rivka: (smite)
SUUSI actually got better for a while in the middle, after I wrote my last post. But you're not going to hear about that, because what happened at the end overshadowed everything for our family.

everyone is physically okay, kids are fine, Michael and I are upset )
rivka: (smite)
We fired her. We said that it was a bad fit and not improving. She denied ever saying anything about the devil, recast the God story to make Alex's comment about the emperor of China the beginning of the conversation, and predicted that when we try with someone else we will find that Alex simply adjusts poorly to being left and none of this was her fault.

I can't think of anywhere else that Alex would have heard of the devil. We're very careful about media exposure, and her classmates all come from secular families.

We gave her a week of severance pay.

I feel surprisingly crappy for someone who just did the right thing for her child.
rivka: (smite)
We have to fire our nanny. We have to fire our nanny right now.

She's been great with Colin, but at the beginning of June when Alex started to come home at lunchtime to spend the afternoon with the nanny, there were immediate problems. Alex didn't like her. She cried when Michael dropped her off. She complained to me that Polly told lies. When I asked her for examples, she told me about something that was transparently a case of joking around. So I talked to Polly, in Alex's presence, about cutting out the joking until Alex knew her well enough to tell that she was kidding. But Alex still said she didn't like her.

We thought it was adjustment. We thought it was too many changes too quickly. We thought it was having to get used to Michael picking her up at school and then immediately dropping her off again instead of staying home to be with her. We weren't crazy about how Polly interacted with Alex in our presence, but it didn't seem actively objectionable.

We were wrong.

Yesterday afternoon Polly called me at work. She told me a rambling story about Alex's behavior: she had suggested they go to the park, Alex didn't want to, she persisted, Alex said she was being mean. I was nonplussed that an experienced nanny would call the mother about something like this, but I listened, and it was a good thing I did. Because in the course of her explanation of what she said to Alex and what Alex said to her, she came to this:

Polly: You made me feel sad when you said those things to me.
Alex: Well, you should treat others the way you want to be treated.
Polly: Where did you hear that?
Alex: In a book.
Polly: Well, you know, God doesn't like it when you say mean things to someone.


I listened to the rest of her story and then brought the topic back to God. I told her that she. Could. NEVER. Tell our child what God wouldn't like or what God would do. And she said, essentially, "okay, fine, now I know that's how you feel."

I came home and told Michael that we needed a new nanny. I simply didn't trust the judgment of someone who would think that was a good thing to say to a child. We decided that the best thing to do would be to line someone else up as quickly as possible and then give Polly abrupt notice and two weeks' severance pay. He called and left a message for the person who had been the runner-up for the job, in case she hadn't found anything better by now. And this morning I explained again, firmly, to Polly that she may never mention God in any kind of monitoring or punitive context. I walked her through the methods we use when Alex is difficult or oppositional. And they seemed to have gotten through the afternoon okay. Read more... )
rivka: (for god's sake)
This got long, so I'm going to lj-cut everything but the takehome message.
Read more... )
If I seem like I'm really tightly wound these days, or quick to take offense, or too dramatic over too little, or not paying very close attention to what's going on with you, or if you think I'm flaking out on something I was supposed to do for you or comment on or generally just take care of... all of those things are probably true. And I can't promise to do anything about it, either. It's about the best I can do right now. Read more... )
I am not falling apart, because this is pretty much the living definition of a situation that is Not About Me And My Feelings. But I am brittle and impatient and, necessarily, a little bit slipshod right now. And exhausted.

I've been posting to LJ more than usual lately - mostly about stuff that isn't this. I expect that to continue, because (a) it distracts me enough from my mouse-in-the-bottom-of-a-jar thoughts to be genuinely relaxing, and (b) it's about the only social interaction I'm up for. It's not that I don't want to see people, it's that I am just not capable of orchestrating a single additional thing however tiny.
rivka: (smite)
I think some of my friends probably look forward to my lurid stories about Michael's stepmother. She's so awful that, on some level, she's entertaining; we've gotten quite a bit of conversational mileage out of her parenting advice, her decorating sense, her asparagus recipe. (Oh, my God...)

This time I don't have any fun Betty stories. Because she's moved on to direct attacks on Michael for not loving his dead mother enough.

Yeah. See? No entertainment potential there.

She blindsided him one morning in the kitchen, while he was giving Alex breakfast and I was still asleep.

"How come you didn't name her after your mother?"

Michael explained that he wasn't particularly fond of the name Nancy.

"Well, I think that Nancy Alexandra would have been really pretty. Your Dad was really disappointed - he was hoping you'd name her for your mother."

Later on, while we were all together, Michael was telling a sweet little anecdote about his relationship with his grandfather Crabtree, whom he called 'Big Crab.' (His grandfather called him 'Little Crab,' because Crabtree is Michael's middle name.)

Betty interrupted him. "Nancy? You don't call her Mom?"

We all looked at her in complete incomprehension. She spent the next several minutes insisting that Michael had referred to Big Crab as 'Nancy's father' - thereby referring to the woman who'd raised him, and whose deathbed he had faithfully attended, by her first name. Michael and I were united in our equally firm insistence that Michael hadn't said anything of the sort. Michael's father just looked nonplussed.

I can't think of any motive for this, except to try to drive a wedge between Michael and his father by implying that, because Michael is adopted, he doesn't really consider himself to be part of his father's family. (She also kept pushing Michael to talk about his birthmother.) Because Michael's relationship with his father is so loving and so solid, I guess she thought it would work best to tarnish the memory of his relationship with his mother.

So, yeah. No funny stories this time.
rivka: (smite)
Ninety-nine percent of the time, when I'm offensive, (a) I know that I'm being offensive, (b) I'm doing it on purpose, and (c) I'm willing to acknowledge it. This may not be much of a virtue, but sometimes it's all I've got. Read more... )
rivka: (family)
I am holding a sleeping baby upright on my lap, letting her digest for 30 minutes befor I put her back to bed. She's been on the Zantac for about sixteen hours now. It hasn't kicked in yet, but fortunately she doesn't usually have as many symptoms at this hour of night. My pamphlet on "breastfeeding the baby with reflux" says that it's often less painful to them to eat while sleeping, which she more or less was for this bottle. No symptoms ten minutes in - I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

We spent today trying to reintroduce breastfeeding. Alex was delighted. She latched on and held my nipple in her mouth, snuggling up and curling one hand posessively around my breast. She patted me happily. Here's whta she didn't do: nurse. She took the occasional sip, but nothing you could really call nutritive. So I'd put her to the breast and cajole and harry her, and then afterward I'd need to give her a bottle to keep her nourished. With her weight gain problems being so serious, I can't afford to wait out a nursing strike.

So instead I spent the day getting progressively more hysterical about the possibility that nursing just isn't going to work fot us. All day I kept thinking about a link [livejournal.com profile] porcinea posted to an article explaining the vital importance of not ever letting formula-feeding mothers think what they're doing is okay. We shouldn't say formula is "second best," because it's much further down the list than that, after nursing, pumping and bottle feeding, using a milk bank or wet nurse, and possibly letting the baby roll around on the floor eating lint. We shouldn't say "breastfed babies are healthier," we should say "formula-fed babies are sickly." And on and on. People posted approving comments in [livejournal.com profile] porcinea's journal. I haven't been able to get that article, or the people I know who really do feel that way, out of my head.

It's so important to me to make it work. It's so much better for her health. I know that. But I also wonder how long I can realistically keep trying, if she doesn't start taking in large amounts of calories from the breast soon. I mean, this is what our current feeding system looks like:

1. Nurse. Prod the baby to keep her from sleeping on the breast, and attempt to cajole her into taking more than just a few dainty sips. This step takes about 30-40 minutes.
2. Give her a bottle, adjusted downward from 2.5oz depending on how much she seems to have taken from the breast. Today that mostly meant 1.5 to 2oz of expressed breast milk/formula.
3. Hold her upright for 30 minutes to reduce reflux symptoms. Usually in here somewhere the reflux kicks in and she starts yelling and arching in pain.
4. Attempt to comfort and soothe the hurting baby.
5. Try to find a way that the baby will tolerate being put down so that I can pump breastmilk.
6. Pump, if possible. This takes 20-25 minutes for pumping and washing up.

She eats every two to three hours.

So the anecdotes people are posting about "I know a woman who pumped and fed bottles for months and then successfully established nursing" are kind of inspirational, but kind of terrifying. I couldn't keep this up for months. I would quit trying first. That probably makes me a bad mother, or at least, so I told myself all day. I'm not ready to give up trying yet, but I'm already being hammered by anticipatory guilt.

This evening, at last, she nursed with a little more authority. Not enough to count as a whole feeding, but enough to count as actual food intake. We'll see if she continues to improve tomorrow, or if we'll find ourselves back at square one. Also I talked to my sister, who reminded me that breastfeeding is not an all-or-nothing thing. Every bit Alex gets will help her, even if it's never enough to be her sole source of nutrition. So we'll keep doing whatever we can.

Yes, I am keeping in mind that my guilt and frustration might be symptome of postpartum depression. We are all keeping a very close eye on that. I don't think I'm there yet - I think it's more about stress and sleep deprivation and physical illness at this point. I mean, look at that feeding routine up there. You don't have to be depressed to find that overwhelming, right?
rivka: (her majesty)
Alex has stopped gaining weight.

We went to the pediatrician on Friday, and she'd gained a grand total of one ounce since the previous Saturday. I admitted that we'd slacked off some on the supplemental bottles - partly out of complacency, because she'd gained an ounce a day for ten days, and partly because mastitis hit me like a Mack truck. He suggested that we go back to doing exactly what we were doing before, and I agreed to get her re-weighed on Monday at the lactation clinic. So I did.

Today, she weighed what she'd weighed a week ago Saturday. That's not good at all.

I spent a long time with the lactation consultant. She pointed out that Alex's sucking isn't anywhere near as good as it was a few weeks ago. (I'd noticed that she seemed to be doing some lazy nursing, and that it was hard to get her latched on to the supplemental bottles - she was just mouthing.) She tried various diagnostic measures, including feeding Alex some sugar water from a special plastic tube. Alex struggled to get it down, and then spit it up. So then she started asking me how often Alex spits up (fairly often, and much more than before in the past week), and then about a series of behaviors which I wouldn't even have thought to call symptoms: does Alex arch her back a lot? Yeah, she's started doing that recently. Does she shake her head and stiffen when we try to feed a bottle? Yeah, she's started doing that recently. Does she make noises like she's clearing her throat? Now that I think of it, she totally does. Do we see milk in her mouth after a feeding? Yes, sometimes, and then she re-swallows it. Has she been fussier? Good heavens, yes. Has she been having lots of short feedings and then acting hungry again a little while later? Yeah, that's definitely Alex - at least, a lot of the time.

To make a long story short: she thinks it's gastroesophageal reflux disease. She said it often happens that a baby will gain well for a few weeks, and then will start to fall apart around four weeks or so, as she starts taking in enough of a volume of milk to make reflux really painful. So even Alex's timeline makes sense. And then I started thinking of additional corroborating evidence: Alex used to go down without a complaint after night feedings, and now she cries when I lie her down in bed. (Babies with reflux need to be kept upright after they eat.)

The lactation consultant tried to call our pediatrician, but he was gone for the day. She'll call him tomorrow morning, and then I expect that we'll take her in to be seen. Hopefully, the consultant's diagnosis is right, a trial of Zantac will clear up Alex's problems, she'll go back to nursing contentedly, and she'll gain weight like a little pig. Hopefully.

The consultant was also very concerned about my mastitis. medical TMI )She told me to stop nursing for 24 to 48 hours, and instead to pump 10 times a day. In the meantime, Alex is to be fed bottles. If I can't pump enough to give her 8-10 2.5oz bottles (and I can't), I'll need to supplement the pumped milk with formula. I can do some "comfort nursing" after I've pumped, but I'm not supposed to be nursing for her main nutrition.

This is a physically intimidating program (pumping ten times a day?!), and also... emotionally devastating. I feel like a failure for giving my baby formula, even mixed with breast milk, even for only 24-48 hours. And I feel tremendously sad about not nursing her. She loves to nurse. I love to be able to provide her with that comfort and security. I feel empty and inadequate for not having that to give her, even just for a day. I'm afraid that this will be the beginning of the end of our nursing relationship - that we won't be able to re-establish breastfeeding, or my milk will disappear. And I feel like I'm setting myself up for a hailstorm of criticism and disapproval for allowing her to have something besides breast milk.

(Incidentally, if you're planning to leave a comment explaining why we shouldn't give formula or why I should fire my lactation consultant, please don't. We are trying this. Our decision has been made. Second-guessing us will not be helpful.)
rivka: (smite)
I'm not doing very well.

I'm crying at work.

Thoughts of miscarriage keep crossing my mind. Not as in, wanting to have one, but as in, how could the baby possibly live through this?

I know that's crazy.

But when the majority of my fellow Americans have given their stamp of approval to the architects of Abu Ghraib, where can I find hope? How can I be a parent in this world?
rivka: (her majesty)
So I thought I was going to be able to deal with the cicadas.

No, not when I first realized that this was the year. Then I was threatening to stay inside the house for a month, even if it meant losing my job and starving to death. I know that doesn't count as "dealing with" them. But later...

The parking lot for my clinic in the suburbs of DC is at the top of the hill, and there's a tree-shaded flight of steps leading down to the clinic. One day, there was a cicada perched on the railing. Big, ugly black-and-red bugger, with bulging red eyes. I edged my way past and went into the clinic. By afternoon, the railings were clear. The next day, there were several more cicadas perched on the railings, and again they were gone by afternoon.

I formulated a theory, based on the various "Oh God, The Cicadas Are Coming" stories in the press. I thought that cicadas crawled out of the ground at night, molted, and climbed up the nearest vertical thing. When they found a tree, they stayed there until eventually they lay their eggs and died. I figured that, for a non-arboreal type like me, the only danger of close contact with a cicada came in that early-morning period when they were looking for a tall thing. And I figured that my several-cicada railing encounters were a product of that morning activity, sure to end when all the cicacas had emerged from the ground and made their way up the trees. I was supported in my theory by the fact that, in Iowa, I had never seen an annual cicada - just heard them. They stayed in the trees.

Everyone in a Brood X state is laughing at me now, aren't they?

Then came the day last week when I drove down to my DC clinic and found that the cicadas were everywhere. Forget six or seven bugs demurely perched on a railing - they were everywhere. Lurching about in the air like demented hummingbirds. Squashed on the sidewalk. Crawling around. Infiltrating the building in their squashed-and-repulsive form. Hundreds of them. I held my hand over my mouth every time I had to go outside.

But I was still optimistic about Baltimore. I'd heard them when I went to the grocery store, which is in a more wooded neighborhood, but my neighborhood is all brick and concrete. I felt very safe, especially after the hordes had come out in DC.

Wednesday morning I walked to the gym. I started noticing squashed cicadas on the sidewalk, perhaps one or two per block.

Today they were everywhere. Dive-bombing my window. Crawling up the side of the building. Squashed on the street, on the polished floor of the lobby, on the stairs. Creeping along the ground malevolently. Perched in my flowerpot. Detatched wings skating along in the breeze. Everywhere.

They're big enough that you can see them flying on the other side of the street.

I now know that, in fact, I'm not going to be able to deal with the cicadas at all.
rivka: (smite)
Dear World,

Too many bad things are happening to people I love, and I've had enough of it. Just stop it. Stop piling on the shit. Let's have some good news for a change, for once, for heaven's sake. I mean it.

rivka: (her majesty)
Disclaimer: This post is probably going to piss some people off. I'm not doing it just for the fun of hosting a Sacred Cow BBQ. I welcome negative comments as well as the other kind, but if you can't stand to hear alt.callahans criticized at all, then probably you don't want to click through. Contrariwise, if you're not even slightly interested in alt.callahans or the place it used to have in my life, then probably you don't want to click through either.
Read more... )


Sep. 3rd, 2003 02:46 pm
rivka: (smite)
[livejournal.com profile] rivka:
> > Did you intend to insult me with the "Piled Higher
> > and Deeper" part, or did you not realize that it
> > refers to *shit* being piled higher and deeper?

Someone else, not the original poster:
> Of course; it's a geometric progression (or worse):
> BSc -- Bullshit certificate
> MSc -- More shit certificate
> PhD -- Piled higher and deeper.
> Felicitations and salutations -- nobody will ever know
> what agonies you went through for that worthless piece
> of paper but you. Treasure those happy memories for they
> will sustain you in the trials to come.
> I'm not good at this sort of thing, as you may have surmised.

[livejournal.com profile] rivka:
If you were aiming at taking me down a peg, undercutting
my pleasant sense of accomplishment, or devaluing eight
years' worth of hard work, you're on the right track. If
that's not what you meant to be doing, well, maybe next
time you should stick to "felicitations" and leave it at

I know I'm supposed to take this as all in good fun, but
I've spent eight years of my life working very hard,
earning very little, forgoing many pleasures, and postponing
other significant life goals. I don't know what prompts you
to tell me that my degree is worthless and my work is a
shitpile, but forgive me if I don't really have a sense
of humor about it.

Okay, I feel as though I've completely lost my shit here - or at least, my sense of perspective. But these comments just feel hostile to me. I'm sure he thinks he's just teasing and I know I'm supposed to be a good sport about it. And maybe if I weren't still so tired from the whole ordeal I would be a good sport about it. Or if it was someone I knew so well that their supportiveness could be taken for granted, and we had a pre-existing teasing relationship. In the absence of those factors, I feel as though I'm being told not to get above myself.


Nov. 14th, 2002 01:38 pm
rivka: (her majesty)
I'm being an idiot. Read more... )


Oct. 11th, 2002 10:23 pm
rivka: (her majesty)
I'm not going to self-label my posts as "testy" or "bitchy" anymore.

Obviously I am only an egg.

Updated to add: Also, apparently, I have much to learn about how to respond to criticism.
rivka: (her majesty)
So. I'm in Iowa City.

I'm here for the exact same fucking reason I was here ten months ago: my dissertation isn't done. I'm bogged down in data collection. The undergraduate research assistant I recruited to collect my last subjects flaked on me after running a grand total of four subjects - which is an improvement over the previous undergraduate research assistant, who flaked on me without running any subjects at all. This time, I at least kept in good contact and sent her frequent prompts and reminders - but much good it did me, because she stonewalled me at first and then just stopped answering my e-mail.

So I'm out here again. This time, I plan to run the remaining 25 subjects myself. In the next two weeks. While I continue to work on the grant application from a distance.

Does it show that I hate this?

I'm furious at the research non-assistant, obviously, but I can't put all the blame on her. My own fecklessness and poor choices and procrastination have more to do with why I'm not finished than anything else does. I should've been finished before I hired her ten months ago. I should've been finished before I went on internship twenty-seven months ago. Everyone who started when I did finished long ago. Intellectually, I know that it's not a race. Emotionally... I'm so ashamed of not being done that I can barely tolerate working on the damned thing, which is not the most helpful way to be.

I'm getting more done now that I'm here. I still have a low-grade panicky feeling in my gut, but I do feel better now that I'm actually moving forward. I can run 25 subjects in two weeks. I can recruit the missing 11-12 subjects in two weeks. I can get the data entered as I collect it and be ready to start data analysis by the end of the two-week period. My planned analyses are pretty simple - they won't take long. So two weeks from now I should be on the downward slope. That's the plan, anyway.

I just have to get through the next two weeks. That shouldn't be as hard as all that.

rivka: (her majesty)
As long as I kept my momentum, I was okay. Most of the workday was a fine engaging rush forward, but whenever I hit a snag I got derailed. As my first post from yesterday shows.

Traffic slowed to a jam on I-95 as I drove into work, and it occurred to me that something might have happened. I felt trapped, exposed. Sirens and firetrucks on Pratt Street, several of them, and my heart leapt in a wild panic that was completely unreasonable for someone who works across the street from an ambulance bay.

I fantasized about joining a Red Cross disaster relief team the moment I get my license, really helping people next time instead of frantically spinning my wheels.

I was angry all out of proportion. At everything.

I don't want to hear saturation 9/11 coverage on Wednesday Night Baseball. Shut up and call the game. If you must talk about 9/11 nonstop, you are not then allowed to laud baseball as "an escape." (I wanted to avoid the media altogether, but at the gym you can either listen to the radio or TV. The game should've been safe.)

Church was good. I don't remember what they said in the sermon, but I felt understood, and found solace. I didn't know how to pray. Over the candle I lit I said silently, "Dona eis requiem. Grant them all rest, the living and the dead." That seemed to serve.

I composed at least six LJ posts in my head, and didn't make any of them.

I wasn't prostrate with grief. I wasn't paralyzed with anxiety. I was sad and irritable and restless and bothered by the nagging suspicion that I didn't have a right to feel that way. That I knew the feeling to be ridiculous just added more irritation to the mix.

I didn't know what to do with myself.

I'm glad the day is over.
rivka: (Default)
I spoke with my friend and found out that I had gotten some of the details wrong, in ways that (sorry) may have reduced plausibility of the story. Some details are vague because of the girl's limited English.

On the side of this being real, or at least, less damning than the way I originally told you the story:

My friend's correspondence with the girl began last spring, well before Sept 11th, and before the girl had come to the U.S. (She was at that point living in/attending school in U.A.E., was planning to come to the US to attend math summer programs and started posting to the newsgroup because she wanted to talk to people in the U.S. about what it would be like to come, what kind of things to wear, etc.) The family has money (hence the private planes, and the ability to send a daughter to the U.S for education, and the ability of some family members to leave Afghanistan when the Taliban was in power), but only the grandfather was in favor of her getting educated, and he died on Sept 11th. She had attended 2 summer programs (Smith, and ? second program in California) and was going to stay and get placed in a school this fall to continue, when all this upheaval happened in this country and in her family.

The guy who originally contacted my friend to make sure she was an appropriate email contact for the girl was an associate of the family; he's the one who returned to Afghanistan and was killed along with other members of the family in the fire started by the Taliban. My friend has his name; don't know at this point if there's any way to confirm whether he died as we've been told. His contact with my friend was by email.

The U.S. contacts were not actually a host family (I was wrong about that.) The couple who died in the WTC were actually a teacher in her summer program and the teacher's husband. The Afghan girl had become close to them over the summer, eaten in their home, etc. The other U.S. contact was a man who was working as a liason to place her in a U.S. school. She stayed with him and his family for a short time after Sept 11th, until family members came and over-rode his authority to keep her. My friend has emailed him (as have other people in the newsgroup) and got a response on the lines of "I share your concerns and am doing everything I can..."

On the side of this not being real:

1. odd that her current "caretakers" could be so unaware of her ability to use email to communicate with outsiders. She apparently has been able to use both her handheld device and (in the middle of the night) possibly her desktop without being detected.
2. she sent my friend a photo of the prospective husband. Can a palm-type device handle something large like that? I won't even bother speculating about scanning the photo in, etc. because I'm assuming if she had it and sent it, that she received it electronically in the first place (which again raises questions about #1--how it is that the relatives are allowing her access to email, if they understand what it is.)

Thanks for your suggestions; my friend is going to call Smith College tomorrow and try to verify that the girl attended their summer program and see if they have any contact information. She's also going to email the girl to suggest that she email police, FBI, and/or State Dept directly with her story.


rivka: (Default)

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