Monday, September 24, 2018

Sleep

How many times have Kyle and I googled "why isn't my baby sleeping" or "best bedtimes for x month old" or "how long should my baby's naps be?" Any time Isaac isn't sleeping the way we wish he was (you know, like at all), we spend the next hour frantically looking up what we're doing wrong and why our baby is so bad. And everywhere we get conflicting advice about the best way to do it.

So what we've been doing is following our hearts: our sweet, pliable, attachment parenting, bleeding hearts. From the time Isaac was about three months old, he slept in bed with us, cozied up either between me and Kyle or between me and the wall. I was able to nurse him whenever he needed to, cuddle up with him when he slept, and attend to his every need right on cue.

But now Sweet Little Baby is over 10 months old, 20 pounds, and not the calmest sleeper in the world. He likes to thrash around in the middle of the night, kick me in the stomach, twist around, babble in his sleep, nurse constantly, and generally keep us up all night. Both for naptimes and at bedtime, Kyle or I would either rock him or nurse him (in my case, not Kyle's) to sleep, and gently transfer him to the crib, where he would either continue to sleep peacefully, or where he would immediately wake up screaming until you started the whole 30, 45, or 60 minute routine again.

I love my baby, but evenings were getting very difficult.

So Kyle and I finally bit the bullet. Last Sunday night, I left the house at 6:00 p.m. and let Kyle start the first night of the dreaded Sleep Training. When I came back at 9:00, the baby was asleep, but it had been an evening fraught with tears and screaming. The next night I stayed in the house, where I tried to keep it together as Isaac fought sleep for about half an hour. Kyle and I had decided in advance we weren't going to let him cry for more than ten minutes at a time, so the evening was spent in ten minute intervals. By Tuesday, though, Isaac went down with just a murmur of protest, and since then, he's in his crib all night, usually from 6:30 p.m. - 6:30 a.m. He seems to be taking it very well: he's in a great mood by morning and is his same bubbly, happy baby self during the day.

Honestly, though, this transition has been really rough on me. I know Isaac is old enough to realize that a) his parents love and care for him deeply even if they don't sleep beside him at night, and b) he needs to learn to sleep on his own (otherwise he'll be rooting around for a boob when he's 10 years old). But even though he's sleeping better, it's still been hard listening to him cry for the 3-5 minutes it takes for him to settle himself down. And it feels very empty at night without a little warm baby body right beside me (no offense to Kyle). Plus not nursing all night has been a hard adjustment on my own body. I may have cried more this past week than the baby has -- tears of guilt for not sleeping with him any more, of sadness for missing him when he's asleep, and of mourning for knowing that my baby is growing up.

In fact, I felt so bad the other night that when Isaac woke up crying at 12:30 a.m., I immediately rushed across the hall to bring him back to our bed. I held on to his little body and snuggled up to him, confident that he'd fall blissfully back asleep now that Mama was holding him.

That is not what happened.

Instead, he did exactly what he was doing two weeks ago: trying to nurse while lying on his stomach, rolling around, sitting up while still asleep, and everything else he could imagine so that Mommy and Daddy didn't get more than a few snatches of sleep the whole night long. My nostalgia for cosleeping quickly waned as I realized this baby of mine is about to enter toddlerhood, and is not the little 12-pound baby of a few months ago.

Logically, putting Isaac to sleep by himself in his crib all night long is the right thing to do. He's too big for us to rock to sleep and put in his crib, and he can't keep needing us to put him back to sleep until he's a kid. Inwardly, though, it's still a hard thing for me to accept (I feel for some reason that I'm failing him). In this Grief Cycle of saying goodbye to my little cosleeping baby and hello to my independently sleeping child, I find myself not googling sleep sites any more, but getting through baby transitions.


Monday, April 9, 2018

That's the Worst Parenting Advice Ever!


I've noticed, now that I have a kid, how flooded the world is with parenting advice. And while almost everyone agrees on the majority of the big issues (use a car seat, see a pediatrician, don't beat your baby), there are always at least two -- sometimes three or four -- opposing opinions on everything else. Some of the things I've seen just in the 5 months since Isaac was born are:

- natural vs. medicated birth
- breast-feeding vs. formula
- cloth diapers vs. disposable ones
- working vs. staying home
- nanny vs. daycare
- co-sleeping vs. crib
- schedule vs. no schedule
- feeding solids early (4 months) vs. late (6 months), along with baby-led weaning or purees
- giving baby vitamins or not
- vaccinating or not
- sleep training or not

I mean, good grief. And the thing is is that there is so much judgement and guilt tied to whatever decision you make. The people in Camp A believe the people in Camp B are ruining their children's lives, and vice versa. Experts on both sides of all the issues tell you that their way is right and the other guy's way is wrong.

But at the end of the day, it takes a lot to completely ruin your child's life. There are billions of people all over the world being raised in different ways, and they're all doing more or less OK.

Kyle and I aren't stressing out too much about raising this boy. We're following my mom's advice of, "You'll know what to do when you have him." And she was right.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Three Month Check-Up

I'm sitting here at the kitchen table, eating peanut butter toast, while Isaac is sleeping wrapped up like a burrito beside me. Today is his 12-week birthday, the day he officially turns three months old and the day my maternity leave officially ends. It's been a wild ride here in the "fourth trimester", with plenty of ups and downs as our family gets used to this new addition. We are forever grateful to our friends and family who have helped us with housework, meals, naptime, and emotional support over the past few months.

Things are infinitely easier now than they were the first week. Sleeping patterns have emerged. Sometimes we even get to sleep for four hours in a row! (Rare, but it happens!) I feel confident taking the baby out in public and whipping out a nursing cover if he gets hungry. I've also become a pro at tying my Boba wrap in less than 30 seconds (which is important, since Isaac takes such good naps in it). Kyle and I are both getting used to our new role as parents, and we have both fallen madly, deeply, crazily, in love with our son. 

So what's next?

You may have read my post last year about women who Do It All (and do it well!). I was feeling pretty indecisive about what to do regarding work. Some days I was 100% committed to staying home with the baby; other days I knew I'd have to be in the office every day. Even the first two months after the baby was born I changed my mind daily. I finally decided to tell my boss that I wouldn't be able to go back full-time: I don't want to pay for daycare for 40+ hours a week, but more than that, I don't want to be away from him for that long!

There is a possibility of me being able to work part-time at my current job. My boss is finagling out a way for me to return just for 16 hours a week: 11 hours in the office and 5 hours at home. That schedule is still not set in stone, but if it does work out, that will be good news for us! I'll only be away from the baby for 4-5 hours a day a few days a week, make a little bit of money, and be able to think about things besides housework and childcare. (Although I have been super productive over maternity leave: I knitted a scarf for Kyle and a bonnet for Isaac, baked bread, and have figured out meal planning. Which of course has to be contrasted with the days when Isaac won't sleep anywhere but in my arms and I can't do a thing.)

There's still one more big step Kyle and I have to take: buying a house. Our lease at our current abode is up in April, so we've got to figure out where we're going to live after that. Soooo...we'll let you know in three more months!

Monday, January 1, 2018

2017: The Year in Review


2017 has certainly been a year for change! A lot got packed into this one, namely getting married and having a kid. I suppose some other events happened as well, but those are the two main attractions. Here's a quick, bare-bones summary:

January: Kyle and I rang in the new year in Michigan with a group of his friends from college, then spent January 1st driving back to Durham. We also definitively decided to start a family, at the same time as doing some wedding planning.

February: So that was easy. We started having our suspicions that things were easier than we had expected: it wasn't going to take six months after all, like we had planned.

March: The doctor confirmed what we already knew to be true. It was official: we were going to have a baby!

Sunrise on our wedding day
April: Kyle and I were married on April 9 at Spruce Pine Lodge in Bahama, NC.

May: My mom and I met for tea at the O. Henry Hotel in Greensboro to celebrate Mothers Day, a first for me!

June: Kyle and I went to Mia Francesca's in Raleigh for Father's Day, where he got a free lunch for being a dad!

July: We took a week-long trip to Indiana over the Fourth of July to visit my sister in South Bend, his brother in Ft. Wayne, and my friend Leslie in Zionsville. We also started our go-out-of-town-every-weekend-for-four-weekends trips: the beach, my mom's house, Boone, and Washington, DC. We also started our 10-week Bradley husband-coached childbirth class.

August: I turned 35 on August 2nd. Also, see above.

September: Trying to accomplish as much as possible before being stuck inside with a baby forever, we attended a two-day Lamaze class, CenterFest Arts Festival in Durham, and the Apple Festival in Winston-Salem.

October: Our last month before our lives were changed forever! Kyle and I rented a cabin in the mountains with some friends and spent a beautiful weekend hiking around Boone. I tried to see all of my friends for dinner or coffee, and I threw a surprise get-together ("party" would be too big of a word) for Kyle's 31st birthday on the 21st. We did not, however, attend the state fair, which kind of bummed me out, but I also didn't feel like walking around at 8 1/2 months pregnant either. 

November: The rest of the world may have continued to exist, but for us, nothing else happened except for Isaac Henry's birthday on November 15.

December: A very busy month filled with visits from family and friends, all while trying to figure out this parenting thing. Kyle and I spent a quiet Christmas Eve together, and a relaxing Christmas Day with friends. We didn't do a thing for New Year's Eve, but hey, there's always next year.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Isaac's Birth Story

One of the perks of my awesome company is that they give 12 weeks of paid maternity leave to their employees. The only downside is that maternity leave starts the day the baby is born.

And because babies never come when you think they will, I didn't know how to schedule it. I knew I didn't want to work right up to the time I went into labor, but I didn't want to quit working so early that I'd run out of vacation days before the birth itself. I took a leap of faith and scheduled my last day for November 9, six days before my due date of November 15.

I'd heard lots of horror stories about women going past the due date and having to get induced (apparently labor pains during induction are worse than ones that come naturally), and I didn't want to have to go through that. I was prepared for a long pregnancy, though, since most first-time moms are at least a week late.

I had lots of plans for how to spend my time off work: I'd bake bread, clean the house, organize the office, prepare the nursery, walk several miles a day, and meditate my way into the calm, clear mindset I'd need for labor. But you know what they say about the best laid plans...

I woke up Friday the 10th feeling restless but unambitious. I spent most of the day just lying around. The next day, I felt a little more energetic and made bread and granola. I wasn't feeling either super "nest-y" like some people do, or super lethargic either; I was just ready for something to happen.

On Sunday, Kyle and I went to have our first "family portrait" taken. That evening (technically Monday morning), I started feeling slight contractions between 1:00-4:00 a.m. but went back to sleep after they faded. I'd heard enough about Braxton-Hicks contractions, so I wasn't too concerned.

I was tired when I woke up on Monday morning, my first day of vacation while waiting for the baby to come. I had many grandiose plans for how to spend my vacation while Kyle was at work, but the only productive thing I did all day was take a walk around the neighborhood. As the day went on, I felt cramps that would come and go, so I asked my doula what I should do. She recommended taking a hot bath and relaxing as much as possible to help me get some rest.

I took her advice, but the cramps kept coming every 5-10 minutes for 30 seconds, albeit mildly. Later that night, while Kyle and I were watching Twin Peaks, they started coming every 4-6 minutes, but again, nothing big. They kept up until we went to bed, then stopped.

I was awakened after midnight (the morning of Tuesday, November 14) by more contractions, and stayed awake from 1:00 - 6:00 a.m. on the living room floor, waiting for them to get worse. They would come and go, some lasting over a minute, but they didn't seem to be progressing any. All they were doing was keeping me from sleeping.

When it became a decent hour, I texted my doula again to ask her what she recommended. She suggested that I might be having prodromal labor (unproductive labor) and that I should try to take a bath, relax, and sleep better that night. She also recommended a visit to the chiropractor to realign my pelvis, and a trip to the herbalist for some calming tea.

So Kyle took off work on Tuesday and set me up an appointment with a chiropractor that our doula knew. We went for walk around Ellerbe Creek before the appointment, going slow since I couldn't move very quickly. At the chiropractor's, I got a very gentle adjustment that may or may not have had any effect.

That evening, my friend Jaimie came over and we sat around with the lights off and candles lit, talking about birth. I took a bath after she left, drank some calming tea, and wished for sleep to come.

At 11:00 p.m., after about an hour of sleep, I woke up with more contractions. I snuck out of bed and went into the kitchen, where I proceeded to sob uncontrollably for 30 minutes. I was so tired, and terrified of suffering through a third long night of not being able to sleep, with no idea how many more such nights were to come. And all this, seemingly, for NOTHING, because the contractions weren't progressing. I was miserable.

So I woke up Kyle, and we got ready to spend the night getting through the contractions together. We timed them, but they didn't seem to be increasing in frequency. Some were getting stronger, though, and we started using the tools we learned about in our birthing class: an exercise ball, deep breathing, a TENS machine, and massage. The contractions were coming every 5-6 minutes and lasting for about a minute. Kyle and I kept waiting for the "3-1-2" we had been told about (contractions coming every 3 minutes, lasting for a minute, for 2 hours), but it wasn't happening.

Exhausted, frustrated, and not knowing what else to do, we called the hospital. Kyle answered the nurse's questions while I threw up in the bathroom. Although I had always wanted a natural birth, at this point, I was hoping for an epidural just so I could go to sleep. The hospital agreed to have us come in to be checked. It was about 3:30 a.m.

We took a shower, got our suitcase together, and went out the door. Kyle jokingly added, "You know, the next time we come in our house it's going to be with a baby." Of course, neither of us actually believed that; we were both thinking that the hospital would send us home until we were further along in labor.

However, upon arrival at Labor & Delivery via the ER, I was told that I was at 8 cm and would not be sent home. "This baby is coming today," the nurse told me cheerfully. She asked if I wanted an epidural, telling me that since I was so far along already, it was either now or never.

"Well," I thought, "since I made it this far, I guess I can make it to the end."

I won't saddle you with the particulars, but I will say I am very grateful for the techniques that we learned in our husband-coached natural childbirth class. Kyle was amazing and provided me all the physical and emotional support I needed, making the doula we had hired almost superfluous.

Six hours and fifteen minutes after arriving at the hospital, at 10:45 a.m. on his due date of November 15, 2017, Isaac Henry was born into the world. He was red and screaming and absolutely beautiful.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Preparing for the Apocalypse


I'm not sure where this thought came from, but I've got it in my mind that once the baby comes, I'm never leaving the house ever again (or at least not until February). So Kyle and I have been preparing our place like it's a bunker in the 1960s and we're waiting for atomic war to happen.

We've got a nursery chock full of neatly buttoned cloth diapers (thanks, Jaimie L., for helping stuff them!) and baby clothes organized by type and by month (let's see how long that lasts). In the kitchen, the pantry and the freezer are full of food enough to last until Doomsday. 

Call it nesting, call it OCD, but I've been cooking and baking in the past month like a crazy woman. Here are some of my recent creations: 


Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuits


Round Bread

More Bread

Apple Cake from Cooking Light

Lemon Meringue Pie (most time-consuming thing on the planet -- but dang tasty)


Popcorn Balls

More Chicken Pot Pie & Chicken Soup

We only have a few days/weeks left until this little critter makes his appearance. The good news is, at least we won't starve while we're trapped in the house all winter. But he'd better come quick: we're running out of space! 


Friday, September 22, 2017

Doing It All

Stock Ultrasound Image (not mine)
Somewhere between November 1st and November 29th (the doctor says November 15th but I don't put too much stock in due dates), a little baby boy will come join the Irvan household. We are thrilled to become parents -- after all, we'd been planning this for a while! -- but also a little nervous. Having never been parents before, we're going into this thing like we're preparing for the apocalypse: reading every pregnancy book under the sun, taking a 10-week Bradley class and an 8-hour Lamaze class, and grilling our friends and family on best practices for labor and delivery. I stick to a healthy diet and exercise routine, take a prenatal vitamin faithfully, and annoy the hell out of my doctors with my never-ending list of questions. 

But here's the thing: we've only got about eight more weeks before the baby comes. It's time to quit stressing about the pregnancy and birth part, and start thinking about what's going to happen after the baby gets here!

Good and Bad 
From Google

If only we knew what to expect! Back in the '50s, you only ever heard of the beautiful and exciting side of having a baby. Moms stayed home, raised their children perfectly, and still baked a pie a week. 

(Note that families were also perfectly able to sustain themselves on one salary back then. With student loan payments as much as your rent or mortgage, two-income families are almost a necessity now.) 

Nowadays, the pendulum seems to have swung the other way: you only ever hear about the terrible side of raising children: the sleepless nights, the ceaseless crying, the thankless days of drudgery. I think there are more negative child-raising experiences on the internet than positive ones -- or at least, that's what it seems like. Talking with friends about their child-raising experiences have caused some shivers to go down my back!

I'm sure this backlash is in retaliation to the "everything's rosy" picture that mothers have had to hold up over the years. Raising children is not all sweet, and there are definitely times when you wish you could return to your pre-kid existence. But is it really all bad? It can't be, can it? Otherwise, why would anyone keep having them? 

(Seasoned mothers can insert here, "Oh, Jaimie, Jaimie, Jaimie, you have no idea . . . " You're right. I don't.)

Work or Stay Home? 

There's also the ever-present dialogue in the back of my mind: what happens after my allotted 12-week maternity leave is over? Do I go back to work or stay home with the baby? I know I'm lucky even to be able to consider the possibility of being a full-time mom. So many women don't have that luxury. 

If I go back to work (my only option is returning full-time; there aren't any open part-time positions now), I'll: 
  • pay someone to watch the baby for nine hours a day, which will essentially cut my salary in half
  • pump at work every couple of hours and maintain a stash of bottles
  • come to work sleepy those days he's up all night
  • feel guilty for leaving him in daycare 
If I stay home, I'll: 
  • feel guilty that I'm not contributing to the household income
  • potentially feel lonely and isolated and need to join a group of other moms to keep my head on straight 
Of course, those are just the negative sides to both options. I know there are positive parts to each, too. If I stay home, I get to raise my kid just the way I want to. If I go to work, I'll have a break from the "thankless days of drudgery". Luckily, I've still got five months to decide what to do . . . 
Culture

Because of all these issues surrounding new-motherhood (work, money, chores, sleep), I've been thinking a lot about the Big Picture. About how women have been doing it all since the 1970s. 

Plenty of books and articles exist about the issue of mothers working (just Google it) so I won't rehash too much. What's mostly been on my mind is the way women are told they can have everything: a lucrative and satisfying career, deep friendships, fast, healthy meals, a spotless house, perfectly behaved children, and great sex, too. (Or, as this article put it, "you need to be leaning in as far as you can at work and creating a Pinterest-perfect family tableau at home, replete with foraged-pinecone centerpieces and smiling tots happily eating their homemade quinoa cakes.")

I'm sure it's not impossible and millions of women do it. It's just that I'm not sure I want to try. It seems like too much trouble to try to have everything. It seems like you just hurry all the time. I want my children to grow up feeling calm about life, not like they just have to hurry from one thing to another, as they see their frazzled mother do. 

Where's the balance between the stuck-at-home 1950s mom and the stuck-in-traffic 2017 mom?! Do I go move to the country and make homemade bread every day, or stay in my trendy neighborhood and buy a jogging stroller? 

This much is for certain: Kyle and I will have another human living at our house in just around 55 days. We don't have to decide the rest of our lives right now. For right now, we just need to welcome him in and give him lots of love.