Thursday, March 5, 2015

Fail Baby

I was reading back in this blog, and I found an entry where I suggested that perhaps I should stop feeding the kids. They make an unholy mess whenever they eat, especially the little ones. In addition, if they were hungry they'd have less energy to destroy things when they're not eating.

My youngest son needs to stop taking me so literally.

I was slightly suspicious when I noticed that my two-month-old was wearing his sister's preemie clothes. It seemed he had been wearing these clothes for, well, a long time. Say, for two months. So I popped him on the kitchen scale (picture some shenanigans with a really big mixing bowl and a receiving blanket) to get an idea. And while my kitchen scale is not as accurate as a baby scale, I don't think it's two pounds off. If it were, my cakes would probably not work out. And my cakes are fine. My baby was not fine.

Well, he was _fine_ in that he was happy, and very pleasant, and really so happy and so pleasant that he was neglecting to mention that he'd really like to be eating a good 50% more milk than he'd been getting.

I generally only find these things out at 4 p.m. Friday, so that I have the whole of Shabbos to fret over them. I dragged the baby over to a pediatrician (it's a synagogue. Of course we have a pediatrician. We have _several_ pediatricians.)

"I'm not telling you not to be concerned," the pediatrician said. "You should be concerned about this."

The next week he approached my husband again. "I think I may not have been emphatic enough with your wife. I didn't want her to be too upset. Maybe I downplayed my concern too much."

Pediatricians are always telling parents not to worry, and here I've got one scared he might not be worrying me enough.

If you ever really want to see a sluggish medical system kick into high gear, show up at your family doctor with a two-month-old wearing preemie clothes. And he was full term.

"You shouldn't feel bad," the various pediatricians told me. "It's not failure."

May I make a humble suggestion? If we want to wash the stench of failure off of this starving-the-baby business, perhaps we could call it something other than "failure to thrive." I'm just saying, maybe we don't need to build the word "failure" _right into the name._ We could call it "exceptional smallness," or "flat growth curve" or "insufficient weight gain." I'm not saying that I would have felt A-Okay about the whole you-are-literally-starving-your-newborn situation if it had had a better name, but I'm saying it wouldn't have hurt.

The lactation consultant is the least exciting place you'll ever be topless. Mine had four different plastic breasts, and an angry looking plastic baby. She told me to go home and institute a feeding regime that would require about 60% of my waking time to be devoted to some part of the baby-feeding supply chain. Nurse, pump, feed the pumped milk, rinse, lather, repeat. So it was totally do-able with four other kids around.

And my mother. Oh, my mother. "I'm failing the baby," I tell her. "You are exactly the mother he needs," my mother said. "He's so lucky. He has a mother who is willing to go the extra mile for him."

I'm not sure that feeding constitutes "the extra mile" in infant care -- I'm pretty sure it's part of the basic package -- but I'll take what I can get.

The baby gained weight. Then he gained a little more weight. Then he went on GERD meds and gained a little more weight still. And he's fine. And he's still got that easy-going personality. You know, the one where he was so easy-going, he didn't mention he was starving.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

My Adulthood is Being Spent Running in Place

There's a truth at the heart of adulthood, and it's this: You're going to spend vast amounts of time and money just to maintain things as they are, or slightly worse. You won't move the ball forward. Not at all. At the end of entire days you'll realise all you've done is gotten back to zero. Except poorer.

An example:
I have a dishwasher. I have had the dishwasher for eight years. Some time about a year ago, my dishwasher lost the will to live. Since then, it's been engaged in a concentrated campaign to force me to put it out of its misery. Attempt have included:
- vomiting crud all over the top dishes
- vomiting crud all over the top dishes and baking it on
- no longer drying dishes
- refusing to close without lifting the door up as you latch it
- refusing to open unless you batter the handle with a screwdriver.

Fool you dishwasher. I'm enjoying battering you with a screwdriver.

Each of these various failings requires one or more complicated, time-consuming, and frequently disgusting fixes. I have soaked the arms in vinegar and then in CLR. I have removed the arms and washed them. I have unscrewed all of the dishwasher parts and cleaned the filter. I have done it again. I have tightened the screws for the door. I have run a cycle just with bleach. I have run one just with CLR. I cleaned out two really gross clogs. I feel pretty free to experiment with this dishwasher, because I don't think it's long for this world anyway, so I'm not suggesting you start taking stuff off of your appliances or anything. Each dishwasher hack rendered the dishwasher in a passable, slightly-less-inferior state.

Well, it became obvious that the water pressure was going, and also the opening-up wasn't going to start happening again. We called in the technician. He informed us that the dishwasher is beyond fixing: the top arm lolls forward, a piece has detached from the plastic basin, and a valve is gone. So we are living with the inferior dishwasher.

At some point in the near future I won't be able to stand it, and I will finally get a new dishwasher.

I do not want a new dishwasher. I was happy with my dishwasher of a year ago, before it decided it wanted to die. Dishwasher technology does not excite me, and I do not lust after china cycles or metal basins. So by the end of this I will have spent a number of very unpleasant hours, the cost of a technician visit, and the cost of a new dishwasher. And what will I get from it? Clean dishes. I _had_ clean dishes. I had clean dishes just last year.

My dishwasher situation is a running in place incident. I spend time, I spend money, and I don't get anything I want from it. I get the status quo ante. But with less money. And irritation.

Other popular running in place scenarios include:
- Almost any reason for which one might see a dentist;
- Tickets, parking or moving;
- Redoing knitting I had thought was fine the first time;
- Teaching my child punctuation, again;
- Any missive or instruction from the municipal government;
- Almost all repairs of anything;
- Replacing or locating lost items, especially those lost by children;
- 90% of housework.

See, the problem isn't that so much of what I do is drudgery, even if a lot of it is. It's that it's drudgery in pursuit of making it to zero. And every morning is a new opportunity to let my life be dictated by the appliance that's stopped working, the newest whim of the local government (twice the parking tickets, half the trash pick up), or the discovery that 53 rows back in this sweater I K2 where I should have P2 and now it looks decidedly odd.

Okay, so this is a worse week than usual, and if it ever stopped raining, I might be more chipper. But I know now why my high school will never invite me to give chipper addresses to graduates. My address would be two sentences: "Large parts of your adulthood will be spent trying to get even to where you were yesterday. And by the time you die, you're going to have done an epic amount of housework."