“Sleeping through the night”

Whenever we talk with other parents of babies, I’ve noticed a pattern of conversation. It can pretty much be summed up in the following questions:

What’s his/her name?

How old is he/she?

Is he/she sitting/crawling/standing/walking?

Is he/she sleeping through the night yet?

The last question is asked, at least by me, out of desperation. I’ve been SO TIRED for SO LONG and all I want is just 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Heck, even 6 would be amazing. No matter how delicious and life-giving coffee may be, it only helps to a point. Even a triple-shot tall latte is no substitute for a good night’s sleep.

This situation has caused our little family much anxiety. My now one-year-old son still does not sleep through the night. He wakes up an average of twice a night and starts crying. Sometimes it’s a legitimate reason: he doesn’t feel good, he’s too cold/hot, his diaper leaked. Nine times out of ten, though, there’s no reason. He just dropped his pacifier, or woke up and realized he was alone. On the good nights, my husband or I stumble in, give him his pacifier, and he’s asleep again in no time. On the bad nights, one of us is walking him in circles around his room for the fourth time in three hours, on the verge of screaming, because he WILL NOT SHUT UP AND GO TO SLEEP LIKE A NORMAL PERSON.

I recently reached breaking point on one such night, and it prompted some changes in our family dynamic. These changes only occurred because I finally realized three things:

1) I cannot do it all, and THAT’S OK.

It turns out, if I let someone else help, this does not make me a bad mother. This may sound like a silly revelation to a lot of parents, but I really have to consciously struggle against the thought that I have to be able to do it all. That I somehow don’t deserve to be happy if I’m not personally overseeing every aspect of our domestic lives.

I’m really no sure where I get this compulsion to be Super Mom, especially since I’m so bad at it. I think it’s partially because of my personality. I’m a perfectionist. I have to to everything right the first time, and I HATE making mistakes. When I do make mistakes, I beat myself up over them until I get it right. Which has made the last year incredibly difficult, mentally and emotionally. Because I’ve made a LOT of mistakes.

Also, I think it has to do with the fact that I have such amazing role models in my life. Both my mother and my husband’s mother are two of the smartest, most nurturing, hardest working women I’ve ever met in my life.  I’m always trying to live up to their example, and I’m always falling short. What I have to continually remind myself, when I get really down and full of self loathing for not being perfect, is that they’ve each had 30 years more experience than me. Of course they are better mothers than I am. They’ve had more practice.

2) If I don’t take care of myself, I cannot take care of my child.

Again, this may sound pretty obvious. I’ve read this is pretty much every baby book or magazine out there. But no matter how many times my doctor, mother, fried, husband or favorite child-reading tome said I needed to take care of myself, I didn’t understand how important it was until I practically had a nervous breakdown. I thought if I took care of myself, I was being selfish, but that’s not entirely true. If I don’t take care of myself, it turns out I’m even less equipped than usual to take care of my child.

Also, taking care of myself isn’t all sleeping late and pedicures (I actually don’t get pedicures, but you get my drift). It means eating right (blah), and exercising (double blah), going to bed early, and limiting my intake of alcohol and caffeine (I just cried a little). Which, in case you can’t tell by my comments, are things that are not always fun to do. But they are necessary, and I have to try.

3) Not all babies (or toddlers, or older children) sleep through the night.

When my son was first born, and we took him to doctor for his one-week checkup, our paediatrician gave us a book written by one of his colleagues at the practice, all about how to get your baby to sleep through the night. The book laid out The Schedule parents should follow in order to get their children to sleep through the night. If you followed it exactly, the book claimed, your child would sleep soundly through the night at some point during the first year. If your child WASN’T sleeping through the night, well, then you must not be following their suggestions to the letter. The intentions behind the book were good – our pediatricians wanted to promote breastfeeding by creating a steady, predictable schedule for mom and baby. And a lot of the suggestions in the book were very good. But my baby wasn’t sleeping through the night, and I was OBSESSED with following The Schedule to make it happen.

As it turned out, it was almost impossible to follow the book’s suggestions exactly. For one thing, my son was either being taken care of by my mother-in-law or in daycare, and they all had their own ideas (or just not enough time) to follow The Schedule exactly. Also, setting a schedule is one thing. Getting baby to follow it is something else entirely. I would practically hyperventilate whenever I thought about The Schedule and our failure to follow it exactly. In hindsight, I probably should have just taken the books suggestions with a grain of salt and moved on (which is what we eventually had to do anyway).

Recently I had a conversation with some coworkers where, for once, I wasn’t the person asking, “Does your baby sleep through the night?” As it turned out, EVERYONE in the room with children had at least one baby that did not (or still does not) sleep through the night. Suddenly, I was just flooded with this huge sense of relief. All this time, I’d thought I was the one doing something wrong. That my son’s failure to sleep through the night was somehow a reflection of bad parenting. As it turns out, it’s perfectly normal; this one thing does not singlehandedly brand me a “Bad Mother.” This sounds awful, but it really made me feel better to know I wasn’t the only one suffering through prolonged child-induced sleep deprivation.

So, the bottom line is, we’re making some changes. They may work, or you may get another post from me in a month bemoaning the state of my bleary-eyed existence. Either way, it won’t be boring.

One Year of Parenthood

My son turned one over the weekend. He stuffed that little face so full of cake I was sure he was going to get sick (he didn’t, thankfully) and ripped open his presents (ok, he mostly just ripped up tissue paper) and afterwards it hit me – I have been a mom for a full year. It seriously feels like a decade. I look back on the person I was before he was born, and I think, wow, that girl really didn’t know anything did she?

That girl wasted a lot of time, assuming she’d eventually get around to knitting that sweater / writing that book / reading War and Peace. That girl thought she could read a few Dr Sears books and have a decent head-start on the whole parenting thing (ha ha ha). That girl thought she knew what she was doing. THAT GIRL was an idiot.

That’s not to say that I suddenly know everything now. I’m still an idiot. It’s just that NOW I know how little I actually know. I STILL have no idea what I’m doing 99% of the time. And the 1% of the time I DO feel like I know what I’m doing, I’m usually doing it wrong. I’m thinking of having another kid if only so I can correct all the mistakes I’ve made (and will make) the first time around.

Still, I would not trade this last year for anything, sleepless nights and all. I may not be the world’s greatest parent (ok, I’m DEFINITELY NOT the world’s greatest parent). But if I can learn from my mistakes, kiddo will hopefully turn out okay. He’s definitely going to keep me humble, which is good because pride is my Achilles Heel. And thanks to my chubby-cheeked little bundle of mischief, life will never be boring. For which I am profoundly grateful.

Here’s to a pretty great year of raspberries, tickle monsters, sweet little baby kisses, and all the craziness that comes with them. I love you, kiddo.

When Life Begins

I feel like in today’s black and white political climate, there really isn’t room for my views on abortion, but I’m going to talk about it anyway. I’m probably not going to make any friends doing it, but here it goes.
I guess I am technically pro-choice, but in reality you could categorize me as pro-life in most circumstances. I don’t believe anyone has the right to tell a woman whether or not she can have an abortion.
I used to be pro-choice all the way. After all, the woman has to physically, emotionally bear the burden of a child for 9 months – she should get to choose whether to carry that child to term. I still believe that it is ultimately the woman’s decision, but ….
But.
From the moment I heard the heartbeat of my little one, I knew that it was a separate person from me.  I saw my son (before I knew he was a “he”) move his tiny little arm on that ultrasound screen, and I knew I was seeing life. There is no other way to describe it. At that moment, I knew. A fetus is a living being. A living human being.
Later, when we did the tests to determine his risk for autism, Down’s syndrome, etc, I knew that whatever problems arose, whatever health or mental issues, I would keep my child (with the exception of Tay-Sachs disease, because I would never allow another human being to experience that much pain if I could prevent it – but that’s a separate topic). At the end of the day, to terminate that pregnancy would have meant extinguishing a life.
I don’t know how others define “life” for a human being, but as far as I am concerned, the heartbeat is it. It’s solid, scientific proof of life. A fetus’ heartbeat is in no way linked to its mother’s. It is separate. It is other. It is an individual unto itself.
However, despite the fact that I am utterly convinced of proof of life before birth, when it comes to the law, I am pro-choice, for several reasons. First, there is the obvious question of pregnancies that occur and a result of rape. I believe a woman should have a choice of whether or not to carry that child to term, as she had no will in creating it. So, you might say, why not outlaw all abortion except in cases of rape? For this reason, and this reason alone. Can you imagine the NIGHTMARE of having to go to court to try and prove to a jury whether or not you were raped? Can you imagine the indignity of having your conduct called into question when someone who physically forced themselves on you tells the who world in a court of law that you were just begging for it? Can you imagine the judge siding with your rapist, then forcing you to give birth, the emotional and physical pain such that you may as well be raped all over again? Can you imagine that? Because I can. And it sounds like hell on earth. Pregnant women should not be put on trial for being pregnant. End of discussion. If a woman chooses terminate a pregnancy that came as a result of rape, they should not have to justify it. She should not have to announce to the whole world that she was raped. She should not be forced to relive the trauma, or to open herself up to public ridicule (because, as CNN’s handling to the Steubenville,Ohio rape case proves, no matter how heinous the actions of the rapist, the victim will always be ridiculed).
Second reason , obviously the health of the mother. It shouldn’t even be an issue.
Third – cases of incest? Unless it is a case of rape (as in child molestation) as disgusting as incest is, I don’t think it calls for immediate abortion. Again, it should be the woman’s choice.
Finally, what about all the other thousands of situations to consider? What about cases where the sex was consensual, but the husband physically abuses the wife? Should that child be born into that situation? What about cases where the mother is a drug addict and unable to care for the child? Should she be forced to give birth to that child and, if so, can the people who force her to give birth guarantee the safety and well-being of that child until adulthood? What about cases where the husband purposefully tampers with the condom in order to get the woman pregnant (believe or not this does happen)? Does that qualify as rape? There are too many scenarios, too many possible situations. The law can’t cover them all. Therefore, abortion should be legal. Will people abuse this freedom? Unfortunately, yes. But until the human race becomes universally kind, caring, compassionate, and moral, we have to keep abortion legal.
We should keep abortion legal. We do not necessarily have to keep every type of abortion legal. Personally, I think partial birth abortions should be outlawed everywhere in the world. Read up on the procedure. It is truly horrifying.
On the other side of the coin, I am also against the latest measure passed by North Dakota, forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy to term once a fetal heartbeat has been detected. First, in many cases, when a woman does not realize she is pregnant before 6 weeks, it robs her of her choice. Second, in order to detect a fetal heartbeat that early, you have to do a vaginal ultrasound. Shoving a metal rod up a woman’s vagina in order to dictate to her whether or not she has a choice about what the rest of her life will look like is, as far as I’m concerned, just another form of rape.
I am a HUGE proponent of birth control. I wholeheartedly approve of the morning after pill. But once that bundle of cells divides and develops enough to form a heartbeat, that’s it. It is alive. But that doesn’t give the government the right to force a woman to give birth, whatever her situation.
Currently, several state have passed laws banning abortions past 20 weeks. I am 100% for it. A woman can decide in 2 months whether she wants to bring a child into the world. If not, nature will decide for her.

The Devil’s Drink

You’ve read all the articles. You’ve listened to the experts. And still, when you’re baby is crying, or sick, or just thirsty, you give him the one thing sure to poison his mind, body, and soul. You know what I’m talking about.

http://www.animationlibrary.com/animation/30077/Devil_drinks/

Just try it, you’ll like it …

Apple Juice.

It has arsenic! It is literally poison! Not to mention the sugar that will rot your kids’ teeth right out of their heads!

Sigh.

Our whole experience with apple juice started just a few weeks ago, when my son got his first ever 2 week long stomach bug. The nurses actually recommended that we give him apple juice. Water, Pedialite, juice, anything to get fluids in him and keep them down. We tried watering the juice down, but too much water and he refused to drink. We figured as long as he was keeping it down it was fine. He never got dehydrated, so we figured we were good. Until all he wanted was juice.

Now, he pushes his water cup away, with an expression on his face that clearly conveys “What is this crap? Give me my juice!” I figure, we’ll try not to give him juice at home. Eventually, he will go back to water.

Simultaneously, we’re also trying to reduce his afternoon bottle. So, I figured, why not substitute it with juice? He mostly wants it for comfort’s sake anyway, and he doesn’t really need the formula if we give him a snack. It would make the transition away from bottles easier, for him

and for the babysitters at daycare. It seemed like the perfect plan. Or so I thou

ght.

I love all the teachers at my son’s daycare. They are wonderful, loving women who really know what they’re doing. I respect their opinion, because the fact of the matter is, when it comes to taking care of kids, they’ve been doing it longer. I freely admit that they know more than I do. But I still felt like crap when I asked if they could give my son juice at snack time and was told that they don’t give juice to babies.

Ok, I guess I understand why – if you give them juice, that’s all they’ll want, and parents are quick to blame any bad habits their kids pick up on daycare. I get that. But the way they said it made me feel like the worst parent in the world. Like, “You give your kid juice? What’s wrong with you?”

Who knows, maybe they’re right. We’ve probably been letting the kiddo have to much juice lately. Maybe we do use it as a crutch. But still. It’s not like we give it to him all the time! And there are worst things in the world. Right?

Well, maybe I’ll go read that arsenic study again. It’s like watching a scary movie. Even if you’ve already seen it, you still won’t go down to the basement after the credits roll without a damn good reason.

Or maybe I will give myself a break. One month of drinking some juice will not kill my baby. As long as I’m a responsible parent, I’m sure everything will be fine. Hopefully.

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Video

I found this video on you tube … brings back memories! It also me made me wax philosophical about the quality of childhood today. Is it just me, or is everything about kids these days more manic? My son hardly has a toy that doesn’t light up AND talk AND sing AND come in about a thousand different colors. He won’t even look at his stuffed animals. They’re too boring. Will my son grow up thinking Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood is too boring? I hope not.

I remember the day I heard Mr. Rogers had died. I cried all the way through the PBS special. It was like part of my childhood died with him. But Mr. Rogers still exists – you can watch old re-runs on Nextflix and Amazon. My son will get to see Mr. Rogers, just like I did. I just hope we haven’t ruined for him with our lifestyle of constant entertainment or even just constant noise – on our phones, in our cars, on our iPads and laptops and televisions. I hope my son will be able to appreciate calmness. I guess we’ll just have to do our best as parents and see.

Over-documenting Your Baby

My son’s generation is turning out to be the most documented generation in history. Our family is no exception to the trend. We have 3 devices in our home capable of taking pictures and two that can take video. This content is then posted to various locations on the internet: photo sharing websites, Facebook posts, etc. When our son isn’t being documented via photo or video, we’re talking about him via Facebook, Twitter, email, this blog. Then, there’s the fact that my husband backs up most of this content on 3 different locations, “just in case”.  When he grows up, my son will be able to relive his childhood whenever he wants. The downside, of course, is that my son will grow up already having a more public face than I ever did. And there’s a significant risk of violating his privacy.

Thanks to my tech savvy husband, we are pretty aware of the risk to our son’s privacy. We are very discerning with regards to the pictures we post (when we post them at all), and we are careful not to make them public. I will never post pictures of my son on this blog, for example, until he is able to understand the implications and give me permission to do so. Not all parents take such a hard line, but I feel like it’s something I need to do. If I want other people to respect my son’s privacy, I need to make it a priority myself.

Still, there’s always the chance that something will slip through the cracks. We’ve got identity theft alerts set up for the whole family, just in case. And even though we do our best to protect his public identity, eventually he will want to venture onto the World Wide Web himself, much earlier than I did as a child. Our son is not even out of diapers, and we are already having conversations about how we will teach him to behave responsibly on the Internet.

Of course, society will change to accommodate our newfound publicity. Many browsers already offer secure search, and online security should (hopefully) increase with time. There will eventually be laws dictating what types of information schools, employers, and governments can or cannot use when making decisions with regard to hiring or admissions. As in, if you make a really terrible decision at a middle school party, they can’t/shouldn’t be able to use the evidence against you. Even so, it seriously freaks me out that one day I’m going to have to have a conversation with my son about sexting. As if alcohol, drugs, guns, and girls weren’t enough.

Well, I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. I’ll just have to enjoy the innocence while it lasts.