There's A Baby About The House...

Dear Family,

"People wonder what it's like having four kids. I tell them: imagine you're drowning, and someone hands you a baby."

--Jim Gaffigan,d.eXY

“For many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias.”

--John Ioannidis

Life with Ivy, and her first isms:

Ivy is over three months old! I like to think that even before she arrived, she invited Restful Karma into our home. It is true that in the last two weeks of my pregnancy, I rested and relaxed in bed every single day. I note this because it was truly the first time in my Type A adult existence that I reclined and rested every day during a two week period.

The past three months haven't been nearly so relaxing, but the main thing about Ivy is that she's doing great. I'll address our significant breastfeeding challenges in another update, because these have been numerous and challenging, but still - a lot of things are going well with her, and she is (if you remember Eliza, you know how notable this is) a breastfed baby.

Actually, it's too bad how rarely (considering I'm with her nearly 24 hours per day) that I look at my newborn and gasp at her beauty...and the amazing fact that she is of me. Through my body...came another human into this world, so much the same as all of us...but as unique as anyone ever born, ever. She's very nearly not newborn anymore! She can hold her head up, and smile, and she's working on gurgling and shoving large chunks of her fists into her mouth. "Ivy" sorta sounds like "divvy", which makes sense because in so many ways this spring, I have had to divvy my attention.

I am unreasonably proud of Ivy's hair. There is so much of it! No child or kid sibling of mine was ever born with much. I gaze at it often and kiss it admiringly. It is still brown.

It's so crazy - I guess if you have enough children, you eventually get all sorts of eye- and hair-color combos. :) (Not that we were or are trying to discover all possible combinations.)

Over the past ~fifteen weeks, Ivy has progressed through all sorts of interesting Developmental Milestones, about which I know more than I ever planned to learn (as a new mom eleven years ago), due to the challenges faced by Ivy's siblings.

She started out working her muscles mainly by thrusting her top fist in the air, when she was cuddled up and nursing, like she was cheering.

Even before she could smile voluntarily, Ivy would practice in her sleep, and when she was two days old I noticed that she had Jeff's adorable crooked grin.

Ivy often looks very surprised, and when her hair starts lifting up, she looks like she's very surprised with a bad comb-over. Just in the past week or so, with all this humidity, her hair is long enough to have the most adorable curls, which really helps get rid of the comb-over look.

She pretty much acts like she doesn't know who she is yet, which is kind of refreshing.

Ivy rolled over front-to-back twice on May 18th. Now she can lift up her head when she lies on her stomach, and she actually (unlike any of her siblings at this age) enjoys "tummy time." More than ever, I am convinced that "personality" has more to do with gut and overall health than with any other inborn genetic traits.

I am really excited about two New Laundry Techniques:

  1. Oxygen Bleach. This stuff is incredible!! It actually gets stains out!! Even old, really set stains, if you soak the garment overnight in a bucket. This is nearly mind-blowing for me. I may even yet be able to train myself to wear my white shirts occasionally, rather than hoarding them in the closet to keep them clean forever.

  2. A new technique that I came up with while Ivy was yelling and the basket of laundry needed to be hung up SOON in order to prevent the proliferation of mold colonies: gently throw handfuls of laundry at the drying rack, and if you're slow about it, at least some of the clothes will dangle themselves over a rung (you have to repeat the process with any items that hit the floor). And while clothes do not dry wrinkle-free using this method, they had better be grateful that they got dry at all, if you know what I mean.


When Ivy was born, I read a bit about Sibling Rivalry, because Eliza is the youngest older-sibling for whom I've had to try to develop "effective parenting" strategies.

I encountered helpful getting-used-to-the-new-baby tips like these:

  1. First of all, it’s important to understand how painful it is for your toddler to have to share you with a sibling.

  2. An attachment-parented child will have a much easier time adjusting since she got what she needed when she needed it. She won’t be jealous seeing someone else get needs met.

  3. The arrival of a new baby is often the most traumatic event in a young child’s life, and if this transition isn’t handled with sensitivity and empathy, some children will never totally regain their footing. At stake are our child’s healthy relationships with parents and siblings, as well as her sense of security and self-worth.

  4. There are lots of things you can do to make things smoother – maybe not so much now, but for the future.

These tips were really great. First of all, I was able to understand why Eliza was absolutely and completely pissed, why her entire future emotional health hinged upon my understanding and reacting to her fury in an Optimal Way, and I was also able to realize that I had completely failed at instilling emotional security in her up until this point - with the additional case to be made that there was really nothing I could do to ease Eliza's or my current pain.

Because when I say that Eliza was sad and angry about her new younger sister's arrival, I mean that she was actually really mad at ME. I felt like I was having an affair. Eliza wouldn't hug me for about a month and a half, and every time she and Ivy and I were alone during the first weeks, Eliza would dissolve into a puddle of tears, and tell me: "I'm the baby! I need you!" - and cry and cry.

She got on the phone with my mom and said, "Grandma, we have a new baby still!"

She would cry and resist her nap, and later tell me: "I didn't nap, accuz the baby kept waking me up!"

She would say: "I'm a NEW baby...and I'm nursing: yum yum yum! Yum yum yum!" Then she would make the droopiest, saddest face in the world: "I am a baby. I can't walk. I need milk. I can't eat. I need milk and I can't walk and I'm a baby..."

But then, on the day when Ivy turned six weeks old, Eliza came over to me and said: "I like your baby."

She was also very sweet and considerate when I was having severe breastfeeding pain: "Is the baby okay?" "Is it hurting? Here, I'll get you a rag to put underneath in case your milk is dripping." "Hi, cute baby! Hi! Hi!"

And now...she's gradually integrating her new younger sister into her worldview. The journey continues. With any luck, I haven't damaged her for life.

Further Elizaisms:

Eliza will be three years old tomorrow! She is a girlie-girl, with an affinity for pink, ballerinas, pretend games, costumed dance performances, and princesses. She also has two older brothers who treat her like royalty much of the time, and make sure that she has well-rounded experiences that include playing the woods and climbing trees. In fact, the other day I crooned to Ivy, What a beautiful baby you are! And Eliza added, "...and strong, too!"

Admiring Jeff, who had just gotten a new haircut: "You look cute!"

To me: "I like you, an' I don't want you to die."

"I'm a teacher, but I combs your hair!"

Oh, the games they play, running around and chasing so cutely: "...I am the fly, and Jem is the poop!"

"I want to grow up to be a mama, and have a baby...but I don't wanna be a mama now. I want to be rich!" What will you do with your money? "What?" When you're rich, what will you do with your money? "Oh, I'll give it to other people and DANCE!" Later it turned out that I had mis-heard - what Eliza really meant was: "I wanna be a mama, but first I want to be a WITCH!"

Eliza's love of witches started when we went to see "The Lizard of Oz." I was really worried that it would be too overwhelming, but she was thrilled. The next day she told me: "I want to dance around, be on the stage, and be a WITCH! And you can come watch me."

To her small friend: "What's on your nose? Is it boogers? it snot?"

Cooking dinner at her play stove: "There's so many jobs for me to do!"

Concerning women in swimsuits: "They're not wearing any pantses."

Concerning men in swimsuits: "They don't have any long sleevers."

Concerning the Laundry: "that's a big bunch pile"

Touching the outside of the food processor to help me slice beets: "I"m feeling the noise with my hands."

"It's too cold in my room [on an eighty-degree day]- I'm FRIGID!"

"The frogs are going: 'ribbit! swim!'"

Describing a picture book: "This one is a looking-book."

To Grandma: "Brushing my teeth is part of the ritual."

Breakfast: "breckist"

Waiting for her tick check, squirming with impatience: "Papa! PAPA! I'm all naked!!!"

Sitting on the potty: "It's gonna be a big poo!"

"This is MY stepstool for everyone to use."

Flushing the toilet: "My poop's going faster and faster!"

"Why did you style up your hair like that, Mama?"

Papa: Nobody has their teeth brushed, and it's getting late! Whose in charge around here, anyway? Eliza, happily: "Not me! YOU are."

"I'm gonna bring [the tissue] to Heidi's for when I kachoo!"

"I want to come on your bed and sing songs to you, like The Wheels on the Bus and Donkey Riding and Shady Grove."

Stretching: "I can reach my toes with my tongue! ....Lick!"

Looking into the mirror at her own reflection: "I'm perfecto!"


"If people knew what I was thinking all the time...they'd be really mad at me!"

Before Ivy was born: "I wish the baby would pop out SOON, so all this Baby Stuff will be over."

...and after: "[Ivy's] so cute! She looks like a really little big person."


Looking at himself in the mirror: "I'm keeping the same face, but changing my eyebrows!"


Pre-Ivy: "Yet another expression of our love is about to burst forth!"

Rocking a sad baby Ivy: "Hi, Little Nugget! I know, something isn't feeling so good, and since we don't know what it is, we can't fix it: Yay, Parenthood!"

"We need another parent around, whose only job it is to go through the house, emptying potties full of pee."

Aside from keeping his head above water and being a really great partner to me and father to our children, a few of Jeff's recent accomplishments include:

-- Doing three presentations at Cornell's Drupal Camp.

-- Unclogging the upstairs bathroom drain (TRULY amazing! You now see one of the many reasons I married the man).

-- Reading many interesting books aloud to Ben and Jem, including several Terry Pratchett novels, "The Strange Case of Origami Yoda," lots of Calvin and Hobbes, and a book about a boy and a bear whose title I can't remember.

-- Introducing Eliza to the fine art of second-hand clothes shopping (she was absolutely thrilled, and wanted to acquire everything in the girls' section).

-- Continuing his brave quest to find Real, Lasting Solutions for symptoms of Chronic Fatigue and Seriously Clogged Sinuses, among others. For a nominal fee, you too can be privy to this information - once we figure it out.


"...When we convinced ourselves that we don't need to spend a lot of time growing and preparing our food, and actually hanging out with each other, we got ourselves into kind of a Shithole."

Recently, C. and I were discussing the symptoms of autism and anxiety, and mental health in general, and what is new under the sun to help our children (hers is 18, and C. has been implementing dietary and countless other therapies for many, many years). As we were discussing the additional nuances of this Long Road upon which we travel, a passing stranger overheard snippets of our talk. "Don't forget about food!" the stranger trilled helpfully. Oh, we aren't forgetting about food, C. replied graciously, if a bit tiredly. "No, I mean FOOD," the woman clarified helpfully, "to help autism, I mean!" Believe me, C. said with remarkable restraint, I've been thinking about food for fifteen years. I WISH I could forget about food for even one day!

Whenever I get blood taken, I tell the phlebotomist that I've got to close my eyes in order not to pass out - but that it's nothing personal.

The woman who last took my blood said, "You're kidding...just don't tell me that you're one of those people who do Natural Childbirth!?"

A friend of mine said recently that yeah, you want to enjoy and appreciate these Moments That Go By So Fast, but sleep deprivation makes you feel like ASS and so it's hard to do that when you have a newborn. I couldn't possibly disagree less, so the next day, when Jem asked me why I wasn't able to do something or other, I told him: "Well, your sister has been waking me up all night every night for weeks now, and I feel like ASS" - and at that moment my very highly refined neighbor got out of her car with her child (to whom I'm sure she has never uttered the word ass, let alone in reference to her mental state). She avoided my eyes, but Jem didn't seem fazed.

I have actually been enjoying this Newborn Phase a whole lot more than I thought I would, back around last July 27th when I first started (ahem) anticipating it. I simultaneously feel about ten thousand additional claims on my time, and that's not even mentioning many of the hobbies and Me Time activities that I generally forgo a whole lot more frequently than I did back, say, twelve years ago. My dreams serve to illustrate the basic state of my brain-as-it-relates-to-prioritizing-my-to-do-list. A sampling of recent night-times:

  1. I can't remember the name of the town in which I live.

  2. I hide in the stairwell and eat an entire quart of ice cream, before telling Jeff, guiltily and loudly, "Ooooh! You know, I FORGOT that ice cream has DAIRY in it!"

  3. Jem and Ivy won't go to sleep, no matter how hard I try, and Jeff tells me that he doesn't want to continue having date nights since it's so stressful to plan for them.

  4. I carefully line up twelve different packages of cookies on the road, and plan to eat them ALL.

  5. The teacher is demonstrating a dance routine to eight women (including myself), and I am following along okay until I just start flopping all around the room and realize that I'm pregnant, even though I don't look like it yet, while the two women up front are totally nailing the routine and kicking their legs in perfect unison.

  6. I drop Ivy in the water, and slow-motion have the most awfully hard time picking her up.

  7. My brother Loren sets the table and uses every single dish in our cabinet, which I immediately note because on an extremely deep, primal level I do not want to wash them. He gets all teary and offended, and I say, "But Loren, do you REALLY need all those dishes to eat your meal?" And Loren says, through his tears, "Sara, I really do!"

It was actually on a morning when I woke up exhausted, and learned that our esteemed government is actually planning to CHARGE people who don't choose to purchase the incredibly shitty "affordable" "health insurance" on offer here in Tompkins County - and further discovered that Ivy had somehow shat on the wall during the night (in all fairness to her, this was certainly due to my poor aim) - when I knew for a fact that symptoms of sleep deprivation feel a hell of a lot like those of insanity.

At least, I hope it's the sleep deprivation. Otherwise, I am definitely going insane.

Some articles and lectures I have recently found interesting:

Kelly Brogan, on Breaking Bad Medicine:

The Renegade Mama, who tells it like it is - with humor (and curse words):

A very well-reasoned response to the current vaccination hysteria:

"A possible link between early probiotic intervention and the risk of neuropsychiatric disorders later in childhood: a randomized trial"

Some more ideas on The Care and Feeding of Your Microbiome:

Another reason it's profitable to cook your own meals (because otherwise you have to pay other people to do it): "The Five Billion Dollar Battle for the American Dinner Plate"

A Short Account of My First (and Last) Attempt to Chaperone Two Two-Year-Olds Plus One Infant at Baby Music Class:

First of all, it is very exciting to help two two-year-olds use the toilet while carrying an infant. Second of all, it is hard to make sure two two-year-olds feel equally Nurtured and Encouraged during Baby Music Class while carrying an infant. And C., it's hard to clap your hands together and provide a necessary Example of Rhythmic Experimentation while carrying an infant.

Unfortunately, Karen (who was chaperoning the boys) and Ben and Jem got extremely chilled by the wintry weather at Stewart Park that day, and so abandoned plans to rollerblade and joined the Music Classroom about two-thirds of the way through the class. This distracted the students (who are at a Very Distractible Age) (that is a fucking understatement), and it embarrassed Ben and Jem when I used Thoroughly Raised Eyebrows to indicate that their unplanned entrance meant Mandatory Participation (which at that moment involved dancing to "The Blue Danube"). They did not heed my waggling eyebrows and pointed grimace-smiles, so instead Eliza and Ella stopped dancing to go stand with the boys. This was not pleasing to Miss K. Nor was this pleasing to me, because we pay a LOT of money for every second of dancing and Music Appreciation that Eliza does in that class.

But luckily, Karen came into the class two-thirds of the way through, because after that Blue Danube moment Ivy woke up (due to the portion of the class that involved playing "musical" instruments)...and Ella came running over with her hand in her crotch, due to having drunk not only as much water as she wanted to drink, but also as much water as Eliza wanted to drink (those girls have to do everything equally - if things don't happen equally, then woe unto the wicked - but this means a LOT of fluids were consumed).

Anyway, we made it through, and apologized profusely to Miss K. and assured her that the boys would not attend next week. At this point, we were all seven of us hanging out in the Youth Bureau Multi-Purpose Room because Ivy suddenly and frantically HAD to nurse RIGHT NOW.

Ben and Jem actually asked why we couldn't go to the food co-op and eat lunch there! Ben asked a ton of other questions too, until someone finally asked, "...Ben, how on earth do you think we'd know something like that?!"

In the car, we turned up the Baby Music CD as far as possible, to help Eliza make it through the road construction on Route 13, additional to the construction on Route 79. And as I was driving up the hill, all of a sudden Eliza let out an ear piercing (and by ear piercing, I mean fucking EAR PIERCING!!!!!) scream, and just kept howling and screaming, and of course I had a string of cars on my tail due to the construction, and could not pull over. Karen and I kept yelling at the boys to unstrap and see what was the matter, but they were sort of sitting there dumbstruck, while Eliza screamed and screamed...until finally we got Ben to unstrap and turn around, and he found that Eliza had stuck her finger into one of the LATCH carseat attachment covers, after which Ella had rested her foot upon said cover...and everyone was just kind of frozen into Eliza-is-screaming mode. Ben calmly extracted his sister's finger.

Eliza kept SCREAMING, though, all the way up the rest of the hill, and then screamed while we drove up the driveway, until we got to the dumpsters - where I said, "Hey Eliza! Listen! Stop screaming for ten seconds. If you want to have lunch and nap over at Ella's, we are going to have to figure out how to make your finger feel better without you screaming. Do you need to come back to our house to take a rest?"

Eliza stopped mid-scream, and said, "No, I want to eat lunch an' nap at Ella's!"

Which is where she went, thank God for Karen.

Ivy slept through the screams, slept through the transfer into the house...and took the longest nap of her short little life.

Life around here is never, ever dull.

Some People's Fear of Climbing:

The following week, Karen chaperoned the Baby Music Class while I took the boys to the park. Where a bored looking Gentleman, roving around in his park-sponsored golf cart, got worried. "Please get down off there!" he shouted to Ben and Jem, who were climbing to the top of the swing set like monkeys.

"Why?" Ben asked, politely thank god.

"Because you'll fall and get hurt!" the man called from his seat in the golf cart.

"Actually, they climb swing sets like these at home," I told him, "so they've had a lot of practice. It's okay with me that they're climbing." After this, the boys climbed around for a bit more, and I could tell that there was trouble brewing. The man drove over to consult with another guy on another golf cart, who consulted with a woman siting in her car, who proceeded to get out of her car (please do not ask me why my municipal tax money is going to pay the salaries of park employees who sit around in cars and golf carts, overseeing the swing sets).

This woman strode toward the swing sets as sternly as her very short legs could carry her, and called loudly, "Get down from there before you fall and get hurt!"

I walked toward her, my boob in Ivy's mouth (of course! Isn't it always the way??), and said, "Hey! Hey! I can ask my kids to get down, but they really do climb a lot at home, and I'm not worried about..."

Then the woman interrupted me (even Ben noted this, later - "That lady kept not letting you talk!"), and gave me a piece of her mind. "What they're doing is dangerous! And he [indicating the golf cart] called our BOSS, and he said that it's against the rules!"

I said, "Well, I will tell my kids to get down, if you've now created a rule about it, but they climb a lot at home and I'm sorry that..."

"I did NOT make up the rule! It is against the LAW for them to be climbing up there! I'm concerned about your kids, and I could call the sheriff and have you for NEGLIGENCE for letting them climb up there where they could get hurt!"

Since of course, I allow my children to climb because I want them to DIE.

"So I know that it's unusual for kids to climb as well as mine do," I started, "and I hear that you are upset and afraid, and I will tell my boys to get down since you've made a new rule about it, but this is a playground, and while you might be worried because your kids don't climb like this, people can get hurt doing all sorts of..."

"I am NOT upset! My kids COULD climb up there, but I would never let them! I am worried about YOUR kids!" She turned to her coworker in the golf cart who was enjoying the spectacle that he'd started: "That lady is a piece of work!" Turning back to me: "Are you from Cornell?"

"What is it to you?" I asked warily.

"Those Cornell people are WEIRD!" she said triumphantly.

"Well, I'm sorry that your fear is making you act in ways that you might regret later. Boys, this woman is worried..."

"I am NOT afraid! You shouldn't let your kids climb like that here - take them somewhere else! Call the city hall, and ask! It is against the LAW to climb up there. When they fall, you'll be suing the city, and we won't have that here!"

...I decided to let it go, because actual regulations can get enacted swiftly by those In Charge at moments like these. I also did not say, "Wow, your poor kids are probably as ugly and stupid as you are, since you don't let them climb on swing sets!"

I'm going to cross my fingers and toes to avoid jinxing this next statement, but at this point I must mention that (sleep deprivation notwithstanding) I am enjoying the most stable and non-depressed postpartum period that I've ever had. By far. I've had moments (always during and after periods of bad sleep and excessive breastfeeding pain) of despair, but that's what they've been: relative moments, rather than weeks and months of deeply entrenched awfulness. I continue the treatment adventures I outlined in This Post, and every day I am grateful when I wake up to this still-new-feeling sensation of Spaciousness In My Brain.

Those of you who have never experienced chronic depression, or anxiety, or panic, or perseveration...well, you probably feel this way all the time! No explanation required. But for me, Feeling Good for weeks on end feels like a miracle (except that, of course, miracles require a lot less work). It's not so much that I'm walking around with a glossy happy feeling, as it is that I have a sense of resilience. Like, when I experience unpleasant situations, or feel angry or frustrated, I bounce back within minutes or hours rather than days or weeks, and my overall Baseline is WAY higher up into the Positivity Zone. Instead of needing a Super Great Event or Situation to provide pleasure, I can enjoy little things, almost without thinking: some kind words or a hug, my child's smile, a sunny day - all those things that everyone knows you should enjoy, but which - when I've been depressed - are not capable of exerting the leverage needed to lift my mood out of the toilet, let alone provide anything besides the knowledge that they should provide enjoyment.

I am very sure that William Walsh is onto something, with his theories on the epigenetics of mood disorders. And I am grateful for clinicians and researchers like Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, Paul Jaminet, Chris Kresser, and others, for helping more and more people find Possibilities.

Chronic depression, I think, is similar to alcoholism: even when an alcoholic stops drinking, if they haven't addressed and healed the physiology of their addiction, they generally still want alcohol. When you're chronically depressed, and if you're not self- or otherwise successfully medicating, you are basically constantly squaring off with often intolerable pain. Even if you do All The Right Things, and Have Personal Growth, and Insert Positive Ways of Thinking into your brain as often as possible. This is why I note the state of my head nearly every day, and feel so incredibly thankful for experiencing such a drastically improved reality from the one I often inhabited for so many years.

I am especially struck when I read articles like this one, written by a woman who is weaning off her psych meds over a period of many months: . There is so little in the realm of conventional medicine that can offer more than two baseline possibilities for mental illness: Learn Coping Mechanisms, or Try Medication. More than ever, I believe that there is a third option: address the physiology of mental illness with diet of course, but also using nutrient therapies that involve substances familiar to our bodies (rather than current medications, which are foreign molecules), to potentially result in a higher-up baseline altogether. Who knows how many other possibilities exist?

And is WAY past sleep time, and it's time to gear up for my baby's birthday.

Love and Enjoy the Summer... --Sarabeth