A good cause

Thursday, January 31, 2008

A friend of mine, Matthew Chapman, is raising some funds. I am posting an email that he has sent around to spread around the info. I encourage you to do what you are able.

Jambo marafiki zangu! (Hello my friends)
As you may know, from January to August of 2007 I lived in Tanzania, teaching music at an international school on the island of Zanzibar. I encountered the kindness and generosity of African culture wherever I went, but one man whose story really touched me was the assistant to the school's principal. He was a brilliant, uplifting and charming character who completely changed my conception of poverty. Working a respectable job, he makes only $50 a month and at age 28 has yet to save enough to attend his final year of high school ($400). The cost of living in Zanzibar has increased rapidly with the tourism boom and his salary barely keeps him and his mother afloat. I decided upon returning that I wanted to do something to reciprocate the kindness and hospitality shown me. I have put together a calendar of my photos to raise money for Johnny's education. To see the photos and find out how to donate, visit:


If you'd like a calendar (they're very small, 3x3in) just reply and I'll have it mailed post-haste. So far I'm a long way from my fundraising goal (see website) and I'd really appreciate any support you could offer. Passing this along to friends would also be a huge help! Thank you so much for those who have already donated. Updates on the project's progress to follow soon!

Many Thanks,
Happy New Year!!

Matthew Chapman

He is a good guy. I am proud to know him.

Nursing Strike, continued

This post contains the functional details of the breast. If you're shy - quit reading.

Sofia's Nursing Strike was getting better. And then it got worse late yesterday. I went to feed her at around 5pm, and as she began to draw the milk down it started to come out FAST. She choked on a Niagara-Falls-amount of milk and refused to eat after that. She was screaming for a good while after that, also. This kind of crying is enough to break any parent's heart (i.e., full out red-faced, shrieking, gasping for air...).

This is not the first time it has happened. In fact, almost everytime she has tried to nurse over the last two weeks it has been like this. Sometimes if she pulls off, milk actually sprays. (Yup, pretty sexy stuff.) This seems to be a cause of the Nursing Strike.

This problem seems to relate to the mother's abundant milk supply. I believe the baby probably wasn't not latching on well from the beginning... Many mothers say they and their babies had problems with an "Overactive letdown reflex." Their babies would go to the breast, and when the letdown occurred, the baby would sputter, choke and sometimes pull off the breast, crying from getting milk too quickly. This problem of he overactive letdown reflect then seems to get better for a few weeks, and then boom, the baby is on strike (Newman, 172).

So, she got set back a bit. I hope that today will be better.

Anyway, here are a few things I've figured out to help get the baby as much as possible during this time.

  • Be careful about the amount of pressure you're applying for compression. In holding the breast to feed the baby, you're instructed to gently squeeze the breast to encourage milk flow. If you've got the "overactive letdown reflex", you really don't need to help this. So, really pay attention and listen to the 'gulps' that your baby is making. If your baby is starting to get too much with each gulp, you can actually hear this and prevent her from starting to choke.

  • If your baby is crying/screaming and you really feel like you need to make sure she gets something, try putting your pinky finger to rest on her tongue. She may take to sucking it. If so, quickly swap out the finger for your nipple. I've gotten Sofia to successfully feed for at least a little bit using this 'technique'. (I should call this the "SIKE!" technique).

  • To try to correct the overactive letdown reflex, try using a different position for the baby. I've found that instead of using the "cross cradle" hold (which is the most common to begin with), I've used the "football hold" on my, more guilty, left breast. I have found that she has had less trouble drinking this way.

  • Dr. Newman recommends trying to feed the baby while she is more drowsy. Coming out of is the best time to try to feed her. During this Nursing Strike time, I've found that she fights me way more when she is fully awake. So, try to catch her as she is just waking.

  • Doing the above, I've managed to at least get 8 to 10 minutes to feeding time into Sofia. My mother saw her after not seeing her for 2 days and exclaimed that she had gained weight. So, perhaps she is getting what she needs still. But, I'll still be happier when she's over this.

    How I help Sofia deflate alittle

    Tuesday, January 29, 2008

    Chuck and Huck

    As published in Maclean's Magazine, February 4, 2008 edition.

    Baby, please eat!

    Monday, January 28, 2008

    Sunday, January 27

    For the past couple of days, at some feeding times, Sofia will breastfeed contently (as normal) for about 10 minutes. Suddenly, she'll pull away and start screaming. And no matter what I do, she will not latch again. This strange behaviour really started freaking me out. Especially since she usually feeds for about 25 to 30 minutes about 8 or 9 times a day. Yesterday, she fed 9 times, most at which she only had 10 minutes. The shortest was 6 minutes AND for most of day she was unusually sleepy (yes, even more sleepy than the regular Sofia).

    So, Gonzo and I consulted the breastfeeding textbook, "The Guide to Breastfeeding" and found out about "The Nursing Strike" (Newman 171).

    Even though obviously hungry, the baby will cry, scream and push away if the mother tries to put him to the breast. Often, the more the mother tries, the more upset the baby gets . . . these were almost always rapidly growing babies from the beginning...The nursing strike may last for only a short period of time, or it may go on for weeks. The majority of nursing strikes do not go on for weeks, but gradually get better over a few days to a week or two. Some stop as suddenly as they start (171-172).

    Well, Sofia is that baby that gained rapidly since she was born. She gained all her birth weight back in one week. She is off the graph statistically for height at her age, and well above average for weight.

    The textbook advises to just watch to see that the baby continues to pee. Six wet diapers in a 24-hour period is adequate. She is doing that, so I shouldn't need to worry.

    Admittedly, I was pretty worried yesterday. It's hard not to worry when your baby starts acting differently than she did previously. Anyway, Dr. Newman states that the reasons aren't really known as to why this occurs. It's pretty weird, but at least now I know what's going on.

    Real life begins

    Sunday, January 27, 2008

    Wednesday, January 23

    My baby is growing fast. She is seven weeks tomorrow. Seven weeks?! Where'd that time go?

    Today marks the final day of my holiday-style maternity leave.
    For the first three weeks of my baby's life, Gonz had taken it off of work and so we were together - observing the hourly changes of our new daughter. The next three weeks my mother took off of work to help me with the baby by cooking, cleaning, helping me organize my home to better use space, and of course doting on her new granddaughter. We had lots of fun going out and practicing lugging all that baby gear everytime we'd step out of the door.

    Tomorrow, I am home alone with Sofia.

    Hopefully real life won't hit me too hard.
    Actually, as wonderful as everything has been over the last weeks, I am looking forward to having the time alone (although I don't know how long for...). Sofia is starting to be a little more awake everyday, and last night, it was very exciting 'cause we were actually able to make her smile! You should have seen us - my dad, my mom, Gonzo and me crowding over her working very hard to make her smile over and over and over again. After about 1 minute she started crying. Must have been pretty scary with 4 very big people leaning over and in her face.

    Well - I also know that real life maternity leave is also going to be missing a bit of adult-interaction. So, if you're in the neighbourhood give me a shout and feel free to visit.

    Margaret's Next Gallery Showing

    Thursday, January 24, 2008

    My sister Margaret has a new gallery showing with fellow classmates Monica Bodirsky and Annie Tung entitled, "Integrate Assimilate". Margaret has been working on many new pieces to show pretty much around the clock. On Tuesday night she came to stay at my place for some quiet space to work on new designs at around 11:30pm after working all day at the Harbourfront Studio, and worked into the night. She's working hard for you - so you'd bettter show up. :-)

    Her classmates are also quality artists. I know that you'll enjoy the show.

    The Opening
    *new* gallery
    909 Queen Street West
    Thursday, February 7th at 6:30pm until 9:30pm

    Wednesday, January 30 to Sunday, February 17

    For more information see www.new-gallery.ca

    More family!

    Monday, January 21, 2008

    Last night we went out to visit my mother's three sisters who live out in Woodbridge. I have three cousins there, two of whom have families of their own, have three children each. They LOVE to cook. In fact their home has two kitchens - one big one in the regular spot, and then one industrial sized one in the basement. It was a feast. They made a roast so big and so delicious that it even shocked Gonzo.

    We had such a great time hanging out with family that we perhaps don't hang out with enough.
    We came home beaming.

    Note about the photo:
    There are 4 generations represented here.

    New theme

    Thursday, January 17, 2008

    I spent most of my free time today looking for a new look for this blog. There were a few that I really liked but had problems with them, like not being able to view the comments people leave.

    Well, I like this one enough.
    Thanks FreeThemes.org.


    Wednesday, January 16, 2008

    Tuesday, January 15
    Originally uploaded by kathy photo
    Last few nights have been a little difficult. I haven't had a good night's sleep (a new mother's version of it, anyway) since Sunday...? A couple of nights she was screaming for hours with painful bouts of gas. That is serious stress that I have never encountered before.

    Last night she didn't have gas, which I am thankful for, but she was awake as if she were a college student - until 3 am. Everytime I'd try to put her down she'd stay asleep for about five minutes and then wake, only to be bored, and start to cry. Today, I have to work on her being a little more awake during the DAY so she sleeps at NIGHT.

    But definitely better than gas.

    Update: Rear-ended

    Friday, January 11, 2008

    It turns out that the 'pink slip' of paper that the officer was looking at was the very paper Gonzo was trying to hand him. Thanks for the confusion. Anyhow, I'm relieved.

    The story:
    Gonzo was driving home from a meeting at church, heading east on Finch Ave. E., and was stopped at a stop light which is just a glorified crosswalk (i.e., not an intersection). Next thing he knows, he's rear-ended by someone who, he thinks, was on a cellphone. Gonz, in turn, hits the car in front of him. He gets out of the car, as does the man at fault, and they examine their cars together. Our car looks barely scratched, and the other man's... well.. there was stuff leaking from it! Gonz advises him to turn his car off. The man offers Gonz $200 to cover the damages - Gonz refuses telling him he doesn't know what could be wrong with the car and tells him he will get the car checked out first before settling outside of insurance. The front car that Gonz hit claimed no damage and left the scene of the accident. Gonz and the other man went to the Collision Centre together to report.

    Yesterday Gonzo reports the accident to the insurance company and everything checked out - the other man's insurance company will cover the damages. Annnnd we get a rental car for the duration that the car is in the shop.

    Gonzo takes the car to the shop this morning and they state that repairs total at least $2000 at first glance. If you lift up the carpet that covers the trunk floor, over the spare tire, the entire thing is crushed in. Also, if you try to 'pop' the trunk, it doesn't. You have to pry it up. Parts have been ordered. The man at the shop said that there is a possibility that our car may be totalled (if the insurance company assesses that the repairs amount to more than that which the car is worth). I guess the insurance company may be called in once they look at the car more fully.

    I'm just glad Gonzo wasn't hurt. And it is nice that our car is still driveable.
    Gonzo is glad that Sofia wasn't in the car. He said he had his first "Father's fury" that night. The thought that Sofia could have been hurt enraged him.
    I'm looking forward to seeing what rental car we get to drive for a while.

    I wonder if we are going to have to buy a new car...


    Wednesday, January 09, 2008

    I am home with Sofia.
    Gonz called and said that he got rear-ended, which in turn he hit the car in front of him. Fortunately, we don't have much damage to our car, and the car in front of us is fine too.

    However, he is now at the collision centre reporting the accident and he can't find the pink ownership slip. He called me about 15 minutes ago. I hope that everything is okay.

    I hate this anxious, helpless feeling.

    The bond?

    The bond?
    Originally uploaded by kathy photo
    Yesterday, after Gonz arrived home from work, my mother and I decided to run some errands. We weren't going to be gone for more than an hour. We were just going to Costco to pick some photos I had printed and some envelopes at Staples. As we left, Gonz had a face of worry. I'm like, geez... handle it. Sofia is laying calmly in her crib and she's going to be off to sleep anytime!

    20 minutes later, while we were at Staples, Gonz calls and tells me that 10 minutes after I left she started crying and has been inconsolable. So I hurry up and get home. As soon I hold her she calms down and falls asleep.

    Apparently, this has happened four times now.
    Other times that I have left her, she's been out cold only to wake and starts wailing. Can she really know that I am gone?

    The learning curve

    Monday, January 07, 2008

    Tuesday, January 1 - 6am
    Originally uploaded by kathy photo
    Tomorrow will mark when I have been a mother a total of four weeks. It's been really crazy. And fun. And stressful. And tiring. And stretching. And amazing.

    [I know I said that there was a "super update" coming soon... That should be blog-sin rule #1: never promise an "update coming soon". All the pressure has kept me from actually posting anything. I've just made up my mind to post SOMETHING.]

    Being a new mother, I really find that I'm adding to my list of skills weekly, or sometimes daily.
  • Bathing her - How do you hold this baby so she doesn't slip out of your hands while she is in the water? Soap + baby = slippery bugger.
  • Learn to breastfeed - that required more coordination than anything else. How do I hold this baby? How do I get her arms so that she doesn't have them in the way?
  • Getting ready to go out - What does she need when we go out? How long does it take to get her ready and get ME ready? For the first two weeks we were late to EVERYTHING.
  • Changing a diaper - Oh! the baby will CONTINUE to pee even though you have removed her diaper? How inconsiderate! POO? Yeah, newborns are quite rude. Just ask her Aunt Christine.
  • Interpreting her cries - What in the world is she crying about now? For Sofia - we've learned it's pretty much only if she's hungry, or more recently: gas. She kept me up with her crying for nearly 4 hours (on and off) in the middle of the night a couple of days ago. Admittedly I thought about quitting motherhood.

    That's just a few things.

    The last one has been particularly hard on us as parents. It's better now because we now know what's "wrong" with her when she is crying, what it seems like, incessantly. I think that is the most frustrating/scariest thing - it's when we DON'T know what is wrong and therefore how to fix it. But when we do figure it out there is a confidence that everything will be fine.

    So these last few weeks have been a pretty awesome experience. These three things have been essential for us:

    1 - READ. We've had lots of books passed on to us, so I consult them regularly. The internet, while not necessarily 100% trustworthy, has been very helpful too. I try and visit real parenting websites so that at least there articles to look at - not just merely opinions of random strangers from around the world.

    2 - FAMILY. Our families have been so amazing. My parents are over every day, cooking and/or cleaning and just being around. Gonz's parents live further away, but they're just a phone call away when we're at our wits' end and didn't know what to do when my milk's came in and I feel like I'm gonna explode, or how to solve our baby's gas problem.

    3 - GOD. I pray for patience, for guidance, for peace, for strength, for health... Tonight, when she had so much gas that her little torso seemed stretched to the limit, and she was crying so hard that her whole body was turning red, I leaned down over her and asked God for help - yes, with tears. She calmed right down and so I could at least hold her and try to work out those burps that she needed to make. And this is just with her "gas" problems - I know that I am going to come to rely on Him even more as she grows, and therefore, we grow.

    She's finally sleeping now. (I have come back to finish this post at least three times). It's hard sometimes, but there are all these little victories along the way that make me feel like I'm not totally screwing this up (like, Sofia gaining all her birth weight back in one week, and then gaining 1.5 pounds in two weeks... apparently this is so fantastic that our doctor doesn't feel like we need to see him the usual every-week fashion. We'll be seeing him every two).

    I wonder what I have to learn next.

    (Hey - if you're checking out 365 Sofia, leave some comments. It's just an easy way to hear from you people. I'm on maternity leave - I need some adult interaction!)
  • From us 3

    Tuesday, January 01, 2008

    To our family and friends:

    Happy New Year from Kathy, Gonzalo and Sofia.
    Thanks to everyone who have been super-supportive and have surrounded us with so much love leading up to the arrival of Sofia. You have made our joyous occasion feel as full as God means it to be. We love you back!

    Hope to see you soon - Sofia has not yet had the chance to meet many of you, yet!