Motherhood is so unpredictable, and rewarding, and frustrating. If I could go back to my pregnant self and tell her one thing, it’d be to talk to my husband more about our parenting style. Oh, we talked about it vaguely: “”You’ll help me out, right?” “Of course! I want to be involved in our daughter’s life.” But that doesn’t even brush the surface of the number of parenting decisions we have to make each day.
The biggest one we should have talked about: “cry it out” or not? I say not. I say that an infant has no concept of how to manipulate people; if she’s crying and we pick her up and soothe her, we’re fulfilling her basic, primal need for love and social interaction. Sure, this results in me carrying her around the house a lot, but to me, it’s a hell of a lot better than listening to her cry. I can’t even fathom how I could decide “I’m tired of taking care of my baby” and go put the baby in another room, close the door, and go about my daily life without her. It’s just not who I am. Yes, there have been times when she’s been crying so long and loud that all I want is for her to shut the hell up and go to sleep, but I also feel like, as her mother, it’s my responsibility to at least let her know that she’s being heard, and I’m not going to abandon her just because she’s upset. I know it works for some people, and that’s fine, that’s their thing. I know not everyone can handle listening to a baby cry. I know it can pierce your brain and make you think of doing things that you’d never actually do. And I know that in an apartment, where there’s not a lot of space and you can’t really have a quiet area to “escape” to for a break from the crying, it can be even worse. But this is something we should have talked about and hashed out a lot more, because it’s lead to some resentment on both of our parts.
Another big thing to talk about: co-sleeping. I’m okay with Maia not being in bed with us all night; it wasn’t something that I’d planned on doing anyhow, and when Chris and I discussed how having her in the bed was impacting our sleep (which was already impacted enough with the sheer fact that we have a newborn), I was alright with compromising and putting her in the bassinet for most of the night. I still am. And I still pull her into bed whenever she wakes up for the first time after 5am, so when I wake up for the day, she’s right there. I like to sleep with a comforter on no matter what the temperature is, and I like my comforter all the way up around my neck, so it can be a little scary for me because I worry about accidentally covering her with it. But honestly, waking up and having her right there is so, so perfect. I wonder what we’re going to do when she outgrows the bassinet (and at the rate she’s growing, it’s going to be sooner than expected). I hate the idea of her sleeping in another room. Maybe I’ll live in the nursery until she is sleeping through the night or only waking for one nighttime feeding.
Which leads me to a third thing: nighttime feedings. On weeks when Chris is off work, since we’re all in the same room together, I just feed her while sitting up next to him, but I feel kind of funny if she goes into loud suck mode because it could be disturbing his sleep. There’s been at least one time where he’s gotten up out of bed and went into the nursery to sleep because she was just too damned slurpy. Now, I’ve also pumped a few times and stored some milk in the freezer, but how on earth anyone feeds their baby that way is beyond me. By the time the milk has warmed to the proper temperature (even if it’s just been in the fridge), Maia’s so wound up about the fact that she isn’t being fed that there is no way she’ll take the bottle. I have to put her on my breast, let her calm down, then de-latch her and give her the bottle. And frankly, if she’s already nursing, I don’t really see a reason to de-latch, but then the milk in the bottle is being wasted (everything I’ve read suggests NOT reheating milk more than twice). But when I leave her with family to be watched, I have to leave a bottle; are they supposed to randomly heat it and try to feed her? She feeds on-demand.
Then there are the little decisions: how often to bathe her? who bathes her? how often to change her onesie? should she be wearing long sleeves or short? what about pants? socks? how full do we let the baby laundry get before we do it? do you powder her rump every time you change her or just randomly? should we hold her over our shoulder or in front of our chests? when she falls asleep being carried, do we set her in the swing, on the couch, in the crib, in the bassinet, or just continue to hold her? do we swaddle her? do we put a blanket over her? do we turn on the music on the swing? will she stay calm enough for me to do some dishes if I put her in her bouncy chair? should I turn on the music and lights display on the bouncy chair right away, or save it for when she gets a little fussy in the hopes that it’ll calm her down?
Gahhh. Ten thousand questions, and you can never have one set answer to them, you have to adapt on the spot. It’s exhausting!
Today you turn two months old and, just like last month, I’m stuck between amazement at how time has flown by and disbelief that it’s only been that long. This morning as we laid in bed together, I rested my hand on my stomach and remembered being pregnant, feeling you kicking and pushing — but I couldn’t think of what it was that I did all day without you around. Then I tried to remember life before the pregnancy, and it came to me in bits and pieces: a vacation to Florida, a trip to Connecticut, taking pictures with Daddy in Montreal, or bringing home the puppies. These memories seemed more like remnants of a dream than anything that ever happened to me, as if I only drew breath when you did.
Despite our love for you, there’s no denying that this month has been difficult. You’ve grown more aware and responsive, but at the same time, you’re very demanding. I’m surprised there’s not a path worn in our flooring from how many hours Daddy and I have spent carrying you back and forth around the apartment, shushing you, trying to make you happy. There was one night where you cried for four hours straight — and of course this was quite late, when Daddy had to work the next day. But you know what? As soon as he came out to help us, you fell asleep in his arms.
This month, you two have become something like best friends. We joke that you’re Queen Maia, he’s Prince Daddy, and I’m Mommy the Milkmaid. There have literally been times when you two are together, I’ve walked over to say hello, you’ve taken one look at me, and started to wail. Fortunately, I have a sense of humour about this, or else you might just hurt my feelings. Although that said, he did scare you the other day. He was raising you up in the air, over his head, and you loved this, so he thought that maybe you’d like to be lowered as well; he pretended to drop you from his waist to his knees and you screamed, this frightened, high-pitched, endless wail. You were terrified. We felt horrible, and Daddy cuddled you close until you calmed down.
If there’s only one memory I could hold on to from this month, it would be seeing you smile for the first time. It was 5am and you decided that was a perfectly good time to wake up for awhile, so we went out into the living room together. I laid you down on the couch and played with you — and then, you beamed. Your mouth opened wide, the corners of it curled up, your dimple appeared, and your eyes wrinkled up with joy. Maia, you could wake me up every hour of the night, as long as you smile at me. I went and woke your Daddy up to let him know, but it took another week before you started smiling at him. Now, every morning, you are in a happy mood and you smile at us while “talking”. It makes starting the day so much easier!
For the last few days, you’ve been trying to laugh. This is hilarious, since it means you draw a big breath and then you squeal or yell, very loudly, while smiling. I know that within the next week or two you’ll start giving us those giggles that you so desperately are trying to find, and of course I’m more than willing to help you, and I’ve probably tickled you more in these few days than I have in the rest of your life.
You’re also “standing” a lot. Sometimes when we’re holding you, you stretch out your legs (we refer to this as “Legs of Steel”) and push off us. We’ll swing you backwards and pull you back up, but that’s not always enough, and you want to be held straight up so you can put all your weight on your feet. Then you straighten your back, hold your head up, and talk to us. You’re only eight weeks old, Maia! Stop trying to grow up so fast.
Every day with you is different from the one before. Sometimes you’ll nap all day, sometimes you’ll be awake for ten hours in a row. Sometimes you are incredibly happy, sometimes you cry no matter what we do. Sometimes you’re interested in us, sometimes you want to look at toys instead. We can’t predict you, and as frustrating as it can be to have to think outside of the box, I love that you expand our horizons. People say they start to think differently when they have a child, and I understand that now. It’s not just that I have to think about how to take care of someone else, or how the world will impact you, but I have to find new ways of looking at situations. I have to try and think like a baby, and that’s difficult with twenty-six years of life experience. But it’s amazing.
We are so in love with you, baby girl. Even when you wear us out.
Sometimes it just hits me square in the chest how much I love my little girl. Today it was as she nursed and laid there gazing up at me with her huge, dark eyes, and I sat watching her. Her eyes closed, slowly, and she drifted into sleep, still sucking now and then; when she released the latch, her lips were bright pink and still pursed, slightly parted, and it was all I could do not to lean down and smooch them, so I brushed her hair back from her ear instead… and she smiled.
Moments like that are so precious.
I made the decision to start pumping… sometime soon. Not that I want to switch to bottle-feeding exclusively, but Chris would like to be able to feed her (as would I), and I’d like to feel as though we can leave her with family for a few hours without worrying about a feeding crisis. Also, since we’re going to be travelling to Connecticut in the summer, being able to bottle feed may let us avoid some crying fits between rest stations.
I love the idea of my girl lying in my family’s arms, feeding from the bottle, giving them that same bright-eyed, adoring look that I am so blessed to receive daily.
And then they might just be privileged enough to receive the ear-piercing scream she gives off just when you think she’s actually going to sleep this time. HAH!
It’s all supposed to get easier after 6 weeks, right? I’m pretty sure that’s because after 6 weeks, your life has been so utterly consumed by the here-and-now of having a new baby that you’ve completely forgotten what it’s like to live any other way, and it only seems “easier” because of that. My mom laughed at the concept of 6 weeks and said “It gets easier after two years!”
Something that makes me sad is the fact that if I were in the US, my maternity leave would be ending. I can’t imagine leaving Maia with a sitter right now — hell, I miss her when she’s just in the other room with her daddy.
Chris talked to MJ, his mother, the other day about how Maia is sleeping in the bed, and now is on a mission to get her back in the bassinet. I told him I’m willing to compromise — we’ll put her down in the bassinet at the beginning of the night, but if she wakes up at some ungodly hour and refuses to sleep again in the bassinet, I’m putting her in the bed. He said she needed to stay in the bassinet. I said “Then you get to take care of her if she won’t lie down, and I’m going to sleep.”
So that night, we lay her in the bassinet for the night and she sleeps, then she’s up at 2:30 for a feeding. I feed her, she falls asleep easily, I put her in the bassinet and she sleeps. She’s up at 4:30, but after nursing and changing, she’s wide awake and doesn’t want to go back to sleep. For an hour, I stay up with her in the dark and calm her down; she starts settling, closes her eyes, and her limbs go limp against me. I try to set her down in the bassinet — she cries. Another ten minutes of soothing, she sleeps; I put her down, she fusses. Another ten minutes. Same thing. So I wake Chris up and say “Guess what, it’s your turn, she won’t sleep in the bassinet for me.”
Now, I could easily have solved this by putting her in the bed with us and letting her sleep there, but the point of this was to make him understand that when it comes to Maia, right now, I KNOW BETTER THAN HE DOES. “She’s not crying,” he says. “She will,” I say, “and so you should grab her and calm her now before she upsets herself too much.” “No, she’ll soothe herself back to sleep,” he says.
A few minutes of fussing later, she starts crying (and I smile). Chris takes her and walks out of the bedroom, and I see a light go on. Whatever, I fall back asleep. I wake up when I hear her cry again, and I decide to go check on them. Chris has all the lights on and is watching television. When I ask him what he’s doing, he gets pissed off and says he’s obviously taking care of her. I said he should obviously be trying to soothe her back into sleep instead of stimulating her with all these lights and sounds. He replies something very nasty that I won’t type here, but it makes me decide that he deserves whatever the fuck he’s doing to himself, and I go back to bed.
Two hours later (I’m impressed at this length of time) he comes into the bedroom and wakes me up. “She’s been awake the whole time,” he says, “you need to feed her, I’m done.”
So I laid her down between us in the bed and nursed her. It was 7:45am at that time. When we woke up, it was 11:30am.
And when she woke up in the middle of the night last night to feed, I took her out of the bassinet, laid her between us, nursed her, and we slept like that. He hasn’t said a word about it.
Because, yes, I know best.
Every baby develops at their own rate.
Maia hasn’t smiled at me (or anything) yet and it’s driving me crazy waiting on it to happen. I just want to feel rewarded for all this. I want to know she recognizes me socially. I want to see her dimple.
But she does sometimes respond vocally when we talk to her, which always thrills me!
PS: I so love her hair.
I write blog posts in my head all day long. Unfortunately, since I’m usually dealing with Maia, they don’t get typed up. Typing with one hand while I hold her in the other is possible, but definitely not comfortable. Still, since she’s napping, here are a few of the things that have been going through my head lately:
– I wish I had a baby sling as well as my Baby Bjorn carrier. I love the Bjorn for short walks (doing laundry, taking the dogs out), but when she is extremely fussy and I just want to hold her against me, or when I want to eat and she wants to be held, I think a sling would be a better option.
– Where are all my burp cloths going? We have like six, and half the time I can only find the one that’s slung over the arm of the glider.
– As much as I love her, sometimes I just don’t want to hold her. Angry, flailing arms and legs pounding against me don’t hurt, but fuck, sometimes I just don’t want to be touched. When she’s been pissy for an hour and a half, randomly sc reaming in my ear, and I’ve been getting a workout trying to soothe her, it feels like a personal attack when her fist hits my throat. I know it isn’t, I know she has little to no control of her limbs, but I have to remind myself of that when my nerves are raw.
– There are still a few things about the birth that I want to write about, before I forget.
– She and Chris are bonding quite well. She’ll squirm when he tickles her, she is happy when she manages to grab onto his goatee, he can sing to her and she’ll settle (my singing does not seem to do this) — in fact, hilariously, he was singing the “whoooooa-oooo-ooo-ooo-ooo” from NKOTB’s “Hangin’ Tough” to her the other day and she was fascinated.
– This is tough. Being a mom is the hardest thing I have ever tried to do, and while I know I couldn’t do any better at it than I already am, sometimes I feel inadequate. When my back hurts from carrying her around, I feel like I should be physically stronger. When I take an ibuprofen because taking care of her gives me a headache, I feel like I am a loser for taking that drug. I know that taking care of myself is just as important as taking care of her, but it’s still hard at times.
– I love her so damned much. Especially since her gassiness is settling down (and when it flares up, Little Tummys drops really help)!
Maia’s been back to her normal quiet, happy self today. We’ve gone for a few walks and she’s taken a few naps. There were some errands that needed to be run this evening, so I left her with Chris (they were snuggling, and quite content to be with one another) and went out. When I got home at 7pm, they were asleep; they’re still asleep right now. AND I MISS HER. It’s totally quiet in the house right now so that as soon as she starts fussing around and being hungry, I can hear her and respond.
If I were smart I’d be napping right now, but it feels kind of nice to have some time to myself. Maybe a shower is in order!
Yesterday was the longest day of my life. Maia woke up at 8:30am and slept only for half an hour between then and 11:30pm, because she had brutal gas and just could not settle down. This also meant that she was in my arms all day long for comfort, and although I managed to squeeze in a few quiet minutes with her in her swing, bouncy chair, or in Daddy’s arms, for the most part I was lugging around my baby all day. Not such a bad thing in general, but a bit tougher when she’s screaming in my ear randomly. Physically, I was exhausted; mentally and emotionally, I felt worn out and abused. It’s so goddamned hard to see her in pain and not be able to do anything about it.
We’ve tried KOLIK brand gripe water — it doesn’t really work for her. Our midwife suggested some homeopathic remedy to give her “in case of a crisis” (which yesterday certainly qualified as), but we haven’t picked it up yet and I can’t tell you what it is because it’s written on a piece of paper in Chris’ wallet. We may try Mylicon or some other thing as well, because honestly, by the end of the day our nerves were so damned frazzled — Chris swore off ever having another child! — and I’ve never had to be so patient in my life (welcome to motherhood?). Massage techniques like running my hands down her bare belly repetitively, pumping her legs up to her stomach, and rubbing her tummy in circles would work well for a few minutes, but once they calmed her down and I picked her back up, she’d eventually get agitated again. Fortunately though, once she did fall asleep around 11:30pm, she was OUT for 5 hours, until Chris came to kiss us goodbye on his way to work.
Today is Chris’ first day back at work after his month of parental leave (which the government still has not paid him for at all… wtf?). So far, Maia’s been her NORMAL peaceful self, sleeping in until 11am. When she woke up, I put her in the Bjorn and we took the dogs out together, and she fell back asleep in it, and she’s sleeping in there now as I type this up. I swear this thing is a miracle worker (I tried it yesterday — she fell asleep and ten minutes later woke up crying from gassiness).
I had a dream last night that took place back in high school. And while it was surprisingly fun, at one point I saw someone with a baby and I got panicky: where’s Maia? I kept saying it over and over in my dream, growing increasingly hysterical, until finally I woke up — to see her lying there beside me, and I calmed down.
There are so many ups and downs involved in all this parenting stuff. Everyone says the first 6 weeks are the toughest with a newborn, and we’re through 4 of them. Really, if her digestive system would just hurry up and finish maturing, we’d be happy 100% of the time!
Today you turn one month old, and I can’t believe you’ve only been here four weeks. It feels like you’ve always been a part of our life, as if we’ve known you forever; I really don’t remember what things were like when we didn’t have you here. And yet I still feel as if the past month has flown by, as if I just held you in my arms for the first time yesterday.
You’ve grown so much in the past month. Physically, you’re 10 lb and 13 oz already, which means you’ve put on a little more than 2 lbs since birth. You can hold your head up at a 45 degree angle when we give you tummy time, and you’ve even supported your head by itself when we hold you sitting up on our laps. You love to stare at the television anytime you can and will even swivel your head to watch it — so I’ve taken to turning off the television if you’re going to be facing it, and I’ll just read or look at you instead. You are so easy to watch; time passes in a daze when I sit and look at you.
Mentally, you are more aware of your surroundings. You are so interested in everything — except, it seems, the chihuahuas. They walk up to you and sniff you, and you look at everything other than them. This is okay, I figure, since soon enough you’ll learn how to grab at them (particularly their soft ears and long tails), and then I’ll have to teach you how to treat animals with love and kindness.
You have a very easy-going personality so far. You love to be held, but sometimes we can put you in your bouncy chair or swing and you’ll be happy just resting there. Funny enough, the harder we push the swing, the happier you are in it; I think this means that you will love to ride roller coasters with me while your daddy waits for us. You love car rides as well, even though you hate when we put you into your carseat when you’re awake… then we swing the carseat back and forth, and you calm right down.
Yesterday afternoon, you and I were laying on the couch to take a nap, but I wasn’t quite asleep. I was watching you. As usual, your face flickered with all of your beautiful expressions — the dimpled smile, the angry old man frown, the gassy furrowed brow, the angelic pursed and slightly parted lips that is probably your kissy face (and you are never allowed to make at a boy). And then you giggled. We had never heard that sound from you before, and when I looked up at your daddy he had a huge smile on his face to match my own. Then you giggled again! Daddy and I started to laugh with one another. I can’t wait until you start giggling regularly. The whole household will be filled with such joy.
Everyone in the family adores you, and you seem to enjoy visiting places. Sometimes you are hungry and it seems like you spend the entire visit feeding, but sometimes you are wide awake, being passed between people, and you seem happy to look at these new faces or even fall asleep against these new chests. I have to admit that after awhile I really want you back in my arms and I miss you, even when you are just a few feet away being held by someone else. Still, with you around, daddy and I are very excited about family get-togethers now.
You are an amazing little girl, and we are so delighted to have you in our life. I’ve never seen your daddy smile so much, and I’ve never been more in love with him. I didn’t know that bringing a baby into our world would make everything seem so much brighter. We love you desperately, and watching you grow up is going to be a blessing.
Happy one month birthday, Maia.
Maia enjoys her bathtime, as long as we get the water warm enough. She’ll just sit there and look around, totally relaxed; we can even spray her body and legs with the shower head (it’s hand-held!) This makes bathtime stress-free for everyone, which I greatly appreciate.
And then afterwards, she’ll snuggle with Daddy while wrapped in her ducky towel from Babcia: