Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Shoes and a Kiss

Apparently Jack says "Mommy" whenever he sees things that are mine - like shoes, or a sweater. This alternately warms my heart and makes me feel guilty, too!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Happy 16 Month Day

Dear Jack,

You are 16 months old, and goodness, I am a guilty mama: it's been a long time since I last posted about you. So much has happened. See, Jack, it's been a pretty busy time for our family. We live in Arizona, now! Your dad is home with you during the day while I go to work. It is also new and different, but I think it is good.

Moving was a difficult time for you. I didn't really appreciate how difficult everything was until after it was over, and you turned back into your old self. During that month while we were packing and traveling, you were very upset. Everything around you was changing every single day. You wouldn't let your dad or I go far. You wouldn't let anybody else hold you. Now, I think I understand a little more how scary it was... every day brought something different. Once we got into our new house and settled down to a routine, things got much better.

You were so happy with the new house! Seriously, Jack, I had no idea that a living space could make such a big difference in our day to day life. It is a big house. There is so much room for you to run around. I can be in the kitchen, and you can be with me, or you can be playing in an open area. There is a long hallway that you like to run up and down. There is a big bathroom and you can take real baths in a big bathtub. There is a long counter that you can sit on and brush your teeth. It is all safe for you. We can let you play and not worry that you'll get into something dangerous. I never appreciated how much space would mean to you, and, by extension, us.

Here's the other neat thing about the new house. It has a great backyard. There's a patio that is covered and shaded all day long. It is all fenced in, from front to back. We can be inside and let you play outside, because we can see you right through the big sliding door. You just love this patio. It only took you a day or two to learn your new favorite word: "Ow-tide! Ow-tide! Ow-tide!". You like to stand by the patio door and yell that. Then you say "Tease! Tease! Tease!" ("Please") and try to pry your little fingers in the slider to open it yourself. You love the word "Outside" so much that you use it anytime you think something needs to changed. If you are outside and want inside, you say "Ow-tide!". If you are on the patio and want into the garage, you say "Ow-tide!". You are always so determined and extreme about your requests. Even at your young age, you take life very seriously. (This should not surprise anyone who knows your parents). You are very good at saying "Tease" ("Please"), but I'm not sure you understand "Thank You", yet.

You really like your "Tur-dull" ("Turtle"). First, we filled it with water. You had SO MUCH FUN. I can't get over how much fun you had. Then... well, then... you slipped on the concrete and hit your head, and we're a little sensitive about head injuries over here. So we emptied the Tur-dull and filled it with sand. You still love it. You get sand everywhere. You put all of your toys in it. When we cover it up, you point and yell "Tur-dull! Tur-dull! Tease! Teeeeaaase!!" until we open it so you can play.

You love to play. We started playing hide and seek. This really requires the help of two adults (one to hide, and the other to hold you until they finish counting). But you figured it out pretty quickly, and you have fun trying to find us. You love to run. You love to THROW and THROW and THROW. You love dancing. We dance as a family. You love to try to jump. I haven't seen you get your feet off the ground yet, but you try really hard. You say "Yump! Yump!".

You don't seem to like stacking, puzzles, or anything else that takes fine motor coordination. What you do like is throwing, kicking, and catching, and boy, are you good at that. You just love throwing balls across the room. You get so excited when you see any kind of sport on TV or in a book: "Throw! Throw! Catch! Throw!", and you make the motions as you say it.

Speaking of books, that's your other obsession. You love books. Your love for books exhausts us. We probably read 20 books a day, at least, and that's only because your parents can't handle any more than that (sorry! we're trying!). Once we get halfway through one book, you're onto the next, and it is with frantic gesturing and yelling of "Booh! Booh! Booh!" ("Book") that we fetch you another. Here are some of your favorite books: Baby Day, Goodnight Gorilla, Goodnight Moon, Pat the Bunny, Down by the Station, Words, I am a Bunny, and Baby Rhymes for Baby Times. Those are just a few. You don't like hearing the stories, even when they rhyme - you like us to ask you questions and have you find things in the pictures. You get excited when you see something you recognize, especially animals, and you always make the right sound for the animal. You are especially fascinated by baby faces, and you know where to look to find the little baby faces on the back of your favorite books ("Bee-bee!", i.e., "Baby"). We stack your books in two places: in the living room, and by your crib. By the end of the day, they are scattered everywhere.

So, it should be obvious at this point... you are talking... a lot! We just can't believe how much you love words. You try so hard to repeat what we say, and we are frequently surprised by how quickly you figure out how to say things. The other night, I decided to teach you how to say "Bow-Tie" (from the Cat in the Hat), and you had it down in just a few minutes. I feel a little funny putting this list on the web, but, well, I want to remember what you are saying, and this blog is where I put the details that I really want to remember. Here are the words you say regularly:

Uh-oh, mamma, daddy, doggie, banana (nana), all done (ah-nya), night night, light, fan (the spinning sound, wooh-wooh), up, down, sky, airplane (also ah-nya), helicopter (copter), stars, moon, outside, hot, cold, warm, cracker (cah-cah), hummus, cheese, pasta, eggs, toast, popsicle (pa-doe), blueberries (boo-buh), melon (muh), mango, apple, kiwi (maybe one of my favorite words that you say, more like ku-wee), peas, yogurt (go-go), yummy (nummy), water (wah-wah), juice, milk (nay-nee), slide (wee!), poopie, butt, diaper (dye), nice, hi, bye, more, yes, no, please (tease), one, many animal sounds (moo, neigh, tweet tweet, oink, hoot, oooh ooh aah aah (a monkey), a gorilla sound, ribbit like a frog, meow, woof, baaaa, an elephant sound, a fishie face, quack), turtle (tur-dull), mouse (mowe), cat, bee, birdie, giraffe (girr), owl (oh), Tori (Dori), leash (doggeesh), go, dizzy, run, jump (yump), ball, throw, catch, hoop, shoes, pillow, couch, puppy (this refers to your puppy-chair), Mamoun (it's a falafel place - your dad has a shirt), baby (bee-bee), boat, bus, car, truck, bike, owie, watch (same word for clocks), baba, bow tie (dow bie... we're working on it), doorbell, head, hair, nose (no), eyes, ears, mouth, teeth (teef), toothbrush (teef), toes, balloon (ba-ooh), fire (wire), hat, Ergo (the carrier!), keys, bite (bye...as in, to take a bite out of what I am eating), bath, and coffee (a crack up: you obviously learned this one by observation. One day, when I started grinding the beans for your dad's cup, you spoke up).

Maybe I shouldn't admit this, but... when your dad has a bottle of beer? You say beer. But you also say "Daddy Juice". We find this hysterical, of course.

Those are the ones I can think of right now! You just love, love, love words. It will probably be the thing I remember most about you at this age.

You and your dad have a lot of fun together. You are a busy little guy, with lots to do during the day, and your dad is simply amazing. He spends all day with you and he is always patient, and fun, and involved. You guys play and read books, torture Tori, and eat healthy food. He takes you out somewhere almost every day: to the park, the library, or the grocery store. He makes sure you get a good nap. He sends me pictures and videos of you during the day, and he fills our evenings with stories of your adventures.

I love you, Jack. It is likely that you will not remember these early years. I will remember them for you. This letter is getting long, but I will write more later. There is still so much to say.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Happy 1 Year Birthday!

[tap, tap]. Is this thing on?

That's right. I have a blog. About my son Jack. And he turned one! And I wrote all about it... a while ago... during this time when the whole HolySh!tITookAFacultyJob thing happened, and I, well, sort of forgot about everything except for publishing manuscripts and packing up our life up for this tremendous, life-altering move cross-country.

More on that later. I promise.

For now, again sans pictures (but coming soon...), it is time to wish Jack a happy birthday.

Dear Jack,

I always knew I needed to be your mother. I knew I would take care of you. I knew I would be permanently glued to your life. I imagined I might gain some happiness out of the arrangement, but I had no idea what that would be. I knew I would love you, because that's what Moms do.

Even knowing this, even knowing that motherly love was "guaranteed", knowing that biology would ensure my attachment to you... even then, you would surprise me still. See, I knew I would love you, and yet I had no idea how much I would like you.

And I do like you, Jack, I like you so very much. You are just the neatest kid around. You are one year old, and I am exceptionally proud of who you are and who you are becoming.

You are one determined, busy little guy. It all started when you were growing inside me. You would kick and kick and kick and kick. All. Day. Long. I had no idea a baby could kick so much! I felt you kicking early on - around 15 weeks - and that’s when you and I really started to become pals. That’s when I started understanding what kind of person you are. You were always stretching and moving, pushing your boundaries, testing. I could count your hands and feet as you flexed your limbs inside of me. Even then, I learned about you. Now that we’re a year into this thing called “family”, I know a little more.

More than anything else, you like new things. When you were a little tiny guy and you would get upset, all we ever had to do was pick you up and do something new. In the beginning, we could just walk into a different room, turn on a light, show you a mirror, or change your diaper. All of these things would capture your attention and cheer you up. As you got older and smarter, we had to get a little more creative. You liked going outside for walks, being carried around the house, looking at the dog, watching a ball bounce, seeing cars go by, new toys, new sounds, new flavors, new people, new games. Then we realized we had to teach you things. You would point to everything around you, as if to show us something we didn’t already see, something new about that clock that we’d already forgotten. You wanted to know the names of things and how they worked. Now, whenever you inspect something, you expect it to move or change or be interesting. You want to interact with your world, and so you expect your world to interact with you; we do our best to oblige.

One of the things you like the most is being startled. You love it when we jump out of a corner or do something unexpected (your dad is the best at this). You always react the same way: first with a little jump of your own, a surprised face, and then a huge grin that spreads from ear to ear. If we do something really surprising, you start laughing, and then all we have to do is look at you sideways to start a gigglefest. And now that you can do a few signs, you like to sign “more” and have us jump out and scare you all over again. You love being tossed around, going upside down, and exploring space with your feet as well as your hands. You are an active toddler, and we won’t be surprised if you want to play a sport one day. You are endlessly fascinated with mechanical things, like doors and knobs and drawers. Sometimes you get a little shy around new people, but once you warm up to them, you want to play with them just like you play with us.

Here are some other weird things you like. You like lemon slices and wasabi and seltzer water. You seem to find lemons interesting (and continue to chew on them long after the first, sour bite). Wasabi made you laugh the first few times we gave you some (now it seems to be old news). Giving you seltzer water is always a hoot, because you keep going back for more (in spite of your obvious confusion about the bubbles).

Your favorite food continues to be fish. If something came from the sea, you love it. You eat an adult portion every time, and it is often with a sigh of sadness that I dump half my dinner onto your plate to enjoy.

But I can’t complain about that. Seriously, Jack, you’re the best eater I could have asked for, and I am counting my lucky stars that the food thing has been easy so far. You’ll try anything, and some of your favorite foods are so healthy. You eat kale and spinach, peas, beans, whole grain pasta and bread, every kind of fruit under the sun, avacados, blueberries, almond butter, yogurt, and hummus like there’s no tomorrow.

Just as you want your world to be interesting, it seems that you want your food to be interesting, too. The more spice and flavor it has in it, the more you’ll eat. I’ve got a pretty high tolerance for heat in food. I expect certain foods to be spiced enough to make me sweat. A couple of weeks ago I made something spicier than I meant to – spicy enough to make me pause and question whether I could keep eating – but you kept asking for more until we’d finished the bowl (it was srirachi coconut tofu, by the way).

This next thing is no surprise to me. You just love music. You’ve got great rhythm (good thing, because I can’t keep a beat to save my life). Since you were little, even before you could roll over or push up onto your belly, you would kick your legs and swing your arms in time. Now you bob up and down in a little dance. Your Aunt Jen and Uncle Pete gave you a musical walker, and it is probably your favorite toy. It plays all different songs, and the more you walk, the more it plays. Sometimes you go over to it and push the buttons without walking: when the music starts going, you get really, really happy.

Here are some things you do not like: green bell peppers, blocks, and books, the blender, the vacuum and sitting in one place. I figure the bell peppers are a little bitter, but I am surprised that you don’t like blocks or books (because I like them exceedingly well). Perhaps when you are older and can build big towers or understand the story in a book, you might find these things interesting. The blender and vacuum are really loud. About the sitting – well, let’s just say that airplanes are quite a challenge.

You are stubborn, Jack. You are very determined: you know what you want and you will not relent until you get it. Sometimes it is frustrating, and sometimes it makes me proud. I can tell that no matter what you decide to do with your life, you will be determined about it.

You had some big changes this month. You started talking for real! You say… mama, dada, daddy, doggy, woof-woof, eyes, more, night-night, nae-nae (nursing), uh-oh, and the ever-memorable, “doh” (which pretty much means anything you want it to). You also started walking! You take a few steps at a time now, usually toward your dad or I when we stretch out our arms to you. I just love watching you walk. You look like a little zombie, cautiously teetering across the floor with your arms outspread.

Nearly everything about your looks and personality remind me of your dad. There is very little of myself that I recognize in you, but here are a few things. 1, you have a little chin and a round face, and that’s kind of like me. 2, you like new things, and that’s like me too. 3, you are somewhat cautious about your physical space – that is, even though you like to explore and are very determined, your attempts are always careful, and if you think you might fall, you sit down before it can happen. You and I share these things together. (Your dad was once playing kickball and took a diving jump to catch the kickball with both hands… he shattered his shoulder and has a metal plate with several screws holding his collarbone together, as a result. The fact that you’re cautious about your physical space… well, I’m glad for it!)

What reminds me of your dad? Well, nearly everything else! You are so funny. You love being tickled and teased. You are so SOCIAL. I like people a lot, but you and your dad take “gregarious” to a whole new level. You like things that move and far prefer the world of people to books and stories. You are energetic and active. You never stop moving. You are a light sleeper. You look just like your dad. You are loud and dramatic. You are fidgety and impatient at times. You are up for a joke or a laugh any time day or night. Even if you are crying, we can usually get you to smile through it all. You are just so playful and happy.

Did you know, Jack? We have some big family news. We’re moving. We’re moving across the country. We’re moving so that I can take a job. Your dad is going to stay home with you during the day We are leaving the forest for the desert. I am terrified of this move: it is a big decision. It will impact all of us, and even though you won’t really know the difference, it will probably impact you most of all. I worry about things. I worry about the political climate, about food and the environment, about skin cancer, about the city, about so many things. And then I get excited about other things. I think about how close you and your dad are going to become, about how you will get to grow up next to your grandparents and great-grandparents, about how easy it will be for us to be outside and be active. About a job that I think might just enable us to have a good family life. I can’t guarantee that we made the right decision, but I want you to know that we made it as best as we could. We will be together, and that’s all that matters.

Your dad and I love each other and you very much. Very, very much.

Happy Birthday, Jack.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

It's more challenging than I anticipated

Things that encourage the mother of an exclusively breastfed 11-month old baby to wean said baby:
  1. Frustrating ups and downs that result from pumping to volume (8 oz / day) when baby's food intake is altering milk supply by more than any acceptable margin of error
  2. That whole getting-up-every-two-hours routine (AKA, My Living Hell) returns with what feels like unending vengeance.
  3. Sharp - oh so sharp - little teeth: uppers, lowers, canines coming in, and a baby who discovered that biting is yet another form of expression
  4. Something Called Mastitis, the second time around.
  5. The department secretary goes on vacation, and the key for the room I normally pump in is thus inaccessible for a WEEK.
  6. I finally realized that these two statements are unavoidably and annoyingly inconsistent: 1. I am soooo weirded about by the thought of giving Jack another species' milk (never mind different species, we are from a different genus!). 2. I'm really glad Jack eats yogurt and Kefir! (Duh.)

What encourages the mother of an exclusively breastfed 11-month old baby to continue nursing said baby:
  1. Seeing, hearing, holding, smelling, or thinking about the baby, nearly no matter the circumstance.
  2. (AKA, hormones.)

I keep trying, but Mother Nature's a bitch!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy (Uh, Belated) 11-month Day!

Dear Jack,

Oh Jack, I wrote this on time. Really, I did. I wrote the whole post and I stayed up late to do it. But then I hadn't finished the photos and it was too late. So I decided to wait until I could add the photos... and then the month got nuts and now we're halfway to your next month-day, and... well, OK. I'm just going to have to put this post up without photos. Sorry. I'm a little OCD in the Pattern Making department, and having a month day post without photos is just unacceptable to me. This is tough. Pretend I put this post up, complete with photos, on June 18th. I'll go back in later and add the photos in, 'k?

Jack... you are 11 months old! You are becoming such a big boy. The three of us have been so busy lately. There's a lot going on these days.

First of all, you've gotten really good at standing up in these past two months. Now you are cruising around your world, holding onto things and stepping your feet where you want to go. You love to push your walker wagon. Pushing your wagon is pretty much the best thing ever (especially because the wagon holds your toys, too). In the beginning, the walker wagon was a huge challenge. You knew you wanted to stand up with the wagon, but every time you tried to stand up, the wagon would scoot away from you. Pretty soon you figure out that you had to keep your body straight (upright!), and then there was no stopping you. In the beginning, you squealed with happiness while you walked. As soon as you hit a wall, you would bounce up and down for one of us to come rescue you. Then we would turn around the wagon and you would go in the other direction. Now, you're getting so good at the walker wagon that you are starting to learn how to back it up and turn it. I love watching you walk with the wagon and wish we had a bigger space for you to play with it.

Since you stood up at 9 months, we sort of all thought you might be close to walking by now. But it seems that crawling serves your needs pretty well and you are not interested in walking on your own yet. You crawl everywhere, and you are fast, Jack. Sometimes it is a challenge for me to catch you. You really like racing towards the back door when I let Tori outside. You are a bit of a dust mop, and we have to be careful to keep the floor safe for you to play.

Now that you are so mobile, you have had tons of tiny spills and bumps. We always feel bad when you get hurt, but, truthfully, some of it is a little funny. We watch you from afar and see what happens: you make a bad face, and if you see us, it might turn into a huge meltdown. Sometimes, though, if you don't see anyone watching, you put back on a normal face and keep playing.

Things you love: crawling after us, crawling after Tori, bouncing up and down to music, spinning the spinners on the activity cube, pulling all of the books off the shelf, pulling the toys out of the bins, moving the drawers back and forth, swinging cords around, playing with the phone, pointing at things and saying "duh! dog! door!", crawling in the grass in a way that your belly doesn't get tickled, sitting in the kitchen while I make dinner, trying to eat the dog toys, getting to the water bowl before I can take it away, splashing in your play pool, eating when we eat (and what we eat), grabbing Tori's fur, cuddling with your dad and I, going for walks, watching the cars go by from the front window, playing peekaboo, growling, and making new sounds. OK, that's just some of it.

You are a great eater, Jack. You eat everything at the moment and it is so much fun. I am just waiting for you to start getting picky. You like seafood of all kinds, but right now, your favorite food is sardines. I ate so many sardines when I was pregnant - this does not surprise me. What does surprise me is that you like lemons and chili powder. Your teachers at daycare could just not stop talking about how much sweet potatoes and beans you ate after I put chili powder in it. One of the other things I ate a lot of while I was pregnant was incredibly spicy food from a restaurant called Swagat and spicy mexican cart food with extra hot sauce. During all that time, I wondered if of all of these super spicy flavors were getting to you; perhaps your interest in chili powder is some indication, but really I'm not sure.

You've been traveling a lot. You and I flew to Phoenix for a week, and then your dad and you and I flew to Barcelona for 10 days. It's challenging having you on the plane: you have a tough time sitting still when everything around you is so exciting. This meant that I (or your dad and I) had to work very hard to keep you in one place. It helped that you charmed everyone in a 3 foot radius. People have been very nice on the flights, and everybody loves to play with you.

You do charm people, Jack. I have no doubt this quality will stay with you as you grow. Sometimes it seems that all you want to do is get people to watch you or to see what you see. You smile so easily, and your smile is contagious: it is a huge grin that fills up your entire face. Your eyes get squinty and you scrunch up your nose like I do, and you smile big just like your dad. (The funny thing is that neither your dad or I have very nice smiles, but in you, everything adds together and it is just perfect). You love meeting new people. You want to see new things all day long. You are a very social little guy. I love this quality in you.

Spain was great. You were fairly sick for part of it, but during the non-sick parts, you had a blast. You just loved seeing all the new stuff. That is your favorite thing, above all else: seeing things you haven't seen before. You saw people, buildings, cars, lights, subways, and big open spaces. You got to eat a lot of interesting new foods (surprise, surprise - the sardines in oil were a hit). And you heard new things, too. There was a Spanish lady who kept poking you in the belly, saying, "Muy guapo! Muy guapo!" It is a complement, though I'm not sure how much you liked getting your belly poked.

I think you must have an inside voice now. You can anticipate things, and now you know all about comedic timing. You are so funny. You do things that you know will make us laugh. Now you like to duck behind something, like a curtain, or a chair, or the coffee table. As you hide and get ready to jump out, you start giggling. You know exactly what will happen and you wait as long as you can before popping your head up so that we will shout "Peekaboo!".

You are just the funnest thing ever. We hug you and cuddle you and tickle you every chance we get. We show you new things and watch your reaction. We see you grow and change, and we are inspired by your determined soul. You are funny, smart, and eager.

Guess what -- I saved the best for last -- you started talking a few weeks ago. It all began with "Uh-Oh", then "Mama", and now we can tell you know a few words. You don't say too much spontaneously, but you will repeat words that we say to you. So if I say, "Where're my eyes?" you will point to my eyes and say "Eyes". You love the S sound and drag it out: "Uuuheeesssssssssssss". Here are some other words you will repeat back to me: nose, mouth, maybe dog (everything is "dog!" to you, so I'm not sure about that one), Mama, Dada, hi, and night-night. We are trying to teach you how to say "more" with your hands while eating. You can do it sometimes, but mostly you just get frustrated and yell for more food instead. You did learn the sign for milk, and in the last few days you started making it when you want to nurse.

Just the other night, we kept you out late and you were so, so tired. When I brought you inside the house, you started frantically making the milk sign. I nodded and said, "Yup. Night-night, Jack, milk, as soon as I can", and then out came "Nigh-nigh, nigh-nigh, nigh-nigh! Nighnighnighnigh! Nigh Nigh Nigh!", and all the while you kept making the milk sign frantically. It was very sweet

Oh, I have to share something really funny. Before the whole "milk sign", you had a "milk sound". You would put your lips together and make "horse lips" in short little bursts, like one second each, a whole bunch of them in the row. You only ever do that when you want to nurse. Not for anything else. Just nursing, and only when you're *super* hungry. I have no idea how you came up with this sound. I just know that we both understand what it means.

When you want something but we don't understand what, you tend to yell. You get pretty loud. I think you will always be loud. We can tell you are frustrated and we wish we could understand you better. It seems like you are talking to us, if only we had the right translator. Recently, your babbling has turned into little sentences. It's as if you are expressing volumes in the tiniest space -- a whole thought, an adult paragraph. It is awfully cute. I could listen to you talk all day. A part of me wonders if it is more fun because I don't know what you are saying! I can't wait to hear what you think about your world.

You are still exclusively breastfed and we are nursing lots, but I can tell that you are drinking less and I am producing less. The less I produce, the less interested you are in nursing. Call me sentimental, but I am already sad. I like knowing that I provide something so important and comforting for you. I'm not sure when we'll stop.

Here's a surprise. Suddenly you don't like to co-sleep anymore. For the last few weeks, if I bring you into bed, you thrash around and kick and only sleep fitfully. If I get up and put you back in your crib, you sleep soundly. This makes me sad, too (and even more exhausted!), but I am glad to know that you are doing OK on your own.

Technically speaking, the next month will be last month that I can call you my "baby". Well, you will always be my baby. I know that even if I have another baby, you will still be my baby. I will be your mother and take care of you no matter what.

Happy 11-months. Love always.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Jack's First Haircut (~10 months)

I just sent some pictures to my family, and they're so funny that I decided that I wanted to post them here. But one of the series involves a view of a naked baby butt, which I don't think is quite appropriate for a public blog. That one, I'll leave to your imagination: Jack, diaperless in Barcelona, helping Greg take laundry out of a front loading washer, item by item, happy growling with each treasure located. Priceless.

Here's the other set.

This is Jack, about to get his first haircut. Note my baby's enthusiasm:

Bubbles! A cartoon on TV! Three people surrounding him, making smiles! A toy for every hand!

And, unfortunately, there was a also a water bottle and comb involved:

It seems that a cold, wet mist does not a happy baby make:

I really shouldn't find my baby's discomfort amusing, but, I just can't stop laughing

I don't even want to think about what the dentist's is going to be like!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Situation

Wildly meandering thoughts of my last post aside, it's been a while since I've actually updated this blog with real content. Y'know, about Jack. The baby. Right.

How's the sleep situation?

The sleep situation is up and down. On the one hand, Jack usually only gets up once or twice a night now, and that's a huge relief from the every-two-hours-routine he kept up for several months. On the other hand, I'm tired of getting up. Every. Single. Freaking. Night.

His routine goes something like this...

7/7:30pm: jammies, then he nurses, falls asleep in my arms, and I put him in his crib
10:00pm, 1:00am, and/or 4:00am: usually one of these times, occasionally two or three... hysterical crying until I nurse him back to sleep (20 minutes at a time). Sometimes I bring him into bed. Sometimes not.
6:30am: rise and shine!

For the last couple of weeks, Jack has only been getting up once at 1am. Still, I'm struggling. Jack's saving grace -- being the terrible sleeper that he is -- was that he always went down quickly. Sure I had to get up every hour or two in the worst of it, but usually he'd nurse for a minute and then conk out. Now? Now Jack has decided he wants to comfort nurse: no milk coming out, just nursing. And nursing. And nursing. 20-30 minutes of comfort nursing at 1am. Urgh.

I nearly can't stand it.

This reaction actually confuses me. Up until very recently, I've loved nursing Jack, even at night. It is our special time together. But suddenly I've lost patience and I don't know why. I am confused by this. I'm not sure how to handle my frustration. I was planning to nurse him well past 12 months, and now, I'm just annoyed. I try to unlatch him, and he gets upset and fusses, and then my irritation builds.

I think it would be easier if I wasn't working. The problem is that I only actually nurse him once or twice a *day*. The remainder is nighttime (exhausted! so tired!) or pumping. This is wearing on me. A lot.

When will you stop pumping?

I'm sort of trying. Sort of.

I told myself to stop and fill his daycare bottles with formula, or pump once and fill the extra with formula. Trouble is, I can't seem to stop. I've spent too long trying too hard to get milk. Jack takes 8 ounces per day at daycare, now, and I pump 8 ounces per day. When I try to pump less than 8 ounces, I kind of freak out emotionally and then try to get extra milk in the evening or early morning.

Have I mentioned I'm a goal oriented person? 8 ounces: can't accept anything less.

The emotional aspects of pump-weaning are more difficult than I imagined. Pumping is one way that I take care of my baby, and when I don't pump and I sit at work without him, I feel bad.

I found I was able to not pump on Friday -- I convinced myself he didn't need milk until Monday anyway. And then I didn't pump during the day on Monday because I didn't need to. But then I pumped Monday night and the next morning, and well, etc, etc, etc. I defrosted some frozen milk for today's bottles, but it tasted awful, as my frozen milk (even heat-treated) always curdles and becomes yucky. I'm sitting here on Wednesday, staring at my pump and wondering what I'll do. I don't know.

When will you night wean?

I have no intention of night weaning Jack before he sleeps through the night. If he's up, he can have some milk. It comforts him and that makes sense to me. He reverse cycles (takes in far more milk during the night than during the day), and I don't want to cut off his milk supply.

The trouble is, I've done full night duty for all but 3 nights of the last 11 months, and that means that Jack wants me at night and not Dad. That kind of sucks for me. We tried giving him a bottle -- formula, breast milk, from me or from Greg -- and it doesn't matter. He wants me and wants my boob.

I should be flattered, but instead I'm exhausted. I just want someone else to take care of my baby at night for a week, but it's not possible.

So we decided that Greg is now in charge of putting Jack to sleep and I will continue getting up with him at night. Hopefully this well help Jack associate Greg with nighttime comfort.

Why don't you just do Cry It Out (CIO)?

We tried CIO, twice.

The first time, we stuck with it. It was several months ago, during a time when Jack was getting up every hour or two. He cried for 45 minutes the first night, 30 minutes the second, 15 the third, and then he slept. It was amazing.

And then he got sick a few days later and it all went out the window. And then I decided if CIO was something I was going to have to do multiple times, it was not something I was willing to do to Jack.

But last week, I just lost all patience. I had spent 40 minutes nursing him down (twice!) and he woke up as I was tiptoeing out the door. This is unusual, but it was very frustrating. So I left the room and decided it was time, finally, that he learned that going to sleep without me holding him is OK. He immediately started crying. Screaming. Sobbing.

After 10 minutes of this, he threw up, smeared it all over himself, and I came into a hysterical, tear-soaked, red-faced, hiccupping, coughing, vomit-covered child, and I decided... never again.

I don't care whether Jack's need to have someone with him when he falls asleep are "reasonable" or not. If it takes me 15 minutes of cuddling, nursing and comfort to get Jack to stop hyperventilating after a CIO attempt, that's too traumatic for either of us to bear.

So what, you're going to have to do this until he's in high school?

No. This is the thing I've learned. Jack's sleeping habits seem to be totally independent from what we do. Some nights he sleeps. Some nights he doesn't. Some months, when his poor habits peak, I could scream from the exhaustion. But inevitably it's a phase. It's always a phase. He gets better and worse with no regard to whether we co-sleep or not, whether we comfort him or not. The only thing that seems to help him sleep better is if he naps well and has an active day.

Plus -- call me delusional -- Jack's habits are, on average, getting better. Two nights ago, he slept from 8pm to 7am, straight through. Last night, I put him in his crib awake and he fell asleep on his own. He stirred at 10pm, fussed for a bit, and then went back to sleep on his own, woke up at 1am and then for the day at 6:30am.

Do I think he would be sleeping much better if we did CIO? No, I don't. I don't know a single near-1-year old who *doesn't* get up at least once a night, and I don't expect Jack to be the exception.

So what can I do? I believe my job is to push the envelope: provide Jack with just enough comfort and support to be OK, but give him the chance, whenever I can, to fall asleep by himself. I let him fuss for as long as he will fuss. I permit crying up to the 5 minute mark. Hysterical tears bring me there immediately. I try to withdraw nursing before he let's go himself, I put him down in the crib (instead of our bed) whenever I can stomach the sleep deprivation. We work on getting Greg to comfort him more at night. Etc.

And we bank on the fact that no high schooler ever has to be held to fall asleep. It has to end, at some point.

It had better!

What's up with the food situation at daycare?

Sorry, I sort of dropped the story line on that. We were incredibly frustrated with Jack's daycare. We would send him in with handheld items and they would either (a) not give them to him (he'll choke! this piece of sticky fig? uhm, no), (b) say absurd things (he did choke! kiwi? you're joking, right?), or (c) actually lie (he didn't like it! to something that he eagerly scarfed down a whole container of several hours later)

The teachers had pretty much stopped talking to us. Awkward, so awkward. Passive aggressive post its on his food containers. He was taking 16 ounces (4 bottles!) of milk to compensate for the lack of food during the day. We gave up.

We sent him in with purees every day.

We still send him in with purees. It annoys the hell out of me. I spend an hour making him his breakfast, lunch and snack the night before. It annoys the hell out of me.

His pinscher grasp is still terrible. This is part of the problem. Jack just does not have good fine motor skills and he is not getting many opportunities to work on it. I'm not worried - he's advanced in plenty of other ways and all babies are different - but it does make mealtimes messier and I think his daycare doesn't like dealing with that. They frequently don't give him the handheld items I send in, and I suspect - based on how hungry he is when he comes home - that they aren't being patient enough to give him the time that he needs to eat on his own.

It really irritates the hell out of me.

But he'll be fine and I don't see any way around it, short of switching daycares, which we're not going to do. He eats loads in the morning before school and at dinner. And he still has rubber band arms; definitely not wanting for nutrition.

What's this whole thing about potentially moving across the country?

Oh, right. That. There might be a job. Emphasis on might. I'm headed back to Phoenix for another interview. This is nerve-wracking and I'll leave it at that.

You're going to put up some cute pictures and movies soon, right?

I promise!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

What would you do?

One of the great things about being the parent of a (now, nearly) 11-month old baby is that I am suddenly an expert. I am an expert because I know things now that I did not know before. Like, how a napkin can entertain a baby for many long minutes. Or, that movement is always good, no matter the circumstance. That my body and mind can withstand significantly more pain than I once gave them credit for.

Truthfully, though, I am not really an expert in being a parent. I am an expert in being Jack's parent. Us parents are specialists by nature, and my subdiscipline is an 11-month old social bunny that currently lives in New Haven, CT, enjoys saying "Uh-Oh", and eats sardines and lemons like there's no tomorrow.

I often feel weird about talking to other (newer) mothers. Talking to a (newer) mother puts me in the position of giving advice, and although I LOVE giving advice, I recognize that advice is not generally wanted.

But then I'll be in that position, with an expecting, worried, inquiring, new mom, and suddenly I find myself tossing out cliches left and right: "Don't worry, it'll get better", "Once you think you know them, they'll change!", "Just wait until...", etc. Honestly, it's inevitable. After spending (now, nearly) 11 months having your every waking moment consumed by a tiny being, sleeping in 1-4 hour intervals, losing the ability to do things as simple and small as, say, peeing on your own terms... you feel slightly qualified, if not downright self righteous. Why not apply your own experiences to someone else's (completely different) life?

I know, I know. I even annoy myself.

So. I found myself in the position of... wishing to intervene... in two recent situations. I ask my readers (you're out there! I know you're out there!): what would you do?

1. Lactation Consultants don't always give good advice. Shouldn't have said something, but I did.

I was in the Yale Bookstore with Jack on Sunday afternoon. He was pulling books off the shelf. I was trying to read the dust jackets as I rapidly replaced them. We were having a grand old time. Then we ran into what appeared to be a very young infant with a very new mother.

It turned out that the baby was just 3 weeks old. The mom and I chatted for a while. Her husband came over. They were very nice. I asked her if she was nursing, and then she said something about the complication of nursing while giving formula, too.

Voice inside my head: shut up, Rachael. Don't go there, Rachael. It's none of your business, Rachael.

So of course I didn't listen to the voice inside my head.

I asked her if there was a reason she was going half and half, and, get this now... she said her lactation consultant told her to. Then it turns out that she took a decongestant in the first week of nursing.

What?! This woman is treated by the same [descriptive word removed] doctors at the Yale Health Plan that I am.

Who the hell tells a new nursing mother that it is OK to take a decongestant? And then to supplement with formula at TWO WEEKS? A new mom only gets a few weeks to establish a good milk supply, to establish their baseline production rate, their sensitivity to future increases in demand. Supplementing with formula during this time will crush a new mom's supply permanently. It is true that some women (very few of them, but some) have actual supply problems and can't nurse their infants... but for the majority of us, our bodies will make it work. Most importantly, you have to give your machinery the chance to work before declaring it broken. How could we have survived as a species unless we made enough milk for our babies? We're mammals. We've had mammary glands since our species speciated. We lactate, practically by definition.

She explained that she would nurse for 20 minutes and then let him at the bottle of formula for 20 minutes while she pumped.

It goes without saying that a pump is less efficient at getting milk than a baby. The pump is probably making her think she has no milk left in her breasts (which is not true). When I pumped while on maternity leave, I never got more than half an ounce because Jack was getting the rest. (And I had an oversupply). Furthermore, there are all sorts of lovely hormones that go on while nursing, and these hormones stimulate lactogenesis. If you want to breastfeed, you've got. to. nurse. your. baby. End of story. Nurse. Nurse. Nurse. At least, in those first few weeks, give your body the chance to produce.

Honestly, what she described sounded like a latch/efficiency problem more than anything else.

So what would you do?

I decided I had to say something.

So I encouraged her. I told her she would probably be amazed by what her body can do. I shared my story about taking a decongestant and watching my milk supply drop to nearly nothing, and how with continued nursing, it came back up. I hinted that these few weeks are critical and mentioned that during that time when she is pumping, the baby could be nursing instead, and that his nursing might stimulate production better than the pump would.

And then I felt terrible, because obviously this was unwanted advice. We parted ways. I felt like the biggest jerk in the world. Who knows what the particulars of her situation were. Who knows. I probably caused her a great deal of pain in that conversation, suggesting she was able to nurse when she was obviously feeling so terrible about not being able to.

What would you do?

2. I thought it might have been a cat. Should have said something, but I didn't.

I was at Babies R Us a few weeks ago. I heard a baby crying.

Crying is now quite the right word. Neither is baby.

I heard a newborn infant... mewling. A soft, tiny cry. A cry so small that I thought it was a cat. He couldn't have been more than a week old.

Then I saw his mom, his mom with the obvious postpartum belly, the glaze over her eyes of new sleep deprivation, gently pushing the cart with her baby in the carseat. Her infant in the carseat, her eyes slowly dragging along the items in the aisle. Her infant crying, alone, so terribly alone in his carseat. A foot away from her arms, yet it could have been a mile.

Her infant crying... and crying... and crying... for 20 minutes.

I nearly lost it. I couldn't handle the sound. I texted Greg about 10 times. I stalked them as they wandered through the store, and eventually I left them alone because it was causing me too much stress.

Something must have gone terribly wrong.

Was she dealing with post-partum depression? Was she lacking the maternal urge to comfort her newborn? Did she not know that her baby would stop crying if she picked him up? Where was her support? Why was she at Babies R Us in such a daze?

I don't understand.

It broke my heart to hear that newborn cry.

He didn't need anything in that store. He didn't need bibs or blankets or a nightlight. He needed soft, warm, loving arms around him. He needed to be cuddled and kissed and rocked and nurtured. If she couldn't take care of him, someone else should have. But if she could tolerate his closeness, she needed to be close to him. She needed to lay in bed and sleep with him by her side while someone else came to keep her company, to change him, to take care of the two of them while they recovered together, while they learned how to depend on one another.

For as much as Jack depended on me for milk and comfort, I depended on him. As desperate and scared as I felt, as much as I cried for the exhaustion of being needed so much, I needed him too. I craved his soft skin, his sweet smell, his tiny voice. The scientist in me knows that I wanted oxytocin and dopamine and prolactin. But the mother in me knows that I needed on his warm weight in my arms. It didn't happen right away, but it happened eventually, and being close to one another was the first and most important step.

It took every bone in my body to fight the urge to go over there and offer shop for her while she held her infant or hold her infant for her while she shopped.

Should I have offered?

What would you do?

I am still upset when I think about this incident.