The factory is silent. Its assembly line stands motionless. Somewhere off in the darkness, a buzzer sounds. One by one, lights begin to flicker and illuminate on long-unmanned diagnostic panels, giving a sense of enormity and complexity and scale to the machinery. The low hum of power supplies warming up comes next, followed by the higher and louder whine of turbines and electric motors. A whistle sounds, and one by one, employees begin to file in and take their places at the controls. Purposed for a single task, whose time has now come, the factory slowly comes to life...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

July? Really?

You say it's what month now?

I feel like I've been in some kind of alternate universe where time slips by unnoticed, and one day I'm going to zip back, and no time will have passed in the real world.

The days themselves are unremarkable: an endless litany of everyday activities. But they are marked by moments of brilliance that always come in a little 3 foot tall package, and they explode in a shower of giggles and love and warmth, and sometimes they are the only thing that makes me smile or laugh that day. The good news is that they are delivered every day. Every. Day.

Sometimes I just sit in the quiet dark at night and think about how amazing Claire is. I would scare the bejeezus out of someone if they turned on the light because I'm lying there in the dark and grinning maniacally to myself! (I wish I were exaggerating.)

Every single day she grows in some way that makes us so proud of her. Teaching her sign language was truly the best thing we could have done. She knows around 75 signs now. Her frustration level is typically about 0 because she's able to tell us all about what she's seeing and thinking and what her needs are. She rarely has a tantrum, and if she does, it's because we took something dangerous away from her, and then it's over in a second. (Especially if you just sing the "Dangerous" song to her.) We give her something else to think about, and she's immediately there, on to the next adventure.

Her imagination is growing by leaps and bounds. For example, she has a little teapot set that she got for her birthday. She understands all about how to pretend to pour and drink tea, and makes believe that she's eating the tiny plastic petit fours, and gives them to us to watch us pretend to eat them too. Of course, now she sometimes pretends to eat some of the real food I give her to eat too, but she thinks she's being funny. Or she knows that it makes me mad when she drops her food on the floor. So she will pretend to do it, even if there's nothing on her tray, to see what I do. Wise guy.

Or, we got new carpet in the living room so we moved all the furniture into the dining room while they installed it, including our big, black Ikea Expedit entertainment center. While Craig and I were sliding it down the hall back into the living room, Claire toddled over and started signing "train!"

Or there was the day she wandered into the room, carrying something she had swiped from Craig's desk. She looked at it, looked at me and signed "cracker." It was a white Post-It note.

There are so many ways in which she makes bridges to things with signs that she knows. I've been playing Picross on my DS for a while, and one day to amuse Claire, I showed her a completed puzzle animation of a polar bear diving into the icy water. She thought that was hilarious and giggled at it over and over. Once she realized the way to open and close the DS, she now signs "bear book" to tell us that she wants to see it again.

One day Claire led Craig out of the office signing "bird." She brought him over to the living room window, and Craig assumed she had seen a bird outside the window. When she pulled back the curtain, she revealed to him a giant spider on the carpet instead! (Yes, in NC you can make that comparison given the size of the spiders here.)

It's stories like these that I need to sit down daily and record in a blog. But there never seems to be enough time at the end of the day after all the work and housework and cooking and just spending time with the other people who live here... I'm hoping we can keep enough of an oral record to remember the ones I'm not writing down.

So, some things I want to remember:
Claire's favorite food is raw tomatoes. Which is so hilarious given how hard I craved them while I was pregnant with her! But she will stuff handfuls into her mouth and still sign "more more more!" I can't keep them within eyesight of her high chair.

Her favorite Yo Gabba Gabba character is Brobee. She sees him on the screen and says "BEEBEE! BWEEBEE!" (We're working on it.) Consequently, I'm pretty sure her favorite color is green. It's the one crayon color she picks consistently, and the one color sign she gets right almost every time.

Speaking of coloring, Claire loves to color! Not just scribbling all over the paper. (That is so three weeks ago!) She now wants you to draw things for her so she can color them in. And her accuracy (for a one year old) is really, really good. You don't know how happy that makes her art-school mama!

She likes to watch some things on tv, but only if they have lots of music. Too many words and you lose her. I think it's good that we've exposed her to some tv, because she seems to ignore it if it's on (unless it's something that draws her in with a song.) And when she does watch it, she doesn't sit there like a zombie. She interacts -- with us, looking to see if we're laughing at the same thing she is, or dancing along, or signing and pointing at things she knows.

Desmond is Claire's buddy now. She tries to play with him, and he circles her feet looking for attention. One day this week, we went to get Claire up from her nap, and who wanders out of her room when we open the door but Desmond! Apparently he wanted to take a little cat nap with her too. Craig told me this week that Desmond was lounged out somewhere, and Claire went and laid her head on him and made a happy little "hmm" sound. He proceed to clean her hair (as best he could given its length.) Love. :)

Claire is thrilled that it's Christmastime. Lights are her favorite right now. We put up the tree and turned on the lights, and she did a crazy little hopping dance around it saying "Preee!" (pretty) She wants to count every one of the lights on the tree (and pretty much any lights she sees anywhere,) one by one. She will get angry if you don't count with her!

She is currently obsessed with counting and knows the numbers 1 through 5 well. She also loves to find the letters o and e everywhere, and knows how to sign c, z, and w too.

Claire onomatopoeia: moo, baa baa, jingle, beep beep beep, meeeooww, arf arf, growling, and a bird sound I can't even imitate because it literally sounds like whistling, but it's somehow made with her throat.

Friday, July 30, 2010

How the Other Half Lives

Craig is in DC for work this week, so I took a week's vacation at work to play stay-at-home-mom. I figured taking off work would be the best idea because we have no way of knowing how Claire is going to react to her daddy being gone all week, and she should have as much of my time and attention as I can possibly give her.

So I get to see what it would be like to be a SAHM.

What will complicate this experiment is that I am also combining it with the experience of being a single mom. And I don't know if there is such a thing as a single, stay at home mom. Unless one came into some kind of big settlement or was somehow independently wealthy, that would be a tough one to do... So it may skew the view a bit, but we'll see.


I decided to take it a little easy today because I didn't sleep much last night. Craig had to be up at 3 a.m. to leave for the airport at 4, and so I couldn't sleep well either. So even though I tried not to work too hard, it was still pretty tough on very little sleep.

Craig and I have our days worked out to a solid system, down to the objects we get together for naps and bedtime, and the whole bedtime routine. And having that expectation already set and organized made it a little easier. However, the system only works really well if there are TWO people. Otherwise, it takes a long time to get everything prepped, and to add in things like...eating. Or showering. Etc.

I am now comfortable with peeing with the door open in front of Claire! ("Pee pees! Hooray for Mommy!") She thinks it's a riot because she's not normally allowed in the half bathroom downstairs, so it's like a forbidden wonderland to her. I have to remember to keep the blinds in the office closed though...

I got really anxious at bed time because I was afraid that was going to be the one time Claire would truly notice her daddy wasn't there tonight. When she goes up to her bath, she climbs the stairs and Craig is usually at the top encouraging her. I'm pretty sure she was looking for him tonight. On an ordinary night, before she gets out of the bath, I start rinsing her off, and say, "Let's call Daddy!" and she goes, "Da da da dd ddaaddeee!" Then Craig helps me get her into a towel. Tonight I only asked her if she was ready, but she still called out and looked for daddy. It almost made me cry.

Otherwise she went right to sleep! And then it took me an hour to clean everything up. Ugh.

But the house is weird when I'm here by myself. Every noise is amplified, and I'm just anxious about everything. I never used to feel like this in my apartment, but the house seems so big and empty and, well, scary. Having the alarm set makes me feel better though...


Okay, I totally need to quit my job and be a SAHM. My stress level is just about zero. The only thing giving me any stress at all (and it's minor) is trying to keep Claire on a schedule while getting everything done by myself. But we even managed TWO trips out of the house today: once to the vet to get Desmond's medicine (where Claire got to meet [and sign] doggies!), and then to the grocery store.

BTW, Claire LOVES going in the car. She's like an excited little dog when you say, "Want to go for a ride in the car?" She frantically signs CAR! and makes a beeline for the garage. It's pretty cute.

So we did all that, and now I'm just spending the rest of my night cleaning up. The monkey wrench this evening is that garbage has to go out to the curb for tomorrow, but I'm not marching out there in the bug-infested jungles of Charlotte at midnight to do it. So I'll get it all together and just take it out in the morning.

If Craig were home, my life would be a piece of cake. Three things I realized:

1. I bet a lot of people put their kids to bed at 6 or 7 pm just so they can get things done in the evening, and spend time together as a couple. (Also, I realize, if the kid has to get up mega-early for daycare. Slugabed Claire doesn't wake up until 8-ish.) If I were a SAHM, I might do the same. I don't like early mornings though.

2. If Claire wasn't in an inflatable tub inside the big bathtub (which we do for safety reasons) post-bath time would be an easy cleanup. (Also, she was more splashy tonight than I've ever seen her. She must've spent a good 10 minutes just splashing her hands around.)

3. I wish cats liked to eat people food off the floor. (aka, I wish we had a dog.) That would definitely save some time.


I'm desperately thinking of ways to replace my income so that I can take care of my baby full time instead of working. I'm even considering buying lottery tickets.

Claire definitely got up on the cute side of the bed today. How did people as goofy looking as me and Craig make such a beautiful, awesome kid?!

Claire and I are running out of things to say to one another at meal time because there's no Daddy to provide running chatter, but I'm improvising.

I've come to the conclusion that stay at home moms that say they're bored must just be boring people.


I will start buying weekly lottery tickets this weekend.


Not even worth typing up a whole thing about it. This week has been completely awesome, and probably the most fun, interesting week I've spent in the last year.

I am totally in the wrong line of work. Hell of a time to realize it though.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Signing Pitfall

Today Claire was sitting on the floor with me, and I was trying to show her the sign for "I love you."

I said the words, and showed her the sign and said the words again. And she studied my hand and my face, as she does when she's trying to concentrate hard on what I'm saying and doing.

And then she looked at her hands, and looked at me and signed...


I love you too, cheese.

Sometimes you just gotta go with what you know, I guess!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Happy Birthday, Claire!

I feel like a bad mommy for not writing this sooner. But then I realized that I've not written this sooner because I've been so busy taking care of you! So I can't be that bad a mommy, I guess...

Well my sweet girl, you've made it through your first year! Or more specifically, we've all made it through your first year together!

Your daddy and I can't believe how much you've grown. We look at how big you are and how you just go bombing around the living room on your own and we can't believe you're that same little bundle that used to fit on my forearm! That tiny baby with the big eyes and the even bigger appetite! When we get ready for bed at night, I sit and look at you, and remember wistfully how I used to hold you, and how the soft music used to put you to sleep. And then I'd carry my tiny sleeping bear up the stairs, being so careful not to wake you on that creaky 7th step, to lay you down gently and send you off to Slumberland. Now, the best I can do is tell you it's "night night time" and get you to give me that paci-grin before you rest your head on my shoulder as I carry you upstairs. (And that's on a "good" night!)

You're learning things by leaps and bounds, and you amaze me with something new every single day! I love to watch how your brain works as you puzzle out a new toy, or hear the little giggles that erupt when you figure something out for yourself. You're learning ASL signs that we haven't even bothered to try to teach you, and when we do actually point one out to you, you pick it up in an instant. And then you show us again and again how you know it now just to prove a point. (You try so hard to show us how smart you are, but we already think you're just brilliant!)

We are already so, so proud of you, Baby Girl! I'm so excited for this next year to see the many other ways you will astound us. I can't wait to see the little girl you are only now hinting at becoming. I can't wait to have talks with you and more time for us to do things together. I love you so, so much, and I know that every day I will continue to love you more, just as I have every day until now. I never knew so much love was possible, until you showed me. As much as I am helping you grow, you are helping me learn new things about myself every single day.

God bless you and keep you always, and Happy Birthday, my sweet, sweet baby.

Love with all my heart,

Saturday, June 26, 2010


I only lapsed two months this time!

Claire is back to sleeping like a champ! It happened only a few days after that last post. And we only changed two things...

First, I changed her crib sheet. I had a theory. Claire likes a paci to get to sleep. I usually put another one or two in her crib in case she wakes up in the night and feels the need to grab one. However, at the time she was having all this wake up trouble, she had a busily patterned crib sheet. There's a good chance that it was too dark and the pacis were camouflaged by the sheet pattern so she couldn't find one to get back to sleep with. Because seriously, as soon as I changed that sheet she slept almost all the way through the night that very next night!

Second, I realized one night (after a couple of good ones post-paci-incident where I could get some sleep and think more clearly) that we can't always rush right in there. I realized this because my pants were missing. Usually I keep a pair of pajama pants by the bed that I can throw on to stumble down the hall to the nursery in, because otherwise that rocking chair is a little cold and hard on the rear at 3 a.m. But one night I forgot to put them out. So Claire started crying, and I woke up. I realized I had no pants, so I tried to find them, but it was dark. After about 5 minutes of trying to scrounge around in the dark while not disturbing Craig I found a pair, put them on, and went out into the hall.

It was quiet.

That was almost MORE alarming than the crying, but I decided to wait a few minutes anyway. After I didn't hear anything more, I slipped into the nursery, and Baby Girl was completely sacked out.

So the next night she cried, I intentionally waited and watched the clock. I determined that I would let her cry no more than 5 minutes before I went in there, but I was going to give her a chance to work it out. At about 3 minutes, she started crying less. By 4 and a half she was just muttering to herself. And then she went to sleep! It's been like that ever since. She almost never cries more than a minute or two now!

I really think, in retrospect, that all the sleeping problems were also mostly teeth related. She now has 7 teeth showing! That's huge for just a few months.

What else exciting has happened?

SHE'S WALKING. I mean full-on walking. I mentioned that she started taking some steps around the time of my mom's birthday. Less than a month later she was pretty comfortably toddling from one piece of furniture in the room to another. And now, she's goood at it! She can even step over small things, and when she trips, she often recovers her balance without much trouble. I'm so proud!

On the other hand, that lends itself to a whole other slew of complications. A fully mobile child is just plain more difficult to manage than one who crawls to get to stuff. She's becoming a full-time job. It's about time Craig and I started looking for some help. A part-time nanny, or a sitter or someone like that. I don't think we're ready for day care yet. Claire would probably be fine; us, not so much.

Since Miss C has mastered walking, she's now burst forth with learning many other skills.

Words Claire recognizes and shows she understands when you use them:
Night night
and phrases like
Come here
Do you want...?

She's trying to say them too. Right around Father's Day, she conveniently learned to say "Daddy", which sometimes comes out like "Gah-ghee" or "da da da da" but we know that's what she's trying to say. "Kitty" is "yee-eee", and her new one, "blankie" is "bwah bee" or something similar.

And she's SIGNING. We've let her watch some of the Signing Time and Baby Signing Time videos at meal time, and she LOVES them. We also do the signs for her every chance we get to use the words. And it's amazing how fast she's picked it up! The first one she learned was "more", but she really didn't get the concept. (I think she's starting to now, though.) Then she got "milk" and "cheese" (which she performs close to the sign, but not exactly, though we know how to interpret it.) And now she's trying "bird" and "dog."

But the real kicker is that she learned a sign we didn't even try to teach her! In the theme song, Rachel repeats, "It's signing time with Alex and Leah" and does the signs for "signing time" while she sings. Claire picked up the "signing" sign (rolling your hands inward) and now it's her way to tell us she wants to watch the video while she eats!!!

Every day is something new and exciting with her. I love to call my mom and dad and tell them all about what she's done today and the new things she's experiencing.

And now someone is up from her nap, so I have to go, but I'll try to get in one more time before HER FIRST BIRTHDAY. (omg!)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Unintentional Hiatus

I can't believe it's been 3 months since I've updated this blog, but it's been a total whirlwind! In an effort to catch up again, let's break this down by month...

Claire learns to crawl, and makes her first real trip across the room on Feb. 19th. Here's a lovely video!
From Claire - Feb 2010 - 7 months

That music you hear is the sound of our impending doom... We soon learn that the only reason she wanted to be able to crawl was so that she could crawl TO things and pull herself up! Since that day, she's been non-stop cruising around the furniture and frantically crawling after Desmond and Shiva! She also learned to climb the stairs.

At the same time, her reflux issues aren't getting any better. We go to see a different pediatrician, and he basically gets frustrated with me challenging his, "She's gaining weight so she must be okay!" attitude, and passes us off with a referral to the gastroenterologists. The GE specialists love her because she is such a big healthy looking baby, (I can only imagine the sad cases they see!) but basically they increase her Zantac dosage slighly and it totally solves the problem. Why the ped couldn't do that, I don't know, but my theory is lazy doctoring!

At this time, Claire also stops sleeping through the night. We hoped once she figured out crawling that she would settle down again, just like she's done with every other major milestone she's gone through, but as you will see we were terribly, horribly wrong. She starts waking up, crawling to the crib rail, standing up and crying until we come to put her back to sleep, sometimes three times a night.

At the SAME time, the very same week she learns to crawl, we see her first tooth! Just a little white spot on her gums at first, but then... Oops we're wrong -- it's TWO teeth. Both bottom front ones. We hope the end of this round of teething might get her back to sleeping through the night. But no.

We decide we need to put carpet in the living room now so someone doesn't bust her lip open (again) every time she falls down. Note: It is mid-April, and this still isn't done, but we're a lot closer. The whole month of March is a wash basically because Craig and I are still waking up multiple times a night to put Claire back to sleep. During the day we juggle our jobs, and making sure she's fed, cared for, has time to play and takes some naps. Claire is trying hard to drop her third nap during the day, but sometimes she takes it. Neither way fixes her sleeping through the night. She has also managed to outgrow all her footie pajamas, so we need to transition her to the top and bottom kind. NOTE TO RETAILERS: It's still cold in March! Stock more pajamas with sleeves! We couldn't find anything with sleeves in her size. We try warm room, cold room, feeding more solids, Tylenol before bed, any and everything we can think of... No use. She's still waking up two or three times a night.

Aunt Veronica comes to visit for Easter on Good Friday. Claire uncharacteristically spends the evening screaming and crying! Nothing we do makes her feel better or stop crying. I run out to CVS to get some infant Motrin. I have to ask the pharmacist whether to get infant or childrens Motrin -- am I supposed to dose by weight or by age? The cut-off for the infant Motrin is 24 lbs or 2 years old, and then it's up to the childrens' med. God bless my 9-month old, 24 lb baby! The pharmacist says use the infant one because she's still young, and she's only just at the max weight. We try to give Claire the medicine right away with the syringe, and in typical fashion, she barfs. So it goes into a couple of ounces of formula, and she gets some sleep that night.

The next day she's got a little temperature, but she only seems a little grumpy. We hope that's the end of it.

Easter Sunday she's got 101.4 fever and goop in her eyes! We have a pretty Easter dress for her to wear, but we decide she will be much more comfortable in her jammies all day -- who wouldn't, right? It's a very mellow Easter, and 70th birthday celebration for Grandma. Claire doesn't nap well all day, but is easy to put back to sleep during the night.

Her 9-month checkup on Monday turns into a sick visit instead. She's got pink eye in both eyes, they're puffy, swollen and red, and she's got an ear infection.

Claire's first real illness! Oh no!

I got through it a lot better than I thought I would. A week of amoxicilin-and-eye-drops later and it was over before I even really noticed.

To celebrate her recovery, we take her to the neighborhood playground, and put her on the baby swing for the first time. She LOVES it!
From Claire - April 2010 - 9 months

Now when we go on our evening walks, if we go near the park, she gets really excited and we know it's because she wants to go play on the swings!

Claire started taking her first steps last Sunday, and though we haven't caught them on video yet, she's still taking tentative toddles from object to person to object as often as she can. I have a feeling she's going to be walking more confidently within the next month or so. We REALLY have to get that carpet installed in the living room!

So mid-April, my 9 month old is 24lbs and 12oz, and about to outgrow a bunch of her "accessories" that have a 25lb weight limit! She's also 30.5" tall, which means she's still proportional, on the same growth curve she's always been, and >95 percentile. Crazy baby!

We've begun to decrease her formula for her two middle feedings of the day to add in more solid foods. This was working really well until a couple of days ago, when she went on a food-spitting rampage again! But she's trying more table foods -- bits of cut up fruit, cheese, crackers, etc. and it's cute because she TRUSTS when I go to put something in her mouth! She carefully watches us while we eat, and she always wants to try whatever Mommy's eating because, well, it must be good, right? Mommy wouldn't give me anything bad, she thinks! So cute.

So that's been the last 3 months or so. She's STILL not sleeping through the night. Craig and I are taking turns with who gets up with her. Except now, we've put an air mattress in the living room for the person on baby monitoring duty so they don't wake up the other. This way each one of us will get a good night's sleep every other night.

But we had a breakthrough on the sleeping thing last night, because even though I heard her wake up a few times, she put herself back to sleep!!! The only thing I changed yesterday was her crib sheet. I changed it to one that was a solid color. My theory is that now she can see the pacifiers in her crib, whereas before with a patterned crib sheet she could not. So when she wakes up, she gets fussy, but grabs her own paci and goes back to sleep! We can only hope!

Keep your fingers crossed, because I'm taking a second shift on the air mattress tonight as Craig feels like he's coming down with a cold and he needs his rest. There will be a wild celebration if this baby goes back to sleeping well!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cry it out? Not on my watch.

I read a really great blog post today about the "cry it out" method of "sleep training."

First, "sleep training?" I think the concept of training someone to sleep seems really counter-intuitive. I think it's double-speak for getting your baby to sleep on a schedule that you decide works for you. Because you know what? Babies sleep all on their own right from the time they're born without any special training, go figure. It may not be when or how YOU want them to, but tough. Newborns have their own innate schedule.

On "sleep training" methods, we got a copy of the "Babywise" sleep training book from our neighbors, and on the back it says something about being an "exciting infant management plan!"

Roll that around in your brain for a minute. "Infant management." When did we stop being parents and become "infant managers?" Have we devolved to such a level that we can no longer care for our children; we're just in the process of constantly "managing" them? My baby is not my employee! (Sometimes I kid with her that she needs to get a job, but that's different!) She's my daughter. I can teach, care for, instruct, love, guide and provide for her. But I don't "manage" her. She's not an animal. I'm not her handler.

So that brings me to the blog post. It makes me literally cry to think of the babies who are put through nights alone in the dark so that they will have a bed time that's convenient for the parents.

This post means a lot to me because it comes on the heels of a few day stint here where my ordinarily good sleeper is trying every last bit of our patience at nap and bed time! At times I have to step out of the room and take a deep breath or get Craig to go in to help her, but there's no way I could just let her cry alone in the dark. I understand the insanity you feel when the baby is crying and you just don't know how to stop it and you're so tired and you just want her to sleep because you know she's tired too! I'm not talking about having to let the baby cry to take a few minutes to catch up with your logical brain and regroup. That's normal, and actually a really good idea. But if my baby is crying it's because she needs something, even if it's just a few more minutes of being held. So I'm going to tend to her until I figure it out and she stops crying.

She's so little, and the world is so big...

She doesn't know anything about anything but what we show her. I want her to be independent and secure, but at 6 months old she has no concept of how to do that on her own. It may mean a 2 am bed time for us on a week night because she's holding out, but I try to remember that this too shall pass. One day she'll be big and I'll miss these nights of holding her in my arms in the rocker and waiting until she's taking those big sleep breaths under my chin to lay her down. There's plenty of time in life for her to be on her own, but not so much for her to be my little babe in arms...

Blog post:
Woman, Uncensored: "Just let her cry"

And that's why I can't do "cry it out." And I feel sorry for those who feel like that's the only thing that will work for their family.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Extreme Weaning: final thoughts

This week has been full of real challenges, emotionally. I have been through a lot.

It started on Saturday with the overnight move to the crib.

Sunday, Claire turned six months old, and I pumped for the last time. We bought her a new convertible car seat because we knew she was about to outgrow the 22lb. limit on the infant seat.

Monday, Claire had her last bottle of breast milk, and we installed her new car seat.

Tuesday, she went to the doctor for her 6-month checkup (21lbs. 12oz., and 28 inches!) And vaccines: there were FIVE of them because they added the H1N1 and the seasonal flu because she's six months old. I always have to wait in the hall because I can't stand the sound of my baby shrieking in pain (Craig stays with her) and while they were giving her the oral one, she puked all over the nurse. Bad Mommy that I am, I forgot to bring her a spare outfit, so we had to take her home in the freezing cold in a blanket. (Luckily we live about a mile from the ped's office.)

And through all this -- Not only was there the milk weaning, and the move to the nursery, and the fact that I'm sleep deprived... Claire has decided she doesn't want to sleep in my lap any more.

Before she moved to the nursery, we would put her to bed or down for naps a few different ways. Most of the time, we could put her down in her bed drowsy with her blanket and a paci and she'd put herself to sleep. (I know some parents are cursing me right now!) But if she was having some trouble (or Mommy needed some baby time) I could hold her in my lap on the couch until she was out, or pretty close, and carry her off to bed. If she was having a really rough time, we'd sit in the rocking chair in our bedroom in the dark, and I'd rock her until she was asleep.

Now, when she finishes her last bottle of the night and gets drowsy, she starts to fight in my lap. I can't get her to want to drift off. She'll show all the signs of wanting to sleep and then suddenly start yelling and arching her back and trying to sit up. So at that point I bring her up to the crib and lay her down, and she goes to sleep almost immediately, so I know the problem isn't that she isn't ready to sleep. If we do try to put her down and she isn't ready, we get her back up and let her tire herself out for about another half an hour and try again, and that usually does the trick.

As silly as it sounds, this not wanting to sleep in my lap feels like another rejection, another separation. I miss our closeness and feel like we're so far apart from where we once were. Then there was the co-sleeper incident last night... I feel very "apart" from my baby this week, very separate. She's happy and smiling still, so I know it's not having an effect on her (God love her!) but it has been a long, heartbreaking week for me.

In other news, she is absolutely gorgeous! (New pics are up in the gallery, link to the right.) She is sitting up by herself now. And we are training her to be a nerd just like her parents, as evidenced by her Star Wars onesie.

I know this is all part of being a mom, and it will be equally heartbreaking at other milestones in her life -- when she goes to school, etc. But maybe with other milestones I won't have to tackle them all in one week.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Small Victories and Addenda

The crib transition has been going well. I get up a couple of times a night to "reset" Claire. Somehow I will lay her down longways in the crib at the foot, and she ends up perpendicular at the top! So I pull her back down, put the paci back in, fix the blankets and she goes right back out. (I myself have been relying on Benadryl to get back to sleep again.)

I did have a breakdown moment last night. Craig was trying to help out so he disassembled the co-sleeper. It felt like a Band Aid being ripped off. I just wasn't ready! He had said previously we would take it down this weekend, so that's what I had in my head. I figured maybe we would take it down together, and it would help me with the reality of it all, so when he just went and did it... Ouch. I cried hard enough that he put it back up before we went to bed! (LOL)

I returned the hospital breast pump on Wednesday, and it took a 20 minute drive to the hospital for the lady to be like, "Thanks. Here's your form that says you returned it! Bye." I don't know what I expected, but it felt really anticlimactic. The dry-up hasn't been a big deal because I was down to pumping just a couple times a day anyway. I'm a little lumpy, but no big deal.

As for the "milk guilt" post, I had an additional thought. From the get-go I had asked Craig for his input on what he felt about breastfeeding and providing milk for the baby. His stance has always been, "I will support whatever you want to do." He figures he's not the milk-maker, so he's not going to tell me what to do with my body. While that's a very noble stance, it has only made the choices harder because they've had to be my own.

But because he's my husband and I know him well, I've been able to discern a subtle opinion. In the beginning I know he was very pro-breastfeeding. But he saw what a hard time I was having. I know he was frustrated every time I had to feed the baby because he wanted to help relieve some of that burden for me and he couldn't. It made him happy when he could help with bottles, so he embraced the role of "manager of the milk stores." As time went on though, and the struggle got worse, I sensed his opinion turning, and he secretly couldn't wait for us to be finished! He knows the challenges we've had with feeding our large baby and me trying to hold down a full-time job and a household while pumping out milk and what the hormones (or lack thereof) do to me. I think he's ready to have his wife back again!

So while I'm happy that he's been so supportive every way he can, and it was nice that he tried to have no stance so I could not feel pressured, it made it harder to decide what to do along the way. Especially because I had a feeling I knew what he was really thinking but wasn't saying...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Guilt of Milk

Claire is 6 months old today!

And thus marks the bittersweet day when I stop trying to provide breast milk for her.

Now, before you applaud me (or chastize me, which is what I expect from some) for making this decision, I want to back up a bit...

I knew before Claire was born that I wanted to do my best to breastfeed her. All the information in the world supports the "Breast is Best!" campaign, and God forbid you choose otherwise. You'll be dooming your child to a life of diseases, horrible health conditions and obesity! Breastfed children are smarter, taller, prettier -- you name it, someone will say that breast milk will do it. Clogged tear duct? Put breast milk in it! (Yes, I've actually heard that one.) Infection, diaper rash? Try breast milk! Lost a limb? Put breast milk on it! It will grow back! (Okay, that was an exaggeration, but it sure seems that way sometimes.)Amazing stuff, breast milk, no doubt.

I digress. I knew from the outset that I wanted to breastfeed. I had a c-section, and because I needed a few minutes in recovery from that, I didn't immediately put her on the breast the moment she was born. No problem. After my blood pressure stabilized, and the family was done ooh-ing and aah-ing and stepped out for the evening, and I stopped having the massive shakes from the anesthesia, the nurse told us we could start the breastfeeding. I said I had no experience with it, so she helped get Claire into position. Then she man-handled my boob to get it into Claire's mouth! As uncomfortable as that moment was (for more than one reason) Claire latched on like a pro. I was breastfeeding!

Then they tested her blood sugar. It was way too low. The nurse strongly suggested that because her birth weight was so high and her blood sugar was so low that we immediately supplement her with formula so she wouldn't end up in the NICU. She had seen it go wrong too many times! We agreed to it, and we started giving her a bit of formula. Within 24 hours Claire's blood sugar was stable. So from the first moments of her life, I was already playing catch-up. I put any disappointment aside because I knew I was doing the right thing for my daughter keeping her out of the NICU. My 11 lb. 11 oz. baby needed at least an ounce and a half of milk from her first few days of life. The colostrum I was putting out just couldn't cut it right away.

But eventually I caught up. We continued to supplement until my milk really came in and it seemed like I could provide for her. We were exclusively breastfeeding for a couple of months. (I continued to pump too after every feeding session.)

Then something happened around her second month. It was like Claire suddenly "woke up" and no longer wanted to breastfeed! I would just lean her back to get her into position and the screaming would start! I couldn't figure out what was wrong, or what had suddenly changed. After some consultation, we determined it was a combination of two things: First, there was too much distraction that she was now aware of, and she just wanted to look around! Secondly, she was diagnosed with silent reflux. No problem, if she didn't want to breastfeed, I could just pump and feed her. But in the meantime, I kept trying to breastfeed once a day anyway. I chose first thing in the morning while she was still waking up and calm. I could get her latched on and she would nurse for at least a few minutes until she wanted to flail and get away. I took what I could get because I figured it was better than nothing, and I wanted to have an "emergency backup" method, just in case. I also enjoyed the closeness of our quiet little moments together, and the feeling it gave me to be providing for my baby.

Then Claire got used to being bottle fed by others when I went back to work. The last week of October, I got her to have one more nursing session that was just like "the old days." She and I stayed in bed a little later that morning, and she nursed for a long time. I knew that occasion would probably be the last. I was right, as I was never able to get her to latch on again after that. And after I came back from a business trip the first week of November, I stopped trying. I decided it wasn't doing either of us any good to keep pushing the issue to the point where we were both upset.

In the mean time, I couldn't get by on just pumping. No matter how much I pumped, or how much fenugreek I took, or what I added or subtracted to my diet, it seemed I had a set limit of about 20 oz. a day. I pumped at all times of the day, early, late, added blessed thistle supplements, fennel, goat's rue... I took handfuls of supplements and tried it all to no avail. Meanwhile, Claire's food needs kept increasing! She quickly outpaced me to where she is now -- at about 36 oz a day.

So ultimately, I was able to exclusively breastfeed my baby for about two months. (I'm counting pumping-feeding as EBF.) After that, if it weren't for formula, I couldn't have fed my baby. Despite the fact that I KNOW formula isn't poison, it's baby food, I have never been able to shake the guilt attached to not being able to make enough milk to support my daughter.

And yet my goal was still to go on pumping as long as I could. I was hoping for a year, but it's such hard work. I finally compromised pushing my supply to where she would get one breast milk bottle a day, and the rest formula. That seemed to be the way for me to get the pumping in I needed to do while maintaining a full-time job, a husband and a baby and a house, and still give Claire the benefits. But eventually even that started to feel like too much. Having a constant parade of houseguests since September wasn't making it any easier. I didn't quit on my worst day; I kept going. But after much long, hard soul-searching and heartache, I decided I would draw the line at 6 months, and here we are.

But why should this decision have been so difficult for me?! I knew I tried so hard, much harder than many other women would have. Pumping multiple times a day for months on end is taxing. I know in the beginning I said that breastfeeding is hard, and I still think it is, but it's definitely the easiest method. Whip out a boob any time and feed the baby! No muss, no fuss. But I went from breastfeeding, to breastfeeding and pumping, which was harder, to exclusively pumping, which is the most challenging method of them all. People say that it's like trying to feed twins -- first you "feed" the pump, then you still have to feed the milk to the baby. Not to mention all the pump part cleaning and bottle washing all day. Whew!

And unlike other women, I was never able to "feed" the freezer either. I caught up a little at the end, when we were down to the one bottle a day, and I froze a few bags. Those have gotten us through Christmas and New Year's now with a little extra pumping to finish out the days. But somehow that empty freezer case has always made me feel like a failure.

The internet is no help. I'm not just talking about all the women who brag about making 40 oz. every day, or the ones who have "normal size" babies who hardly eat a thing so they can pump and store. "Breastfeeding support" is just sad. So many exclusive breastfeeders are SO militant and SO self-righteous, that even if you say you tried as hard as you could, there are always those that just keep pushing suggestions about how you could try harder. Rather than be supportive of your need to take care of yourself AND your baby, there are those who would call you selfish or even LAZY. It's hard to block out these voices. No matter how much I want to listen to my inner voice, the one that tells me I know I'm doing the right thing for all of us, I can't shake the nagging inner, and sometimes outer voices that make me feel like I could have done more. That now my child will be somehow deficient because I didn't keep her solely on breast milk for a year (or two, or three, or whatever the current wisdom is.)

And the guilt is everywhere. I recently watched a video about how "Nursing is Normal", part of a campaign to promote nursing in public (which I have no problem with.) And while I support the cause, there's so much pro-breastfeeding propaganda in it, that all it did was made me feel guilty and sad that I couldn't count myself in those numbers. Rather than make me feel united to their cause, I felt excluded, singled-out, marginalized. While I'm sure that was not the intent, I can't put the blame solely on either one of us for it.

But my daughter is beautiful, and healthy and strong. I am so lucky. She is 6 months old today, and growing tall and wide (and proportionally) like a weed! I know it is due in part to how much work I put into giving her all the breast milk I could. But it's also the product of much love and care. Of long hours of cuddling her to sleep, and walking the floors with her until she was calm. It's the days spent watching over her while she plays, or taking long walks with her in the sunshine. It's having a solid marriage with loving and supportive parents to give her the foundation she needs to grow up with a healthy view of the world. And for those things I am proud. I am proud of the choices I have made for her. I am proud of my beautiful baby girl.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

First Night

Claire slept in her crib all night for the first time last night. Up until now, she has slept in the co-sleeper next to our bed every night since she came home from the hospital.

I'm positive it was much harder on me than it was on her.

She slept like a champ! Me, not so much... She slept for 8 hours, made a few noises in the morning, so I went in and put her pacifier back. She went back to sleep for another two. I cried a lot and tossed and turned all night and got up like 3 times.

It seems the bath works wonders for getting her to realize it's bedtime, so we're going to go to daily quick baths. (I'll lotion her up extra before bed, because it's winter!) We have a little work to do in the way of temperature and light control in the nursery, but it doesn't seem like it will be too difficult. Thank God for our awesomely sleeping baby!

Now, wish me luck for night two. Maybe I need a bath first?