Now that Nate is practicing standing up and “walking” while holding on to furniture, it has become an everyday battle to keep our stainless appliances and balcony door free of fingerprints and stickiness. Some days, however, I get emotional and teary-eyed at the sight of little handprints a couple feet off the ground. I almost don’t want to clean them off on days like that. It won’t be like this forever and I want to remember what this is like. We have a baby in the house.
We’ve hit several major milestones lately. Consequently the entire month of July was as challenging as it was exciting.
July 1st, Nate had one of his top teeth break through. Three more weren’t very far behind, and came in with quite a bang. Nate has been cranky, frustrated, in pain and not napping very well. Right around the same time, he started experiencing some serious separation anxiety. Figuring out how to army crawl and move into a sitting position on his own were the two fabulous cherries on top.
All of this took quite the toll on Nate’s sleeping abilities, both getting to and staying asleep. His days have been very touch and go as well. Mommy walking away from him results in total devastation. A few weeks back, he would dramatically and slowly army crawl in my direction while crying at the top of his lungs. He would then stop in his tracks in complete and utter defeat and plant his face into the hardwood, sobbing until I came to rescue him. He’d be happy as a clam playing as long as I was within a foot radius of him. Any farther would turn him into a sobbing, screeching mess.
Things got considerably easier during the last week of July. He was back to giving me longer stretches of sleep at night (10 pm – 3 am) and was back to taking hour and a half and sometimes (gasp!) two hour naps. He even went back to being able to fall asleep with just a back rub/patting and the help of his favorite bedtime puppy.
Then this week hit and it was like having a newborn in the house again. He was cranky and clingy all day. He would fight every nap and on the worst night a couple nights ago, teething tablets wouldn’t even keep him from waking up every hour to hour and a half, crying and uncomfortable. Yesterday we finally caught a break and he took 2 four hour naps during the day and slept from 7:30 – 10, woke up when I came into bed and nursed a bit, slept from 10 – 3 am again (bless his little heart!) and then did his usual light sleep until 6:45 or so. I feel like a new woman today.
We’ve been working on trying to get Nate to drink from a sippy cup. Or any container that is not attached to my body, for that matter. Our “time alone as a couple” options are quite limited if I have to be present for his big feedings. He’s been doing pretty well with BLW lately but teething definitely took a toll on his interest in solids. His grasp is becoming more refined, so he is able to pick up smaller pieces of food. Now, what has become more of an issue is his habit of wanting to shove as much food in his mouth as he can and then not being able to swallow any of it. I have to let him work with one or two pieces at a time and once he’s done, I can give him more.
Steve and will be going on a trip to the Bahamas in February, so hopefully by that time he’ll have the solids and drinking out of a cup skills down pat by that time. (At nearly 15 months, I should hope so!)
We’ve been really trying to focus on giving me more “ME” time lately as well. Steve has been taking Nate out for day outings; shopping, going for walks, going out for lunch, etc. while I take time out for myself to go to yoga classes, cook, clean, (yes, I find that enjoyable when I don’t have a baby tugging at my skirt to pick him up!) read, take long showers … basically whatever I feel like. I can’t believe how much I took those things for granted before I had him. Such is life.
I also joined an online book club and am currently reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed at the moment . That is one thing I am getting out of Nate’s extreme clinginess as of late. I spend a lot of time lying in bed with him and comforting him/nursing him and this is the perfect time for me to break out my Nook and read. It’s a fantastic way to unwind in the middle of sometimes hectic and frustrating days.
I can’t believe he will be 9 months old in a week and a half. I seriously have no idea where the time has gone. Thinking of planning a birthday party for him is making me queasy and anxious as well as excited.
Dear Past Self,
It gets better. You are not incompetent. You are a new mom. No one could possibly have prepared you for the hellacious learning curve that comes after spending 30 years of your life with zero dependents and then being forcefully thrust into having a little person who is 100% dependent on you come into your life, literally overnight. You will need help and that is okay. You’ve spent the majority of your life turning down help because you thought people would think less of you if you couldn’t do everything on your own. You were wrong then and boy are you ever wrong now. The saying “it takes a village” didn’t just materialize without proper cause.
Get out of the house. If you think you are bummed now, you won’t be any better off after 4 weeks of not going anywhere. However, you may take baby steps (haha) if necessary. Going downstairs to get the mail is a good start. Getting the baby in the car seat and down to the car is another good step. Even if you don’t go anywhere. The beauty of it is that the moment you start to panic, you can always turn around and go back home. Even if that moment of panic occurs in the elevator. As soon as the door closes. Before you can even push the button. That’s totally okay. You are not fat, shapeless or ugly. You grew a human being and are nourishing him with your body. You have battle scars to prove it. Own it. This too shall pass. Seriously. Print it out (along with any other positive messages you can think of) multiple times in large font and bright colors and post it in every room of the house. It will help. Find people who understand what you are going through and lean on them. Somehow your individual insanity turns completely normal when you realize you are not going through this alone. Listen to your husband when he tells you that you are an amazing woman and that you are a wonderful mother. Now make sure that you believe it.
Dear Present Self,
You’ve spent the better part of your life waiting until … fill in the blank. You couldn’t wait to be a teenager. To drive. To drink. To have your first full time job. To finally finish that damn degree. To have X amount of dollars saved up. For that boyfriend of yours to just propose already. For your wedding day to get here. For your TTC journey to start. For that pregnancy test to show up positive. For all the milestones in pregnancy. For labor. For the baby to start sleeping through the night, sitting up, crawling, talking …
Hold your damn horses now. Because if there is anything you do NOT want to rush, it’s the precious miracle that is watching a human being grow up right before your eyes. Look at his newborn picture and look at him asleep in his crib today. That was just six short months. They may seem like a blur, but dammit, you need to take a deep breath and soak up every second of him. Not what he will be, what he is like right at this very moment. The softness of his silky hair. The sweetness of his milk breath. How impossibly yummy he smells and soft his skin feels right after a bath. The way his tiny fingers curl around yours so tightly, as if he were holding on for dear life. His little voice, learning new sounds and tones every day; even those screeches are beautiful. Those cute little half teeth poking through his gum. They may be small, but they are razor-sharp. The way every little thing you do is funny and wildly entertaining for him. The little squeaks he makes when he’s dreaming. The gut wrenching sobs and cries that are easily quieted by a tight hug and a “shh” in his ear. The way his body melts into yours when you hold him close; it says that he trusts you and loves you completely, and there is no place in the world that would feel safer and more comfortable. The middle of the night nursing and rocking to sleep when even though you would love to be sleeping, nothing and no one can quite touch the sacredness of these moments alone with your son. Relish these moments and memorize them for future reference. Forget the moments you are ready to tear your hair out and feel like you will never be your former self again. Partly because you are right, you never will be that self again. Your life has changed forever, for the better of course. But mostly because if you don’t forget all the hopeless and desperate moments, how else are you going to convince yourself to do this all over again? (and maybe once more after that?) Look back at where you and your baby are now and see that it is proof that you are an amazing woman and a wonderful mother.
Dear Future Self,
Relish in the fact that if you have been blessed with another (and perhaps one more after that?) miracle of life, you are now SO much wiser this time around. But please, don’t forget to read the other two notes. It’s so easy to forget the little things when they are the most important of all. And I shouldn’t have to remind you of this, but you are an amazing woman and a wonderful mother.
As if having one tooth emerge and the second hot on its trails wasn’t enough excitement for one week, we accidentally jumped the gun on baby led weaning last Wednesday. It really started as an attempt on my part to soothe Nate’s teething discomfort. I bought a cucumber to stick in the fridge, slice up and give to him for gnawing purposes. I started one day with round slices, and he immediately knew what to do with them. They went straight in his mouth and he made all sorts of amazing faces as he gnawed on them. The next evening, I was out to dinner with a friend and he was getting a bit fussy while I was trying to eat, reaching frantically for my food. I asked the waitress for cucumbers and she brought a couple out, but these were cut lengthwise, resembling a steak fry. I noticed they were much easier for Nate to handle and he was absolutely delighted. The third day of trying cucumbers, I must have cut one end a bit thin. Nate easily bit off a small piece and made a fantastic face as he moved it back into his mouth, “munched on it” for a little bit, and then swallowed. I watched, slightly in horror, and panicked when he coughed/gagged a little as if he was choking. I remembered that this is normal for beginners at swallowing and he recovered very quickly and went back to gnawing on his cucumber!
Our next experiment was with zucchini. I was making a zucchini risotto bake, and while I was not ready to necessarily have him start experimenting with garlicky risotto, I thought popping a couple of strips of zucchini in the oven for a few minutes would be a good time for him. Not so much. The result was a far too mushy veggie for him to hold onto, and he quickly grew very frustrated with his inability to hold onto it. We’ll try uncooked or at least not so cooked zucchini next.
Yesterday, after a fun time at the park, I sliced up part of a banana into little fingers and had him try them out. While these were slightly easier to hold onto than the cooked zucchini and he seemed to like the flavor and texture, he quickly became very frustrated with not being able to hold onto them well. A note about Nate’s disposition these days. He has calmed down considerably and is a super cheerful, smiley and happy baby. Hunger, wet diapers, sleepiness and teething are obvious exceptions. But something like dropping a toy over the edge of his activity seat has never upset him in the slightest. The level of frustration and irritation at dropping his food, however, is absolutely astounding. Each time he has dropped a piece of food since our first cucumber experience, he instantly screeches and starts to cry. I quickly pick up the piece and dust it off (what, 5 second rule!) or offer him a new piece, and he calms down. He obviously takes after me … do not mess with our food.
In the evening we made fajitas for dinner, and the obvious winning food experiment was avocado. I had been extremely excited about these because I absolutely loooove avocados. He did so unbelievably well with the first piece. He chomped off a piece of it, “chewed” on it, spat out some of it and swallowed a little bit. Then, I think in his excitement, he squished every subsequent piece into smaller pieces and made an unbelievable mess. It was absolutely amazing. His entire onesie, legs, arms and seat were all completely covered in avocado. I want to call the whole experience a total success. He made a mess, successfully got some avocado in his mouth, and all in all (except for the times he dropped his sticky avocado pieces on the floor) was just thrilled. Steve was decidedly not thrilled that he was on clean up duty as the super seat has too many nooks and crannies that food can creep into. We will have to figure out a way to prop him up a little better in his high chair because the tray seems to be a bit high for his liking. We’ll figure it out.
I’m most excited about the fact that aside from Nate absolutely loving playing with, gnawing on and kind of eating solids, he has ZERO interest in being fed. I thought I’d help him out by holding pieces of food to his mouth, and he would look at me as though I was crazy and why on earth are you trying to put stuff in my mouth? He either turned his head away in disinterest or took the food out of my hands and then put it in his mouth. He is very adamant about feeding himself. I’m tickled to pieces.
Solids, you have a new fan!
Yesterday morning we woke up and went through our usual routine. Steve took Nate to the potty and then to his play mat while I threw together my spinach/zucchini/egg scramble breakfast and wolfed it down as quickly as I could to be ready for the inevitable “I’m hungry and also ready for my first nap so please stop everything you’re doing Mommy” breakdown Nate brings on approximately one hour into his day. I nursed him and napped with him since I am feeling a little under the weather his week, and I expected him to be his usual happy post-nap self after he awoke. A fresh diaper, full tummy and good nap later, he suddenly got extremely fussy and clingy. I thought perhaps he was still hungry, so I took him back to bed and tried to nurse him again. He latched on for about 30 seconds and continued his fit. I finally tried letting him gnaw on my finger to see if it would calm him down (which has been a staple of my calming routine during this teething phase) and I felt a little ridge I had not felt before on his gum. This was different from the few bumps and slight swelling I had felt before. I brought him into the living room to get some natural light on him and sure enough, there it was. A tiny white nub of a tooth protruding from his little red gums. It must have just started breaking through skin because he was extremely sensitive and cried when I tried to get a closer look.
I joined him in his little cry fest because for some reason this milestone hit harder than some of the other ones he’s reached. I will never see him smile another completely toothless grin again. Seems so silly, but it’s the first time I’ve been cognizant of his growing up and moving farther away every day from the helpless floppy tiny baby he was when he joined us nearly 6 months ago.
Some other fun developments in Nate’s world as of late:
- He is pooping and peeing in his own potty now! We’ve graduated from the tub. I think it was too large for him before and a little scary. Steve has been so unbelievably patient and good with him, waiting upwards of 20 minutes for a good morning poop. Of course, other days, like this morning, it was more of an instant gratification. He must have had everything lined up for Daddy! I’m loving our Pourty potty, which while not as small and potentially comfortable as the Baby Bjorn Little Pottymight have been (I could not see spending $50 on something he would really only need for a few more weeks until he gets better at sitting up) has worked just fine. The best part is how easy it is to clean. It has a little handle and a pouring spout on the back end that makes it impossible for even the clumsiest (that’s me) of parents to spill while cleaning.
- Nate has started sitting up! Well, not entirely on his own, but he is making great progress. He tips to one side or the other but can really hold his own leaning forward and picking himself back up again. He’s also making some crawl-ish movements where I can tell he’s figured out that pushing off on his legs/knees will propel him forward, but he needs to build the upper arm strength to help with that. He has started treating our bodies like jungle gyms, climbing, lunging forward from, etc. I absolutely love it.
- For a while, I was trying so hard to get Nate to nurse that I would literally offer him a boob at all times of the day like my life depended on it. Before naps, after naps, during play time, etc. I think I did it so much that it started to annoy him because after a while if I offered him a boob when he wasn’t hungry, he would start howling angrily as if I’d pinched him. One day I noticed that while trying to get into our usual nursing position, I went to nuzzle him and as I did, he started nuzzling and rooting for the tip of my chin as if it were a breast. I caught on and instead of trying to offer him a boob, I offered him a chin. If he was hungry, he’d try to latch onto my chin and I’d know it was a “go”. In the past week, he’s started to actively seek out my chin/cheek to “ask” for food. I’ll take it! It’s so sweet because I can very vividly remember the sting of feeling (incorrectly, of course) that he was rejecting me every time I tried to feed him. We’ve definitely come a long way from those frustrating days.
On the topic of eating, I am excited about our next foray into the baby unknown: solids. I’ve put them off for this long because a) I have plenty of milk to go around, so there really was no need to try to fill him up on rice cereal, and b) I have read enough to convince me that his body was not ready for nor did it need solids. I can’t wait to see his face when he starts bringing real food to his mouth! He’s been watching us so intently for weeks and moves his mouth in little chewing motions as he looks on. Now to figure out which food to offer him first …
My little man is four months old today. I still can’t wrap my head around making it past the first week as a parent and here we are at four months. The past month has been an amazing journey in and of itself. I resigned from my job and became (for the time being) a stay at home mom. I struggled with that decision, but staying with Nate was the option that made me feel most comfortable and least anxious. The fact that we saved up and are financially sound enough for me to do this at the moment is something I decided I cannot take for granted and should take advantage of.
I finally emerged from my funk and a few things have helped tremendously. First of all, I have been working on defining (for myself) my own parenting style. Reading about many different approaches, and listening to my heart and my gut as to whether or not I agree with any part of those various approaches has helped me define for myself the kind of parent I want to be. In general, the label I’d put on it (not that I want to put any label on it) would be attachment parenting. It is a bit mind boggling to me that this style of parenting requires a label. I feel like anything that would go against my primal mammalian instincts should be what requires a label … but I digress. I have also made great progress in accepting and adjusting to a life that is no longer primarily about me. I think the source of a lot of my anxiety and frustration was that I was expecting Nate to behave in a certain way. The books say “put your child down for naps and sleep drowsy but awake” and Nate wants nothing to do with that approach. I was thinking of things all backwards. My sweet little boy has needs at this age. They are all needs, not wants. He does not cry out for a breast, a pair of warm arms, the smell of my skin, sound of my heart beating or the sound of my voice because he is feeling bratty or difficult. He is not trying to manipulate me or creating bad habits, as many books have suggested. He’s a little mammal with needs and instincts and I am his mother with those same characteristics. This realization on all aspects of our relationship has helped tremendously in making me understand that Nate is a little boy who I have to get to know.
I read a quote somewhere that goes something like “If a baby is crying, figure out what is wrong with the mother.” Effing brilliant. It was when I started thinking this way that I felt free from the anxiety and frustration plaguing me. Every day is an adventure in trying to learn my son. What does every little cry, whimper and body squirm mean? If I could start all over and approach parenthood in this manner from day 1, I would. But the best I can do at this point is make sure I stay on track now.
Reading Mayim Bialik’s “Beyond the Sling” empowered me to be confident in my choices and realize that I should not feel ashamed of my views on parenting. I am not alone in feeling the way I do. Her scientific method approach also appealed to the biology nerd in me and helped cement in my mind the ideas I’ve had about how our bodies are built to be babies and parents in harmony with each other. While I did not agree 100% with everything she had to say, one thing that I finally built up the courage to try was Elimination Communication, or EC. I have been reading “Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene” by Ingrid Bauer and it is absolutely fascinating (and available on BN as a Nook book, which I can also access on my Droid. Bonus!). It was something I had wanted to try but I think I had built it up to be far more difficult than it actually is. I’m still reading the book and Nate’s potty should be arriving in the mail today, but we have been practicing it all week. I am utterly amazed. Since Monday, I’ve caught (as in, he pooped in his designated spot and not in his diaper) his first morning pee every. single. day. I caught his morning poop every day except today. It has also blown my mind how dry his diaper actually stays just by timing things right. I “pee” him every time he wakes up from a nap or after I’ve been holding him for a while. More often than not, he has a long pee lined up and then his diaper stays dry until the next round! I managed to use the same diaper (bone dry, of course) from 2:30 am until noon, and it was only because I sat him down and was not looking at him when he went. The amazing part is I just knew instinctively that I would find a poopy diaper when I checked it, and lo and behold, there it was.
I don’t want to make this post entirely about EC. Really, the point is I am just astounded every single day by my son. The more changes and fine tuning I make to my parenting approach, the more I feel like I am really getting to know my son on an entirely new and unbelievably personal level. I’m sure it’s no coincidence, but even our breastfeeding relationship has been stellar. I rarely need to pump or use bottles anymore. Four months have gone by in the blink of an eye, but I am certainly well aware of how eternal the difficult times have seemed when they were happening. I am beyond excited about how much we will learn about each other in the months to come.
I read several articles and books on how to teach your child to be independent. Some said to put your baby in the crib from day one because you should start that as soon as possible. Many parents I’ve talked to felt they could not sleep with their baby in the room and therefore put them in their crib right away. One thing I have learned from being a mother so far is that you have to trust your instincts. What is right for one is not necessarily right for the other. The first nights after we brought Nate home were terrible for me and I could not properly identify why other than the obvious sleep deprivation and general shock of being thrust into the world of parenting literally overnight. In the hospital while Nate was in the bassinette I felt nervous and anxious watching him all alone. I felt like it was so wrong that I wasn’t holding him. We tried the crib the first night home and I did not sleep at all.
We moved him into a cradle next to my bedside and this did satisfy my need for closeness for a week or two, but I still felt so much anxiety. I barely slept. I spent the wee hours of the night dodging infomercials and knew exactly what time certain channels switched from regular programming, jumping to the next. (NBC is an infomercial-free zone, by the way, and has news on as early as 4 am.) Finally, after a few middle of the night breastfeeding sessions I accidentally fell asleep during and woke up to a clearly healthy, breathing and not smothered or fallen victim to SIDS baby, a light went off in my head. Bedsharing was the answer for me. I felt very guilty at first like I was doing something wrong. When people asked how I was sleeping, I sheepishly tiptoed around the fact that “Nate sleeps next to me” meant quite literally, next to me on the bed and not next to me in a bassinette.
When Nate was about a month old I enlisted the help of a lactation consultant to help with what turned out to be an overactive letdown/oversupply issue (which by the way is still an issue today). She asked about my sleeping and night nursing habits and I admitted that sometimes I may or may not let him sleep in the bed with me. To my surprise she seemed very excited that it was the choice I had made and told me she coslept with her children. I breathed a sigh of relief. She gave me this link to safe cosleeping guidelines, which pretty much summed up everything I was already doing. Even the position I naturally assumed, snuggling up to Nate with my arm outstretched above his head and legs drawn up below his feet, was what was suggested. I truly believe there is just a natural and evolutionary desire and inherent knowledge on how to safely sleep with your little one. It is a protective position that reminds me of any animal you’d see on a documentary protecting its young. I imagine for thousands of years humans slept with and guarded their young in this way.
While I know SIDS is a very serious issue, I am slightly perturbed at how much it is sensationalized in every new mom book/package I received from the hospital. Even in the hospital room I was so frightened by all of these warnings that I constantly stared at Nate in the bassinette terrified that he had suddenly stopped breathing because his receiving blanket was too tight, too warm, too much in his face, etc. Even though the primary SIDS risk were mostly common sense, something about these pamphlets kept making me feel like no matter what I did to protect my baby he would almost certainly stop breathing in the middle of the night and there was nothing I could do about it. Okay, so maybe some postpartum hormones and stress had something to do with that irrational interpretation, but still it was quite frightening for a first time mom.
I won’t lie, I do feel a lot more comfortable sleeping with Nate as he gets bigger and more “sturdy”. It’s purely a mind trick I’m sure, because obviously whether he is 7 lbs or 17 lbs, rolling over on him would hurt him. But logistically I don’t understand how I would be able to roll forward on him in the position we sleep in. I would have to “run over” my arm and onto my usually full breasts (I struggle to even lie on my side without tilting slightly toward my back to take pressure off of them) before I could even get to a point where I would be able to hurt him.
The benefits of bedsharing have far outweighed any nervousness I may have had initially. Nate struggles with napping during the day and as frustrating as that is, I will gladly take that issue over a night sleeping issue. From the time he was born, he never fully wakes at night. Being next to him, I always hear his first hunger whimpers no matter what point in my sleep cycle I’m in, and I am able to either offer him a breast or warm up a bottle of breastmilk and get it to him before he ever cries or wakes up. For weeks, regardless of what is going on with him developmentally, he consistently sleeps until 7:15 or 7:30 every morning. It’s amazing how well he sticks to this schedule. For me, that is priceless. My husband and I both sleep better and so does Nate.
The couple of times I have attempted to transfer him to crib sleeping, it did not end well for anyone. And it makes complete sense to me why that is. The first three months of a baby’s life have been referred to as the “fourth trimester”. An extension of the world of pregnancy where mother and baby are one. To me it felt completely unnatural and shocking to create too harsh of a separation between us. Each night Nate is the last thing I see. Any time I wake up I can hear the soft ins and outs of his breathing and it is music to my ears. In the early morning after my first pump of the day, I drift off for my last short stretch of sleep before he wakes up to his soft sighs, mms ahhs and squeals. I can smell the intoxicating sweetness of his hair and skin. I can’t even describe the comfort and happiness I feel the times he’s hungrily scooted toward my chest and buried his face in my breast. He’s all about subtlety.
Bedsharing is the right choice for us. The people we talk to will have their opinions and will agree or disagree, but in the end this is what feels right for us. I’ve read that the cosleeping arrangement can go on as long as all parties involved are okay with it. As long as all three of us sleep better at night with this arrangement, I can’t possibly argue with it.