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The 26th we (mom, dad, Matt & Andrea and kids, Joel, Gwen, and I) spent the day with Grandpa and Ruth, where I got my turkey fix for the holiday season and we got some great pictures, including four generations of Friedemanns and Grandpa Walter with all his great-grandkids.

Tuesday morning Dad drove us to the Milwaukee airport so we could pick up the rental car and drive to Carroll. We generally budget ~7 hours to drive from Madison to Carroll (including a stop for lunch), and Milwaukee is another 1.5 hours east of Madison, so we were gearing up for a long day. It really wasn't so bad, though; we got out of Milwaukee around 10:00am, and into Carroll around 7:00pm, with stops in Madison (for two bottles of New Glarus's raspberry tart), Platteville (for lunch at Culver's), and Cedar Falls (gas). Gwen was good and slept most of the way.

The rest of the week was busy, with eye appointments for both of us, some shopping, lots of computer help from Joel to his mom, and going through things that we have in storage. We now have about 50m^3 of boxes plus three pieces of furniture set aside to be shipped to us; we (mostly I) also got rid of a huge amount of stuff. Every time we visit Bernie & Rita and we go through things in storage we find things that we don't need any more (this time it was a lot of kitchen appliances: they all work just fine and are things we used to use, but we're pretty much sure we're not going back to the US any time soon, so it makes sense to get rid of things that won't work on European power), but it never seems to make a dent. This time, we made a dent; there are visibly fewer boxes than there had been.

We got more pictures there, including one of all the Uckelmans in the world (when Joel's grandfather, Joseph, emigrated, he dropped the 2nd 'n'. All the relatives still in Germany spell it Uckelmann. Joseph had only one son, who had only one son, so that means the 5 of us are the only ones in the world, so far as I know, that spell the name this way). I also got enough baby clothes to clothe Gwen for the next year or so! We barely got everything into our bags (though we did, including space for a box of Nutter Butters and a bag of frosted animal cookies, the latter of which I am currently eating from for breakfast, yum).

Joel is in DC now until next Tuesday, so I get to be a single parent for a week. I'm going to use this week to see if I can't get Gwen onto a bit more a schedule than she has been (she was pretty regular before our trip, but the trip disrupted her quite a bit, and I'd like to try to get her sleeping through the night more). This week is a good time to do so because she's the right age (7.5 weeks) and since Joel is gone if she cries more than usual, it won't bother him. After reading what other parents feed babies her age in a single feeding, I've started giving her more (150-180ml rather than 100-120ml) at a given time. I'm hoping that this will get her to eat more during the day and hence need less at night. I think it sort of worked; she slept from 19:00 to 22:10, 22:40-2:00, 2:45-6:00, and 6:00-7:15 last night. (Two chunks greater than 3 hours! Not up until after 7:00! It was great!)

Tomorrow is her 8 week check-up. I'm really interested to see how much she's grown; I'm guessing she's up to ~5.5kg and has grown ~2cm. The first outfit I tried on her when we got home was short by about 1cm, and it had fit just fine before we left. The box of outgrown clothes is slowly filling.

I'll close with my favorite picture of Gwen to date, asleep in the car on the way to Grandpa & Ruth's:

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When Gwen had her intake appointment with the consultation bureau (essentially, pediatric health organizers) in Tilburg, I got a growth book that will cover her for the next four years; it's partly info for me, and partly a place for the doctors and nurses to record info at the well-baby checks.

It's decorated with pictures and "did you knows" and things like that, and though it's all in Dutch I can read most of it pretty well. Well enough that I started reading one inset, and realized I knew what it was -- it was the nursery rhyme "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep"...except it wasn't.

Here's the version I know:
Baa, Baa, black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir,
Three bags full.
One for my master,
One for my dame,
And one for the little boy who lives down the lane.

The Dutch version is:

Schaapje, schaapje,
Heb je witte wol?
Ja baas, ja baas,
Drie zakken vol.
Een voor de meester,
En een voor zijn vrouw,
En een voor het kindje
Dat bibbert van de kou.

Which is:

Little sheep, little sheep
Have you white wool?
Yes boss, yes boss,
Three sacks full.
One for the master,
And one for his wife,
And one for the little boy,
That shivers from the cold.

The sheep has changed colors! Why "boss" instead of "sir" (i.e., why not "ja, herr"?)? And the description of the little boy!

Then, this evening when I was rocking Gwen and singing the above to her, I realized that my memory for nursery rhymes is rusty. So I pulled out the complete Mother Goose that we got from a friend, and just started reading from the beginning. Now, lots of them in there I've never heard at all; but I was surprised to find that two of them that I do know are not the same versions that I know! In "Little Bo Peep", I always thought that the missing sheep would return "wagging their tails behind them", but according to the book, they would return "and bring their tails behind them". Similarly, in pat-a-cake, the baker should be asked to bake a cake, and then to mark it for baby:
Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake,
Baker's man,
Bake me a cake,
As fast as you can.

Pat it, and prick it,
And mark it with a B,
And put it in the oven,
For the baby and me.

But the book has:
Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake,
Baker's man!
So I do, master
As fast as I can.

Pat it, and prick it,
And mark it with T.
Put it in the oven,
For Tommy and me.

OK, so I can see substituting generic 'baby' for 'Tommy', but the discrepancy in the second two lines of the first stanza? Where did that come from??
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Boy, it was already a week ago that we gathered hauled all our stuff to the train station and took the train to Brussels. Our flight to Chicago left Brussels on Saturday early enough that we couldn't get an early enough train Saturday morning, so we decided to go over Friday morning and spend a day wandering around the city. We got in to our hotel about 1:30, dumped our things and tucked Gwen into the sling and headed out. It was cool and somewhat drizzly, so it wasn't the nicest day for wandering around outside, but it was still relaxing to just walk without having any clear destination. Our hotel was near Brussels Noord, and from there we walked to the center of the city, stopping in a few clothing stores, salivating over the smell of waffles from all the waffle stands, and regretting our decision to pack and eat sandwiches for lunch when we reached a Christmas market with a stand selling the most delectable choucrute. We then went to the area around Notre Dame du Sablon, since Joel had previously had mussels at a place near there, and it's also home to a concentration of chocolatiers, one of which, Pierre Marcolini, Joel had brought me back some chocolates a few years back, some of the best chocolates I've had. We stopped in there and bought ourselves a Christmas present of some chocolate-covered vanilla marshmallows (this is what marshmallows are supposed to be like) and a selection of caramels, which we haven't tried yet but I'm really excited about. We couldn't find the restaurant Joel had had mussels at previously, but decided we'd be able to find something on the way back to the hotel where we could get some. But it was a bit early for supper so we stopped in a cafe for some hot beverages, and also to put Gwen down because even swapping her back and forth in the sling she does get heavy. By and large she did really well -- she cried and fussed some while we were walking around, but only for a little while and otherwise slept. When we were at the cafe I laid her down on the bench next to me, still in her sling, and she slept the whole time.

We got a bit lost headed back to our hotel, but while we were getting back on track we passed a restaurant that just smelled delicious. We decided first to go and get waffles, since we'd been smelling them all day, and we wanted to make sure that we got some before the stands closed. It's always a pleasure when the taste of something lives up to the smell -- they were great! Joel then decided that he didn't really need mussels, we should go back to the restaurant we'd passed, so we did -- and it was also a great choice. He got a delicious choucrute plate, and I satisfied my desire for gobbets of meat in sauce by getting some Flemish-style pork. Gwen woke up soon after we got there, and I fed her while I ate, and she was, again, remarkably good, no fussing.

It wasn't too late when we got back to the hotel, but we were both really tired, both from walking around (that day was the first day since she was a week old when I could really feel that I'd given birth in the recent passed...that was more walking around in one day than I'd done in awhile, even counting all our trips to IKEA, and, yeah, rather sore) and from the whole "parent of young child" thing. We'd brought the mattress from Gwen's basket along and just put that on the floor, and she slept as well on that as she does at home. We were up a few times through the night, as usual, but I was always able to get her bottle made before she fussed too much.

Saturday we wanted to get to leave the hotel around 8:00 to get to the airport around 8:30, but when we got to the station we found that the back entrance was closed, so we had to go around to the front, and we just missed one train so we had to wait another 15 min. for the next one, and eventually we got in around 9:15. Our flight was at 11 so this wasn't a problem, but we then stood in line for awhile and by the time we eventually got to the front they were calling for passengers for Chicago, as boarding was closing soon. Still, we had enough time to check our bags and get through passport control (where we handed over three passports, and the agent didn't bother to confirm that we actually had a baby; she was in her sling and the sling was over my shoulder, and in that position you can't really tell that it isn't just an ordinary bag, until she starts making noises, and then people are always startled!) and to our gate. Because we booked our tickets so late, and since Joel had a different itinerary than me since he's going to DC for a week after I head home, we hadn't actually gotten seats next to each other; luckily, as we boarded the person who was in the seat next to Joel's (he had a center seat, I had an aisle seat two rows back) was just settling in and so I asked her if she minded swapping two rows back so we could sit together and she happily moved.

Gwen was so good on the flight. She was crying when we were getting settled, but it was just because she was hungry and I couldn't get a bottle made fast enough. After she ate, she slept most of the entire flight -- she'd sleep a few hours, wake, I'd change her diaper and feed her, and then she'd sleep again. There were quite a few other babies on the flight, and every time one of them cried Joel and I would look at each other and say "not OUR baby!" Even taking off and landing didn't bother her at all, she slept through that.

I didn't sleep at all on the flight over, which surprised me since I was tired and it would've been a perfect opportunity, but I wasn't actually so exhausted as I normally am when I fly. I watched Crazy, Stupid Love twice; in the genre of predictable romantic comedy, I have to say, it was really good. I laughed out loud a number of times -- and, as noted, had to watch it a second time.

When we landed I was supposed to text Amy to let her know, but we had trouble getting cell service in the airport; luckily, by the time we got through immigration (having a baby gets you bumped up to the front of the line, especially if the baby is this point she was getting a bit out of sorts, understandably, but now she's got two stamps in her passport, a real world traveler!) and baggage claim my message eventually went through to her, and it turned out that she and Phil were already waiting at the airport. So we met up with them, got our stuff shoved into their vehicle, including the car seat which took quite a bit more time to figure out how to install than you would've thought, and had a fantastic drive up to Mom and Dad's place (along the way I got just about the best news that I've heard all year. It still makes me squee inside when I think about it). I hadn't seen them in more than a year and a half, and Joel hadn't seen them since we'd move to Amsterdam. I'm so glad it worked to meet up with them this way! So much better to have a few hours in the car to catch up with each other rather than trying to steal an hour or so from family holidays to meet up at some diner for a meal, which is what I thought we might have to do if we wanted to see each other.

We stopped in Milwaukee for some food, and then Mom and Dad had ordered Chinese so we got a second supper when we arrived there. Andrea and Matt and their kids were already there and so there was a huge rush to ooh and aah over Gwen; Leah in particular is very happy about her little girl cousin. :) I don't actually remember much of the day after that -- I think we set up the air mattress for us in the office, and Gwen's little mattress next to it, and soon after that I was asleep.

Christmas Day and the day after deserve a post of their own, so I'll stop here in the catch-up.
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Gwen has definitely grown since last week; she's noticeably heavier, and the 2-5kg diapers that we have I'm beginning to have trouble fastening around her round little tummy. One of the pictures I posted yesterday Andrea commented on noting that she seemed like she'd grown even since the 26th when she saw her last. I bet she'll top 5kg when we go to her 2 month check-up on Wednesday.

She might be rolling over (back to front) soon; when getting her diaper changed today her flailing around almost got the body over -- too bad that head is so darned heavy.

Three people (me, Joel, and Rita) have all independently noticed that when she starts to spit out her pacifier accidentally, she'll bring her hands to her mouth to try to push it back in -- and occasionally it actually works!

I think we've figured out whom she looks like. Her face is so square, it's perplexing, since both Joel and I have rather long, narrow faces, so we neither felt she looks much like either of us. But yesterday I poked my head into the bedroom while she was napping, and she kind of squinched up her eyes as if she was about to wake, and then I went into the livingroom where Bernie was napping in his chair, and he squinched up his eyes and woke up -- and it was eerie. Same face shape, same cheeks, same setting of the eyes...I think Gwen looks like Grandpa!
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Gwen is still on a pretty regular up-every-three-hours schedule at night, except it's messed up in the morning in that after the 4:00 or 5:00am wake-up, she's often up again around 6:00 or 7:00am, which is rough. So this morning when she started fussing around 7:00am after having been up last at 5:00am, I knew there was a good chance she was up for the morning. I asked Joel if he could get up and take care of her and let me sleep a bit more and he said sure, but by the time he'd found his fleece pants and was ready to get her out of her crib she was crying pretty loudly, and Rita came and asked if she could do anything to help out -- so he handed her off, and came back to bed. We got another 2.5 hours of sleep -- together! -- while Grandma fed her and played with her. It was great.
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We'll skip the night and start around 6:30am, when she woke up (on schedule) to eat but after drinking about half the bottle and having her diaper changed, for once she wasn't interested in the other half, so I put her back in the basket (but kept the bottle on hand because odds were good that in 30-45 min. she'd want the rest). Sure enough, half an hour later she was fussing enough that it had to be dealt with, but I couldn't really bring myself to get out of bed, and since Joel was getting up in half an hour anyway (he's in Amsterdam today, running various errands and meeting up with Martijn), and since I figured a good explanation for why she was drifting off to sleep in my arms in the rocking chair but then waking up back up and fussing when in her basket was that it was really cold in the house (15C is just too cold at night, I've decided. I was under a quilt and a duvet and had my flannel pants on and Joel and Slinky to curl up with, and I was cold -- so what about poor little baby in the basket all by her cold lonesome?), I first just pulled her into bed between us and cuddled her up in blankets and dozed for a bit. We ended up dozing off and on until about 9:15, not ideal but I'll take it. Then she was up again, hung out patiently on the bathroom floor while I showered, after which she ate and then was awake and alert and nonfussy for about half an hour and then she dozed off in my arms again until around 11:30. When she woke up then she was fussy but not hungry so I figured that was as good a time as any to go do the errands I had planned today -- putting her in the sling and walking always puts her to sleep. So I walked downtown and used up some of the coupons and gift cards I had, and was back in about an hour. Then amazingly when she woke up she wasn't immediately hungry, but content to lie on the livingroom floor while I unpacked what I bought, and then lie on the bedroom floor while I changed the sheets. Then she had about half her bottle, had her diaper changed, and she again lay on the floor happily while I folded some laundry, put another load in the washer, reheated some leftovers, and ate most of them. Didn't quite finish them before she started fussing, but after the rest of the bottle she started getting heavy eyed in my arms, and she probably would've happily fallen asleep there and slept for a few hours, but, as much as I enjoy that, I don't want her to get out of the habit of napping in her basket so after awhile I put her there. She woke up and I could tell she was gearing up to start fussing, and it occurred to me that perhaps sitting on the bed where she could see me was not necessarily the best way to get her to calm down in her basket, because who'd want to sleep there when fussing means you can sleep cuddled up with mom? So now I'm lying at the foot of the bed instead of the head, and she's quite and asleep and will probably be so for another 2-3 hours.

This is what having a perfect baby is like. Already I'm worried about having a second child, because I can't believe we'd be lucky enough to get one who is, overall, so calm and content and low maintenance and a good sleeper twice.

Very soon naptime for me, I think. Last night wasn't a bad night (not like two nights ago), but it wasn't optimal, and two non-optimal/bad nights in a row and I'm tired. But first I've got more pictures to put up in her album.

ETA: I slept for almost 2.5 hours (with two cats) and woke up enough before Gwen that I had time to hang up the laundry, fold and put away all the diapers, make her bottle, and make myself a cup of hot chocolate (which I had bought this morning with a 1.35EUR off coupon, so it only cost me .44EUR). Teh Smugz. I haz them. I may not tomorrow, but, oh boy, I sure do today.
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And this is generally because I get greedy. At night her feeding pattern is either 11/2/5/8/ or 12/3/6, or thereabouts, and after the last feeding I always want to push for one more 2.5 hour stretch of sleep before I get up myself. Sometimes it works, but often it doesn't; she'll be up and fussing about half an hour or an hour or so after I've put her back in the basket, and it's frustrating because I know she's fed, dry, clean, etc. Sometimes it's just lowgrade fussing and I can doze a bit in between replacing her pacifier, but sometimes it becomes all out crying and that's at the point in the day when my patience is at its lowest ebb and I have no reserves for doing anything, especially when I know that what will probably work is picking her up, wrapping her in her afghan, and cuddling/rocking with her. Any other time of the day I'd love to do that, but at that last stretch of the night before it really becomes morning, all I can think of is "please let me sleep just a little bit longer". Yesterday, I didn't get that extra sleep, and was I on edge all day, even though I did get a two hour nap in the afternoon when she also slept. This morning, she didn't fuss too long before Joel said he'd try to calm her. I think they curled up in bed for awhile, but honestly, I'm not sure what they did, because I fell back asleep soundly for another four hours or so. It was wonderful.

When I was up and dressed and settled on the bed with my laptop, Joel brought her back to me so he could go shower and start making the waffles, and he put her in my arms and it was so nice to be so happy to see her (compared to my utter apathy bordering on loathing that characterizes my sleepless state towards her), I had a huge smile on my face, and then I got my reward (on top of 4 hours of sleep!): one corner of her mouth crooked, and then the other, and I got my first genuine, caused in response to some interaction with me, happy smile. It was adorable. I've gotten other things previously that were certainly variants or close approximations of smiles, but this is the first time I've picked her up, smiled at her, and gotten a smile in response. Nice that she was as happy to see me as I was to see her.


Dec. 16th, 2011 10:17 pm
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I feel like LJ is becoming my substitute for a baby book for Gwen. I actually rather like that -- it makes a record of all my thoughts and observations which I'm sure I'll enjoy having in the future, and I really like getting the comments and reactions to what I'm writing. This makes the record even neater.

Wednesday we had a bit of a rough day, we were in a frustrating rotation of eating a bit (but only a bit), sleeping a bit (but only a little bit), and spitting up (unfortunately not only a little bit). Sometimes it was right after eating, sometimes it was while sleeping, sometimes it was after waking up, and she never slept more than about half an hour and was just generally fussy. I was worried about how the night would be if it continued the same, but thankfully she slept throughout the night in her ordinary pattern, waking every 3 hours, eating 100-120ml, and then falling back asleep pretty easily. Thank goodness, because Thursday I went back to Amsterdam for the last meeting of my reading group, and if I'd been up all night long that would not have been pleasant.

Last night was the workshop dinner for a little two-day workshop here in Tilburg (one that I was nominally on the organizing committee for, but essentially all that involved was reading and writing up recommendations on the abstract submissions we received). I missed the actual day of the workshop since I was in Amsterdam, but I went to the dinner because there were quite a few people I wanted to see and talk to (and pleasantly met quite a few more nice/interesting people). I could've brought Gwen with, as I've brought her pretty much everywhere else, but I decided there wasn't really any reason to, I'd be gone only 3-4 hours, and it would just be easier to leave her with Joel. I left around 7:30, said she'd probably be up around 9:30 and be hungry, since she'd been sleeping for about an hour by then, and that if things went horribly awry and he couldn't handle it, to text me and I'd come home. Around 10:00 I get a text, but it was just saying "she's still sleeping. should I let her sleep or wake her and feed her?" and I said "let her sleep". By the time I got home around 11:00 she had woken up and he'd fed her, and she was asleep soon after I got back. And then we had a great night: instead of her usual waking every 3 hours (which she's done like clockwork pretty much since the second week -- I'd always been told that bottle fed babies slept longer at night, but I never noticed any difference when we transitioned from nursing to bottles), she woke up at 2:45 and 6:30 -- 3.75 hours! And since she's usually awake for about half an hour for eating and diaper change, that means instead of me getting sleep in 2.5 hour increments, I got them in 3.25 increments, which was great. I have no idea if this will continue, but I'd love it if it did! (It's a little after 11:00 now and she's drifting off to sleep; we'll see when she's up again next.)

Today she came out to the second day of the conference with me; she was a bit fussy during the first talk I was there for (I missed the first talk of the morning), and so I ended up sitting just outside the lecture hall in the little foyer/entry way which conveniently had a chair and the doors had glass panels in them so I could still see the speaker's slides and hear him, though quietly, but after that she slept through the remaining talk before lunch, slept through most of lunch, ate a bit, and then slept through the afternoon talks. Occasionally she'd make a few cute baby noises, but it never escalated to anything that would be too distracting to the others in the audience -- and it was a small workshop with lots of people favorably disposed to cute little babies, so that was good!

She's really gotten quite noisy over the last two weeks or so. It's strange, because the sounds aren't anything like vocalizations; they come from very deep inside and are, for the most part, involuntary. And some of the other noises she makes affirm my belief that babies are still just proto-humans, not real humans yet. It's like someone has described to her what certain actions are supposed to sound like, but she's never actually heard them made. It's cute. Often after eating she'll cough twice, and it's always "coff, coff". Her sneezes are "at-sew" (where "sew" is pronounced as it looks, not as \so\). And her yawns are very much "yohwn" (that's the best I can represent the vowel, it's tricky). It's like if you had a dog that actually went "bark", as opposed to that being as best an approximation of a non-verbal sound that you can make in writing.

Anent my previous post, in addition to looking forward to seeing who she becomes, I'm looking forward to watching her transition from a proto-human into an actual human.

In other milestones, she's 5 weeks today and I finally put her in a dress:


It was hand-made for her by our friend Sara, her first project with her new sewing machine. It's rather big for her, but that just means she can wear it longer!
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I believe I mentioned in an earlier post how Joel and I didn't decide on Gwen's name until nearly an hour after she was born.

It sometimes still catches me by surprise, and I find it strange, that I have a daughter named Gwendolyn. I was one of those kids who picked out the names (first and middle) of all of my future children (both natural born and adopted; I think the total was up to 14 or thereabouts at one point) from fairly early on. The names slowly shifted over time, and many of the names I had picked out as a teen would definitely not make it onto a list of possibilities now. But still, there always was a list, and it was always populated by at least a handful for each gender.

Gwendolyn was never on the list. In fact, I'd never really liked the name, because it's not a "real" name (one of my primary, though amorphous, qualifications for a name for a child of mine). And there was also something else about it -- pretension? I'm not sure, I've never been able to put my finger on it -- that put me off it. When Joel first suggested Gwen, I liked that right away; it's a real name (even though it's most commonly known as a nickname, it's a standalone name in its own right), it has a nice Welsh connection, it's a single syllable (we wanted either a one or three syllable given name to go with the three syllable last name). The only issue with it was that it didn't go well with our choice of middle name, Rose, which we had basically never deviated from; we did briefly consider Maria, after Joel's great-aunt who died in spring, as a middle name (because I wasn't keen on it as a first name; it's a bit too old-fashioned for me, and it's the name of one of Andrea's most important childhood dolls). When Joel put Gwendolyn forward, a few weeks after suggesting Gwen, I'd already had a chance to get used to, and like, the idea of a daughter named Gwen, and I could reconcile myself to the choice of name because it had Gwen as a nickname, and we both agreed that that's what we'd most commonly use. But since Gwen is a real name in and of itself, and we were planning to use that, why not just name her Gwen instead of Gwendolyn? The only thing against this, for me, was that we'd lose Rose as a middle name, but since Grandma Rose's name was already being used by Gwen's cousin Rinnah, who was born in June, I found I minded this less than I thought, especially since we had another relative to honor with the middle name if we went with Maria.

But then Joel mentioned Gwendolyn again a day or two before she was born, and again after she was born, and since we didn't really have any name other than Gwen that we both agreed on, and he'd regularly vetoed one of my favorites (Stella), and he really seemed to like the name, he won me over; I found, as we sat with her during that first hour and realized that we needed to make a decision, that I really liked the idea of her having a name that Joel picked out, and that maybe I didn't dislike Gwendolyn as much as I thought I did.

And since then I'm totally sure we made the right choice. First, I can't really imagine her having any other name. Second, there's a passage in one of the Anne of Green Gables books (Anne of Avonlea, I think), where Anne complains that her name smacks of "bread and butter and chores", and Diana responds that she always thought that the name was "stately, like a queen", but that she'd think any name that Anne was named was beautiful, even Kerenhappuch, because it was associated with her, and Anne comments on how wonderful that sentiment was, to live in such a way that you beautify your name. I keep thinking about that passage when I think of the name Gwendolyn. In the abstract I may not have been a big fan, but in the particular I find I really like the name, because it's the name of my daughter. And third, something I really didn't expect, since she has a name that is not any name that I ever imagined giving one of my kids, I don't have a lifetime's worth of imaginations and fantasies tied to a kid having that name. The realization came over me a few days after she was born that Gwendolyn is a stranger; that she's really her own person, separate from any daydreams and fantasies I may have had; that "Gwendolyn Uckelman" is someone I'll have to get to know. I feel like I'm not quite articulating this well; but the fact that I never dreamed I'd have a daughter named Gwendolyn helped me from the very start see this strangely named being as something distinct and separate and self-contained. I look forward to finding out who she is!
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Gwen had her one month check-up today and passed with flying colors. She's up to 4.2kg (I guessed in advance she'd be 4.25kg, so I was pretty impressed at how close I was), 53cm in length (since they didn't measure her at birth I don't know how this compares), and a head circumference of 36.5cm. She's thus hovering around the 50th percentile for all her various measurements, which is exactly what we'd expect as she's been completely average on all her other measurements (including the ones done at her 20-week scan). (On the topic of her being "average": one of my favorite comments from the kraamzorg on her last day when she was talking to the midwife was along the lines of there being "nothing remarkable" about Gwen. What she meant, of course, was that there was no reason for comment about any issue and that things were all going just as they should, but I have to laugh and occasionally remind Gwen that the nurse said she's completely and utterly boring and ordinary :)). Yesterday I retired the first of her outfits; a little footed sleeveless sleeper that we got in a collection of used clothes from the midwives is now just a bit too short; she can't quite stretch her legs out fully in it.

She's hit all of her one-month milestones, being able to fix her eyes on something, lift her head up when she's on her tummy, and respond to our voices by quieting (at least a little) when she's crying and we talk to her. In fact, the nurse seemed quite pleased with her ability to track and focus, and the strength of her head/neck. Both of these things were also commented on when we had our intake visit a week and a half ago, and both the doctor today and the lactation consultant believe they've seen her smile and laugh. Way to go, girlie! I've seen a few things that count as almost smiles, and I'm certainly looking forward to seeing the real thing, since the hints I've seen indicate that the real thing is going to be awfully cute.

While the doctor agreed that she is drinking quite a bit -- 100-120ml every 3 hours roughly -- given both that her weight is perfectly adequate for her age and that her weight gain basically follows the 50th percentile curve, she's not worried about Gwen overeating, which is a big relief. I'd read enough about how infants shouldn't have too much formula, since it can be hard on their liver to digest, and I didn't know how much was too much except that she'd pretty much always wanted more than the 600ml/day that was originally recommended to me. And it was really hard to watch her cry because she was hungry and not be sure if it was all right to give her something. But now I don't have to worry about that. And hopefully she'll soon start eating less frequently (we did get nearly 4 hours between feedings once last night! And since Joel did the 12:45 feeding and I'd fallen asleep around midnight, that means I got almost 4.5 hours of sleep in one stretch. Whoo!), and everything will even out.
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While my recent posts have all been heartfelt, they haven't quite told the whole story. So here's some of the other side.

This semester I've run a Latin reading group for two MoL students; we meet twice a week except when one of us has a conflict. I canceled seminar the week after Gwen was born, but since then I've just brought her along (so she was 10 days old when she first went out to university). I have a fleece sling (basically a big bag), a hand-me-down from a friend. People often don't realize there's a baby in there until she starts chirruping, and then they're always surprised (and of course want to know how old she is, if she's a girl or a boy, and then tell me that she's "mooi" and "leuk". :)). They're always impressed at how young she is. One fun exchange I had at a tram stop, a gentleman asked how old she was (11 days) and said that he was 80. I've found that the very old find the very young fascinating -- at another tram stop a few days earlier, when the three of us went out to Raul and Lena's defense party, another gentleman stared at me for awhile and then asked if I had a baby under there (she was in her fleece suit and I had a blanket over that, so it wasn't entirely obvious).

She's a good traveler; since we moved, to get back for seminar I wake up around 8:00am and get dressed/shower, and usually around then she wakes up too to eat. We're on the road by 9:00 and she'll fall asleep in the sling and sleep all the way until we get into Amsterdam around 11:00. Then she'll eat again, and then fall asleep on my shoulder while we're translating. After lunch I feed her again and then she'll sleep the entire trip back home. This time after lunch we didn't head straight back to Tilburg but first swung by the Consulate to pick up her certificate of live birth abroad and her passport. So we are all set to go home for Christmas!
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A few weeks ago when I said I'd be amazed if I lasted a month nursing, it turns out I was rather overoptimistic.

We haven't successfully nursed in two weeks now. Any attempt results in screams and tears. Skin-to-skin contact is generally avoided for the same reason. She's never once actually rooted around and found her way to my breast, which is something they're supposed to be able to do from as soon as they're born.

Pumping has been mostly a disaster too. I should be doing it every 2 hours to try to keep up supply, and I simply can't. I've come to the conclusion that maybe I don't care about this as much as I thought I did. Choice between sleeping at night or pumping? I'll sleep. Choice between cuddling Gwen while she sleeps during the day and pumping? I'll cuddle. Choice between interacting with Gwen when she's awake or comforting her when she's crying or letting her sit in the basket (either awake and alert and happy, or crying) and pumping? I'll take holding Gwen any time. I got the pump with the intention that I would pump during the day on a regular basis after I went back to work and couldn't nurse while she was in day care. I never thought it'd end up being the only source of breastmilk for her and that it would encroach on my life so much, and I find I just can't do it. I pumped once yesterday. I've pumped once today. I've gotten maybe 2ml. It's not worth it.

It's still so frustrating. I feel like we never got a chance. There was no reason why this shouldn't have worked. I had great supply. She had no palate or tongue problems. It was just a matter of figuring out the mechanics, and somehow or other that never happened, and I don't know why. But at this point I don't know what to do about it any more, and the only advice I've really gotten was to pump regularly to bring my supply back up, and then we'll look into trying to get her back onto the breast. But I just don't see this happening.

*sigh* I wish I had a happy "one month birthday!" post, but I can't really find it in me at the moment.

4 weeks

Dec. 9th, 2011 06:31 pm
aryanhwy: (Default)
Hard to believe it's been 4 weeks. People say the first 6 weeks are the hardest, so either we're in the home stretch, or we've got two hellish weeks ahead of us, because, honestly, these haven't been so bad. (Maybe I'd read enough horror stories to set my standards really really low). It hasn't been all sunshine and roses -- I see my cousin's FB status posts about her daughter, and marvel because I certainly don't want to freeze time, nor do I find myself awake at night just to stare at Gwen; part of this is just the difference in personality between Surbhi and me, but part of it is that I just don't enjoy infants all that much -- but it hasn't really been all that bad.

4 weeks and she's now old enough to not need to be held any time she's not sleeping. Witness:


She happily lay on the floor in the kitchen for about half an hour while I chopped things to make a double batch of dahl. Hurrah!

Right now, Joel is on the phone with United, booking our flights home for Christmas. I'll pick up Gwen's birth certificate and passport from the consulate in Amsterdam on Monday. The house is about 75% unpacked and organized, maybe more. I think Joel made it through the day without going to a single hardware store. I made my first trip outside without Gwen, left her sleeping in her basket while I went to the grocery store and that went without incident. Now if only she would start sleeping longer than 2.5 hours at a stretch at night...
aryanhwy: (Default)
If I remember rightly from our last vet appointment (almost a year ago), Slinky weighs about the same amount as Gwen. When I sleep on my right side, Slinky likes to worm her way under the covers and curl up with her feet against my belly, her head against my chest, and my arm around her. For some years, when we'd fall asleep in that position, I'd often notice upon waking that I dreamed I was pregnant.

Once I actually was, and there was no room left for Slinky in that particular spot, I stopped dreaming I was pregnant and instead started dreaming that I was sleeping with Slinky.

Last night, I semi-woke up from a deep sleep as Gwen started fussing, and in that drowsy half-awake/half-asleep state, I thought that she was sleeping on my chest (as she often has), even though I'd put her down in her basket the last time she was up; in fact, it was Slinky on my chest.

I wonder how long it will take before Gwen is big enough that I won't confuse the two when I'm asleep? Because clearly the fur or the lack thereof doesn't do the trick!
aryanhwy: (Default)
I really liked the lactation consultant who came by today, Jacqueline. She heard my litany of problems and was properly amazed that we're still willing to give a try; she said she rarely sees people more than once, and here she's the third consultant I've seen (and she knows one of the other ones I've seen and has high respect for her), an expects that we'll probably be working together for awhile to get things to work. I really liked her commitment to working with me as long as necessary, and the fact that she will try to arrange things so I can see her for as little cost as possible; she said she felt bad that I've already paid so much for help!

Her diagnosis for dwindling supply was the stress and disruption of moving (which makes perfect sense as Tuesday I didn't pump as often, and then Wed. I developed the blocked duct), compounded with what was likely mastitis Wed. night until Fri. morning (hence the SO COLD and SO HOT nights I had -- hello, fever. Of course, I only found the box the thermometer was in this morning). She wants me to work on building up supply again, by pumping at least 6 times a day, and seeing a GP about getting a prescription for domperidone. Only after that is better, then we'll working on getting Gwen to latch. So I'm cautiously optimistic about things.

Oh, and she said, water in NL is of good enough quality that I can just use warm water from the tap to mix formula. Whoo!


Dec. 2nd, 2011 09:57 pm
aryanhwy: (Default)
So tell me, just how exactly is this supposed to work?

- When preparing formula, the water should be heated to at least 70 degrees, if not boiling, to kill bacteria in the formula. Once the formula has been mixed, it should then cool 20-30 min.

- Water should be boiled fresh each time. Formula should not be mixed in advance, even if it is then stored in the fridge.

- Babies should preferably be fed when they first display hunger cues, i.e., before they start crying from hunger.

- The amount of time between when Gwen wakes up and displays initial hunger cues (hands to mouth being the most reliable) and when she starts screaming and clawing at her face because I have not provided food fast enough is about 5 minutes (if I'm lucky).

This is one riddle I simply don't see a solution to. (Oh, wait. Quit with the formula and nurse! That's the magic ticket.)
aryanhwy: (Default)
Joel went back to Amsterdam yesterday to finish cleaning the apartment (when we left on Tuesday, we had almost all of our stuff out, but wow was there a lot of cat hair...6 years worth in some nooks and crannies!), go to the PhD defense party of a friend that evening, spend the night, and come back today. Cleaning apparently took more time than planned, since I last heard from him around 7:30pm and he was still working on the kitchen, so it'll probably be pretty late before he gets back. Before anything else, let me say here and now that I am so grateful that he's doing this. Even in the best of circumstances, cleaning an apartment after moving out is just something I'm not very good at, because my level of cleanliness is not as high as it needs to be, and I just find it irritating. So I am so glad and thankful that he was willing to take all this on by himself.

I've been surprised at how well we've gotten along yesterday and today on our own. I did manage to do some unpacking yesterday, but not much, and today almost none -- though I have done two loads of laundry and kept up with the dishes, and managed to eat 5 real meals (even though one of them involved ordering in pizza and Ben & Jerry's...I figured that was better than nothing!) -- and instead Gwen and I have spent a lot of time hanging out in the bedroom and cuddling. She hasn't been sleeping as well in her basket the last few days; she doesn't appear to be sleeping as deeply and is a lot more vocal. So there's been a lot of sleeping in my lap and sleeping on my chest, and I've found it very relaxing to just sit and hold her. In this quiet and peaceful and relaxed setting we've tried nursing again a couple of times, all of which have resulted in a few half-hearted attempts to latch which quickly end in tears of frustration on her part. I'll be seeing lactation consultant #3 tomorrow morning, and this time she's coming here rather than me going there, which I'm hoping will help in terms of getting practical advice for my precise situation -- we can try out all of the chairs and pillows, etc., that I have until we find a combination that works. I hope. Pumping output is now down to less than 5ml per session, so at this point she's basically wholly on formula.

It also helped some that Joel was gone for the night, because then when she was awake and fussy at night, I didn't worry about her disturbing his sleep. Instead, I could just do whatever I needed to do to calm her down. I also didn't sleep particularly well myself last night either (two nights ago I was SO COLD all night long; so cold that I slept all curled up and when I woke in the morning my legs hurt like crazy from being so tight and taut for so long. Last night, I was SO HOT that at one point I took off the t-shirt I was wearing because it was damp with sweat, eew), so we basically spent the night trying to be comfortable rather than trying to sleep, which was easier to do than it would've been if there'd been a third person trying to sleep in the same room (or even in the same house). That's part of the reason why I didn't do any unpacking today, but rather spent most of it just relaxing in bed.

I still wish she'd sleep as well at night as she does during the day. She last ate around 4:30 and then fell asleep while I was burping her and amazingly didn't wake up when I put her into her basket. Around 7:00 she started yummering and I made a bottle, though I didn't expect her to be hungry yet, but by the time we got back upstairs she was asleep again, and she's continued sleeping for the last two hours on my chest. Why can't we get these four hour stretches at night?? We pretty routinely get 2.5 between when we're both back asleep after a feeding and when she wakes up next. Not so fun.

Here's hoping that Joel gets home before it's too late, and that tomorrow's meeting with the lactation consultant brings any measure of success.
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For a while it looked problematic, because we simply couldn't find a driver for the moving truck. Then I thought to email a new friend in Tilburg and he was both able and willing to come up to Amsterdam, help us load, and drive the truck back down (and then return it to Eindhoven), so that happened yesterday. Since there were 6 living entities to transport and only three seats in the van, I had the fortune of being the one to make the trip by train, with 18 day old baby and 13 year old cat who HATES being in her cat carrier. (Joel and I will both bear scars from yesterday). Luckily, Slinky only yowled on the tram to the metro, but then settled down and was relatively relaxed and quiet for the rest of the 1.5 hour trip. When I let her out, she went straight for the bathroom and crawled behind the washing machine and spent a few hours rather -- rather like when I first brought her home from the humane society, she spent 6 hours sitting on the back of the toilet before venturing out. By night, she was meandering around the ground floor -- seemed pretty relaxed, and came and sat with me a few times while I was pumping/feeding. But while she finally ventured up the stairs for the first time this evening, she hasn't actually made it to the first floor.

Widget thinks that this has all been arranged for his pleasure and joy. He's calmed down now, but last night and much of today, he was dashing from place to place, climbing in nooks and crannies, sitting in an "I'm the king of the world" position all over (first floor hall, stairs, desk in attic, table, boxes, bookcases), except when one of us would walk by and he'd rush over and rub against our legs and purr and purr and purr. It's pretty sweet.

The house is a mess. Lots of things didn't go as planned today -- including the fact that I was so exhausted that I spent most of the day in bed. Gwen was up every 2 hours over night to eat (whereas during the day, she usually sleeps for long enough stretches that she goes 4 hours between feeds. Why oh why can't it be the other way around? I'd love to be able to get 3 hours of sleep straight), and since it takes me ~45 min. to change her/prepare the bottle, feed her, put her back in her basket and then pump 10 min. both sides, that meant about 4.5 hours of sleep for me. This is really hard.

Nursing still continues to be an utter failure. Tomorrow someone from the city pediatrics office is coming by for Gwen's intake appointment, and she will be bringing info about lactation consultants in the city, 'cause I think I need to see one again. I just wish it wasn't so damned expensive. At this point, I'm certainly not saving any money trying to nurse.

The food situation is very frustrating. Of course in a perfect world, we would nurse and we'd be calm and happy and contented. I would wake up at night, pick her up, get settled in a chair, she'd latch on, eat for 20 min., and then we'd all go back to bed. But that's clearly not working; no matter what I do I can't get her to get a good latch. All the tricks I've been told don't work -- I was told to feed her a bit from the bottle to calm her down so that she's not starving when we try, but if I feed her a small amount and then take the bottle away, she starts screaming in frustration. Even if I manage to get her while she's awake and calm, I can't get her to open her mouth wide enough. Even if I do get her to open her mouth wide enough, she just slides off when she tries to latch on; and even if I think she has latched on, she won't even bother trying to suck -- and it's not like there isn't milk already there, while I'm wrestling with her to get into position I'm usually leaking all down my front. Oh, and the sore that I got on the right side when she nommed me so badly on Thursday still is open and I sometimes get a small amount of bloody fluid in my bra shields.

And so I pump, every time she eats, and in a slightly less perfect world than the other, I'd be able to translate what is clearly adequate supply into adequate pumped supply, and I'd be OK with sacrificing an extra half an hour or so of sleep each time I feed her if it meant she was drinking primarily breastmilk from the bottle. But my pumping supply has gone down and down and down; I now get barely 20ml each time, if that.

And so I supplement, I top off whatever I got the previous time I pumped with enough formula to make ~100ml for each feeding, and in an even slightly less perfect world, she'd take this and be happy and would still grow up into a healthy, strong woman. But sometimes I don't even had any breastmilk to add -- I didn't pump in the afternoon yesterday as we packed and moved, last night after one feeding I just couldn't stand it any more I can tell that the formula interacts with her differently than the formula, she spits up quite a bit more. If it's half-formula, half-breastmilk (hah! been days since we had that ratio), then she may spit up a tiny bit, soon after eating, but with any different ratio she spits up quite a bit more and often half an hour to an hour after eating -- i.e., when she's lying in her basket and I've fallen back asleep and so I end up waking up with this filthy spit-up-on baby. I can't recall how many outfit changes we went through last night between this and leaking diapers.

But none of these worlds is the case and hence what we've actually got is a really pretty shitty world.

Oh, and did I mention that I think I have a blocked duct on the left? Which of course is best solved by lots and lots of nursing (which we don't get), or by good pumping sessions (which we don't get), so I've been stuck with hot compresses and massage and while I think it's a bit better than it was this morning, it still hurts.

It's hard to believe it hasn't even been three weeks yet. It feels more like three months.
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We've successfully nursed three times since Thursday morning, and it's not for lack of trying. In the meantime, I've been pumping, 10 min. per side after each time she eats, and supplementing with formula. It's so frustrating and inefficient. I feed her what I pumped the previous time, and then, instead of getting to cuddle with her and enjoy her awake time, which usually happens after she's done eating, I have to put her in the basket and pump. It's bad enough when she's lying in the basket awake and alert, since she doesn't spend much time awake and I want to be interacting with her when she does, but it's worse when she's lying in the basket crying and there's nothing I can do about it because I'm tied to the pump, whereas if we'd just been able to nurse then I'd still have her in my arms. And with pumping and feeding from a bottle, when she's done eating I have to get everything washed, and what I've pumped into the fridge, and that's more time not spent with her.

I don't see any way that this is going to work. Every time we try to nurse and fail makes it less and less likely that we'll ever figure this out. And it's only going to get worse; I've noticed that my output while pumping has been steadily decreasing, and I don't see any way of stopping this trend. If I make it a month before she's on formula exclusively, I'll be amazed. And it is so hard not to feel like a failure. I know all the benefits, for both of us, for breastfeeding. I'd always intended to do it 9-12 months, depending on how long she was interested. That seems increasingly unlikely. This is the first thing I've ever attempted in my life where persevering and trying and practicing doesn't seem to make any difference towards my ultimate ability to master the skill. And of course this skill is way more important than riding a bike, or painting, or writing a dissertation, and it's the one I fail at.
aryanhwy: (Default)
For both our sanities, we've been striving hard to return to normalcy whenever we can (this is quite often thwarted by the fact that half our things are in a different city, half of the remaining is in boxes, and everything else is not where it's supposed to be). Last Sunday Joel made waffles for breakfast, and he did again today. Last night I made pizza and we watched four episodes of Doctor Who. Luckily Gwen sleeps great in her basket, and is still young enough that loud noises don't wake her up.

We're still having a sort of rough time of things. By Thursday afternoon I simply gave up nursing: The psychological barrier of the anticipation of pain was simply too much, and I couldn't get past it. So I set up another appointment with a lactation consultant (for Saturday), and in the meantime I pumped exclusively and we picked up some formula to supplement. The appointment on Saturday was...sort of useful, sort of not. As with the previous one, when there's an expert pair of hands to guide Gwen to latch on properly, things work just fine. And she was weighed again, weighing in at a whopping 3.47kg (up from 3.15kg a week ago, and the average weight gain is 150g/week), which was reassuring. But I left not entirely sure that I'd be able to transfer any of the skills she suggested into actual application. Joel was more optimistic, he thought he saw things he could do to help me out. But we tried a few times again later that day and it failed and I didn't push the issue.

But! Today we managed twice (only on the left, as the right is still so nommed up that I don't eve want to try, I'm surprised it's taking so long to heal) with only minimal pain/issues, and right now I'll take whatever I can get. The exclusive pumping is hard; it means I'm awake for over an hour each time I get up at night, rather than closer to half an hour. So I hope that eventually we'll get things sorted out and it will work.

Tomorrow we go to the US Embassy to apply her for her US birth certificate and passport, and we finally managed to find someone who can drive a moving truck for us (one of our friends in Tilburg), so we'll be moving on Tuesday.

Tuesday! Two more days and we'll be out of Amsterdam. I try not to think about it because I'm really going to miss it here, and I don't do well with change, and it's going to be hard going from living in Amsterdam! to just living in Tilburg. Luckily, I really like our house there, and I'm looking forward to living in it, and I think the cats will really enjoy it too, so that helps. But no more canal, no more windmill, no more Dappermarkt, no more amazing bacon...tomorrow I really want to get out and get some pictures of me and Gwen in front of each of these places (well, not with the bacon) so that we have some proof that she actually lived in Amsterdam. I feel a bit sad that she'll be able to say "I was born in Amsterdam", but then she'll have to say "but I moved away when I was 18 days old".

Anyway...we almost made it an entire day without having to do laundry (in part because we did three loads yesterday), but then we had our first blow-out diaper necessitating much of my clothes to be washed. Ick.


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