Friday, August 31, 2007

Saving Your Identiy

I've been thinking a lot about identity. A new mom will no doubt go through a shift in how she sees herself. The world will also see her differently. How do we make sure we keep our old selves while adding motherhood on as a part of our identity? Do we lose who we used to be as we leap into motherhood? Or do we just keep parts of our old selves in tact and add on the new mommy identity? Are stay-at-home mothers more prone to this loss of identity because they have left the paid workforce?

I spend so much time with the babe I sometimes wonder if I am losing who I used to be. I am concerned about balance and keeping myself engaged in the real world. I admit that I have changed a lot since she was born, but I hope I still have those qualities (and faults) that made me who I used to be. I realize I need to be careful to not lose myself in the all consuming job of motherhood. As my wise father said to me recently, children will take as much of you as you let them. If you give 100% of yourself, they will take it. You have to make sure you watch out for your best interests because children will inevitably grow up and leave. Where will you be left if you gave everything to them?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm reading Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety. The most relevant thing I've read so far is related to the discussion around losing yourself in motherhood.
"Too many of us now allow ourselves to be defined by motherhood and direct every ounce of our energy into our children. This sounds noble on the surface but in fact it's doing no one--not ourselves, or our children--any good. Because when we lose ourselves in mommy selves, we experience this loss as depression. When we disempower ourselves in our mommy selves, we experience this weakness as anxiety. When we desexualize ourselves in our mommy selves, it leads us to feel dead in our skin. All this places an undue burden upon our children. By making them the be-all-end-all of our lives, by breaking down the boundaries between ourselves and them so thoroughly, by giving them so much power within the family when they're very small, we risk overwhelming them psychologically and ill-preparing them, socially, for the world of other children and eventually, other adults." Page 55
Well said! In terms of my own life, I admit I need to be more proactive in pursuing my interests and making time for myself. I keep saying I am going to do it, and keep not doing it. My husband and I have had many conversations about how I need to have time to myself so I can just be me and not someone's mommy. When I go out alone (which is rare), I feel like my old self, but different. I find it cool that people can look at me and not see a mommy. They just see me, and I like that. I am going to look into taking a yoga class on the weekends. By taking this time, I will work on something that I am interested in pursuing, while also giving myself a break from the non-stop job that is being a stay at home mother. It's back to school time, and for me, it's back to Christine time.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

She Did It!!!

I am a very happy mommy this morning. The babe got up just once in 11 hours! There doesn't even appear to be anything wrong with her (knock on wood). It is a miracle. She slept from 8:15 pm to 12:30 am. Her next stretch was from 12:45 to 7:15 am. This was the best night sleep I've had since October 2006. I feel like a million bucks. I feel like I could run a marathon. Well, maybe that's pushing it.

I was almost ready to start being tough last night, but was too exhausted. I sacrificed time with my husband and went to bed early. Good thing as I managed to clock almost 3 hours before she woke up. I recall checking on her at one point during the night. She was still breathing. The next time she woke up I glanced at the clock and was in shock. 7:15 am? What? What happened? I asked my husband and he confirmed that she had been asleep since 12:45 am. He admitted to having checked on her all night as her behavior was so untypical.

What did we do to make this happen? How do I get this to happen again? Is it that her teeth didn't hurt? Is it something I ate or didn't eat? Drink or didn't drink? All I know is that I would really be a much better mommy and person if this kind of thing happened every night.

Co-sleeping is all right with me me if she sleeps over 6 hours straight! Pretty much anything is all right with me if we can find a way to duplicate last night's magic.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Co-Sleeping Saga Continues

Co-sleeping can be a beautiful thing. It can also be a nightmare. Some of you may recall that we have had a lot of sleep issues with the babe. I came back from our last trip a month ago ready to take action. I was exhausted and couldn't stand it anymore. I psyched myself up and left the babe in her crib when she woke up after her standard few hours sleep. We normally will transfer her from her crib to our bed at this point. I thought I was ready to sit by her crib until she cried herself back to sleep. My husband wasn't quite as prepared and ended up rescuing her from her jail. She slept like an angel in between us that night.

I have not done any more experimenting since then. I was all talk and no action when I last wrote about the end of the "family bed."

The exhaustion is catching up with me again and I am back where I was a month ago. I want my space back and I don't want to be woken constantly through the night. I am cool with once a night. I am not cool with four (like last night). Looking back over the past eight nights, the babe has been a nightmare for four of them. I just don't like those numbers. I also don't like the fact that I can count on one hand the number of times I have clocked six straight hours of sleep in the past nine months (that doesn't even count the end of my pregnancy where I was as big as a beached whale and needed to go to the bathroom every hour).

The four nights she has slept two stretches of five hours each have been divine. Those are the nights that make me want to continue our co-sleeping. There is something so cozy and snugly about all three of us together in bed. It feels so safe and warm and happy. If it was always like that, I wouldn't have a problem. But it's not. That's why it's time to face the music and admit we have a situation on our hands.

Am I ready to start tonight? I am certainly frustrated enough. But I am exhausted. The problem is that I'm only ever contemplating drastic measures after the bad sleepless nights. This makes it difficult to activate experiments that will no doubt involve more sleepless nights and many tears (both hers and mine). After the good nights I am too content to hunker down and make the change.

If tonight is the night, I need to get ready. If I put it off, I will only continue a cycle which has apparently spun out of control. I need to remember that I survived the "no swaddle" experiment as well as the "get her in her crib for the first part of the evening" experiment. Progress does not come without sacrifice, right? But maybe one more good night will get me rested enough for this next hurdle. Oh, and did I mention she needs to be weaned from her night feedings?

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Art of Napping and Reading

Stay at home motherhood isn't all bad. Whenever I get the urge to run back to the office, I just have to remember how much I adore our morning nap. They are absolutely delicious and I wouldn't give them up for anything.

The babe has 2 naps a day. One nice long morning nap, and an afternoon nap that can be short, or long, depending on the day. It's awesome we have the napping thing down (although it makes planning our social life a tad difficult). I have always been a terrible napper and really had to work at the art of napping after I became a Mom. When you walk around in a semi state of exhaustion most of the time, knowing how to nap can be a really good thing. I am proud to say I have now mastered the very important skill of napping once a day.

The special nap for us is always in the morning. After being up for a couple of hours, we sneak back upstairs to our cozy bed where we will sleep together for an hour and a half to two hours. It is bliss. I lie there next to her and just stare at her (before passing out myself, that is). She really is the most beautiful little thing in the world and I am completely head over heels in love with her. When she wakes up, she rolls over and sits up with her foggy eyes and messy hair and smiles at me. She lets me kiss her feet. She tries to stand and climb up the wall. She rolls around. She generally acts super cute.

Afternoon naps, on the other hand, have been providing me the opportunity to read. As much as I can leave her in her crib for her afternoon nap, she lasts much longer if she's in our bed and I'm sitting next to her (spoilt much?). I appreciate the chance to relax and do some fluffy reading. After having taken forever to read my first book after her birth (Wiped: Life With a Pint Sized Dictator), I have now finished In Her Shoes, Baby Proof, and am about to finish What Do You Do All Day? My next book will be Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety by Judith Warner. I'm stepping it up a bit with this one. Not so fluffy! I've also decided it may be a good idea to take the Economist up to bed a few times a week to prevent my brain from rotting. It's good to be able to discuss world affairs in between conversations about baby sleep cycles and baby poo.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bumbo Caution

A word of caution on the Bumbo chair. After months of feeling pretty secure with the bumbo, we've turned a corner: the babe can now get out of it pretty easily. From about 8 months old, she's been able to extend her back and wiggle her way out. It's true they warn you not to leave children unattended in the seat (granted, all baby products say that). But I know how easy it can be to think your baby is secure and will be OK for just one minute. Whatever you wanted to do in that one minute is probably not worth it.

I've heard too many fall on the floor stories lately and wanted to share this in hopes it may save someone a trip to the ER (a place most new Moms will end up at some point).

The Playzone

We have just spent a nice chunk of change on a playzone for the babe. I was getting tired of moving the coffee table, setting out the blankets and toys and sitting on the floor to monitor play time by the 42 inch television screen every day. There was also the part about putting everything away every night that I wasn't a fan of. It was time for a new plan: the playzone plan.

I really love it. It's functional, colorful, large (with the two extension kits we purchased), and perfect for a baby to play in. The foam mats on the floor are each a letter of the alphabet! Who doesn't love the alphabet?

Why then does my daughter start to whine and cry if I leave her in it alone for more than 20 minutes? I though the playzone would allow me time to sit on the couch and read, write in my very neglected blog, or work in the kitchen. It's only been fully set up with the foam pads since last night, but so far the babe seems to have a problem being behind the colorful bars alone for an extended period of time.

I am hoping and praying that this is just something that will take time to get used to. There are enough toys and happy things in there to keep her occupied. And I don't see why, if she has a full belly and a clean diaper, she can't just chill out and have a good time in her new land of baby fun. We shall see.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I Never Knew

A few things I never knew about motherhood:

  • I am seriously considering wearing some sort of helmet around my daughter. I have been head butted, jabbed, poked, kicked, pinched and had my hair pulled more times than I can count. My nose actually feels bruised from the number of times the babe's head has crashed into me in one jerky movement or another. She also appears to have a thing for injuring my neck area. It's OK, I only need that body part to breathe. While I'm tracking down a helmet (possibly hockey helmet with a face guard), I might as well consider full body armour. I never knew how much abuse I'd have to take as a mother.
  • I question, at times, whether I am patient enough to be anyone's mother. I never knew how tough constant sleep deprivation and being selfless would be.
  • Last night at 9:00pm, I sold our futon. It was blocking the window and eating way too much space in our small light deprived living room. As I spend so much time at home now, I have been on a minor mission to get rid of things and clean the place up a bit. It's slow going. I never knew how much baby stuff would take over our home or how long it would take to sell a futon on craig's list!
  • My husband has been working A LOT this past week (and weekend). It has been hard being on constant child care duty with no break at the end of the day (even half an hour is nice after having a monkey crawl all over you for 12 hours). I can't say it's the same, but I am beginning to get a picture of how overwhelming it would be to be a single mother. I never knew how good it is to have my husband home for dinner, support and company.
  • The babe has food allergies (cow's milk, nuts, peanuts and a rice intolerance). The tests the allergist did at 6 months could be inaccurate and they will be testing again, but after a trip to the ER in May, we've been taking it pretty slow with the solid food introduction. We've got the go ahead on apples, bananas, sweet potato, carrots, and oatmeal. She doesn't necessarily like all these options though. As we slowly increase her repertoire of non-allergenic foods, I am constantly worrying if she's eating enough. As she doesn't like soy formula (after 8 months of breastfeeding, who can blame her), I can't measure her milk intake. She can also be very difficult to feed at times. She'll shake her head, make gagging sounds, and spit food at me. I never knew how hard it would be to feed a baby!
  • As I sit here on an early Sunday morning, I never knew how hard it would be to constantly have to get out of my warm yummy bed at 6:30 am.
  • I also never knew how hard it would be to make time to write in my blog. Or how hard it would be to write with an 8 month old child crawling on me and demanding attention!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Up in an Airplane

I thought I'd have some crazy stories to share about our recent flying experience, but I have to admit it all went fairly smoothly (other than an hour and a half delay on the way home). Here's a few tid bits that may be helpful for others about to fly with their little ones for the first time.

Like the Boy Scouts say, be prepared. But keep in mind there's a difference between being prepared and packing your whole house. You only have so many arms.

Give yourself some extra time. There are a few extra steps when flying with a baby and everything takes more times than you're used to. Flying is a dicey business in the best of circumstances, so an extra chunk of time will give you a comfort zone to work with.

If you are travelling alone (as I was on the way to Canada), think about bringing a baby carrier as well as your infant car seat and a snap and go frame. I found it helpful to already have my daughter in the carrier as we made our way through the security line. When it came to action time, I just had to pop the car seat out of the base, fold up the base, and drop my carry on bag and purse onto the belt. People were pretty patient with me and I got quite a few smiles.

When you get to the gate, let them know you're travelling with an infant and they should be able to give you some special treatment. On both flights, the stewardess moved me to a row where I had 2 seats which made things a bit easier. You can check the car seat and base before you board which leaves you with (only) the baby and 2 bags to deal with on the flight.

Keeping in mind the length of your flight and any stop overs, you'll need food for the baby. My daughter is really not into public breastfeeding, so that meant we needed bottles. I started pumping days in advance to be sure I had enough milk for the unexpected. Because I was so worried about not having enough, I wasn't managing to pump very much either. By Sunday morning when we packed up the car for the trek to Dulles, I had 2 bottles with 4 ounces each. Turns out I only needed 1 as I fed her some apple sauce before boarding. Bring enough baby food to keep you going for a solid chunk of time as you never know when you may get stranded in an airport hotel with a hungry baby. I should also add that you're supposed to "declare" your bottles when you go through security (although I forgot on the way back and it didn't cause a problem).

Have some entertainment. I had a large Ziploc baggie of her favorite smaller toys to keep us going. Keep in mind you don't want anything too noisy as maintaining happy relations with your fellow air travellers is always a good thing.

The temperature in airports and on planes can vary, so have your baby dressed appropriately. Even though it is summer in DC (a swamp), I had my daughter in long pants and had packed a blankie for extra warmth. The planes can blast the air conditioning and I was glad I had the blanket to wrap her up in while she slept. It was tough holding her in a comfortable position for 60 minutes and I would have liked a small pillow, but forgot to ask if the stewardess had any. As nice as it would be, I don't think it's important enough to bring with me on our next trip (unless I was going cross country).

Always have extra diapers, wipes, pacifiers, burp cloths, a change of clothing for the baby and at least an extra shirt for yourself. You never know how long you will be away from your comfort zone, so be ready for the unexpected. As I write, my sister in law is on a mega haul with her daughter involving 3 flights to get from Point A to Point B. Her original flight was cancelled thus altering her trip from 2 planes to 3. To add insult to injury, she was charged a $12 "infant tax" as she was flying with her daughter on her lap. Yes, her lap was being taxed by a flight she wasn't even supposed to be on. None of this is what you want when you're alone with your 5 month old, but it can happen, so be ready.

Keep all important documents, your wallet and your cell phone in easy and secure reach. There are many excellent baby bag options on the market, so you should be able to find one that suits your needs (I'm a fan of Eddie Bauer diaper bags).

Get ready to hold your baby tight during take off and landing. They recommend the burping position over your shoulder. My daughter was moving around so much it was difficult to keep her in the "recommended" position. She spazzed out and caused a bit of a scene before take off on both flights. By the time we got in the air and leveled off she thankfully fell asleep for the entirety of both our trips. I made sure she had a pacifier in her mouth for take off and landing to keep her ears clear (the sucking motion helps avoid ear pain). I've heard of a lot of people who feed their baby from a bottle during take off and landing, but this doesn't jive with the airlines official recommendations.

All this may seem pretty obvious, but when trying to pack for a trip, all the details can get pretty overwhelming. Sometimes we can forget the most obvious things, which is why it's great to start with a check list. I'd recommend keeping the list for when it's time to pack up and come home. It's so easy to forget the most important things when you're quickly having to gather all the baby stuff which has exploded all over the place. For instance, I forgot the base of our monitor plugged into the wall of my mother in law's kitchen. Luckily my husband was one step ahead of me and had tucked it away without me knowing.

I'm lucky my first experience was only a one hour direct flight. It was great practice and although I'm not exactly looking forward to our next flying experience, I am more prepared and much less frightened. Good luck and happy flying.

Friday, August 3, 2007

And We're Back...In the Family Bed

My husband asked me what was going on with my blog last night. "Is it dead?" he inquired. Yikes, it has been a while. Since I last wrote, we've made it through almost 3 weeks unswaddled, have flown with the babe for the first time, have done another Canadian family visit over an 8 night adventure, and have discovered the little lady is simply not interested in soy formula (powder or liquid). I don't have enough time to cover everything, so I'll have to start at the top: the never ending sleep saga.

I've just visited with some of my dear Mommy friends. Among the topics we discussed were what we'll do differently with a second child. The swaddling Mamas agreed that we'd cut off the practice much earlier. One Mamma had broken the pattern a few weeks after birth. Another is still swaddling her almost 8 month old. I am relieved we have managed to cut the swaddle addiction, even though I had recently spent another $40 bucks on a new snazzy swaddler. When it comes down to it, I have no problem spending money on sleep paraphernalia.

I do however have a problem with our most recent sleep related experiment: our daughter wakes up after 3 or 4 hours unswaddled to eat and doesn't want to go back in her crib. It doesn't help that we were recently on the road for 8 nights, 4 of which we didn't have a crib (she slept with me in a double bed). As I've mentioned before, I am done with the "family bed" and desperately want my space back. I think we have done great with our "attachment parenting" approach to sleeping but have decided I'm just too tired to continue. I am also tired of her little gloved hands hitting my face in the middle of the night and don't appreciate her constantly rolling into me. I am beginning to wish they made a Queen size crib for babies that need their space.

I know it's time for yet another experiment: getting the babe back in her crib for the whole night and cutting her off the family bed. As I'm still wiped out from our Canadian travels, I am hesitating over when to start. We've only been back a few days but have found that when we go get her after her 3 or 4 hour snooze, she is already in a seated position crying and banging her head on the wood rails of the crib. I find this worrisome and upsetting, but the word on the street is that this is normal and not anything to worry too much about. But really, how is purposely banging your head against a hard surface a "normal" behavior? This is why it just seems easier to take her to our bed and feed her so we can all go back to sleep (until the next feeding in a few hours that is).

Things have got to change and I'm going to have to suck it up and bite the bullet. I just have to find the right time to start as I know I'll be losing a LOT of sleep over this experiment. But 8 months of losing sleep has been enough. It's time for this little one to get used to sleeping in her crib alone for the whole night. I am done torturing myself over the right sleep training method (Sears, Ferber, Baby Whisperer, etc.), and need to trust my gut instinct. It's brought me through the last few experiments, and hopefully will get me through this one as well. Here's to everyone sleeping 6 hours straight in their own bed.