August 30, 2013

Goodbye Swaddle, Hello Errands

Today has been a hard day so I thought there was no better way to end it than to jot down some of the thoughts that have been flowing through this Swiss cheese brain of mine these days. Robert is back to work and boy am I feeling it. I wish I had had the time and energy to write an account for those first crazy days. I believe one day I didn't eat until 3 pm and another I didn't brush my teeth until 5 pm, yikes!! I anticipated that this transition would be hard, but I honestly thought it wouldn't be as testing as it has been.

My husband has a very unusual schedule and a rather demanding job. It seems he is working about 6 days a week, and they don't seem to be consistent either. I knew this before we had a baby. I have lived with a rather erratic schedule for many years now, but that was when I was just me. It rarely bothered me that I would sometimes sleep alone, or have to partake in couples activities as a single. He loves his job, and I like my me time. But having a baby is so different. Sometimes as I am sitting in the rocking chair breastfeeding or walking laps around the living room trying to rock her sleep I miss having someone to talk to, someone that can talk back at least. Or when she is screaming because she doesn't want to go down for a nap that she really needs and I need to go to the bathroom really bad, it would be nice to be able to hand her off for a second, but I can't. With overnight shifts, mandatory overtime, training, court, and pop-up protests I find myself alone with Marilyn a lot. I am not complaining I am just a little off guard at how hard this has been.

I am a patient person. I can wait in line for a long time before getting upset, I was a pre-school teacher, and I rarely get road rage from stop and go traffic. I consider myself very patient, but having parent patience is way more intense than any DMV line or Berkeley during commute hours. It is something that I need to perfect and something that has been thoroughly tested as we have taken this new curve. It was ironic that not only were we getting used to Robert going back to work but we were also transitioning Marilyn out of a swaddle. Apparently you should only swaddle babies up to 2 months as it can cause hip joint issues if done too long, since our little monster as we playfully call her, is as tall as a 4 month old right now we knew that we could not mess around with the swaddle cut off date. However at the same time all of this was happening she began to develop some serious body movement. Her arms flail faster than Michael Phelps on most days and for a newly free sleeper this is not a good thing. Why you ask? Because imagine you can't control your arm movement and that they are flying around at warp speed as you are drifting off to sleep. Your arms are moving and they only have so many directions that they can go when you are lying flat and one of those directions is right at your face. Next add the fact that your hands are 90% of the time in a fist and you can see why this is a nasty combination.

Needless to say she didn't nap for a few days, or she would simply sleep for about 20 mins before she beat herself up enough to cry. Was her arm flailing worse because she was dependent on the swaddle? Who knows, my inclination is yes. See she slept fine without a swaddle when we first brought her home, but she slept longer in the swaddle, and while in the hospital they constantly swaddled her, so we did too. Eventually we were swaddling her for every nap and bedtime until our doctor warned us of the 2 month cut off. So here I was on the day and night shift with a baby who could not sleep, you can imagine the bags under my eyes right? One night I nursed her in bed with me and when she fell asleep, I set her flat on her back and put my arm over her arms so when they flailed they couldn't hit her. After a while I began to worry that the weight of my arm would hinder her breathing, so carefully with my free arm I stacked pillows opposite her for my arm to rest on keeping it off her chest but still blocking her arms. She slept, I caught a little shut eye, but woke with a very stiff arm. Eventually she began to flail a little less in her deep sleep, they still Phelps it up with she is not as deep, but her sleeping has become better. She even slept through the night again close to her 9 week mark!

My mom told me countless times that the biggest shock of being a parent was that you could no longer just "run in" anywhere. That every outing was like you were leaving for vacation. I rolled this off my shoulders thinking it can't be that hard, but alas I was so WRONG! When Robert and I would run errands together often times he would drive around the parking lot while I ran in to grab whatever we needed. We would strategically plan when to leave and have the car packed long before take off. At the grocery store he would have her in one cart while I darted around getting the things off the list with another cart. Now that Robert is back to work and has one day off to spend with us, the last thing we all want to be doing on that day is running errands. So I have been learning to do them on my own.

I am not going to lie I was totally scared to drive in the car with her alone. I can't see her, and no one is there to tell me that she is okay. I can recognize her different cries somewhat at this stage and couldn't fathom being in the car with a hysterical baby. I was too scared. But with the thought of errand running for our family outings looming over my head I bit the bullet strapped her in the car and did it. I needed to find a gift for Marilyn's cousin Ava's first birthday and thought the bookstore in Point Reyes would be great. I could buy the book, walk to the post office to get some stamps, get bread at the local bakery, and grab milk at the little market there. This would require that I find ONE parking space, get her out of the car ONE time, get my items done, and then drive home in one piece. Well as I embarked on this adventure I ran into some serious road construction on my usual route, the gentlemen told me I was looking at a 10min wait before I could pass, she was already fussing. I couldn't do it, 10mins of baby crying in an idle car, no thank you. I turned myself around and rethought my plans. The only other way to Point Reyes would require that I drive to Central Marin and then out to the coast making my 20min drive into more like an hour, again no thank you. So instead I decided to head up to Downtown Petaluma, inland and about a 15 min drive. There I could park equal distance between the market and the bookstore and I could pick up fresh bread at the bakery. The only thing they didn't have was the Post Office which could wait.

I got there, found the perfect spot, and strapped her in the carrier. She fussed as she usually does so I stood on the street corner bobbing up an down to get her to settle before making my way to the bookstore. I got a few funny looks, probably childless people I assumed. She made it through the bookstore and the bakery and even one antique store (her first!). As I began to walk over to the market I realized that I was way over dressed for the hot Petaluma weather, I was planning to go to Point Reyes remember, so the sweat began to set in. Of course the journey to the market was a sunny side walk with juvenile trees. I ditched my purse (in the car) and just carried my debit card as this pack horse is not well enough to be working that hard just yet. I dashed through the market like a lightening bolt grabbing the provisions I had set out to get and it was not until the check out line that she began to cry. I think it must have been a sight to see me with baby strapped on front carrying two groceries bags in wool pants and long sleeves dashing through the parking lot and down the street with sweat streaming from my forehead. I wish someone was filming me especially as I took that shortcut through the plants :) I made it to the car and she and I both were much happier when we finally separated.

It was not until we were approaching our exit on the freeway that she began to wail. You know the hysterical I need to eat right now cry. My heart races every time I hear that cry and this time was no different. And what would you guess happened next? I got stuck behind some annoying person driving 20 mph in a 35 mph zone. Really? Why do people do that? I was ready to throw my shoe at his car, but alas we made it home. I quickly unstrapped her to get her in the house and on the boob, when I realized I had milk in the car. What to do, what to do...screaming baby and milk on a hot day. I grabbed her and ran her in the house and strapped her in her chair then ran back out to the car and grabbed the groceries. Threw the milk in the fridge and whisked her away to feed. We were home, we made it, and the best thing is that I realized I could do it. I could run errands on my own and now I am getting pretty good at it. I have even made several trips in one day!

Yes, I would like a pat on the back ;)

We spent our family day having a picnic in West Marin instead of running errands. Here she is on the picnic in the carrier asleep :) She slept through her first picnic.

Robert and Marilyn catching a morning nap together. She kept scooting herself closer and closer to him until she was buried in his chest, so precious.
Giggly in the morning.

Check out those blue eyes.

So cute.

Pouting lips :)

August 15, 2013

7 Weeks

That's right it has been 7 weeks, and wow how it has flown by!! Robert is back to work today so I thought I would finally get myself to create a post. I actually created a really wonderful and long 6 week post, but there happened to be a glitch in the system and I lost every word. So tragic. Guess it wasn't meant to be. But here I am 7 weeks after giving birth to our beautiful Marilyn at it again, finally!!

Motherhood is definitely an adventure. While labor may have been the most athletic thing I have ever done, motherhood is quickly becoming the most mentally challenging thing I have ever done. I have little control and just when I think I have figured it out, a new twist comes into play. I knew this going into it, but I could never anticipate the severity of it. Our good neighbor Dave, told us countless times that "nothing is apparent, until you become a parent" and he could not be more right. Becoming a parent makes you appreciate your parents in whole new light, makes you hate people who harm children in any way more than you ever could imagine, makes you question everything around you, and makes me weepy for kids whose parents don't love and care for them like we do for our dear Marilyn. That last one physically hurts to think about. I am only 7 weeks in and I feel this, what is it going to be like at 7 years, 17 years, or 70 years (I hope I make it that long!)??

So you are probably wondering how she and we are doing, as that is the question we always get. I love it when our friends tell us that we look good for "new parents" or the lady in the bookstore who told me I look great for having such a new baby. It makes me chuckle. Is that a compliment? What did we look like before we had her? I think we are doing great. We have rough days, but really who doesn't, even without an infant? We are adjusting just fine and will continue to, there have been a few shocking things, breastfeeding, errands, and poop to name a few, but nothing we can't handle.

Marilyn is doing wonderful. She is tall (in the 98 percentile according to her Dr.), gaining weight as she should, and lately giving us some of the very best smiles. Her days consist of the basics sleep, eat, play, and potty. What a life!!

Here is a breakdown of each category to date:

Sleep - The most common complaint that you hear from new parents is how tired they are. We are tired too, but have realized that we are not necessarily getting less sleep, we are just not getting these hours together. I have been reading my sleep book over and over and over. I kid you not I have been reading the same three chapters for the entire 7 weeks. Trying to navigate the "schedule" the "signs" and the proper "soothe". For now I am refusing to let her cry it out and hope to never have to cross that bridge. The thing about parenting advice and parenting materials is there is SO much out there and everyone has their own opinion as to what the correct method is. Dr. Weissbluth recommends letting her cry it out, that she won't think I have abandoned her, but Dr. Brazelton says that a baby should NEVER cry it out. Everyone hears what they want to hear, which is why so much research is difficult to navigate but what it comes down to for me is the source. Both authors are well known doctors, both books are very well written, but one came as a recommendation from a friend (with a wonderfully well-behaved child) and the other comes from a recommendation from my college professor (I minored in child development). For this one I am trusting my college professor. How can she not think I have abandoned her if I have been so responsive to her cries and then all of sudden I stop. Granted I am 7 weeks in, but that is my stance for now.

Overall Marilyn has been very good to us in the sleep department. Early on she adopted a 5 hour nighttime stretch up for a change and feed and then down for another 3. She was taking 3 hour naps, but in the last few days they have shorten to 1-3 hours, 3-4 times a day. On her 6 week birthday she slept through the night! Of course I didn't take advantage of this because I woke up at 3:45 to Robert's snoring, then my body told me she needed to eat, and later I began to fret that she wasn't breathing in her crib. At 5:45 when she finally awoke I sprang up with relief as I had been lying there worrying she was not okay, but to afraid to check. She hasn't done it since, but we keep hoping. The last few days she was up almost every two hours, but everyone assures me that she must be having a growth spurt, apparently it throws off their sleep. Lets hope that is the case :)

Eat - Everyone lies about breastfeeding, or better yet they withhold the truth from you, and I am here to break that trend. I read countless articles, a book that is supposed to be the breastfeeding bible, and Robert and I even took a class on the subject but no one, NO ONE, tells you how hard it can be. All I heard was its natural, its an amazing bonding experience, its all your baby needs to survive and thrive. No one tells you that it hurts, that you may become sore, you may bleed, you may cry and even scream your way through it. This is exactly what happened to me, which sent us to two lactation consultants as every thing I read told me that if it hurts your baby has a bad latch or has a physical issue. Well Marilyn has a perfect latch and no physical issues and I had a horrible start with breastfeeding. I believe is was 2 am on our first night home, when Robert asked me if Safeway (which is the only place open at that time) carried formula as he watched me cry through a feeding. I refused and when they began to bleed I still refused. There was no way I was going to give my little organic baby, something that the first ingredient is corn syrup, at least not until I gave it the old college try. I have sensitive skin and found this out the hard way. Like labor I fought my way through it, but unlike labor the pain did not go away it lingered. It took about three weeks for me to feed her without screaming part way through it. What helped? A Dr.'s recipe for homemade nipple cream, time, and organic lollipops :) Robert was my biggest cheerleader, it helped that he kept telling me I was already a good mom. The easy thing to do would have been to give her formula, but I couldn't bring myself to do it and I am so glad, because now it only hurts when she first latches on, oh and of course when she decides to do the occasional bite down, yikes! Once we get going all those things that I heard about breastfeeding became true, it seems just like moms forget the pain of labor until they find themselves there again, they seem to forget the pain of breastfeeding too.

I have had a few interesting nursing experiences but I'll save those for another post.

Play - Her playtime is what we call face time. She is usually lying flat or in her leaf chair where she has been giving us these amazing smiles (check out one of the photos below) that really melt our hearts. We do "tummy time" and it has been amazing to see the strength developing in her neck. We are also reading all her wonderful books to her. She seems to enjoy the brightly colored pages and when we went through the spring bulb catalog together (yes I am starting her early) she focused on the yellow flowers. She even cooed for the daffodils with white centers. Do you remember Mike who I practiced my swaddles on? Well Mike catches her attention all the time. He lives on the bookshelf behind the rocking chair and when she is supposed to be burping I catch her stretching her neck to catch a glimpse of him. When he comes down for "play time" she stares at him very deeply, I think we found her first love.

Potty -  Someday she will dislike us for sharing the details to follow but we just can't help it. Robert and I joke that we are going to share these stories when she brings her first date home. We have named her the "projectile pooper". For the first 4 weeks or so she refused to poop in her diaper, probably because she is such a lady :) Instead she waits until Daddy has got her on the changing table and diaper is open to let it out. We are not talking about a delicate lady like release, Robert describes it as a "skunk spray". It shoots out with force often splattering all over him. It has been projected onto the wall, the closet door, Robert, me, and the adorable organic rug. It has gotten to a point now where Robert can predict it before it happens so the mess has become less, but every now and again she surprises him. When it actually happens in a diaper it is so loud, noises you would expect from a sailor, not our delicate little flower. We have nicknamed it her "skooshies", where did we get that from?  I have a tendency to nickname all sorts of funny things, Robert thinks it's a weird Aptos thing, but he is been known to do it too. We are having great success with our reusable diapers and wipes. Daddy is the laundry king and he loves the fact that we don't have to spend money on diapers. On the go we may opt for a disposable, but when did a weekend with my parents she quickly broke out with a diaper rash from the diapers and wipes. When we got home and back to our old routine it cleared up quickly. The environmentalist in me feels great that we aren't filling up the landfill and Robert thinks they are super easy too, which is great!

So the hubby left for work this evening as I was feeding Marilyn before her bedtime. After he left and I had successfully gotten her to sleep I wandered around the house and couldn't help but find myself in a unique place. 7 weeks have literally whizzed by, I can't believe it. We are turning over a new leaf, Robert with his new schedule will have to adjust to seeing Marilyn less and trying to sleep through the days, ignoring her refusals to nap. I will have to adjust to the day and night shift. If only he could get paid to stay home and we could savor all these life changing moments together everyday. If only...Well until we win the lotto I am afraid that will not happen. I will miss him late at night when he would so graciously pluck her from her crib and bring her to me to feed and then later change her and bring her back, I have been so lucky. I will also miss chatting with him as we try mercifully to get her to go to sleep and the ability to hand her off when I just need a break. He is not going to war, he will still come home everyday, but with his very unique schedule, mandatory overtime, and extra training he will not be able to give us the attention that I know he wants to. This new chapter will be hard, but together we will make it work. Hopefully I can master the errand running alone so our days "together" will not be spent running around but rather enjoying our family time.

Two days ago all smiles after our first outing just the two of us to the bookstore. This is my favorite picture so far!

4 generations
Marilyn (1 month) and Helen (99 years)

With Auntie Erica and Ralphie

At her Baptism

First trip to the beach

Cruising with Auntie Mandi and Cousin Cameron

First doctor's appt.

In her chair early on.
In her chair recently, look how she has grown!!

With her Cousin Cameron, isn't he adorable!

Another playtime with Cameron, they're almost exactly one month apart.

First shopping trip.

With Uncle Cliff.

With her Great Grandma, what a great picture!!

Everyone kept commenting on how big her feet were, so here is a close up.

A few days old :)

Catching a nap with Daddy.

Celebrating Robert's 30th we took her to her first Giants game, she was perfect!

"You fall in love with your children in a way that you have never fallen in love before. It is deep, protective, fierce, unconditional love that grows and changes. It is a powerful shift in your life when you become a parent and realize that the world is officially not about you, that you have an obligation to the community around you, to the future, to your children, and to other people's children. Welcome to parenthood-its big, you are not trained for it, it is unpaid weary labor, and yet it is one of the most powerful, transformative journeys of your life." - Big Book of Birth  

So well said.