The Babies!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

In the Bath

A Letter to Patrick, Nine Months Old

Dear Patrick,

It’s been three months since I last wrote you a letter. I had intended to write you a letter each month and then missed your 7 month letter because I was crazy busy with my first anthology coming out. Then you turned 8 months old and August slipped away… So here I am, reeling at all of your developments over the past three months. Monkey, you’re growing up!

At six months old, you were just starting to sit up unassisted, didn’t have any teeth yet and were wary of solid foods. Three months later and now you are crawling, pulling yourself up, starting to cruise from one piece of furniture to the next and standing unassisted for several seconds at a time! You have at least four teeth, two top and two bottom, though I think there are at least one or two more that are starting to push through. And solid food! Oh, how you love it. Not only are you eating baby food (and will eat pretty much anything now, including the dreaded peas of three months ago), you also like finger foods—Puffs and Cheerios, bits of cheese, banana and other fruit. I’ve given you bits of whatever food we’re eating, too. So you’ve had chicken salad, spaghetti, broccoli and rice, among other goodies.

After those five months alone (with Ashleigh’s help the last three), we got quite used to having your papa home. And then… he left for Panama for a week, was gone for a field exercise for two more weeks and just returned from another two-week trip to Panama. Thankfully, you’ve become good buddies with your daddy and are happy to see him each time he returns. Hopefully it’ll be a long while before we have to go it alone again, baby! It’s good to have your father home.

Speaking of Ashleigh, she’s been with us for seven months as of next week, baby! I do believe she is your favorite person in the world, even over your dear old mom and dad. Have I mentioned how lucky we are to have her in our lives? And she knits, Monkey. A skill I lack—so hopefully she’ll keep you in knitted hats and other gear this winter!

Your circle of friends has expanded, as well. We’ve had playdates with your friends Sydney (who is 8 weeks younger) and Caitlin (who is 2 and ½ weeks older. Though, in truth, I think you prefer older women like Ashleigh). You even went to your first birthday party, to celebrate Cierra’s fourth birthday. We’ve also had a couple of cookouts and introduced you to a bunch of new people. You seem to enjoy the new faces and all the attention, which is wonderful. I’m kind of dreading the day you are frightened of meeting someone new, but perhaps your good nature will outweigh that particular baby milestone?

The little baby gear has been replaced by the older baby gear. We swapped out your Bumbo seat (which was passed on to Sydney) for a fancy Stokke highchair which lets you sit at the table with us and will grow with you. Which is nice, since you continue to be a big boy. You’ve acquired a new carseat and stroller and a bunch of new toys, as well. But the hardest thing to give up was your beloved, but struggling swing. You’re due for your nine month doctor’s appointment, so I don’t know your current weight, but you are certainly close to 25 pounds now. One day, I just decided to see if you’d nap on the couch instead of needing to be put in the swing. We’d tried off and on for a few weeks to get you to nap in your Pack and Play, but you resisted. On that particular morning, however, you simply fell asleep on the couch and napped for two hours. A week later, the swing was packed away and a week after that you were napping in your Pack and Play! (I hope you potty train this easily, baby!)

You’re now sleeping a solid 12-hours at night, with only the occasional disruption (which I blame on teething). Your napping has decreased, perhaps because you no longer have the swing to lull you or simply because your night sleep is so long, but we’re lucky if we can coax two naps out of you, usually totaling no more than 3 hours. (Some days, and it always seems to be my days alone with you, you might only nap for one hour!) While I’d like your naps to be a bit longer, I can’t complain too much. You are still a happy, smiley, good natured baby who is curious about the world around you. You’re amazing.

You’ve only had one little bout of illness, which may have been a cold but never amounted more than to a bit of hoarseness and grumpiness. It might even have been from your teething, but it came during the 4th of July weekend when you’d been around a lot of people, so I don’t know. In any case, I’m very grateful you’ve been such a healthy baby! Hopefully you inherited your health from your father. I really don’t want you to end up with my asthma and allergies.

Autumn is around the corner and it’s hard to believe we have just three months until we’ll be celebrating your first birthday! I’m not ready for my itty bitty baby to become an independent toddler, but I see signs every day of the big boy you’re going to be. You are nearly fearless—loud sounds don’t frighten you, being pushed way high (by your father) on the park swing only phases you for a moment, splashing about in the bathtub or your new pool is an adventure—and that makes your poor mother worry about the day when you can not only walk and run, but climb! Oh baby, I hope we can keep you from getting too banged up as you make your way through childhood…

It seems like you’re learning something new every week now—sometimes every day! Did I mention you can clap (though you sometimes clap at inappropriate times—like when you’re sad) and you are starting to wave bye-bye? Or that you know how to head butt (thank you, Uncle Nick) and will tilt your head forward to bump foreheads? Or that you will smack the kitchen table with authority to let us know you want more Puffs or Cheerios? Such little things, but you are learning to communicate your moods and needs.

The baby babble has begun in earnest. You started saying, “Ma-ma-ma-ma” about a month ago, though that has now given way to you trying to combine various syllables to form your own words. (And you are very serious about it!) I love your little signals to let me know what you want, but I’m looking forward to those first words, too. In time, baby, we’ll be having some awesome conversations!

Three quarters of a year, Monkey. Those first few months may have been rough because it was just you and me, but these lat few months have flown by in a blur of laughter and sunshine and baby squeals. I’ve taken hundreds of pictures of you, but it’s impossible to capture on film or even in words what an incredible little creature you are. I catch my breath in wonder as I watch you grow and change right in front of me. What an amazing adventure it is, having you in my life.

Happy 9 Month Birthday, Monkey. Mama loves you so much.

Last Weekend of Summer

Patrick is 9 months old today!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

His Name is Patrick, But...

Here is a list of Patrick's nicknames. There are probably more that I'm forgetting. I'm pretty sure the kid doesn't know his real name at this point.

Punkin (by his father)
Honey Monkey
Baby Monkey
Wallababy (because he "wallows" on us)
Finn (by family friends)
Henry (by me, when I'm especially tired and confuse him with the dog-- though his second middle name is Henry)
Chunka Chunka
Squealy Dan (when he lets out those eardrum-piercing squeals)
Fuss Monkey
Stink Pot Jones (at particularly grody diaper changes)
Puff Monkey (when he's eating his favorite finger food-- Gerber Graduates Puffs)
Love Monkey
Angel Baby
Little Dude
Hulk Baby (because he does a scarily accurate imitation of the Hulk)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Patrick in the Pool

Patrick in his pool for the first time. This swimming stuff (or splashing stuff) is serious business.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Letter to Patrick, Six Months Old

Dear Patrick,

You were born six months ago today, changing my life forever. I have come a long way from the woman who had never changed a diaper and didn’t even know how to hold a newborn. And you, sweet monkey, have come a long way from that pink wriggling bundle that only slept, ate and taught me how to change diapers! Half a year is hardly any time at all, but I feel as if you have become a little person, complete with likes and dislikes and an awesome personality, in that short span of time.

You had your six month appointment today, along with the required vaccinations. What an amazing child you are, hardly even flinching until the third and final shot when you voiced your discomfort for all of thirty seconds before returning to your usual good humor. You are weighing in at 20 pounds and 6 ounces and are a little over 27 inches long. Quite a happy, healthy chunk, you are! No teeth yet—the pediatrician said it might be another couple of months for those.

This month has brought many new things to your life—first of all, your father is home from deployment! His homecoming was a wonderful day for us as a family, though I’m afraid the long wait for him to arrive tested the limits of your patience. It was your first—and perhaps last—experience with a Navy homecoming, but you handled it amazingly well. I don’t know who was smiling bigger—you or your father! Now it’s just a matter of the two of you getting to know each other better. It’s going well so far—no doubt because you both share the same mellow temperament in addition to looking so much alike.

I held off on feeding you solid foods until your father got home because I didn’t want him to miss any more of the milestones of this first year. You clearly don’t mind if I hold off even longer—the few solids you’ve tried so far have not impressed you. Rice cereal, bananas, applesauce, sweet potatoes, carrots and peas receive the same initial look of distaste. You seem to be getting used to the idea of eating off the spoon and want to help yourself, with messy results all around. (Truth be told, I’m far messier than you!) I think as you eat each food a few times you’re starting to get used to the taste and hopefully soon we’ll be able to offer you the things you like best. Right now, I think sweet potatoes are your favorite, but you’d still prefer your bottle to anything on a spoon. I imagine all of that will change in just a few months!

You are nearly able to sit up unassisted now. This new view of the world, with just my hand on your back or your hand on my arm for support, gives you the opportunity to grab for the things you want—whether it’s your bottle, your stuffed Tigger or whatever happens to be within reach on the kitchen table. You can roll from your back to your tummy quite easily and are mastering the tummy-to-back roll now. Crawling is on the horizon, but for now you can scoot backwards and spin yourself around while on your tummy. It won’t be long before you’re fully mobile. Heaven help us then.

You are a happy, smiley little guy, able to coax a grin from anyone, even those who aren’t too fond of babies. I think it’s the dark blue eyes and mop of blond hair—and that quirky, shy little half-smile you give strangers that blossoms into an open mouthed toothless grin once they’ve gained your approval. No one is impervious to that combination—certainly not me. (Again, heaven help me when you’re old enough to use your charms to get what you want!) Going for a ride in the truck, visiting new places, meeting new friends, everything sparks your curiosity and amusement. Oh, and you have a particular fondness for dark-haired girls. If they have tattoos, all the better. Oh my!

You’re learning new things almost on a daily basis and I love watching you study everything around you. I had no idea before you were born how entertaining it would be to watch you discover the world. You are just so much fun to be around. It seems I have learned a few things as well in the past six months thanks to my wonderful, good natured teacher. Because of you I’ve learned to slow down, be more patient and forgiving, enjoy the little accomplishments and appreciate the simple moments. Oh, and when all else fails, to smile. Thanks, baby.

Happy half-year birthday, baby. Mama loves you.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Letter to Patrick, Five Months Old

Dear Patrick,

Where has the time gone? Here you are at five months old already and your father is just days away from finally being home. He was supposed to be back on May 6, just in time for your mama’s birthday and first Mother’s Day, but now it’s looking like it will be next week. Soon though, baby! And this will hopefully be the last time he’s away from us for an extended period of time. I know that doesn’t mean much to you right now, but trust me—it’s a good thing!

The past month has been the most peaceful since you were born. No major issues at all! You sleep well, you’re hardly ever fussy, you smile all the time (even if you are stingy with your laughs) and you love riding in the truck, meeting new people and seeing the world from an upright position. You are sleeping about 11 hours a night, usually going down around 9 and getting up around 8. Your daytime naps are getting shorter to make up for the longer nights, but I don’t really mind—it gives us more time to play and have playdates.

Speaking of which, you are becoming quite popular with the girls. You have several “girlfriends” of various ages and have gotten to play with three of them just in the past week. Caitlin is two weeks older than you, Sydney is eight weeks younger than you and Cierra is almost four—but she loves baby boys and you certainly took a liking to her! There don’t seem to be any little boys in our circle of friends at the moment, but I’m sure you don’t mind being the only boy for now.

Your babysitter Ashleigh continues to be the favorite woman in your life. I do believe you like her even more than you like me, judging by the way you smile at her whenever she’s in the room. She has been an absolute gift to both of us, monkey. She even adjusted your carseat straps when I couldn’t figure out how to do it. I don’t know what we’d do without Ashleigh! (Hopefully we won’t have to find out any time soon.)

Your big discovery this month has been… your feet! You grab them any chance you get and attempt to get them to your mouth, though your belly gets in the way. Socks are the bane of your existence at the moment and you spend a great deal of your time trying to scrape them off with each foot. Footed pajamas are a constant source of irritation for you as they simply will not come off! I’m sorry, monkey. At least it has warmed up and you can actually go barefoot a bit more now.

This past Saturday, you learned to tug your socks off with your hands. Of course, you only got as far as the one sock before you decided to shove it in your mouth. Oh, monkey. Everything goes in your mouth right now. Your poor Tigger (a gift from Aunt Leslee) spends a great deal of his time soaking wet as you gnaw and suck on his face and limbs. I believe you’re teething and I do hope it won’t be too painful a process for you. I’m not quite ready for you to be growing teeth. You’re still my little baby!

The coming month is going to be filled with all kinds of adventures, baby! You’ll be starting solids soon (I’m waiting on that so your papa can be the first to feed you) and it won’t be long before you’re sitting up on your own. You’ll be needing some new gear to accommodate your developments. Mostly that means you’ll be getting some new toys that will be as much fun for the adults in your life as they are for you!

Well, baby, we did it. That December day we dropped your father off at the airport, I told you it was just you and me kid. Here we are, four and a half months later, and we have survived! Thank you for making the past few months as peaceful as you possibly could on your poor, inexperienced and exhausted mama. I am so very grateful that you are an easy, happy, forgiving baby. You have made me an easier, happier, more forgiving person as a result.

Happy five month birthday, monkey. Mama loves you.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Letter to Patrick, Four Months Old

Dear Patrick,

You are four months and one day old today. I didn’t get a chance to write your letter yesterday because your Aunt Sheri was in town for the weekend. She hadn’t seen you since you were 12 days old! It was fun watching you with her, and watching her enjoy you as much as I do. (I often fear I’m a bit biased when it comes to how much fun you are and how easy your are and how beautiful you are. Oh, it’s sad to have become one of “those” mothers!)

Spring has arrived in Virginia and this month has meant more time outside. Sheri and I took you to the Norfolk Botanical Gardens on Saturday. When you weren’t napping, you seemed to enjoy the great big world. The park was certainly bigger than anything you’ve experienced so far! I’m looking forward to many outdoor days when your father gets home. Only five more weeks to go!

You went to the pediatrician on Thursday—your father’s 41st birthday, coincidentally—for your four month checkup and vaccinations. You’re weighing in at a little over 17 pounds now, monkey! Though I honestly expected you to weigh more since you feel soooo heavy to me! You handled the vaccinations like a champ and only cried for about a minute before you were smiling again. Whew! You don’t go back to the pediatrician until you’re six months old, thankfully.

So far this month you have started rolling over front to back and back to front, quite an accomplishment. You don’t do it often, but you’re starting to figure out that the rolling will get you closer to what you want. You’re a clever little monkey and have figured out how to grab onto things to pull yourself from your side to your stomach. Uh oh! The days of leaving you in the middle of the bed unattended will soon be over, I’m afraid.

You’re still sleeping well through the night, which is so wonderful. I was afraid of what they call the “four month sleep regression,” but if such a thing occurred, it only affected your daytime naps. You’re still napping pretty well, but your awake periods have stretched to two hours now. Your naps are all over the place—45 minutes to over 3 hours—but you total between 6 and 7 hours of naps a day.

You love tummy time and hold your head high, a steady stream of drool dripping from your bottom lip. Your usual smiley humor disappears when you’re in the tummy zone, though. Apparently, this is a very serious activity for you that requires intense concentration and maximum drool output. (The drool is all-powerful, I’ve discovered.) You kick your legs furiously, as if you can’t wait to crawl. Slow down, baby! There will be time enough for you to crawl and walk and run….

My favorite moment this month was last Wednesday night. We were talking to your father on the computer and I was making funny sounds to get you to smile and laugh. So far, your “laughing” has been brief a-ha sounds, followed by an open-mouthed grin. But then I hit upon a sound that made you laugh and laugh… It was a wonderful moment, not only because it was the first time you’ve every laughed continually like that, but also because it was already April 1 in Dubai. I think that was your birthday present to your father!

This past month marks the one year anniversary of finding out I was pregnant with you. Those early days and weeks (and months, if I’m being honest) were nerve wracking… wondering whether I’d be able to hang onto you and keep you growing inside me. And here we are a year later, with you growing up right in front of me!

The days are going by so fast, baby. Four months! Winter is a memory and spring is well and truly here. Your father will be home soon and you can laugh and laugh for both of us. Never stop laughing, baby. Life is good.

Happy four month birthday! Mama loves you.

Spring, Baby

Sheri and I took Patrick to the Norfolk Botanical Gardens over the weekend. The weather was perfect and Patrick enjoyed exploring the great big green world (as much as a four month old can explore, of course).

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Baby Babble

Oh, the cuteness. It breaks my heart sometimes.

Patrick had his four month appointment today. (He'll actually be four months old on Easter.) This picture was taken while we were waiting for the doctor-- and before his vaccinations. (Which he handled remarkably well. I hope that never changes.) We were almost late to his appointment because I-- believe it or not-- overslept. Which is not an entirely accurate statement because I went to bed after midnight and was up at 1:30, 3, 5, 5:30 and 6:40. Technically, I got up way too early. But when I went back to sleep sometime after 6:40, I fully expected Patrick to wake me up with his baby calls somewhere between 7 and 7:30. I woke up on my own at 8:22 and he was still asleep. Which is also not entirely accurate, because I remember hearing him babbling to himself sometime after 5:30. (For the record, I woke up at 1:30 and 3 for no reason, 5 and 6:40 because of the elderly blind cat, and Henry needed to go out at 5:30.) Patrick is very good at putting himself back to sleep if he wakes up too early (translation: before I'm physically able to crawl out of bed). Of course, I was kind of counting on him waking me up this morning. Silly baby.

So, I jumped out of bed at 8:22, checked on him (still sleeping), brushed my teeth and hair, got dressed, put on some makeup, gently woke baby (opened his blinds, made some noise, touched his face), changed his diaper, took him downstairs, got him dressed, slapped a bib on him, warmed and fed him a bottle, called Jay on Skype, cleaned the litter box, let the dog out again, turned the television on for Lola (the bird who gets grumpy if the television isn't on), packed the diaper bag, loaded Patrick up in his car seat and we were out of the house at 9:12 and at the doctor's office at 9:27. Whew. (I wasn't sure if his appointment was at 9:30 or 9:45 and never did find out.) I could have cut 8 minutes off my time if I hadn't bothered to straighten my hair.

It's nice to be so quick and efficient when I have to be. It wasn't that long ago (almost four months!) that it took Jay and me over an hour to get ready, get Patrick ready and get out of the house for his first doctor's appointment. And we were still late.

I have certainly adjusted to life with baby. Funny how that happens.

The irony, of course, is that Patrick sleeps through the night and I still don't. Eight hours in bed last night and I got up five times. Five! People told me that taking care of a baby would be so exhausting that I'd probably sleep better at night. Of course, they forgot about the old blind cat who gets lost in my bedroom and the old deaf dog who is still recovering from his inner ear infection (and still needs help up and down the stairs). Not to mention my own crazy insomnia. But I'd rather Patrick sleep through the night than me. It most definitely works out better that way.

Except now I'm quite tired and it just dawned on me that I haven't managed to take a shower yet today.

Monday, March 8, 2010

This is mostly not a baby post.

Motherhood has, in a strange sense, fostered a newfound generosity of spirit in me. Let me explain.

Taking care of an infant is exhausting, repetitive, often unrewarding work. Patrick is a good baby, a happy baby, but there's virtually nothing he can do for himself. And so, I do it all for him. I am happy that he rarely cries because it means he is content with his current lot in life. His needs are met-- and I meet them. It is easy to love him, because he is my own child, but I also respect him because he is so helpless and yet still tries so hard to accomplish things. Reaching out for toys, soothing himself with his fingers, seeking me out even when it means having to roll on his side, making his tongue work so he can communicate in his own way-- he does these things despite the great amount of effort it takes sometimes to accomplish them. And because he works so hard and I can see the effort it takes, it doesn't bother me to change his diaper for the second time in ten minutes (at least he didn't pee on me) or to change my shirt for the third time in one day (at least he didn't spit up in my hair). See? I see how hard he is trying and it makes my spirit more generous-- and gentle. And it's so easy to be this way because, even on days like yesterday when I was tired and not feeling well and maybe didn't engage him as much as I should have during play time, he still forgives me and offers me a smile when he wakes up from his naps. Every time, without fail. Maybe that's a bad baby memory or maybe his spirit is generous.

You would think I'd have nothing left to give anyone else after putting all of my generosity (or "work") into a baby. Truth is, I didn't have it to give in those early weeks. I barely had it to give to him. But I found some untapped well of patience and understanding inside me because, well, I had to-- and it doesn't just extend to Patrick anymore. As my confidence in my abilities has grown, so too has my sense of generosity and forgiveness. Patrick has softened me in some ways, ways I didn't really know I had become hardened. More than one person has commented that I seem very "calm" and that motherhood suits me. I laugh it off and interpret whatever calm vibe I'm sending as pure exhaustion, but I sense what they mean. Even when everything is chaos and my brain is racing in six directions at once, there is a calm at my center that wasn't there before. An ability to let go and forgive and reach out and be kind. Because we're all trying, aren't we? Patrick's efforts are so obvious to me because he's a baby, but I find myself looking around and seeing that others are trying, too. Even if their efforts aren't as transparent, even if their work (and suffering) is going on beneath the surface. We're all reaching, soothing, seeking and communicating in our own way.

And I know this sounds all gooey and Zen (and I did enjoy Momma Zen so much that I sent a copy to another new mom friend who I thought would appreciate it), but that's what motherhood has done for me. I'm not one of the "my child is my life" mommies-- I think I will always identify as a writer, first and foremost, over mother, or wife-- but I'm discovering unexpected emotional growth because of motherhood. My goal is not to change my identity to become only "Patrick's Mother" but to help him grow his own individual identity and give him wings. We all need encouragement with that, I think. Whether we're three months old or forty three years old, it feels good to have someone understand us and accept us for who we are.

I still get frustrated with slow drivers and slow lines at the grocery store. I still have no tolerance for rudeness. I still need more sleep, more time to write and more help with baby. But I'm finding it easier these days to reach out, to soothe, to attempt to connect, to try to communicate-- and, when all else fails, to forgive and offer a smile.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Letter to Patrick, Three Months Old

March 4, 2010

Dear Patrick,

You’re a quarter of a year old today, baby! I know that’s not very old at all, but the time… it flies! And you have changed so much in the past month. I’m delighted and startled and even sometimes sad because it seems as if I barely get a chance to enjoy one new thing you’re doing before you’ve gone and added something else to your repertoire, practically over night! As I told your father this morning—just when I get used to our routine, something changes. You!

The biggest change in the past month has been your sleeping pattern. A month ago, your longest stretch of sleep was maybe five hours. One short month later and you have graduated from five hours… to seven hours… to nine straight hours of sleep! The first time it happened (two consecutive nights), I was online searching for the phrase “infant sleeping too much.” Yes, your mother is a silly woman sometimes. Even after I realized there was nothing wrong with you, I was a little sad to have missed out on that 5 AM feeding when we were both warm and sleepy and you would go right back to sleep after eating and cuddling with me.

Of course, that third night you were back to sleeping seven hours—which had also startled me, but not nearly so much as nine hours—and I got my 5 AM cuddle time back, but it was temporary. You’re now sleeping eight to nine hours most nights, with the occasional aberration. A few nights ago, you woke up hungry at 3:30 AM and sucked down two 4 oz. bottles. I suspect you simply hadn’t eaten enough during the day.

You’re still napping pretty well during the day, though the times and length fluctuate from day to day. That’s okay, my only goals for you were to get you to sleep through the night in your own crib and you are very successfully doing that. Yay, baby!

After two months of never being away from you for more than a few hours (and six weeks of caring for you by myself), I found a wonderful part-time babysitter. I had been so reluctant to hire a stranger to take care of you, and luckily I didn’t have to! I’ve known Ashleigh for almost nine years and it’s been wonderful having her here, knowing that she is taking good care of you. I get text messages about you throughout the day, keeping me updated on what you’re doing. I’m so grateful for the time to write and run errands (and even have the occasional lunch with a friend), but I’m also happy to come home to you after my few hours away. You seem to enjoy having another person to entertain with your smiles and babble, and that makes me feel good about my decision.

Speaking of babble, you’re talking up a storm these days! You were starting to coo a month ago, but now you are prone to giving lengthy (and serious) lectures. You have “discovered” your tongue and the various sounds you can make when you move it this way and that. I love listening to you, though your best talking seems to occur when you’re getting sleepy and I’m guilty of keeping you up longer than I should just to listen to you talk. Keep talking, baby. I promise one day I’ll understand every word!

Other developments include your growing interested in your toys. Not only are you paying more attention to the colorful toys that dangle from your playmat and the giraffe mobile over your crib, you’re actually reaching out to grab things! The butterfly toy that hangs in the laundry room (which is actually a dog toy bought for Henry, who had no interest in it), is most often your target for capture. You get your diaper changed on the counter in the laundry room, so you have plenty of opportunities to plot your strategy. You can now hit the butterfly with accuracy and manage to catch it in your hand often enough to delight us both. (Failure to hang onto it causes you great frustration, however.)

Your hands continue to be your dearest friends. You suck on them constantly and you do not discriminate—a finger is as good as a thumb is as good as the entire fist. I attempted to give you a pacifier last month when we were going through the last (and worst) of the fussy nights, but you weren’t interested in rubber (especially since it didn’t have milk in it!) when you could have your own hand. Your drool production is increasing exponentially, which results in wet clothes for both of us, but you don’t yet seem to be teething. You can take your time on that development, baby! I know teething will bring pain and fussiness and probably some sleepless nights—and I don’t want that for either of us!

You have started showing interest in rolling over in just the past week or so. You usually get halfway there, laying on your side with your fist in your mouth, then you stop, content to stare at whatever it is that prompted you to roll on your side. But yesterday while we were playing on my bed, you rolled from your back to your stomach—twice! I tried to get you to do it a third time so I could make a video of it, but you decided it was an event best left undocumented (though I do have a camera phone picture). I imagine you’ll be rolling over pretty regularly by this time next month. It’s a wonderful development, but I will miss being able to put you in the middle of my bed while I get ready in the morning. Try not to roll off the furniture, okay?

You still love your swing and your playmat and the ceiling fans remain favorite objects of distraction (as does anything on the television despite my best efforts to distract you from that evil box). Your father has enjoyed listening to you “talk” to him on the computer. Just two more months and he’ll get to enjoy you in person! Spring and summer are around the corner and I’m looking forward to seeing what your new favorite things will be when we venture outside. I suspect the ceiling fan in the gazebo will make the list.

You’re growing like crazy and weigh fifteen and a half pounds now! I packed away all of your newborn and 0-3 month clothes yesterday so I could make room for your growing wardrobe of 6 month clothes. That was a little sad for me, but I’m having so much fun with you now that I can’t be too sad. I did separate the clothes into the “possible future baby/give away” pile and the “keepsake” pile, because I can’t bear to get rid of a few of those precious newborn outfits, especially your brown stripey sleeper with the raccoon on it. Your mother is silly and sentimental, but those are good qualities to have in a mother, I think.

We’re doing really, really well, baby. Everybody says what a happy baby you are and I feel very lucky that you’re an easy, cheerful baby most of the time. It’s still exhausting for me to take care of you alone, even on the best days and even with a babysitter twenty hours a week. I have days where I long for more help and a few more hours to write, to read, to sleep. It is going to be wonderful to have your father home and I know it’ll seem so much easier when there are two of us to take care of you. We’re going to have so much fun! But no matter how tiring and difficult it might be sometimes, I suspect that I will look back wistfully on these early months and have only good memories of when it was just my little baby and me.

Happy three month birthday, Monkey. Mama loves you.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Patrick at 12 weeks and his friend Sydney, at 4 weeks. I don’t think Patrick knew quite what to make of the little girl.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Patrick Goes to the Pediatrician

I'm posting these a bit late. Patrick went for his two month pediatric appointment (and first round of vaccines) on February 5. He handled it like a champ. In fact, he was all smiles and curiosity right up until the vaccines...

Curious: Oh, that's interesting. What is that shiny thing?

Nervous: A needle? Hmm. That looks... sharp.

Shocked: You want to do WHAT with that needle? Oh my!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Time Wise

Now that I have a part-time babysitter for Patrick, I am finding it frustrating trying to figure out how to best utilize the free time I have. And by "free" I mean, baby-free, since I'm very much paying for this time. (And after two months of non-stop, 24/7 baby care with maybe 10 hours away from him total, it is money very much well-spent.) Ideally, I would spend every single minute of my babysitting time writing. But that doesn't allow for those other things I need to do which are better done without a baby in tow. Errands are so much easier when I can run in and out alone instead of having to heft baby and carseat (or snap baby and carseat into the stroller frame, since baby is now weighing close to 14 pounds and the carseat isn't light, either). Even when Patrick is sleeping or awake and quiet, it makes for a longer trip that's harder on my back.

So far, a balance between errands and writing seems to be working out, though I yearn for more time for both. I'd like to squeeze in a little adult social time, too, but that's secondary to the things that must be done. Today's five-hour block of babysitting time included picking up prescriptions at Target, a trip to Old Navy and writing. Five hours should be enough time for all of that, but... the wait at the Target pharmacy was 20 minutes. I spent half an hour in Old Navy (I'm in desperate need of some cool-weather clothing, but I seemed to have missed the end-of-season bargains because all that was left was crap) and walked out with two baby outfits and a pair of yoga pants for myself (to inspire me to do Pilates). I then went to Barnes & Noble, figuring a change of writing venue would be nice, but everyone seemed to have the same idea because the bookstore cafe was packed. I gave up on that idea and headed to my usual Starbucks, where I am now. I wrote some e-mail (writing related, mostly), chatted with Jay via Skype and have been writing (and blogging) since noon. I need to leave in ten minutes to be home by 3.

Half of my time today has been spent on writing stuff, the other half on errands and driving time. The driving time is annoying, but that's life in the suburbs. I could stay home for my five hours and spend the entire time writing, but I already try to squeeze in some writing time at home while Patrick naps and I like being able to leave the house (alone). Plus, I think hearing him fuss or cry would be distracting (and likely send me downstairs to make sure things were okay-- not because the babysitter can't handle it, but because I'd feel bad). I might still spend some days at home-- especially close to deadline times-- but I don't want that to be the norm. So, it seems that grouping my errands together might be the best way to maximize my time. Perhaps dedicating one block of babysitting a week to errands would make me less frustrated because I could spend all of my time (less driving time) writing on the other days.

The other problem I need to work through-- and I'm trying!-- is actually leaving the house when the babysitter arrives. I have been spending 20-30 minutes (45 on Monday) chatting with her and/or finishing getting ready and gathering my stuff. Ideally, I would be ready to walk out the door when she arrived, but that's not always possible with Patrick's schedule. This morning, however, there really was no excuse. Patrick was napping and I was packing up my laptop when the babysitter arrived at 10, but I still didn't walk out the door until 10:25. Oops. I will get better, though.

It's lovely to have the time to write and run errands and know that Patrick is being well cared for and will be a happy (or napping) baby when I get home. To be honest, it's still difficult to be away from him and I don't think having more babysitting hours would make me happier. I would just miss him more. Instead, I just need to make sure I'm making the most of the hours I have.

On that note, I'm out of here and headed home.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Momma Zen

A fabulous friend, who happens to also be a new mom, sent me Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood by mother and Zen priest Karen Maezen Miller. (I just Googled her and found her delightfully named blog, Cheerio Road.)

I got Momma Zen in the mail yesterday and have already started reading it. (FYI: I never start reading a book as soon as I get it. This is momentous.) I knew I'd keep reading-- and probably love-- this thoughtful memoir on Zen and motherhood when I read this part:
And then, in a magic moment of old-fashioned fertility, I conceived. I was forty-two. Looking back, I saw that doing nothing to prevent pregnancy was not quite the same as doing something to get there. What I did was simply take my basal body temperature and have sex on cue, but even that required that I discard the ambivalence that I’d long carried about the issue. If it happens, it happens, I had been telling myself with a comfortable dose of confidence that it wouldn’t.

I can totally identify with this. Not only the age at which I conceived (twice, actually) and became a mother, but also the realization that "doing nothing to prevent pregnancy was not quite the same as doing something to get there." Oh, and the ambivalence. I'm a forty-two year old new mom in large part because of ambivalence, not infertility.

I never really knew whether I wanted to have a child or not-- pretty much up until oh, a few weeks ago. I had more or less talked myself out of having children-- thinking it wouldn't/couldn't happen. (And had a couple of people suggest it shouldn't happen.) The fact that I could so easily envision a life without children made it easy to be ambivalent. (Just for the record: I'm happy with the choice I made to be proactive in trying to get pregnant and the very adorable, if currently exhausting, end result.)

I am far from feeling "Zen-like" about motherhood, but I like Maezen Miller's voice of experience. It gives me a sense of calm-- something I could really use right about now.

P.S. to Nikki: You're awesome. Thank you!

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Letter to Patrick, Two Months Old

Dear Patrick,

You are two months and one day old today, my little monkey! No, I’m not already falling behind on writing your monthly letter, I just wanted to wait until after your two month appointment with the pediatrician. You appointment was this morning and I don’t think either of us was happy to be there. But we both survived your vaccines and you only cried for a little while. Thankfully, you are napping peacefully now.

You’re now in the 90th percentile for weight, length and head circumference. As the doctor said—you couldn’t be more perfectly proportioned. As far as I’m concerned, you couldn’t be more perfect! Of course, I do wish you weighed just a little less. You’re at thirteen and a half pounds now, almost five pounds heavier than you were at birth! My poor back and shoulders protest when I have to haul you and your car seat in and out of your father’s truck. But you’re my big boy and I’m so grateful you’re healthy.

It’s hard to believe it’s been two months (and one day) since you were born. Those early weeks are a bit of a blur of exhaustion, frustration and—when I wasn’t tired or frustrated—moments of quiet joy. It was a roller coaster ride of getting to know you, learning how to take care of you and adjusting to the incredible changes you have brought to my life. After your father left, it was all I could do to take care of you and myself and the pets. I’m happy to say the second month has brought a little less exhaustion, a lot less frustration and more moments of joy.

I’m also getting more sleep at night than I was a month ago because you’re sleeping better. Right now, you sleep four to four and a half hours when I put you down for the night, followed by a two to three hour stretch after a bottle, followed by another hour to hour and a half before you’re up for the day. You nap pretty well during the day, but the naps are getting a little shorter as you are waking up to the world around you and don’t want to miss anything.

You’ve learned a few new things in the past month. First of all, you’re really smiling! It was hard to tell before if it was a smile, a grimace or gas, but now I’m sure of the real smiles. You don’t smile every time you see me, but when you do it melts my heart. I never get tired of those toothless, lopsided grins. So far, you’ve only giggled once while you were awake (and I have to say, giggling in your sleep is a little creepy) and it was while I was putting on your bib. You do enjoy eating! (You take after your mama, I think.) I’m looking forward to hearing your laughter on a regular basis.

You have become more “interactive” in the past few weeks, much to my delight. You coo and babble now, your little fist shoved into your mouth—sometimes both of them at once. Putting your hand in your mouth used to signal your hunger, now you do it just because you can—and it seems to make you so happy. You look at me more often and for longer stretches and, like your smiles, I look forward to the future when you seek me out to watch me instead of looking at me only because I’m right in front of you.

In the past month, I’ve gotten you a swing and an activity play mat, both of which entertain you. I didn’t think you would take to the swing, but after a bit you seemed to enjoy watching everything moving around you. Oh, and it has the added benefit of rocking you to sleep when you’re feeling fussy. You just got the play mat yesterday, but you immediately started wiggling and kicking to the sounds and lights and little dangling toys. You love riding in the truck and looking around (though the motion eventually lulls you to sleep) and I think you’re starting to make the connection between being put in your car seat and going for a ride in the truck.

I feel like you’re growing up too fast right before my eyes, baby. You don’t fit into any of your newborn outfits anymore and it makes me sad. In fact, you are wearing a few 3 to 6 month and 6 month outfits already, though they’re a little big. But despite your growth spurt, you’re still a little baby. You still put your fist in the air—power to the people!— accompanied by the super serious expression you get sometimes, your little mouth turned down at the corners in disapproval. You can’t hold your head up for more than a few seconds yet, but you’re getting better at it ever day (and get soooo frustrated when it wobbles in the opposite direction of where you want to look). You still love to stare at the ceiling fan (I think the fan is as exciting to you as your play mat, actually) and looking at the lamplight or sunlight through the window. I can’t wait for spring so I can take you outside!

As of yesterday, I can finally count on two hands the total number of hours I’ve been away from you—8! I think you’ll be getting a regular babysitter soon, at least part-time. I miss my writing schedule and it’s hard to haul you around on errands. I think I might like to go back to teaching in the fall and even if it’s only online I will still need blocks of time to work. Of course, I don’t know yet how I’m going to leave you with someone else on a regular basis. It’ll be good for both of us and it’ll be harder for me than for you, I’m sure. But I know you don’t really want to go to doctor’s appointments and the grocery store with me, right? (I’ll still take you to Starbucks, of course!)

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but sometime in the past month I fell in love with you, Patrick. It wasn’t love at first sight for me like it was for your father. Is that horrible to admit? By the time I fell in love with you as my baby bump, it was almost time for you to be out in the world. So it’s taken me a little while to get to know you on the outside of my body, but I’m in love with you now, little boy. How could I not be? You are so amazing. We talk to your father everyday on my laptop so he can see you and you can see and hear him—and you do respond to his voice, even if his image is a little blurry on the screen sometimes—and I tell him how you’re doing and how incredible you are. He misses you, but I’m excited for him because I know he’s going to fall in love with you all over again when he gets home.

Two months have flown by and I know that it’ll be December before I know it and you’ll be turning a year old. Don’t grow up too fast, sweet boy. As much as I’m looking forward to all the things you’ll be able to do in the next month, and in six months, and in a year… I want to enjoy what you can do right now and savor these moments with you. The cuddles and the coos and your little hand on mine are all I need right now.

Happy two month birthday, baby. Mama loves you.

Monday, February 1, 2010

More About Baby, Writing and the Meltdown I Will Have If I Don't Get a Break Soon

Today was another one of those days when Patrick napped a lot and right on schedule, taking two 3-hour naps, a 1 and 1/2 hour nap and is now taking another short nap before I put him down for the night. Which will ideally mean one 4ish-hour stretch, one 2ish hour stretch and maybe a 1-2 hour stretch in the morning. But experience tells me it'll be less because he's napped so much today. (Which means I probably should have taken a nap myself to compensate for tonight, but a) I don't always know he's going to nap this well and b) I'm so happy to have time to get a bunch of stuff done that I don't even think about sleeping.)

I read somewhere that babies tend to function on a 48-hour schedule and that if they sleep a lot one day, they'll be awake a lot the next. That seems to be true for Patrick. He slept like this on Saturday, but was awake most of Sunday. It's not so bad, especially if he's not particularly fussy. It's tiring, having no one to hand him to so I can get a few things done, which can be frustrating if there are things I need (or want) to do. But he's getting more interactive (for lack of a better word) and I enjoy watching him watch the world. Of course, he often has long periods of fussiness on the days when he sleeps less and that's no fun for either of us. I've also read that young babies shouldn't be awake for more than 90 minutes at a time, otherwise they get overtired and overstimulated. There seems to be some truth in that and I try to put him down for a nap at the 90 minute mark if he's not showing any signs of going to sleep on his own. It doesn't always work.

I got some writing in on Saturday while Patrick napped, but it was impossible to write yesterday since his naps were in the 30 to 45 minute range. That's just not enough time for me to focus on anything. (And I had other things to do during those short naps, like feed the pets, take a shower, do a load of laundry, etc.) What's worse, it's terribly frustrating to think he might sleep for a couple of hours and sit down hoping for a decent stretch of writing time and then have to quit after a few minutes. I've learned that if I get a day like today, with long stretches of time to be productive, I shouldn't waste it. I've also learned that I shouldn't expect to get two days like this in a row. So I know tomorrow will likely be one of those days where he'll be up most of the day and some of that will be fussy time. Sigh.

I keep going back and forth over childcare. I never expected to be the full-time, sole care provider, and that was whether Jay was home or deployed. I need to write and I think I want to go back to teaching in the fall. I can write at home on days when he naps well, but that's not predictable enough for me to have a real writing schedule. It will also get harder as he gets older and is awake more often. I'm not comfortable putting him in daycare, mostly for the health issues that seem to plague kids who are in daycare. He's just so little and I'm not in a hurry to expose him to colds and illness when I don't have to. Plus, I've grown rather fond of our time together-- especially as he's getting older and learning to play-- and I don't want to lose that.

I'm looking at part-time care, in my house. I can't see taking him to someone else's house-- I just don't think I would ever trust a stranger that much. I'm not even sure I trust a stranger in my own house, but I would feel like I have more control over the situation (and could spend part or all of the childcare hours at home writing/working, or drop in and out over the course of those hours). It's expensive, having a nanny. The going rate here is around $10 to $15 an hour, which I know is cheaper than it would be in a big city. That's not expensive out proportion to the work-- I know that even an easy baby requires a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm. And I'm a big believer in the adage that you get what you pay for. I have no desire to skimp when it comes to making sure my baby is taken care of. I did balk at the referral fee that a nanny agency charges. I realize that's how they make their money, but... wow. It's a lot.

I wish I could hire someone I know rather than a stranger. I'm dragging my feet on this even though I really, really need the help simply because I'm having a hard time with the idea that a stranger will be in my house, taking care of my son. Whether I'm here or not, that's just hard for me to accept right now. I know it's just new-mommy apprehension, but it's also my personality: I don't trust easily and I don't like having people in my personal space. But for the month of January I had five hours away from baby. That's it. And those five hours (over three different days) were spent getting my hair colored, going food shopping and visiting friends and their new baby in the hospital. All three times, I felt like I was rushing through what I was doing (and driving too fast to get there and back) because I don't like asking people for favors. I hate thinking that Patrick is crying and someone-- a friend-- can't calm him. Not because I'm worried about Patrick (okay, a little), but because I hate inconveniencing others and I know a crying baby is no fun. So, even though I made the most of those five hours and enjoyed the brief breaks away, it wasn't relaxing and it wasn't enough. I need more.

I don't feel like I can ask a friend to watch the baby while I go to Starbucks and drink coffee and write. Or go to a movie. Or get a massage. I feel like whatever babysitting offers I get from friends should be used to run errands and do chores, not write and relax. Don't ask me why. I guess that's another (annoying) aspect of my personality: I don't like asking for favors. If I ask for a favor, it's because I feel like there's something I really need to do. And as much as I really need to have some time to myself, alone with a coffee, a book to read and my laptop, I won't ask someone to babysit so I can have it. (Even if I had a long list of potential babysitters-- which I don't. I barely have a short list.)

So, at some point, when I've hit my wall (which apparently hasn't happened yet, despite the constant state of exhaustion and occasional crying jags and feeling like I have absolutely no life and I'm never going to write again), I will hire someone to take care of Patrick for around 20 hours a week. That seems like so much time, in contrast to 5 hours in 30 days. I can't even imagine it, right now. It would be so much easier (relatively speaking) if I had a job to go to. An office somewhere that was waiting for me to come off maternity leave and get back to work. But the writing and editing, and even the teaching, are flexible and subject only to my own self-imposed schedules and deadlines. I have to write. I just have to. And I know that some of depression-- because that's what it is, no matter how I dress it up-- is because I'm not writing and because I don't have a schedule to do the work that is important to me.

Patrick is waking up from his last nap of the day and it's time for a bottle and a story (and maybe a song) and those happy little sounds he makes while he eats, with his little hand resting on mine. I never get tired of those moments. For tonight, at least, the writing can waiting.

Surprise Package

Patrick got a present in the mail today and I couldn't resist seeing if he would fit in the box. He did.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Waiting for Snow

So it seems there is a big winter storm headed in my direction. Every year, we get a couple of these dire winter storm warnings for southeast Virginia and they usually amount to a dusting of snow that melts as soon as the sun peaks out from behind the clouds. But it seems like this time it might be the real deal with a possibility of up to twelve inches of snow. I'll believe it when I see it, but I love the sense of anticipation of a winter storm. A week ago, I was going a bit stir crazy from being cooped up in the house with a baby and a bug (the sickness bug, not the mutant cockroaches I wrote about last weekend). Now, I'm kind of looking forward to nesting for a few days.

It's a been a good week, give or take a couple of late nights of baby fussiness. I've gotten out of the house every day this week-- which didn't seem possible a month ago. Funny how things change. But Patrick has gotten a little older and is a little more predictable, which makes scheduled outings a little easier. I've gotten my coffee fix several times this week, which is lovely. Oh, how I've missed my coffee! Between pregnancy, gestational diabetes and a newborn, I haven't indulged my Starbucks cravings nearly enough in the past six months. (Though I do wonder if Patrick absorbs the caffeine by osmosis while we're there because his fussy nights seem to coincide with a trip to Starbucks.) Getting my coffee, doing a bit of writing and plotting, seeing some friends, feeling like I'm finding a new routine-- it all goes a long way to improving my overall mood.

Patrick is eight weeks old today and weighing in at a whopping 13 pounds. He goes to the pediatrician next Friday for his two month checkup, so I imagine he'll be weighing a little more by then. It's not all sunshine and rainbows (those fussy nights are truly exhausting and my back is in a permanent knot), but it's gotten more manageable. Enough so that when I saw my doctor earlier this week for my postpartum appointment, I mentioned that we might actually consider trying for another baby in the next year. Crazy, huh? Crazier still that my doctor was positively delighted. We'll see how I feel in a few more months. Two babies under two? I think the sleep deprivation is getting to me.

So here I sit on a Friday night, baby sleeping beside me and snow on the radar. I'm soaking beans to make a hearty bean soup for tomorrow and I'm feeling the urge to bake a pan of my kickass brownies. I got a writing check in the mail today and I got to see Jae and Shannon's baby girl tonight. There are things I wish were different, a certain melancholy I just can't shake, but life is good and peaceful and (for the moment) quiet.

Bring on the snow.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Magic Six-Week Mark

We've passed it, actually. Patrick turned six weeks old on Friday. I have heard that six weeks is the magic milestone where babies (and life with babies) get easier. Of course, some people say it's eight weeks, others say it's three months. At least one person told me six months, but that balances with the one person who told me two weeks. Still, six weeks seems to be the most frequently quoted age. I'm here to report... they're right. Sort of.

After Patrick's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day last Tuesday, the week took a turn for the better. In fact, every day since Tuesday (knock on wood and whatever superstitions necessary) has been a pretty good day. By pretty good, I mean there have been no extended periods of fussiness or crying, no times when he couldn't be consoled by holding, rocking bouncing, changing or feeding him. After last Tuesday's all-day meltdown, this is a minor miracle not to be taken for granted.

The icing on the happy (or at least content) baby cake is that Friday night was the first night that I was able to put him to bed without a prolonged bout of fussing and crying. Previous to that, every night was a 2 to 4 hour chore of trying to get him down for the night. He's been sleeping in his crib since day 1, but he naps downstairs in his rocker during the day. The transition was a bit of an ordeal, no matter what time I attempted to put him to bed. I thought maybe it was something about his room (too quiet, too warm) or his crib (too big, too flat), but he wasn't having any problems sleeping once he was actually in there. I still don't really know what the issue is, but I've found the fix-- or at least a fix that has worked for the past three nights (and I'm knocking on wood again). Last night was his best night ever in terms of going to bed easily and not needing to be soothed once he was there. Of course, today he's waking up every hour or two and eating more than usual, so I assume it's his six-week growth spurt. He's fussier than usual, but nothing like last Tuesday. This is manageable and I don't feel like I'm losing my mind.

So yes, the six-week mark was a turning point of sorts. But I don't know if it's because Patrick has gotten easier or because I've recovered from having him and gotten a little better at this parenting thing. He is certainly interacting more with me-- smiling occasionally, making prolonged eye contact, snuggling against me-- which helps. But he's also crying and fussing less. Is that because he's six weeks old or because I've figured out what to do to keep him content? I don't know, but I'll take it.

This is not to say that it has gotten easy. Hardly. I'm exhausted and averaging about 4 hours of sleep a night. Part of the problem is how long it takes me to fall asleep-- if he sleeps for 3 hours, I might sleep for 2. Last night, he never slept more than 2 and a half hours, so I never slept more than an hour before I was getting up with him again. Tired. So very tired.

I had a much needed break planned for Saturday, with a massage and a movie scheduled, but my plans were derailed by illness (my generous babysitter, not me). I didn't realize how much I was looking forward to a break until it was taken away. Talk about inconsolable (me, not Patrick). Jay is nudging me to hire someone for part-time childcare. I keep thinking if only I had a few hours to myself I'd be able to forge ahead for another month, but I can't even get that little break right now. So I'm contemplating the options. I'm pretty sure I can't keep going like this until May or June when Jay gets home. The reality is that there are very few people I trust to watch my child and, for one reason or another, the few friends I do trust aren't available. I'm not sure how I can hire a stranger to take care of him, but that may be what I need to do. I've been resistant-- partially because Patrick is so young and partially because it's so expensive-- but I'm starting to think it might be the best thing for my mental health. Falling apart when a friend lets me down (even when it's unavoidable) is not good mental health.

So here we are, at just past six weeks since Patrick was a born and a month since Jay returned to Dubai. It's gotten a little easier and more manageable, to be sure. He's an amazing little creature, which makes up for a lot, including the sleepless nights and the assorted aches and pains associated with carrying a chunky baby for hours every day. I'm even managing to think about writing, editing and book promotion, so that's something. Maybe-- for right now-- it's enough.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Baby Had a Bad, Bad Day

Patrick had a horrible day yesterday. He cried, he fussed, he screamed, he wriggled and fought the air with his little balled up fists. I have absolutely no idea what the problem was and, as I discovered, I had absolutely no idea how to resolve it except to wait it out. Which I did, but just barely.

With the exception of one one-hour nap in the morning and two or three fifteen-minute catnaps in the afternoon and evening, he was awake from 11:30 AM to 10:30 PM. That is a long time for a little baby to be awake. That is also a long time for a tired mama to be rocking, holding, feeding, cuddling and talking to a little baby. I fed him when he was hungry, changed him when he was wet, held him when he seemed to want to be held, put him down when he seemed sleepy, burped him, bicycled his legs for gas, kept him warm (but not too warm), checked his temperature (no fever), swaddled him, gave him a pacifier, moved him from downstairs (too much light and noise, maybe?) to upstairs, dimmed the lights, sang to him, hummed to him, stayed quiet… and nothing worked for more than five minutes to keep him calm. Finally, for no real reason I can discern except sheer exhaustion, he fell asleep (swaddled) around 10:30 and slept until after 4 AM. Thank god and whichever saint watches over frazzled mothers. Seriously.

It’s not just the crying that sends me around the bend-- though it’s certainly the main problem since I have such a low tolerance for loud noise-- it’s the constant physical contact. I’m not used to having my personal space invaded with such frequency. Yes, I know this is my baby and any idea I have of personal space went out the window when he took up residence in my uterus, but… still. Don’t get me wrong, I love to hold him when he’s calm and sleepy and warm. It’s soothing to have his little head nestled against my shoulder, his fingers clasping mine. That’s wonderful. It’s when he’s fussing and crying, when the arms are flailing about and the legs are kicking and he’s struggling to lift his head and manages to clip me in the jaw that I feel like I’m on the receiving end of a violent attack. It doesn’t seem like it should hurt, but it does. I feel like my body is bruised after yesterday. Swaddling helps a little, but he still manages to wriggle and twist and push against me so hard I have to hang on tight. It’s physically exhausting. Thankfully, my incision isn’t as tender as it was a couple of weeks ago because those belly kicks hurt.

I had my own little meltdown around 9:30 last night, holding him and praying he would go to sleep so I could get some sleep myself. It wasn’t long before he was sleeping peacefully and looking like an angel, but of course I had no idea that was coming when I was melting down. In that moment, after ten hours of constant care of a fussy baby with barely a break to feed the pets and myself, it felt like it was never going to get better. Ever. Like I was trapped in that nursery, in that chair, with that crying baby forever. Horrible, helpless feeling, that.

But today is a new day and so far, so good. He slept last night, I slept last night, the pets and I have been fed well before noon (as opposed to the 4 PM and 9 PM of yesterday), the sun is shining and Patrick is taking his usual morning nap (and waking up, it sounds like). I feel like I can do anything right now. Maybe even write something that isn’t baby-related.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Bought the Ticket. Taking the Ride.

Pardon the bad picture, it was taken with my phone yesterday evening. I'm pretty sure it was Patrick's first real smile and I wanted to capture it, especially since he hasn't had much to smile about since. This will be a good reminder for those nights (tonight?) when he's been fussing for hours and I'm at the end of my rope. Patrick has been smiling off and on for weeks, but it was those little random baby smiles that appear out of nowhere (sometimes when he's sleeping) and disappear just as quickly. This time, he actually smiled in response to something I did and it lasted for a good minute or two. Until I tried to take a picture of him, of course.

It's been a rough few days of little sleep (for me) and a lot of crying (for him, though I feel like I could cry). Monday and Tuesday were lovely, but it's been downhill since then-- some bad nights with short periods of sleep and a lot of fussiness and crying and seemingly endless hunger and parts of the day that aren't so great, either. He seems to have gas after he eats, but I've done every trick in the book to help him with that and still he cries. Another growth spurt? He's gaining weight at a pretty good clip, but I just don't know. He still wanted to eat last night even after he ate three times in less than 6 hours. He sucked on his fingers, but kept losing them in his flailing, so I gave him my finger and he sucked on it for nearly an hour before falling asleep. Maybe he needs a pacifier? I'm afraid to even say the scary word colic because if this goes on for weeks or months I will lose my mind. More than one person has told me that babies cry more in the 3 to 6 week period (or 4 to 8 week period, the anecdotes seem to vary), but no one said why. Just that it does get better. I'm a fix-it girl and I don't know the fix for this except to wait it out, I guess.

Strangely enough, after fussing and crying for over 5 hours last night, he slept from 1:30 until almost 8:30. That's almost seven hours after two nights of not sleeping longer than two hours and never having slept longer than four and a half. I didn't sleep anywhere near that long, of course. It took me at least an hour to unwind (listening to a baby cry is stressful and I have a low tolerance for noise), then the dog woke me up at 6 and then I was freaked out that Patrick hadn't woken up, so I had to check on him. He was fine, so I went back to bed and did get about another hour of sleep before he started making wake up noises (and I honestly think he would soothed himself back to sleep if I hadn't gone in to get him). There's a part of me that wonders if he did wake up in the middle of the night and I was just too exhausted to hear him and that makes me feel impossibly guilty. How would I know? He didn't seem any more hungry than usual this morning. I figured he was just worn out from the past couple of bad nights.

When you have a baby, his bad days are your bad days, so I'm a bit of an incoherent zombie today. I did get a bunch of stuff done around the house yesterday because his late morning and afternoon naps were peaceful (if short). I was running on some magical reserve tank of energy that I don't want to examine too closely for fear it will fail me when I need it. Despite the previous bad night's sleep, I felt pretty good and positive about the day until around 6 PM when the cycle of fussing, feeding, crying, soothing, fussing started again. (Which was, coincidentally enough, about 20 minutes after the above picture was taken.) I guess that's something, though. A few good hours in the midst of the chaos. And, despite how tired I feel now, I did actually get about five hours of sleep last night followed by another good hour, so that's about twice as much as I've been averaging. I suspect it's depression and not fatigue that's making me feel tired today, since I don't know how the rest of the day and night are going to go. I'll rally, though. I always do.

I'm looking forward to that mysterious time frame known as "it will get better." Hopefully sooner, rather than later. I was spoiled for those two weeks when Jay was home and I was getting a stretch of sleep every night. I even got used to the 2-3 hours between feedings of the past couple of weeks (punctuated by a couple of very bad nights). Can't I have those back, at least? (Yes, I'm whining.)

I'm not complaining, truly. Okay, I am, but I don't mean to. I'd love to write about something else and as soon as my brain isn't foggy and I can think of something else, I will write about it. I know it could be worse (that dreaded colic-- I've heard anecdotes of it lasting nearly around the clock for weeks) and I'm grateful for these little stretches during the day where I do get a few things done and manage to feel somewhat human, if an incoherent human. And I have that little smile above to remind me that it isn't all crying and fussing, even if it seems like it sometimes.

Oh, and in case you're wondering about my blog post title, Alison Tyler has a post today titled "Buy the ticket. Take the ride." It has nothing to do with babies and sleep, but it seems to fit my situation. I signed up for this and I even knew what I was in for (minus the absent spouse, the Cesarean section recovery and the inability to resolve every bout of crying), so I can't complain now. Buy the ticket. Take the ride. Yeah.

It's a hell of a ride, I'll tell you that.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Letter to Patrick, One Month Old

My sweet Patrick,

You’re one month old today, baby. On this very cold January day, you and I are at Starbucks—one of the few places I’ve taken you—and mama even brought her computer for the first time. Of course, I’m writing a letter to you instead of getting any real writing done, but it’s still quite an accomplishment right now for us to get out of the house! We are a team, you and I, until your father gets home from his deployment in Dubai. I’m counting on you to be very forgiving as I make mistakes over the next few months. After all, I never changed a diaper before you came along—and even then you were four days old before I changed the first one! Despite your young age, you probably have figured out I don’t know what I’m doing. Maybe that’s what those little smirks are that you give me sometimes—I just thought it was gas!

It’s been amazing watching you grow and change this month. You have outgrown most of your newborn outfits and have developed a little round belly and chunky legs. I’m not worried about your weight the way I was in the days after your birth. You no longer feel like a fragile newborn, though you are still so small and helpless and your head wobbles around if I don’t support it. You still have that adorable “startle” reflex where you throw you arms up in surprise (often while you’re sleeping), though it doesn’t happen as often as before. Thankfully, you sleep pretty soundly through the dog barking and the phone ringing and the television commercials that are so much louder than whatever program I might be attempting to watch in between feedings and laundry.

I’m so very tired, baby. I know that’s the way it’s supposed to be with a newborn and I try not to complain, but how I wish I could sleep more! It was certainly easier before your father left—having two people to take care of you made it seem almost effortless. But it’s been just you and me for the past two weeks and the exhaustion is a bit overwhelming at times. I never take it out on you, though I did have to put you down and walk away for a few minutes one particularly bad night when you were gassy and crying, but I can’t say the same about others. Everyone and everything gets on my nerves right now and I know it’s sleep deprivation and hormones. I’m recovering quite nicely from your birth, but I will be happy when you’re sleeping a bit longer at night and my hormones stop careening around out of control.

You’re too little for toys just yet, but you do love to stare at the ceiling fan. You’re also quite fond of lights—whether it’s sunlight through the window or the Christmas tree lights before your father took the tree down. Even the light from a lamp will mesmerize you for awhile. We bought you a swing before your father left, but you didn’t like it very much so we exchanged it for a simple rocker to put in the living room. You seem to like that well enough, especially when I rock you (it’s manual, so I have to do the work). Perhaps when you’re a little bigger you’ll enjoy the rocking and vibrations and music of an electric swing. It’s okay if you don’t, though. I’ll keep rocking you in the rocker for as long as you like it. Sometimes it soothes me as much as it soothes you.

You love your hands and wave them around like a symphony conductor or a painter wielding a brush on an invisible canvas. Sometimes you thrust your fist in the air while you’re sleeping, your lips pursed defiantly like a little rebel. I wonder what you’re rebelling against in those baby dreams? There are pictures of you with your hands in your mouth just moments after your birth. I love that you are a self-soother, even if it means that you resist being swaddled. I hate that you had to self-soothe in the hospital because I was in recovery and couldn’t hold you. But you’re already showing your inner strength, my sweet boy, and you took care of yourself when I couldn’t. I think your fondness for using your hands is a hint that you will end up with some streak of creativity. I can’t wait to find out what form it takes.

It’s incredible how much you look like your father, from the strands of blond and red in your brown hair (which seems to have a bit of curl to it—perhaps that’s my contribution?) to the dimple in your chin. I have always had a hard time telling who babies look like, but I have thought you looked like your father since I saw your sweet face on my 34 week ultrasound. You certainly act like your father’s son—collapsing into a deep sleep after you eat and maintaining a relatively good natured demeanor even when your newbie mother messes up some crucial aspect of your care. If you grow up with your dad’s personality as well as his looks, I’ll consider myself the luckiest mother in the world.

Recently, you’ve been giggling and smiling in your sleep, giving me a taste of what’s to come. I’m looking forward to that first real smile you give me. It will be a hard won reward, I think! I’m in no hurry for you to grow up though, baby. I know that as much work as it is to take care of you now that it will be even more demanding when you’re mobile! I’m very content to wait for those big milestones until your father comes home and can experience them, too—and give me a break! Your mama is a bit of a free spirit and it’s been a big adjustment having to give up my freedom. You’re worth it, no doubt, but I look forward to leaving you in your father’s capable hands for a few hours—or a few days.

I’m sorry your father isn’t here to experience all these newborn moments. He wants to be, I promise you that. And, with luck, this will be the only time in your childhood that he won’t be home with us. The Navy has given us a good life, but this is not at all the way I wanted it to go, with your dad only here for the first eighteen days of your life. He will be home in June, if not sooner, and everything will seem a bit easier. He’s very good with you and has more patience than I could ever hope to have. That will come in handy when he’s teaching you to swim—and to drive.

Most of the time, you are an easy baby and I’m so grateful for that. You have only had a handful of bad nights in the past month—four, I think, including one night in the hospital. New Year’s Eve was pretty bad. You stayed up longer than you ever have—nearly eight hours!—and I decided that you just wanted to ring in the new year with me. Of course, I could have done without the crying (and on the one night when I actually had people over—such is the way of babies, I suppose) and bottomless hunger. Perhaps it was a growth spurt rather than a need to see the ball drop, hmm? I have no experience with babies, but I hear that some of them cry a lot and, with those few exceptions, you certainly don’t. I’m especially grateful for that, sweet Patrick. I love you dearly, but your inconsolable wails on those bad nights broke my heart. I hope nights like that are few and far between. I’ll try my best to make sure you never have a reason to cry.

I bought a bunch of books when we were expecting you so that I would know how to take care of you. Unfortunately, I’m so tired most of the time I can’t do more than look at them sitting on the bedside table and hope I’m not scarring you for life as I bumble onward. But I do have friends who give me bits of advice here and there, and that helps. And there are some things I just seem to know about taking care of you—like how to hold you when you’re fussy or to start a bottle when you make certain little grunting sounds and start gnawing on your hands. I’m starting to gain confidence that I can take care of you by myself, which means we’ll be getting out of the house more (once the weather warms up—you are only a month old, after all). My strength is coming back and I’m probably gaining some muscle in the process of lifting you and your carseat in and out of your father’s truck! How I wish I could put you in my Miata—I think you’d enjoy riding in a convertible when you’re older. (I’m not-so-secretly hoping you have a bit of your mother’s free spirit in you!)

At some point, you’re going to realize your parents are not like your friends’ parents. In the first place, we’re terribly old. In the second place, not only are we still married, but we’ve been married forever! Hopefully these attributes will count in our favor, even if we did name you after the dog. (But you have two middle names, so you shouldn’t mind if we gave you Henry’s name as one of them. He’s a pretty wonderful dog, after all.) We may not be traditional parents (and I’m most definitely not going to be a traditional mom), but we have big plans to show you the world and make sure you have a wonderful life. I think you will inspire both your father and me to take better care of ourselves so we can keep up with you. What adventures we’re going to have!

There was a full moon on December 31—the second full moon of the month, which makes it a blue moon. I wanted to remember that so I could tell you there was a blue moon in the month you were born. You are the kind of baby that comes along once in a blue moon and I am lucky you are mine. It’s getting late now and it is bitterly cold outside, so I better get you home before you wake up again and wonder why your crazy mother still has you out at Starbucks.

Happy one month birthday, Patrick. Mama loves you.