Friday, October 29, 2010

2 Months

Dear Abe,

Today is October 29 and you are 2 months old. Two months ago I first met you and it seemed like I'd always known you. It still feels that way, mixed in with feelings of, "Who the hell is this person?!" Becoming a parent is an extremely surreal experience. Don't let anybody tell you differently.
Over the past 2 months, you've learned where your hands are and how to hold on to things (especially my hair). You've learned to follow objects with your eyes and you love looking out the window. You started out screaming everytime I changed your diaper, and now we have fun at the changing table with Puppy and the pretty seagulls on the wall. You've learned to smile and you make sounds that range from happy to inquisitive to extremely pissed off. You figured out who your dad is and how much you LOVE him. And you also found the bath, your favorite place to be.
Last night you slept for 5 straight hours. And this morning when you woke up, you stretched, kicked your legs, and smiled at me. I think you're beginning to like it here on Earth, though from what little I know of you I kind of doubt this is your first time here.
I hope you know that for all the days I hated being a mom in the beginning, I'm getting better at it now and starting to like it. I never hated you; I'm just not that great with change. Your dad and I wanted you SO much, but didn't know what we were getting ourselves into. That's the only reason it felt so chaotic and unhappy at first. We have learned so many lessons that help remove all the obstacles that get in the way of loving you. The biggest lesson I've learned is that you don't need me to follow a plan or a schedule. You just need me to listen, and I can do that.
I really do love you madly. I promise that I will continue to be as present a mom as I can be. Sometimes I'll forget or make big mistakes that you'll tell your grown-up friends about later and say things like, "She did the best she could, bless her heart." I'm only human, after all, but I'm always going to do the best I can. That's all you can ask for, and that's all I can ask of you. Besides, what's life without a little therapy?
Thank you for choosing me to be your mom. I love you.

Your Mom

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Philosophy

Whether you love Dr. Sears, Dr. Ferber, The Happiest Baby on the Block technique, Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child, or The No-Cry Sleep Method, you soon learn that none of them are right. At least, for very long. And I've tried them all...and then some.
It seems everyone chooses a parenting philosophy (yes, that's what all these different books and websites are called, "philosophies") at some point. You read a book and you think, yeah. That makes sense. So you decide that when your baby cries it means he or she has a deep need to feel you close. Or when your baby fusses before a nap, it's just his or her way of settling down. Or if you give the baby a chance to cry and he or she takes a good long sleep afterwards, then the crying was all worth it. You pick one of them and that's how you're going to raise your child.
Then you have your baby and whatever parenting philosophy you bought all the books for doesn't work at all and you have to start reading the other books. Except now you're sleep deprived. And soon, you've chosen a different philosophy that suddenly makes MORE sense than the first one, not to mention completely contradicts it. You try that one for a few days and once it proves to be utterly useless, you begin to adopt the philosophies that you swore you NEVER would because "That's ridiculous" and "I'm not going to be one of those parents."
And then that stupid philosophy works. And you eat your words and take a nap because your baby is finally sleeping.
As hard as I tried to convince Abe that attachment-style parenting was what he wanted, he has proven otherwise. He is extremely independent. He doesn't particularly care to sleep next to me ("co-sleep") or snuggle. He's perfectly content to sleep in his crib, upstairs, many feet away from us. If he's fussing in his crib, he does best when I just leave him alone. It took a while for me to figure this out because I was NOT going to be one of those parents who just let their child CRY. I would go to him and assure him I loved him forever. But you know what? When he cries or fusses during a daytime nap for 5 minutes BY HIMSELF, he usually sleeps for an hour afterward (at least!). When I rush to his crib-side and furiously pat his bottom and assure him that I would never leave him, his crying gets louder and angrier. GOD FORBID I then pick him up. The head-butting and boob punching then begins. And sure, I can try to nurse him to calm him down, but he typically just plays around for a few minutes and then goes back to screaming until I set him down to nap. I imagine he's saying something like, "WOMAN! PUT ME DOWN! I have to grunt like that in the crib to turn my head to get comfortable! Oh great, now you're going to pick me up. That's just perfect. Exactly what I wanted when I was half asleep and about to be fully asleep again if you would have let me finish CHANGING POSITIONS. Oh, boob? Ok, well, I mean, I'll hang out around here for a minute. But I'm not really hungry. So I guess there's no point. WOMAN! PUT ME BACK DOWN IN THAT CRIB!" He likes his sleep. He is his father's child.

Now don't get me wrong, these books all have interesting and somewhat helpful points. They certainly made me think about new ways of approaching my baby. But the truth is, parents don't choose philosophies. Babies do. So if you don't yet have a kid and you're thinking of buying a book about how to best help your baby sleep or eat or poop, stop yourself and decide you won't be another sucker to donate to Dr. Whoever's great-grandchild's trust fund. Dr. Whoever doesn't have to live with Abe and unless I tent the books over Abe's face when he's screaming to help muffle the sound, it doesn't do me much good at 4am.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

You Were Right

Ok, ok, ok, you were right. I like my kid.
But in my defense, he smiles now. And he appears to smile for a reason, not just because the muscles in his face involuntarily worked their way upwards when he pooped. Like when I wake him up, sure he's really grumpy for a few minutes. But then, suddenly and as if it's a whole new world all over again, he looks at me and smiles like, "Oh! Right! You're my mom and I'm a person and you make the milk! Great!"
Eight weeks and he's so much more alert now. He looks to see where I am in the room and when I'm talking to him he often makes eye contact. He also really likes bouncing all his arms and legs at once. This isn't an indication of any emotion or need. I think he just discovered them and is celebrating.
We're starting to get to know each other and I'm learning his likes and dislikes, which is so interesting. It's not at all what the books said it would be like. Don't read those books, by the way. None of those books have met your baby.
It's weird how people reacted in the grocery store when I told them he was 2 weeks old as opposed to telling them he's 8 weeks old now. At 2 weeks, people were astonished that a human could even be that young. "TWO WEEKS? Wow!!! THAT'S AMAZING!" Now they say, "Oh yeah. 8 weeks. I blocked that out. You getting any sleep?" I'll give ya three guess, check out guy at Publix.
To be honest, though, sleep is getting better. Abe totally gets "night" now. And napping isn't too bad either.
He still screams in his carseat until he's hoarse. And he does not yet care to be "worn" facing out, by either David or I. "Why would you force me to see the evils of the world so soon when I could be comfortably nestled into your chest?!"
Overall, I get it. I get why you all do this over and over again. I'm not saying I'm going to do it again. Don't start paying each other off on all the bets you made as to how soon I would cave in; we're not there yet. But Abe is cool and he's funny and he does stuff that makes me want to keep him. So fine. You win. A little.

Friday, October 22, 2010


From "Cara"

Our first night home with our baby, I followed all the steps I knew to soothe him and help him sleep. When I finally laid him down, he screamed. So I changed him again and laid him back down. Still crying. I fed him again and laid him back down. Still crying. Then I thought it might be gas so I gave him some Mylicon. No dice. I checked his temperature. We’re fine there. It seemed he was only happy if I was holding him. I tried lying him down all night long and every time I did, the crying ensued. This lasted for hours and hours until I was so exhausted I woke up my husband and told him I couldn’t do it anymore. He agreed that it was his turn.  I watched him wrap our son up in a blanket and lay him down and poof. Our baby was asleep. The blanket. IT WAS THE BLANKET! I couldn’t believe I had wasted an entire night’s rest because our baby was COLD! It was my body heat keeping him warm when I held him and the moment I would set him down, he would get COLD! No one ever tells us to think about that!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Nurses...The Doctors...That Guy...

My doula made a joke after I had Abe that I should skip the hospital next time and have a baby at the birthing center in town. And after the onslaught of invoices pouring in from the hospital, I'm considering it. It all started with the first bill: the big one. You know, the one that covers our one night stay, meals, etc. I won't tell you how much, but you know how much it costs to fly round trip to France? It was more than that. Luckily, insurance did cover a chunk of it. But the trouble was that while I was pregnant we'd paid for our OBGYN to go to France. Now, the hospital staff was brushing up on their French, too.
Then we got a bill from the neonatologist. We saw him for exactly 28.2 seconds. And guess what? France.
Then we got a bill from a pediatrics group who apparently looked at Abe once. They're not going to France, but they could make it to Canada if they felt like it.
Then there was the bill from the audiologist who checked Abe's hearing. I could have done her job. You breathe funny and this kid's whole body startles. But whatever. That lady's on her way to NYC on my dime.
Our pediatrician, who we love, sent us a bill which included a "phone consultation." Mmmhmm. And thanks to that phone consult, they're taking a nice little trip down to the Keys for a long weekend. 
Don't forget the anesthesiologist who performed my epidural. He's meeting up with the OB and the rest of the hospital staff in France, and then meeting another anesthesiologist friend in Italy to buy shirts that say, "Americans are suckers."
Overall, my baby is sending a lot of people on a lot of trips, and I've been stuck in the house for almost 8 weeks. My big trips out have been to Babies R Us, Target (for a flu shot) and the chiropractor. I realize I get a brand new human being out of the deal, but it seems like if anyone should be getting a prize vacation it should be ME. I did the fertility treatments, the pregnancy, the birth, and the first 8 weeks. I'll settle for Arkansas at this point. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Top 8 Things I Couldn't Live Without

The Itzbeen
This little gadget is brilliant. Everytime I feed Abe, I hit the "bottle" button. When I change him? "Diaper" button. When he goes to sleep? "Zzzz's" button. So the next time my husband walks in wondering if Abe is crying because he's hungry or because he's an angry baby, he can just check the Itzbeen. Then he'll say, "Look, it's been 2 hours since he's eaten. He must be hungry! I don't need to wake my wife. I can just warm a bottle and take care of it myself!" See? He leaves me alone. It's also a MIRACLE for the middle of the night when I can't remember if I changed him at his 1:30 feeding or if the dirty diaper on the changing table is from yesterday.

The Miracle Blanket
Speaking of miracles, The Miracle Blanket. My girl cousin recommended this to me, touting it as the "Baby Straight Jacket." This term turned me off until my baby screamed for 3 days straight. Then a straight jacket didn't seem like such a bad idea. It keeps his arms SNUG by his sides so he can't punch himself in the eye while he's sleeping and then wake up, scream, and blame me. Do you know how hard it is to explain to a 7-week-old, "You punched yourself, dude."?

The Remote Control Light Switch
Ever try to latch a screaming baby to your boob in the darkest of night (men excluded)? Or worse, ever try turning the LIGHT on while latching a screaming baby to your boob in the darkest of night (men excluded, again)? My husband came up with a solution. He hooked up this little remote control clicker to a bedside table lamp with nice soft light. I never have to get up out of bed to turn on the light. I just keep this little remote under my pillow and click it to help get my bearings when I'm half asleep. Then, I click it back off to ensure Abe knows it's still night time and he has to go BACK to sleep.

The Belly
I know, I know, I know. Babies are supposed to sleep on their BACKS. And sleeping on their bellies causes SIDS and ingrown toenails and throat cancer, but you know what? My baby sleeps best on his belly. In fact, he sleeps only on his belly. When I lay him on his back, he lifts his legs STRAIGHT up in front of him as if to say, "Look! Wheee!! Look what I can do with my legs! Why sleep when I can do this?!?!" Which brings me to the next best of...

The Angel Care
This amazing thing has saved me HOURS of worry. A little plate sits under Abe's crib mattress. When turned on, it detects even the slightest movements. If it does not detect movement for 20 seconds, an alarm begins to sound. So, if Abe stops breathing I will know within 20 seconds and probably break an elbow throwing walls out of my way to get to him. And trust me, it works. I am reminded of how well it works every time I pick him up in the middle of the night and forget to turn it off. RIGHT about the time I hit my remote control light switch and get Abe latched on is when it starts beeping like a dump truck on steroids backing up through the bedroom.

The Poop Chair
This little vibrating chair is what my husband and I have dubbed The Poop Chair. Everytime I set Abe in it, the chair keeps him at the perfect angle and delivers just enough vibration to get his little tummy moving and the poopy flowin'. No joke, at least once a day I set him in the poopy chair, turn it on, and away he goes. It has completely eliminated my need for alternative measures to help him poop, and if you read my blog on rectal temperature (read here), you know it's a real blessing for me. Side note: I got this chair for $3 at a flea market. Washed all the cloth pieces and viola, I'm thrifty.

TONS of Receiving Blankets
Poop...Abe has a gift for blow-outs. For those of you without kids, a blow-out is when the poop is so plentiful, or forceful, that a diaper springs loose like the weakest kid in class during a game of Red Rover. I put receiving blankets on EVERYTHING. I put them on top of his cradle sheet, his swing, the car seat, the Poopy Chair (of course), the changing table...I save myself so much time. In fact, just this morning I got the stroller all set up with a comfy, fancy blanket to go on a walk. Right before we left, I threw a receiving blanket in and set Abe on top. And wouldn't you know he had a blow-out before we hit the driveway. Did I panic? Nope. Just cleaned him up, threw the receiving blanket in the wash, and pulled out another one before the walk resumed. No scrubbing the stroller, no dirty fancy blanket.

The Washer and Dryer
Oh. And in reference to receiving blankets, PLEASE be sure to buy a set of these before you have a kid. I have never done so much laundry in my life. Between the poop, the pee, the spit's a wonder we can still pay our energy bill.

P.S. If you work for any of the companies that manufacture these 8 items, please pass them the link to my blog in case they're interested in giving me free stuff.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


One thing that's hard to understand is the anxiety that comes along with being a new mom. At least it's very hard for me to understand. When my kid is in the car seat and screaming as if someone is murdering him, bringing him back to life, and then murdering him again, I just want to pull the car over and get out. Go for a walk maybe, or get a latte. Then resume mom duties again after about 20 minutes of peace. Our Honda Pilot does not let any noise out or in, so when I close my door on my way to get him out, I often take a few extra seconds on the walk to the back. It's so peaceful in those moments.
But what gets me is when other people have him. While in the doctor's office yesterday, David sat with Abe in the waiting room trying to feed him. Abe was pissed off, tired, and generally ungrateful for being alive. I felt so free walking to the nurses station to have my blood drawn. Then, and without warning, anxiety hit. I heard a brief scream. I'd know it anywhere. And I looked at the nurse and said, "That's Abe." She smiled. SMILED. As if it's just like, oh wow, some baby is screaming. NOT some baby. MY BABY. He's SCREAMING. Do you not HEAR THAT? I got super squirmy and told her that I got anxiety whenever he screamed. He screamed again. Ever fiber of my being jumped and wanted to be NO WHERE but there where Abe was screaming. What is going on? He's with his dad in a waiting room with other babies about 30 feet away. I don't even like this kid and I HAVE to get to him when he screams?
Finally, after the longest 10 minutes ever, she told me to go back to the waiting room. I ran like a bat out of hell. My husband looked like his head was going to explode which made me angry, a strange response. I wanted to say, "Seriously? It's been 10 minutes! I do this all day! Suck it up buttercup!" Then, the fact that he got so overwhelmed after only 10 minutes gave me, you guessed it, anxiety.
All this anxiety has got to affect Abe. This could be causing him to have trouble eating or bad dreams or sleep apnea or diabetes or SOMETHING. And then when I think about how my anxiety level is affecting his temperament, I get more anxiety.  I do the things Dr. Sears tells us to do: go for a walk, eat right, drink plenty of water, sleep when you can, etc. I even asked his website if I could take Xanax while breastfeeding. Turns out that's a bad idea. Vodka, however, he didn't mention...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Aftermath

It's incredible how AWESOME my body looked in hindsight. How ridiculous was I spending hours in front of the mirror worried about a thin layer of fat (which, as it turns out, was skin) or a pimple? Today I'm lucky if I look in the mirror on my way to feed my baby (and completely ruin my boobs, which I didn't appreciate back then either). They warned me that my stomach would take a while to go back down, but I didn't realize that 6 weeks out I'd still look 6 months pregnant. It's embarrassing. I want to tell everyone who looks at me, "I just had a baby, ok?" Bright spot: I have a little extra junk in the trunk now, which I've always prayed for. Those of you in the Flat Butt Society understand this prayer.
I also didn't realize how little I would care about anything going on in the world. I mean, just today the TV was on as I passed through the room and I saw that Courtney Cox and David Arquette separated and some woman in Texas says she didn't kill her husband on a boat. Two months ago, this would have stopped me in my tracks and I would have sat taking note about every detail. I then would have referenced People magazine, followed by an episode of The People's Court, and then on to But I just don't care what's happening to anyone else. If anything, those people should be caring about what's happening to ME! My life is COMPLETELY turned upside down and sometimes it's hard to catch my breath. Where's my segment on the 6 o'clock news?
Oh, and my dogs. My poor dogs. They are used to snuggles and attention and barking at the mailman. They were the KIDS in our house. Now, they get in trouble for everything. They can't lick the baby, they can't bark, they can't run around in the house. I feel like they're going to think their names are "Shhh!" and "STOP IT!" soon.
I haven't started losing my lovely, thick hair yet. I know this starts to go at around 3 months. So by Thanksgiving, this kid better do something REALLY cool. Otherwise, I gotta say it'll be tough to convince me this was all worth it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

One Week

One week is how old Abe was the day I turned to David and sobbed that I was incredibly sorry for completely ruining our lives.

One week is all it takes for Abe's size, shape, temperament, and routine to completely change.

One week is as far ahead as my brain goes. It means Abe is a week older, and a week closer to milestones that make a screaming baby all worth it.

One weak moment is all it takes to turn a fairly good day into what feels like the worst day of my life.

One week ago I reeeeeeally disliked my baby. Today, I kinda like him. A little.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I've dealt with an inordinate amount of death in my life. It seems like every year my family got smaller and smaller as I grew up. But it wasn't until I lost my first friend at 21 that death stopped becoming a part of life and started poking holes in it.
I moved into the theatre dorms when I was just 17 years old. It was full of some real dramatic personalities, as you can imagine. I met Noel on my very first day. He had on a dirty old hat trying desperately to cover a displaced mass of curly, crazy brown hair. He was the only one I remember who seemed comfortable in his own skin. "This guy isn't afraid to be leaving home and trying to live life without his parents," I thought. And to be honest, it didn't take long for him to offer us all a drink.
I acted in shows with Noel over the years and watched his free spirit laugh, joke, and fly through all kinds of get-togethers. He was the party at the party for sure. One show Noel and I were in together was not made up of a cast that meshed well outside of the script, and we all knew it. After the last show, the cast decided to meet at Olive Garden for a final dinner (whoopdie doo). Noel invited me home before that dinner and, to be perfectly honest, we indulged in some libations that would make the night a whole lot more fun. We spent the entire evening kicking each other under the table, cracking up at our "secret" trip home (and I'm sure it was no secret to anyone else at the table who even glanced at us). Months later, a picture of that dinner ended up in our college yearbook. Remember that song from Sesame Street? "One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn't belong..." It was pretty clear we were having a whole lot more fun than everyone else in the shot. We gave each other a quick look and a silent laugh amid the crowd of people surfing through the pages when we saw it. What fun he made life.
Noel was not a typical theatre kid, frat boy, or Tennessee native. He was more than fun and funny, he was incredibly smart. He was in law school when he got sick. The fact that it was his brain that was chosen by cancer makes cancer one of my biggest enemies in the world. The idea that he was forced to withdraw from life's party before he could celebrate another anniversary with his beloved or see his baby girl being born sends my eyes straight to the sky, praying with everything that I am that his soul will still get to experience it all on some level we can't yet understand. It's true that life isn't fair, but this particular twist seems a much crueler trick than fair or unfair.
Noel and I were not best friends. We didn't even stay in touch after college was over. Though he left a strong impression on everyone's life who knew him, including mine. And with every email update I received about his fight against the "c" word in the past 2 years, I was reminded to live that day like it was my last and be grateful that I get to spend it with the man I love and now, the child we made. He was a great reminder to seize the day in college, and he will continue to remind me for the rest of my life. I can't imagine spending today writing about anyone else.

Shine on, Noel.
Shine on.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Best I Can

When my mom comes to visit now, it's a whole new ball game. She's got a JOB to do. She's a grandma, a whole new career. And let me tell you, she kicks ass at work.
While driving home from lunch with a screaming Abe in the car, I was starting to feel weary. Here I am doing everything I can possibly think of every single day of my life to keep him happy and healthy and he screams like someone is pinching the back of his arm (come on, you know that hurts like the dickens when someone does it right).
After opening the back window, turning up the music, singing, and mimicking his cries (in an attempt to communicate with him), I finally shouted to the back seat, "I'M SORRY, ABE! THERE IS NOTHING ELSE I CAN DO!" And that is when my mom said one of the most peace-invoking statements I've heard in 5 and a half weeks.
"And that's the truth, Erin. There is nothing else you can do."
It was like a light bulb went off. I'm doing everything I know how to do, and there is nothing more I can do besides just that! When he screams and I try everything I know and he still screams, I'm not a bad mom. I'm not doing it wrong. I suppose if I purposefully left him screaming in an empty room you could go with the "bad mom" label. Or if I KNEW he was hungry and I decided I just wasn't going to feed him that day, you could call somebody to come haul me away. Or if he was clearly exhausted and I forced him to ride Space Mountain over and over and over again, someone could file a complaint and take full custody of Abe (and the dogs, for that matter). But I do try and if it doesn't work, it's ok. I'm not creating a future drug dealer just because I can't figure out what his vampire face means and he will likely not join a cult because his hands were clearly too cold this morning when we woke up. I am trying my best, and as a mom (forever) I have to remember: I'm doing my best and there is nothing else I can do.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies

There are a number of lies floating around about mothering a newborn that have to be addressed. It's amazing how many women claim to "forget" what life with a newborn was like. You just plum forgot? That's amazing.
I never want to forget this time, and I want as many women as possible who have never had a child to know how unbelievably hard the first few weeks are so they don't feel as unprepared as I did. No sugar-coating it. Someone's gotta be honest!

 Lie #1 : You'll love your baby immediately.
I do not love my baby. I mean, I love him because he's mine and I'm super glad he's healthy and here on Earth. But I'm not all ushy-gushy in love with him. In fact, he's really an obligation more than a son. He's a need-machine with absolutely no give back. He doesn't smile, he doesn't coo, he doesn't hug. He screams and poops and eats (all after ruining my body). And when I smile or show him a toy or make eye contact, he makes the most sour, unhappy face I've ever seen. I don't have postpartum depression. I just miss The People's Court and going out to dinner.

 Lie #2 : "My babies were sleepers"
This one is just mean. Women say to me, "Is he sleeping?! My babies were sleepers." You're a liar or you have a terrible memory. Breast-fed babies don't sleep in the first 3 months. Now maybe you packed your baby so full of formula that he slept for 8 hours at 3 weeks simply because he couldn't move. But there is simply no such thing as a 1 month old "sleeper". Saying that to me simply makes me feel inadequate and more tired than I already am. Stop it.

 Lie #3: You should cherish them at that age because they're never that small again.
Really? Cherish them? As I mentioned in Lie #1, they don't do anything but scream, poop, eat, and occasionally sleep in bursts just long enough for you to start a dream and finish it with a milk-drinking monster only to realize it's actually your offspring. This is not a time of my life I am cherishing, and I think it's perfectly OK to admit that. I realize there is an end to this period and eventually my child will smile at me and I will possibly melt off the planet. But in the mean time, I make no bones about not cherishing this and I'll never insist that anyone else cherish it either.

 Lie #4: Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt if you're doing it right.
So you're telling me that a human being sucking as hard as he can on my NIPPLE hurts because I'm DOING IT WRONG? No, I disagree. It hurts because a human being is sucking as hard as he can on my NIPPLE. Sure, once we got our latch going it didn't hurt as much, but if I could choose between a pedicure with a glass of merlot and breastfeeding, you better believe my toes win. And P.S. on breastfeeding: yeah, you burn 500 calories a day doing it, but some women (like me) have to be so careful with what they eat that it's not even worth it. I WANT PIZZA.

 Lie #5 : There is very little a father can do to help in the first few months.
No, my husband cannot feed our child right now. But you know what he can do? Laundry. And dishes. And the lawn. And he can constantly clean up behind the natural disaster that is Erin and Abe on most days. He can take our son for a walk while I sleep and he can grocery shop for things that don't contain dairy or soy. Thank God for him.

I wake up everyday remember that someday Abe will look at me and say "mommy" and hug my neck and giggle. And I think it's OK that women prepare each other and support each other for how mind-numbingly tiring these first months are. I give thanks every day for the women in my life who are giving of advice and an understanding ear when I've been pushed to my limits. I'm very lucky. And now I'm going to go clean another load of poop-stained laundry.