Baby & Body: 5 month update

This past month has been F-U-N. Really, no sarcasm at all. Like, so much fun. It has also been a shit ton of work, but so much fun. The fun part is that Sloane is starting to become a real person, with a sense of humor, likes and dislikes, a temper sometimes, and little quirks. It’s a lot of fun just discovering what she thinks is fun or funny. Things like oinking or barking at her, sniffing or slurping her neck, pretending to eat her toes, and “pouncing” on the bed like a cat when she’s laying on it. It’s amazing the things you will do to get a belly laugh out of a baby. The work part is that this is basically a full-time job, which is fine because she actually is my full-time job right now (thank god for 12 month mat leave). But it does mean that I’m not doing much else other than interact with her. When I’m with her, that is…I’m still getting out without her for appointments or errands or the odd night or lunch out, so it’s not like I’m shackled to her every minute of every day, but when I’m with her, I’m really with her – if that makes sense.

Although I do have to say, she’s still pretty chill. She’s great in her stroller and Baby Bjorn or her bouncy chair on the floor – so long as I don’t go too long without giving her some attention. Hence the blogging in bed while she is sleeping now, rather than attempting to get any actual work done during the day. I have the rest of my life to check shit off a to-do list every day, and only 7 more months (waaaaah!) to be with her all the time. It’s a small, small window in the grand scheme of things. And as they say, “the days are long but the years are short.”

Back to things I can think about late at night without crying.

Her big accomplishment this month was rolling over, which she did for the first time on the Monday of the Labour Day long weekend while visiting our friend Terry. Also the second and third time. Given a spacious, carpeted room to frolic in, she finally had the space to play. Which made us realize that we had to create more space in our house for her (bye-bye gigantic aquarium, hello foam floor tiles) and also, that a new house altogether sure would be nice. For now though, this new little play space is doing the trick nicely. She rolls every which way and wriggles around to do full 360’s. She’s also taken to sleeping on her side again now that she has a little more space in the Pack n’ Play. Basically, we had been stifling our child’s movement with our teeny tiny home and restrictive furniture. Yay us.

In our defence, we are still taking her out for walks every day (with the odd exception) and she gets lots of play time at Grandma and Papa’s house too. We also started a weekly Rhyme & Reason class with little rhymes, stories, songs, finger/hand plays, and lots of info about development. She loves the activities as well as gawking at all the other babies and moms. She is particularly partial to songs that involve bouncing, jiggling or tickling. We also do the library every week or two and she likes it there quite a bit too. I’m pleased to report that there is an impressive selection of really good children’s books out there that make bedtime story time pretty fun for us (and the cats) too.

So she’s not too hard done by.

Likewise, I’m doing pretty well too. My biggest challenge is still remembering to eat and drink enough to not get tired and cranky. Just in the past couple weeks there have been a few scattered days where my milk seems a little lower than normal (this had never been a problem before, to say the least) and Sloane didnt seem completely satisfied during/after nursing – tugging and fussing (ugh) So I went with the old wives’ tale of drinking Guinness and it works like a charm. If I feel a bit low, I just drink one before bed and wake up fully stocked. But overall, i know that eating regularly and drinking enough water is definitely the smarter way to stay on top of my dairy duties.

In other TMI news, I realized that it has been more than 14 months since my last period. For some reason, it hadn’t really occurred to me before that it would be so long. It can come back any time after giving birth (a breastfeeding girlfriend got hers just 6 weeks later), but it’s not at all unusual for it to stay away until after you wean the baby if you’re exclusively breastfeeding. Just another little bonus to make up for the first few weeks of hell.

One thing that has maybe (?) started happening that I’ve been waiting for (due to warnings) is the postpartum hair loss. It does seem a bit delayed so maybe I’m just in a shedding cycle or it’s unrelated, but I do seem to be, well, shedding a lot of hair these days. It’s not like, coming out in clumps or anything but I’m just brushing out a lot more hair these days. This may be a blessing, given that what is left, Sloane is dutifully attempting to rip out. It really is a good thing they are so darn cute and sweet and smell-icious.

Bye Bye Bassinet

That’s a little misleading since the bassinet is now simply sitting 10 feet away from the foot of my bed, rather than 3 feet away from the side of my bed. But baby steps, right? The main thing is that there is no longer a baby in the bassinet. Which is actually also misleading because the baby is still 3 feet away from the side of the bed in a Pack n’ Play. Sigh. I miss my bassinet. I love that bassinet. It’s pretty and it’s full of delicious, smiley, snoozy warm baby.

Sadly, that little bundle of yumminess has officially outgrown her bassinet. When I looked at her the other night, limbs touching all 4 edges, I realised I couldn’t put it off any longer. But I still have another month of sleeping with her in our room (as per SIDS risk-reduction recommendations) and I’ll be damned if I’m shipping her off to the Siberia that is her bedroom down the hall a day earlier than the experts are telling me to.

A lot of people said that they couldn’t wait until their baby was in their own room and/or that having her in our room would drive me crazy. On the contrary, and much to my husband’s delight I’m sure, I freaking love having her here. She’s so accessible and I can hear her little coos and sighs as she sleeps. I can look at her 25 times before I fall asleep and give her a little kiss and a stealthy breathing check from time to time without having to really leave bed.

For some reason, I’m also a little bit attached to the bassinet itself. This isn’t the first time I’ve developed an emotional bond with an inanimate object. There was a “crying in the back seat of my car in the garage as I prepared to sell it” incident that my husband walked in on. The bassinet was my first major baby purchase though, and it feels more intimate than most of the other baby gear and have I mentioned it’s really pretty?

monte-2013-ninna-darkbase

See.

So here we are. A bassinet, a Pack n’ Play, two adults, two cats and a baby. Heaven.

 

 

Baby & Body: 4 month update

Why is it that I can only get motivated to buckle down and write these monthly updates when I’m butting up against the deadline of the NEXT month’s birthday? Seriously, something is wrong with me. So once again, I am struggling to remember what happened between months 3 and 4. If you recall last month’s update, I mentioned that I was “jotting down notes for the next update”. Which would be rad if it wasn’t a bald-faced lie. I mean, I intended to jot down notes…

Think, think think. July 25 to August 25 was dominated by the fascinating discovery of toes and tongue. And naturally, the inevitable meeting of the two. Poor kid, please forgive mommy for outing your baby weirdness. It’s kind of cool when they discover a body part for the first time because for at least a week or two it nullifies the need for outside amusement (let’s all take a moment to thank god she is a girl) as they fixate on, say, grabbing their feet, and attempting to insert into mouth. The tongue discovery was particularly amusing since she can’t see it, but spent a lot of time sticking it out, moving it around, blowing bubbles, blowing raspberries and otherwise knocking herself out trying to figure out what exactly this unseen entity can do. With that, came lots more sound making and giggling. Turns out fart noises are as funny at 4 months as at 14 and, well, 40 years, I imagine. Actually, one of the funniest things was when my husband farted in his sleep one night and then I heard a giggle from over in the bassinet. And now I have outed my husband as well. Well done, me! Sloane is also becoming more dexterous, passing things back and forth between her hands, holding objects with more precision and picking things up if they drop.

The most accurate measurements I have are actually from juuuust over the 4 month mark (from her September 5 doctor’s appointment) when she weighed in at juuuust under 16 lbs and juuuust under 25 inches. What I remember most about this appointment was Sloane being pronounced “slow-anne” by the nurse when she called to us in the waiting room (I died laughing for 2 days, including an entire massage appointment when the therapist and I came up with back stories in bad southern accents about poor little Slow-Anne – named after her daddy Slow Andy, of course) and Sloane getting really pissed that the doctor wouldn’t let her have the stethoscope.

What else? Sleep…or lack thereof. Sleep regressions happen at a bunch of different points and it’s basically when a baby who normally sleeps well becomes an asshole. Or, you know, begins waking up at night, resisting going to sleep at night or skipping naps. Thankfully, Sloane has never been a night waker – much like her mom (and much unlike her dad) once she’s down, she’s down for the count. But resisting bed time and skipping naps are right up her alley. With the lesson under our belts from last month, we solved the first issue by moving her bedtime up again by an hour (for an 8pm bedtime) and the napping thing just ran its course after a couple weeks. Most of the time you don’t really “solve” any young infancy issues, you just get through it and realize that absolutely everything is truly just a phase. So happy that nap times are back in effect though, because that phase was a bit of a bitch.

As for me, there isn’t much to report. My body is chilling on a nice flat plateau while my emotions perch on a cliff. I’m definitely still hormonal in the sense that I can’t handle certain topics and I’m still more emotional than usual, although I’m starting to wonder if this now a permanent change. Maybe moms just cry for every baby in the whole world who gets hurt or sick or goes missing. I can live with that. I find that I’m still running warmer than I used to as well (this is polite phrasing for “wakes up soaked in sweat”) and I still have roughly the daily water intake requirement of an elephant. I’m starting to wonder if I should make attempts to fade my c-sec scar while I still can (i.e. while it’s still ‘fresh’) with various lotions and potions? Truthfully, I don’t give one flying fuck if it looks this way forever since it lies well within the bikini zone anyways and even if it were more visible, it’s not very big or unsightly. But it seems like an easy little project. Certainly much easier than starting to work out again. So I may have a shot in hell of following through.

 

One Big Thing

In my vast body of experience (8 whole weeks) as a mom, I’ve learned One Big Thing.

Literally.

It’s not just one lesson, it’s that my whole earth-shattering, paradigm-shifting, rays of light filtering through the clouds while angel choirs sing theory/mantra is actually called: One Big Thing. Or OBT for those trying to peck out a blog post on their iPad in bed.

You’ve probably noticed that newly minted moms will tell you that they can’t get anything done since they had the baby. That whole days just slip away and all their best pre-mat-leave intentions of productivity go out the window. That they are lucky to even manage the time to shower or get dressed with a newborn constantly demanding care and attention.

This is kinda true and kinda untrue. It’s true that I’m busier on the day-to-day than I’ve ever been in my life, as I imagine most moms find themselves. Newborns are unpredictable, time-sucking, relentlessly needy tyrants. The Devil may wear Prada but he/she also surely wears Pampers. This is the truth. It may seem ridiculous to suggest that an immobile lump of baby can run you ragged, but this is also the truth. There have been days where I hit my 10,000 step FitBit goal (all hail FitBit) WITHOUT LEAVING THE HOUSE. It’s a lot, but as for the moms who genuinely can’t find the time to shower/dress, they just need an intervention…put the baby down in a safe place for five minutes, and back away slowly into the nearest bathroom. Baby will survive, I promise.

But what I’ve learned is that when most women say they can’t get ANYTHING done, it actually just means they can’t do EVERYTHING. Because we are suddenly not able to do every single thing we are used to accomplishing in our normally structured, multi/tasking, to-do list driven lives, we feel like we are flailing – if not outright failing, when in fact we are just screwing ourselves over and then beating ourselves up for it.

This is where OBT comes in. The sooner you accept the fact that on any given day during the first few months of your new child’s life you can only accomplish OBT, the better.

One. Big. Thing.

You wanna take baby to the zoo? Great! That is what you will do today. You will not also go out to dinner, and exchange something at the mall, and go to a doctor’s appointment. You will go to the zoo and then get back home in two pieces (you and baby) and that’s all she wrote. You wanna go swimming? Awesome! You can splash and play to your heart’s content. Here’s what you can’t do: any fucking thing else. There will be no errands or visits from friends or boot camp classes before or after the pool. Dinner out at a restaurant tonight? Fab idea. Now go ahead and take a knee until the clock strikes 6 pm, because your dance card is full, my friend.

Because of course you’ll be doing a ton of other stuff too. A gazillion little micro-actions of feeding, burping, wiping, pacing, rocking and cooing, natch. But my OBT rule also allows for adult meals and what we’ll call maintenance – of both self and home. With OBT, I can maintain order by keeping on top of my mess/dishes/laundry, be presentable (this includes taking a proper shower/bath with things like leg shaving, bubbles and letting the conditioner soak in for 5 minutes while you listen to a podcast) as well as pulling off a reasonable facsimile of “done” hair and makeup. The meals part entails eating a half-assed breakfast and lunch, grocery shopping and throwing together a simple “real” dinner. All of this, plus OBT is totally do-able. Anything more is insanity. Trust.

Before OBT, back in the early days when I thought I could still do ABOS (a bunch of shit) like normal, things got out of hand. At the end of the day I’d be stressed out, tired and hungry – and have a baby to match. You can do ABOS, but something has got to give. And a day where you haven’t eaten, tidied, showered, snuggled or rested enough with a newborn is not a good day. And potentially, not a good night or next day either, because you never know when baby is going to decide to party all night long. Babies don’t give a fuck that you had ABOS to do and overdid it yesterday. One day of trying to be superwoman can end up fucking you for two, maybe three, days – it’s the ultimate hangover.

So whenever you catch yourself wanting to say yes to a secondary plan or tempted to tack on an extra activity, chore or side trip to an existing excursion, just repeat the mantra “I’m down with OBT” and politely decline and resist the urge.

All of this is not to say that you have to do OBT every day. In fact, you probably shouldn’t try or expect to, because this is yet another way of screwing yourself over. You and baby will have – and want – days where you just want to hold and be held. A phenomenon known as “Velcro baby” (thanks again, Nicole G.). For example, the day my visiting in-laws returned home after a busy two weeks culminating in a long weekend road trip to a wedding, I drank iced tea and watched HGTV while rocking my baby for a solid 5 hours. On these days you will have nothing to show for your time but a baby who is warm, fed, loved and reasonably clean. And this, it has to be said, is more than enough – explained more eloquently than I ever could in this excerpt from an article by Anne Rust: 

So what are you doing all day? Not much that can be measured, really. You’re simply responding appropriately and with patience (through fatigue), to smiles, to tears, to hunger cues, and to drowsiness, teaching your baby how to navigate this complex and (to a baby) highly emotional and raw world. You are keeping your baby clean, which on some days involves more costume changes (for both of you) than any non-mother can begin to fathom. You are teaching a tiny, helpless person all about the world—at least the important parts, like how we treat each other and what it means to be connected to a family. You are creating a foundation of love and trust between you and your baby, one that will help you set your parenting compass, inform your future interactions, and provide a basis for the way your child relates to the larger world. You may be breastfeeding your baby—another time consuming task (though once established, it takes less time than bottle feeding) that reaches forward through time to heal and protect your child, and simultaneously reduces your risk of disease. Oh, and you’re becoming a mother. It started the day your baby was conceived, and it continues beyond birth. Your baby is stretching and growing into this new body, and you are too.

But that’s about it, really. That’s your day.

Our culture doesn’t have a good way to measure what you are accomplishing. Your baby will grow and meet milestones: check. But to the untrained eye most of this work, at the end of the day, will look like nothing.

But we know better.

There is no greater task than the nothing you did yesterday, the nothing you are doing today, and the nothing you will do tomorrow. Caring for a baby is all about the immediate experience, yet the first two years are all about investment. It’s give, give, give, and give some more. These are hard-fought, rough-and-tumble years that can cut us down to our core and take us soaring high above the clouds, all in the space of 5 minutes. And yes, as you do the hardest work of your life, it will seem like you’re not getting anything done at all. Crazy, huh?

But here’s where it gets interesting: As much as you need and want a break now (and you should take one, more on that later), no mother has ever looked back on this time and thought, “I wish I had held my baby less.” You will not remember the dishes that didn’t get done, the vacuuming that you just couldn’t make happen, or the dirty clothes you wore more often than you’d like to admit. You will remember the first smile, the first belly laugh, the first words, the first steps. You will remember the way you looked at your baby, and the way your baby looked at you.

So the next time you find yourself wondering how another day is gone and nothing is done, stop. Hold your baby—feel the way that tiny body strains to contain this giant soul—complete, and full of potential all at the same time. Take a deep, slow breath. Close your eyes and measure your day not as tasks, but as feelings, as sounds, as colors. Exhaustion is part of it. And it’s true, you will get “nothing” done. But the hard parts will fade. The intense, burning love is what remains, and it is yours to keep forever.

 

 

Baby and Body: Month 1 Surprises

Big picture-wise, it turns out I wasn’t terribly delusional about what having a new baby in the house would be like. By and large, it’s been how I envisioned the experience to be – for better and for worse – just fleshed out in vivid colour and detail.

But as always, it’s the little things that sneak up on you.

The bleeding. Again, with the bleeding to lead off a post. After nine months of missed periods, your body makes up for it with the heaviest, longest period of your life. Asshole. Yup, even if you delivered via c-section you will still have to shed blood, mucous and uterine lining. A delightful trifecta called lochia because everything pertaining to your body, pregnancy and childbirth has to be the grossest sounding word possible – and it lasts for 4-6 weeks. It’s actually shocking how much you bleed at first. Sort of a steady stream with the occasional gush (especially when you nurse or when you get up after sitting or lying down for a while). Oh! And clots! Mustn’t forget those. Isn’t this a pretty and poetic post?

the afterpains. Turns out, contractions don’t end just because labour is over. Your uterus still has to shrink back down to its pre-baby size and does so by continuing to contract for 10 days to two weeks. Personally, I only noticed it for the first week or so, again, particularly when I was nursing. It’s weird – and almost a little bit triggering – to feel like the nightmare most beautiful experience of your life is starting all over again.

The tranquilizer dart effect. everybody warned me (with regards to breastfeeding) about being crazy thirsty and to arm myself with a giant water bottle. This has been true, I drink an unreal amount of ice water out of a spill-proof adult-sized sippy cup now, but it’s the insta-NyQuil effect that caught me off guard. I just realized that it doesn’t really happen any more, but for the first couple of weeks I’d be nodding off like a junkie the instant the baby latched on.

the adrenaline rush. I’m here to tell you that “sleep when the baby sleeps” is the biggest crock of shit ever. It may be good advice, but it’s not realistic. Not that I wasn’t tired, I was fucking exhausted a lot of the time, but I wasn’t sleepy. I was absolutely wired. For like, a solid week, I couldn’t slow my brain or my body down. There are scab-covered meth users taking apart old VCRs who are more chilled out than I was. There was CONSTANTLY something I needed or wanted to be doing for the baby, around the house, or for myself. I had to keep consciously telling myself, “you just had surgery” and it still didn’t stop me from cleaning my house.

And the truth is, in the twenty minute intervals when you’re not looking after baby or doing chores, sometimes you just want to have a bath, text a friend or browse Instagram to feel human and connected to the outside world instead of taking a pointlessly short nap. At one point I read a list of postpartum psychosis warnings signs and “feeling no need for sleep” was on there…as you can imagine, that really helped calm me down.

the crying hour. This refers to the hour of day at which I would spontaneously (but predictably) cry – not to crying for a whole hour. Because that would be crazy, obvs. This was quick and dirty…clock strikes 9 pm, bawl for 10 minutes, done. Like actual clockwork. And it wasn’t out of sadness or even frustration (though I did that too at times) this was just a sheer overflowing of emotion that needed to be released through the old eyeball valves. I would just look at Sloane and suddenly couldn’t stand how beautiful she was. The one thought I had over and over was, “nobody deserves something so nice.” It sounds so dumb now, and certainly not very poignant, but it was all I had.

the insatiable hunger. I have never been hungrier in my life than I was in the week after having a baby. Granted, in my case I had gone through something like a 24 hour fast followed by a couple days of barely eating. And breastfeeding makes you ravenous on top of all that. The first few nights we had her at home I was up multiple times in the middle of the night shoving whatever was handy in my mouth. Entire cans of Pringles were consumed in bed. I ate things like chocolate croissants (note the plural) and hot chocolate with whipped cream for breakfast. And I didn’t feel one tiny bit bad for it either.

the other craving. The same hormone that starts your contractions and gets your milk flowing also helps you bond to your baby. That oxytocin is a multitasking motherfucker. It not only helps you feel attached to – and in love with – your baby, but it also creates intense desire for further contact…effectively causing you to become addicted to your baby. I had heard this, but of course didn’t really get it until she was born and I found that I physically craved holding her. I would also smell her – like, really smell her – taking giant whiffs of her head.

I recently read Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please” and there’s a part where she says of her two boys, “I swear, if I could eat my children, I would. I’d consume them like some beast in a Hieronymus Bosch painting, but in a friendlier, more momlike way. Their little bodies make me salivate. It takes everything I have not to swallow them whole.”

That about sums it up.

Even when I was near my baby constantly, if she was in her stroller or car seat, after a while I would need to touch and cuddle her body-to-body to satisfy the urge. Doing so felt strikingly similar to the sensation of something like lighting up a cigarette after a long plane ride. One night, when I had gone for an actual nap and left Sloane and Andrew downstairs, I woke up and called down the stairs that I was awake and ready for him to bring her up to me. I went back to the bed, and in the (maybe) 5 whole minutes it took them to come upstairs I lost my mind. What was taking them so long?! I need my baby…Right. Now. By the time they got to me I had tears streaming down my face and could barely choke out, “I just missed you guys so much”. It’s crazy town. Of course, it was also around 9pm ish…