Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Why, yes, Dr. Sears, I'd love some more of that delicious Kool-Aid

A review of baby carriers...and an excuse to post more photos.

Before Adriana was born, I was buying baby carriers. Actually, to go back a bit further, before Adriana was born I was researching baby carriers. When I lived in California, I was always seeing people with their babies in simple canvas slings. Then I moved to the DC area and noticed everyone with front pack carriers. I assumed I'd go with one of those, until I met my friend Tonjia and she introduced me to the world of silk ring slings, fleecy pouches, stretchy wraps, and fun mei tais. Actually, next time Brian starts making comments about my various carriers, remind me to just blame Tonjia. I think we were mostly pretty frugal in our preparations for Adriana's birth, but with carriers I didn't even bother trying to rationalize my purchases; I just clicked "submit my order" and waited for the next one to arrive. By the time the baby arrived, I had a ring sling, an adjustable pouch, a wrap, and a mei tai. I saw carriers as a great way to get around town with the baby. I take a lot of public transit, and I didn't want to deal with folding a stroller up every time I had to get on a bus. And I didn't want to lug the carseat into restaurants and the grocery store with me; that just looked painfully heavy. Now I take pride when a friend comments on how light we manage to travel with the baby, showing up with just a small diaper bag and the baby strapped to one of us in a sling of some sort.

I was right that the carriers are a great way to carry the baby and keep my hands free while I'm out and about, but I didn't know I would become so addicted to wearing my baby. Or that Brian would be too. Or that Adriana would be addicted to being worn. Brian dismissed my ring sling and mei tai as too girly, with their beautiful brocades (although he did discover that the mei tai can be worn inside out so it is a solid khaki, with the dragonfly-print silk hidden so no one will question his masculinity), but was fascinated by the wrap and pouch. When Adriana was about a week old and we had recovered from the shock of her birth (OMG, we have a BABY????) we started playing with the carriers. I was being overly careful at first, because my abdomen was still sore, but Brian was soon folding laundry with our daughter nestled against his chest in the wrap. Once I was feeling stronger, I was popping her in and out of the pouch, which was the simplest to learn how to use and taught me to love wearing my little girl.

Kangaroo Korner Adjustable Pouches

Our favorite sling at first was the adjustable fleece pouch from Kangaroo Korner. I was in the market for a pouch-style carrier, and Jennie praised this one enough that I decided I had to buy it. I had been considering getting the fleece Hotsling, which I've also heard good things about, but the size charts made me realize that the Kangaroo Korner one would fit both Brian and me. I bought a medium sized sling in elephant grey, and we wore it all winter. It was easy to learn to use: I successfully lowered Adriana into it in a tummy-to-tummy hold on the first try when she was about a week old. Brian also likes that hold, and once she got a little bigger, he masted the cradle carry, which keeps her more out of the way when we go out to dinner (although she still sometimes gets crumbs in her hair). We've worn her all over town in this pouch, and she spent an awful lot of time in it in the house too. The nice, snug fit is sort of like a swaddle, one that keeps her close to us. Putting her in the sling was one of the most reliable ways to calm her down the first couple of months, and usually a few minutes of walking around with her in the pouch lulled her to sleep.

Elizabeth with Adriana in the kangaroo pouch
The Kangaroo Korner pouch, keeping baby cozy.

The weather has gotten warmer, and even though we've gotten better at using other carriers, Brian and I still both love the simplicity of the pouch, so a couple of weeks ago I ordered another one from Kangaroo Korner, this one in a lightweight stretch cotton. This one is light blue with cream trim--I would have liked something prettier, but since I share this one with Brian, I knew it had to be something he would approve of. One thing about these pouches is that as we have become more comfortable with them, we've begun wearing them more snugly. I think we are more skilled at getting Adriana in and out, so we don't need as much extra room to do it in, and a tighter fit somehow distributes her weight on our backs a little better. So, I ordered our cotton one in a small, rather than a medium. The two smallest rows of snaps on the medium are the same as the two largest on the small, and since that's where Brian and I were wearing our medium, and I was thinking I might like it a little snugger. I'm glad I made that decision. The material of the cotton pouch stretches even more than the fleece, so a tighter fit is definitely necessary. I don't like the cotton one as much as the fleece one. I'm not sure if that's the sling itself, or whether I've simply gotten used to other carriers that do a better job of distributing the baby's weight. The cotton pouch is nice and small, so that I can roll it up and fit it into the diaper bag.

ZoloWear Silk Ring Sling

I laughed at a couple of my friends when they bought silk ring slings from ZoloWear to carry their babies in. I mean, serious, SILK? That has to be DRY CLEANED? To carry a baby who is going to spit up? Whatever. Except...they were so pretty. And then I got a positive pregnancy test, and I was so excited, and the blue one with the butterflies...that would be good for a boy or a girl. And there was only one left in size small. CLICK. Oops.

I love the way my Zolo looks--the material is beautiful and I like the way the "tail" flows. My yoga teacher described it as glamorous, and really I have to agree. I had to have some help figuring out how to use it, but now I tuck Adriana into it with no problem. It doesn't adjust as easily as a cotton rings sling would, as the material is so heavy, but I haven't really found that to be a problem--I have it adjusted the way I like it, and I just don't mess with it. The problem comes when I try to wear her in it for longer carries: it's a one-shoulder carrier and the fabric across the back and over the shoulder is narrow compared to my pouches (and to other ring slings I've seen). I wore my Zolo when we went to see the cherry blossoms and after walking from the Smithsonian metro around Tidal Basin to the FDR memorial, my left shoulder was killing me. Still, it is my prettiest sling, and I still wear it when I'm not going to be using it for long, just because I like the way it looks

Adriana and Elizabeth under the cherry blossoms
Wearing the Zolo at Tidal Basin.

Moby Wrap

Brian was the first of us to try babywearing, and he decided to start with the Moby Wrap. I guess he thought it was more manly in appearance than some of the other carriers. He got Adriana into it in a cradle hold on the first try, when she wasn't quite a week old. He felt that she was secure there and went around the house with her sleeping like that. I didn't get up the nerve to try it until Adriana was about six weeks old, when I went to a NINO* meeting to find out how to use it. It was such a relief to have someone walk me through the steps, because this style of carrier is intimidating. It's basically a gigantic strip of material that you tie around your body to hold the baby against you. A friend said that you need a degree in fabric tying to be able to use it, and she's not too far off--it sometimes takes me two or three tries to get it tied in such a way that Adriana and I are both comfortable. Nevertheless, I do like this carrier, as it does the best job of any of them at distributing Adriana's weight. I spent several hours at the Air & Space museum with Adriana against me in a tummy-to-tummy hold, and my back felt fine. I would use this carrier much more often if I were able to get her in and out more easily. With other carriers I can pop Adriana in and out fairly easily for diaper changes and nursing, but I've found with the Moby that once I take her out, I have to re-wrap and re-tie the whole thing in order get her back in securely. Maybe with a wrap that was less stretchy that wouldn't be a problem--I think that taking her out stretches the material a bit too far so that it's too loose to hold her.

Brian with Adriana in the Moby Wrap
The proud new dad with baby in the Moby.

Adriana in the Moby Wrap at Mason Neck
Out for a nature walk in the Moby at Mason Neck State Park.

Divas 'N' Babes Mei Tai

Full disclosure: My friend Tonjia, the one who made me realize that the world of baby carriers was not limited to New Native slings and Baby Bjorns, runs Divas 'N' Babes.

I was more intimidated by my mei tai from Divas 'N' Babes than by wrap even. Something about the rectangle of fabric with ties coming out of each corner struck me as complicated, and it didn't look like it would be all that secure. Again, I learned how to use this one at the NINO meeting, and I was glad I did. It doesn't do quite as good a job at distributing the baby's weight as the wrap does, but it does get a substantial amount of her weight onto my waist, and it's easier to put on and to get right on the first try. This has become my carrier of choice these days (with the cotton pouch tucked into the diaper bag, just in case), as it's pretty and practical. I do find that Adriana slips down in it a little when she falls asleep, and the ties need to be tightened after awhile. I'm willing to tolerate those issues in exchange for having a comfortable, pretty carrier.

Adriana and Elizabeth at Laguna Beach
Hanging out in the mei tai in Laguna Beach.

The carriers hold Adriana close to our bodies, so she can share our body heat and relax with the vibrations of our voices. We have spent countless hours pacing our bedroom floor and dancing around our living room with her in one carrier or another, soothing her when she is fussy. She sleeps quietly against me when we go out to dinner, and looks around at people and places when I take her on errands with me. I think she recognizes the carriers now. After she's been fed, changed, and played with, she often gets fussy as she begins to tire out. But when I put her down for a moment so I can tie on the mei tai or wrap, or slip the pouch or ring sling over my head, she smiles at me, knowing what is coming. Sometimes she is instantly soothed when she goes into the carrier. Sometimes the carrier doesn't result in an instantly calm infant--she continues to fuss for a few minutes as I bounce and sing--but it allows me to free my arms up a little bit, and to not have to worry that if I put her down she will be instantly awake; instead she spends her whole nap close to me, and I can go about my business--folding laundry, paying bills, reading blogs, whatever--without worrying about listening for the baby.

*NINO is great. I've only been to one meeting, but I may go to another to try more carriers (shhhh....don't tell Brian). Basically, it was an informal meeting where everyone brought all their various baby carriers so that other could try them out, and people who knew how to use certain styles offered instruction in how to get your own carrier on.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

So fast

I was going through some photos looking for the ones I wanted for a post I was writing, but I got distracted.

How did we go from this wee squooshy monkey
Adriana two days old

to this already?
Adriana with Grandpa Andy

Oh, and so long as I'm posting gratuitous photos, I really love this one of Adriana and my sister.

Adriana laughing with Aunt Champ

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Three months

This gets more fun every day. Adriana is suddenly much more aware of the world around her. This has some downfalls--she's easily distracted when I'm trying to feed her when we're out and about, which makes it harder to be quite so modest--but mostly it's just incredible to watch her notice things. She reaches out to grab the toys handing from her play gym, watches the cat come down the stairs, stares intently at the other babies in our yoga class.

She's stopped minding her tummy time. Now when I put her on her belly, she pushes up and kicks and smiles. Usually. Sometimes she still is pretty sure that tummy time is a vast right wing conspiracy. After I fed her on Sunday morning she accidentally rolled from her side onto her tummy as she was dozing back off. After a few seconds she woke back up grunting angrily and giving me an accusing look.

A couple of weeks ago, she discovered her vocal chords, but can't figure out how to make them stop, as Brian put it at first. She'd been cooing a little bit from time to time, but now whenever we set her down by herself she starts with her noises. A lot of the "words" start with an "ng" sound, making us wonder if we somehow ended up with a Vietnamese baby. She also laughs. I don't remember the first time I heard a laugh, but I remember the first time she laughed for Brian. He was bending into the car to take her out of her carseat, and I don't know what he did that amused her, but she giggled and he stuck his head back out of the car to ask me "Did you hear that?" The next night she laughed at him again. It's a wonderful sound, as are her occasional squeals of happiness when I pour water over her head in the bath.

Recently she's stopped sleeping quite so well: instead of getting up once with her every night, it's usually twice. But she goes right back to sleep, and then so do I. And she's become better at nursing without much help from me, so I don't have to sit up and pull the boppy onto my lap in order for us to get comfortable. For a while I was blaming some of the lack of sleep on teething--she is drooling, her cheeks are red, she is constantly chewing on her hands, and our normally happy baby is incredibly fussy some evenings. I called Brian's mom one night to ask when her kids at gotten teeth. When she told me she thought it had been around three months, I decided that must be what was happening and, after thanking her and Brian for those genes, adjusted to the idea of waking up every hour or two at night. Of course, that night, Adriana only awoke once.

Several people have asked me if I miss my old job. And in some ways I do miss it. I enjoyed the work I was doing and the people I was working with. I know that the next couple of years will be an interesting time in health policy. Last week, Adriana turned 12 weeks old and I realized that under FMLA my maternity leave, if I'd taken it, would be up and I would be heading back to work. I knew that I would miss Adriana a lot more than I miss my job, and that given the way we do things in this country, it will always be an interesting time in health policy. I'll go back at some point--paid employment is a good thing--but for now I am content to make taking care of Adriana my job.

smiley Adriana

tummy time Adriana

solemn Adriana

Adriana sleeping

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Two years ago I walked around Tidal Basin, admiring the cherry blossoms and thinking that in another year I'd be one of the new parents taking pictures of a baby underneath the flowering trees.

Last year I walked around Tidal Basin, admiring the cherry blossoms and thinking that I was supposed to be preparing for the birth of my baby in April, while trying not to stare too much at the couples pushing babies in strollers.

I don't think the cherry blossoms are as spectacular this year as they have been the past couple. Maybe I got there too much beyond their peak. Or maybe I am just happily distracted.

Adriana flying underneath the cherry blossoms

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Damn Yankees

As I was picking out cheese at Whole Foods on the other day, an African-American man in his late thirties turned to me.

"Do you know the difference between the New York cheddar and the Wisconsin cheddar?" he asked me.

"I think the New York one tastes better. And the Wisconsin one melts kind of funny. It gets rubbery," I told him, putting a block of the New York cheddar in my cart.

"I want to put it on my grits."

I looked at him blankly. "Grits? I don't think I've ever had grits."*

He gave me a good-humored look of disbelief and asked a passing Whole Foods employee, who, like me, was a white woman in her twenties, about the difference. She told him that the New York cheddar was sharper, and didn't have a good answer for him when he asked about his grits. She was midsentence when another employee passed us.

"Excuse me," he said to this second employee, a young, African-American woman. "Which cheddar should I put on my grits?"

"The New York one," she said immediately without even stopping completely to look at what he was talking about.

*Brian pointed out to me later that I have had grits. But I top it with parmesan and call it polenta.

Monday, April 02, 2007

I heart DC (most of the time)

We've made up our minds to leave the DC area...and we mean it this time. After a few years of talking about it, we've decided that now is really the time to get back to California. We always knew this move was temporary for us, figuring that we'd stay only four years--two for me to go to graduate school, and two for me to work in my field in Washington. Now it's been five, and it's time to go. We're eager to get back to the West Coast, but there are certain things I'll certainly miss.

Even though it was supposed to rain yesterday, I desperately wanted to get out of the house. I wasn't sure about going down to Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms, as that would be a bit of a walk from the Metro and I didn't want to get caught in the rain with the baby for too long. We decided that we'd head down to the Mall anyhow, and check out Natural History or Air & Space. On our way toward Natural History from L'Enfant Plaza via the Sculpture Garden, though, a poster outside the Hirshhorn Gallery caught my eye. An exhibit in which light is the main feature in all the works appealed to me, so we headed inside.

The exhibit was fun--definitely worth checking out if you're in the neighborhood, and maybe even worth a trip down to the Hirshhorn, especially if you've never been before (I hadn't)--and afterward we checked out some of the sculpture on the same floor. Two pieces by German sculptor Ernst Barlach were my favorites:

I love that we can wander into a museum to see a single exhibit without worrying that we should spend a whole day in order to get our money's worth; it's hard to feel cheated out of your money when you haven't spent any. And I'll miss having so many free museums so nearby to choose from.

I think proximity to family and the beach will make up for that, though.

I totally have a life outside of my child

To prove it, here is a picture of my cat.

Robert, Cecilia, and Brian getting ready to play Scrabble

A couple of weeks ago The Sister and Her Fiance came to visit. Her Fiance, Brian, and I were all setting up the Scrabble board, and didn't even notice that Cecilia was hoping to join in until The Sister came down the stairs and started laughing.

Note: We didn't let the Cecilia play. She just likes to try to steal the tiles.