Friday, December 28, 2012

Sleep Like a Baby

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At Ivy's four-month check-up, her doctor suggested we think about where and how we want Ivy to sleep in the long-run. Four months, it seems, is the ideal time to shape a baby's nighttime and nap routine. So while she still looks like a bitty thing, four-month-old-Ivy's habits lay the foundation for toddler-Ivy's sleep.

With that in mind, my first thought was, Oh, shit.

Despite having been through the whole baby-growing-up thing already, I find it impossible to believe that Ivy will ever be, say, 16 months old. But the idea of Ivy's sleep "schedule" looking like it does now this time next year scares me.

Currently, Ivy sleeps with Rob and me. Her crib is at the foot of our bed (leaving us with about 18 inches of floor space all together. It's like we're on a boat). She starts the night in her crib, after nursing to sleep. Then the first time she wakes up, she comes to bed with me, and (most nights) she stays there, scooching around and kicking me in the stomach until morning.

And don't get me started on naps! Naps are an unpredictable mess. If we we're lucky and don't have anywhere to rush off to, Ivy will nap in her crib for a solid 45 minutes, provided she's swaddled and I nurse her to sleep. Most of the time, she ends up napping in little bursts: in the baby carrier, in the car (after some major squalling), in my lap while nursing, on my shoulder after nursing...

When she was brand new, I knew that always nursing her to sleep (and then holding her for hours while she slept) wasn't ideal, sleep-habit-wise. But it felt unnatural to do anything else. Now, as much as I want to put Ivy down to sleep, I'm used to the idea of her sleeping in my arms. (Also, she's really soft and cuddly and nice to hold. So there's that.) And then the idea of toddler-Ivy, unable to nap anywhere but on me enters my mind and I freak out.

I'm trying to get better about helping Ivy sleep somewhere other than mashed up against me, especially for her naps. I even picked up a couple of books on babies and sleep. Both books could've just said, "Everything you've been doing so far is wrong." Awesome. A few nights ago, I tried one expert's "gentle" techniques for putting Ivy to bed, and ended up crying silently while holding her in the dark, feeling like an idiot for having "done it wrong" since the beginning.

I catch myself feeling nostalgic for those new-new baby nights, when Ivy's age was still measured in days. Yes, there were some rough evenings, but things were fairly straightforward: when she woke up, it was probably because her tummy was empty. I never wondered whether to offer her some milk or just pat her back. I didn't once think about the possibility of toddler-Ivy sleeping in my arms. I barely even looked at the clock. I was exhausted, but I also felt more relaxed, coasting along in a no-routine sleep-routine.

I can't decide if this pressure I suddenly feel to "fix" Ivy's sleep is productive, or if it's just that bullshit pressure where everything is All Your Fault. Maybe it's a little of both. I'd definitely like things to be more predictable, but I don't know how much control I really have over that. And as much as I understand the idea behind thinking in terms of future toddler-sleep, right now Ivy is still very much a baby.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Blue Pajama Love

Kisses are Funny
Westley, 2 months (2008)

Nom Nom Cheeks
Ivy, 4 months (2012)
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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Four Months

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I was just sitting down to write Ivy's four-month post last night when she started crying. It was less than an hour after I'd put her to bed, but she was very much awake. And fussy. She cried and complained and carried on, on-and-off, for an hour and a half, which is not like her at all. 

"Does she ever cry?" Westley's teacher asked me Thursday afternoon. And, like a dope, I said something on the order of, "Oh, she has her fussy times, but she's not much of a crier."

And then last night Ivy cried every couple of hours until I looked at the clock and it was 6:30 AM, and I said, Fine, you win, baby. We'll get up now.

Four Months

Ivy's been a good sleeper from the start; this new craziness is almost certainly related to teething. There is drool everywhere. When I massage her gums, I feel the little dimples where her first teeth will be, and there are two white lines just barely visible below the surface of the gum...maybe. (I might be seeing things.) In any case, Ivy's mouth is clearly driving her insane. Getting her hands in there helps a little, as does sucking on the baby carrier or an adult shoulder, but mostly she just has to tell us how much she hates everything about it, using her own signature baby-dinosaur language.

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At her four-month well-visit on Friday, Ivy weighed in at almost 15 lbs. She's still average for head circumference and weight, and way above average for height. Despite being tall, however, she still manages to look very "plush"—partly because of the chubby pink ounces she's packing on, and partly because we only ever dress her in pajamas.

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I had all these noble, good, fashion-conscious intentions of dressing my babies in cute-but-practical outfits. But it didn't work out with Westley, and it doesn't seem to be panning out with Ivy, either. Of course, it's perfectly acceptable to be wearing footie pajamas (or a fuzzy one-piece with animal ears) in public in the middle of the day when your age is measured in months.

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Nighttime crabbiness aside, Ivy still loves life. She's very happy to be here, and she's ready to take it all in. If only she could take it all in faster. She loves to watch Westley and his preschool classmates run around the playground, and I can see the wheels turning in her little mind: How do they do that? She seems genuinely annoyed to realize she's just too tired to stay awake and watch the Westley show even one more minute. She usually has to holler about that.

Ivy still talks up a storm, and continues to comment on life even when she's nursing. "Ay-yay-yay," she says with her mouth full.

She rolls over from her back to her tummy easily (though she hasn't done it in the past few days) and immediately gets her knees under her and squirms. It's like she understands the theory of crawling even though her body isn't quite there yet. Which, naturally, makes her crazy and the baby-dinosaur noises come out full-force.

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She's crazy-delicious, this soft, fluffy baby of mine. It's hard to believe she's a third of a year old already.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Thriving

One of my favorite things about Rob is that he can live in the shadow of my stress without getting stressed himself. He responds to my chaos by remaining calm. Ancient-beardy-magician-drinking-herbal-tea-on-a-mountaintop calm.

This morning, Rob got Westley all dressed and fed and packed up for school. He reminded me to have breakfast before coffee (so the caffeine wouldn't kill my appetite), swaddled Ivy so she would nap in her crib, and suggested I take the first shower. Then he helped me put together an agenda for the next few weeks.

As I settled in to feed Ivy, feeling more relaxed and very taken care of, Rob said, "When she's done eating shall we get going?"

We started with lunch at Thrive in Seattle. We'd driven past their sign dozens of times, but had never been inside the cafe. Now I want to move in there and live off their Coconutty Smoothie forever and ever and ever.

Coconutty
[I was too busy enjoying an awesome lunch date and forgot to take pictures, so I borrowed this one from Thrive's Facebook page.]

It took Ivy a little while to get used to the sounds of the high-powered blenders and got over her fascination with the hippie dudes conversing at a table kitty-corner from us. Once she was convinced that everything was groovy, she nursed to sleep while I tucked in to a salad the size of my torso. We were there during peak lunchtime hours, and the adorable New-Age-Girl hostess couldn't contain her joy at the presence of a baby, especially since said baby was having her lunch, too.

I managed to slip Ivy into the K'tan without waking her, and we took a slice of chocolate mousse pie to go. Rob kept me company while I finished my Christmas shopping and picked out a new bottle of Dr. Bronner's soap, with lots of browsing in between. As Rob drove us home in the rain, I felt more relaxed and centered than I have in months.

In this season of family and gratitude, I am beyond thankful that this beardy magician of calm who's married to me.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Too Stressed to Be Depressed

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I have been on mood watch since Ivy was born, mostly because I knew everyone would be watching me for signs of postpartum depression. Which pissed me off. Every time someone brought up postpartum depression and the warning signs and prevention and my history—there was always some remark about "your history"—I thought, Fuck you. I know you're trying to help, but fuck you.

I interpreted everyone else's (very real) concern for me as their belief that I couldn't do it. That I wasn't strong enough or sane enough to be a mother.

So I was absolutely determined not to be postpartum-depressed after Ivy's birth. And for the most part I wasn't. I had a real solid bout of "baby blues" during the first three weeks, and I cried because the baby was so beautiful, because I loved her so much, because the sky was blue... Since then, I've had good days and bad days, but mostly I've had busy days.

I knew having a baby and a preschooler would change the shape of my life, but I had NO IDEA.  There is no schedule, only busy. Everything busy. I have to switch gears so fast and so often, I don't have time to think about what my mood is doing. It's not a bad thing—and with Christmas (always a difficult time for me) fast approaching, I would rather be spread a little too thin than feel totally melancholy—but it requires its own kind of adjustment.

I don't have time to think in terms of sad, or downcast, or blue. I'm still learning to live (and thrive) in this new emotional climate.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Letter to Myself as a New Mother

Dear 2007-Noelle,

I'm so sorry about your back labor—and that you had no idea what back labor was before it happened to you. But you are an Amazon warrior priestess slaying a dragon on the moon with an axe that is also a guitar. You are. Even though you feel like you did that time when you were three and you got separated from Mom in the elevator.

Trust me on this one.

It's okay to feel like a scared little kid, but remind yourself every day that you are motherfucking tough. You just did an amazing thing, growing and giving birth to this gorgeous baby. It's also totally okay to feel shitty and hate everything and wonder why you thought this was a good idea in the first place. Get yourself some Baby Blues Mood Remedy tincture and take it every day, even if you don't think you need it.

Your baby will sleep at night, and he'll do it sooner than you think. By the time he's eight months old, you will be laying him down in his crib at 8:00 PM every evening. You will tell him you love him, close the door, walk away, and he will sleep. And by the time he's five years old, he'll be saying things like, "Can we get started on the nighttime routine?" For real.

The reason you have so much trouble with diapers leaking? You're not doing it wrong. You just have the wrong diaper covers. Try Thirsties. They seem to work well for long, skinny babies like yours.

I know it can be hugely intimidating to leave the house with a tiny baby. Do it anyway. Get out of the house every day. There is a coffee shop walking distance from your apartment. Walk there! (Order something small if you're worried about the price of coffee-shop-coffee.)

Babies are really portable when they're tiny. Take advantage of this and go to a museum or a movie.

If you're out of the house and the baby seems hungry, just find a place to sit and feed him. It's totally alien to be someone's food source, but you don't need to be anxious. It won't hurt him to wait a few minutes while you locate a comfy(ish) spot. If you're driving and he's really hollering, it's okay to pull over somewhere and breast-feed him in the car.

Speaking of breastfeeding, it really will get easier. That awful thing he does right now where he struggles and cries and you have no idea if milk is coming out? He's just getting used to being on the outside. He's only five days old, after all. He is getting milk (the reason he looks bigger and more mature every day is because he is bigger!) and he'll really get the hang of it in just a couple more days. And very soon, breastfeeding won't feel quite so awkward. Nursing a three-month-old baby is 1,000 times easier than nursing a three-day-old or three-week-old. Just keep an eye on your wrists so they don't get all carpal-tunnely.

Not every snuffle or squeak from the baby means "I'm hungry and I need you!"

That being said, if your gut says to check on him, do it.

Don't even think about going back to work. Your job is not that great, and your commute is terrible. Quit now, and save yourself a lot of mental anguish. Which is not to say that being a stay-at-home parent is easy. It's not.

But, as we've established, you're fucking tough.

Love,
2012-Noelle

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