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

Friday, November 6, 2015

Baby Lessons: 1 Month Down

So here we are: we survived the first month!  Not only that, but I also survived two weeks of being home "alone" with the baby. (I use quotes since The Hubs works from his home/car, so he's home more than a typical office-working dad would be, but I still usually have at least 5-6 hours home alone with the kiddo.)
Barely fitting in his NB outfits now! (We use Yoda for scale.)

Lessons Learned:

1. I've seen the Jennifer Garner Capital One airline miles commercial about a million times in the last month--you know, the one with her walking around an airport talking while people complain about not being able to book a flight with their miles?  OK, here's the thing--WHO in the world goes TO an airport, walks up to a counter, & tries to buy a ticket with miles?  Or who even just tries to buy a ticket at the airport?  That shiz is booked weeks if not months in advance.  Anybody who tries to get anything at the airport should already know they're going to have to drop their life savings for a last minute flight--assuming you can even get on, since they overbook those things on the regular.  Sheesh.

2. On a more serious note--since I didn't really talk about this in the last post, we'll drop it here.  When you bring a baby home from the hospital, as a mom, you're not just responsible for taking care of a new human.  You're doing it while still recovering yourself.  My bathroom counter was covered in medical supplies for the first few weeks.  You've got pain meds and sitz baths to take and stitches that need to be cleansed and OH THE HEMORRHOIDS and you best be warming up that water before putting it in your peri bottle--nobody likes getting shot in the netheregions with cold H2O.  There's weird mesh underwear from the hospital and ginormous pads to deal with the fact that HEY YOU'RE STILL BLEEDING ON THE DAILY...and possibly don't exactly have the best control of your #1 and #2-makers yet.  This can be sort of overwhelming, and it's not something you really ever think about before having the baby.  It's a jarring new routine--especially if you're in the middle of trying to tend to yourself with a crying baby in the other room at 2am.  But it's still really important to remember to take care of yourself.  You need to heal--theoretically you'd probably like to be able to use those parts again without pain, amiright?  
My first few weeks arsenal: witch hazel, Dermoplast, hemorrhoid cream, irrigation bottle, Tylenol, Colace, lanolin (for the ta-tas), and Bio-Oil (for stretch marks--when I feel like/actually remember to use it).  Weird mesh undies & stockpile of gi-gundo pads are off-camera.  Oh..and then don't forget to brush your teeth.

DUDES: If there are any fellows/future dads reading this post, remember this bit.  Your amazing wife just pushed a human out of her hoo-ha, and is hurting. A lot.  And essentially playing doctor on herself while tending to that new human.  Since that part goes on behind the closed doors of the bathroom, husbands may be somewhat blissfully unaware. Here's a really great article with week by week breakdowns of recovery in medical terms--I had my husband read it before the baby came so we'd both know what to expect.  Be aware, dudes, and love on your wife a little extra during the first few weeks.

3. If you have a pet, once the initial awkwardness/curiosity wears off, prepare for your fur-baby to start demanding attention.  If the baby is not in my lap, the Pugster is.  No matter where we go, he MUST be under foot.  He's also started wanting to play more--which is a little odd for our normally lazy 6 year old, but hey, it gets him solo time with one of us which makes him happy.
Like, LITERALLY under foot.

4.  When baby starts getting fussy, the exercise ball is my new BFF.  We bounce and bounce and bounce and bounce and bounce and bounce... and he instantly stops fussing, & sometimes even conks out.  Let's just say my abs should be rock hard in about 6 weeks.  However, it helps to have a lot of options in your arsenal (because you simply cannot bounce on a ball for 8 hours straight--your spine will fall out).  Some days, he LURVES the swing, some days, the bouncer keeps him content.  Other days/times during the day, he's just not having any of it and MUST be held.  Some times he's totally cool with just chilling in his crib or Pack & Play, staring at a mirror or his mobile--other times he'll start fussing approx. 10 seconds after being laid down.  

5. If you started a reading challenge at the beginning of the year, be prepared to finish out the challenge reading children's books.  Totally counts. (Jimmy Fallon's "Your Baby's 1st Word Will Be Dada" was published in 2015, in case you need a book to hit that "published this year" criteria, too.)

6. Babies are ever evolving--just when you think you've got some sort of routine figured out, be prepared for it to change.  We got to deal with daylight savings time last week (prior to which we didn't need a blackout curtain because his room was dark until 8:30a)...and then, of course right after we got used to our nighttime feeding schedule (10:30 dream feed, then 1:30am & 5am), he managed to sneak in a 5 hour chunk of sleep on me...which, as a new mom, of course caused me to freak out since all the websites say "ZOMG DON'T LET YOUR NEWBORN GO MORE THAN 4 HOURS WITHOUT EATING".  But they're SUPPOSED to shift their schedules around 1 month, because they've gotten more efficient at eating and can go to about 7-9 feedings a day instead of 8-10.  But freak out (even though you should just be stoked that you got to sleep for 5 hours straight for the first time in a month).  You wake up and look at your baby feeding app (because hey, there's an app for that), realize it says your baby hasn't eaten in 5 hours, and hasn't made a peep, and you immediately think "OMG HE'S DEAD".
Sleeping.  Not dead.  About half the photos on my phone are of him sleeping.

7.  You think "OMG HE'S DEAD" a LOT.  He gets slightly sweaty--you're convinced he's sick & has a temperature (even though you've been holding him while he naps for the last 30 minutes, which is a far more logical reason for why he's sweaty).  He spits up a bunch and then immediately conks out in his swing after you wipe his mouth--you assume he's choked to death on his spittle and have to make sure he's breathing.  You haven't heard him coo or squirm in his crib in a while?  You turn on the video monitor & zoom in to make sure he's breathing...but the resolution isn't that great so you still get up, creep into his room, and make sure he's breathing.  He sleeps all the time?  You wonder if he's sick, even though you KNOW newborns sleep up to 18 hours a day.  You won't shower unless your husband is home because you want to make sure someone is watching him because HE COULD STOP BREATHING.  He falls asleep in his car seat (which is directly behind you in the car, so you can't turn around & check on him)...yeah, you get the idea.

8.  You discover that he only likes his car seat when it's moving.  Which makes drive thru lanes & standstill traffic highly stressful--particularly after that first time you had to wait in line at Walgreens and he started screaming like you were trying to kill him, while the lady in the next car over glared at you like you're the worst human ever and the piece o'crap pharmacy assistant hassles you for not having an insurance card for your 3 week old son yet. (OMG JUST GIVE ME THE STUPID PRESCRIPTION ALREADY I WILL PAY FULL PRICE I JUST NEED TO GET THIS CAR MOVING RIGHTNOW!!!)

"Keep this thing movin', Mom..."

9.  Algebra will come in handy, if you're planning to continue pumping/breastfeeding after you go back to work:  If I have 28 oz of pumped milk in the freezer, and 2 months before I go back to work, and I pump 1 time/day every day for the rest of my leave, how much milk will I have saved up when I go back?  If a 3 month old baby eats about 25 oz of milk a day, and I have to supply expressed milk for feedings between 8am-6pm 5 days a week for 3 months, how much milk is that?  If I pump 2x a day after going back to work, will that be enough in addition to what I pump during leave to make it to my 6 month old goal?

10.  We've discovered the "Period of Purple Crying".  Some days are better than others.  His fussiness always comes in the evenings--which is nice, because it means both mom & dad are home to take turns.  It's probably also exacerbated by the fact that we don't really have a set napping routine yet.  Sad, I know--up to this point we've just been letting him nap in our laps, in his bouncer, in his swing, in his Pack & Play...pretty much anywhere but his crib, and never swaddled.  Just wherever & whenever he passes out. Some days he sleeps all day, others he only gets a couple small naps and then screams all evening.  Hey--I'm learning here--don't judge.  Because...well... my kid can only interact with me on a limited basis (mostly just staring at my face) and only smiles as a reflex, so it already feels like he's constantly judging me.  
"You don't have me on a routine yet, lady?  You kind of suck at this.  I'm totes gonna be scarred for life."

11.  At least once or twice, you consider cutting your maternity leave short & just going back to work early.  Because hey--you KNOW how to do your job, whereas being a mom is still foreign territory.  I can juggle 25 long term projects, but I can still barely manage to hold my bobble-headed son with one arm.  But, you'll tough it out, because you know the time is actually zooming by, and in 2 months, you'll be back at work wishing you could be at home with your cutie-patootie kiddo.
These are good moments.

Previous Adventures:
Birth Story
3 Weeks

Related Adventures:
Mom Guilt Edition
Working Mom Edition
Things That Suck
Traveling For The Holidays
Living In The Moment