Monday, November 22, 2010

Days of Our Lives

As I write this, a tiny being is sleeping beside me. We're in bed, it's early morning, and, after our 3rd nursing session of the night (4th, really, if you include the first, which started at 10:15 p.m., then resumed at 1:30 a.m., 3:30 a.m., and 6:00 a.m., respectively), Huxley is crashed out yet again while I'm seizing on the opportunity to lay him down and make a post.

I know my posts have been few and far between these past few months. What with the challenges of the pregnancy, coupled with a seriously traumatic birth, let alone an absolutely pint-sized wee one to care for, I think you understand if my focus has been squarely fixed outside the blogosphere. That said, I think about blogging all the time. I continually craft new posts in my head, detailing property and pet going's on and household antics (including all of the successes and failures). It's just the getting around to the writing them down part that proves challenging.

We're really turning a corner, though. So, since my "tiny tyrant" (I say this with deep and abiding love in my heart, of course-but, seriously, dude can go from the calm of a Buddhist monk to a screeching, famished fiend if I miss his early "time to eat!" cues!) is off in the land of Nod, I figured I'd post a round-up of changes, shifts, and emergent activities chez English:

*Diet: Probably biggest of all, aside from having birthed a child, is the shift that has occurred in my diet. After an 18 year moratorium on red meat-eating, I resumed the consumption of grass-fed meat the day I was discharged from the hospital. This wasn't a planned gesture, it was more of what I would refer to as an "inherent bodily wisdom" dictate. I literally felt a craving for it unlike any food craving I've experienced in decades. The thought shot through my head, literally lighting up my brain (or so it seemed), telling me to do so. Given that my hemoglobin and platelet levels were dangerously low following the hemorrhage and ovarian torsion, eating red meat seemed the most expedient, and intuitive, means of ramping up my iron levels (I'm also on a prescription iron supplement).

This wasn't a decision I made lightly. It was discussed with Hubs (a widely read grass-fed meat proponent who has done extensive research on the topic) throughout my pregnancy, but the urge to consume red meat never came (the urge to eat poultry, however, did, and after a 14 year break, I resumed eating turkey and chicken around the 4th month in). I always maintained to him that, should the urge come, I would absolutely honor it. That is just the relationship I have with my body. I believe that, given the time, attention, and willingness, my body will cue me in as to what it does, or does not, need. This is why I have, in my lifetime, adopted and later abandoned vegan, macrobiotic, raw, and now expressly vegetarian diets. I don't believe that one dietary habit suits us all. I have an undergraduate degree in nutrition and served as a nutrition consultant at a medical practice for several years before leaving that career to become a full-time writer. Different bodies have different needs. Mine needs protein-from animals. It's as simple as that.

Fortunately, I live in an area abundant with sources of local, humanely-raised, grass-fed meat. I'm supporting family farms, endorsing and helping to perpetuate the most ethical means of meat production I know, and giving myself, and my young son, a source of rich iron and protein that is healing me and helping him grow. My friend Jenna recently took the time to pen a post on her reasons for returning to eating meat (also after a very lengthy break). I highly encourage you to check it out. The many reasons she articulates exactly mirror my own.

*Chickens: The flock has merged expertly! There are still occasional squabbles, and fights over who gets first dibs at the waterer or feeder, and every night seems to present a variation on who sits where on the roosts, but overall, Hubs assures me that all is well in the avian world outside our doorstep. The three newest members, who arrived with names, have since been "born again", emerging here anew as: Joan of Arc, Jackie O., and, well, we just keep calling the newest Barred Rock "New Georgette", after our existing Barred Rock, um, Georgette! Several of the older ladies have molted, one is in the process, and the newbies continue to gain in size daily.

*Dogs: Fly and Dexter, our German Shepherd and Black Lab mix, have been absolute champs with Huxley. We'd been a bit concerned about how they would react to him, given how closely bonded they are with me. Back in July, we bought a Moses basket and kept it beside the bed. We allowed them to see it, but stopped letting them get into bed with us at night. We talked regularly about the coming baby. I did all I could to positively prep them for things, so that, once Huxley was on the scene, there wouldn't be any negative associations with him (i.e. any abrupt cessation of their routine, or our display of affection with them). The night we came home from the hospital, exactly four weeks ago last night, they heard Huxley cry and so began their amazing behavior towards him. They come into the bedroom to greet us and get head pats, but they don't try to jump and bother him, or act too heavily affectionate with me when I'm holding him.

Fly, especially, seems to have decided it is her new role to be the family's defender. She no longer runs off up the mountainside beside our house (with Dexter in excited "Where are we going? What are we chasing?" pursuit) like she used to when we'd walk back from the chicken coop each morning (well, I should qualify that; she no longer runs off as often as she used to, according to Hubs, probably owing to his genius idea of using delicious "treats" offered to her once she returns indoors to serve as enticement for sticking around). I've made sure to give both dogs plenty of full-body rubs when I'm not holding Huxley and continuously offer up "Good girl!" and "Good boy!" shout outs. So, so far, so good!

*Honeybees: The bees are safely tucked in for the colder months. I didn't take off any honey this year, as both of my hives swarmed in the spring. I was so nauseous and deliriously exhausted in the early part of my pregnancy that I got empty honey supers on both hives about a week past when I ideally ought to have. Accordingly, the hives had already decided to swarm and they did so one day apart, both times when I was outdoors. It was almost as though they wanted us to know they were leaving, making sure that I witnessed their departure on both occasions.

While I know that it was getting the supers on a bit belatedly that most realistically accounts for their swarming, I have another theory, albeit a more esoteric one. There's an old wive's tale, or bit of folklore, or whatever you want to call it about "telling the bees" about going's on in your home, especially as those going's on relate to the arrival or departure of a family member (i.e. births and deaths). Well, I neglected to "tell" my bees about the pregnancy. Maybe they left because of that. Maybe that sounds utterly cuckoo. In any event, after the swarmings occurred, I made an absolute point the next time I was working the hives to put my hands on the side of the supers and whisper "There's a baby coming. My own baby bee. I'm sorry for not telling you sooner."

Say what you will, but after that, my bees seemed to buzz about all spring, summer, and fall with happiness and a sense of purpose. Come spring time, the hives should be bumping (my Italians get a leg up on the action characteristically earlier, taking advantage of each and every warm spring day to ramp up baby-making and nectar-foraging). By the way, my book on "Keeping Bees" will be out in March 2011, right in time for your own honeybee-keeping adventures ("Home Dairy" debuts then, as well! It's gonna be a good spring, folks!).

*Huxley: Huxley is now big enough to begin fitting into cloth diapers. When he came home from the hospital, he weighed only 5 pounds, 5 ounces. Do you have any idea how small that is? And that nothing-nothing-we'd bought for him fit? Not his many cloth diapers, hardly any of his clothes, not even his socks or hats. Fortunately, though, on account of his ravenous appetite and my willingness to tough out breast-feeding (Good LORD, it has HURT! It's getting better every day, though!), he's plumping up before our eyes. I mean, he's still TINY, smaller now at 32 days than many babies are at birth, but to us, he's getting bigger. My mom (his "Gigi") bought him several wee-sized footed onesies, so now he has more than the two outfits we had that fit to dress him in.

I scored some newborn Tiny G Pants from a local children's consignment store (we had to wait until he was at least 6 pounds to have those fit him!), so he's now able to wear cloth diapers. I'm really digging the G Diapers system, as we're doing the cloth/hemp inserts during the day, and using the biodegradable disposable inserts at night. As he ages, I intend to use the cloth inserts exclusively. For now, though, when he's such a "prolific pooper", we're going between cloth and biodegradable inserts (we're talking 10-12 diaper changes daily, you see...).

He seems to be becoming more alert all the time and is enormously strong for such a tiny tyke (everyone mentions this, including the pediatrician and midwives). His digestive system sometimes causes him distress, so we give him a homeopathic gripe water called "Colic Calm" when the occasion merits. He gulps it down greedily and then returns to his usual state of calm contemplation.

Right off the bat, we took to co-sleeping. Honestly, this surprised me. I'd planned to put him in a Moses basket beside the bed until around 3 months of age, and then transfer him upstairs to his bedroom, and his crib. Well, enough of all that. He's tiny, and needs lots of warmth, and eats often, so the best thing I've found is to put him to sleep face down (or more like face turned sideways) directly on my chest. At night, we do this skin-on-skin. I love it, and so does he. I sleep absolutely rigid (have for forever), so I'm not at all worried about moving him or having him roll off. I feel every movement he makes and usually wake up a few seconds before he does. During the night, as he begins to need to feed, I sense it in advance and get him going before he fully wakes up. It's a great system and as the pain of it begins to subside, I'm beginning to really enjoy it.

His hair is starting to come in more fully and I'm seeing hints of red in there (my secret hope, although I'll obviously be fine with whatever, is to have a redheaded little boy-it runs in Hubs' side of the family, and a bit on mine, so it's not entirely out of the question). His eyelashes are getting longer, he's gaining in body length, and his saggy skin is beginning to fill in. I typically now sleep with him during his late afternoon/evening naps, using those times he goes down during the day to attend to household chores and writing obligations.

Overall, 32 days in, things are looking good. I'm excited to watch him grow and explore him as he becomes more and more of a "baby" and less of a "newborn", but I'm savoring these tiny moments with him, as well.

So, that's my lengthy up-to-speed cataloging of events. If I missed anything you're curious about, lemme know. Otherwise, my father, his wife, my two younger sisters, my brother, my sister-in-law, and my 4 1/2 month-old nephew are all coming into town for Thanksgiving. The sisters and I will begin a bake-a-thon Wednesday night, to include pumpkin pie, apple crisp, and Deb's cranberry upside-down cake. Hubs is making the turkey that morning and then turning to side dishes on Thursday. I'll turn on the Macy's Parade that morning (which always, always, for reasons really unbeknownst to me, makes me cry-I friggin' love a parade; well, really it's the marching bands that tear me up-how weird is that?), make some coffee and get ready for family-fueled bliss!


Leah McGrath, RDN, LDN said...

Ashley - fun to read this...Not surprised about your craving for red meat as I hear this often. We carry the ground Carolina Bison - aren't they near you? Glad to hear you are doing well and settling into a routine of sorts!

Colleen Vanderlinden said...

It sounds like things are going great! I had to smile when you mentioned your co-sleeping arrangement. I did basically the same thing with all 4 of mine -- had plans for them to sleep in a bassinet next to my bed, then transition them into their own room. All 4 ended up cosleeping until they were 2 or so (my youngest, at 20 months, is just about in his own bed every night now.)

Parenting (like diet, as you mentioned) is such an intuitive thing. You never really know how things are going to work out until you're in the thick of it. And while that can be hard on Type-A personalities (raises hand) it's an incredible adventure.

Speaking of crying - I read a post on The Pioneer Woman this morning where she mentions her kids growing up so fast, and just bawled my eyes out. It happens so fast! It was a lovely reminder to treasure every second, every contented sigh, every little snuggle. Happy Thanksgiving to all three of you!

Unknown said...

Awesome update. Glad everything is going so well!

Anna said...

Sounds like you and your family (including all the animals) are doing so well. Its great to hear your thoughts.

k1ate said...

30 days is about when I remember "coming up for air". You are doing great-- be gentle with yourself.

Sealicious said...

So happy for you that things are going so well - Your positive attitude has been so inspiring!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family :)

Sarah Ryhanen said...

love the update

Anonymous said...

Thanks for such a lovely update! I constantly look to your blog as a source of inspiration. We've been using your books to help us set up our homestead. We're getting chickens in the spring!

I'm so glad to see that you're doing well...


EcoGrrl said...

i love this...very intuitive approach you have to life, and good stuff for a not-yet-mama like me to know when my own time comes :)

(except i regularly toss and turn so...)

Natashia said...

I also planned to have my daughter in a cradle next to the bed, but after 3 weeks of hardly getting any sleep i decided to bring her into bed with us and our lives changed overnight! she moved into her own room at 18 months but still comes back to our bed, at some point, every night for milk :)

and even if you do move around in your sleep, you develop an unconscious awareness of where you baby is

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update, Ashley! It's so great to hear that you are all doing well and settling into a new routine. Wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving. xo Amy A

Deb said...

Ashley, from someone who has been on-and-off anemic for years--eat the meat!! For years I didn't know what was wrong with me--my doctor insisted I was just "new mom" tired. Now I know better and in addition to taking iron supplements, I eat local, grass fed, antibiotic and hormone free meats with pride. [And my kiddos are 11 and 8].
Many blessings to you and your new family.
Happy Thanksgiving!
and Ps. co-sleeping, yes.
pps. take one day at a time. Just when you think there's a schedule...well, then there's not.

Sarah said...

How are your kitties adjusting? I was so hormonal after my baby was born a year ago, I cried on the phone to my sister about how the cats were hiding away. When they came out after a week and decided to permanently curl up by my feet during every single feeding, I called my sister crying over how happy I was they'd reappeared.

HannahB said...

What a lovely post! I love all the updates on the bees and chickens and of course the baby! It all seems so idyllic, obviously, minus the traumatic birth (so pleased to hear that everything is ok now!) but goodness, you are living in a way that right now i can only dream of! One day it will happen, but for now i can read your blog and dream!

Thank you