E. is manifestly not getting enough sleep these days. He wakes up in the morning crying rather than cooing and babbling like he normally does. He’s weepy and out of sorts all.day.long. He wants to be carried everywhere. He cries at loud noises. He fusses and grizzles. He doesn’t have his big smiles for everyone he sees when we’re out.
I’m so frustrated, because a week or so ago this baby clearly was getting enough sleep. And then a switch turned somewhere and he started taking 35 minute naps (regardless of the solids/no solids issue- that pattern was in fact NOT a pattern), and only taking two of them, no matter what time his day started. He is thankfully only doing two wakings at night- 11 and 3.30 or 4- both are his usual feed times, but he just never seems rested. He has bags under his eyes from the moment he wakes up until the moment he goes back down after his bath.
His teeth are really bugging him. Loads of cheek rubbing and ear pulling. Nursing and pulling off the breast and fretting. Tyl.enol and Ad.vil appear to have absolutely no impact.
I am very close to taking him in to the pediatrician’s just to make sure there is not an ear infection hiding under the teething mess. What’s still holding me back is a) he’s fussy but not totally out of sorts, and I’ve always assumed that a baby with an ear infection would seriously freak out, or at least run a fever or something, and b) the side on which all the ear pulling/cheek rubbing is happening has switched from his left to his right. His upper tooth next to the middle ones (tooth #5) on the left came in a few days ago (right around the time the longer naps happened). Its mate on the right is THIS close to cutting through. So I’m waiting to see if things settle down again once it cuts through the gum.
The books say generally teething gets easier after the first couple (other than the molars). Once again, E. proves to not be a textbook baby.
There are other things going on. E. is getting better and better at crawling, so is very busy throughout the day. There’s a lot of separation anxiety happening, which makes it rough on Q. when he’s got E. for half the day, as E. bursts into tears as soon as he sees me. But I do think the bulk of this problem is teeth-related, and hopefully in a couple of days things will settle back down…until the next tooth starts to make an appearance.
E’s nine-month appointment is on the thirteenth. I want to see what his height and weight are, and where he sits on the percentiles. I want to talk to his pediatrician about his night wakings and whether there is any possible need for him to feed in the night. And when I get the go-ahead from her (which I am expecting), we are starting some form of sleep-training. To be honest, I am ready to do this now, but I need the doctor’s weighty opinion to convince Q. that we will not starve our son by cutting out at least one of the night feeds. Last night, when E. woke up at 10:15 and then settled himself until 10:45, Q. said, as I was going out the door to feed him, “Do you think it will get better when he can have cow’s milk?” To which I replied, “We are SO not feeding this child at night when he is a year old.”
I am really tired. And E. needs to sleep for more than 4.5 hours at a time- it’s not good for him. He is still taking good feeds- both breasts, and a solid nursing session, but I don’t think he physically NEEDS this any longer. He sometimes goes six or seven hours during the day without nursing if we are out and about, as he simply will not concentrate on nursing if there is anything else to look at. He is not hungry when he gets up in the morning at 6.30 or 7. And I’m not ready to demand that he go twelve hours- I’m happy for now to keep the feed at 10.30 or 11. It’s the one at 4 I want to drop. So we’ll see.
But always, at the back of my mind, there is that niggling doubt- what if he is waking to feed because his tummy hurts? He usually does pop out a couple of substantial farts while nursing, so I end up wondering if maybe he was woken up by a bit of gas. But his two feeds are at very close to the same time each night- which suggests they are habitual. And we haven’t seen any signs of any other food intolerances- no rashes, no hives, nothing. The acidity in tomatoes may have played a role in the diaper rash we dealt with last week, so we’re keeping an eye on that. But otherwise, everything seems fine. His dirty diapers are big kid diapers now- there’s nothing breast-fed about them- so he is digesting the food he’s eating.
I figure trying some method of cutting out the feeds will at least shed some light on the situation, because if they’re habitual, he ought to be able to drop them (even with protests) whereas if they’re related to discomfort, it’ll be really hard to get him to sleep through. Who knows.
Lessons in parenting #6753- If you have purchased a pressure-mounted baby gate to put between the kitchen and the living area when you need to confine your baby to one spot or the other, and there is a four-inch drop between the two rooms, perhaps it makes good sense to actually have the gate installed while you are standing around discussing where the gate should go when it is not in use, as if you do not do this, your baby, curious to see what you are up to, will crawl over and face-plant off the drop while neither of you is paying attention. Parents of the year over here.
We went to see some friends on the weekend for brunch. They have two boys, and we now have almost all of their baby/toddler stuff- clothes, high chair, exersaucer, play table, etc. She was asking me how things were going, and I said that generally things were fine, but that Q. and I were both struggling with working and raising E. and keeping the house in order, etc. “We don’t feel like we’re doing anything well, ” I said to her. She looked at me and smiled. “Welcome to the rest of your life,” she told me. “You will never again feel like you’re doing anything well.”
These friends have high-powered jobs. They have a nanny (and probably a house cleaner). They are super well organized. Their boys are lovely. If anyone could balance it all, it would be them.
“Was that helpful?” she asked. I wasn’t sure. But I guess in a funny way it was a bit liberating. It’s ok to feel completely out of my depth right now. It’s ok to feel that I’m never quite giving anything the time and attention it deserves. It’s ok to find the to-do lists and the daily grind of life endless and sometimes overwhelming.
It’s just a touch depressing to think that this is never going to change.
Q. and I are still muddling along with the whole co-parenting issue. I think the hardest thing for me is that no matter what Q. does, he gets all sorts of praise from society/friends/family. Everyone is amazed that he is co-parenting. Everyone tells me how lucky I am that he does all the things he does. I agree, I am lucky. But it means that when there is something in the arrangement that I think is uneven, like our issue with the nights, I feel like I don’t have the right to raise my unhappiness. Society tells me that I should just be overjoyed with what I do have. And the flip side of the praise for Q. is that I feel unspoken judgement directed at me. I think partly it’s because I’m a PhD student, so my ‘job’ is not clearly marked out as a ‘job’ for a lot of people. But I do get the sense from some people that they think I’m not working hard enough. And it sucks that in some ways we’re still in a world where if the father even comes close to doing half of the housework and child care, the general consensus is that the mum is a) really lucky and b) probably slacking off.
And now for the best bit.
E. is definitely using ‘mama’ to refer to me. What convinced me was when he was fussing yesterday while I was getting things ready to go out for a walk, and he alternated crying with calling out ‘mamamama’ and holding his arms out to me. He never babbles when upset. It stops me in my tracks every time. I am his mama. This gorgeous little baby who is turning into a boy right before my eyes, who loves to stand on the couch and bounce up and down while leaning against the cushions to look out the window. Who crawls around the living room trying to get close enough to the elusive cats so he can grab their fur. Who gives big, open-mouth kisses when asked. Who sat up in a booster seat at a friend’s house on the weekend and ate sausages and strawberries and everything else that we were having with brunch and who was just generally superb, even though he was super tired.
I am his mother. And I try every day to show him how much I love him.