Posts Tagged ‘challenges’

Oh hey, where did this wall come from?

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Can someone PLEASE help me explain to my husband how hard and exhausting and exactly like a job taking care of a baby is? How although on the surface it might look a lot easier than driving to an office every day, in the end you get to leave an office but you never get to leave a baby? And how even if you don’t really, truly, 100% believe that being a stay at home mom is work it is NEVER a good idea to accuse your wife of “playing” all day while you’re at your Real Job? And not just because when you say shit like that your wife might storm out of the house and leave you dinner-less, but because it really hurts her and makes her feel useless and unappreciated? Yes, please help me explain that.

(Sidenote for fairness: in my uncompleted posts queue right now is an entry about how awesome E was during The Great Sickness of 2009 and our holiday travels. He slept with the can’t-put-him-down-or-he-screams baby almost every night and did at least 50% of the daytime comforting. He’s also helping with the night weaning, which proves he cares about my sanity at least a little, as it doesn’t matter to HIM if the baby nurses all night. But yesterday I did not care about any of that.)

From the point of view of someone who doesn’t have kids, my day looks easy. Get up, eat breakfast, workout class, hang out with friends, lunch, some housework, errands, computer time, start dinner, serve dinner, clean up kitchen, watch some tv, do a little knitting and then bed. Yawn, a life of leisure.

But when you do all that stuff with a baby it looks like this: Up at 6 am with baby, nurse baby, change baby, dress baby, make sure baby is occupied long enough to go pee, rescue dog from baby, run upstairs to brush teeth and put on clothes, clean up baby spit up, get the baby a snack, clean up snack, clean up baby, change baby, eat an apple, nurse baby, get baby and all baby’s stuff in the car, take baby to baby-themed stroller workout class, take baby to breastfeeding group, entertain baby while trying to have adult conversation, put baby back in car, take baby home, try to get baby to nap, nurse baby, rock baby, nurse baby, baby falls asleep, jump in shower, start laundry, finally find something to eat…and that’s just before noon. I could keep going but I’m trying to finish this post before the baby wakes up from his nap. As you can see, baby-free time is precious around here.

Now from E’s point of view, at least 70% of that “work” is my own fault. I don’t HAVE to go to Stroller Strides. I don’t HAVE to go to breastfeeding group. I don’t HAVE to go to the store with the baby. I can stay home. I can run errands on the weekends. I could, quite easily, never leave the house. Like, duh, that’s why pizza delivery was invented. I could also quite easily go TOTALLY FRICKIN INSANE and end up babbling incomprehensibly about poopoo and diapeys and numnums and nappy naps. I’ve already used all those words at least once this week. The edge is near.

It doesn’t help my case that on the weekends I try to give myself as much time off as possible, so E sees me sitting on the couch while the baby naps and imagines that’s how I spend all my days. Never mind the clean socks in his drawer and the toys in the toy box and the milk in the fridge and the food on the table. Never mind the baby is dressed and fed and happy. Never mind my lack of a full night’s sleep for the last 9 months. Obviously if I have time to knit a sock mitten wrist warmer AND maintain a blog, taking care of a baby is cake. And since our not-ever-officially-negotiated-but-status-quo relationship is I’m in charge of the household, why should he have to do more work after his Real Job is done? What do I mean I can’t unload the dishwasher and watch the baby at the same time?

I know I have friends and readers who are thinking to themselves RIGHT NOW that I got myself into this and it’s really my fault for having such an old-fashioned, gender-stereotypical marriage. You’re thinking you’re way too smart to marry a guy who doesn’t have a truly feminist and shared view of parenting so you won’t ever feel like this. And I hope you’re right. But I think every parent in every kind of relationship ends up feeling unappreciated at some point, be it every day of their marriage or just for a few hours once in a while.

The hardest part of this whole thing is sometimes I feel like I DON’T do enough. I feel like since I don’t earn a paycheck I need to earn the right to stay home. I feel like dishes in the sink or unfolded laundry or a funny smell coming from the living room (which turned out to be BURNT CAT VOMIT from where the cat threw up on a radiator) are big black marks against me in my Wife & Mother Weekly Performance Review. I mean, there are moms who have three kids and a real job and a house and a dog and still manage to make organic, homegrown, vegetarian lasagna every night with time left over to volunteer at the soup kitchen. I definitely don’t work as hard as that mom. I don’t want to work as hard as that mom. I want to be happy. I just want to be happy.

No You’re Never Going To Get It

Monday, January 4th, 2010

ONE HOUR.

One hour is exactly how long I made it on my first attempt at night weaning before I gave up and nursed the baby. Although by that point he was so far gone into angry exhausted screaming mode that even a few minutes at the boob didn’t help and he kept whimpering long after he was sound asleep. It was sucky and awful. I certainly didn’t get any more sleep than I normally do and poor E got significantly less. But even so, I think it was a success.

Up until now I have never been interested in what the experts call “sleep training”. I believe forcing a baby to self-sooth and sleep through the night at a young age is a modern Western ideal and biologically unreasonable at only a few months old. But you know what else is unreasonable? Nine months of being exhausted. Nine months of being the only person doing the night feedings. NINE MONTHS of feeding on demand despite my nagging suspicion he’s not actually hungry at all. Even the anti-sleep trainers all end their advice with the little disclaimer that being a good parent is really more important than how you put a baby to bed. Nothing about spending all my night feedings resisting the overwhelming urge to just shake the baby off, leave the room and walk out of the house forever makes me a good parent. Being too tired during the day to play does not make me a good parent. Using up every ounce of patience in my body before 6 am and spending the rest of my day seconds away from yelling does not make me a good parent. It also makes me a lousy wife and partner, especially because my other nighttime routine is thinking over and over how much I resent being the only one who feeds the baby and therefor the only one who gets up with the baby. The little ball of resentment and anger is like a popcorn kernel in my tooth that I focus on and pick at and poke until it’s sore and red and all I can think about. Getting divorced simply because I’m breastfeeding definitely does not make me a good parent. And so, night weaning has begun.

Baby Evan has always been a pretty good sleeper. He transitioned easily from co-sleeping to the crib and from napping in the swing to napping in his room. Our established night time routine of bath, boob, book and bed is successful and usually all he needs to fall asleep is a few minutes of cuddling and rocking. He often wakes up, finds his blanky, rolls over and goes back to sleep on his own without needing to be soothed. But the night feedings are frequent and constant, every 2 or 3 hours all night long, mostly due to habit not hunger. My ultimate goal is to get down to ZERO feedings between 7 pm and 7 am but for the next few months I’d settle for one 2 am feeding and someone else to rock him back to sleep every few nights. Sunday was our first try and it went like this: Baby goes to bed, Baby wakes up wanting to eat, E tries to get him back to sleep with absolutely no luck, I try to get him back to sleep with no luck, consider letting him cry it out for a few minutes but can’t bring ourselves to do it, give up and let Baby nurse for less than 90 seconds, baby passes out, wakes up again, cries for two minutes, passes out again.

The whole thing took an hour and a half but then he slept from 1 am to almost 7 am without a sound. He woke up the same happy, smiley baby he does on the nights we don’t have an EPIC BATTLE and has been fine all day. No signs of permanent psycological or emotional damage. I think he might be nursing a little more than usual – or maybe I’m just offering more often because I’m afraid I starved him last night – but that just means he’ll be less hungry tonight.

I’m giving it a week. A week to get to a point where I can wake up rested and refreshed and feeling like a normal person instead of a grumpy monster. If he’s still not even close to a full night’s sleep by then I’ll take a break and go back to surviving on naps and caffeine for a while until I can work up the energy to try again. Or maybe I’ll just be exhausted for the next five years. That sounds like fun too.

Danger!

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

In every celebrity mom interview I’ve ever read, the interviewer asks the gorgeous, toned, trim actress about how they find time to exercise and the celebrity says “Oh I don’t work out. Chasing after my kids is all the exercise I need!” To which I have always said “Bullshit, Celebrity Mom. Unless you gave birth to that 6’3″ 37 year old trainer you meet with three times a week, those abs are from hard work, not a couple days on the playground.”

Now that Baby Evan is not just mobile but ohmigod-someone-quick-grab-him-he-has-a-lighter-where-the-hell-did-he-get-a-lighter???? mobile, my skepticism towards those celebrity mothers has dropped about a zillion points. Ok, so they probably still meet with their trainer every other day but child chasing is a genuine aerobic activity. It’s shocking how quickly a baby can go from quiet play to extreme peril, especially if you live in a death trap old house. Apparently the hissing and popping of old cast-iron radiators is a siren song to babies, calling to them to come and put your mouth on meeeeeeee I taste like sunshine and dog hair and dried leaves and deliciousness. Baby Evan has started pulling open the cookie sheet storage warming drawer under my stove and trying to climb in it while the stove is on. Listen child, I know it’s cold in here but I don’t think baking yourself is the answer. I’m suddenly very very aware of just how hard that tile we installed in the kitchen is, thanks to the horrible CRACK sound it makes when it meets the baby’s head.

It doesn’t help that E and I have totally different parenting philosophies when it comes to baby-chasing. E’s attitude is “Let him figure it out, he has to learn eventually” while I follow more of a “Maybe it’s not such a great idea to let an 8 month old decide for himself what’s safe” line of thought. Call me crazy. I think “Danger!” is an important concept for Baby Evan to comprehend, especially at an age where “No!” just makes him laugh.

No! Don’t bite the dog! Giggle.

No! Don’t climb into the open dishwasher! Hahahahaha. (I swear to God the baby thinks he’s going to find the way to Narnia in that damn dishwasher. I couldn’t keep him out with a cattle prod. Not that I would try. I have no idea where to get a cattle prod.)

No! Don’t eat that bleach pen! Hysterical cackling.

So for the next six (four? eight? how long exactly does it take to go from cruiser to toddler?) months, I’m going to be spending a lot of time crawling around grabbing things from the baby and rearranging the interlocking foam floor squares over our kitchen floor. And just in case my baby CAN read, I’m being strategic in my rearranging.

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8 Months

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

So if month 1 is an exhausted blur, month 4 you start to get the hang of things, and month 6 is when you can start buying them all the good toys, month 8 of baby care is when you no longer remember what sitting down feels like. In the past 24 hours, Baby Evan has:

– Eaten a piece of yarn
– Fell on the cat
– Pulled the recycling can over on top of himself
– Dumped all the dog food out of the bowl
– Ripped up a roll of wrapping paper
– Fallen on his head at least four times
– Hit himself in the face with the baby swing
– Hit me in the face with a baby hammer
– Pinched his hands under the rocking chair
– Tried to put a knitting needle through his ear
– Climbed onto the bottom shelf of the changing table and threw everything on it on the floor

And all of that was before E got home from work. At 2 pm. I picked the wrong month to (re)give up Diet Coke…unless I’m planning to replace it with speed. Or maybe breastmilk, because apparently it makes you super strong – the better to hit you in the face my dear – and super fast – the better to escape the confines of the baby gate. This afternoon while I was unloading the car Baby Evan actually managed to push the back door open a couple inches and was seconds away from falling right out onto the (cement) back porch face first. As much as I DON’T love his sharp little baby teeth, I think it’s better if we keep them intact for at least a few more years. He may actually need them for eating something someday. Not now, or tomorrow, or probably next week, but some day. I mean, he can’t exclusively nurse forever, right? NO baby has ever survived entirely on breastmilk until kindergarten…right? RIGHT??

So besides the violent puking, thrashing, gagging and general crankiness regarding solid food (or really, anything besides milk straight from the boob – still no bottles, cups, spoons, shot glasses or straws either) let’s see how he’s hitting his 8 month milestones:

Mastered Skills (most kids can do):
• Says “mama” and “dada” to both parents (isn’t specific) – No, not really. We’ve both heard “dada” or “daddy” but nothing even close to mama, unless High Pitched Screeching Velociraptor Noise is what he plans to call me.
• Passes objects from hand to hand – Check.

Emerging Skills (half of kids can do):
• Stands while holding onto something – Lord does he ever, and he gets there on his own. The couch, the chair, the rocker, my leg, his play table, the baby gate, the handle on the stove, the dishwasher, your mom. Anything.
• Crawls – He finally got the hang of real crawling, which means my plan to tape a Swiffer cloth to his stomach is out.
• Points at objects – Meh? He reaches, but there’s no actual finger pointing.
• Searches for hidden objects – Do immaginary objects count? He is totally convinced I am hiding something WONDERFUL and DELICIOUS under the rug and one of these days he is definitely going to find it.

Advanced Skills (a few kids can do):
• Pulls self to standing, cruises – See above for “pulls self up”. But he’s finally got the hang of cruising, although sometimes he forgets he has to move BOTH legs and unintentionally ends up doing a very impressive center split.
• Picks things up with thumb-finger pincer grasp – Then shoves them in his mouth, then throws up. Really awesome.
• Indicates wants with gestures – Not so much “gestures” as EAR-PIERCING SCREAMS. I took the disgusting car keys he was gnawing on away from him in Target yesterday and the noise he made sounded so much like the fire alarm he almost cleared the building. I hope he gets the hang of gestures soon.

Speaking of gestures, I’ve been meaning to watch that Baby Signs DVD my friend Amanda let me borrow and get started on making Baby Evan into a genius child. Or at least a child who understands the word “no” or “danger” or “for the love of GOD STOP PUTTING THAT IN YOUR MOUTH”. I felt a little silly signing to a baby that clearly didn’t understand the difference between actual sign language and crazy hand waving, but at this point I think I need to either really make an effort or just forget about it all together. I should at least teach him the sign for “nurse” – he’s GOT to understand that one at this point.

I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

On Tuesday I had my 6 months post-6 week postpartum lady doctor appointment (got that?) at 8:50 am.* Since I a)didn’t plan far enough ahead to ask someone to watch him and b)didn’t want to ask E to take a day off just for a 20 minute appointment (and also c)still can’t won’t don’t want to  leave an unfeedable and possibly separation anxiety suffering baby with anyone) I brought Baby Evan with me.

I didn’t really have a plan as far as how holding a baby during a pelvic exam was going to work, but I figured worse came to worst I could always just set him on the floor and slather him with Purell afterwards. The nurse who called me in for my height and weight seemed a little annoyed that I didn’t have a stroller but another nurse passing by volunteered to hold him. (Pet peeve of the day: when the nurse was taking my weight, she slid the little slidey things but didn’t wait for the bar to stop tipping before writing something down. Listen lady, five pounds may not mean much to you but it does to me!)

Once we got in the exam room I managed to put on the gown while holding Baby Evan in a chair with my foot. All those years of gymnastics and dance classes are finally paying off! But as soon as we settled down to wait the screaming started. The baby was having none of that room and wanted everyone in the building to know about it. It was COLD and BORING and OH SO LONELY and I was MEAN for taking him there!  You think listening to a crying baby in public is annoying? 99% of the time that kid’s mother is ten seconds away from whistling The Star-Spangled Banner and jumping on one leg while shoving a spoon through her eye in hopes the baby might think it’s funny and shut up.

Luckily, before I could start sticking tongue depressors up my nose my doctor came in and volunteered to have a nurse hold Baby Evan during the exam. When I explained he was only screaming because I was keeping him from getting the attention he knew he deserved, she said “Well, then let’s get him some” and whisked him off to reception. I tried to apologize for bringing my baby to my appointment but she brushed me off and said she had been a stay at home mom for years and had had many haircuts while holding a child in her lap.

When we were done and I decided it would be better not to “accidentally” leave my baby at the office for a few more hours, I discovered the decision might be out of my hands – they’d already hired him. Baby Evan was sitting in someone’s lap at the front desk greeting new patients with a “haaaaaiiiii” and trying to help by shoving insurance forms in his mouth and banging on a keyboard. I like to think he was protesting the high co-pays and ridiculous bureaucracy of health care today.

I realize the whole situation makes me kind of a jerk. Showing up with a baby, not being able to keep the baby quiet, passing the baby off on strangers who aren’t being paid to watch him…before I became a mother I would have been horrified to inconvenience anyone that much. But once you have kids you do all sorts of things you never thought you would (charting poop colors anyone? learning all the verses of Hush Little Baby? the mom-spit face cleaning rub?) and sometimes people are going to think you’re a jerk. It’s probably best to just acknowledge it.

*I am officially not pregnant (E: Uh,were we afraid you might be?) but my doctor says I can go ahead and start planning the next one. I said maybe when Baby Evan is a year old, she said if I didn’t refill my mini-pill it would be sooner than I wanted. I said don’t worry I’m still breastfeeding and she said she had a whole photo album full of second children who were conceived that way and she’d see me in a few months.



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