Quick tip: If you hang your toilet paper the “wrong” way around so that the newest sheet hangs down the back rather than the front, it’s a lot harder for a kid or pet to idly spin the roll and unravel the whole thing. Guests will think you’re unhinged, but it’s a small price to pay.
We all caught norovirus. About 24 hrs of it was probably the worst time we’ve had since B was born, and the rest of the time wasn’t much better.
I won’t go in to the gory details, but here’s a few tips for future me who will inevitably catch it again (because daycare). Apparently noro rips through you so fast that your body doesn’t even have time to build any meaningful immunity. Fun.
- Have the necessary meds on hand at all times. Once you are sick, there is zero chance you will want to or be able to go get supplies. Even if you could, you should avoid it for the sake of not spreading it any further. A friend or family member could pick stuff up for you, but this is so contagious that I’d be nervous to ask someone. We found that the most useful stuff was Pedialyte for rehydration and acetaminophen (paracetamol) for when the fever and aches kick in. Ibuprofen is way too hard on the stomach when you’re already feeling delicate. If you’re in a tough spot and don’t have the supplies, there are a lot of homemade rehydration fluid recipes online. Here are a few from the UVA Health System, and one from the NHS. Note that nausea suppressants are to be avoided apparently, the whole point is to get whatever is in there out or you’ll keep feeling bad.
- This thing hits fast. We were first exposed to B’s symptoms in the morning, and we started our bouts in a spectacular fashion almost exactly one and a half days later. It can hit sooner or later, I would imagine that depends on the exact strain, but it’s usually 1-2 days. If you suspect that one of you has norovirus and you don’t have it yet, maybe avoid being far from home. I was at dinner with a friend 45 minutes away. I made it home just barely, but I went from feeling 100% fine and ready for some poke to “oh… OH no…” in about a split second. (Side note: I thought B had just eaten something weird. Would never have gone out if I had any inkling otherwise, both for my and my friend’s sake! Thankfully she seems to be fine, so I’m assuming (hoping) I wasn’t just blindly spreading noro that evening.)
- Norovirus moves fast. The “active” stage (ew) was basically over after 12 hours. We both felt really bad, like bedridden-bad, for 2 days in total and then had a bit of weakness and rough appetites for maybe two days after that. It doesn’t make the worst of it any better, but at least it doesn’t last that long. They don’t really know concretely how long you can be contagious for, but the advice I’ve seen on the CDC and NHS sites seems to be that you should self-quarantine until you have been symptom-free for 2 days.
- Totally anecdotal, but it seemed a lot worse for us than it was for B… Which I’m thankful for, but it’s not what I would expect. I asked friends about it and they had similar experiences. Make of that what you will.
Yesterday was… eventful.
Anyways, I now have a decent technique for thoroughly cleaning Jellycat stuffed animals! Note that the Jellycat cleaning tag specifically says to spot clean only. But that doesn’t cut it if, for example, one happens to get covered in vomit.
I’d probably use this approach for any small-to-medium sized Jellycat-like stuffed animal (no posable arms, no large plastic bits or outfits, relatively straight and short “fur”, very squishy, etc.). If you try it, do so with caution. YMMV.
- Prepare: Place stuffed animal in appropriately-sized zippered mesh laundry bag. Before that though, if there are any “chunks” of debris (that is a horrible description, but here we are), brush and rinse them off as reasonably as you can in your sink. If you don’t do this, they will get stuck in your laundry bag and/or the fur of the stuffed animal. 🤢
- Wash: Wash on “normal” in cold water. You want to use a setting with a good spin cycle. I would use fragrance-free detergent since scents can be off-putting or actually dangerous for some kids.
- Dry: Let the Jellycat air dry, do not use a dryer. Before you let it air dry, go through its “fur” with a wide-toothed comb, and then follow with a fine-toothed comb to break up any mats. This will keep it fluffier for much longer. Don’t be so rough with it that you pull the fur out, just a gentle, thorough once-over will do. If you have a hair dryer, use that on a medium setting while you brush through the fur for more fluffiness.
I used to skip that last brushing step since I just hadn’t thought of it, and one of B’s favorite toys got pretty matted. Happily, brushing it out even now after it has gone through maybe 4-5 washes already has helped revive it a bit. I think it would have been even better if I had done this from the start, though.
B is like a cat. He wants up, then immediately wants down. Hands me something, like my clog, and then immediately wants it back. Then he’ll run around with two sets of tongs for a while. (To be fair, I don’t think cats can do that.)
He’s started learning animal noises.
“What does a snake say?”
“How does a mouse sigh?”
“What does a horse say?”
And he’s finding his voice. I shouldn’t laugh. I think I’m supposed to stay serious when he gets so loud (we have lovely neighbors we would like to keep), but I can’t help it. Extended vocal techniques. Meredith Monk has nothing on him.
B is learning that he has influence on his surroundings, the world isn’t just something that has to happen to him.
It started maybe a month or so ago when I was gently leaning him back to put him in his sleep sack. He suddenly threw his hand out and caught himself, preventing me from lying him down. Actually, even a bit before that he started pushing away his bottle when he didn’t want any more.
Now he’s grabbing at the pages in his board books, trying to turn them.
It’s pretty fun to watch.
Maslow’s (simplified) hierarchy of needs, based on the hierarchy Abraham Maslow published in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”.
It’s not perfect and definitely shouldn’t be treated as universal, but I find it useful. For understanding my own behavior, many others’ behavior. Also for thinking a bit more about my approach to parenting.
The hierarchy is frequently visualized as a pyramid, but that’s not a perfect analogy. What’s something with permeable, blurred layers that maintains a definite order… Maybe a trifle? Why not.
Maslow considered the “bottom” four to be “deficiency” needs, meaning that not sufficiently meeting those needs would lead to anxiety, tension, and overall poor mental health. It would be pretty hard to focus on self-actualization without the meeting the deficiency needs.
I see the bottom layers as part of that all-important maintenance we have to perform on ourselves. You can get away without caring about self-maintenance as an adult, but only at the expense of others who have to compensate for you.
Amongst the people I most frequently encounter, and myself, we seem to be most insidiously deficient in belonging. Also esteem, but this feels like a knock-on effect from the lack of real belonging. (It may go without saying, but I am extremely fortunate to live within communities where our physiological and safety needs are fairly easily met.)
We desperately need to belong, but we increasingly feel that we don’t. This is exacerbated by both social media and 24hr news cycles. Who among us hasn’t once felt that the world as it is now, the direction it seems to be hurtling, isn’t made for them? For some people, these feelings are fleeting. For others, it is their albatross. And this feeling seems to be building. It doesn’t surprise me that this is one of the most divisive moments in my lifetime.
I think that the lack of belonging is also exacerbated by the independence-at-all-costs mentality that plagues much of the US in particular. You can’t feel belonging and be 100% independent. Belonging is a give and take operation, not lone-wolfism.
Again, all this reminds me of CBToF.
There is more to be said on this, and probably a lot here that I’m wrong about, but all I have in me right now is sleep. Maintenance.
One of the main reasons I’ve kept writing here pretty consistently since 2014 is because it is an incredible memory aid. Being able to refer back easily anywhere, whether it’s to show something to someone else or to myself, is invaluable.
More recently though, I’ve been finding it hard to write things down. Extra frustrating because I want to refer back to this time possibly more than anything.
I think part of it is just the lack of time. It is incredible how much time it takes to care for a little person, even when you have help (daycare three days a week right now in our case, and I’m working those three days).
And the sleep deprivation… it’s interesting, we’re pretty fortunate, I’d say. He’s a very decent sleeper, but it’s still so hard.
B is about 4.5 months old. He goes down between 7 and 8pm and is waking up 1–2 times a night, sometimes once as a bit of a yelp and resettling on his own, and almost always once properly where he needs to be changed and fed. Once his needs are met, he tends to go right back down without rocking/bouncing, which is amazing.
Sam’s job is more demanding right now in terms of a strict schedule (I’m working part time, though that will change soon), so I’m handling nighttime wakeups. For me, that usually means 1–5 hrs of sleep, a brief wakeup when B yelps since I hear it on the monitor, then another 1–3 hrs of sleep. Cumulatively, I generally get 4–7 hours, usually around 6 or 7 I’d say. That sounds alright for a parent of a baby, and it is! But when it happens to be multiple 5 hour nights with a random 4 hour night thrown in… it gets rough.
You can feel the shift. You’re a very different person on not enough sleep than you are on 7–8 hours a night. I get short, blank, forgetful.
Forgetful is the thing I hate the most, I think. I’m relying on apps like Reminders more than ever, not that it totally works. The forgetfulness and lack of patience are the worst. When I lose patience, I have to try to remember that my frustration often isn’t logical, it’s purely lack of sleep. But it’s hard to make that small mental leap in the moment.
All of this is an important reminder of how much even tiny changes in an environment can shape one’s identity, behavior.
Anyways, back to the original point.
I’m learning so much right now. I never grew up around babies, so this is a whole new world for me and it has been fascinating. But it is so hard to keep up. The moment I “learn” something, that thing changes and before I have a moment to jot it down, that knowledge has exited my head and I’m off to learning about the next thing B has thrown at us.
It’s a trip. Keeping up with our little fuzz head, and everything else.
Edit: I had to go back and fix more typos on this post than any other I’ve ever written 💀
It’s been a little over four months since B arrived. These are some of my experiences or things I’ve learned so far, plucked at random.
I’d say that the books, conversations, and classes prepared me pretty decently in theory, but the physical and emotional reality is almost impossible to prepare for. Being a parent has been much more visceral than I expected.
Our little one is here, and life will never be the same.
It has been a whirlwind month, really a whirlwind few months. I was trying to wrap everything up prior to maternity leave and just about got there, then was suddenly faced with a same-day induction following a routine prenatal appointment at 38w + 4d, three days before my leave was due to start. So close!
I’m not going to go in to detail about the birth in public here, it is too intimate of an event. I will say that besides the shock of the sudden induction and a few other blips, the birth itself went just about as close as I could hope to my “ideal” scenario. I’m so thankful for that. Remembering that the pain is temporary and intentional helped a lot, and Sam’s support was vital, as were our nurses Amy and Lukas and doula Taylor. “Ready, present, relaxed” was on repeat in my head.
The days following the birth involved ups and downs in terms of my health, including a readmission to hospital unfortunately, but have gone fairly smoothly otherwise. Not sleeping as well as we did previously, but that’s to be expected!
And most importantly, our little lad. He’s perfect, gorgeous, and so funny already. He won’t appear often in public photos on this site or elsewhere online, but like most parents, I’m happy to share copious pictures with friends and family via text.
The one-on-one conversations I’ve had with more experienced friends, family, collaborators, clients, and acquaintances about this stuff are some of the moments from my pregnancy that I hold most dear, small acts of selflessness and vulnerability on their part that made me feel so much more prepared for this process and what is to come. I’m thankful to have been able to ask so many people about so many things: what it’s like to be self employed with a young child, navigating how to divvy up responsibilities with your partner, the million different paths that feeding a baby can take, how your sense of identity shifts, what equipment is useful and what is pointless, and so, so many birth stories.
So thank you so much to those people that have reached out, and to those that have kindly opened up when I prodded a bit. It has meant everything.
Along those lines, an invitation: if you’re expecting or even just considering kids and want to talk about what it is like, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.