CDP Exchange: A Few Getting To Know You Questions

Hi there!

I’m posting this as part of a getting-to-know-you effort for the CDP Exchange  (which, as far as I know, is still open for registrants if you want to click that little link there and check it out). If you aren’t participating in the exchange then please just enjoy getting to know me a bit better or feel free to skip this entry entirely. Maybe one day I will blog more reliably (haaaahahaha. Ha.)

  • Who was your favorite celebrity as a child? I am embarrassed to admit that I had a giant angsty teen crush on Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Devon Sawa.
  • What type of pets do you have? One dog, Arlo, a beagle hound mix. Two cats, Ella, the queen of the household, and Sappho, the scaredest scaredy-cat ever.
  • What is your favorite color? green or dark purple
  • What is most memorable about your high school years? Being in the teen choir at my church, which my mom and step-dad directed.
  • What word describes you best? Can I pick a couple? Dependable, compassionate, tender-hearted
  • What is your greatest accomplishment? My daughter.
  • What drives you every day? My family and a healthy dose of caffeine.
  • What is your favorite food? Thai or Indian food. I looooove spicy food and all curries.
  • Where do you want to retire? I’d love to have a condo somewhere tropical to visit as we please but ultimately I really hope my kids decide to settle near us so we can see them and any grandkids often. I live far away from my parents and it sucks. As a new parent I can’t imagine my daughter being hundreds of miles away from me on a permanent basis.
  • What is your business goal this year? Keep making my part-time job work!
  • Where do you like to vacation? Warm places, new places. If I am leaving Nora I’d like it to be a more luxurious trip (think sleeping in a bit and strolling versus up and out early every day and nose to the grindstone in order to fit everything in we want to do). Maybe in another stage of life I’ll feel more adventurous.
  • Who do you admire? My husband. He’s just a genuinely good and brilliant person. My sister, who is so dedicated to doing the right thing and helping people.
  • What is your mission? Be the best mom and wife I can be. Listen to people with an open mind. Take care of the relationships in my life that are dear to me. Try not to be so easily hurt and, related, give people the benefit of the doubt.
  • If you were invisible, where would you go? Is this the part where I admit how nosy I am?
  • What traits in others are you attracted to? Kindness and compassion. Good humor. Intelligence.
  • What is the kindest thing anyone has done for you? Forgiven me.
  • How do you want to be remembered? As a person who did her best.
  • What would you do with a million dollars? Make sure my parents and siblings are financially sound, save for Nora’s education and our retirement, remodel our house. Probably buy a boat.
  • If you were on an island, who would you want to be with? Why? My husband. That’s why I married him!
  • You have a 10 minute speech to give at a high school, what is it about? Be kind to yourself and to everyone you meet; you never know what journey they are on or how they may be hurting. Give yourself and others the benefit of the doubt. Forgive easily.

We did some sleep training

Because I’m even more terrible at doing anything with the photos I take than I am at actually taking photos, I still haven’t taken the pictures off my camera from Nora’s birthday party. So there’s a post coming about her birthday and being one (ONE! Holy shit. She’s one already.). My camera cord is very far away from this comfy spot on the couch where I’m nestled under a blanket and no one is touching me or asking me to read a book for the frillionth time. So that will happen at some later point.

But let’s back up to the thing I just said about no one touching me or asking for another book reading. Nora’s asleep. Ten minutes ago I walked her into her room, turned on the fan for some white noise, tucked her in and left. She was awake. She cried for less than five minutes and now she is asleep.

We decided to bite the bullet and sleep train last week. We used Dr. Ferber’s progressive-waiting method and we found this post by Noob Mommy to be particularly encouraging and helpful. It also includes the schedule of how long to let your baby cry before going in to comfort him or her, broken down day-by-day, in case you’re interested in learning more about this method.

I was VERY VERY against any type of Cry It Out sleep training for a long time. Our pediatrician wanted us to do a version at four months and I still think that is wayyyy too young to ignore an infant’s cries. At that point they are still crying from need and I think ignoring that need is not a good idea. But! That’s just me and my opinion, based on me and my own comfort level with babies and crying. So you should definitely do whatever makes you comfortable with your own child.

At one year, Nora was spending most of every night in our bed, nursing. So much night nursing. I spent so much time lying on my sides that I had a constant hip and low back pain that is just beginning to subside. She would wake more than five times most nights and demand to nurse. I would give in out of sheer exhausted self-preservation. Nora is a light sleeper, so whenever Zack or I would move in our sleep it would disturb her. When it got to the point where none of us were getting good sleep in the same bed and Nora wouldn’t accept comfort from me at night that didn’t involve nursing, we knew it was time to make a change. The Ferber method made sense because we knew that Nora was old enough that her cries were going to be mostly from anger and frustration from being left alone. We were also confident that she was safe alone in her crib and that she felt secure there. Despite my nerves, I trusted that I would be able to tell the difference between cries of frustration and cries of real distress that would require immediate attention.

Zack took last Friday off work so we could begin Thursday night. We divided the night into two shifts: he would take 8:30-2:30, I would take 2:30-8:30. That way we would each get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep while the other was available for Nora. We anticipated some very long, intense nights fighting to teach our daughter how to sleep on her own.

On Thursday I put Nora in her pajamas, read her her very favorite book in the entire universe, nursed her for about ten minutes, and put her in her crib awake and left. She SCREAMED. Like a banshee. She was so, SO PISSED that I left her in that crib and I’m not going to lie, it was awful. I went in at three minutes and picked her up, rocked her a bit, told her I loved her and reminded her that she was strong and brave, then left the room again. The screaming was worse. I cried and sent a couple text messages to my best friend. After a couple minutes the crying changed from all-out fury to a lower-level cry that was more about registering her displeasure and being stubborn than anything else. Zack went in two more times and 34 minutes from the time I laid her down she was asleep.

Nora slept that night from 9:00 until 7:15 the next morning when I woke her up.

The next couple of nights she took 14 minutes, then four minutes, then five minutes to fall asleep. We’ve had to go in once in the night to offer comfort, though she has woken up several times. But each time she’s gone back to sleep before five minutes pass without interference from either of us.

I’m not going to lie, there are still hard parts. She clings to me when I go to put her in her bed and that is kind of terrible. This is my first taste of doing something that she hates in the moment because I know it’s the best thing for her in the long run. I know there will be much harder things I will have to do in her best interest in the future, but that doesn’t make the moment her little arms tighten around me any less heart-wrenching. She looks at me with panicked eyes and I still have to put her down and walk away. It is so hard, even knowing that she’s doing amazing and we are all sleeping better and this is the best thing I can do for her where sleep is concerned. I know she was ready for this.

And that is the part I focus on: it’s hard, but she’s ready. It is the best thing. Zack and I get our bed, and the opportunity for intimacy on our terms, back. I get real chunks of actual sleep every night. Sleep where I’m not worried about rolling over onto Nora or Nora rolling out of the bed and I’m not waking up even when Nora is asleep because my body hurts from sleeping in uncomfortable positions because they baby wants to nurse. Nora is learning that she’s okay in her bed by herself.

When I walk into her room in the mornings she is her normal, happy self. I nurse her and we cuddle and she is the same kid she was five days ago when she was waking up between us in our bed. She doesn’t hate being in her room and she doesn’t wake up panicked and crying to flee her crib (these were some of my fears going in). In fact, she just woke up from her nap and is chatting with the stuffed animals in her crib.

Sleep training has led us to having a stricter bed time and Dr. Ferber encourages parents to have a wake up time each day (we chose 7:30 since that’s when Zack gets up, so he will have a chance to see her in the mornings before work). So far I’ve had to wake her up every morning. It’s been nice to wake up and make coffee and switch the laundry around before I go in to get Nora. We waited to see what would happen with her naps, and she’s been ready every day at 11:30 and naps for 1.5-2 hours. She still seems fine with one nap a day, which is fine with us. By 8:00 she is ready to wind down for her 8:30 bed time.

For anyone on the fence about sleep training I would encourage you to try it when you know (and you will know) when your baby is ready. Nora was probably ready a month or two before we took the plunge but it took that much longer for me to get there. Once you’ve made the decision, see it through for a couple nights at least. You are not ruining your relationship with your child. You are doing a good job and IT IS OKAY if you are doing this because you just need some damn sleep already. Twitter friends offered me some lovely support, as did my mom and my best friend. Tell some people you trust and who will be supportive what you’re doing so you can send text messages or tweets and get the support you need when your kid is screaming and you feel like shit. It is so reassuring to hear from people who’ve been there that the grass is definitely greener on the other side and you aren’t ruining your child for life by letting them cry.

We are only five days in, but this sleep training thing is one of the better parenting decisions we’ve made.

My kid’s head injuries and barf, let me talk to you about them.

It turns out that when your kid becomes mobile, life gets harder. Surprise! Or not really. Because you have common sense. And because if you have had a baby you have heard that darling phrase “Just wait until he/she is MOBILE!” a time or twelve.

Okay, let’s be honest, you’ve heard tons of phrases that begin “Just wait until…” if you have kids and you’ve had to restrain yourself countless times from punching somebody because YES. YES I WILL JUST WAIT. I WILL JUST WAIT FOR YOU TO SHUT UP. YOU WITH THE MOUTH. ARE YOU STILL TALKING?

Now that Nora has mastered crawling, and at very, very fast speeds, we hear “Just wait until she’s WALKING!” I don’t really think that she will be getting into more things once she’s walking (she IS technically walking, just a few steps at a time and then she realizes she’s walking and HOLY SHIT I’M WALKING is all her brain can handle and she falls or sits down. It is the cutest.) but I am hopeful that there will be a downswing on the klutz scale because girlfriend is going to put me in an early grave with all her damn falling.

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About ten days ago she was standing next to me at Zack’s aunt’s house and somehow managed to pull open the convection oven/microwave and fell straight backwards onto her head on the hardwood floor. I tried to comfort nurse her, which she refused, and about two minutes later she threw up all over me, all over herself, all over the chair we were in, all over the floor. It was a LOT of barf, you guys. Thank God I wasn’t alone because I would have tracked it everywhere trying to get us cleaned up. So I called the doctor and they gave me a list of concussion symptoms to look for and I got some grey hairs and life went on.

The next morning (you knew the story wasn’t over right?) we were playing in her [mostly] baby-proof play room and in the ten seconds my eyes weren’t glued to her little body she managed to pick the one baby gate not tightly secured to the wall (we have one permanent gate and one tension gate) to try and scale and THWACK! She fell backwards. This time she at least managed to kind of catch herself with her elbows and butt instead of falling directly on her head, but she did smack it again. Since we were flying to Nashville the following day and since this was fall number two in less than 24 hours, I figured a trip to the doctor just to be extra super safe couldn’t hurt.

Turned out she had an ear infection, because of course she did, but for all her head knocking Nora was concussion-and-otherwise injury-free. We started an antibiotic since plane rides can mess with kids’ ears so much and went about our business.

The antibiotics made Nora’s stomach uhhh, let’s just say less than fresh.  Things ah, well, they slowed way down coming out the back end and moved with impressive force coming out the, erm, mouth? end.  They moved with impressive force all over my 19-year-old cousin’s bed and floor. I’m sure she’s just dying to have us back.

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THEN, while I was trapped on a very small plane with my daughter coming home from Nashville she threw up all over me, herself, the plane seat and the floor. Mostly me, though. And every spare stitch of clothing I had onboard that plane was underneath with the checked luggage. BECAUSE OF COURSE IT WAS. You really haven’t lived until you’ve spent an hour and a half with a Delta blanket shoved up your shirt because it’s soaked with not-your vomit that’s starting to cool against your skin. And I had to walk through the airport that way and thank God it was 10 o’clock at night and the place was virtually empty because we smelled and looked terrible.

IT IS STILL NOT OVER, GUYS.

I took her back to the doctor the next day, where Nora was proclaimed infection-free and we were given a blessing to stop the barf-inducing antibiotics. I hope to one day stop twitching every time Nora goes quiet and still. So far we are closing out on three days barf-free.

Vomit aside, we did have one more head trauma incident. I’ve been letting Nora sort of free-range in the larger back part of the cart when we’re at Target because she gets frustrated with not being able to move around in the front seat and OKAY FINE, I like to browse and it keeps her happy a little longer and allows me to do so.  I walk next to the cart so I can remind her to sit down and because I felt like it was safer but NOPE. NOT SAFER NOT AT ALL NOPE NOPE. OPPOSITE OF SAFE. I was perusing the ladies’ clearance rack and like we were in slow motion Nora reached for something on the floor and before I could even reach for her (I was right. effing. there.) she’d gone headfirst out of the cart, flipped midair, and landed flat on her back with a sickening thud.

She did not pass out but I almost did.

It was awful. I will never forget how she twisted in the air or how grateful I was that she started screaming after a quick, shocked intake of breath when she hit the floor.  We went into a dressing room to nurse and she calmed down fairly quickly. By now I had the pediatrician on speed dial so called them back to see if I needed to bring her in. All signs pointed to her being fine (even pupil dilation, no fluid leaking out of facial orifices, no swelling or facial bruising, no lethargy and no favoring any body part that may have been injured in the fall) so they told me to watch her closely for 48 hours. She also can’t sleep more than four hours at a time and haaaaa that doesn’t ever really happen so WE GOT THAT COVERED, DOC, THANKS.

Nora is fine. She’s not even bruised. I am not sure how long it’s going to take me to recover from the Target cart experience but it will be a cold day in Hell before my kid sits anywhere but belted in the front seat of the cart at any store.

I don’t have a not-heavy way of ending this so here! Look at a picture of my cute, totally unconcussed child:

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State of the Nora: Nine Months

Man, this kid changes FAST. The only thing that’s been consistent is that she’s basically a crappy sleeper. But I won’t launch into another 1,600 words about the sleep habits of my darling child, I promise. Suffice it to say I am tired.

NoraFD14Nora is shedding the last of her baby-ness and quickly becoming a toddler. She still has chubby cheeks and thigh rolls and a big, toothless grin but every day she learns something new or I notice how her arms are thinning out while her hair thickens and I am reminded that time is barreling us right out of her babyhood. How can my 9-month-old already seem so much like a kid?  She crawls with dizzying speed, pulls up on everything and cruises like she’s been doing it all her life. She’s halfheartedly starting to climb, which I think she’ll get more serious about once she’s walking. This child seems to have no fear. She loves our animals, much to their chagrin, and we are working on using gentle hands to touch them. While I feel for the pets, it is pretty adorable to see her excitement when she starts out using gentle hands on them and they don’t immediately flee. That generally devolves into her smacking them repeatedly and beaming at us, but as long as she’s not tearing fistfuls of fur off them I think we are all willing to be pleased.

NoraFD6Music is probably Nora’s favorite thing and has been for awhile. She particularly loves the guitar and will drop whatever she’s doing to come and “play” (read: put her hands on the strings and make it impossible for anyone to play). We went to dinner for my sister’s birthday over the weekend and there was a jazz trio playing on the main level, just below where we sat. They weren’t playing 30 seconds and Nora had zeroed in on their location and forgot the piece of food that had previously been on its way to her mouth. I took her down to watch and she sat on the stage and stared up at the musicians with rapt attention. They and the rest of the kitchen staff (the kitchen is open to the restaurant so they could all see her) thought she was pretty adorable. I am looking forward to the day that Nora realizes she can dance!

While she’s still very much a Mama’s girl, Nora is something of a social butterfly these days. She’s not very cuddly unless she’s hurt or going to sleep because in her mind there is just so much to see and do; the rare moment when she rests her head on someone’s shoulder is a surprise delight. She is a little parrot, too: mimicking sounds and some words (mama, dada, nana, bwa bwa bwa are her favorites – we are still trying to figure out if ‘bwa’ has any discernible meaning). She has a funny fake laugh she uses when everyone else is laughing or if she wants attention.  Her favorite book is “The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark” and we never read it only once through. It is the story of Mr. Fish overcoming his fears to look for Ms. Clam’s lost pearl and Nora can point to the pearl on some pages. Obviously she’s a genius.

NoraFD5We are still nursing and that’s still going perfectly, along with finger foods. I tentatively started giving her small pieces to feed herself at about seven months and we’ve never looked back. The only spoon food she eats now is yogurt. Purees lasted all of one month with this kid and now she will FEED EVERYTHING TO HERSELF, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

My Nora wakes up talking and smiling every morning before she even opens her eyes. She’s a challenge, she’s a joy, she’s the best thing in our life.

A Lot Of Words About Sleep

I took care of other peoples’ kids for years of my life. YEARS. Professionally. That’s a lot of time to study the effects of parenting decisions and form some ideas of how I would and would not parent my own children. I always thought I’d be firm but loving and I would run my household on a schedule which my children would understand and appreciate. My house would be clean all the time and I would kiss the top of my sleeping angels’ heads before retiring at 7:30 to read a book or watch some TV, then off to my own clean bed with my husband for a sound night of sleep. Oh, and we would eat all organic, unprocessed food that I made from scratch each day and enjoy it. I would look fresh and be showered and anyone who wasn’t doing all of these things just didn’t have as much experience taking care of kids as I did.

Are you laughing yet?

We’re almost eight months in and let’s just say that the dream has been drastically modified. But what I really want to talk about today is sleep. I’m going to give you a rundown of Nora’s sleep habits and I’ll save the bitching for after you get a sense of what we’re dealing with here.

Let me first say that I’m not much for a schedule, as it turns out, though we do have a routine. Because I stay home I can pretty much adjust my day to whatever Nora’s needs are so she naps when she’s tired. She does have a bed time (7:30) but I think being somewhat flexible with nap times has encouraged her to be a little flexible if we miss the 7:30 slot at bedtime a night or two, as we did two weeks ago when there was a death in the family and we had stuff going on every night for a week.  I should also mention that I have tried the nap schedule business but my child has inherited every ounce of stubbornness that Zack and I had to pass on (that’s A LOT) and she is what’s called a tension increaser when it comes to crying it out, so unless she’s willing to go to sleep it’s an epic fight for a 30 minute nap. Max.

Oh, that’s the other lovely thing about my daughter: she’s a power napper. 30 minutes and she’s refreshed and happy for hours, nevermind my need for the occasional break.

The 30 minute nap thing, now that I don’t try to force her to nap when she’s not ready, isn’t actually that big a deal. Really, Nora is amazingly willing to entertain herself in whatever room I’m in for impressive amounts of time. That means my attention is almost always divided but I can still accomplish most things that are required of me during the day.

At night Nora has been all over the map, sometimes sleeping long stretches and other times waking up as much as every 90 minutes. Because her nighttime sleep has been kind of rough we decided to co-sleep, so she’s in our bed, and we’ve been doing that since she outgrew the Rock ‘n Play about two months ago. Man, did she love the Rock ‘n Play. She currently sleeps cuddled up to me or flopped on her stomach in between us, and she still wakes up a fair amount (usually 2-5 times) to nurse or, more often, just for reassurance that I’m there (all I have to do most of the time is touch her skin-to-skin and she settles back into sleep). It is not uncommon for breastfed babies to wake during the night to nurse, though many are capable of sleeping through the night. As of today Nora has slept through the night twice in her life. I usually nurse her to sleep for naps and at bedtime.

Okay, so now you have a basic idea of the sleep situation. I know there are things we could do to get Nora out of our bed and sleeping through the night. I’ve read books and blogs and articles and listened to webinars and I am in love with all of Nancy Holtzman‘s ideas on parenting in general. Our pediatrician encouraged us to do a controlled CIO sleep training method at 4months and that was atrocious (and when we learned she’s a tension increaser). I am not into the CIO method. Nora naps in her crib some and we’ve tried doing the first part of the night in her room to get her used to being in there, but she never sleeps as long there, or as well. Which means Zack and I get no time to ourselves in the evening and definitely no time together, as one of us is constantly in dealing with her wake ups.

I know that some of you are reading this and thinking that we’ve created this situation (we have) and that I shouldn’t complain about it. The thing is, I’m not complaining. I know it’s hard to believe, but Nora’s sleeping habits do not bother me now that I am used to them*. No one is more surprised that I am not more of a stickler for a schedule and some sleep training than me. I NEVER expected to bed share and I certainly didn’t expect to love it. But I do, I love being able to watch her sleep, I love the reassurance of being able to hear her breathe, and I love knowing that she is absolutely at ease knowing that we are right there with her. I’m not worried that she will be in our bed until Kindergarten even though we don’t have a plan for when she needs to be sleeping in her own room or how we’ll get her there. I get so much more sleep than I would if she were downstairs in the nursery or even in the Pack-n-Play next to the bed, because all I have to do is touch her or bring her close to the breast to nurse and we both go back to sleep.

My biggest issue is really that I hate telling people how much Nora wakes up at night (AND EVERYONE ASKS – why must this be the stick by which a “good baby” is measured?) and I’m tempted to just start lying about it. I feel like people think she *should* be sleeping through the night and either we’re doing something wrong by not forcing the issue or that there’s something wrong with her because she isn’t there yet. Whether it’s working for us never seems to enter into the equation. I am way more of a crunchy hippie attachment-parenting type than I expected to be and I love it, but it’s taken me some time to come to terms with the fact that I’m a very different type of parent than I imagined I’d be. Isn’t it interesting how much we can surprise ourselves? I also own the fact that I am a little lazy and unwilling to sacrifice sleep in the short-term to sleep train using a gentler method like Holtzman’s trade-down approach.

However.

We are going to a wedding in California over 4th of July weekend and we are leaving Nora with her grandparents for three nights. Understandably, they do not plan to share a bed with her; she will sleep in a Pack-n-Play in the next room. Obviously they can’t nurse her to sleep. They’ve been really our only babysitters, having her at least once a week most weeks even for only an hour or two, and anytime they have to get Nora to sleep it’s a struggle. We plan to do some practice runs where they’ll have her overnight while we are home to help get her more used to sleeping there.

My feeling is this: I don’t want to change what’s working for us just for three nights of someone else dealing with my kid. Is that awful of me? Parenting is such a personal thing, and I really work to not judge other people for their parenting choices. I feel strongly that the best thing for Nora right now is to be in our bed and the best thing for my family is for me to nurse her down at night. It makes bedtime a smooth thing almost every night: it’s soothing and relaxing for Nora, it’s great bonding for her and I, and she sleeps better when bedtime is calm, giving Zack and I an hour or two before I need to go to sleep to spend time on our relationship. I don’t want all of that to shift prematurely because of this trip and I don’t really think it needs to. The three nights we’re gone are going to be difficult no matter what because Nora is used to being with me 99% of the time. It’s the nature of having a stay at home mom. Most of the time it’s the best thing for my kid but it sure does make leaving her extra hard for everyone involved.

It’s amazing to me how many aspects of sleep a person can find to agonize over.

*It took some time for my body to adjust to broken and generally less sleep, but I get 8+ hours most nights and I function fine the vast majority of the time.

Boston

I happened to be on Twitter when people started to talk about the bombings at the Boston Marathon yesterday, the messages of disbelief and outrage pouring onto my timeline faster than I could click all the links to news stories. I still haven’t seen the live footage, having been spared after someone tweeted that you could actually see limbs flying and I decided not to look.

I am angry and sad and mourning the three lives lost so senselessly, right along with the rest of my country. I do not mean to diminish or downplay what happened yesterday when I say that I wasn’t all that surprised to hear about the bombs. And I am angry all over again that I am not surprised. I am so, so pissed that this type of thing has happened enough times in my life – in my country, to my people – that it is no longer a shock to hear of bombings and terrorism and shootings and children dying. That the words we use to talk about these events are becoming overly familiar, cliched. I don’t want my husband and I to have to come up with a plan for how to talk to our daughter – who is seven months old – about this type of thing because we know that one day all too soon it will have to be explained in terms that won’t terrify her. Do such words even exist?

I am enraged that there were members of the Sandy Hook community running in memory of those lost at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December that had to go through yet another traumatic event just as they were maybe beginning to heal.

And under all this anger is, of course, fear. Boston, Newtown, NYC, Columbine, Oklahoma City. Big cities, small towns, where will the next tragic event strike in our nation? Will it be my child huddled in a classroom while a shooter opens fire on her school someday? My loved ones bombed at their places of business or leisure? When will this end, and what do we have to do as a nation to make it stop? To protect our children?

It feels like we go through the same motions each time something like this happens, and we should do anything we can think of that feels like helping, but what can we do to prevent this besides add metal detectors and over-the-top security measures to yet another place or event in our nation?

The status quo isn’t working and I am very afraid.

Snow & a Road Trip

Well! Here it is April 10th and we’re gearing up for as much as 20 (TWENTY!) inches of snow overnight. I thought we were done worrying about plowing our driveway and heavy winter coats and the dogs tracking salty slush all over the floors but apparently winter is not done with us. Minnesota needs a junkpunch.

In related news, Zack is out of town for work and due home late tonight. Which of course won’t happen if flights are canceled because of the snow storm, so solo parenting could continue for another day. Really, it’s not so bad and he’s only been gone one full night but MAN. Nora and I just got back from a road trip to Illinois for my best friend’s baby shower so really I’ve been solo parenting with only a tiny break since last Thursday. Despite being super helpful, my mom is still grandma, not co-parent, you know? I am ready for our regular two-parent life to resume for awhile.

Can we talk for a second about road tripping with a baby? Because I’ve done it a couple of times now, twice by myself, and let me tell you, it’s not for the faint of heart. Nora is great for the first three hours; she sleeps for two, amuses herself or is willing to be amused for approximately 45 minutes, spends 15 minutes ramping up and then all hell breaks loose. There’s no reasoning with a seven-month-old and my singing the same four songs on loop at the top of my voice only goes so far. Suffice it to say that we arrived at both ends of our trip sweaty and frazzled. I did find it helpful to crack a window so we had some cool, fresh air and white noise going in the car, but it still took her 30+ minutes to cry herself out which, in a tiny Mazda3 with her mouth very close to my ears, was achingly loud. Road trips seem to be much more successful when there’s someone to ride in the backseat for infant soothing/entertaining purposes.

As a child of divorced parents who live multiple states apart, I am something of a road trip professional. My siblings and I use the bathroom before we head out and then only stop when we absolutely have to. We don’t mess around. It’s kind of a point of pride in our family that we plow through car trips like our destination is going to disappear if we don’t reach it fast enough, so you can imagine how it KILLS ME that I can’t breeze through the six hour trip to my mom’s without stopping four times. Ah, well. At least she’s cute I guess.

SabBabyShower2

Let’s Talk About Boobs!

These days the girls are hard at work feeding my kid. I sort of expected – here we go, Austin and her EXPECTATIONS again – that breast feeding would be hard or weird and sometimes it is. Mostly it’s weird when you find yourself in a bar for a meeting about a volunteer bike ride you are involved with and you have to bring your baby because your husband’s out of town and then you realize your baby wants to nurse and hmmm. People are already looking at you like you’re carrying around a stink bomb (maybe you are, she did have kind of a lot for dinner) so you go out to your car to nurse and some guy with large-gage (is that what they’re called?) earrings and a neck tattoo comes out and TOTALLY sees what you are doing in there and then pretends not to see so now you’re embarrassed sitting in your own damn car. Or maybe that’s just me.

On the whole, I feed my daughter when she needs to be fed and sometimes that means whipping a boob out in public and other times it means excusing us to the car. It makes me more comfortable to get a read on my surroundings and proceed accordingly. My father-in-law, bless his heart, has been a total champ about the whole thing (he was probably the person I was most embarrassed about seeing me at first and now I feed Nora with him in the room almost like it’s nothing and he is cool with it). The days of calling Zack over to stand in front of us with a blanket held up like a curtain are over; I’ve never been good at being discreet about the whole get-boob-out-and-into-her-mouth thing and Nora runs so dang hot that covering us up is pretty close to child abuse in my book. I usually wear a tank top layered under another shirt so I can pull the top shirt up, pop out the boob, and sort of cover the top part of my boob with the shirt, while the tank top keeps my stomach from hanging out all naked. I’ve been told that it just looks like I’m holding Nora when I’m feeding her but maybe that lady and my mom were just being nice.

While I don’t get the warm fuzzies in the traditional sense about breast feeding I got a reality check about my feelings a few weeks ago. I was having some symptoms of thrush, one of them being a lowered supply, and had worked myself into a ridiculous state about it. I spent a whole afternoon on the phone with various doctors and a Le Leche League leader (I even tweeted to Nancy Holtzman about it) who all basically said “It COULD be thrush even though you don’t have the usual markers…”  So by the end of the day I had pretty much decided Nora and I not only HAD thrush but WE WOULD SURELY PERISH FROM IT.

I’m sure you can sense where this is heading, yes?

We did not have thrush. I was just welcoming back my monthly cycle in a way my body had never experienced it before. None of my regular symptoms happened and a bunch of symptoms I’d heard other women go through happened instead, so I was not even remotely aware that this could be what was going on. Anyway, my supply dip righted itself after a day or two and my other symptoms went away as those things do when you are a totally normal, non-thrush-having woman with a period. Good Christ. But while I thought my supply was just dwindling and possibly never going to return there were some tears about the possibility of having to wean Nora before either of us were emotionally ready. And right now we’re not. While I don’t wax poetic about breast feeding I realized that it is a bonding experience for Nora and I, and a connection I really value. I LIKE that only I can do this for her and that overall it’s been a positive, relatively easy experience for us.

Which brings me to my last point, which is that being able to nurse at night is both a blessing and a curse. It’s wonderful because if your baby is in your room (or, uh, in your bed. Which Nora is) and within arm’s reach you don’t even have to get up for those pesky night wakings. I only fully wake to sit up and change Nora’s diapers at night these days. HOWEVER, about six weeks ago when Nora had a viral respiratory infection and a double ear infection homegirl decided night nursing was the best! thing! ever! And has since insisted that she be nursed to sleep every goddamn time she wakes up. I can get her to nap without nursing (though it’s nowhere near as easy or peaceful as giving the lady a boob) but there is something that happens at nighttime and my pleasant, reasonable baby is transformed into a yowly, impatient little thing that DEMANDS A BOOB. With her waking up 5+ times a night EVERY NIGHT it’s hard for me to deny her the thing that is going to make her go immediately back to sleep and allow ME to immediately go back to sleep. [Sidebar: I need to just do another post about sleep. I have lots to say on the matter, most of it is of the complainy variety.]

Night nursing: so convenient! So addictive! It’s…going to be really, really hard to quit, isn’t it? Shhh, don’t tell me. Let’s just hold each other and you can tell me everything is going to be okay and that my child won’t want to nurse when she’s heading off to college. We’ll keep the dream alive.

My Experience As A Stay-At-Home Mom, Six Months In

Before we had Nora I had a serious decision to make – whether to return to work (I’d have to get a new job, as there was NO WAY we could make my being a flight attendant work with a baby – nor did I have any desire to remain at that job) or be a stay-at-home parent.

That parenting is transformative is surely not a revelation (or a truth) exclusive to me, as I imagine motherhood – parenthood – changes people in huge and unexpected ways. But I can only speak to my experience, which has been resoundingly positive so far.

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I’ve not worked full-time for a couple of years now, since before I even got pregnant, because of some issues at the company where I technically held a full-time position. I worked very part-time but was on call most of the rest of the time so I couldn’t even get a second part-time job. I was so bored with housework that it made me question whether being a SAHM was the right choice for me. I didn’t want to spend my life being bored and frustrated, tied to the house and responsible for all the chores I hated doing.

I also struggled with an idea of feminism that at one time had made a lot of sense to me but as time went on, made less sense and caused more guilt. Would I be setting an anti-feminist example for my daughter by giving up my job and income, being fully financially dependent on her father? Or does feminism mean – should it mean – that women have a choice about what we do with our lives and are not just expected to stay home and take care of the children? At the end of the day I discovered that it didn’t matter what feminism meant to other women; to me it meant being able to make my own decisions and it meant my husband not having the expectation that I would automatically stay home with babies. It was a conversation we had over and over, and continue to have, to make sure that it makes sense for us, that I’m still happy to stay home and he’s still comfortable being our family’s sole provider (which is a role I think often gets overlooked in the conversation about SAH-parenthood; it’s a big burden to have on one person’s shoulders these days and Zack wears the burden with exceptional grace).  I’ve known as long as I can remember that I want to have a family and be home with my kids when they are small. I’ve never been passionate about a job or the idea of a career. I decided not to give up on my dream of being a SAHM and I am so glad I didn’t. 

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As it turns out, I still hate doing the dishes and I let the laundry pile up until Zack or I are down to our last pair of clean underwear. I am endlessly trying to stay on top of the pet hair situation in our house. Zack and I go back and forth almost every night about what to have for dinner because by the evening we are both so done making decisions. But I do all the things I would rather not have to do because being home with our baby is so awesome. I’m grateful every single day that my husband has a job that is able to provide enough income for me to stay home. I’m thankful that I have been there for every milestone our daughter has reached and when I leave Nora it is always on my terms. Don’t even get me started on how thankful I am that I don’t have to pump breast milk every day, many times a day. The women who do that are straight up heroes in my book; pumping sucks.

Anyway, since Nora came into our lives my life has made so much more sense. Finally, this mom gig has given me a purpose that no other job has ever even hinted at offering me. The passion I feel for my child is incredible; much different than I ever imagined, and much more powerful. I am GOOD at being a mom, at being Nora’s mom, and I’m confident in myself as a mother. It’s inherent, as natural as breathing in and out, and I didn’t expect it to be. 

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I expected to spend at least one day a week totally exasperated with being home and going through our mundane routine. I expected to be tired of silly songs with hand motions and dirty diapers and somebody always touching me, crying for me, the endless need. I expected to want to hand Nora off every evening as soon as Zack got home and sometimes escape to the closet to cry and eat ice cream in private and with NO ONE TOUCHING ME. I expected to run out of patience every day. I just hoped that the good would mostly outweigh the bad.

Generally when Zack arrives home I hand Nora over to him, but not because I need a break (though that does happen). I give her to him because they only get a short time in the evenings to be together before Nora’s bedtime. I usually sit with them while they smile at each other and I recount whatever new and wonderful things Nora has done that day. She makes us both laugh. My patience is slower to run out than it has ever been. I have never been called a patient person, yet somehow I’ve found a way to be that for my daughter. It’s just amazing.

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Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to pretend like we haven’t had our struggles since Nora’s birth. Those early weeks were filled with trying to decipher exactly WHY our baby was in such gastrointestinal distress until she was diagnosed with reflux and put on Zantac. There was an element to her stomach problems that only time helped as her system figured itself out and matured a bit. I cut A LOT of foods out of my diet as we tried to figure out if anything I was eating was a source of the problem and we finally narrowed it down to a couple of (beloved) food items that I had to avoid for six months. Now that her stomach is normal and she’s outgrown the reflux we are struggling with sleep. I am up usually more than five times a night with a kid who just. won’t. self. soothe. She just doesn’t get it and I am mostly too lazy to sleep train her. Sleep training means I lose so much more sleep in the short-term and right now I can’t bear that thought. We co-sleep and we’ve mastered side-lying nursing (a genius invention) and while my sleep is very broken I seem to function fine most days even without a nap. We are making it work.

Being a parent has its obvious ups and downs but for me the ups far, far outweigh the downs. Being a mom has allowed me to grow and change in ways that I never thought possible. Every day I get to wake up and hang out with the coolest person I know. I get to be there as she grows and learns and with every forward step she helps me grow and learn, too. I look on while my husband sings to our daughter or volunteers to change a poopy diaper and I love him even more now that he’s her dad (he’s such a good dad). 

I guess what I’m saying is that as far as jobs go it’s not perfect but it’s pretty damn close.

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Nora

Well, she’s here!

ImageNora Brooke was born on September 9 at 10:16PM. She weighed 9 pounds 10 ounces and was 21 1/2 inches long. We are, obviously, in love

If you’re wondering whether I was induced, the answer is yes. By my 40 week appointment there was still no real change in my cervix and I wasn’t having contractions regularly despite trying EVERYTHING in my power (and I do mean even some unsavory, but safe, measures) to get things started. At this point it was time to have a serious discussion with our doctor about induction and the risks if we decided to wait (I’d been leaning toward waiting another week going into this appointment). After listening to the facts and possibilities it was clear to us that it was probably time to get her out, much as I’d wanted to go into labor naturally and try for an all-natural delivery (HA! Oh, I was so naive). Even though induction meant an increased risk in c-section based on the statistics, we knew that large babies run in both our families (Zack was over 10lbs. at birth and I have several siblings who were over 10lbs, one was over 11lbs.!) we knew that her size could mean a c-section if she was in there getting too big. We were also not very comfortable with the idea that my placenta could deteriorate as time passed, as well as her umbilical cord.

ImageI was admitted to the hospital on the evening of September 8 and the plan was to spend the night receiving some cervical ripening medication so that my body would hopefully be more amenable to the induction process that would begin the next morning with the administration of Pitocin. I was still resistant to the idea of receiving Pitocin and hoped I could walk myself into labor after my cervix was more ready. At 3:20 in the morning, after two doses of the cervical meds, I rolled over in bed and felt a small gush – my water had broken! I quickly woke Zack to call for the nurse (he says I was kind of frantic and maybe I was, but I felt excited and not too scared). I was so glad my water had broken on its own – one less intervention I’d need to receive in this process.

After my water broke my contractions started coming FAST – they were less than two minutes apart, but I was only 2cm dilated and they were still light enough that I could talk easily through the discomfort. It seems when my water broke it released natural prostaglandins, which is what I’d been receiving through the medication for a couple of hours by that time. My body was overloaded with hormones telling my cervix to hurry up and get going, which was what caused my contractions to come faster than the ideal two or more minutes apart at that stage of dilation. A couple hours later the baby’s heart rate began to dip. They first gave me IV fluids to try to flush some of the hormones from my system and, when that didn’t work, I was given more medication to slow my contractions to protect the baby and allow me to rest. I’d been hoping to avoid Pitocin and thus avoid having an IV (I have a severe needle phobia!) but sadly that was not to be.

ImageAround 8:30 in the morning, after a little more sleep for Zack and I, I was allowed to order breakfast and take a glorious, glorious shower. My God, the birthing process is full of leaking fluids and gross smells – that’s something they don’t tell you in the books. I felt so much better after a shower! After breakfast our nurse agreed to let me walk for 45 minutes to try and get my contractions to start up again on their own before the dreaded Pitocin. Remember, because my water had already broken we had a bit of a clock running due to the heightened risk of infection for the baby and I. In addition to that, they don’t like to have you off the baby monitor for too long during an induction because they are giving you medications that affect the baby and they need to keep tabs on what’s going on in there (I was unhooked for my Maternity Ward stroll). I found the constant monitoring to be very annoying – try getting up to pee every 15-45 minutes and needing a parade of people to help hold the wires and tubes out of your way. I must have apologized to our nurse at least eleventy billion times for calling her back AGAIN to help me go pee AGAIN. She was very nice about the whole thing and I felt less bad when she told me that I was her only patient.

The walking felt nice but it didn’t work. Around 11:00 we began the Pitocin drip.

ImageMy memory starts to get a little fuzzier at this point in the story. After we started the Pitocin I tried to rest and enjoy our visitors (our parents and siblings came to the hospital intermittently until it was GO TIME!, then they hovered in anticipation of her arrival). I very graciously allowed Zack to have the Vikings game on as background noise despite the fact that he brought fucking stinky-ass Cool Ranch Doritos into my presence during labor. (I made him brush his teeth after that one). Over a couple hours the ramped up the Pitocin a couple times and contractions started to really HURT around 1:30-2pm.

In our birth plan, the plan we wrote blissfully unaware that I’d end up needing to be induced and on Pitocin, I’d asked that I not be offered pain medication. If I decided to get an epidural that was fine but I wanted to hold out as long as possible and I knew I’d cave at the first offering. After hearing some horror stories about how long it can take to receive an epidural after asking for it, we amended our request to include that the hospital staff let us know if they knew the anesthesiologist would be unavailable and at 2:15 they told us he would be entering a surgery at 3:00 and unavailable for an indeterminate amount of time. By that time my Pitocin had been upped three times and I was in a lot of pain. My contractions were coming pretty fast, too, and I was dilated to about 3 1/2cm. Zack and I asked for a moment alone to discuss our options and I admitted that I felt like it was time for the epidural. I was worried about how much pain I was in relative to how dilated I was and I knew that we could have hours and hours of labor ahead, not to mention the pushing, which often takes hours for first time moms. Zack agreed that it seemed like a good idea for me to do whatever it took to get some rest and conserve energy, so we requested the epidural.

ImageYou guys, I do not know how women do this without an epidural. My experience was very positive. The administration didn’t hurt at all and I felt almost immediate relief from the pain. I wasn’t totally immobile as I’d expected to be; I could wiggle my toes and flip myself from side to side, though I was no longer allowed out of bed. I was able to sleep and enjoy visiting with our family and the happy anticipation that comes with knowing you’re about to meet your baby after so many months of waiting and hoping.

Eventually our family went home to let me rest some more. Around 6:30 I was checked and the nurse declared me dilated to a 7 1/2! We’d expected it to take hours and hours but it seemed that my body, once I stopped subconsciously fighting the contractions, wanted to kick the party into gear! The nurse advised us to call our families back if they wanted to see me before delivery so everyone hurried back to the hospital (good thing we live five minutes away and everyone was close!). By the time they arrived I was in VERY intense pain again; the pressure of the baby’s head dropping was worse than my worst contractions before the epidural. I was crying and writhing and feeling pretty panicked that I was in so much pain and I’d already received the epidural – what else could they do for me?! I was convinced the answer was nothing. When the doctor came in to check on me and found me in such distress she immediately called the anesthesiologist back. He asked me some questions about where I was feeling the pressure exactly and how bad my pain was, then he administered some medication into my catheter (no needle prick necessary!) I got some relief and Nora was almost named Travis after that lovely man.

ImageI slept a bit more after my surge of numbing medication. My legs were dead at this point, which was the oddest sensation. A little while later, around 8:30 maybe, the doctor came in, checked me, and proclaimed me dilated to 9 1/2 and almost 100% effaced, save for a small “lip” of cervix. She had me push a few times while she moved my cervix, then said I was fully dilated and effaced, but she wanted me to “labor down” for about 45 minutes. This is where the mother basically hangs out and lets the contractions continue to move the baby down without pushing, which conserves her energy and allows for a shorter, easier time pushing. I spent that time excitedly talking with our family and in total awe that we were finally about to meet our daughter.

ImageAround 9:30 the nurse arrived and it was time to say good-bye to our family. Our room had been transformed into a little mini-nursery for the baby and my bed was now a delivery table with stirrups. Zack and our nurse put my legs in the stirrups because they were still pretty numb. I was feeling a little sleepy despite my excitement and I knew I needed to get this over with before I lost all my energy – it had been a long, emotional day.

After 36 minutes of pushing Nora was born! Her shoulder got stuck for a minute on the way out but the doctor was able to free it without incident and it didn’t cause any lasting problems. I had some 2nd degree tearing and needed stitches but for a 9lb. 10oz. baby that seems pretty reasonable – I was happy to have not needed an episiotomy. Once the medical staff finished their business we enjoyed a little time alone with our new daughter before we invited family into the room to meet her.

ImageShe’s amazing, you guys. I can’t wait to tell you more about her.

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