Wednesday, November 18, 2015

More Lessons Learned: Up to Week 6!

I could probably just post one of these a day.  But for the sake of providing a decent amount of content per post, we'll just save them up here & post periodically.  Because it's a little too much for a Tweet, not enough for it's own article.

**For the record, I love my kid.  I love his squishy cheeks and kissing his face and snuggling with him, and staring intently at him while he tests out all his different expressions.  I love his smell, love how he throws up his arms when he's napping like he's dreaming about riding a rollercoaster, and laugh every time he farts.  But I don't always have to LIKE him.
"Whaddya mean you don't 'like' me???"

1.  Maternity leave:  Some people take 6 weeks. Some take 8.  Some take 12.  I took 12, because friends told me "I'd be so glad I took 12" afterward.  I've decided the first 6 are absolutely necessary for the process of healing and getting a grasp on the most important role of a mom:  not accidentally killing your child.  But after those 6 weeks are up, you feel like you should be doing more than watching a baby sleep most of the day and watching TV.  So you do a LOT of Googling of "what to do with a newborn".  And there are whole REGIMENS of what to do with a newborn.  You learn that there's not only "tummy time" but "side time" and "back time" and "teaching your child to play at his midline".

And suddenly you feel less good about the fact that you've already started reading to your newborn and that you invented an awesome song for diaper changes (see Item 9).  You feel like less of a mom.  What, your 6 week old isn't trained to sleep in a crib for naps yet?  Shame on you.  Better get to work.  Maternity leave is for TEACHING THAT TINY IMPRESSIONABLE MIND--not so you can yell at the TV during The Price is Right and Deal or No Deal (see Item 2).  So you start implementing all these activities.  At Once.  And then you overstimulate your child.  SHAME ON YOU AGAIN.  *sigh*  Oh, you don't yet feel that glowy overwhelming motherly adoration of this tiny human who screams at you, who has you on a ration of one maybe-possibly-a-real-smile a day, and who seems to prefer to stare at the painting behind your head instead of gazing wondrously up into your eyes? (I get it, it's a beautiful painting, kid, but come on...)  Must be something wrong with you.  And you start to doubt whether this whole "mom" thing was a good idea.  You look forward to the day you get to take him to day care & go back to work?  SHAMEY MCSHAMERSON!

Seriously--there is a lot of guilt and confusion and indecision that goes into motherhood.  And I'm sure it doesn't stop after maternity leave ends.  I know it will get better.  I know that the first 3 months TOTALLY SUCK for 99.9% of parents.  I know that soon enough, my little man will be giving me real, true, honest to god smiles all the time, all day long, and I'll never truly regret giving up childlessness (even if I miss it from time to time). And maybe when it's actually time for me to go back to work, I'll be completely sad and heartbroken & not want to drop him off at day care.   But these are the trenches, my friends.

2.  We have eleventy-billion channels, and yet, I watch* the same things EVERY DAY:
7:30am-8:30 - TV belongs to The Hubs so he can watch CNBC (blarg).
8:30 - We see where Anthony Bourdain is visiting today! (hint: it's probably somewhere I won't be traveling to any time soon)
10am - The Price Is Right
11am - 2 reruns of How I Met Your Mother --then change the channel, because Gray's Anatomy is coming on (double blarg)
Noon - 3pm - Bones reruns
3pm-5pm - some combination of Game Show Network (Family Feud & Deal or No Deal) and the Food Network
5pm-7pm - usually American Pickers, though sometimes The Hubs is home by then & wants to watch CNBC again (really?)
OR...somedays it just stays on The Food Network.  Like All Day.  Even though I don't like Pioneer Woman and can't stand Barefoot Contessa (Seriously Ina Garten--NOBODY HAS TRUFFLE BUTTER IN THEIR FRIDGE) and Giada's mouth is SO FREAKING BIG.

* "watch" is a relative term.  I'm mostly feeding the baby, changing the baby, playing with the baby, and Googling things like "when does his soft spot go away" and "is it okay that my 6 week old still poops 5 times a day".  But it's on in the background.  I probably lose Mom Points for that too.

3.  Breastfeeding:  It goes well for some, not so well for others.  We are blessed that I have a good supply and he has a good latch and doesn't seem to have any aversions [yet] to any of the foods I eat (aside from that lactation cookie debacle a few weeks ago...oh, and the baby bean farts of course).  And it's FREE.  If we can make it to the magical 6 month mark, we'll have saved around $500 in formula.  BUT--"free" is never truly free, because with nursing comes this invisible "time-leash".  Either you a) have to have them with you, b) can only leave them for about 2 hours (at first--your leash does get a little longer once they can go 3 or 4 hours between feedings), or c) you have to pump & keep a stash in the fridge so someone else can feed them.  I never seem to go more than 45 minutes without looking at my Feed Baby app, because my world now revolves around Feeding The Baby.  Because of this, "alone time" is truly precious and limited.  I never thought going grocery shopping alone would be such a big reward.  Gone are the days of leisurely roaming the aisles of a store with no express time limit.  Now, it's "get in, get out, check to see how much time you have left, and maybe run another errand IF you have time."  I got to leave the house for 1.5 hours the other day to get a haircut and a coffee.  It was wonderful--even though I spent the entire time at the salon talking with my stylist about our kids.

It also makes it a challenge to meet up with other people.  For example, I got invited to lunch with my coworkers the other day, but since Baby J naps from 10-11:30am and then feeds from about 11:30-noon, that means I can't meet up with people during normal lunch time unless I'm feeding him at the same time (which I'm not quite comfortable with yet).  Or if I want to go on a walk with another mom, we have to determine when their awake times overlap to schedule it.

3a. If you are preggo & plan on nursing or are nursing now, I just have to say: I love these Wally-World tank tops.  I bought a ton of them in a size up from what I would normally wear while I was pregnant--they're soft, good quality, super stretchy, and come in tons of colors & patterns, at like $3 each.  Now, because they're so stretchy, they're great for nursing, and it's easy to throw a cardigan on over them when I leave the house.  And WAY cheaper than all the nursing tops out there.

4.  Napping:  In the first month, Baby J did nothing but eat, sleep, and mess his diapers.  He was awake MAYBE a few other hours of the day.  Now our little man is wanting to be awake more, so he can take in more of the world around him.  While I appreciate his zeal for learning...lil' dude needs to nap, both so he isn't a huge fussy-pants and so that Mommy & Daddy can get some schtuff done.  So we appear to be in a weird loop--one day he'll resist napping all day, scream all evening, and then crash at night.  Then the next day he sleeps ALL day, but doesn't sleep as soundly that night (making it harder to get him to go back down after feedings).  We've *sorta* started nap training, but it's tough at this age.  We'll swaddle him & put him down for a nap in his crib after his morning feed, and he conks out after a bit.  But trying the same thing in the afternoon?  Big fat nope--he hates the swaddle after noon, meaning naps are on our lap, in a swing, bouncer--whatever works.  Makes it tough to get things done.  Mornings have to be our productive time if only one of us is home.
"No...seriously...I'm not tired."

I know this "fussy in the evenings" thing is supposed to pass in a few weeks, but that doesn't make it any less rough in the moment.  Knowing something is "just a phase" doesn't make the pitiful wails any less heartbreaking.  And I love the websites that say "just make his bedtime 7pm so you miss out on the fussy period"...without offering any advice on how to make a baby that doesn't want to sleep go to sleep 3 hours earlier than they usually do.  Not helpful, internet!

5.  Seriously...the lack of freedom will sorta smack you in the face. I was warned about this, but you really have to experience it first hand to understand the magnitude.  A month ago, if we wanted to go out for dinner, we just...did it.  We walked out of the house, went to a restaurant, had a nice leisurely meal, then maybe went out for dessert, or caught a movie, or went bowling...whatever sounded fun.  Now, that same evening requires coordinating with a Grandma (or other sitter) to drive the 2 hours to our house (meaning we need to plan it out at least a week in advance).  We have to make sure there's pumped milk in the fridge, guesstimate if it's going to be enough (and typically try to feed right before we leave to maximize the time out of the house).  And then, once you're out, it takes a concerted effort to NOT talk about the baby the whole time--especially when one of you is doing nothing BUT taking care of the baby right now.

That being said: we have been getting out of the house & having adventures.  We started small, and took the baby to Taco Bell--so that if he had a meltdown we could pack up our food and dash.  He wailed for about 5 seconds, and then we were able to get him settled down.  Then we stepped it up & went to an actual sit-down restaurant for lunch (he slept in his carseat the whole time).  Then  I decided to participate in a "Coffee Crawl" fundraising event--visit 8 coffee bars within 8 days to get various free and half-price coffee deals-- in order to ensure that I would get out of the house (with or without the baby) every day that week.  I tied in other small other errands with my trips to the coffee shops--run to the mall & get my wedding rings inspected, stop by work & visit coworkers, run to the bank, stop by Harbor Freight & get batteries for his bouncer (CANNOT LET THE BOUNCER NOT BOUNCE), etc.  I'm sure those with kiddos are laughing at me right now, but it really does feel like an accomplishment to get out of the house with the baby--even though he pretty much just sleeps all the time right now.

6.  Baby cries send you into a weird Time Warp:  He may only have been crying for about 5 seconds, but it feels like 5 minutes...and 5 minutes feel like 5 hours.  If you're in public, you feel like everyone is staring & judging you as you frantically search the diaper bag for his pacifier (and of course it's the WRONG pacifier--any other picky paci babies out there?)  Actually, babies sort of live in a weird time warp.  Some moments seem to be going so fast--he's growing like a weed, is more & more expressive every day, and yet, in the moment, it feels like it will be FOREVER before he gets to his next milestone.  I know the time will zoom by & a year from now we'll look back at baby photos and say "I can't believe he was ever so small!"  But right now, all I can think is "how long until the Purple Crying in the evenings is over?  How long until he can support his own head?  How long until he can roll over on his own so we don't have to fight him into the swaddle every night/nap? How long until I can teach him baby sign language so he can tell me what he wants?  How long until he can drive & go to college?"  Most of our friends already have kids, which sort of exacerbates things...I see a friend's baby tottering around and saying "Book! Sit!  Read!) and get jealous because it will be a year or more before my kiddo is at that point.  Or I see a friend's 10 month old who is just learning to pull himself up and I think " kid is gonna be helpless FOR-EV-ER!"

7. Keep a journal.  Even if your entries are brief because you're crazy busy taking care of a newborn, at the end of the day, just jot down a few things about the day.  Most of my entries look like "Baby slept until 8am, pumped 4 oz, got out to get coffee, very fussy in the evening, down for bed at 9pm."  These are still important little notes.  Because now I can flip back to 10/11 and look at that entry where I mention that I baked lactation cookies and chuckle about how horrible those 4 days of gassiness in the evenings were while I was eating those & trying to figure out why he was in such a horrible mood (which was not at ALL funny at the time).  Or I can look back to see the first day he smiled at us.

I love this little notebook one of my coworkers gave me as a baby gift--it's a perfect journal!  And it's made from recycled elephant dung, which seems appropriate for journaling the activities of a being that ONLY eats, sleeps, & poops.

8.  A lot of friends recommended the E.A.S.Y. method for starting a routine for the baby (Eat, Awake, Sleep, You sleep when the baby sleeps).  Ours is a little more like "E.A.S." since I'm horrible at napping during the daytime, but it is coming along and working well for us:  He wakes up, eats, stays awake for about an hour, then naps either in his crib, the bouncer or the swing.  I know a lot of moms freak out about positional asphyxiation with the bouncers & swings, but since he's got pretty good neck control and since I'm not napping and usually watching him every few minutes, I'm okay with him napping there--plus our swing and bouncer both recline to where he's almost fully flat on his back.  However this week I did decide to start crib-training him, since he'll have to nap in a crib or pack & play at day care. Wish me luck--I (like all other mothers, I realize) am NO good at listening to my little one cry.  Yes, I know it's important in the long run & they'll never remember how much their momma let them cry when putting them down for a nap...but seriously, it's so heartbreaking.  Really, REALLY hard to not just run in there & snatch him up.  But I know that I need to establish a good napping routine for him, since for the last few days I've had to put him in the Moby wrap & carry him around to get him to take a late afternoon nap...which is a challenge when you're also trying to prep dinner. (In fact, I'm actually wearing him as I edit this entry.)
Achievement Unlocked: Babywearing Chef
FYI--I know I haven't posted a cooking entry here in forever, so here's this:  the dish that's cooking behind my son's head in the photo?  It's Cajun Black Bean Soup, from the lovely Genet's Raised on a Roux blog.

8a. If you're bad about napping like I am, that probably means you feel like you should be productive while he's sleeping.  I am here to say:  sure, go ahead, but be easy on yourself.  Make yourself a really short list of things that you want to get done, so that when you accomplish those things, you feel good about your day, and then anything beyond that is lagniappe.   For example, here's my typical list:
- Brush teeth & hair
- Express milk, wash pump parts & freeze milk
- Tummy time
+ 1 other baby activity (read a book, take a walk, etc)
+ 1 household chore (vacuum, laundry, dishes, etc.  Just pick one.)
+ 1 "me" activity (sit out on the deck, read a book, do some yoga stretches)

I'll typically get a few extra things done above & beyond this, but having such a short list makes the things I "HAVE" to get done easier so that I don't feel like a worthless lump at the end of the day.

9.  We MAYBE-POSSIBLY are getting real smiles out of our little man.   I was changing his diaper and singing our super awesome diaper changing song (We are a Boudreaux's Butt Paste household, so it's literally just the Batman theme song with the words "butt paste" instead of Batman), and he smiled.  And so I smiled back, and he smiled even bigger!  So I cooed at him and he smiled and flailed his arms and legs and cooed at me!  Aaaaand then his peepee teepee shifted and he peed all over me, himself, the changing pad, the mirror...

It's all about balance, right?
Real smiles or gas?  The world will never know.

Previous Adventures:
Birth Story
3 Weeks
Month 1
Mom Guilt Edition
Working Mom Edition
Things That Suck
Traveling For The Holidays
Living In The Moment

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