Making Buddies

Friday, September 26, 2014

This kid is so her dad's clone. Blonde, blue eyes, and really loves going out. I'm a homebody, no question, but Violet is so nosy and happy to spend her days walking around Suzhou making friends. It really cracks me up- the 35-65 year old women are more likely to be judgey and unpleasant about how she's so small, or she must be cold, or why isn't she wearing a hat or socks. However, men of all ages, from college boys to retirees, are the absolute cutest about making a silly face for her and waving, which usually illicits a grin or concentrated eyebrow twitch and there's kind of nothing more adorable than a man who is melted into a pile of giggles and mush by a baby making eye contact.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I made a big mistake wearing these amazingly absurd gold shoes. I've spent 97% of the summer season in either my Chacos or barefoot. Because I don't leave the house often enough and I have no shame walking the dog in my finest loungewear.

Anyway, I wore this a few weeks ago to lunch out with a very pregnant girlfriend (who has since had a tiny little boy!) and it was a lovely 1.5 km walk to the nearby restaurant street through the lakeside park near our place. However, I forgot that while the squishy foot bed is heaven, the shoe is enclosed. Like, a for-real shoe. Which made dime-sized blisters on both heels. Ouchy and Oops.

Also, how adorable is Violet in this obnoxious citron romper? I got so lucky that a shopaholic friend is having a boy for baby 2 and I got all of her daughter's hand-me-down goodness.

Basic and Loving It

Monday, September 22, 2014

The summer weather is starting to wind down over here, and it's really been nice to toss on a pair of jeans and a short sleeved top and pop out for the day. Violet is a little heater in the sling, so we keep it simple and lightweight- one layer for me and only a onesie or romper for her, even if there's a little morning nip in the air. We snuggle in and keep one another perfectly comfortable. True, we've gotten a few rotten stares from Chinese grandmothers who think she's going to die a thousand deaths because she has no socks on, but she kicks them off every time we give them a whirl. Not worth it. 

PS, I know there's some ladies out there who can't stand their maternity wardrobe post-partum, but I'm still wearing mine and loving it. These maternity jeans fit crazy good, even if they have a full panel folded down

Long, Lean, and Green

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Speaking of post-partum wearing of maternity dresses: kindly refer to Exhibit C. My husband's Bromance sent a package before Violet was born, including a teething bead bracelet, hilarious pacifiers (reading "Pull to Sound Alarm" and "Mute Button"), a sketch book for me, a pillowcase with his own face on it because he knew we were going into withdrawl, and this magical, magical dress. Ladies, this thoughtful man is single. How? I'm still not sure.

Anyway, I've been wearing this nonstop all summer long. It skims the lumpy post-C-section bits, has a perfect amount of stretch for boob access, cinches nicely in at the natural waist, avoiding the maternity mumu empire waist and the too-low that-would-never-fit-a-pregnant-belly waist line. Magic.

Grab a scarf of your choice for nursing cover duty and rock and roll.

Nice spit-up stain on the thigh, Violet. 

Swing Dress and the Swing of Things

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Shocker. Another no-bra, dress, and scarf combination.

I can't tell you all how much more of a joy life has been the last few weeks. We ironed out a system of overnight pumping (Violet has been sleeping from 9:30 - 7:00 pretty reliably and Holy Engorgement, Batman) so the one or two bottles she does seem to want during the day are solely pumped milk, or maybe only 1/3 formula. Her little belly is full and happy, she sleeps like a champ, we're figuring out naptimes, her grins and alert time is spent exploring and observing with almost no crying anymore. We had a non-colicky, but really shitty and uncomfortable first few months. And it was so frustrating that I knew this sweet kid was hidden by a gassy, hungry but not getting what she needs scream-machine. All of a sudden, at about 15 weeks, Real Violet showed back up and we started to really get into the swing of things.

Baby Blue

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My grand return to blogging what I've been wearing and this lame little number is what I open with?

Yes. Big, fat yes.

Because my version of "style blogging" is all about accountability for what I wear and, truthfully, it's a lot of dresses with no bra lately. Pardon me, maternity dresses with no bra. Which I purchased post-partum. So, here's to hoping the next pregnancy aligns seasonally with being able to wear a sleeveless dress with very forgiving belly ruching.

Life Lately

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Wow. Lots has happened. Nothing much has happened. Anyway, a quick synopsis:

1. China doesn't have reliable formula and I'm not paying double for imports. So, we breastfeed because it was always my intention to do so and because, practically, I don't have another option. And I have had way more than my fair share of clogged ducts and persistent low grade mastitis. Like, it took me three and a half hours and over 50 warm compresses to manhandle and bruise the bejesus out of myself to unclog over 15 ducts the first time. And I've had 7 more bouts (Every 10 days. Reliably.) since then. It's connected to a nasty case of thrush for both me and Violet. Email if anyone wants to talk boobs. I'm sure this will be the legacy of my time nursing. It's been pretty time consuming and a really big energy suck. Like, aside from smiles and playing, pretty all-consuming, neglect the house, eat meals we ordered in because I don't have time to cook time and energy suck.

2. My mom spent a total of 83 days with us. I could not be more grateful for her help managing the house and the dog. More than that, what a gift it was to spend so much amazing time together. The companionship and encouragement working through clogs and baby blues and shouting across the apartment to enjoy Violet's first legitimate smiles together was so special. My dad joined us for a week before they headed back to the States and seeing my parents loving on my daughter was pretty amazing.

3. In a whirlwind of good timing and lucky breaks, we found a new apartment on our first day of searching. We wanted to move out of the Higher Education District (Students! Everywhere!) which is really far from everything we wanted to be near, like friends and any sort of decent restaurants and groceries. The place we found is enormous, right in the location we were targeting, and has a tremendous view of Jinji Lake. The dog loves pacing through all the rooms, the cat is still finding creative hiding spots because there's actually square footage to explore, and we're enjoying the first dishwasher that we've ever had (unheard of over here!). 

4. My kid finally fits into her cloth diapers and, as of four short weeks ago, is out of newborn clothes and into the 0-3 month stuff (she's 3.5 months now). I'm really glad we're using cloth- she's a master at peeing into the fresh diaper before it's even on. And disposables means a lot of waste and cloth means simply adding a wasted diaper to the wash. Getting out of newborn sizes means her adorable rompers fit properly. As do many of the frickin' adorable clothes I purchased second hand from a friend who is having a little boy for #2. 

5. I'm making friends!! Of my very own! It almost always happens that I meet people through Rob and find my place in the group dynamic that way. It's weird and wonderful to make friends without a connection to whatever Rob is doing. 

6. Violet hates being on her belly, so her arms aren't pushing up at tummy time, but good gravy, her little legs and neck are very strong! Play time is so much fun since she loves to give soggy open mouth kisses every time you lean her in for a little smooch. We prop her tiny feet in our laps and let her straighten out and then lean her in again and again for sloppy kisses. She grins like a goon. And it's my favorite.

I miss blogging enormously, but it's just not practical lately. Slow and unreliable laptop (which WILL be replaced before 2014 ends, dangit), full hands, squirmy kid, and managing my shitty milk flow are all factors, but mostly, its just that I can't do diddly on this slow internet. And Instagram doesn't require my VPN, so keep up with us over there (@katebmcclure)! Oh, yeah, and I'm in non-clothes/ no-clothes 80% of my time. So, no blog material to speak of. Shall we try for once a week? Ha! Such lofty goals.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

I mentioned in my last post that bonding ended up being a little tricky for me and Violet, and I wanted to share a little bit more about what the journey was like. I've wanted only to be a mother since I was little. I have the work ethic and drive to accomplish interesting things professionally if I want to, but I always knew that I really wanted to spend my time raising little ones. I'm a nurturer and encourager, what better way to use the skills than to take care of a family?

Imagine my surprise when, rather than giving birth naturally, I wound up with a C-section, which was completely beyond my control. Due to the circumstances surrounding Violet's birth, I never went through the hormonal changes or bodily cues of labor and delivery, so I think the two of us really missed out on that shared traumatic experience. Which is a weird thing to say, really, that I wanted and needed trauma. But, it's true. The female body is so perfectly designed to handle childbirth, and my body, coming from seemingly excellent child bearing stock, wasn't allowed to make use of reserves and resources to bring our little girl into the world in the way nature intended. So, without any of the bodily cues of labor, our daughter all of a sudden showed up. And I think that's the reason our first few days suffered.

One of the worst parts of all of this was that I wasn't able to hold her for so long after she was born. That dumb IV line inside my arm really made it difficult to cradle her, hold her, nurse her- and I ended up feeling weirdly incapable and kind of ineffective as her mother for the first few days. Which, for someone who craved having a baby and has decent maternal instincts, is incredibly frustrating. I felt like I didn't even get to know my kid as I watched everyone else fall in love with her.

Once we got home, my breaking point kind of hit about two weeks after Violet's arrival. It was strange, since I seemingly was so comfortable handling this new little baby. Picking her up, adjusting her head position, lifting her, wrangling her little limbs into clothes, walking around with her in my arms- it all felt natural and easy and not scary. I knew what to do with a fragile little person. But, some deeper connection was missing.

I remember one morning feeling especially sad, and confided in Rob that I felt like it was my cosmic punishment to not feel a connection with my little girl because of the C-section and because I wanted her so badly. And I know that's a silly thing to think, but it really felt like my truth. I didn't know this little girl, and I didn't have the wave of recognition or instant bond with her. I would love to say that I could blame simply my expectations of labor and delivery versus what actually happened with the elongated and pretty awful hospital stay and C-section delivery (though the surgery was expertly handled and a pretty easy recovery, all things considered). My hormones were telling my brain a different story though. The baby blues are no joke, and I know that a whole bunch of factors were to blame for my feelings of disappointment, disconnection, and slight depression. I felt like I had been cheated out of the opportunity to go through the shared experience with Violet of childbirth. I felt like I had been cheated out of what I should have been able to handle physically. Again, I know this is silly.

Also, around week three, Violet started getting really fussy out of the blue. Evenings where she would scream her head off, and we couldn't figure out how to console her. It wasn't every day, so we didn't know for sure if it was colic, or if something else was wrong. The feeling of being overwhelmed at the prospect of facing not only feelings of disconnection with my daughter, but also facing the possibility of managing a colicky baby hit me hard. (We're pretty confident now that her little gut wasn't, and still isn't, fully matured and girlfriend has gas problems)

Naturally, this is all made worse by the fact that my mom and Rob both found ways to rock or bounce Violet and she would calm herself relatively quickly. I felt like I was doing a lousy job of feeding her, I was not able to get out as many good burps from her, I couldn't settle her with a magical rocking pattern, and my walking and dancing with her was lame since my back was so weak post C-section; nothing I was doing seemed to soothe her the way that Rob or mom could. I felt like I was failing, and I think failing in the little things felt worse than failing at being able to "actually giving birth to her"- again, I know it was dumb to be thinking in those terms since I had to manage the stress of 5 days of kidney stone before her arrival and I do know how big of a deal it was to make smart choices for her health, as well as mine, during that time.

I definitely found that admitting, not only to myself, but out loud and to my family that I was feeling helpless and ineffective was enough to take the bigness out of my feelings of disconnection and failure. I spent a few days clinging quietly to the fa├žade of being the natural mommy, while shoving my feelings of inadequacy into the back of my own head. Which felt lonelier and worse. The minute I admitted how I was feeling, a lot of the negativity lifted. Getting a first glimmer of recognition by eye contact and the beginnings of a smile didn't hurt the cause either. 

There was no secret way to fix my difficulties bonding, there was no abracadabra way of stopping myself from feeling frustrated or sad or isolated. And I really have no words of wisdom to give other moms who might be coming up on their own journeys with a tough time of bonding, but I hope that maybe this encourages someone else to keep going for just one more week, just a few more days, just share a little bit of what you're feeling. Because that may be enough action and enough extra time to chase away the negative and allow you to embrace all of the wonderful goodness of snuggling soft babies and sniffing newborn hair and enjoying the crap out of your new little person. I really can't remember the moment it turned around for us, but I did start seeing this tiny person as my tiny person. My little girl who is, so far, her dad's look-alike with blonde hair, blue eyes, and the same high peaked lips. I finally got excited to find out if her seriously comedic facial contortions would become her trademark, got to daydreaming about putting band aids on skinned knees and wondering if she'd be an adventurer and nature girl, or maybe a creative bookworm, or maybe an empathetic socialite like her dad. I finally fell in love with her, even though I was always comfortable taking care of her and knew she was awesome. I just never figured it would take me over 6 weeks to get there.

The First 60

Monday, June 30, 2014

Sweet little Violet is at the two month mark. I can't believe how quickly the time has gone, and I am loving mommyhood as much as I imagined I would. It's definitely not been all sunshine and bubbles and rainbows, but I've been dying to be a mother for as long as I can remember and it is absolutely the most fulfilling thing I've ever been able to do.

So, what have we been doing with the last two months? My mom is still here in China with me, helping out around the house, spending time with my poor neglected dog, and cooking up a storm for us since I really hate trying to figure out food when I'm feeling a little bit busy or overwhelmed. Not only has she been an incredible help while Rob has been back in America for a conference, but the time we are getting to spend together is so special and I'm incredibly grateful that she has the opportunity to get to know her granddaughter so well while she's still so little. We spend most days binge watching movies or TV shows while snuggling the littlest McClure, sometimes we don't watch anything at all, and just go to "the Violet show". We bounce her, rock her, get all up in her face with kisses, and our favorite thing, push her nose upward and watch her crinkle her little forehead in protest. It's so cute we can't even stand it.

I would say the two major roadblocks so far have been a weirdly difficult time bonding (which I'll share more about in its own post because I don't think anyone talks enough about how hard this can be sometimes), and TWO bouts with clogged ducts. There were about 20 clogged ducts that popped up all of a sudden that I had to work out over the course of three hours one late night with at least 50 hot compresses. I've never manhandled myself quite so aggressively in my life, it was thoroughly unpleasant.

We've had a few really lovely encounters with Chinese grandmothers and the toddlers they're taking care of, and also been given plenty of nasty glances by locals who think we ought to stay inside, at home in bed for it the requisite 100 days. Not a chance, mama's got to get out and see the world and the sunshine is good for Violet. 

And my favorite way to pass the time so far, other then creepy-smelling my daughter's neck? I was able to buy, secondhand, so many cute girl clothes from a friend over here and we spend the day dressing her up to match whatever I'm wearing. Anne is on to something with her mini me posts. It's dang cute.

Violet's Birth Story: The Next Few Days

Friday, June 13, 2014

Part 1 and Part 2- in case you want more of the saga.

We made it back to our room and, somehow, Rob convinced the nursing staff  to unwrap her from her absurdly thick bundle of blankets to get a little daddy-daughter skin to skin snuggle time. And none of the hospital staff liked it. Won’t she be too cold? No, aside from my hormonal wife, I’m the most warm thing in the room. Don’t you want to lay her down to look at her? No, I’d rather try to bond and get comfortable with my kid by touching and looking at her.

Meanwhile, I was still relegated to numb slug status, not allowed to move or lift my head for 6 hours. I was just being pumped full of  IV fluids, medication, and some sort of  pain management drug (hallelujah!). But, about an hour had passed and I was being poked and prodded by nurses, some squishing my abdomen to shrink my uterus back down, some literally mashing my boobs and yanking on my nipples to see if colostrum had started. Nope- again- no labor or hormonal cues to start the flow. I need my kid to latch and nurse for that. But, as a slug on my back and an IV in the crook of my elbow, I couldn’t try to nurse. Nor could I hold my little girl. And by the 5 hour post-delivery mark, I started sobbing because yet another nurse was poking at me and I started crying because I hadn’t yet touched my own baby. Nurses got to. Rob got to. And he even started getting good at swaddling her and diapering her after getting meconium pooped-on.

But, over 5 hours after she was out in the world, and without the shared experience of labor and delivery, my daughter was still a perfect stranger. No chance to bond. No getting to snuggle and smell each other and get acquainted to try to set ourselves up for successful breastfeeding. I needed to have nutrients in my own system to have energy to produce. Except I hadn’t done much eating for four days because my kidney stone made me feel so sick and I wasn’t allowed to ingest anything for 12 hours post-delivery, and then, only glorified broth. After I passed gas on my no-food empty-bowels (makes sense), I would be allowed to eat watery congee. Protein? Vegetables? Fruit juice for an energy burst? Nope, not yet.

Anyway, I hadn’t touched my kid. And I finally lost it. Yet another nurse waltzed in, unannounced, and pulled on my nipple for, seemingly, the fun of it. No asking permission, no warning. Just an abrupt flip of my comforter, and BAM! And I couldn’t stop myself, I just let my brave face go and sobbed. Through snot and whimpering, I babbled into a tragic circle about how, let’s drive the point home, 5 effing hours had passed and I hadn’t been allowed to hold my own child. Panicked and shocked nurse’s response? Bring her massive swaddle bundled face and touch it to my cheek. Thank Baby Jesus, our amazing friend Annie realized what was happening and started barking orders to unroll my burrito of a child and PUT HER ON THE BED IN HER MOTHER’S ARM. NOW.

A little later, I was finally allowed to raise the bed into a more seated position and snuggle more with our girl. With an IV in the crook of my right elbw, I was still a little stunted in how much I could do with our girl. She had a quick latch, but wasn’t doing too much nursing- arriving 3 ½ weeks early doesn’t set tiny people up for rockstar sucking skills. And I couldn’t hold her in my right arm well, so we were a little handicapped while we were waiting for the 7-ish IV fluid bags to be over with. But, the evening came and went and we got word that my mom (whose original flight was booked for May 13) was en route, since my sister is a travel-booking goddess and found a way to get her on a plane that arrived the afternoon of Violet’s second day. Which, more than anything, meant that Rob, who was so unbelievably strong for both of us and was working on sleep deprivation of his very own coutesy of the miniscule loveseat he’d been sleeping on for days on end, was going to get to recharge at home. We just had to make it through Violet’s first night and a few daytime hours.

This is when shit hits the fan.

I was running on nothing but three hours of scattered sleep since I was vigilantly monitoring my need for the next IV fluid and doing my best to try to change diapers/ get in Rob’s way while he actually changed diapers and awkward nursing with one arm and a kid with a lazy, sleepy latch. At 4:45 am, my mommy-sense and adrenaline kicked in and I opened my eyes and peered into Violet’s hospital bassinet in the early morning light. Just in time to watch my kid’s face TURN PURPLE. I screamed at Rob, who was so out of sorts and confused and asleep, to pick her up and try to pat her back if she was choking. I couldn’t reach Violet to pick her up myself, I couldn’t reach the call button. Thank goodness he just ran out of the room with her and woke the poor night nurse at the desk out of a dead sleep, and the three of them sprinted to NICU. Leaving me tethered to the IV, sobbing, and freaked out. All alone. Rob called me from outside the NICU, where the nurse and the Pediatrician on call whisked our girl inside and no information or explaination, since her English wasn’t strong. But, bless her, she was fast, efficient, and handled shit like a warrior. (We found out a few days later that she cried for hours afterwards, poor girl.)

They all finally came back to our room, and I was able to spend a little time (who are we kidding- it was hours on end) snuggling Violet and sobbing and snotting into her swaddle blanket. Google Translate finally revealed that, shocker of all shockers, her blood sugar was super low. They fed her a small bottle of formula, her first real meal and she perked back up and squawked her brains out and was deemed well enough to return to our room. We gave her a few small bottles over the day, but were conscious about not feeding her too much in hopes she would be up for nursing a little more heartily and getting my colostrums moving.

The day settled down and we moved into a nice rhythm of cat naps, watching Rob tend to his daughter and the look of shock on his face while she let loose another meconium poop while she had her tiny butt out in the open in the midst of a diaper change. An acquaintence of mine, a LaLeche League leader, planned to come by after she was done with work to talk breastfeeding strategy and how to get my flow going. Early evening rolled around and she arrived. As did some random pediatrician, who stated that the hospital should take Violet to stay in the nursery to be more closely monitored. Not because she had an emergeny that morning. But, because she was born before 37 weeks! She’d been in my care for 36 hours, without the hospital’s harrumphing or any indication that this policy might be something we’d have to come up against. I calmly asked why it was all of a sudden a problem that she stay with us in the room. I declined to let them take her, as they kept saying that it’s policy that they recommend she go to be monitored. And I cried (again, of course) but held fast, politely declining through sobs and building frustration that everything is fine until it’s a big bleeping deal and not fine. Back and forth, yo-yo’ing information, highs and lows, over and over again. Something’s good until it gets turned on its head. My friend, militant advocate for breastfeeding and German hippy-natural-momma, finally lost her shit on my behalf and yelled that the kid would not be leaving the recovery room, and a pediatrician was welcome to come check on her more often if the department insisted, but she would not be yanked away from the opportunity to bond more with her mother. So, I sat there in a puddle of my own snot as the pediatrician obliged, left a waiver to sign, and left.

And not more than 15 minutes after, my mom arrived by cab. Can we just take a moment to acknowledge that my husband really step up to the plate in ways he never should have needed to and took care of me and our girl in our most vulnerable moments. He kicked ass advocating for us, kept me calm, encouraged me through many more tough choices than we should have needed to make. And, even considering as much as I hurt for days before Violet’s birth, I did my best to remain calm and on an even keel to make sure he didn’t feel overwhelmed by the seriously insane circumstances of our hospital stay. But, my mom’s arrival was absolute permission to break. To sob big, ugly, confused, overwhelmed tears. To shut down.

Low res, but this wa seconds after my mom arrived. I'm so happy I have this photo from my friend. 

Rob went home and got a well deserved night of good rest. And we all puttered through four more days of hospital stay with little incident. In fact, we had two mornings with adorable bathtimes. The sweet nurse who was traumatized by Violet’s blue-face sugar crash NICU visit was the one who gave her the baths. We had so many wonderful visitors, including colleagues from both the School of Music faculty and my office girls. We were gifted homemade soups as I was allowed to eat more. And, finally, check out day came! Before we were released, Violet was even treated to a little swimming session. With an audience. Which was hysterical for both the floaty around her tiny neck and little butt cheeks floating lazily in the tiny pool, as well as the massive audience of Chinese people plastered to the observation window.

This sweet nurse is my own personal angel

Eventually, we got the boot and happily went home. And, of course, it’s not been sunshine and rainbows, but we’re all so glad to have the seriously unnecessary hospital absurd chain of events behind us. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the 6 days of kidney stone was totally worth it. Do I wish I had the benefit of Western pain management rather than the “hang tight, take nothing, and wait it out” Chinese mentality? For sure. But, 6 weeks in, mommyhood is pretty awesome. I’m so happy to have this darling girl in my life!
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