Reading while up in the middle of the night with a feeding baby is not as straightforward as I assumed it would be. Many breastfeeding positions (and bottle-feeding too: more on that below) require two hands, so you can't turn a page. I am starting to seriously consider holding a pencil in my mouth so that I can use the eraser to turn the Kindle pages. Also there is the whole "it is the sixth time I've been up tonight and I am so sleep-deprived as to be virtually hallucinating" aspect to it, which makes concentrating on a book a little tough. Sometimes it seems the better choice to just go downstairs and watch TV.
What I have managed to read:
The Devil's Workshop, by Alex Grecian. My Early Reviewers book. I previously read Grecian's first book, and wasn't too impressed, but a lot of the flaws were first-book flaws, so I put my name on the list for this one, the third in a series. It focuses on Scotland Yard's Murder Squad in the late nineteenth century. In this one, multiple prisoners have escaped and are loose in London. Grecian is indeed getting better with pacing and suspense, which was both good and bad given that he made all the escaped prisoners totally crazed serial killers and went into WAY too much detail about their grisly crimes. Also Jack the Ripper is around and there is a heavily-pregnant woman in peril (if I'd known that I would have delayed reading this book, I can tell you what). I found this book upsetting because the gore was so graphic and constant, and honestly that's what will stick with me about it.
Magistrates of Hell, by Barbara Hambly. I love her Benjamin January series, so I thought I'd check out her nineteenth-century vampire hunter series (seriously). This book, while it did show some of the evidence of massive historical research that she clearly does, was ultimately pretty fluffy and forgettable. It also features a heroine who is supposedly brilliant and passionately curious about everything, but due to vanity won't wear her spectacles, so everywhere she goes her passionate curiosity can only be whetted upon colorful blurs, and in situations where being able to read another person's facial expressions would be really, really valuable, she can't. I was disproportionally irritated by this characterization, and not interested in continuing with this series.
The Last Dickens, by Matthew Pearl. I keep reading Pearl's books, even though it's sort of hate-reading at this point. They all start out well and respectful of their nineteenth-century literary inspirations, and then they go totally stupid and crazy. This one, about a hunt for the missing second half of Dickens' last novel, took longer to go crazy than his previous books, but in the end was just as convoluted and unsatisfying as they all end up being.
Midsummer Night, by Deanna Raybourn. Chaste romance novella. Pretty much the right level of what my brain can handle at four a.m.
The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens, by Claire Tomalin. Tomalin is so, so good at biography, even when she has very little to work with, as she does with Ternan. I really enjoyed this.
And now for other stuff.
First up is the case of the baby's blog name. It was an easy choice: we went into the hospital on a gray chilly day, and left on a gray chilly day (ah, New England springs), but in the three days we were trapped inside trees and flowers had begun to bloom, and the air was lighter and fresher, and we felt as if we'd entered during winter and were leaving in spring. Things new-born, appearing right after a bear exits: of course she had to be Perdita.
So, breastfeeding. Let's get into that. It's not like people have strong feelings about it or anything.
I have been breastfeeding. It's a challenge because one breast (the non-irradiated one) is much more into this whole lactation thing than the other, and latching has been a hell of a thing, and little Perdita is a comfort nurser, meaning that she'll nurse for two minutes and then fall asleep on the nipple, and then scream from hunger when she is removed. So for a week what would happen was an hour and a half of her getting in a few sucks, falling asleep, being taken off the nipple (per the lactation consultant's instructions), waking and screaming, and then re-starting the agonizing ten-minute process of getting a latch back. At the end of this hour and a half (and bear in mind we're supposed to be feeding her every two hours), she'd be asleep from exhaustion and frustration, having consumed maybe half an ounce of milk, and my nipples would feel like they'd been used as Shere Khan's tug-toys. And Berowne would, again on the lactation consultant's instructions, start setting up the pumping equipment for me to strap myself into for the half-hour before we needed to try her on the breast again. I would usually start crying at this point.
The crucial thing about all this is the "having consumed maybe half an ounce". Her doctor's visits showed her continuing to lose weight, and she was getting lethargic and her temperature going down. So, on an urgent Sunday visit, the pediatrician we saw said, "Her weight loss is not okay. Now -" wincing - "I know you probably want to breastfeed exclusively, but..."
Us: "No, not at all! We'll do whatever we need to for her!"
Doctor: "Oh, thank God. I thought this was going to be a heartbreaking conversation. Thank you so much for making my life easier."
Later, Berowne: "I wonder why she thought we'd be so resistant to supplementing. Do we look that much like hippies?" [pause] "Well, I do have a giant mountain-man beard right now."
Me: "And when was the last time either of us put on deodorant?" [As of this writing, I have literally no idea when I last washed my hair. To a point, a pixie cut looks better the dirtier it is, but that point strikes hard and fast.]
In any case, we are now supplementing with formula. With the pressure to be her sole source of calories off my shoulders, both nursing and pumping are much easier due to my lowered stress. And she's gaining weight like a champ! I still spend an awful lot of my day with either a baby or a pump attached to me, but now that it's about quality rather than quantity, about giving her the benefits of breastmilk while knowing that between the milk and the formula her body has the calories she needs, it has stopped making me cry.
Things are pretty amazing. There's the nagging part of my mind worrying about work; and my body is healing slower than I'd like (because I am an insane person who wanted to be able to start working out again three days after giving birth); and at least once a day I am taken by the throat and wrung out by how much I miss the big white dog. Our family should be five; we counted on it being five for most of the pregnancy. But even with just the four of us, this little house is full of love. And exhausted delirium. But mostly love.