Thursday, October 25, 2012

Not Just For Hipsters


Something strange is happening to me.  Oliver’s arrival has changed something fundamental about who I am as a person.  Remember, I am the mother who blogged about how I couldn’t stand to even sleep in the same room as Emmalee.  I am the mother who resorted to cry it out methods when she was 9 months old.  I am the mother who ignorantly began forward facing my baby when she was 6 months old.  I am a loving mother, I mean well, but I definitely have some room to grow in the nurturing department.  Now though, everything has changed.  I barely recognize the person looking back at me in the mirror.

First piece of evidence: as I type this, Oliver is strapped to my chest sleeping soundly.  I am baby wearing.  Baby wearing!  And the weirdest part, I am truly enjoying it.  There is something absolutely perfect about listening to his little breaths and feeling his warm little body against mine while I go about my daily business.  It feels so right.  I find myself deeply regretting that I never did this with Emmalee.  I used to feel so secure in the bond I shared with her, but now I’m worried that there will always be a wedge between us because I didn’t wear her as an infant.  I’m not even being sarcastic.  This is a real concern for me.

Second piece of evidence: I spent an afternoon this week rearranging my bedroom furniture to create an optimal co-sleeping environment.  Not only am I sleeping in the same room as Oliver, but the bed is now pushed flush with the wall so that he can safely sleep in my bed with me.  Emmalee was kicked out of my room and into her own at 8 weeks old, and I went to great lengths to keep her there, which is another thing I deeply regret.  If I could go back in time knowing what I know now, Emmalee would have had a very different infant experience.  To be fair, though, Oliver is a very different baby than Emmalee was.  The only way he will consistently sleep through the night is if he is in bed next to me.  At this point in my life, I am just so frickin’ tired.  Sleep is the ultimate goal; having children in my bed until they’re teenagers is a potential side effect I’ll deal with later.  Also, all my efforts with Emmalee were for naught, as she wakes up and comes to sleep the remainder of the night in my bed just about every night now anyway.  I guess I’m not sure if I’ve grown as a mother or if the kids have just broken my spirit, but either way, we are now a bed sharing family.

I’ve spent some time recently researching these new aspects of my life, baby wearing and bed sharing.  I’m choosing to believe the things I read that support my decisions as being wonderful affirmations of love for my children, particularly Oliver as it may be too late for Emmalee.  Just as I’ve always feared, it seems as though I have failed her.  Apparently, according to actual scientific research, a baby simply works better when close to its mother.   The baby’s breathing, temperature, and heart rate are more regular and the baby’s immune system is actually strengthened, all just by being in the mother’s presence.  It’s a bit humbling to think that I have so much influence over Oliver’s autonomic nervous system.  In addition, carrying a baby in the upright position obtained by proper baby wearing (there are do’s and don’ts, so do your research before giving it a try) is good for the baby’s physical development and promotes healthy digestion.  Not to mention, both baby wearing and co-sleeping promote attachment.  Securely attached children have higher self-esteem, less anxiety, and actually become independent quicker, which debunks the whole “spoiling” stigma of baby wearing and co-sleeping.  I’ve included links at the bottom if you are interested in learning more, or are wondering where my information comes from.

Recently, I have been teased that I am turning into a “hipster.”  After Googling this term, I found that the notion was preposterous.  I would not consider myself part of any “subculture movement.”  I am not vegan.  I do not buy organic.  I don’t even breastfeed.  I am a regular, everyday mom.  I work.  I use disposable diapers.  I buy clothes almost exclusively at Target and Gymboree.  The staples of Emmalee’s diet are Pop Tarts and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I listen to Top 40 Country radio.  And now I baby wear and bed share.  These are things that mothers around the world have been doing for thousands of years.  It has only been in relatively recent history that they have been demoted to subculture practices in America, forcing well intentioned mothers to either hide or risk being labeled a hipster.  Well, I say no more.  These are healthy, sanity saving practices.  Mainstream culture needs to take them back.  I’ll be the first to declare it proudly.  Baby wearing and bed sharing: not just for hipsters anymore.



Co-sleeping:


Baby wearing:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

"I'm Leaking!": A Potty Training Tale

One evening shortly after Oliver came home from the hospital, Emma decided she wanted to go pee on the cute, pink princess potty chair that has been in her bathroom for nearly a year. Despite feeling like this was a bit soon after the huge, life-altering change of gaining a baby brother, I was ecstatic. The next day I ran out and bought big girl underwear and pull-ups, ready to give the whole potty training thing a go.

Alas, it was not to be. I put the underwear on Emma, who then peed in them and started yelling “Oh no, I’m leaking!” while crying hysterically. I decided not to push the issue, due to Oliver’s recent arrival, but decided to use the pull-ups. For several weeks Emma refused to get on the potty and treated the pull-ups as if they were diapers.

Then one day a friend, whose daughter is nine months younger and about a third the size of Emma, came over to visit and play. When I watched this adorable, tiny little girl sit on my full-sized toilet and go, I decided Emma had had enough time to adjust. We needed to potty train for real. This friend sent me some tips she’d been given on potty training, which I used to help me come up with a plan.

The first step was to tell Emma that we weren’t using pull-ups anymore. She needed to pee on the potty or she would make a mess on herself and the floor. We also let Emma pick out a toddler seat that fit on the regular potty to give her another option of where to go. I know Emma, and she likes to feel like she has some control over things, so I thought this might help. We also used teeny M&Ms as a reward. Because again, I know Emma, and there isn’t much she won’t do for candy. And then the training began.

The first day was stressful. There was little pee in the potty and lots of pee everywhere else. There were tears. There was even some poop on the playroom carpet. But we persevered. I decided that once we started we couldn’t go back. Each day got a little better. I started insisting that she use the big potty because she won’t try to get down by herself so she is essentially stuck there, which helped to make sure she stayed on the potty until she was completely finished. By the fourth day we went the entire day with no major accidents other than a few drips in her underwear. And then we hit a plateau.

For weeks it was necessary to change her underwear and often her pants or shorts each time she needed to potty. She would start to go before realizing she needed to. Every. Time. Leaving the house required packing several pairs of underwear and back up shorts. It was extremely frustrating. She peed in her car seat. She dripped through Target. She left several puddles across the Magic Kingdom. There was even a day where she went through all of her backups and had to ride home in just underwear. I constantly stressed about when and where she would pee next, and I’m sure Emma got tired of being asked “Do you need to go potty yet?” about every ten minutes. I started getting discouraged and worried that maybe potty training wasn’t going to work for Emma after all.

Then, a miracle. On Wednesday, the day after we celebrated her 2 1/2 birthday, Emma stayed dry almost the entire day. And every day since. Not to say that we have completely mastered the potty. We still end up with a few wet pairs of underwear before the day is through, though they are rarely wet enough to need to change her pants. She seems to do well throughout the day and then starts having more trouble in the late afternoon. She does not take a nap anymore, so I think when she starts getting tired she just has a harder time exercising control. The progress is enough to allow me to once again hope that Emma will eventually be someone who pees exclusively on the potty. I am excited again.

I had no expectations that Emmalee would potty train easily. She has rarely done anything easily her entire life. She operates in her own Emma-world, where things happen on her exclusive time frame. She didn’t roll over until after six months. She didn’t crawl until ten months and wasn’t walking until thirteen months. At fifteen months she was still drinking from a bottle that I had to hold her for her because she refused to do it on her own. Everything she’s accomplished has required a lot of pushing and prodding, as she always seems to be content with the way things already are. Perhaps she lacks the motivation to become independent, but she eventually gets there, on her time and in her way.

Emma has gone through some big changes over the past several months. She dealt with a very pregnant Mommy who could do little for her, a new baby brother, and now the monumental change of no more diapers. All she’s ever known is diapers, so its kind of a big deal. I am so proud of her for taking things as well as she has. She is still Emma, so there has, of course, been a fair share of tears, tantrums, and dramatics along the way, but we seem to be in a pretty good place now. She seems to have accepted that both Oliver and using the potty are here to stay. Hopefully the progress will continue and we will soon be masters of the day time potty. And then we can attempt staying dry at night.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Middle of the Night Musings

At 3:30 this morning I was on Pinterest while feeding Oliver a bottle.  He is three months old and still wakes up every night around this time, unlike his sister who had been sleeping soundly through the night for about 6 weeks by this age.  Anyway, I came across a blog with tips on how to get your baby to sleep 8 hours a night by 8 weeks and 12 hours a night by 12 weeks.  Obviously, this caught my interest so I read.  And what the blogger said made sense.  Keep to a schedule with feeding and naps.  Be diligent about putting baby down awake so he can learn to soothe himself to sleep.  Move baby to his crib at 1 month.  There are lots of other useful ideas as well.  (Link at bottom.) 

With Emma I did not do these things.  I kept to a feeding schedule, but I let her nap as she pleased as long as she didn’t sleep for longer than 2-3 hours at a time during the day.  I rocked her to sleep nightly.  And though she started sleeping through the night at only 7 weeks, we inevitably ended up having lots of sleeping issues later when she hit six months and started waking several times for me to rock her to sleep again.  At 9 months we tried some modified cry it out techniques which got her sleeping through the night again, but she is now 2½ and still cries unless I stay in her room with her until she falls asleep.  For the past 5 months or so she has been coming into my room at some point during the night and sleeping the rest of the night in my bed.  We definitely have some night time issues.

While I was pregnant with Oliver, I vowed that I would learn from the mistakes I made with Emma.  I would not rock him to sleep.  I would lay him down awake.  I would do whatever I could to avoid the heart wrenching nights of cry it out, the endless amount of time sitting by a toddler bed waiting for sleep to come, the constant middle of the night cries for Mommy.  And then Oliver was born and something odd happened.  I suddenly felt like the mistakes I made with Emma were not that I rocked her and coddled her too much, but that I didn’t do it enough.

Oliver falls asleep each night while drinking a bottle.  I do not lay him down awake.  In my defense, though, babies do not like to be laid down awake.  They do not soothe themselves to sleep, they fuss and cry.  Once he is asleep I put him in his crib in his room, but when he wakes up for a feeding in the wee hours of the morning I bring him to bed with me and keep him there the rest of the night.  I know, I know.  I’m practically doing the opposite of what any baby sleep expert would recommend.  But I love cuddling with Oliver; I love the way his warm, snugly little body feels pressed up against me with his little head resting in the crook of my arm.  Sometimes, despite being exhausted, I don’t fall asleep right away because I’m so busy watching his perfect, peaceful little face in the semi-dark light.  He is the most amazing little thing, and I feel like I wouldn’t trade those moments with him for all the uninterrupted nights of sleep in the world. 

It actually makes me a little sad that I didn’t do the same thing with Emmalee.  I now completely regret the whole cry it out experience I put us both through.  I wish I would have just brought her to bed with me and soaked up her littleness and yummy baby scent as much as I possibly could.  To make it up to her, I now allow her into my bed without complaint.  And to be completely honest, I kind of like it when she’s sleeping in the bed beside me. 

So here I am, two babies in and more of a push over than ever.  But what I’ve come to realize is that the moments when they are little are so fleeting.  They won’t need me at night forever.  Someday they will be preteens who are too big for hugs and cuddles.  Someday they will be teenagers who are too cool for Mommy.  Someday they will be adults living on their own.  I’ll have plenty of time to sleep then.  For now I don’t want to sleep, I just want to squeeze my babies for as long as they’ll let me.





Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Outnumbered


On June 7th my son, Oliver Blake, was born.  He arrived via scheduled c-section, and though I can’t say that being cut open to have a baby removed from my body was pleasant, the overall experience was very much preferable to what I went through two years ago when Emmalee came into the world.  Now, a little over a month later, I am essentially recovered from childbirth and I find myself attempting to navigate the tumultuous mother-of-two waters.

This will probably seem like an obvious statement, but having two children is quite a bit more challenging than having just one.  My biggest difficulty with this entire situation is that I am outnumbered.  Emma and Ollie seem to sense this and inevitably start screaming with conflicting needs at the exact same moment.  Ollie needs a bottle and Emma needs a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Emma needs a diaper change and Ollie decides sitting in his bouncer for one more moment would be torture.  Ollie needs a diaper change and Emma wants to be fed cereal and milk.  Emma wants me to help her build a castle and Ollie insists on being held.  I spend all day being pulled in opposite directions and trying to find a way to balance the chaos.  Luckily I am an expert in patience.

This leads to the next biggest issue I am dealing with, which is the constant, overwhelming guilt I feel.  Prior to having two babies I never realized how multidimensional guilt could be.  I feel guilty for holding Oliver too much and not playing with Emma enough, but then I feel guilty for how much time he spends in his bouncer while I play with and take care of her.  I feel guilty about how much television Emma has been watching.  I feel guilty about how much time we spend at home.  Last summer Emma and I were constantly on the go, but Oliver’s presence has put a damper on our adventure schedule this year.  And though Emma has adjusted to our new baby better than I would have expected, I know it is still difficult for her to suddenly have to share me and my attention with someone else.  So I feel guilty for wanting and loving Oliver so much when it causes Emma such strife, and then I feel guilty for feeling guilty because that isn’t fair to him.  I find myself in another constant balancing act, attempting to love them both enough but not too much so that neither child is favored or slighted.  

Compiling these challenges exponentially is the barely manageable sleep deprivation.  Oliver needs to eat every 3-4 hours, but will usually go at least one 5-6 hour stretch in the night.  That means, theoretically, I get to sleep 4-5 hours, get up for an hour to feed him, and then sleep 2-3 more hours.  It’s not ideal, but it’s certainly workable.  The problem, of course, is that I’m not dealing with just Oliver.  At some point in the previously described situation Emma wakes up, often sometime during that 4-5 hour stretch of sleep that is necessary to maintain my sanity, and I am up with her anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour finding pacis, getting her some water, trekking from her room to my room with the necessary stuffed animals before she will finally settle in my bed and go back to sleep.  So each night I find myself attempting to balance meeting the nocturnal needs of my children and attempting to get enough fragments of sleep in for myself so that I can function the next day without having a mental breakdown.  

My dad asked me if I enjoy having two children and I answered honestly that I think I will one day.  I love both of my children and I enjoy them so much separately.  Emma is so much fun to play with and she always makes me laugh.  Oliver is so tiny and cute and fun to cuddle.  But put them together and mostly it’s just hard.  I know a lot of it has to do with how young they both are and that with time things will get better.  I will eventually be able to get them on a manageable schedule, Oliver won’t need nighttime feedings forever, and at some point they will be able to play together.  The potential for enjoyment is certainly there.  For now I will continue to be patient and will make an effort to enjoy the moments between the chaos, because I know they are fleeting.  I will try to remember at 3:00 in the morning, when Emma has just finally fallen asleep beside me an hour before and Oliver is now ready to be fed, that there will come a day when I will miss how little and needy my children are now.  Instead of giving in to the urge to beat my head against a wall and sob, I will look at Emma’s peaceful face and memorize the innocent, trusting look in Oliver’s eyes because when I am old and gray (assuming, of course, that I survive until then) that is what I will want to remember; not the exhaustion or the screaming or the tears, but the reasons I wanted these babies in the first place.  


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Dear Future Self


I am miserable.  My back hurts.  My feet hurt.  My ankles are swollen.  My entire pelvis feels like someone has been using it as a punching bag.  It is excruciating to lift my leg enough to step into my pants each morning.  If I move too suddenly it feels like a knife is being driven into my groin.  I am tired; agonizingly, unbearably tired and yet I can’t sleep.  Between waking up to pee and the Olympic event of turning from one side to the other, I’m up every couple of hours.  I am cranky, moody and unreasonably irritable.  I’m lightheaded much of the day.  Breathing has become a chore.  Walking is a far from pleasant experience.  Oliver’s movements are now uncomfortable at best, downright painful at worst.  I don’t feel like me anymore; I feel like a barely humanized incubator.

On top of these physical discomforts, there is so much that I miss.  I miss coffee.  I miss drinking diet soda without feeling guilty about the artificial sweetener.  I miss sleeping on my stomach.  I miss holding Emmalee without feeling like I might collapse and die from the effort.  I miss having the energy to play with her.  I am constantly concerned about how this pregnancy is affecting her, and I’m pretty sure that she can now sense my misery.  Lately Emma has taken to approaching me with concern in her eyes and gently kissing my belly.  I can’t wait to be strong and fun and capable for her again.

Normally I would hate to write such a self-pitying and whiny blog.  Despite my unhappiness, I try to keep my complaints mostly to myself.  However, this blog is being written with a specific purpose in mind.  You see, something happens to many moms when their youngest child passes their first birthday.  A magical hormone is released that softens all the unpleasant memories of pregnancy and child-birth, wrapping them up in pretty pink cellophane until they can only be recalled with fondness (I’m pretty sure this has been scientifically proven).  You begin to have crazy thoughts like, “Pregnancy is such fun” or “I miss the way those little kicks felt” and, worst of all, “I want to do that again”.  I am writing this blog so that when these thoughts strike me after Oliver’s first birthday I can remember this exact moment, 8 months pregnant and miserable with 5 more weeks and a c-section still to endure.

Now yes, I do realize that the end product of all this suffering is a baby.  And though babies tend to bring about their own set of discomforts and worries, they are without a question completely worth the sacrifices.  Perhaps though, remembering these despondent moments at the end of this pregnancy will at the very least give me pause when I begin thinking that another baby is a good and sane idea.  I am not ready to completely rule out the possibility of a third child, but I would like the way I feel right now to at least play a role in the decision.  

Future self, please read and then re-read these words.  You are not a fan of being pregnant.  And, one last thing to consider, you get really, unfortunately, gigantically large when expecting.

 Five more weeks to go!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Bed Time Battles

For awhile it seemed as though bedtime was running smoothly.  Emmalee and I had a routine that we followed: bath, jammies, read some books and then into the crib she would go.  She lay down on her Brobee body pillow, snuggled Foofa to her chest, and I would tell her goodnight and leave the room without hearing a peep from her until the next morning.  It was blissful.

Now, our bedtime looks the same aside from one heart-wrenching factor.  Emma does not go down quietly anymore.  We follow the same routine but when I put her in her crib she immediately dissolves into tears.  And even worse than the tears are her sorrowful words.  “See you in the morning, Mommy.”  “We play tomorrow.”  “Bye bye, Mommy.”  All choked out through sniffles in a voice drenched in despair. 
I leave her and stand in the hallway outside her door, feeling like evil incarnate as I stoically ignore her pleas of “Mommy, come back.”  This generally only lasts a few minutes, but those minutes are achingly, painfully long.

Truthfully, I am terrified to go back into her room once I’ve left because once she stops protesting she falls asleep and sleeps the entire night.  I’m so scared of messing up a good thing.  I don’t think a brief trip back into the room would do anything more than prolong the teary portion of the evening, though I honestly haven’t been brave enough to try yet.  And staying with her until she falls asleep is just out of the question.  What would probably start off as a ten or fifteen minute ordeal would likely get progressively longer until I’m trapped in her room for an hour or more waiting for her to doze off.  Not to mention that she would inevitably come to rely on my presence to be able to sleep, and we would be back to middle of the night torment for Mommy when she wakes and I’m no longer there.  I only have three short months before her little brother will become the tyrant of my night time hours, so it would be preferable to avoid this outcome.  Of course, I’m also worried that I could in some way be causing permanent trauma, damaging our relationship and her faith in me as her mother, and otherwise contributing to lasting psychological effects that I’ll be paying a therapist to sort out when Emma is in high school.  

I would really like to get the bedtime situation remedied, but I am unsure of how to proceed.  I would like to convince myself that Emma is just being her usual emotional, dramatic self and that she’ll eventually get over this without me having to do anything differently, but listening to her anguish each night is taking an emotional toll on me as well.  My mother has suggested that I try to talk it out with Emma, and though I’ve read that two year olds can be quite difficult to reason with, I am willing to give that a try.  This might just add to our night time struggles, but I am also planning to convert her crib into a toddler bed soon.  Perhaps it is the confinement that Emma is suddenly not so pleased with.  Maybe getting out of bed to have Mommy usher her right back will at least reassure her that Mommy is still nearby and has not completely abandoned her (which is the conclusion I fear she reaches each night when she gives up on crying and goes to sleep).  Or, more likely, the freedom to get up will just drag out both bedtime and her tears.

Why does bedtime have to be so difficult?  I know, I know, that’s like asking why we exist.  We are just here and toddlers just don’t like to go to sleep.  Some of the many mysteries of the universe.  I guess I’ve been spoiled these last few months with the hour or two of down time in the evenings and the sleeping eight hours at night anyway.  Whatever I come up with to fix our current predicament will likely only be temporary, as Oliver’s arrival is sure to shake up the entire house.  I will try not to mourn as I resign myself to after dark dilemmas and a general zombie like existence.  And I will continue to count down the days until I can finally get reacquainted with my beloved Starbucks to ease the pain.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Nice Hands


Not too long ago, Emmalee, who is quite literally drama personified, came to the unsettling realization that her shouts of “No!” were not being heeded.  Despite her angry protests, she was still being coerced into such unpleasantness as diaper changes and being buckled into her car seat.  This could not be tolerated, so Emma was forced to try a new tactic.  She realized that her adorable little hands and feet could be used as weapons, and she lashed out with her newly developed hitting and kicking skills.

For me, this was a baffling turn of events.  I do not understand how Emma came to this realization, as we are a strictly non-violent household.  We do not spank, or act aggressively, or throw things in anger.  And Emma does not attend daycare, so her experiences with other children are limited.  I cannot begin to imagine where my sweet, innocent little child learned such behavior.  Perhaps aggression is an innate human trait. 
 
Regardless of where Emma’s new habit came from, it simply could not be endured.  If I have only one goal in this quest in parenting, it is that I will not end up like one of the helpless, broken women on Supernanny who suffer domestic violence at the hands of their toddlers and preschoolers.  I would put an immediate stop to the hitting and kicking.

That is when the trouble started, because despite the fact that I am quite a bit larger than Emmalee, she is the one with the fighting spirit.  Telling her firmly, “No.  We do not hit” or “Hands are not for hitting” or “We don’t hit Mommy” just wasn’t cutting it.  The more I said no, the angrier and more determined she became.  She did not want to participate in whatever event I’d deemed necessary, and she wasn’t going down quietly.  I discovered that when a properly aimed swing landed its target of my face, eliciting my own anger, this did not at all help the situation.  My irritation seemed to give Emma the green light for an all out war, ending with quite a bit of tears and frustration for all parties involved.

I was stuck, so naturally, I turned to Babycenter.com’s all knowing database for advice.  I was told to try time out, but I just couldn’t do it.  I may be na├»ve in my thinking on this topic, but I still feel like Emma is too young and won’t truly get the message I’m trying to instill with a time out.  

And then, an epiphany.  I cannot recall exactly where the inspiration came from, perhaps it was from my research on Babycenter.com, but the idea was pure genius and so simple.  Rather than approach the situation with negative words such as “no” and “don’t,” I would attempt to send a positive message.  Due to my degree in early childhood education, and the fact that I own a book titled “Positive Discipline,” you would think that I might have thought of this sooner.  In any case, the results were amazing.  Every time Emma hit, I responded by saying “Have nice hands please.”  The first time I said this, she seemed a little taken aback.  This was a new development.  I demonstrated what “nice hands” meant by taking her hand and having her gently stroke my face.  We eventually added the term “nice feet” to our new vocabulary.


It is astounding how happily Emmalee responds to this new, positive approach.  Despite the fact that I hear, “No, Mommy!” about eight thousand times a day, having the word “no” said to Emma is the trigger that changes her from a happy-go-lucky toddler into a seething, Hulk-like beast.  But when the same request is made from a “do” instead of “don’t” standpoint, Emma is content to comply.  Now she will sometimes come up to me and put her little hands on my face and say sweetly, “Nice, Mommy.”  It melts me every time.

So, for the moment, we have emerged from our hitting crisis.  I know that it is never wise to become complacent with a (almost) two year old lurking around.  For now though, I am so proud of Emma for being such a good girl, for learning to use her words instead of her hands and feet, and for beginning to learn to deal with her frustrations more constructively.  And I am so proud of me for not accepting defeat and instead finding a way to successfully deal with my child.  Things are not perfect, Emma still occasionally takes a swing, but for the most part we have “nice hands.”  And Mommy thinks that is quite nice indeed.