Monday, December 12, 2011

*tap tap* ahem. is this thing on?

anybody out there? anybody still reading? anybody care?

i love blogging, but my life does not love blogging. when faced with the choice to journal or to blog, i think i need to choose the journal. have i done it yet? no.

maybe i can do both. i'd like to do both. but i also like sleep, the occasional shower, talking to my husband, oh yeah and sleep, so i don't know.

blah blah blah. are you still around?

Monday, December 5, 2011

letters to my girl: month eight.

dear maggie,

what HAVEN'T you done this month?

let's see.

you cut two teeth, just in time for month-day.  those top ones took forever, but they're finally here--and a little bit before christmas, too!

you have learned to stand by yourself, though you're still pretty timid about it. every day you get braver and you stand up for longer.

you have learned how to climb up stairs. you just did it one day and never looked back. we do it a lot at night before you go to bed just to wear you out.

you have lengthened your naps (finally!) into a 2 nap schedule with one solid, decent 1.5 hour nap, in the mornings usually. mama is really happy about this one.

in the last week or so, you have learned to say "mama" and "dada" and know who you're talking about. actually, when you're talking to me, it's more like "MOM!"

you have dealt with some separation anxiety and some sleep stuff.  it's been a tired couple of months that have taught me a lot about prayer and listening to the Spirit. 

you have started eating solids three times a day. 

you are working really hard on your pincer grip--cheerios on your highchair tray now just seem to frustrate you, but with the bananas you know what to do.  it's definitely time for mom to vacuum more often.

you deeply dislike watching youtube videos of babies laughing. it scares the crap out of you, and it was the most scared i've seen you in AGES.  you were better when you were getting shots.  i get it. they sound a little like hysterical hyenas.  but wow. 

you are so much more social. over the past month, i've seen you sort of turn and start to look at the world around you.  you are interested in babies at church--when they are playing somewhere, you want to be there, even if it means you get poked in the eye. you're sort of fearless (though apt to protest) and i think that's amazing.

you really love peaches. 

i am having much more fun with you than i used to, since we can actually play.  you know what a ball is, what a box is, what a book is, and you seem to know what "go go go!" means. 

you can drink out of mommy's water bottle like it's no big deal.

you are a hoot, maggie, and i love you. i wish that you would get this sleep stuff worked out, but as i watch you every day get a little bit stronger and a little bit smarter and understand more about the world around you, i know that it must just be that brain on overload.  one day we'll get it figured out. 

in the meantime, know that you are the best kid i know.  i love your little personality. already, i see loyalty, love, an easygoing nature, a sense of humor, a playful streak, stubbornness, and a bit of a mischievous desire for exploration.  when you start walking, i'm in big trouble.

but i can't wait.


Friday, December 2, 2011

to the mamas.

an open letter to the mamas of the world:

i'm going to mention a few things here that are sure to get some google hits: 4 month sleep regression. 9 month sleep regression. my baby won't sleep in her crib. my baby wakes up more now. why won't my baby sleep?

if you got here that way, let me just say one thing: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. you feel very, very alone right now. you feel scared that something's wrong, that you're not doing the right thing by your baby. you have probably heard a lot about cry it out and self-soothing, about raising your baby to be an independent sleeper and about healthy sleep habits making a healthy child. you've probably heard something about "ferberizing" your child, as if a name could become a verb, and you don't know what to do because your suddenly good/so-so/crappy sleeper has now just taken a wicked turn for the worse. you're bleary eyed. you're confused. if you're like me, you may feel a bit claustrophobic every once in a while from the sheer weight of the need of your baby right now. 

let me repeat this and please hear me. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

you look around at the world, and you seem to see moms who have it all together. they smile about their babies, spouting little anecdotes about new skills: pulling up, bouncing, rolling over, cooing. there's talk of "mama" and "dada" and eating the heck out of a rubber giraffe.  there's solid foods talk and maybe even facebook photo albums of smiling happy babies who are covered in banana goo.

yeah. that's reality.

but nobody talks about the other reality--the reality where moms everywhere are stumbling down the hallways of america to find babies up on hands and knees or standing in cribs, crying for no apparent reason but desperate for mom to come in and save them. nobody posts pictures of mom's ratty hair and schlumpy pajamas in the morning after a night full of repeated wake-ups. nobody coos lovingly about the double-edged sword of mama attachment--that when they wake up, they want you there.

why don't they?

i think because we all thing we're doing it wrong. we all think this isn't normal. no matter how many sleep books we read or how many parents we talk to, we have been engrained with the idea that we're doing it wrong. that there's something to fix. that the way these babies are behaving is inappropriate.

i've only been doing this for a little while now, but i'm inclined to think those attitudes are wrong. 

babies are babies. they're not manipulating you. they have needs.  it may really, really suck that those needs include you being violently sucked from a REM cycle every 2 hours for two weeks while they work on a new skill, and the irony of waking up every few hours to check on them even when they DON'T cry out desperately for you isn't lost on you, but i don't think these things are wrong.

people will disagree with me. people will say that babies are meant to sleep 12 hours a night.  i would say, yes, they are.  but i am not sure that it's good--for us or for them--to expect them to do it consistently, continuously, and like a machine as little ones. 

do they need to learn to put themselves back to sleep? sure. has your baby ever slept a long stretch of time through the night? my guess is, if you're this frustrated, s/he has. 

guess what?

your baby knows how to put him or herself back to sleep. otherwise, you'd be hearing from him/ her every 45 minutes all night long.

check that one off of your mental guilt trip list and move on. that's not the problem.

the problem, if you're like me, is that THERE IS NO GOOD ANSWER.  there is no good answer and instead of supporting each other in the mayhem that can be nighttime parenting, we keep our struggles a secret and we don't talk about them at all for fear that we are seen as either bad parents or complaining parents. 

you are neither. you are human, doing the best you can in tremendously challenging circumstances.  you are not alone.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

knowing that, i hope, will help you feel like it's not you, failing your baby hugely in some way that you can't understand. it's not you.  it's the baby.  it's not that the baby's broken--it's that the baby's GROWING. mama, you're doing everything right.  you know why? because your baby is just growing like crazy and that little brain can't sit still long enough to let the body rest. too many things to see/do/explore/learn.

mama, you're growing a healthy kid.

you may not feel like it. you may feel like your kid is stuck in some sort of horrible rut wherein no act of Congress, no act of God, no act of anything can get that baby to sleep for more than 4 hours at a time (or, in my case, 2 hours at a time) in the crib.

at this point in the developmental circus, you may actually be right.

but listen.


what do you think you should do?

we don't talk about this. we don't talk about the instincts. we don't talk about how we know what to do. we don't talk about how the little voice in our head always whispers quietly what we should do, bringing peace to our homes and hearts as we listen. instead, we desperately google for answers. we desperately look for peace outside, in the words of an "expert" or in the experience of another mom.


you'll know what to do.

and when you don't--just do the best you can. do what seems like the best for everyone.  and pray.  pray hard. pray often. pray always.

not just for baby and sleep and all the things you desperately want (a shower more often than every 3 days, perhaps?), but for yourself. for strength. for grace. for gentleness with yourself.

if you love that baby enough to be this worried, this upset, this stressed out about sleep, you are loving and growing that baby well.  hang on.  HANG ON.

this too shall pass.

in the meantime, know that i, too, am just doing my best. i am sleeping with my baby to get her to rest. i am hugging her lots during the day and trying to pump her full of food and trying to get her to wear herself out with crawling and pushing and pulling up and doing all sorts of fun, energetic things. i'm trying to help her learn by taking her out in the world. 

i am trying.

that's all we can do, mamas. that's all we can do. 

hang on and hold tight.  pray hard and do your best. 

they'll be teenagers before you know it, and you'll never be able to wake them up.  and the irony will hit you even stronger then.  or the memory of this time will fade in favor of gummy, drooly smiles, first words, and first steps. 

hang on.  hold tight.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

grace in the quiet and in the din.

maggie is teething.  two massively huge front top teeth.

it's been tough on all of us, though i certainly can't suggest that it's been any harder on anyone else than her. except for the fact that she gets a lot more sleep than anyone else in this house, but she also doubles her height every year, so there you go. i'm not doing that anymore. that takes energy. so does learning to stand on her own and make sounds that seem like words.

the past few nights, she wakes up a few hours into her night (around the time when we're going to bed) and refuses to sleep in her crib again. she's whining and whimpering and crying in her sleep as we hold her--she's clearly in pain.  meds don't really seem to help much, so we've just stopped because it seemed like she's been getting them for too long and maybe needed a break.

so last night, though resigned to the co-sleeping deal that keeps both of us asleep for more than just an hour or so, i asked brent if he could give her a blessing.  this is a girl who likes her sleep and actually likes her crib.  her sleep has been crazy since the teeth started again and since the crawling and exponential skill development started in earnest and since who knows what all has started, but this is on a whole other level.

so he did. and as he did, he told her that the angels would come and comfort her.  when he said that, a thought came clearly to my mind: "YOU are one of those angels."

i'd been praying earlier about what to do, about whether or not letting her sleep with me was the right thing to do. i don't want to create a monster, a pattern that makes her less apt to sleep on her own.  so as i was holding her, torn and wondering what to do, praying out loud as she slept, surprisingly restfully in my arms, earlier that night, i felt totally unclear about what to do. i had this cacophony of voices in my head: "as long as you don't make it a habit, that works i guess" was one voice, along with every thing i'd read about being consistent and everything else that the experts a few of us moms have accurately dubbed "the sleep nazis" say about babies and sleep. 

in my prayer, i said i just wanted to do what was right for her. whatever it was, i would do it, even if it was hard.  there wasn't a question of "i don't want to sleep with her; i want to sleep in my own bed." quite frankly, if i knew that she would sleep well, i'd sleep standing on my head singing the star spangled banner (you know, if i could).  that wasn't part of this, though i suppose on another night it might have been.

so when i felt that impression come as brent was giving maggie a blessing, it was my answer.

it was a new perspective. i often pray for maggie to be surrounded by angels, to comfort and bless her and keep her safe.  it never once--never ONCE--occurred to me that i might be one of those angels. 


well, beyond the ridiculously flawedness of me, i think it's because i'm here every day. i do things every day.  there's a lot of the mundane in our days. we do the same things. we have a pattern, a routine. sometimes we mix it up with a trip here or there or, on a nice day, a walk in the sunshine. but pretty much we play in the living room, we eat, we sing songs and take naps, we change diapers and we clean faces and the TV is on too much because mommy needs to have some distraction. 

it never occurred to me that in those moments when she needs me--really needs me--that i am the angel that i pray for. 

but a few minutes after the blessing was done, and maggie was now asleep contentedly on her daddy's chest, he whispered: "you're one of those angels, you know."

and i said i did.

and now i do.  a flawed one for sure, but one grateful for the opportunity to comfort her in any way that i can.