24 inches to 27 inches. That’s pretty tall.

He gained only three ounces.

I hadn’t really given his size much thought, really – he was nursing like a champ around the clock, and seemed pretty happy most of the time. There’s a lot going on in our house, as you can imagine, and there were certainly many instances where in our rush to get out the door, I’d nurse Frederick for a few minutes and we’d be on our way. He didn’t complain that much, and since he’d recently discovered that he could shove his entire fist in his mouth, he was self-soothing just fine. Dan mentioned his “baby six-pack” one or two times when he changed his diaper, and when I bathed him, I just figured he had a different build than my other chunky babies. He was a long, lean, Freddie machine!

Who wasn’t gaining weight.

His doctor wanted to see him a week later for a weight check. During those eight days, he gained an ounce and a half. At least we were going in the right direction, but all I could think about was that I had been starving my child and didn’t even know it. Or that there was a more serious problem, God forbid, and I was too busy and preoccupied to notice. BAD MOM.

Obviously my doctor didn’t say anything to that effect. She’s a mom of four boys who works full time in a busy pediatric practice, so she totally gets chaos. And she supports breastfeeding, too, so as she asked me questions to figure out what was going on and what to do about it, I knew we could work together as a team. Her solution: exclusive pumping for the next ten days so I could measure how much milk I was producing and how much Frederick was taking at every feeding. I would need to supplement with formula if he wasn’t getting the recommended amount of milk for his age, which was being increased slightly since he wasn’t following a healthy growth pattern.

I was so disappointed. My body had failed me. My visions of exclusive breastfeeding until six months flew out the window as I balanced the three cans of hypoallergenic formula in one hand and his car seat in the other. Already in my mind I was calculating the amount of time I would need to spend hooked up to Bessie III. How was I going to pump for fifteen minutes every two hours under the watch of three other children, including one uncomfortable 6th-grade boy? Not to mention responsibilities galore both inside and outside of the home, including a bridal show that Sunday, rehearsals and a concert and…

“You can do anything for a short period of time, right? Right.” Dr. D looked at me confidently, knowingly. “Your priority is getting Frederick to gain weight. You’re going to write everything down and keep track of it, and you can do this.”

Her assurance in my abilities was supremely refreshing, I have to say, and when I got home and assessed the state of things, I decided that yes, in fact, I could do anything I needed to do to ensure that my baby thrived. So I did. I reached out to experienced friends and family members who had excellent advice on how to increase my milk supply. I prioritized my weekend – Daniel was on his own for the bridal show (sorry, honey). But I grew nervous as my small freezer stash of stored milk dwindled, then disappeared. I gritted my teeth when I broke the seal on the first can of formula, and as soon as I measured out a few scoops, a loud, somewhat obnoxious voice in my head chimed in.

“So what if he gets formula? What are you trying to prove, anyway? Your other babies all had formula. Nobody’s handing you any prizes for purity or anything. Your baby needs to grow. This is what’s best for him. Deal with it.”

Thus far I’ve managed to mostly keep up with Frederick’s milk needs. It’s fascinating to look at my notes and see that I’m pretty consistent with milk production (25-26 ounces a day), which is certainly within the normal range, maybe a little lower than I’d like, but decent. And Frederick has been HOUSING bottles, so that leads me to believe we’re on the right track. I’ll know if we can go back to nursing the day after Easter, when I’m hoping to place a naked, not-peeing baby on the scale and see that all of this hard work has paid off. In the meantime, I’ll continue to work on my own internal growth and self-awareness, as I was apparently being all judgey-judgey without even knowing it.

Tightening our belts

Look at this picture of Adrienne playing in the snow! She bundled herself up yesterday morning and was making snow angels when I got home from the gym. Daniel took her out for a photo shoot at the Lamberton Conservatory near Highland Park, and after experiencing the tropical temperatures inside, it was time for some fresh air. Fresh, cold, seven-degree air. Hey, at least the sun was shining.

Ah, February, the shortest month of the year. Also the longest month, at least in my most recent experience. This year, I have to say that January 2015 was the month from hell (and not just because of my birthday), what with all of the illness and those long, LONG, dark, sleep-deprived days and nights. I tried as hard as I could to stay positive and enjoy my sweet little two-month-old baby boy, but MAN, it just wasn’t happening most of the time.

Now I am pleasantly surprised and delighted when I realize it’s five o’clock p.m., I’m looking out of my kitchen window across the fields in the backyard, and HEY! It’s still light outside! This has been the sunniest winter in Western New York that I can recall in recent years, and I’m not complaining about that one little bit.

I will, however, complain about the cold, because it’s been freezing-ass cold. -9 degrees Fahrenheit this morning when we got up. Fires in the fireplace. Slippers required before feet hit the hardwood floor of our bedroom, which is located right over the garage. Endless mugs of tea, coffee, hot chocolate, anything to take the chill (and the fatigue) away. I can’t help but worry when I hear the furnace running around the clock, because I simultaneously hear cash registers ringing with a resounding “cha-CHING!” every minute it’s on.

Money. *sigh*

This fall, I sold my house in Buffalo and was finally able to pay off all of my credit card debt (applause, whoop whoop, hooray, etc.). Aside from student loans for my useless–I mean, esteemed graduate degree, we’re doing pretty well on the debt front these days. I do NOT want to go down that demoralizing road again, so we are determined to live within our means from now on. Lesson learned, finally.

Daniel also made the decision to quit working his night-shift job at Wegmans three times a week so that he has more energy to focus solely on making photography our livelihood. Because of the Affordable Care Act, Wegmans would no longer offer health insurance to its employees unless they worked 30 hours or more per week, beginning on the first of the year. That was not an option for us, so he left Wegmans on December 31st. While it’s been great having a non-zombie for a husband around and available in the mornings and evenings, it also meant our grocery money disappeared. I always joked that Wegmans should have just directly given us our groceries every week in exchange for Daniel throwing stuff up onto the shelves in aisle 15, but that’s not how they roll.

So here we are, dearest February, and I have to say it’s looking pretty lean but quite doable at the moment. We don’t have any expensive hobbies to maintain, unless you count music lessons, which I would never categorize as a “hobby” but I might be slightly biased. There’s lots of healthy vegan and vegetarian food on our menu rotation, and we make most of our food from scratch. Gently-used clothing comes in generously from family and friends, because why buy brand-new clothes for kids that they’ll grow out of in three weeks, or even better, put an unrepairable hole in it? We utilize our local library almost every week. We watch movies on Netflix and play outside in the snow. As I look for more and more ways to stretch our money, I have found that living frugally has made me live more mindfully and waste less than ever before. And as we put every ounce of our energy and resources into family and our photography business, I am becoming even more grateful for the things I have (health, great kids, and a wonderful marriage), and the many simple ways we like to fill our time.

Less has become more.