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Hunger Games

Josie slept for 9 hours straight last night; she nursed and then slept another 3 hours. Today, there was no crying at any of the nap times. There was even a nap that went longer than an hour.

I don’t have words to express my shock and disbelief.

My body doesn’t remember how to fall asleep, so I can’t say that I feel more rested. But holy shit. [Sorry, I know this is a family blog; I guess I do have words to express myself. Eight months, and the longest stretch she’s ever had was 5 hours, and that was last week.]

I have her all to myself tomorrow afternoon, so let’s all hope for a copycat night tonight and day of naps tomorrow.

The long awaited Moment of FoG (Funny or Gross):
One day a few weeks ago, it was super hot here. We were at home, and I was topless to avoid heat stroke (no A/C in Portland). Josie was manic form being overtired. While nursing, she suddenly stopped and switched boobs. And then switched back. And again. I was in such shock that I didn’t stop her or say anything. After a bit, I was getting kind of scared because she was wild, so I called in a shaky voice out to K, “Uh, Honey!?” She works with moms, but she said she’d never heard of this… habit?… before. Since then, if the unsuckled boob is at all accessible, Josie totally goes for it. Even when she’s sober. Is it a taste thing? Like a swirl at the frozen yogurt shop? I hope I did not just ruin her chances of getting into college by posting this to the world web.

We Are Family

This is the first time I’ve blogged with headphones on. The screaming does bad, bad things to me, and since K had to leave for work, I am sitting in the farthest corner of the house from the crib and listening to They Might Be Giants. Every once in a while, I will pause and listen to hear if the wails have lessened to crabby babble or whining. This is a mid-nap cry fest. I think I made a mistake; my nerves are still raw from starting this process all over again (third time a charm?) and should have taken Josie out after her 28-minute nap.

We came back from our mega Midwest tour last Sunday (more on that in a minute), and we began working with the sleep coach in earnest this past Thursday. The first night, she cried for almost 3 hours when first put down to sleep. But by last night she cried for only a half hour and stayed in the crib all night (besides one nurse & change around 2 a.m.). I need to reemphasize that: ALL night! This girl of ours is amazing.

I, on the other hand, am a bit messy. After only one day of training, I was curled in a ball on our bed, crying for hours straight, and thinking all kinds of horrible things, like how Josie and K would be better off without me. When I finally came out of that anxiety hell, K reminded me that over 8 months of severe sleep deprivation can make a mommy mad, which is totally how I felt. Mad with a capital Insane.

The sleep coach wants us to start with night training and worry about naps later, but that doesn’t make sense to us or seem to work for Josie. We decided to let her cry it out when she wakes up in the night and if naps are too short. There can be a lot of unpleasant crying, and it’s much more manageable when K and I are together. That’s why I’m sitting here like bombs are falling all around my house, and Josie is still upstairs screaming her sweet little innocent she-didn’t-ask-to-be-born lungs out.

So, on to the travel report. (Hey, I guess this scream time frees me up to blog more. Way to look for the positive, Self!) We flew to Chicago first. I was sohoho nervous about the flight. I was afraid of the screaming and the looks. But besides needing the baby ImageHeimlich, Josie did really well. We were referred to baby-led feeding a while ago, and we’d been letting Josie handle all the food she eats. We thought the article we read said that the food should be bigger than her fist, and that she would just gnaw on the part that sticks out the top of her grip.

[Nap update: I’ve been freaking out that she’s been up there for over an hour now. I remembered that I am allowed to go comfort her, pat her butt, etc. as long as I don’t pick her up. So, I ran, I mean, I walked very calmly upstairs and tried to comfort her. She would not roll over. For K, she usually rolls on her side with her blanky in her arms and lets her pat her butt till she calms down or falls asleep. For me? No. She stiffens so I could not roll her and throws her arms up to be taken out. She turns up the scream so her face is beet red. So I’m back here, worse for the “comforting.”]

Josie chomped right down on the apple slice we gave her, breaking off a sizable chunk with her little bottom teeth and proceeded to choke. Thank god 1) K knows what to do in that situation and 2) I was in the lavatory, far from the trauma. I got back to our row right after the incident, and K was definitely ready for a sob. Josie was fine.

We rented a big Queen Victoria boat of a car and drove to K’s grandparents’ place outside of Chicago. Josie did some pretty decent sleeping while we were there, and she stepped up her solid food eating since there was a nifty highchair. She also got to enjoy carpeting for the first time. She kept petting it and moving her fingers through it. I realized then that if we had carpeting instead of hardwood floors, she would learn to crawl so fast. Josie met a lot of new family members on this leg of the trip, and she was definitely overwhelmed. People were disappointed that she would not go to them or even sit on their laps. I had huge guilt; here we were, at her great-grandparents’ for the first time, and she cried when they so much as touched her. The next part of the trip was short but sweet. We drove a couple of hours to the Quad Cities, Iowa, where half of my people are from. Josie slept for an hour in the car, which made it… nice! We went to see my mom’s brother and his partner, whom I haven’t seen since my grandma died 7 years ago and whom K had never met. They were so clearly happy to see us and didn’t need to hold Josie immediately. That made things so much more relaxed for Josie and for us. We were only in Iowa for a day, but Josie did some great sleeping there, and we got to see my cousin, his wife, and their youngest. What a treat. The next leg took us to Madison, WI (yes, that’s the third and last state of this 12-day jaunt). That is where K’s immediate family and old family friends live. Josie didn’t do so well with sleep there. But she did get to meet her week-old first cousin, who she got a big kick out of.

[Scream update: I’ve gone up twice now. I remember one nap when K had to take her out of the crib to change a poop; she stayed up after that. I ran up to see if maybe there was poop, but no such luck. I promised K I wouldn’t take her out of the crib, but she doesn’t get back for another 2 hours! My shoulders are now fused with my earlobes.]

The second-to-last day of our trip was a mini trip to a wedding near Milwaukee. K’s cousin was getting married in a church in the morning and having a reception at a park in the afternoon. Well, Josie didn’t take her morning nap (surprise!), so we decided to forgo the church and catch up with everyone at the reception. So, not only did Josie never take that nap, she didn’t sleep in the car and that was a long drive. She did fine at the party itself, and we somehow made it to Milwaukee that evening. We found a pizza place in a seedy part of town that made gluten-free and dairy-free pizza. Then we passed out in a hotel room. The flights home the next day were difficult. Josie didn’t sleep (should I bother writing that any more?), and I had a run-in with an evil man. The flight to Chicago featured a changing table in the back lavatory. As we boarded our first flight home, the flight attendant said it was in the front one this time. I quickly scanned the nearby seats for two empties so we could be close to the front. I saw two and we headed in with our million bags and whatnot. The old man in the aisle seat just looked at me and wouldn’t move at first. So, I said, “Can we please sit there?” He continued to stare me down but stood up. We needed to get in the seats and unpack our snacks from the carry-on that would eventually be stowed in the overhead compartment. This needed to be done with Josie and five other carry-on type items all juggled together. K stepped into another row with Josie while I scooted past the guy and started the organizing. I tried to smile and say graciously, “I’m sorry, but we have to sit close to the front since that’s where the changing table is.” He just glared his terrible icy blue old man glare and said, “No comment!” At that, I looked up at K and yelled, “Oh, we need to find somewhere else… now!” While I was pushing back past him, I noticed the man sitting in the row behind smiling a pleasant smile, and so I loudly praised him for looking like a nice gentleman who could teach other men how to be nice. I probably confused the hell out of this poor soul. When I caught up to K and Josie at a row farther back, my eyes were filled and I yelled, “What an a**hole!” It’s not like me to curse audibly in mixed and compact company, but I had lost it. And that was on Xanax, mind you.

One thing I think our big trip did for us was coalesce us as a little family in a way that walking around our neighborhood and seeing some friends hadn’t before. We were a nuclear family among extended families. We had to face new challenges together. Josie grew (literally) and, as a unit, we got a little bigger in our britches.

Now, if we can all just get some sleep.

[I promise a moment of FoG next time!]

The Two-Week Post

It has been a long while since I posted, and it took me two weeks to jot down this little number. It has also been a long while since I slept more than 1.5 hours in a row or ate slowly enough to taste. I’m assuming that when the sleep situation improves, I will be a regular William Shakespeare.

Since last I posted, Josie has completed her seventh month of life. And boy did she live it! It began with a half birthday party, which Miss Thing spent in the back rooms of the house — away from the guests. K and I took turns trying to keep the poor overwhelmed baby from screaming while the party went on without us.  We had two very successful trips to the coast. Josie seems to love the beach. The dog won best day for sure. Poor beast has taken a figurative and literal back seat to this new creature in our lives. But once we got out on the sand and took off her leash, she ran with such manic glee that it seemed, at least for that day, that all has been forgiven. Josie has also started eating real human food (and taking real human diaper dumps!). What started in her sixth month as disinterest in avocado has transformed into a full-blown carnivore carnival. She loves meat! The redder, the better. First it was chicken liver, but now wants steak and burgers. Did I mention she wants it NOW!? That’s another new trait… the scream of impatience. After several field studies, we’ve concluded that our daughter wants what she wants (and doesn’t what she doesn’t want — namely, naps) when she wants it. There is no warning whimper. It’s all, “Hey! Is that your cup? I want your cup… gimme your cup why isn’t your cup in my mouth ahh! ahh! ahh!” It’s a lot of screaming at a very high pitch. A lovely thing Josie has begun doing is instigating a version of hide and seek that involves rolling on her side, facing away from you. You are then to ask, “Where’s Josie?” Still nothing. If you tickle her side while asking, you will see the rise of her cheekbone (impish clue #1) and eventually be rewarded with a smiling baby returning to her back. Ah, to be in love.

It’s amazing how little I knew about this world of having an infant and how quick I’ve learned. For example, I did not know that a) there is such a thing as a sleep coach and b) that there could be a real, dear-god-help-us need for such a thing. We haven’t slept for months; it’s one thing for us to be underslept, but another entirely to have a tired baby every day. We first saw how much this coaching would cost and laughed. Now, about six weeks later, we are finding a way to pay. We spoke with the coach and will officially start the training when we get back from our trip. Yes, we are traveling for the first time with our baby. I tend to be afraid of things, but this stress has been building and has taken on ulcerative proportions.

Beginning Tuesday morning, we are traveling to three Midwestern states in 12 days. Three flights, three long car trips, and three chunks of family total. The flight is scaring me the most. The diapers, the screaming, the constant off-and-on nursing, the dirty looks… And thankfully, the Xanax (for me) and liquid Benadryl (for her). Don’t judge; just wish us luck!

And, now… For your Moment of FoG (Funny or Gross):
Today was a first in poopy business. Nothing seemed amiss, at first. There was clearly the need for a diaper change. But as I walked to the diaper changing table, I noticed poop on my forearm. I called out to K for backup in a slightly panicked voice. She came to assist with what appeared to be your average huge, nasty diaper. But then, after the clean up, I went back to what I was doing, which involved carrying Josie. After I put her in her excersaucer and took a seat at the table, I looked down and saw a big streak of her poop on my skirt. I tried to rinse it out and went upstairs to change. It was while using the bathroom upstairs that I noticed the stain soaked through to my underwear. OK, no problem; I’m up here anyway, so I’ll just change those too. I went back down and continued with my day. Some time later, I was carrying Josie around upstairs and my foot slipped — like a cartoon character on a banana peel. Yes, my friends. It was poop. More poop from that same diaper, though I’m not even sure how since we changed it downstairs.

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

I’m sitting in the basement with silicon ear plugs shoved deep into my ears. I’m two floors below where Josie is either screaming or napping. I never knew this kind of logistics would be part of parenting.

We started sleep training a few weeks ago and failed — mostly because of my weakness, though we like to blame the teething. The first night we witnessed the longest screaming; I went outside and did stuff on my phone for as long as I could pace in front of our house without scaring the neighbors. The second night was shorter. The third, shorter than that. Then came a tooth. A very cute, very sharp tooth right in the middle of her bottom gum. Oh, and I was alone with her for bedtime. Let’s just say progress was lost and leave it at that.

Since then, she’s been back in our bed and no one (well, except her, maybe) has gotten any sleep again. We considered moving the big-pain-in-the-butt-to-take-apart-and-reconfigure crib into our bedroom so she could be right up against our bed (with the rail down — kind of like the co-sleeper she used to sleep in but got too long for). I’m so glad we didn’t do it because it wouldn’t have worked. She was screaming in the bed with us, with me and my boob right there, anyway. In my desperate tiredness I acknowledged that we needed to start the sleep training again last night and do it all the way. No giving in, even for naps.

When I witness the screaming, I get a vivid picture of her screaming face burnt on the backs of my eyelids and the piercing sound trapped behind the earplugs. It’s a great way to try and fall asleep. Even here, some 20 feet below, I can still hear when she wakes up and cries. I have to be bigger than my anxiety and tell myself it’s the best thing for everyone. Don’t think about the huge tears. Don’t think about the red face and choking. Think about how happy the family will be, eventually, when we’re all rested.

In the meantime, let’s move on to another installment of FOG (Funny or Gross):
The other day, I brought Josie in to where K was resting. K woke up and took Josie in a “flying baby” position above her. Josie loves being “baby in the sky”; it’s when she gives her biggest open mouth smile. K made the mistake of taking pleasure in the moment and smiling wide as well. Just then, a glob of teething saliva, visible with Google Earth, followed gravity’s pull right into K’s mouth.

You Gotta Keep ‘Em Medicated

Sorry for the bad Offspring reference, but it was the mid ’90s when that song began annoying the public and when I finally came out of the closet (to a select few). To what do I owe my crawl into the light? Well, to be as honest as I always try to be on this blog… Prozac. It was the mid-’90s! I was closeted and depressed. Did I really have a choice?!

The reason I share this blast from the past is because I have, as many, kept my anti-depressant/anti-anxiety drug taking under wraps, and I have recently found myself back on the prescriber’s couch. To what do I owe this rededication to medication, as it were? Postpartum anxiety. I’ll say it again… We’re told to take classes on childbirth, but no one and nothing prepares you for the postpartum experience. And similar to my days among my many hangered plaid flannel shirts, postpartum issues are never discussed. At least no one ever discussed them with me, and I was wholly unprepared.

So, to make a 17 year story of making Eli Lilly and Pfizer rich short, Prozac did wonders for me at 19 but pooped out by 30. I dabbled irresponsibly with other types of antidepressants and with taking myself off of them over the years, but I have been mostly medicated most of the time. When we were to begin trying to conceive those many years ago, I did the responsible thing and found a prescriber who specialized in pregnancy and nursing. She put me on Zoloft because it had the lowest rates of transference to the fetus and through breast milk. Once I found out I was pregnant those few years later, I took myself down 50mg with the totally made-up and statistically unsound notion that I would somehow reduce the risk of our baby having a cleft palate (by 25% anyway). I didn’t notice a difference because I was ridiculously nauseated throughout my entire pregnancy and miserable anyway.

Jump to the past 5 months. I’ve been one anxious mommy! I chalked it up to basic postpartum anxieties that surely every new mom experiences. But what I couldn’t see through the sleep deprived haze is that I was more than sufficiently anxious, which actually contributed to my lack of sleep. For example, K and I and Josie would be out at a restaurant. Josie would be all smiles, and I would be cursing the waiter under my breath because he was taking too long with our food, check, etc. Because I just knew at any moment Josie’s smiles would turn into guttural screams. We’d ruin all the other patrons’ dinners. So by worrying excessively about it, I got to ruin ours instead. Over and over. In diverse scenarios. I chalked this up to my being in pain and not wanting to have to bounce Josie until I was raw, but this made no sense since K was with me and doing the baby wearing.

What I learned from the prescriber is that I was in a spiral of fear and anxiety and sleep deprivation, and the best way for me (again, for me) to turn it around was to go back up on my Zoloft and take Adavan for sleep. I was extremely resistant to try this — resistant even going to see a professional. But my lovely K stuck to her guns (i.e., kindness and support) and got me in. If I have been a pill popper so long, why did I protest? Well, the irresponsible measures I mentioned earlier included going off and starting drugs via samples with no supervision. I had a few bad reactions that, to put it over-dramatically, killed off a bit of my soul each time. The last thing I wanted was to have a similar experience while living with a baby. Luckily, nothing of the wicked sort has occurred.

And now, my next installment of FOG (Funny or Gross)!
First, a FOGy declaration: I never thought I would be so tired that I’d happily curl up and try to get some sleep on the very spot where a human just peed. (Note: I made this human, but I’m not sure that changes anything.)
Second, a FOGy question: On a scale of “It ain’t no thang” to “Oh, that’s bad” — how much worse is it to appear in public with face hickeys than shoulder, collar bone or wrist hickeys (even if it’s abundantly clear that said hickeys were made by the human I made)?

We Can Work It Out

Work.

It was bound to come up sooner or later. K started back to work a month ago, and it’s been brutal. We’ve figured out that it takes at least 3 adults to take care of 1 infant. On the days K is gone for 8 hours, I’ve tried to wrangle friends to hang out with me and Josie. Sometimes it’s great; Josie is all smiles and naps. Other times she acts like these friends (sometimes the same ones!) are there to torture her and cries to look at them (which she can’t help doing over and over). I’ve tried going to “groups” but am often more exhausted from wearing and bouncing her the whole time than if we’d stayed home where I could be worn out in private (and cry if I want to).

I recently had the opportunity to take on a small freelance editing job. It was right up my alley. But then I had one of those days with Josie (actually two in a row); I was a wreck physically and emotionally (there’s nothing quite like when a baby finds her angry scream!). I ended up turning it down even though we could for sure use the money and I need to get back to doing what I like for work, rather than what I’ve been doing for 3 years (teaching online). The person said she’d be happy to work with me in the future, when I’m ready. But, of course, I still felt like a failure for turning down one little job and feel like it’s crazy to imagine there will be a time when Josie will “let” me work.

You see, our daughter will not nap, and now she’s gotten to waking up every, I don’t know, half hour to scream until I put I boob in it. If she could find it on her own and I could sleep through, that’d be great. But she can’t and neither can I. It’s constant waking…to the point of sleep deprivation torture. I know it could just be a stage or teething or who knows what. But it soooks! As I say often to K (it’s my postpartum mantra), this is unsustainable!

We’ve talked books and theories and timing and routines and swaddling and dangling from the ceiling, etc., whatever it would take to get her to sleep for longer stretches (even the old 2-hour ones we used to curse!). Nothing works, and I am sick of trying. We resorted to giving her the dreaded formula last night, thinking it would fill her tummy and help her sleep longer. Oh, no. She was on the boob right after. And on and off as usual throughout the night. So much for corn syrup! My mom being here right now is my only saving grace. And thinking that maybe, some month, Josie will change.

One piece of advice I’ve gotten recently that I do appreciate (however fantastical it is) is to do more self care and that this will somehow via magic unicorns and confetti translate to an easier go. So I got a massage last week. And another today. I’ve been in so much pain (just the regular body pain of having a baby, in addition to, of course, the special sliced and diced down-under kind), I have a hard time sleeping even when she is. Sometimes the pain killers help, but mostly I lie there thinking at the pain, “If I was really tired I could sleep through you!” I’m sure that’s it; I just haven’t hit rock bottom yet. Luckily, the massages have felt really good. The one yesterday was a sliding-scale Thai massage where the practitioner makes you into a pretzel and stretches out the tight spots. Hurts so god — a bit like fighting fire with fire.

Today I went to work on rebuilding my pelvic floor muscles and reconnecting my abdominals. I’ve been going once a week for over a month, and my diastasis has improved quite a bit. It’s still three fingers wide around the belly button area, but it’s much shallower all the way from top to bottom. I was expressing a little frustration to the pilates instructor I’m working with who said that as long as I’m nursing Josie, the relaxin in my system will keep things loose and my body won’t be able to “come back together” all the way. It was kind of good and bad to hear that. At first I thought, “Well, what’s all this working out for? How can I, or anyone, take care of a growing baby without certain muscles intact?” Then I thought, “Phew! I don’t have to get it perfect yet.”

Before I sign off, I want to introduce a new blog feature called FOG (Funny or Gross). When Josie was smaller and K and I were new to sleep deprivation, we thought we were the funniest people in the world. We’d make things up or just say (whisper) them on accident and crack up while trying not to disturb the almost-sleeping baby. As Josie is growing and doing more things with her body, I have to wonder: is that funny or gross? For example, Josie has been getting very good with her hands. I was leaning over and kissing her belly area when she hooked my nostrils with two of her fingers, bowling ball style, and pulled my face up to hers so she could eat it (my face). I thought it was hysterical. Later, when I was in bed, I moved my face muscles and felt my skin crack where the entire day’s saliva had dried. Again, I laughed. Am I still suffering from the sleep deprivation sense of humor? More FOG to come…

ch ch ch…

Josie is four months old. What?! I have a four-month-old daughter? Since when? Who is it? Is she related to the newborn I had?

There is a really tall baby that lives with K and I, and more often than not I find her sleeping in bed with us at night. She doesn’t sleep in the swing, and she doesn’t need all 500 Fleetwood Mac songs sung to her to get her there. Once in a while, I see a smile that I used to get my baby to make at the smallest provocation; this kid needs a lot more entertainment.

Unlike newborn sleepyhead, this Josie will not go quietly into a good nap. There is much crying, and often for little result. We can easily dance or swing her for over an hour just to get 10 minutes of unconsciousness out of her. The two ways we can get her to nap any longer than that is if K wears her in the Moby wrap and never stops moving, or if I lie down and nurse her to sleep.

She grows and changes, as does our hair. Mostly the result of many months away from a barber shop and lots of mother's milk.

She still cries at this, but once she’s asleep, I can keep her that way for almost two hours — as long as her arms are wrapped very possessively around the breast and I do not move one muscle the entire time. The whole operation’s awash if I adjust to relieve hip pain. I have spent 16 hours lying on my side some days. I would let her stay up all day and night if she’d be happy, but she kvetches all day when she’s tired.

I do not like to complain about her because it is clearly a parenting fault. Some of it is teething, too. Her breastfeeding issues largely cleared up after her frenotomy, but I don’t think there’s any minor surgery that makes a baby nap! We’ve bought the No Cry Sleep Solution, but of course we haven’t had time to read it. We’ve been told over and over that we have to make the call, and soon: either we let her cry it out a few nights in a row or we have a kid in our bed till 2020. We talk about it a lot, but neither of us are up for letting her cry for hours on end. I don’t know if it’s because of post-traumatic-birth syndrome or because we’re just wusses.

In spite of the fussy sleepiness, Josie is quite an amazing, silly, fun, and delicious kid. We love playing call-and-response cooing with her. She loves making us jump in surprise by suddenly wiggling her entire body on the changing table. She cuddles us really sweetly right before bed — if I put my head over her torso, she’ll wrap her arms around it (and then proceed to pull my hair). There’s so much more to say about our patootie, but there may be only seconds left of this miracle nap K snuck her into.


(Disclaimer: No men were harmed in the making of this blog.)

The Family

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