Category Archives: Life

Learning without training

Baby Love’s sleep seems to be FINALLY (*knock wood…knock all the wood*) turning a corner (*frantic knocking*). With our new nanny, E, she is more happy and relaxed and that is translating to better sleep.

I never sleep trained Baby Love. I tried a variation of cry-it-out once, and half-tried it a second time, and both times decided it was not for us. I am a big believer in the philosophy that babies’ wants ARE needs, which does not go well with CIO. Even if Baby Love just wanted the comfort of my presence or my boob in the middle of the night, to her that was a need. She had no life experience or tools in her tool box to draw on to deal with discomfort or fear or loneliness in other ways. How could I deny her the one thing she knew she could draw on to calm down, me, and leave her with nothing? It was just not my parenting style. Even if she didn’t “need” to eat in the night after 6 or 8 months, she “needed” my comfort. And that need was just as valid.

I nursed her to sleep for almost every bed time. Whenever she awoke in the night, I nursed her back to sleep.

Within this framework, I set her up to succeed.

I made sure she was rested so she wasn’t so over tired she couldn’t sleep.

I didn’t respond to every little sound, a classic reason I hear people give that babies still wake 4-6 times a night after 6 months like Baby Love did. I understood this idea in theory, but it was pretty clear if Baby Love was going to need me or not: when she needed me she woke up screaming. When she cried for me, I went to her, even if it was for the 8th time that night. I might have been exhausted, but I went, and quickly. No leaving her to cry for minutes on end to try to “teach” her to self-soothe by leaving her without soothing.

I helped her learn to put herself to sleep by giving her the opportunity to do so, but I’d still go back if she needed me and was crying. One day I left her to play in her crib at nap time, something she would often do for as much as an hour before crying for me to help her come fall asleep, and when I checked on her on the video monitor she had fallen asleep on her own. From that day on she fell asleep on her own at nap time regularly. This falling asleep on her own, however, in no way affected her nighttime awakenings. For Baby Love, falling asleep and falling BACK asleep are two very different things.

Then, finally, all on her own, Baby Love was ready to sleep more soundly. She very suddenly started waking up in the night, crying out once or twice or for 30 seconds, shifting to a new position, and going right back to sleep.

I was astounded.

By this point, at about 9.5 months old, I had resigned myself to the idea that we were in for the long haul and her sleep would likely be bad until she was around 2 years old, when children’s sleep habits are supposed to become more adult-like. I had tried all of the gentle methods to get her to sleep better, none of which made a difference, and that was as far as I was willing to take it. I had given up on the techniques weeks or months before and settled in to our apparent normal. I continued to set her up to succeed and nurture her so she knew she could count on me, but I refused to do any overt “training”.

And yet, she taught herself.

When she was ready, she did it.

Since this epiphany on her part a few weeks ago, her sleep has been improving markedly. Even though she has been the sickest she has ever been in her life with an icky head cold over the past week, she is sleeping better than she ever has. She only needs me twice a night much of the time. Any more, four wake-ups is a bad night, instead of a great one. I am getting more, continuous sleep. She is getting more, continuous sleep. It is a beautiful thing.

As her sleep has improved I better understand all of the sleep tips I received. I now don’t go to her as soon as she wakes, because even with an initial loud cry she’ll often put herself right back to sleep. In the past this wasn’t the case, and waiting 5 minutes just led to 5 minutes of continuous screaming (I tried it once for 3 days, not once did she “not really need me” or would I have been responding too fast). I can even understand cry-it-out at this stage, though I still wouldn’t choose it, because now she has the tools she would need to be able to put herself to sleep even when she doesn’t want to. Before this point in her life she did not have these tools, and leaving her to cry and cry would only have taught her that she was utterly alone and could not count on me. Now it might force her to access these skills. (Again, I’d rather let her learn to access them herself, but at least now I see that it could work even if it’s not my preferred path.)

Watching her develop on her own has been a great lesson to me:

I do know my child best.

I was given all of the sleep advice under the sun. I got judged left and right by parents with every age of child. I got told I was doing it wrong, I was coddling her, I was harming her, I just needed to try x and our sleep problems would disappear.

I listened to the advice and the judgement, and then continued to do what felt right for Baby Love.

Looking at where she was from birth to 9 months, and looking at where she is now at 10 months, it is night and day. That sleep advice would NOT have worked before now on her (which is probably why it didn’t). Now it could. Other babies may be ready for it at 6 months, or even 4 months, but mine wasn’t until 9.5.

Just like with every other development that our children go through, variation is normal. I would never strap her into a walker and force her to try to walk for hours a day so she would learn that on my schedule. Trying to force her to conform to sleep training techniques, even gentle ones, before she was ready for them would have been similarly pointless and detrimental.

I’m glad I decided to trust my baby and follow her lead. For us, it worked. Now not only am I sleeping better, I am trusting my mommy superpowers more. I know my child.

We will have sleep regressions. I know that. But we are progressing. And there is light at the end of the tunnel.

And if I do end up needing to do some gentle training down the line, I know, now, that she is ready for it.

1 Comment

Filed under Baby Girl, Life

Speaking my (love) language

Call me a materialist, but my love language is receiving gifts. It’s not that I like having stuff, it’s that, to me, gifts express thought and caring and communicate love very clearly. I feel loved when I receive a considered, thoughtful gift, no matter the size.

This is very foreign to my hubby, whose love language is decidedly not gifting. Gifts were never a big deal in his family, and they just aren’t something he ever put that much thought or effort into. It’s not that he didn’t care about the people he was getting gifts for, it was that giving a gift didn’t have much of a deeper meaning attached to it for him.

Over almost ten years of being together and almost five years of marriage, my hubby has learned how important gifts are to me and  has learned to speak my love language.

Right now he’s away at work (on a Saturday, boo), but I am feeling very loved,

eating the expensive meat and cheese he bought me when he was doing the grocery shopping because he knows I love it but would never spend money on it,

staring at the beautiful roses he got me because he knew I’d appreciate their unique coloration,

remembering the delicious dinner he picked up for us from Pita Pit last night because the closest one is an hour away but his work took him close to it and he knows how addicted I am to it.

I don’t talk about my hubby much on here, but I am so grateful to have a man who cares about me enough to learn to show me in the ways that speak loudest to me.

Leave a comment

Filed under Life

What a difference a nanny makes

When I began student teaching we hired a nanny to take care of Baby Love. I sifted through almost 30 applications to the position, phone interviewed close to a dozen applicants, and interviewed two in-person. We thought we had found the perfect person to take care of our sweet daughter while I was unable to.

We were wrong.

It soon became apparent that the nanny, Z, and us were on different pages. I would request she do something one way, I would learn later she did it a different way (after agreeing to do it mine). For example, she was a big believer in schedules. We keep Baby Love on a loose schedule, but she’s such a tough sleeper we stay flexible to meet her daily needs. We told Z to let Baby Love sleep in as long as she would and to just adjust naps a little later if she slept late. Sleeping in usually meant a bad night, and she needed the sleep so she didn’t get a sleep deficit and then have a harder time sleeping the next night, get a bigger deficit, etc. I learned after many weeks that Z had been waking Baby Love at exactly 8AM every morning if she wasn’t already awake, despite these instructions. I told her to not let Baby Love cry herself to sleep. She didn’t seem to mind if she screamed herself out (for short periods, if it got too long she’d go in there…I think). I just didn’t trust that my daughter was being taken care of the way I asked.

On top of that we had habits that annoyed each other. She brought her 14 month old with her (which we were fine with in theory), and he ended up being a whirlwind force who got into everything. We babyproofed, but the amount of stuff we had around annoyed her. I’d regularly come home to find something thrown out of the room she watched the kids in primarily…like my Roomba, which had charged in that room…or a single pair of shoes I forgot to move after taking them off the night before and she threw in front of a heater and ruined. I was annoyed by her uncleanliness. I have berry stains in my carpet from where her child threw berries and she didn’t pick them up or clean the stain. And so on.

Worst of all, Baby Love was stressed by the transition away from being with mom. She wasn’t eating very much at all. We almost completely lost her EC. Her sleep was backslid and flatlined at about the worst it had ever been. She’d cry and fuss at least once a day, and would fuss herself to sleep for every nap. She was unhappy.

After being with us for about a month (out of the 14 weeks she committed to) she told us she may have gotten another job for after her time with us ended, but that it started about 2 weeks before ours ended. She said since that job was permanent she’d do whatever she had to to get it, including leaving us early, despite previously committing repeatedly. Then she told me the date. It was actually 4.5 weeks before she was supposed to stop with us. She was leaving us with 1/3 of the job still to go.

I was upset. I had been trying to let the annoyances go, thinking that it was just part of having a nanny and I was being a control freak. Baby Love was stressed, but I thought it was just that Z was not-me, not that she was bad in any way. She was another person “living” in our house for much of the day, and we all had to adjust. I wasn’t sure how I could find someone else we could trust, since we had had to weed out so many people with what we could afford to pay. As much as Z annoyed me, we were at least settling into each other. I didn’t want to start the process over. Nevertheless, we began the search again.

Z told us she got the job on Friday.

That evening I put up a position.

Over the week several people applied, including E. I phone interviewed many. On the following Sunday we arranged to meet with E. And fell in love.

She was fantastic. A calm but competent presence. She had no formal experience, but we still trusted her to take care of our daughter. She was pregnant with her first child, who she had just learned was a girl, and doted on Baby Love.

We hired her an hour later. She started on Tuesday (since the hubby was home on Monday).

I came home that Tuesday and was amazed. Baby Love was so calmly happy to see me. With Z she had always been borderline frantic, borderline melting down, happy to see me in a “OH MY GOSH MOMMY HI PLEASE PICK ME UP HOW ARE YOU!?” kind of way. With E she was just…content. Happy. Peaceful. She beamed at me. It was the same kind of reaction the hubby gets when he comes home and Baby Love has been with me. A, “Oh, hi mom! I’m glad you’re here! Want to play with us?” kind of reaction.

I talked with E about the day. It went fabulously. Baby Love didn’t cry. At all. Zero fussing. Zero crying. She let E rock her to sleep in her arms on the first day she stayed with her! She peed on the potty for her. She ate a generous amount of bottle and solids. She was happy.

I was happy. E was nice and calm and assured but willing to do whatever I wanted. She felt like this was a wonderful job with a wonderful child, rather than something beneath her for not enough pay, and that attitude showed. I felt comfortable inquiring about things, requesting things, letting her know how we did things, and felt I’d be listened to rather than be an annoyance.

As time has gone on the change has been INCREDIBLE. Baby Love has never been as stressed as she was during her weeks with Z. Her nighttime sleep is steadily, sharply increasing as E stays with us. I cannot stress enough how amazing this is for this sleep-deprived mama! She still naps for E relatively easily, getting much longer and better naps on a flexible schedule. She eats an appropriate amount of bottles and solids. Her EC is back.

I had no idea how stressed we all were with Z until she was gone. E is like a breath of fresh air. I am so happy. SO happy.

You better believe E will be getting one well-thought-out baby gift from us!

1 Comment

Filed under Baby Girl, Life

Updates

I haven’t been a good blogger, so why don’t I try to catch you up. Each of these things could be a blog post in and of themselves, but since we all know THAT’S not going to happen, let’s go with a bulleted list:

-I started student teaching four weeks ago. It’s been going well. I love teaching and being in a school, and I find it very fulfilling. Baby Love is doing well with her nanny and slowly adjusting.

-I started student teaching four weeks ago. It’s been going horribly. I hate being away from my baby all day. I am counting the weeks (ten plus one off in the middle!) until I can go back to being a stay at home mom. I feel even more lucky than before that I have a husband who is willing and able to support us financially himself and is fully behind me staying home. So much for this new degree.

-One of the things I hate most about being gone is how it affected Baby Love’s nursing. She dislikes the bottle, so is taking much less milk and nursing much less since I’ve been gone. I realize partially this is natural, since she’s taking in more solids, but it feels like this has really accelerated that process. It makes me sad that we’ll never get back the stellar nursing relationship we had before I started working, simply because she’ll be almost a year when I stop, since it feels like this process was rushed to me. I hope she still is nursing regularly when I stop so I can try to rebuild some relationship around it, but right now she’s not too interested. Hopefully this dropping off of interest plateaus or reverses soon.

-Baby Led Weaning is going fabulously. I love it and Baby Love loves it. Every time I watch her explore new foods curiously and openly at her own pace I wonder how I could deny her the opportunity to enjoy and experience her food like this! The other night we went out, and she had an appetizer of cheerios, followed by chicken, carrot, water chestnut, rice, cheese, broccoli, and raw onion (which she ate hand over fist), topped off by half a French fry which she stole off my plate and got in her mouth before I could retrieve it. Half of those foods were new, but she jumped in and tried them eagerly with no fear. She had quite the spread in front of her, and it was adorable watching her evaluate and select her next bite each time. I don’t know many toddlers who are that adventuresome in their eating, let alone 8 month old babies, and I love it! With all my own food issues,I love seeing my daughter growing up without any.

-Another sad thing about being gone is that ec is going out the window. The nanny does potty her some, but it just doesn’t work as well. We’ve gone from never pooping outside the potty to not pooping in it in weeks (which extra sucks as breast milk poop is replaced by solid poop) and barely even tolerating being held on it anymore. It is very frustrating to see all that hard work go out the window, and I hope I can get some of it back when I’m back to being with her full time.

-Sleep is the one thing I have kept you updated on, more or less. It’s..going. Three steps forward, three steps back and I just hope the steps forward were slightly bigger. We were making fantastic progress until we went on a week long cross country trip followed by four teeth cutting in two weeks followed by me going back to work followed by the eight month wonder week/sleep regression. Yeah. I’m not sure how I functioned my first month at work waking up with her 5+ times every night. We’re finally starting to see some progress again towards the positive (*knock wood*). Unfortunately, her longest sleep stretch tends to be the last of the morning…and I get up for work 2-3 hours before her. So I miss it. But with forward progress I can hold on through anything!

-Baby Love has learned a ridiculously cute behavior from her puppy brother. When she wants to move with something rather than trying to hold it in a hand and crawl or cruise she now puts it in her mouth and holds it in her teeth while heading to her destination. It’s ADORABLE. And hilarious.

In summary: I have the cutest, bestest baby ever. The end.

Leave a comment

Filed under Baby Girl, Life

Sleep myths debunked!

As any good mathematician knows, it takes a solid proof to prove that something is true, but only one counter-example to prove it is false. Allow my baby, who STILL wakes five times night at 8 1/2 months, to be the counter-example to these amazingly prevalent sleep myths.

1) “You should introduce solids, that will help her sleep through the night!”

Scientific studies have proved this one false, but if that’s not enough for you (as it doesn’t seem to be for the large majority of people), it sure as heck did nothing for my baby. Not a darn, blessed change. And I log sleep every night then graph trends, so I can say that authoritatively there was no difference when Baby Love started solids, nor when she started eating a respectable amount of them.

To be fair, this could be because I didn’t start Baby Love on the hard-to-digest sludge known as rice cereal (the hard-to-digest piece is actually why some argue it helps sleep since it sits in the belly) and instead gave her whole fruits and veggies. However, I have a friend who did start with rice cereal and she also saw no difference in her non-sleeping child.

2) “You need to teach her to fall asleep on her own, then she’ll sleep through the night better.”

aka “You need to do CIO,” aka “You should always put her down sleepy but awake,” aka “You need to stop nursing her to sleep.”

This one comes in many forms, all of which are a dirty, disappointing lie. I put so much stock in this one. After all, it makes sense: if Baby Love can’t put herself to sleep how can she put herself back to sleep during her light awakenings? But my sweet daughter has taught me that falling asleep and falling BACK asleep are two very, very different skills. She has been putting herself to sleep in her crib for weeks now consistently, and her sleep is, quite possibly, the worst it’s ever been. I doubt the going to sleep on her own CAUSED the worse sleep, but it certainly didn’t do anything to help it.

3) “CIO’s only drawback is that it’s hard for the mom. If you can be strong enough to do what’s best for your child it will work.”

Actually, no. Studies have shown CIO can cause what extremists call brain damage, and while I certainly wouldn’t look down on anyone who tried it it is not without risk. It also certainly doesn’t always work.

Allow me to give an example. Say you are afraid of spiders. Now say someone locked you in a closet full of spiders for an arbitrary period of time and did not relent no matter what you did; you would stay in the closet until the time was up. This was repeated several times a day for weeks. Eventually you may stop screaming and pounding on the door, you may find your happy place, or you may even decide spiders aren’t so scary after awhile. Alternately, you may reinforce your belief that spiders are the most terrifying thing in the world and start to dread all closets, feeling your stress and anxiety rise any time you approach the area where the closet of your experience is.

Out of desperation I tried CIO one night. After over an hour and a half of desperate, panicked screaming Baby Love finally collapsed into sleep. When she woke it had been awhile so I fed her, and then she started panicking when I approached the crib. I said screw it and we’d call it a night. The next day she got tense if we went upstairs, the tension increasing as we approached and enter her room. She’d cry if we went near her crib. If I kept it up might her anxiety have peaked and broken? Possibly. But it’s also very possible she would have strengthened her negative association with her crib, which we then would have had to work through. As it was we had to build her trust in her crib back up, and months later it’s still not fully back. The problem wasn’t I couldn’t listen to her cry, it was that it made things worse for her.

So there you have it: proof by counter-example!

Now does anyone have some advice that actually works? Because I’ve tried it all.

I’m off to bed. May your night be more restful than mine will be!

Leave a comment

Filed under Baby Girl, Life

As if I needed another reason

I fucking hate work. All those people who said it would make me treasure the time I had with Baby Love more? They’re wrong.

Do you know what it IS doing? It’s making me angry at her. Actively, strongly angry. She’s a BABY. That is not ok.

Work takes all of my energy. I get home and I’m happy to see her, but I’m exhausted. I have nothing left for any little set back or abnormal fussiness.

And night time…we are having a major sleep regression. It SUCKS. I have gotten frustrated, not been sure how to go on, wanted to cry, and wanted to give up in the past when Baby Love was having a bad night…or week…or month…or lifetime. But I have never felt angry at HER. Always primarily at the situation. Tonight while in her room for the fifth time at 4am I was very angry at her. A hot anger. I knew I had to get up for work in a few hours and I was angry at her for refusing to sleep.

I HATE getting angry at my infant. It’s not her fault. She can’t help it. She wants to be sleeping. But the anger still rose up and overwhelmed me so I didn’t trust myself to pick her up for the first time ever. Never has my frustration with sleep woes been so directed at her. It’s always been at the universe. But now I just don’t have enough spoons to be able to deal with this.

I hate feeling this way. I just want work to be over. But I can’t stop for three more months. And that makes me want to cry.

I’m so sorry, baby. I’m trying to be a good mom even while sabotaging my ability to be so. I love you even when I can’t show it.

1 Comment

Filed under Baby Girl, Life

Leaving baby

This week I started student teaching, the last step in the masters program I’ve been in for the past two years. I have known this was coming. Since having Baby Love I was not looking forward to it. But I do love being in the classroom, so I thought it would be ok.

I was wrong.

I haven’t cried. I get to leave while Baby Love is still sleeping, so no tearful goodbyes. While I’m at school I’m busy and happy working with the kids. It’s been surprisingly easy to leave her.

And that is much of what I hate.

I’m gone for most of her waking life now. I miss SO MUCH. If this was all I knew, it would be fine. I do see her awake every day. But comparing it to what I had? What I’m missing is painfully obvious and huge.

People say it will get better. The thing is, I don’t want it to. I don’t want this to be my new normal. I don’t want to get accustomed to missing most of Baby Love’s life. For me, this is not what I want in being a parent.

People told me I would appreciate the time I had with her more. But I don’t. The time feels exactly the same, even now when I’m feeling extra tender; there is just less of it. If anything, I cherish the time less, because I feel like I have to cram more extraneous stuff into it. I need to go to the store, do laundry, run, cook dinner, etc., but now instead of having all day I have a few short hours. Before I was enjoying our pace and fitting things in as I could, now I am less patient because I feel I have to be more efficient.

And on top of that, I need time to decompress from work. I hear working moms say that when they work some they are better moms because they feel more able to be fully present to their kids when they are there. For me, it’s the opposite. Maybe because of my invisible illnesses that made it impossible for me to keep my engineering job, but I cannot be fully present at home when I give all my spoons to work.

Before baby, I thought when I was a SAHM it would be boring. I thought I’d need part time work to feel sane. But I don’t think I do now. My days were full and satisfying. Watching Baby Love grow was amazing, and it just kept getting better. I wasn’t looking for a way out. I wasn’t needing accomplishment elsewhere.

I have a wonderful husband who fully supports me in throwing away this degree for awhile (or forever) and not working once I have it. So I only have the next 13 weeks to get through before I am done for the forseeable future. Done being gone all day. Done missing her time awake. Done missing all the little details of her life. Done giving her my leftover time.

I can try to get through that time. I can look forward to when I am home with her all day again. I can give up on all else, like cleaning and running, so I can give as much as possible to her. But the fact remains I will still miss most of her waking time.

And there is nothing, nothing, I can do to get these 14 weeks back.

And I hate that.

Today my mind was going around in circles trying to find a solution. A way to make both things work. And I couldn’t. There isn’t one.

I will miss the last third of her babyhood. At least, I will miss it in the intimate way I have known the rest of her life, and by a long shot. And there is nothing I can do about it.

I know this sounds silly. I’m sure if I read words like this two years ago I would have rolled my eyes and thought the author was pathetic and needed a life outside of her kid.

But you know what? I love my kid being my life right now. She won’t always be. As my mother tells me, parenthood is a series of letting-gos. Baby Love will grow, she will get more independent, she will need me less, and eventually she will move out and have her own life which I will be only a small part of. And that is right and good. But right now, my baby needs me fully. I am her life, and she is mine. This time is short, it is fleeting, and I want to live it fully.

So I will get through these next thirteen weeks. I won’t count them down, because I don’t want to miss what I do have of Baby Love’s days in the meantime. But I look forward to when I can leave the workplace and she can return to being my world.

Because one thing I have learned about myself since having her, something I would never have thought to be true before she was here, is that, at least for now, I am totally and completely fulfilled being “just” a stay-at-home-mom.

1 Comment

Filed under Baby Girl, Invisible Illnesses, Life