The Babies!

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.