Serendipity

I am not one for believing that things happen for a reason.

I didn’t think like this even before my father’s accident and my stepfather’s death, although I have said to a number of people that if I did believe this sort of thing I would believe that P. was sent to be this horrible year’s silver lining.

Sometimes, though, I can see how it would be tempting to think that the universe every now and then has our best interests at heart.

A few weeks ago I was walking E. to school when one of his old nursery school teachers cycled past. She saw P. in the carrier and stopped immediately to chat- she hadn’t known I was pregnant.

We had a brief conversation, during which she mentioned that she was no longer teaching full-time at the nursery school but was now instead looking after children who are too young to go to the nursery school.

Here’s the thing- I am going back to work in September. I don’t really want to- I would rather be at home for another year, but it’s not feasible for a number of reasons.

Q. has agreed to take one day off a week to be home with P., and I’ll be home for another day. But even the prospect of looking for part-time care for P., three days a week, was causing me huge amounts of anxiety and guilt. Anxiety because I was worried about finding the right kind of care for her, namely a home-based setting with a native English speaker. And guilt because we didn’t need this kind of care for E.- we juggled him between us until he was old enough to go to nursery school- but we can’t do the juggling act again.

I asked her if she would be interested in looking after a 14 month old for three days a week starting in September.

She said that sounded like fun.

I took her phone number and took a little bit longer than I should have to call her because it takes me a long time to do anything right now, especially call people (because I absolutely loathe talking on the phone), but it worked out because even though word had gotten around by that point she had been waiting to hear from me before talking to anyone else. She believes that things happen for a reason, you see. She felt that our meeting had been “meant to be”.

We met up yesterday to discuss the details.

We’re still figuring out a few things, but I think we’re basically sorted. She’s willing to come to our house and she’s happy to pick up E. after school on the days she is working. This is so much better than I was expecting, as you basically can’t get a nanny who’s a native English speaker. We’d been assuming P. would be in an in-home daycare somewhere and then we’d have to find some sort of after-school care for E. And finding a part-time spot can be difficult.

She is a trained ECE.

She has decades of experience with the littlest people.

I worked with her on my duty day at the nursery school for an entire year.

I KNOW how good she is.

And now she’s going to save up all of that love and kindness and energy for my P.

We hit the jackpot.

I might be able to now stop having anxiety attacks about going back to work.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Life after the PhD, P.- the first year, Who am I really? (Career Angst)

What the mirror doesn’t show

Take a look at the Mum and baby in the mirror. The baby is smiling- she loves looking at the baby in the mirror. The Mum is smiling too, because who can not smile when looking at such a smiling, happy baby? The Mum has big dark circles under her eyes and her hair probably could use a wash but her clothes are clean and they’re not pajamas.

The baby is, by any definition, adorable.

The Mum looks like she is doing a Good Job at being that baby’s Mum.

And she is.

The baby is healthy and growing. She is fed whenever she is hungry. She is cuddled whenever she needs a cuddle.

She is loved.

The Mum loves the baby so much she thinks sometimes her heart will explode. She didn’t think she could love anyone as much as she loves the baby’s older brother, but she loves this baby just as much.

But the mirror doesn’t show how the baby gets up every two or three hours at night, every night, and then won’t go back to sleep at 5 a.m. unless she gets to snuggle in bed and nurse (which means the Mum can’t go back to sleep because she is too worried about having the baby in the bed with her).

The mirror doesn’t show how the baby gets bored during the day and fusses and frets because she is still a baby and doesn’t want to be.

The mirror doesn’t show how the Mum gets bored during the day, even though she loves the baby so very much and couldn’t imagine not being at home with her.

The mirror doesn’t show how the Mum has to choose, every day, whether she will shower or sit down and have a cup of tea, because there is rarely the time to do both.

The mirror doesn’t show how the Mum has to read every label of every item of food she eats, how the baby’s tummy still isn’t quite right sometimes even though the Mum tries so hard to be careful. It doesn’t show how much the Mum misses her comfort foods. The Mum thinks she would probably dream about cheese if she wasn’t so tired she no longer remembers her dreams.

The mirror doesn’t show how the baby’s big brother is still struggling to adjust to the demands of school, or the meetings the Mum has had with the teacher, with a developmental paediatrician. It doesn’t show the question marks that have been raised about the big brother’s development, nor how much the Mum worries about him sometimes.

The mirror doesn’t show how much the Mum worries about her mother, newly widowed, or her father, still in the hospital, still paralyzed, still (and forever) unable to breathe on his own.

The mirror doesn’t show how sad and worried the recent election has made the Mum, how hard she has to work every day to keep from being overwhelmed by the reality of the world in which she has suddenly found herself living.

The mirror doesn’t show how worried the Mum is about her sister and the baby who is coming soon. The Mum tries not to worry but she can’t shake the fear that this horrible year has one last terrible outcome waiting around the corner. She does not think she will truly relax until she hears that the baby is born and both the baby and her sister are healthy and well.

The mirror doesn’t show how the Mum has a moment before she gets out of bed on the mornings where the baby has had a particularly bad night, having already been awake for an hour or two with no tea and no breakfast, where she wonders how she will be able to make it through that day.

She does.

She gets through that day, and then the next day, and then the one after that.

She takes the big brother to school and picks him up. She helps the baby to take her naps (because who wants to nap when sleep means you miss out on something). She gets the laundry done and the house cleaned (most of the house, most of the time). She makes dinner (some of the time). She makes snacks and reads stories and answers questions (so.many.questions). She changes the baby, and nurses the baby, and sings to the baby, and cuddles with the baby.

She tries to remember that her husband is also tired.

She tries not to engage in score keeping, but to instead notice and appreciate everything that he does.

She tries not to resent him for being able to use the bathroom when he needs to, for eating breakfast uninterrupted, for going to work and having adult conversations.

Some days she is better at all of these than others.

She is doing a Good Job.

But she is so very, very tired.

She knows that things will get better.

She knows that the days are long, but the years are short.

The baby’s big brother is almost impossibly grown up now. He is losing the teeth that the baby will soon be getting.

The Mum is reminded, every day, when she looks at him that babies are not babies forever. And when she kisses him goodnight and tucks him in one last time before she goes to bed, she still smooths his hair and marvels that he will now sleep through anything, even the crying of his baby sister who has been woken up by the sounds of her parents getting ready for bed, just like he once was.

Still. Some days are very, very long.

The Mum gives the baby in the mirror a big kiss.

The baby gives one of her full-body smiles, where she waves her arms and kicks her legs and wriggles around and beams with a wide, gummy grin.

This smile is not for the other baby. This smile is for her Mummy.

The Mum smiles back.

The mirror does show love.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Choose Happiness, My addled brain, P.- the first year, Sleep

The fifth month

Dearest P.,

Oh, I am so torn right now. On the one hand, I’m so excited to watch you grow and discover and learn new things. It’s no secret that the teeny baby stage isn’t my favourite, and I can’t wait for you to become your own little person. And yet, there’s a part of me that desperately wants you to stay little just a tiny bit longer. You’re five months old already and I can’t figure out how that happened. Sometimes when I look at us in the mirror I’m caught off guard by the baby who is looking back at me. You’re so much bigger than I keep expecting.

There have been a lot of changes this month. You’re getting so much more dexterous with your hands. Not only can you now hold a toy in each hand, but you’ve also mastered the art of passing a toy from one hand to the next, or of holding a toy with one hand and exploring it with the other. And right from the beginning of the month you’ve been fascinated with grabbing and touching people’s faces. You love to try to pull Daddy’s glasses off of his face and see just how firmly attached my hair is to my head. When you’re nursing your little hand is in constant motion trying to grab and touch and pat and pinch any part of me you can reach. When you’re up on my shoulder getting ready to have a nap you are determined to stick your fingers inside my mouth or my ear. You also still like to suck on my jawbone, sometimes at the same time!

You’re also officially a baby on the move. Mid-month you realized that you could use your rolling abilities to go in a particular direction. Now making breakfast is much more complicated as I’m always having to stop to remove your hands from the cat food, or your foot from the water bowl, or make sure that you don’t roll off the little step between the kitchen and the living room. I’m constantly finding you under furniture if I leave you in the living room to go and boil the kettle. You’re also showing a keen interest in objects like power cables or tiny pieces of Lego left out by your brother, and you’ve tried very hard more than once to pull over onto your head your brother’s basket of readers. You’re so proud whenever you barrel roll off to somewhere you shouldn’t be.

We set the high chair up this month. We haven’t introduced any food yet (although you did lick my pear with great enthusiasm the other day), but you like to sit up in it during meals. You enjoy being at the same level as the rest of us and at the moment you’re not too upset that there’s no food in front of you. You do love to watch us eat, and we’re excited to start that journey next month. You’re still drooling and gumming on everything, so perhaps there will be a tooth or two by the time you’re ready to start solids (although you’ve been drooling and gumming on everything for months now). Your big brother just lost his first two teeth, and I expect I’ll have you getting your teeth at the same time as he’s losing his.

You still have a wide range of sounds, but the best one this month is laughter. I still haven’t managed to succeed in getting anything more than a few giggles out of you but your crazy Daddy can get the full belly laugh and so can your brother. There was one afternoon where we were picking up some groceries after a busy day and you weren’t very happy about still being out. You were crying in the checkout line and your brother hopped up onto the edge of the stroller and started making silly sounds at you. Right away you started laughing. I also like how you try to camouflage every yawn by immediately following it with a pterodactyl shriek. It’s like you think we won’t notice that you’re tired if you just keep making lots of noise. You love to suck on your bottom lip and make a smacking noise. You have lots of happy, contented noises too, both when you’re nursing and when you’re just enjoying being part of the family. I never get tired of hearing them.

You love to watch anything and everything going on around you. Your two favourites are your brother and the cat. If they’re around you will twist and crane your head at every angle to make sure you can see them (and grab them if they’re close enough to reach). Nursing is becoming a real challenge unless I take you up to the bedroom (and even then I run the risk of having the cat appear on the bed). You’re much less interested in snuggling and nursing and much more interested in engaging with your world. It makes me wonder if one of the reasons why you’re up so much in the night is because you’re making up for all the calories you’re too busy to take in during the day.

I’ve been trying to get you in the bath a bit more frequently during the day. There’s almost never time for a bath between when I eat dinner and when you need to go to sleep, so it isn’t a part of your usual bedtime routine. But it’s clear that you really enjoy them. I let you float in the big tub and you kick and flail and splash with big, wide, excited eyes. When I manage to get you in the tub with your brother you love when I sit you up so you can watch what he does. You also almost never get baby naked time. This was an essential part of the daily routine for your brother but you just don’t get fussy the same way at the end of the day. I’m sure it’s because you have your brother to watch- watching him sprint around the house and tumble on the couches must be much more interesting than rolling around on a towel! On the rare day where you’re in a terrible mood by the late afternoon I just put you in the carrier while I cook dinner.

One of the highlights this month was our visit to see your Grannie. We went for a week, just you and me. It was really special for me to get that much time with my own Mum without anyone else around, and your Grannie, of course, was thrilled to have us there. We went to see your Great-Grannie a couple of times, and she was very pleased to be able to show you off to her caregivers. You helpfully demonstrated how you can roll over and put your toes in your mouth. You also proved that you are very happy to fall asleep in a car as long as the driving is smooth and steady and not slower than 80 km/hour. We had a few drives home from picking up groceries in the late afternoon where we were trying to keep you awake (and then we went on an extended tour of the countryside around Grannie’s house when our efforts inevitably failed). You didn’t sleep on the airplane home, but you were happy and cheerful again throughout the entire flight.

Speaking of sleep, let’s start with the good news. At the very start of the month, while we were visiting your Grannie and I didn’t have to worry about your brother’s bedtime, we worked on you going to sleep at night by yourself. You’ve done so well with this. At first I would stay in the room while you rolled around in the crib and settled yourself. Sometimes you’d cry a little bit, and sometimes you’d start with your cry that told me I needed to pick you back up and give you another cuddle, but you very quickly figured it out. By the middle of the month I could nurse you, sing your lullabies, give you a kiss and put you in the crib wide awake and then just walk out the door. You like to sleep on your side, just like your brother did when he was a baby. Your bedtime has also pushed back to 7 p.m. (or 6 p.m. if you’ve refused to take a catnap in the late afternoon), so it means that I can say goodnight to you and then go get your brother ready for bed while your Daddy cleans up the kitchen. Our evenings are much less chaotic now. I’m very proud of you for doing this. I know it can be scary falling asleep alone.

You’ve also made big progress with your naps. I’ve been working on getting you into the crib drowsy but still a little bit awake and that’s made a difference in the length of your naps. You were still catnapping at the start of the month while at Grannie’s (ironically the one time you did start to have a longer nap I had to wake you up because we had an appointment at the bank!) but you were falling asleep in your crib and I was sure things would improve. By halfway through your month you were in a pattern where at least one nap every day was a long one (90 minutes or longer- your record is 140 minutes!) and that’s stayed true for almost every day since. On the rare day where you do just catnap I’m reminded of how exhausting that is for both of us, and I can’t believe we survived two full months with such terrible naps.

Your daytime routine has also consolidated. You have your first nap of the morning after we take your brother to school, so it starts around 9:15 or 9:30. If you’ve woken up really early you’re sometimes too tired by then to have a good nap, but there’s not much I can do. It’s one of the hazards of being the second child. I’ve spent many a morning rushing home from the school, stopping every few paces to talk to you or wiggle your nose or puff air on your face to make sure you don’t fall asleep in the carrier before I can get you into the crib! When we get home I bundle you into your sleepsack (you still wear your pjs on the morning school run), and then we sit on my bed and you nurse. When you’re done nursing, I sing your lullabies, and then I shush/pat until you’re really sleepy and then I put you in the crib. Sometimes you get too excited to fall asleep on your own and I have to take you back out again, but you’re getting better at going into the crib more awake and I’m confident that in the next couple of months we’ll reach the point where I can just put you in the crib wide awake and walk out the door like I do at bedtime.

You can manage a full two hours between naps these days (provided they were good naps), which means it’s a lot easier to get out of the house and run errands. We can usually fit in two naps before we have to go and get your brother from school. I haven’t yet had to wake you up to go and get him, because if you’ve had a big long first nap the second tends to be 45 minutes, so you’re nearly always up again by 2:45 p.m. I think we had one day out of the entire month where both naps were long ones. The third nap is only ever a catnap and it’s the most inconsistent. I try to get you down at some point when we’re back from picking up your brother, but it can be a real challenge. You won’t nap in the carrier (there’s too much going on), and you won’t go into the crib awake, so I end up holding you on my shoulder until I’m sure you’re in a deep enough sleep that I can put you down. If you’re not convinced you really want to have a catnap and you spend those minutes grabbing at my face, pulling my hair, and chewing on my jawbone, it can be a bit ridiculous. If you won’t catnap we just put you to bed before supper. It doesn’t seem to have much of an impact on your night sleep.

Night sleep is where we stop with the good news. You seem to have decided that the four-month sleep regression should last for your entire fourth month (and I’m just hoping you don’t think it should last for four months!). Many a night this month saw you waking up every two hours (or more frequently). It hit the point that your Daddy started sleeping in the basement. And I’ve had a few very rough mornings. A “good” night for you means you’re up twice to feed, usually somewhere between 10 and midnight, and then again around 3, and then you have your gassy wake up around 5 a.m. This is by far the worst part of the night. You’re just gassy enough that you can’t put yourself back to sleep (and sometimes you need a diaper change), and you really don’t want to go back into the crib. What you want is to cuddle and snuggle and nurse in bed from that point until it’s time to get up. If I go along with this, you go back to sleep, your Daddy stays asleep, and your brother doesn’t wake up in his room, but I’m awake. If I try to get you back into the crib, you often end up waking the entire household. I try to make sure you have a good burp at bedtime, and I know your tummy isn’t upset because of dairy or soy as I’m being really careful. I keep reminding myself that this won’t last forever. And if you wake up not too much before 6 it’s kind of nice to have the quiet snuggle time as we don’t get to have our nurse naps any more- once you wake up from a nap, you’re up.

I am enjoying our time together so very much. One of my favourite parts of the day is after we’ve come back from dropping your brother off at school. I get you into your sleepsack and then I sit on the bed and nurse you until you’re ready for your nap. It’s quiet and peaceful and I take a moment every day to remember how grateful I am that you’ve joined our family. My other favourite moment is when I go up to get you out of the crib after a big, long nap. You give me this huge, happy smile as soon as I come through the door. I get you out of your sleepsack and pick you up for a cuddle. Then we turn around to look at the baby and the Mummy in the mirror, and you give both of them a huge smile too.

You are a cheerful, contented little soul. You have brought so much joy to our lives, and we love you so very, very much.

Love,
Mummy

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Filed under Letters to P., P.- the first year

We lost too

I am having a very hard time with the election results.

I feel like I’ve been having a near-constant anxiety attack since Wednesday morning.

Part of it, I know, is that P’s nighttime sleep is particularly terrible at the moment, and lack of sleep is a major trigger for my anxiety. I am sure I would not be feeling quite as awful as I am if I had been facing a Trump presidency well-rested.

But.

I would still have been feeling awful.

Maybe I shouldn’t be as sad and frightened as I am. After all, I am Canadian, not American. I couldn’t vote in the election. He’s not going to be my president. And I’m white, middle-class, heterosexual, and of Christian heritage (if an agnostic now). I could argue that I’m not one of his major targets for intolerance, insult, and hate.

Except, I am, of course, because I’m a woman. And as Trump made it abundantly clear during his campaign, he doesn’t care about women. He doesn’t respect women or their bodies (and don’t get me started on women’s autonomy over their own bodies). He bragged about sexually assaulting women and then normalized the assault by claiming it was “locker-room talk”, as though it is just something men do, gosh darn it, can’t help themselves.

I think he is vile.

And while he may not be my president, his presidency is going to affect and shape my country.

Not just because he claims he wants to rethink NAFTA.

If he pulls the USA hard to the right, Canada will have our hands tied on so many issues.

His poisonous platform that relies on inciting fear of the “other” could creep up north of the border.

In our last federal election, one of the defining moments was when the Conservative party (then in government with a majority) revealed their plan for a “barbaric cultural practices” hotline in which you would be encouraged to dob in your neighbour for doing strange and frightening things (translation: not taking the kids to hockey and stopping at Tim Horton’s on the way back home).

It was revolting.

It was disgraceful.

And it was decisively rejected by the Canadian electorate.

The Conservatives relied heavily in their campaign on fear and intolerance and Canadians all across the country stood up and said (politely, because after all, we are Canadians), “No, thank you. That’s not who we are.”

We gave Justin Trudeau and his Liberals a majority government, something which the polls had not suggested was within striking distance.

But.

THE DAY AFTER Trump won, the same Conservative MP who had been the face behind the barbaric cultural practices hotline, and who is now a contender for the leadership of that party, went on the record saying that Trump’s win was “an exciting message” that was needed in Canada.

I hope registered Conservatives reject her embrace of intolerance just as decisively as the general voting public did in October 2015.

I hope we do not follow the same path as Brexit, as Trump, as the rise of right-wing parties in Europe. I hope we continue to champion freedom and equality.

But even if we do, it seems like we’re going to be the lone voice crying out in the wilderness, and there’s only so much one country can do.

******

I am so sad for Hillary Clinton.

I so sad for women everywhere.

I am so angry that competence and intelligence and experience could be twisted into something negative, reasons to vote against a candidate rather than for her.

I am so afraid of the damage that can be done in four years.

******

It is a measure of my anxiety that one of the first thoughts I had on Wednesday, when I realized Trump would be president was this:

“I better get Q. to hurry up and get P.’s Australian citizenship sorted so we can get her a passport. Then at least he’d be able to take both kids and get out of the country if it came to that.”

I said this to Q. a few days later. I was trying to reassure myself, to make it into a bit of a joke.

It turns out Q. had thought the exact same thing.

Our current prime minister’s father, when he was prime minister, famously once compared Canada’s relationship with the U.S. to be like sleeping next to an elephant. He said, “No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

What happens when the elephant throws a giant temper tantrum in bed?

******

Friday was Remembrance Day. I bought E. a poppy and he wore it all week. We had lots of questions from him about the symbolism of the poppy. I told him over and over how lucky we were to live in a safe country, to enjoy freedom and prosperity. E. said he didn’t like thinking about the reason we wear the poppy. I agreed with him, but said it was important to spend at least one day every year remembering those who fought and died so that we could be free and safe. I told him it was a reminder of how terrible the world wars were and a promise that there would never be another one.

I have always, always believed that.

Now, I’m not so sure.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Grief, Sleep

The fourth month

Dear little P.,

Another month, another (rather) late letter from your mother. Let me just say that it would be easier to write these if you were sleeping a bit more. But I’ll save that for your letter next month.

This was the month where you really started to be able to do things. At the very start of the month I noticed that you enjoyed holding onto your tag blanket or your soft bunny and chewing on them. Then you were able to reach up and deliberately grab a toy dangling from the arms of your play mats. And by the end of the month you were getting very confident holding a variety of toys and chewing on them. Your favourite seems to be your cloth/rubber elephant, with the crunchy books from Grannie running a close second.

Absolutely anything and everything goes into your mouth- if you succeed in getting it into your hands, you want to see how it tastes straight away, including Mummy and Daddy’s fingers. You spent a great deal of this month experimenting with sucking on your own fingers. It took you a while to figure out how to put them in without gagging, but now you love chewing on them. You still haven’t figured out your thumb, but I’m sure that’s coming. The other major body part you’ve managed to chew on is your feet. You spent a number of days working on trying to get your toes in your mouth, only to have your feet escape at the last moment. When you finally got them in, you were so obviously very pleased with yourself. When I get you out of your sleeper in the the morning to change your diaper you immediately start to chew on a toe or two. I think you are just reassuring yourself that they haven’t escaped during the night!

You are also now officially a baby on the move! At the start of the month you were working on rolling over back to tummy. You would pivot around 90 or 180 degrees when on your back and you would spend lots of time rolling from your back onto your side before rolling back onto your back again (and then you’d do the same thing in the other direction). Over Thanksgiving weekend you figured out how to roll from back to tummy and very cleverly did it for the first time with everyone watching. You also immediately figured out you could combine the two different types of rolling. You aren’t yet able to really roll with purpose to get somewhere, and sometimes you have days where you seem to have forgotten how to roll one way or the other, but most days you wiggle around quite nicely. There’s certainly no keeping you on a blanket any longer and I think we’re going to be packing up the playmats soon as you keep rolling and getting stuck in the arms.

Your head control is so good now that we’ve put the back of the stroller up partway. This means you can now see out, which means you will tolerate sitting in it for half an hour or so (something which you were most certainly not willing to do when you had to lie flat). I haven’t used the stroller a great deal, but it is nice to have the option to not have to carry you when we’re just running out to do a few errands. Your big brother also really likes when I pick him up after school with you in the stroller as it’s easier for me to give him a great big hug.

Speaking of your big brother, you think he is just about the best thing in the whole wide world. You spend every dinner sitting on either Mummy or Daddy’s lap and you just stare at your brother. You coo and make all your pterodactyl noises, flap your arms, kick your legs, and do anything you can to get his attention. If you’re crying in the car and he starts singing our “We’re ok, P.” song, you will stop crying immediately to listen. If you are fussing in the bouncy seat, you’ll stop fussing and start smiling as soon as he crouches down to talk to you. You love your Mummy and Daddy a lot too (and we love your full body wiggle smiles), but it is obvious that E. is something extra special.

Sleep continues to be a bit of a challenge. You adjusted pretty quickly to sleeping in the crib rather than the bassinet, although I did have a few rough nights when you first learned to roll over back to tummy where you kept flipping over and getting stuck at the bars on the side. You’ve also become much better at taking naps in the crib…just not long ones. We’re not yet into any sort of pattern with your naps because they’re almost always far too short. So you take four (or sometimes five) cat naps a day with brief periods of being awake between them. It’s rather hard to get much done as a result.

This month you took exactly two naps that were longer than 45 minutes: one of them was in the travel crib up at the cottage and the other one was after I nursed you back to sleep when you woke up screaming after a 30 minute cat nap. The cottage nap was 90 minute and the other one was 105 minutes, so I know you can sleep longer stretches during the day. I think I now need to work on getting you to put yourself to sleep in the crib rather than putting you down asleep. One step at a time. It’s been helpful that you can sometimes be transferred back into the crib if I nurse you back to sleep. Even if you then only do another cat nap that helps improve your mood as you clearly don’t enjoy the 30 minute cat naps any more than I do. We haven’t managed as many of our nurse/snuggle nap extensions this month because we had visitors for so much of it. I miss our quiet time together and I think you do too.

You’re so funny when it’s time to nap. I get you into your sleep sack, sing your lullabies, and then shush/pat you with you up on my shoulder. You will do ANYTHING to try to avoid going to sleep. If you’re really overtired you mostly just cry, but if I’ve caught your window you have a whole set of sleep avoidance strategies. First you arch your back and lean back as far as you possibly can to try to make eye contact (and beam a smile at me if I’m silly enough to look at you). Then you squish your face up against my neck and try to suck on my jawbone. Next you will stare at anything interesting or high contrast in the room, and then you’ll paw with one hand at the pillow behind my back. Finally, after all of these efforts fail, you will give up and go to sleep, but it’s clearly a struggle. You just have so many other things you want to do.

Night sleep continues to get progressively worse. We’ve succeeded in establishing a very reasonable bedtime of 7:15 or 7:30 p.m., which means I’m able to get you into the crib and then go out to finish E’s routine and have a snuggle with him. But you don’t seem to want to stay asleep for very long! This month you were up every 3.5-4 hours most nights. I’m having a terrible time keeping you in the crib from 5 a.m. onwards. You wake up and want to nurse and snuggle in bed. I’ve been going along with this because I haven’t been willing to deal with the noise you’ll make if I insist onĀ  you going back into the crib- I don’t want you to wake up your father and brother. But if you’re all tucked up in bed, I can’t get back to sleep. So most of the house is getting enough sleep, but I’m starting to feel very tired.

I finally found a smoking gun to prove that you, like your brother, have MSPI. I realized that one of the Lara bar flavours was not soy free (there must be soy in the chocolate chips) and, sure enough, when I looked back, you were reacting to it. So now I’m being extremely vigilant about reading labels and I’ve basically stopped eating out anywhere or eating food that comes in a box. I’m hungry pretty much all the time since you’re nursing so much, and it’s been a real struggle to find decaffeinated tea that I can drink (I’m drinking a lot of Tetley’s Orange Pekoe). But I know the sacrifice is worth it. You’re so happy now that we’ve sorted out your tummy, and I’m hopeful you’ll outgrow the intolerance, just like your brother did.

This month brought with it a few more long drives and I’m pleased to say that you’re becoming an excellent traveller. As long as you’re a little bit sleepy you’ll fall asleep in the car with almost no fussing and when you’re awake you’re happy to play with soft toys for at least a little while. We’ve still had some rough moments and you definitely don’t like the stop-start pace of city driving, but your Daddy and I no longer dread the prospect of driving for several hours. We took you up north to go leaf peeping and you enjoyed the walk in the woods (even if it was a very short trip). We also made the much longer drive to go and see your Grandpa and Grandma for Thanksgiving. You were a superstar visiting your Grandpa in the hospital. You smiled at him all the time, showed off how you could eat your toes, and were happy to spend the entire day being held by me (as your paediatrician gave you the all clear to go into the ICU as long as I didn’t put you down or let you touch anything). Your relationship with him will be very different from what it might have been, but he adores you and I know it meant a lot to him to be able to see you.

You also had the chance to meet your other Granny this month as she spent close to three weeks with us. It was great to have the extra pair of hands around to help, especially when the weather was terrible and I had to go and get your brother from school. You again loved all the attention. You’re still just on the cusp of full laughter but you gave your Granny some good chortles during her visit, and I know she loved being here to watch you reach some of your milestones.

You are growing like a weed! At your four month appointment you weighed in at 13 lb even (50th percentile) and 67 cm long (off the charts for height). The paediatrician said we could start solids and sleep training any time, but I think we’ll wait until the six month mark for solids and at least until then for sleep training. You are still so little; I’m happy to go with your flow as much as I can. I’m looking forward to having a bit more time together, just us two, next month. You seem like a much more grown up baby this month (I think it’s the head control) and it makes me even more aware just how precious and fleeting your infancy is.

I am grateful, every day, that I get to spend so much time with you. I love you so very very much.

Much love,
Mummy

 

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Filed under Letters to P., P.- the first year

The third month

Dear P.,

You are three months old now, which means that you’re out of the fourth trimester, at least in theory. This month we’ve started to settle into a bit of a routine. It’s dictated by your brother’s school schedule, but it still brings some order to our days. We haven’t been even close to late for school once, and the morning routine has carried on whether you a) sleep through all of it and have to be woken up in order to get out the door, b) wake up really early and want a nap before we’ve even finished breakfast, which means you are very very fussy or c) wake up when E. does and spend breakfast generally cheerful. I can never predict which baby I’m going to get on any given morning, but I’m learning to roll with whatever you offer (although I really need to start making E’s lunch the night before).

Right before we have to leave I sit down to nurse you and read E. a story. Then we walk your brother to school and you usually fall asleep in the carrier on the way there or while I’m chatting to the other mothers after your brother has gone inside. We often run errands during that first nap as it’s still pretty hot in the middle of the day. Then we come back home and spend some time together. We work on house projects, like sorting out the basement storage cupboards or weeding the front garden, even if you only have the patience to sit in the bouncy seat for ten minutes at a time. You do some tummy time (and end it as fast as you can by rolling over). I sit you on my legs and sing songs and tell rhymes- your favourites are “This little piggy”, “Old MacDonald” and “This is the way the gentlemen ride” (you especially love the great big bounces when it’s your turn to ride). Most of the time I eat lunch. You’ll have one or two naps in the bassinet and then, right about when I’m starting to wonder what on earth to do next, it’s time to go back in the carrier to go and pick up your brother. You’re usually happy to lie on the floor and watch him run around when we get home, or sit in the bouncy seat (or be held) while I prep dinner. You take a brief catnap in the very late afternoon in the carrier while I’m making dinner, and then you sit on my lap or on Daddy’s while we eat (staring at your brother the entire time- you remain utterly fascinated by him). After supper it’s time to get ready for bed, and then the next day we start all over again. The only fixed points in our day are 8:35 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.- the times when we need to leave for school to either drop E. off or pick him up. Otherwise the day unfolds in a loose pattern of nursing, playing, and sleeping.

On the sleep front, you made some great progress this month with learning how to nap in the bassinet rather than a carrier. Unless we’re having a really busy day you always take two naps in the bassinet and it’s rare that it takes me more than ten minutes to get you down. You’re still not sleeping for longer than 45 minutes, but I know that will come in time. I’ve been known to take you out of the bassinet after one of the naps, lie you down on the bed, and then let you nurse and sleep for another hour (or sometimes even another hour and a half). You’re so happy during those naps- you rest one little hand on the breast and you make happy noises even when fast asleep. I read a book and enjoy the snuggles and the quiet time. I would never have been able to do this with your brother, as I would have been convinced it would instill terrible habits, but with you it is one of my favourite times of the day. I know that you will be little for only a short time and I don’t want to miss it.

Night sleep is no longer something I brag about. Right around the two month mark we got your bedtime back to 8:00 p.m., and you promptly responded by waking up at 3:00 a.m. most nights. A good night means you get through until 4:00, and a bad one has you asking to nurse at 1:00 or even earlier. If you’re up before 3:00 that means you’ll have a second night feed as you almost never go longer than three hours once you’ve woken up the first time. I haven’t had to pump much in the last couple of weeks because you’ve been up so much. I’m definitely now more tired than I was when you were a month old and sleeping nine hour stretches starting at 10:00 p.m., but I also know you need the earlier bedtime and that eventually you will sleep longer stretches again. The next challenge is going to be adjusting to sleeping in the crib. You’ve clearly outgrown the bassinet so the night before you turned three months your Daddy set up the crib in our room. I’m sure you’ll like having all the extra space once you’re used to it.

When you’re not yet over-tired you’re a very happy, chatty baby. You have a whole range of cheerful shrieks and squawks and a cough that is almost a giggle. You have huge gummy smiles and a little dimple in your left cheek. If I pretend to chew on your neck and ear I get the biggest smile, but your favourite person is still clearly your brother. You spend all of supper trying to get his attention. You wave your arms, kick your legs, shriek and squawk and smile and coo, all with your eyes locked on him. If you’re upset in the car, he can calm you down by holding your hand and singing the “We’re ok, P.” song that we invented. If you’re doing tummy time, you’ll actually stay on your tummy and look around if he’s somewhere close by. When you have the occasional bath, it’s because E.’s in the tub, and I put you in with him (holding on to you the entire time of course). You will kick your legs and flail with your arms and generally have a wonderful time watching him while I float you around. E. is very excited for you to be big enough to properly sit up in the bath with him.

You have a very strong neck and upper body- everyone comments on it, including your paediatrician. That’s probably why you rolled over (tummy to back) so early (at 9w3d!). You want to try to sit upright as much as you can and you prefer if we just hold on to your hands and let you balance yourself. The number one comment I get when out with you is still “She’s very alert!”, followed by “She’s so calm/easy going!” I wouldn’t call you an easy baby, but you are definitely calm and easy going, as long as we’re doing what you want. You still absolutely hate feeling left out and you’re still quick to cry if I have to put you down when you’ve decided you’re all done with being put down.

You’ve started grasping objects and spend many happy minutes trying to get them into your mouth. We first realized you were doing this when your Daddy said that you were intentionally pushing and pulling at his hand when sitting on his lap at dinner, only settling down once you could chew on his thumb. Your favourite thing to play with right now is a tag blanket that a friend made for your brother when he was a baby. I think it’s big enough that you don’t have to be precise with either your grip or your aim to get positive results. You will occasionally grasp other toys, like Sophie the giraffe, but they’re still a major challenge. You talk to anything that dangles from the bars of your playmat, but you haven’t yet succeeded in reaching them. You’ve also become quite adept at sucking your fingers- usually the index finger.

This month I cut all dairy and soy out of my diet to see if that would help your tummy. It’s only been a couple of weeks, but I’m positive it’s helping- you are down to two or three dirty diapers a day (instead of eight or nine), you’re much less gassy and fussy in the wee hours, and there’s no longer any sign of blood. It has made it a challenge for me, as I’ve had to remember to pack snacks whenever we’re out, but I know it’s the right thing to do, and hopefully you’ll outgrow this by your first birthday, just like your brother did.

We’ve determined that the only way to get any sort of happy quiet driving time with you is to leave as early as possible in the morning. We had to do another set of long drives this month to go to your Grandpa’s funeral and both times we were able to get in two solid hours of driving while you slept by leaving at 7:00 a.m. I can’t say that there wasn’t crying on either trip, but things were definitely improving and our drive home only took about forty minutes longer than it used to (the first time we did that trip with you, you added a full two hours to the journey by requiring many, many stops). Driving around in the city still produces a lot of crying, especially if you’re not tired.

You are clearly thriving. At your three month appointment you were 11 lb, 14.5 oz and 63 cm long, with a head circumference of 42 cm. You’re in the 50th percentile for weight but the 95th percentile for height. I knew you were a bit of a beanpole before the appointment because I’ve had to shift you into six month sleepers so you have room for your feet and your legs, but they’re still much too big in the body. You look absolutely giant in the bassinet, but when we set up the crib and put you in it you looked impossibly tiny.

It is so much fun to watch your personality emerge. You are both deeply serious and filled with glee. I never, ever get tired of seeing you smile and I love the conversations we’re starting to have. I love your funny little whorl on the crown of your head and your dark brown eyes. I love your perfect baby scent. I love how soft your hair is when I kiss your head when you’re asleep in the carrier, and I love how you like to fall asleep in the carrier with your face pressed hard up against my chest.

I am grateful, every day, that you are here.

Love always,
Mummy

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Filed under Letters to P., P.- the first year

Baby Sleep Bootcamp, Redux

E. started school last week, which means that P. and I now have about six hours a day together. I’ve spent the last week helping P. learn that she is able to nap in the bassinet (after eight or nine weeks of exclusively napping in carriers).

I know I said I wasn’t going to compare the two of them any more (or at least I was going to try not to), but it is honestly funny how identical this process has been.

I’m using the same routine- white noise machine, lullaby, shush/pat until asleep, and then place in the bassinet with enough awkwardness that her eyes pop open again so (hopefully) she will be eventually able to put herself back to sleep at the 45 minute transition mark.

And P’s reaction has been just like that of her older brother (which I described in detail here). From the shrieks of outrage, telling me that she is NOT TIRED, MUMMY! CAN’T YOU SEE THAT? punctuated by huge yawns to the desperate last attempts at socializing right before falling asleep. In this respect, at least, she is exactly like her brother.

The main difference, I think, is in me.

P.’s napped a couple of times a day in the bassinet every day since we started the baby sleep bootcamp. It’s impossible for her to have all of her naps in there because I have to take E. to school. So the first nap is usually in the carrier and the final late afternoon catnap is too because by then E. is home again and I can’t be sure I’ll get the uninterrupted time I need to get her down.

She hasn’t slept longer than 45 minutes yet, but it’s early days.

At this stage with E., I was basically hysterical. I felt he was so over-tired (true) and I worried he would never learn to sleep properly (did not turn out to be the case). I worried all the time that he wasn’t getting “enough” sleep or the “right” amount of sleep for babies his age.

With P., my reaction has been more along the lines of: “Look at you sleeping in the bassinet while I ate my lunch with two free hands and checked my email! You slept for 45 minutes! You’re doing so well!”

I am taking the long view, and I have confidence in both myself and P. that eventually she will be able to sleep on her own, just like E. eventually did.

Sometimes I wish I could have been a second-time parent the first time around.

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Filed under P.- the first year, Sleep