Sleep is definitely the most common topic of discussion among my mom friends. Those of us with babies at the 4-5 month mark are noticing changes in sleep patterns that are leaving us bleary-eyed and eager for solutions. (Didn’t it seem like sleep could only get easier after the first few months? Nope. I just read in “The Girlfriend’s Guide to Surviving the First Year of Motherhood, “Ultimately you are faced with having to teach and reteach your baby to go to sleep and STAY THERE. This will be your life’s work, in one fashion or another, for the next ten years, so pace yourself.”)

The debate rages on between co-sleeping and the million variations of cry-it-out, and new parents are so sleepy that it’s a tough time to sort through all of it. Some moms rave about their Ferberized baby sleeping through the night. Others are checking into hotels without their babies to try to get a few hours of sleep in a row. A simple cheerful comment from another mom like, “I put the baby down with her pacifier and some white noise and she’s out,” can send me spiraling into doubts about our sleep habits thus far.

As Baby E’s sleep patterns change and we experience more night wakings and nap resistance, I find myself paging through my baby books and googling things like “baby nap strike 4 months.” Overall, he’s been an awesome sleeper from about 8pm to 8am, with maybe 2-3 feedings. Naps have been no problem (if short)–swaddle and bounce has been our go-to for months. But now something is shifting as he matures and becomes more aware–in the past week, we had a couple of nights of waking every 1-2 hours. And for the past two days the only way to get him to sleep is to be in transit in the stroller or Ergo. (Today I tried for 1.5 hours to get him down for a morning nap, to no avail.)

We all go into this with ideas and expectations and our own neuroses, and then a little needy newborn arrives and we figure out as quickly as possible what gets them to sleep and what doesn’t. Clearly, you can’t put a newborn down in a crib awake right out of the gate. Or, maybe someone can, but we’ll ignore that person. More often, they need something else–rocking, swaddling, shushing, bouncing, driving, nursing, etc. Happiest baby on the block. Then you get a few months in, and the experts tell you that you’ve got them hooked on these things–they can’t go to sleep without them! And, annoyingly, they’re right.

When is the right time to break them of these habits? The danger is that the tools become crutches–oh, you nurse your baby to sleep? Oh, your baby requires motion? Oh, your baby takes naps on the go?

Just as in pregnancy and preparing for childbirth, I remind myself that only I know the best plan for E and me. Or–if I don’t know the best plan, I’m still the only one reacting to his actual needs and doing my best with that. While there are moms and babies who are more into schedules and tracking, I am not those moms. Even though my first thought is, “I should be doing that,” it just doesn’t fit. I’m more laid back and resist any rigid rules when it comes to all of it. That isn’t to say that I’m not thinking a lot about sleep and what’s best for E. Just that I purposely try to stay relaxed about it. If it’s basically working for us both, then we’ll stick with it. If it becomes a problem (i.e. baby won’t sleep or I become non-functional from lack of sleep), then we’ll try something new.

I was just reading Dr. Sears’ chapter on sleep in The Baby Book. While his recommendations are couched in language that softens the approach and makes it seem like any decision is fine if it works for you etc. etc. he really makes it sound like any version of cry-it-out is abusive: you are breaking a fragile bond and losing your child’s trust as they scream in the next room. (Meanwhile, we all hear about babies who are sleeping beautifully three nights later.) BUT: every parent IS in charge of determining when they want their child to learn to go to sleep on their own, whether it’s when they’re four months or 2 years or a teenager. (I have a friend who slept in the family bed until she was a teenager and still sleeps with a hot water bottle.) While the ‘training’ process is super hard for all parties (and I do not look forward to it), it’s a necessary step in a child’s development. I wouldn’t want to rob E of knowing how to fall asleep without me. I just think he’s a little small to do it now.

E and I have been co-sleeping since birth, and this works for now (for us!). I love it. I just ordered a siderail for the bed since he’s starting to roll. Ask me again in a few weeks or months when sleep patterns shift further… I see all points of view on this one, and I feel great compassion for those parents who are struggling. My mantra: whatever works. We all love our babies and don’t need added guilt on top of everything else. Whatever works. Sleep, baby, sleep.

Time for bed. xo

9:17pm, quiet. I have iced sparkling water with lemon on one side of the laptop and a hot ginger tea on the other. My back hurts. I’m wearing the nursing tank I slept in last night and it has new stains of undetermined origin. Angel baby is sleeping on fresh sheets.

Life is full. I don’t try to be super mom, I just try to stay one step ahead of the tidal wave of stuff to be done–dishes, laundry, taking the trash out, ordering more groceries. I remember reading a kids book (I think it was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) in which the dad tried to do everything in the fewest number of motions possible. I’m practically running from room to room with armfuls of stuff in between baby sessions of nursing, playing, and sleeping.

I never would have guessed it ahead of time, but it’s easier to go out than to stay in. I think this is because baby E is more entertained by going in and out of carriers and strollers and watching the scenery go by–and who wouldn’t be! At home, he’s got the same old light fixtures to gaze at, and he craves something new. Plus I’m not multi-tasking when we’re out. He also loves to be around his baby friends, even if he doesn’t really see them quite yet.

Our mom group is going strong–it’s my first group of friends that I see so often that we don’t really hug hello or goodbye, it feels like we’re always together and always available to make more plans for other weekdays. We flow from Child Development class to a full afternoon sitting on the grass in the Mission, to yoga, to Zumba, to Parents’ Circle. Plus lunches, ice creams, and coffees. I have no idea what I would do without these moms.

Today was a rare day when I didn’t have a plan with them. I was trying to get stuff done–coddling E into helping me with an email or cooking dinner or doing paperwork. By mid-afternoon, he was heavily campaigning for some kind of outing, so I strapped him on and we went for a walk in the chilly fog, me in my tank top because we get so hot belly to belly in the Ergo. He took a nice nap and I caught up with Mimi on the phone.

When we got home, he ate a hearty dinner and then I assembled the enchilada makings brought by J–so delicious! E got a bath on the kitchen counter, a massage with almond oil, and nursed to sleep at 7:30. I’m trying to move his bedtime earlier so I get a little more evening, and it worked–except I fell asleep too, for an hour.

Our day has a lovely flow–we can be late or not show up, we can skip looking in the mirror to see what we look like (although E enjoys smiling at himself and then turning away, shy).

Baby E is thriving. Yesterday at yoga class, I looked away from him for maybe five seconds during downward dog and when I looked back up he’d rolled off his blanket from his back to his belly onto the hard wood floor, at an angle that didn’t even make sense. He now hugs my neck with both arms and crosses his little feet in all resting positions. He knows I can’t hold him every minute of the day but wishes I would.

It’s all so sweet. I want it to last forever and yet life will continue from here into lots of new phases and it will change and he will grow. And, in another way, I don’t want it to last forever because I am 24/7 taking care of an infant and there’s a lot of life that gets crowded out, some of which will eventually be nice to invite back in. And my back hurts and my belly pooches and my pedicure is 6 weeks old and I’m starting to forget how to spell. But for now, rather than mourn each passing day or dread the big changes to come, I try to remind myself to stay present. Strangers come up to me on the street and say, “Blink of an eye…” and I know that this is a universal experience, that new mamas around the world wake up feeling so much love but also overwhelmed because it’s such hard work and yet goes by so fast–once the baby phase is over, it was the blink of an eye. The days are long but the years are short.

My friend K gave me a CD of lullabies which finally made it into my car where E and I listen to it every day. There are many songs that get me teary, but “If You Ain’t Got Love” by Mason Jennings feels a propos here. I’ll share partial lyrics below, listen to the full song here. It reminds me that life is short and all we have are these moments. So feel them.

xoxoxo

15 weeks

From “If You Ain’t Got Love,” by Mason Jennings:

At nine in the morning
After nine months of waiting
You were born and I saw your face
And you looked up at me

 

But before I could hold you
The doctors raced you from me
They told me that you might not live
Your heart was not healthy

 

And with wires coming from you
I sat beside you

 

I’m never gonna give you up
What do you got if you ain’t got love?
If you ain’t got love
What do you got if you ain’t got love?

 

Someday, someday soon
You and I will both be gone
And lately, I can’t help but think
That the love we feel will live on

 

At a little wooden cabin
Up in northern Minnesota
We ran together down to the dock
And you jumped right off it

 

And from out in the water
You called me to join you
And I said, “Baby, I cannot swim
If I jump, I’ll surely drown you”

 

You said, “Life has no limit
If you’re not afraid to get in it”
And oh, baby, I jumped to you
Since then there’s nothing I can’t do

 

I’m never gonna give you up
What do you got if you ain’t got love?
If you ain’t got love
What do you got if you ain’t got love?

 

Someday, someday soon
You and I will both be gone
But lately, I can’t help but think
That the love we feel will live on

Tonight’s post is short and sweet because:

I started writing my book! You knew this was coming, right? My SMC story will be told. So, my writing time is somewhat cramped as I just have post-8:30pm to work on it (plus everything else I can’t do while E is awake). I try to do an hour a night and follow Annie Lamott’s #1 advice, “Butt in the chair.” So far, so good.

I’m pumping as I write, which is weirdly hurting my back. I have the hands-free pumping bra but it’s hard to sit normally. Each night, starting last night, I’m attempting a “dream feed” with E, inserting the bottle’s nipple into his sleeping lips and hoping he’ll subconsciously latch and suck (and then remember how to do it when he’s awake). Last night, he was so asleep that he looked just like those dolls with a tiny hole between their lips for the bottle. He let it be there and eventually started sucking on it gently. Not much milk was transferred, yet. I have a friend who did this every night for weeks and eventually the babe caught on. The bulk of the pumped milk goes into the freezer stockpile.

Last night we had a 6.1 earthquake, centered in Napa! I woke at 3:20am to feel my building rocking, creaking, groaning. I clutched little E and sort of shielded his head from any eventual flying objects….it went on for a long time but didn’t reach the point where any damage was done. The biggest earthquake I’ve felt and definitely a different experience with a baby. Must get the earthquake kit together.

E is getting so giggly! I caught a photo of it today. Love to all and more soon as I become a wizard of time management.

xo

laughing e

Baby nap window! My moment to write.

We traveled home from Michigan last Friday and the trip was a bit more of an ordeal this time due to a lengthy flight delay in the Minneapolis airport (a total of 6 hours). We had just boarded our connecting flight and it was a big plane with two aisles–we had two seats all to ourselves. The baby was sleeping in the Ergo. I had boomchunkas I texted my sister D to say we had everything dialed.

Moments later, they announced that the cargo door wouldn’t close and we had to deplane and wait for another (smaller) plane to arrive from Atlanta.

It’s moments like this that make you want to cry but then you think–well, we’ll just deal. So you spend six hours quietly strategizing how to spend every minute. I said something super-obvious to my sister B when I got home, like, “Traveling with a baby is really nothing like traveling without a baby.”

E was a champ. He really rolled with it–loved laying on the airport floor (ew) on a blanket (OK) and kicking his legs. We even achieved tandem sleeping with him in the Ergo while on the plane. I woke up and was so out of it that I thought we were on a bus.

One of the coolest things about traveling with a baby is how many moms jump up to help you. Like the one who brought me my iPhone which I’d left on a seat at the gate. Or the one who zipped my bag and put it on my shoulder as we deplaned in SF while E was howling (it was 3am according to our body clocks). Moms make the world go round, I’m telling you.

It was sad to leave Michigan! It is a dream world of sunshine, beaches, freezing cold water, lush trees, and tons of time with beloved family. My mom’s cooking each day fortified me. Everyone gave E lots of love and let me be hands free. I got back to running!

One night, I had a dream about SF. I was in an area of the city that’s not particularly exciting (somewhere around Van Ness and Bush, let’s say) and it was cold and foggy, and I was saying excitedly, “I’m HOME, I’m HOME!” Which made me think a about what home is.

Home is where I’m from and also where I live. Home is where my family is. And home is now where my baby boy is.

And his home is me.

My sister B picked us up at the airport in my (cleaned!) car and spent the night and part of the next morning with us. When she left, and I was nursing the baby on my bed, and we were alone in our home, I had this ecstatic feeling about being back in our groove, just the two of us. Home.

Later that day, though, it became more of a reality that I was back to 24/7, and I missed everyone.

And then I swung back to blissfully setting up my schedule for the week: mom and baby yoga, mom meetup in the Mission, Zumba, pilates, walks, dinners. Saturday hike. This is why I pay to live in this crazy-expensive city: community.

E is totally thriving. While he is noticeably less patient about entertaining himself now that there are fewer people around, he is barreling through his milestones. He’s holding his head up with fewer bobbles every day. He can do tummy time like a champ. Yesterday, I left the room to run a bath and when I came back he had rolled over onto his belly! Uh oh!!!

And today he’s grasping a rattle and bringing it to his mouth AND grabbing his toes. (I’m proud.)

Babe’s up.
xo
13 weeks

Baby E is 12 weeks old today. Does it feel like 12 weeks? Yes. And no. What can I compare it to? So many quiet moments and slow days but when looking back it seems like the time passes quickly.

My mom and I just watched the birth video (which she recorded on my iPhone) for the first time. First of all, she recorded it beautifully, keeping the frame perfectly centered on my vagina for almost an hour. Plus the video includes about 20 minutes of post-birth bonding time. It’s feature film-length with pretty nonstop action–the pushes are obviously productive, the chatter in the room like a chorus of female positive assurances, and there I am yodeling like a jungle woman. I had tears running down my face each time we got closer to seeing the sweet little face we’ve come to know so well.

We heard a gurgly newborn version of E’s current cry and watched him move his body in heavy slow-mo as if it were full of beans instead of bones. The intensity of his dark eyes was already there, and his big hands pawing at my chest. We laughed out loud as I, not once but twice, called out the complicated password to my iPad between pushes so the med student Kacy could continue to hold it up for me as a mirror.

Incidentally, if anyone knows of a way to get the video from my iPhone to the cloud or a computer, please let me know. I’m so terrified of losing it although I’m not sure baby E will ever in his life want to stare at my vagina for that long.

I came upstairs after watching to find him sleeping angelically in his sleep sack, a more rounded and rosier version of his newborn self. These days, his built-in superman curl (cowlick) is still going strong. He’s holding his head up pretty steadily and just today started really focusing on grabbing a toy dangling above his head. His hands, once spastic, got slow and steady, and, after a decent amount of crying in frustration, finally grabbed that damn owl’s tail. He loves his mom. He takes mini-breaks from nursing to look up at me adoringly with a big smile.

Whenever I’m here at my parents’ place in northern Michigan, I feel like it’s kind of a time-out from real life and therefore a good time to be reflective. It also feels like all my previous reflective visits are piled one on top of the other so that I’m experiencing those memories often throughout my days here. I remember bringing various boyfriends over the years. When I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I remember taking a break in there from a middle-of-the-night argument with a boyfriend who had started having second thoughts about ever wanting kids. Then I remember how I signed a lease on an apartment to try to coax a boyfriend of four years into living with me (didn’t work), and how I made plans to quit my job and travel the world with the Alaskan (didn’t happen). I remember feeling like I could not could not could not get my life to move forward.

And then I decided to have a baby on my own. In retrospect, all these guys were poor matches and necessary steps on the way to Dr. Tran and baby E.

And, as my sister B says, it’s so clear that I found my path. What poetic justice that by being overly dependent, I learned to be totally independent.

This 5 weeks in Michigan is almost up, and the time has passed at a comfortable pace. When I’ve come for a two-week vacation, I could never wrangle it to go slowly enough. But five weeks is substantial enough to relax and stop watching the clock or calendar. E got to absorb a big dose of this family he has joined, thanks to the miracle of nature and UCSF, including his cousins and aunts and uncles and Mimi and Chacha and a whole lotta love.

And my maternity leave is about 60% complete, which is a clock and calendar that I would slow way down if I could. But how? Did anyone see this video if the little girl sobbing because she doesn’t want her baby brother to grow up? Sadie doesn’t want her baby brother to grow up

The paradox, of course, is that we want him to grow up and go off and live a meaningful life, but that also means eventually losing these baby cheeks and moving out of my bed. Wah!

I just finished reading Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown, in which she talks about how joyful moments can open up a feeling of vulnerability. The answer is to use this as a trigger to remember to practice gratitude, which keeps us in the moment. I love this!

And I’m pretty sure it’s the only reasonable way to slow the whole darn thing down.

xo

I’m in super mama blogger mode as I sway back and forth on my feet standing at my parents’ bistro-height dining room table, baby in the Ergo, willing him to stay asleep long enough for me to churn this post out. He just had perhaps his biggest tantrum ever, alarming even the neighbors. Why? I really don’t know. This morning, I took him on a relaxing, 3-mile walk in the stroller–he looked up at the trees with big eyes, napped, woke up happy. When we got home, I thought we’d do a nice nurse-ourselves-into-a-nap together. We’ve done it many times before, and I was predicting that our sleep schedules would align. We got upstairs and he nursed on one side. When I switched to the other side, he kept getting distracted–looking up at me with big eyes and bursting out in big smiles (and then doing it again, and then doing it again, etc., adorable)–and eventually I gave up and thought–maybe we’ll just drift off to sleep together. There was a moment, maybe 30 seconds, when we were both still and I actually started falling asleep. That’s when he began the gradual but steady ramp-up to five-alarm fire mode. I tried everything: shushing, swaddling, walking, bouncing, nursing again, every position, giving him to my sister, giving him to my brother-in-law (both of whom were impressed by the force of his crying despite their own significant experience with five-alarm gila monster), giving up and eating a cookie, etc. This doesn’t often happen with E. But every baby will have their moments!

I stepped outside with E in the Ergo and ran into the W’s who were worried they had triggered the ordeal by playing their music too loud (I never heard the music) and asked me how they could help and I requested an iced coffee to replace the nap I didn’t get.

I woke up today feeling like I’m not “getting anything done.” Everyone else around me has projects, events, outings, work calls, errands, and I recently wore the same clothes from one morning, overnight, and the next day till the following night and hadn’t showered and was just flowing with the baby’s needs and feeling like I needed to wash my hair and change my underwear and breast pads. I really feel like I can’t (shouldn’t?) complain, yet I simultaneously I felt like I couldn’t quite manage the basics. A little downward spiral. I perhaps underestimated how much the mom has to do no matter how many willing helpers are surrounding her. (My family is wonderful and will do anything I ask–I probably should be doing a little more asking.)

So I complained to my mom this morning that I wasn’t ” getting anything done”  which obviously is crazy when I have been caring for my baby boy 24/7 for 10 weeks, and she said, ” honey, what do you feel like you’re not getting done?”  and I said quietly, “like washing my hair,” and at that moment the baby fell asleep and I bounded upstairs for a shower and straightened up my room, put sheets in the laundry, and prepared for a stroller walk. Man, sometimes all you need is 15 minutes to feel like a new person.

So–biggest tantrum ever, no nap, small showering victory, and we’re still moving forward incrementally on the bottle. Let’s be glad for progress–yesterday, he took 1/4 ounce, today he took 1/2 an ounce. He’s willing to give it a shot but not really sucking on the nipple, kind of gumming it and pushing it in and out of his mouth. I probably should have started this process weeks before I did but it felt overwhelming. Then he starts arching his back (a new move–he can practically make a bridge when on the floor, j/k but not really) and we do that a few more times. It stresses me out though because I feel like I will never be away from him for more than 1.5 hours without putting someone through the torture of this afternoon (on top of the stress of actually leaving him for any length of time), and I wish there were a third option. But let’s focus on the progress–progress! We’ll keep trying again each day and he’s a bright young man and he’ll get it figured out. I have a few months still before I go back to work (so grateful, truly a dream come true).

And then there are recent days that flow so well that it’s truly easy–and seriously guys, that’s been most days. We wake up and he gives me a series of good morning smiles. I feed him, wipe the green stuff out of his eyes with a warm washcloth, change his diaper, put on his clothes. He stares up at the ceiling fan lovingly. Sometimes my mom does the diaper and clothes. Then he’ll play on the activity mat and then go down easily for a nap. I have to be well-rested and have clarity on what’s top priority in order to use those nap windows efficiently. And somehow the past few days I’ve not felt well-rested. And I think the young sir has had some tummyaches (a sizable spit-up preceded his outburst today).

So, that’s me today. My back hurts from standing here with my 16+ pounder on my front and my feet hurt because we already did 3 miles and someone doesn’t want me to sit down. The iced coffee was just delivered by my dad (thanks, T!!!), and the sun is shining, and my baby is the most precious, beautiful boy in the world. And I am grateful to be a mom and see what this is all about.

Three days ago, I turned 41, and Baby E’s gift to me was: he laughed. Like, we made each other laugh back and forth a bunch of times. It made my heart grow ten sizes.

Lots of love to you!

PS: Sad addendum is that today we lost our dear friend H, at 86 years old. We got together with him many times in SF over the years and played many Scrabble games (he was a master of the two-letter word and kicked our butts most of the time). He followed my story, not through my blog but through his niece A on the east coast who reads the blog.  If it was a girl, he wanted me to name her “Perseverance.” He came over just last month to meet Baby E and hold him and I’m so glad I have photos of that day, so glad that day happened, and that we got to know and love H in the last years of his long and full life. We will miss him so much. xx

Goodness it’s hard to find time to write–even surrounded by so much help, when the baby is sleeping I need to eat, shower, sleep, maybe run or jump in the lake. Just now at 10:40pm, I brought the half-asleep baby into our bedroom, turned on a dim light, and put him down. As he did his sleep-kicks and turned his head from side to side winding back down, I laid here with my hand on his belly, shushing him back to sleep. I noticed how this is my only free time and yet I am always too tired and yet- if not now, when? Then realized my iPad is downstairs and the door is creaky enough to wake the baby. And then I thought- I’m going to write this post on my iPhone. Screw it.

So here I am, hopefully not giving myself carpal tunnel as I tap this out on the tiny keyboard. Gold star for effort!

I wanted to write about my body. After weeks of belly shots, I gave birth to my ten pound baby and came home from the hospital still looking quite pregnant. Maybe seven months pregnant. Once the baby is out, what IS all that belly stuff that remains?? I don’t know, but it felt jiggly and jello-y and so not my body. pregnant or not pregnant. A pot of jello that you really just want to ignore and never touch in purpose. (We toyed with the idea of doing reverse belly shots but I wasn’t quite as thrilled about divulging my pot.)

Mercifully, the belly started melting away pretty quickly. Along with losing the pounds, I started losing hair: after months of luscious and thick locks, my body was going back to status quo. My skin turned dry. All those extra nutrients that supported the baby draining away! Too bad we can’t hang on to that forever.

The healing of what I like to call my “undercarriage” was fine–nothing much to report, which is newsworthy in and of itself since, as I mentioned, I pushed out a 10 pound baby. I was tempted to look with a mirror but never did, but both midwives have confirmed that the tears have healed nicely.

I started walking and doing a little yoga. Then, last week, I strapped on my new running shoes and started running again after a year’s hiatus:

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I’d been jealously watching runners for months! The danger for me is overdoing it, which I did two days ago by running 3 miles at close to my regular pace, breezing through the summer morning and then only stopping to take off my shoes before plunging into the lake. I’ve been extra tired since then. Little by little, my fitness will return.

My little pot of jello has plateaued at around 5-6 pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight, and because I have a decent diastisis I am doing “How to Lose your Mummy Tummy” exercises to bring my abs back together. And babe is giving me plenty of upper body exercise as I lift, carry, and rock his 15+ pound body day in and day out.

But enough about me! This guy is growing and developing fast and doing cool new stuff all the time. He is now somewhat mobile while on his back in that he can launch the bottom half of his body to one side over and over until he has turned himself up to 120 degrees. So, for example, if I fall asleep beside him parallel, I can wake up later and find his head in the same place but his feet pointing to the upper corner of the bed. As a result, I’ve doubled down on pillows stuffed between the bed and walk and also installed a side rail.

He also kicks me now to wake me up. No crying or grumbling, he just turns his body perpendicular to mine and kicks kicks kicks. OK, OK I get it!!

He also is hugely enamored of ceiling fans–cooing and smiling at them like long lost old friends. Someone told me that new babies can still see angels and I think they must be hanging out up there, telling him jokes.

While nursing, I love watching him working his hands. They are gesticulating like he’s giving a lecture in an auditorium. Or flagging down a waitress. Or pumping his fist at a soccer game. One night recently, he went 6 hours between feedings, and when he woke up and I was about to give him the boob, his little limbs we’re fluttering with total excitement–and my heart blew up for this adorable tiny human.

He’s starting to hold his head up with confidence and minimal bobbles. And I’m just starting to notice that he sometimes wants Mommy–not necessarily milk, and not necessarily just to be held, but to be held by me. That feels so good.

Still working on the bottle–we have graduated from instant fury to interesting toy (and I’m the one giving it to him, which breaks all the rules) but we have yet to get more than half an ounce into his little bod. Still, I’m confident that if his life depended on it, he could figure it out.

I’ve almost finished up this post, sitting in an un-ergonomic cross-legged hunched-over position in this dim light beside the baby spread eagle in the center of the bed with his angelic sleeping face. And I realize I’m hungry again (there is no hunger like breastfeeding), and so I’m going to have to open the creaky door after all.

Good night!

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OMG I am having the hardest time getting time to write! It’s been more than two weeks and the topics are piling up. When I get a little free time I usually want to nap or take a shower. Or get outside. See how I hit the trifecta this morning? Baby sleeping, I’ve already showered, I’m well rested, and it’s pouring rain!

Ever since my last post I’ve been meaning to write about our placenta-burying ceremony–so San Francisco, right? This came about thanks to multiple factors. I had written in my birth plan that I wanted to take my placenta home from the hospital. Maybe to have encapsulated (i.e. dried and put into capsules to take as pills) and maybe to consume in smoothies, but I didn’t have a precise plan and hadn’t researched it at all. As a result, when we got home from the hospital I kind of forgot about it in the fridge (not the freezer, oops) until Day 5, which seemed a bit late for any kind of consumption. My doula, A, agreed, and she suggested that we bury it.

Since M had given birth the same day as me just five hours later, A suggested that we have a joint placenta-burying ceremony in her Secret Garden, a beautiful garden space in the Mission to which she has access. We both loved the idea as a way to thank the placentas, return their nutrients to the earth, and to commemorate the end of the first 40 days–the sacred beginning. So, on a hot and sunny SF day 40 days after the day our babies were born, we met up at the Secret Garden with our placentas in tupperware buckets (mine, which caused the hemorrhage, was as big as a cherry pie–no exaggeration). A was at a birth, so she sent her dear husband and kids with a well-researched kiwi plant and detailed instructions. M and her husband P brought a pitcher of icy lemonade. The kiwi was to be buried next to a trellis where it will climb and climb into the future!

We said a few words and dumped our placentas together into a hole in the earth, covered them up with dirt, and put the plant on top. A lovely way to give our children “roots”  in San Francisco forever and a way to mark the intertwined beginnings of babies E and E. Grateful for our connection to these two families! (After polling a couple of key blog readers who happen to be in the room with me, I decided not to include a photo of my placenta, even though I am grateful to it for nourishing baby E in the womb and think it looks awesome! Proud of my pie-sized placenta!)

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photo 2

 

About a week after that, I flew to Michigan. Flying with a baby is a rite of passage for any new parent–especially a single mom who is likely doing it on her own. I spent that week planning and plotting and accumulating everything we would need in a flurry of Ziploc bags. Miraculously, my sister in Chicago brought a bunch of key items that she had from her babies (breast pump, my brest friend, diaper changing pad, etc.) so I didn’t have to ship anything. I got everything to fit in one big suitcase (44 pounds), the Snap N Go stroller in my other hand, a carry-on backpack on my back and the baby in an Ergo on my front. I set the alarm for 3:15am for our 6:30am flight. I was admittedly nervous. I just kept picturing myself covered in sweat and milk and clutching a screaming baby.

E woke me at 2:45am to eat, so that was my official earliest wakeup time ever. I got myself ready, got him ready, got us and everything into the car and headed down the highway. E just took my word for it that it was time to start the day and was perfectly happy except for when his hat fell over his eyes, easily fixed from the driver’s seat by reaching back. We parked by the airport, felt like badasses as we rolled backpack and stroller to the airtrain and checked into the terminal and went through security. It was all super smooth–didn’t have to take off my shoes or the baby carrier. And when we got to the gate, the agent had the same name as my mom, so I chatted gaily with her as I attempted to be her BFF and get a good seat. She complied by giving us an ENTIRE ROW at the very back of the plane. Relief!!! I laid him down on a blanket beside me, and he happily kicked his legs and napped and had diaper changes right there. Only a couple of times did he get revved up into crying mode and I was able to walk up and down the aisle and rock him to sleep pretty effectively. Plus you forget that the white noise of the plane drowns out a lot.

The people who helped me most on the planes happened to be men (probably because by chance it was men, on both flights, who were sitting nearest to us). On the first leg, a guy across the aisle said to let him know if I needed any help, that he liked babies and that his baby was now the morose teenager sitting beside him engrossed in a video game. He smiled and said he preferred them smaller. I took him up on it when I couldn’t wait any longer to use the bathroom and handed E over. The second I shut the bathroom door, I heard E wailing and peed as fast as possible.

On the second flight, E was already wailing and hungry when we got on board (my moment to be covered in sweat and milk and clutching a screaming baby). For this flight, they gave us the more-leg-room seats by a window, with two guys in the inside seats. I’m sure they were full of dread when they saw us arrive. I tried everything possible to balance E in a way that I could get my hands free to put on my seatbelt but no dice. I asked the guy next to me to buckle it for me and he obliged! E settled right down once eating, and by the end that guy said, “Does he always fly this well?” Success!!!!

And now we’ve been up north for a week! I would have thought it would be easier to get time to write with all the help but we’ve had pretty nonstop activity. My sister D and her girls were here when we arrived. Then two dear friends and their families came through on different days. Then J decided to fly in from NYC (with literally one day notice) and is here now! Amazing how many friends have come through when we’re in such a remote place. Baby E draws many fans from all over!

We’ve also taken E on his first restaurant outing (he was an angel) and also to a Joshua Bell concert at Interlochen (he stayed outside with Chacha and J until I was summoned 45 minutes in and sent my dad in my place). These outings push me outside my comfort zone. Taking such a little baby into these loud and bouncy and completely new situations full of strangers can be stressful. But it’s good for us–with some balance. Now we’re enjoying a little down time, thanks to the rainy day.

J just said, “Are you writing?” from where he’s working on his laptop around the corner. He knows I’ve been trying to get to this for days!

It’s wonderful to be surrounded by people who love E and are delighted by his every teeny step of development (not to mention all the help!!). He is smiling a lot now and my mom got him to laugh! He’s eating less in the night. He loves to look up at the trees and feel the beach air. Once in a while, he’ll suddenly look at you with big, intense eyes and start telling you something critically important through pursed little lips, “Brlll.”

He’s almost always easily placated, so when he’s not, I get rattled. We came home early from a dinner party with our dear downstairs neighbors after everyone tried their magic with him and he was just over the edge. I really can’t stand listening to him cry! It’s awful! We came home and he calmed down right away. A side-lying nursing sesh and he was out. Aw, baby. Wish we could get a memo on what you need when you cry. Next up: getting him to take a bottle. We’ve made some progress on that but he’s so far pretty (understandably) offended by the idea of a bottle vs. the boob.

He’s a beautiful boy and growing fast–probably around 15 pounds now and I need to graduate the sweater he wore yesterday which looked more like a midriff top with 3/4 length sleeves.

J caught this photo of the little love the other day. Lots of love to you!

photo 3

Good evening, friends! It’s 9:30pm, the baby is sleeping, and it’s quiet with the exception of a constant audio backdrop of foghorns humming on the bay. I’m eating cherries and drinking water and feeling glad for a few moments to write. It’s tough to identify and harness these moments for writing–shouldn’t I be emptying the dishwasher, putting away laundry, finishing those thank you cards I’ve been meaning to do for weeks?? But tonight the priority is writing. I prefer to write a post all in one sitting and it’s hard to come by a free hour without other pressing obligations when the baby is sleeping (which could also include showering, pooping, napping, laundering baby clothes, disposing of diapers, doing baby-related paperwork, etc. etc. etc).

E is almost six weeks old! And weighs 13 lbs 13 oz (with diaper and onesie on)! He’s growing really fast. I noticed tonight while nursing him in the glider that his feet are propped on the opposite arm of the chair. It makes me feel good, like we’re both doing our job of making him grow. On the other hand, there’s this wistful nostalgia for every little stage that passes because you know it will never come back. I said to someone today that “he won’t be tiny again” (even though he was never tiny). Still–I notice each little milestone tick by–the initial weeks–meconium poops, the umbilical cord stump, the unfocused and cross-eyed look, the dry skin, the baby acne, the involuntary everything. The sense that he was truly fresh out of the oven. Bobble head and smaller cry. Learning from scratch. Staying home in the love soup with meals home cooked by mom.

Now he’s put on a few pounds and elongated too. His face doesn’t have such a puffy newborn look anymore. He’s really focused–makes eye contact with people, fixates on something out the window or a toy or a book. Smiles! Kicks his legs while breathing rapidly, in kind of a delighted pre-laugh. Can have a conversation exchange where the words are “uh” and “ooh” but the timing is perfectly logical. He’s getting a belly (I feel so proud of this!) and I’m still working on those cheeks. When I have him in a carrier, he holds on to me with his little hands.

Someday, though, when I have a tank of a toddler, I will look back on 6 weeks as tiny baby days. We’ve advanced into a kind-of routine that involves at least one outing per day. We’ve been super social with other new mamas and their babies–at mom meetups in the park, at friends’ houses, at my midwife’s office. Here is E (in green) with some of his gal pals today:

evan and the ladies

These meetups are so important. Not only are we sharing our experiences and lessons learned and supporting each other and keeping ourselves from becoming isolated, it’s just really critical to keep practicing getting out of the house. It’s a big deal. Timing sleep and feedings in order to get out the door, bringing the right stuff, choosing the right carrier, gauging the right temperature… It’s so trial and error and every single time there’s something I forget–and that’s when it helps so much to be with other new moms who can lend you a diaper or a plastic bag or a hand! One friend offered to repark my car when I realized, after getting the baby from the car seat to the carrier (asleep!), that I had parked in front of a driveway and I just couldn’t go through all the steps again. And once, when I was super frazzled with a crying baby, other moms neatly packed my messy pile of stuff back into my diaper bag. These are the friends who can bail you out when you’re still learning. Soon, I will graduate to socializing outside my house with people who didn’t recently give birth.

I’ve pretty consistently overbundled E. We learned in birth class that the baby needs one more layer than you do, but we all agree that our babies run hotter than that. I’m always stripping him down. Then when I went to meet moms in the Mission, where it’s warmer, I was all prepared to sit in the sun but then we were in the shade and I wished I’d had a gauzy blanket, which of course was the last thing I took out of my backpack before leaving the house. Today I actually ran out of diapers which is a totally amateur move. Other times I’ll remember all of the above and not need any of it!

Today, after parents’ circle, I walked with new friend E to get burritos and then nursed the baby in the car in an attempt to buy time to run an errand. Yet–we got halfway to Rainbow and he just went ballistic. I’m watching his screaming red little face in his car seat via two mirrors and trying to console him while getting us asap to a parking lot where I could nurse him again (maybe he wanted the other boob?), and by the time I got him out of his car seat he was sweaty and doing that post-cry inhale/shudder which made me feel awful. Who knows what triggered that… I guess sometimes this will just happen (maybe hungry, tired or overstimulated? Uncomfortable?). And it SUCKS to be driving at the time. On the other hand, there is no lasting damage–he always just pops back into a fine mood when he gets what he needed. If I cried that hard, I would likely do permanent damage to my vocal cords and be blotchy and sore for days. I need to remember that babies are designed to pull out this handy (and somewhat traumatizing) survival tool although it’s hard not to let it make you feel like you’re doing a crappy job.

Breastfeeding is the best. Such peaceful moments where we totally nail it on meeting each others’ needs. I keep taking videos of him nursing and vocalizing in the pauses with high-pitched baby sighs. So pure. When he’s finished, he does the most amazing baby stretch where he raises both arms over his head (only they don’t actually go past the top of his head) and sticks out his chin to stretch his neck, furrowing his little brow and curling up his legs. I look forward to this every time.

I love this guy so much. I’m happy to wake up to feed and change him, to entertain him with random narration and songs and books, and yes–totally feel rattled when he turns the screaming cry up to 11. I just read an article about how hard the transition to parenthood can be on so many levels–it can be so jarring, so despairing. In my case though, I had so much time to anticipate this boy’s arrival–I had to fight so hard for so long to get him here. I was beyond ready for the whole nine yards. And then I was blessed with a good eater and sleeper.

So, my mental state is pretty darn good for a new single mom. I expected this to be harder so I’m just grateful for every day that isn’t dreadfully hard. And for the seriously precious, fleeting moments.

Good grief, it got late. I better get my weary mama ass to bed. Lots of love and more soon!

xo

 

 

YES–it’s 7:17pm, the baby is sleeping, there’s a chicken stock simmering on the stove and quinoa to put with leftovers for dinner. I’m having a beer, there are ocean sounds emanating from the Sleepy Sheep in the bedroom, the evening sunlight is streaming in. A peaceful moment to write.

As soon as I finished that paragraph, I half expected to hear a cry. You never know! The pediatrician said today that babies really don’t settle on any kind of regular or predictable schedule until around three months. So you really never know if a given nap will be 5 minutes or…4.5 hours.

Only once was it 4.5 hours. We’d had a busy day full of catnaps and transitions and that night E slept from 7:30pm-midnight. This is noticeable to a breastfeeding mom because of how full and uncomfortable her boobs get once the baby goes longer than the usual window–I was literally sitting on the edge of the couch watching him in his rocker. “Is my baby waking up?” I said, over and over, as he stretched and murmured and even opened his eyes countless times–and then went back to sleep. I tried to distract myself with The Daily Show, trying to nap. I was giddy when he finally woke up and ate.

Uh oh–he just woke up real time. Oh and the Amazon Fresh guy just showed up with my groceries (best service ever, so far only available in Seattle and Cali. They bring the groceries to my KITCHEN) and the quinoa is done. Gotta put stuff away, eat, and get the baby to chill out (he is now peacefully munching on his swaddle in his rocker).

OK–while the food heats up in the microwave I will recount the pediatrician’s report: this kid is bigger and heavier than 99.9% of his age group. At 4 weeks, he is 12lbs 6oz and 24 inches long. Our most important job together is to make sure he grows, and we’re doing it well! I confirmed with the pediatrician that there is no direct correlation from baby length/weight to adult height and he said that’s true, but–look at those hands. He’s going to be first pick on the teams.

E is complaining from the rocker–I have to pick him up.

Changed his diaper, managed to get a burp. This is definitely the most challenging time of day to write. I’m gulping down my dinner and he’s back to complaining and chewing on his swaddle. Hold on–

I fed him (which is all he ever wants which I guess makes sense when you’re increasing your body weight by around 20% in 4 weeks), and my dinner got cold and the sun went down. But now he’s drunk and happy.

I too often doubt that he could be hungry even when he just ate… But it’s always the right answer. Unless he’s overtired or needs a diaper change.

He’s talking and wiggling. He just started to smile in an authentic way that isn’t followed seconds later by a cry or a poop. It makes me get goosebumps of joy. I love how he yawns with a big inhale and then exhales through his nose only. And somehow scoots to my face level in the bed so that when I wake up his little baby face is inches from mine.

I love co-sleeping. I don’t know what mammal would give birth and then tell the baby, “here, you sleep on this rock over here while I go sleep in a warm nest over there.” The baby wants to be with its mama–at least mine has flatly rejected the bassinet, starting at the hospital. Sleeping together, mom and baby’s heartbeat and breathing align, they benefit from each other’s warmth, and the baby eats more. Mom and baby stay attuned to each other and can react if there’s a problem. I keep covers and pillows away from him and he’s now in a wearable sleeping bag. I might use a co-sleeper if there were a full-grown man in my bed, but there isn’t, so this feels like a luxury of singlehood–a wide-open bed for me and the babe.

I’m pleasantly surprised to not be a sleepless wreck by this point. The baby sleeps! And I’m honestly enjoying it all, even the figuring out all the gear, puzzling over what he needs, getting a system down, planning a day. Or just sitting on the couch watching him watch the leaves in the tree. It’s awesome and incredible.

On a note of gratitude, I think one huge key of my success right now is allllll the friends who have come by to visit and drop off food and also my new mom friends who gather in parks and cafes. This ensures that we don’t get isolated, which I can tell would be really easy to do in the eat/sleep/diaper change lifestyle. E and I need to have lots of people around, that’s how we roll. I thank all those friends for their generosity and for helping sustain us with food and love.

OK, this little pumpkin is just too cute not to pick up. Oh–and the groceries need to get put away–eek!

One final note: happy belated Father’s Day to my dear Dad and all the single moms pulling double duty xoxoxo

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5/19/14

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