I’VE MOVED!

Please come find me at The Energizer Mommy!

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Moving on

I started this blog over 3 years ago as a way to deal with how my invisible illnesses were derailing the life I had imagined for myself. I knew next to nothing about blogging, and picked the name half by accident after the first 20 or so names I tried were taken. As I grew increasingly desperate for ideas I threw this one out to check its availability and suddenly, it was mine. I’ve found great support and love here, and this blog has been instrumental in helping me process and accept many of the turns my life has taken.

However, that person is not me anymore.

I no longer define myself by my invisible illnesses. I’m lucky in that pregnancy did much to minimize my symptoms, and also that I gave birth to the most amazing baby girl who has ever existed ever, and now I am happy in a way I never knew I could be. I have found myself in being her mom, “just” her mom.

And so, to reflect that, it is time for me to move on from this blog and this old self to a new blog that better reflects my new self.

I would love if you would all follow me over to “Just” a Mom (I’ve moved again! Join me at The Energizer Mommy), where I’ll be writing, hopefully more regularly now that I feel at home in my space again. Sadly, I don’t believe subscriptions will automatically transfer, so if you could take a moment to update yours that would be wonderful. All of my old content is there, and I will be leaving this site up as well, but not checking or updating it.

I have a new post up today to celebrate my new space. Come on over and read about how sexy boobs are.

Thank you for all the support I’ve gotten here over the years. I have loved each and every connection I have made, and I hope to see you more at my new site!

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Still nursing

I’m now, officially, an extended breastfeeder.

Baby Love is several weeks past one, and our nursing relationship is going strong. She still nurses around 4 times a day and 4 times a night (even though she eats crazy amounts of solids as well!).

When I started breastfeeding I didn’t have strong feelings about it. It seemed like less work than bottles, and I tend to prefer natural to artificial whenever practical, so I figured I’d try. If it didn’t work, no big deal. And I was definitely stopping when she got her first teeth!

Being 2 weeks late, she took to it like a champ. I was in awe at her skill at just minutes old.

Then I grew to resent her. If I was around, she wanted to nurse. ALWAYS. I felt like I didn’t even know what she looked like because I only ever saw the side of her face not blocked by my boob. I felt unloved, like she didn’t care about me, just my services. This continued for weeks. My mom told me to just give her a bottle and take a break, but breastfeeding was working and I didn’t want to mess up my supply if I could feed her. And after a few weeks it got better.

For months breastfeeding was no big deal. No longer a source of resentment, but not the big, bonding experience I’d been led to believe it would be, either. Functional and fine.

Slowly, though, I grew to love it. Being able to feed my child. To nourish her, body and soul, with my body. To be able to give her what no one else could. To feel the closeness. To know I was showing her love in the way she could best receive.

She got her first teeth at 5 1/2 months. I never even considered stopping. I didn’t even remember that had been the plan until months later, looking back. After all, by then breastfeeding was easy! We were both skilled and she needed it less frequently. Why would I stop and switch to bottles at that point? And that’s ignoring the love I was developing for it.

She began solids, following Baby Led Weaning. I never worried about how much she was eating. I’d been trusting her to feed herself appropriately for 6 months, and I continued to do so. I knew that no matter what she ate, almost all of her nutrition was coming from breastmilk, and so there was no need to worry about her solids intake. As more of her nutrition came from food, she ate more well balanced food of her own accord. No need for my intervention. And definitely no need to stop or reduce breastfeeding to force her to figure out what she was doing fine on her own.

And then she turned a year. Our nursing relationship is different now. She eats a RIDICULOUS amount of solid food for her size. But if she’s teething, or sick, and doesn’t feel like it, she can still get her nutrition from my milk. And even when she’s getting much of her nutrition from food, she’s still getting a perfectly balanced supplement from me. She nurses for comfort. When she’s sad or scared or needy, nursing makes her feel secure in my love. And she nurses for fun! She loves nursing! It makes her happy. And it makes me happy to make her happy.

No more is she the floppy little baby in my arms, being held to the breast. When we’re at home sometimes I’ll take my breast out and she’ll walk or crawl over, beaming, and crouch down or climb up to align herself and latch on. Once there she looks up into my eyes, hers filled with joy. She nurses laying down, but also sitting, standing, kneeling, crouching, and bending. Mornings when my husband is home he’ll often go get her when she’s up and bring her to me in bed and she’ll gleefully crawl across the bed, squealing, climb onto me, and plop herself down for snuggles. I take out my breast and she adjusts her snuggles to latch on, sighing contentedly.

Breastfeeding is such a huge part of our lives in so many ways. We both love it. I can’t imagine stopping, just because she hit an arbitrary age. And I can’t imagine her naturally stopping now. I imagine that as she grows she’ll nurse less and less until she no longer wants to. But until that time, I look forward to our nursing relationship continuing.

If you’d told me a year ago I’d still be nursing past one I’d have nodded, smiled, and then rolled my eyes behind your back. But here’s the thing: babies don’t turn one overnight. It’s a slow, gradual process. And while a one year old seemed huge and old a year ago, now she’s still just my baby, and neither of us is ready to be done.

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Snapshot of a Baby

A brief snap shot of Baby Love 10 short days before she turns 1.

-She signs more (in the context of eating), all done (in many contexts), and book. More can be anything from roughly correct hand shape to a bent o or fist touching a palm (most common) to clapping, and she’ll sometimes do it even before fussing for more. All done is a crazy waving of the arms a tiny amount frantically. Book looks like two relaxed hands but tense arms being shoved together so the hands keep falling over each other. She LOVES being able to communicate!

-She is delighted when she understands what we’re doing and can do it too. If she sees us rub our hands together (using hand sanitizer, dusting them off, etc.) she’ll gleefully drop whatever she’s doing to mimic us. She’ll wave sometimes and clap often with you.

-She says “dah-deee!” for daddy and “dah-djshi” for Toby (the dog) with equal delight. No word for mom yet, but I’ve decided to take it as a compliment that I’m just a given in her life. A sound somewhere in between her words for daddy and Toby is her all-purpose filler label for things that intrigue her.

-She LOVES reading and thoroughly enjoys turning the pages of the books as we go. She studies the pictures in books, and prefers stories she knows. She’ll anticipate the end as you reach it and sometimes turn away in anticipation of what’s coming next now that the book is almost done.

-The game “Little Red Wagon” is a favorite. If you stop after each verse she’ll begin doing the next action to prompt you. If you tell her she’s got the wrong one she’ll stop, visibly think, and try a different action.  Another, newer, favorite is “Patty Cake”. When you’re done she’ll clap her hands for more, and if you don’t comply she’ll grab your fingers and clap her hands while holding your fingers very purposefully.

-She walks surprisingly steadily, even holding my hand and walking next to me sometimes when we’re out. She’s getting less and less thoughtful before taking off across a room on her feet; it’s becoming a means not an end at all. She still does crawl some, especially when she’s tired, and I love the crawling!

-She’ll sing along if you sing at times, using a more drawn out, melodic voice. If I say, “Yaaaaay!” happy and high pitched she may mimic back “Aaaaaah!” in the same high pitched tone.

-She ADORES music of all kinds. She loves when we sing to her, she loves standing or sitting on daddy’s lap at the piano to play the keys, she loves playing with her electronic keyboards or even her xylophone “piano” to make music, and she’ll happily play with any electronic toy that plays a song. If she likes a song she’ll often dance with it, bobbing up and down or swaying back and forth, though that’s almost exclusively for recorded or electronic music.

-She and Toby are great friends. She idolizes him and follows him everywhere, even where he thinks is safe. She wants what he likes, and will often pull his ball out of his mouth and then giggle when he takes it back out of her hand. They’ll play tug with his toys, and when either wins they offer it back to the other to continue the game.

-She gives the best kisses, both impromptu and when asked. They are getting less open mouthed and slobbery, but still usually include voice (since we say mmmmuah! when kissing her) and frequently include a raspberry. Nose kisses often involve some teeth for extra love. She loves knowing she makes us so happy by kissing us and beams at her power to do so.

-She has begun to problem solve very intentionally and will put the shapes in her shape sorter, stack rings on her stacking toy, and put balls in her “gumball machine” before pulling the lever to have them come out. She is determined to figure out how to achieve each goal when she tackles it, and typically does so surprisingly quickly.

-She is beginning to understand basic spoken directions a little, especially with gesture support. Today she helped me clean her play area and would take a toy I handed her and put it where I indicated (though sometimes she didn’t want to let it go!).

-She is a mama’s girl, and now that I’m home she doesn’t want to let me get far. She loves snuggles and hugs more and more the more mobile she gets. She’ll often come over and climb in my lap and sit there while doing whatever it is she’s doing. I’m loving the cuddles!

-She’s not a fan of the changing table, and will sit up as soon as she’s able and LAUNCH herself into my (hopefully) waiting arms. She also loves to do this from her high chair, though she can’t get as much speed there.

-She adores sharing with anyone, and will often offer her toy and be DELIGHTED if it’s accepted. She doesn’t actually want to let it go, but she’ll be thrilled if you pretend to chew on it while she holds it to your mouth. This is slightly problematic at the dinner table when she tries to share with the eagerly waiting Toby. She gets so happy when an offer is accepted, and he’ll always accept!

-She finds it hilarious when we throw things. At bath time we throw her toys back in their holder to put them away and she can’t stop giggling. She also recognizes when things are abnormal now and giggles at the silliness. So daddy putting a toy on his face, or “wearing” it, evokes delighted giggles that don’t stop. We live for her precious giggles!

-She is a destructive little thing with her teeth, chewing holes in board books and cardboard boxes in minutes.

-She is our little dare devil. She loves swinging upside down, climbing on or over anything available, being up high, being thrown, and any rough handing. She’s already covered in bruises from her many adventures, and I’m slightly scared of what I’m in for!

-She is so, so loved by her daddy and me, beyond what we could ever express. I am still amazed by how fiercely I love this little person, in spite of anything else that is going on. A smile from her makes life worth living. We are so very in love with our little ball of energy and joy!

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Out of Step

I no longer feel like a good mom.

Before I did my student teaching, I loved being a stay at home mom. I found complete and utter fulfillment spending my days with my baby, meeting her needs, watching her grow, and moving through life together.

Then the end of my master’s degree approached, and though I no longer wanted to, I went back to work to complete my student teaching.

For 9 weeks I left her in the care of a nanny full time. I was afraid it would make me feel unfulfilled when I came back to being just her mom after being in the working world. But after 9 weeks was spring break. And I settled back into being her mom full time without a hitch. It felt right. It felt natural. It felt good.

Then I went back for my last 5 weeks.

And now I’m home. Permanently. This is day 7.

And this time there have been hitches.

Those last 5 weeks killed our relationship.

She still loves me and I still love her. I don’t mean our relationship in that sense.

But our rhythm. Our way of getting through the days. How we knew each other. How I knew her.

It’s gone.

She has always been a problem sleeper. I have gotten all of the advice that exists on how to deal with this. I took some and left some, and while it could make me doubt myself a little, overall I knew that I knew my child and I knew her needs and I was doing right. If I tried advice that felt wrong it inevitably wasn’t successful and I trusted myself to go back to doing what was. If I predicted something wouldn’t work but tried it, it inevitably didn’t work in the way I predicted. I knew my child.

But in those last 5 weeks, my child went from being a baby to be a toddler, in so many more ways than just mobility.

Her communication took off. Her problem solving skills took off. Her interactions took off.

She learned to interact with her nanny in a different way than I interact with her.

And now I’m left with no good sense of my daughter.

When she cries, I no longer am confident if she is truly upset or if she is trying to force a response. To some extent it doesn’t matter; I don’t want to let her cry it out. But to some extent it does. I frame my responses based on the reasons behind things. When I knew her cries were because she felt abandoned or alone I worked to remedy that instantly. No lesson would come from that kind of crying. If her cries were simple preference I wasn’t as quick.

Now we are having a sleep regression. A major one. She had been teething for weeks, but the teeth are through and now the sleep regression is only worse. At night I still have somewhat of a handle on things.

But she will. not. nap.

And I am left without a clue as what to do.

I no longer feel in tune with her. I no longer feel as if we are in step. When she refuses to sleep I am left floundering, unsure of where to go next.

Of course, you never know what to do in mothering. These are entirely other, utterly complex, little people we are caring for. I never knew before. But I was confident in my relative understanding, and I used that to move forward feeling informed.

Now that is all gone. Out the window. The rug has been pulled out from under me. And I am lurching forward unbalanced. Feeling unsure where to step.

And so feeling like I am constantly failing.

My child won’t nap. And I don’t know what to do. Do I leave her to scream, even though in the past these kinds of screams have been legitimate and she is making herself spit up again from how hard she is crying? But now when I walk in the screams stop instantly and she smiles. Does that mean they’re not legitimate? Or does it just mean she loves me?

Is she ready for one nap? Is her resistance towards taking her first nap on time and her second nap at all due to her outgrowing the need for both? Or is it that she is adjusting back to having me home every day instead of her beloved nanny? Or is it that she has figured out she can manipulate me into letting her play more? Or is it that she is over tired from not napping enough and thus not sleeping enough and so she is in extra need of both naps?

I felt out of touch with her while I was working. Many moms can be good moms while working. I was not. I was disconnected from her, just trying to get through my days.

So now, when I’m back to being with her full time, I feel as if I lost the last 15 weeks of gradual growth and change, as if my child and my understandings are 15 weeks out of date. I feel as if my child has changed, suddenly, into one who is 15 weeks older than the one I knew.

I know the changes have been gradual. But I feel like I missed them.

So I don’t know what to do.

And I hate myself for missing them.

I hate that I missed the last 1/3 of her babyhood.

I hate that there is nothing I can do to get those weeks back.

I hate that I am not the one who primarily shaped who she is now as her communication took off and those formative weeks happened.

I know that in the grand scheme of things it was not much time. I know that living in regret only makes me miss what I have now. And I fight it.

But I still hate it.

And it’s harder to fight it when I feel like that time is impacting my ability to be a good mom now.

I want the rhythm I had with my daughter back. I want our easy, beautiful, in-step life back. Maybe I would have lost it even if I was home. But I don’t think so. Not like this. And I’ll never know.

I want to learn how to be a good mother to my daughter again. And I will. I’m sure.

But for now I’m just left feeling like a failure more and more with each lurching step.

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Thank you, Baby Love

I have moved! I am now blogging at The Energizer Mommy. Please come join me there!

One year ago I was 39.5 weeks pregnant, waiting to see if I would go into labor and become a mother of an outside-baby for Mother’s Day.

2.5 weeks later, Baby Love was born after a long, hard labor.

Being her mother has been the most joyful, fulfilling job I have ever had.

After 7 months of being her full-time stay-at-home-mom, I returned to work to complete my student teaching, taking on a full-time job outside the home and leaving her in the care of a nanny. It was very hard.

Friday, after 14 weeks away, my student teaching ended.

I am officially a full-time stay-at-home-mom again.

And I’m loving it.

Thank you, Baby Love, for giving me the best job I have ever, ever had. Thank you for making me a mother. Thank you for helping me find complete fulfillment in being “just” a mom.

Happy Mother’s Day, sweetheart!

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Learning without training

Baby Love’s sleep seems to be FINALLY (*knock wood…knock all the wood*) turning a corner (*frantic knocking*). With our new nanny, E, she is more happy and relaxed and that is translating to better sleep.

I never sleep trained Baby Love. I tried a variation of cry-it-out once, and half-tried it a second time, and both times decided it was not for us. I am a big believer in the philosophy that babies’ wants ARE needs, which does not go well with CIO. Even if Baby Love just wanted the comfort of my presence or my boob in the middle of the night, to her that was a need. She had no life experience or tools in her tool box to draw on to deal with discomfort or fear or loneliness in other ways. How could I deny her the one thing she knew she could draw on to calm down, me, and leave her with nothing? It was just not my parenting style. Even if she didn’t “need” to eat in the night after 6 or 8 months, she “needed” my comfort. And that need was just as valid.

I nursed her to sleep for almost every bed time. Whenever she awoke in the night, I nursed her back to sleep.

Within this framework, I set her up to succeed.

I made sure she was rested so she wasn’t so over tired she couldn’t sleep.

I didn’t respond to every little sound, a classic reason I hear people give that babies still wake 4-6 times a night after 6 months like Baby Love did. I understood this idea in theory, but it was pretty clear if Baby Love was going to need me or not: when she needed me she woke up screaming. When she cried for me, I went to her, even if it was for the 8th time that night. I might have been exhausted, but I went, and quickly. No leaving her to cry for minutes on end to try to “teach” her to self-soothe by leaving her without soothing.

I helped her learn to put herself to sleep by giving her the opportunity to do so, but I’d still go back if she needed me and was crying. One day I left her to play in her crib at nap time, something she would often do for as much as an hour before crying for me to help her come fall asleep, and when I checked on her on the video monitor she had fallen asleep on her own. From that day on she fell asleep on her own at nap time regularly. This falling asleep on her own, however, in no way affected her nighttime awakenings. For Baby Love, falling asleep and falling BACK asleep are two very different things.

Then, finally, all on her own, Baby Love was ready to sleep more soundly. She very suddenly started waking up in the night, crying out once or twice or for 30 seconds, shifting to a new position, and going right back to sleep.

I was astounded.

By this point, at about 9.5 months old, I had resigned myself to the idea that we were in for the long haul and her sleep would likely be bad until she was around 2 years old, when children’s sleep habits are supposed to become more adult-like. I had tried all of the gentle methods to get her to sleep better, none of which made a difference, and that was as far as I was willing to take it. I had given up on the techniques weeks or months before and settled in to our apparent normal. I continued to set her up to succeed and nurture her so she knew she could count on me, but I refused to do any overt “training”.

And yet, she taught herself.

When she was ready, she did it.

Since this epiphany on her part a few weeks ago, her sleep has been improving markedly. Even though she has been the sickest she has ever been in her life with an icky head cold over the past week, she is sleeping better than she ever has. She only needs me twice a night much of the time. Any more, four wake-ups is a bad night, instead of a great one. I am getting more, continuous sleep. She is getting more, continuous sleep. It is a beautiful thing.

As her sleep has improved I better understand all of the sleep tips I received. I now don’t go to her as soon as she wakes, because even with an initial loud cry she’ll often put herself right back to sleep. In the past this wasn’t the case, and waiting 5 minutes just led to 5 minutes of continuous screaming (I tried it once for 3 days, not once did she “not really need me” or would I have been responding too fast). I can even understand cry-it-out at this stage, though I still wouldn’t choose it, because now she has the tools she would need to be able to put herself to sleep even when she doesn’t want to. Before this point in her life she did not have these tools, and leaving her to cry and cry would only have taught her that she was utterly alone and could not count on me. Now it might force her to access these skills. (Again, I’d rather let her learn to access them herself, but at least now I see that it could work even if it’s not my preferred path.)

Watching her develop on her own has been a great lesson to me:

I do know my child best.

I was given all of the sleep advice under the sun. I got judged left and right by parents with every age of child. I got told I was doing it wrong, I was coddling her, I was harming her, I just needed to try x and our sleep problems would disappear.

I listened to the advice and the judgement, and then continued to do what felt right for Baby Love.

Looking at where she was from birth to 9 months, and looking at where she is now at 10 months, it is night and day. That sleep advice would NOT have worked before now on her (which is probably why it didn’t). Now it could. Other babies may be ready for it at 6 months, or even 4 months, but mine wasn’t until 9.5.

Just like with every other development that our children go through, variation is normal. I would never strap her into a walker and force her to try to walk for hours a day so she would learn that on my schedule. Trying to force her to conform to sleep training techniques, even gentle ones, before she was ready for them would have been similarly pointless and detrimental.

I’m glad I decided to trust my baby and follow her lead. For us, it worked. Now not only am I sleeping better, I am trusting my mommy superpowers more. I know my child.

We will have sleep regressions. I know that. But we are progressing. And there is light at the end of the tunnel.

And if I do end up needing to do some gentle training down the line, I know, now, that she is ready for it.

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