Monthly Archives: March 2013

Marital wars

The number one cause of divorce

The number one cause of divorce

So, a week ago today we were packing up to leave New Orleans. Baby wrangled into car seat? Check. 60 lb Bernese / Mountain Dog settled in front seat? Check. Hyperactive yet terrified accidental urinator of a chiweenie wrestled into the floor space as if an oiled hot dog was  being stuffed into a small bottle neck? Check. WE ARE READY! Until Wes let out the fatal words:

“I really wish I had got a donut from the breakfast room for the road”.

I offered to go get a donut, he declined, I offered again, he resisted, I insisted, he said fine. Done.

I went back to the breakfast room and eyed the pile of soft, moist ring donuts, each topped with a glistening coat of icing. “Man” said the devil in me “those sure look good… I’ll bet one of those would be delicious on the road trip”. The angel said,

“You won’t eat it. You always collect piles of sweet stuff for road trips, take a small bite of each and leave the rest to fester in the new car. Wes’ new car. That he loves so much”. The devil needled me,

“Maybe this time you will. Maybe this will be different to the other 31 years of your life, and this time you’ll eat the donut”

“You never eat the donut, Lekki. It’s just more of the crap you collect. Do you really think you’ll eat the donut?”.

My pulse raced and beats of sweat collected on my brow. Could I commit to the donut? Could I be the pig in the breakfast, and not the chicken? I have had a lot of commitment in my life recently: a marriage, a baby, a house… did that make me better at committing to things? Or did it just use up my commitment power? Did I really like donuts, or just the idea of donuts? Was my life ready for a donut? Conscious of Wes sitting at the side of the road growing ever more impatient I hastily grabbed 2 delicious ring donuts and headed to the car.

Wes’ face fell when I said “the other donut is for me”.

“Do you want it now?”.

“No… later”.

“Are you sure? Are you actually going to eat the donut? The trash can is right there”.

And there is was: the glorious get-out clause. The voice of reason. The excuse for a donut-free life and the thing that was most likely to make me dig my heels in and say “Yes! I want the donut. Leave my donut alone. Later on in the journey I will want the donut! Put in on the dashboard [unspoken: where you will have to defend it from earnest for the whole journey] and I’ll eat it later”. Pause. “It’s my donut! I want it! I’ll want something sweet later! I’m not throwing it away”.

And so we started the journey… my donut precariously placed on the dashboard, the grease slowly soaking through the thin layer of tissue it was balanced on… Wes’ donut safely in his stomach.

11 O’clock hit, and I was hungry. “Donut?” said Wes hopefully.

“Ummmm…. no…. too early for a donut. I usually have a sweet treat at 3. I’ll eat it then”. And I bought some chex mix.

At 12 we stopped for gas. “Shall I throw the donut away?”

“No, I might want it later”.

1.30 lunch time: “Shall I put the donut in the bin?”

“No! Leave my donut”.

And on we journeyed. At 3 pm I began to giggle uncontrollably.

“What?”

“Nothing”

“No… what?”.

“It’s just… it’s just… I don’t think I am going to eat the donut after all. You can just chuck it out when we get home.”

Wes scowled and stared very hard at the road ahead.

That was the end of the donut.

Or so I thought.

When I came to check my emails later that night, this is what I found:

photo (2)

Ho ho. Very amusing. I ignored the donut.

Until the next day when I went to brush my teeth.

photo

Then there was a pause. A pause of three glorious donut-free days when it appeared on my stamp shelf:

130328_0003130328_0002

This is no good. You can’t force a donut into someone’s life. They have to be ready for a donut. Ready to accept the donut for what it is. Ready to welcome the donut.

I am not dealing with the donut.

Now we have a stand-off. I will probably give in and do the only sensible thing:

Go out and buy a box of donuts and eat them. One-by-one. And leave this donut in the box. On Wes’ desk. With the note “Saved you a donut. Wife x”.

 

Advertisements

My first pintrest project!!!

130328_0005
Was made by my husband…. go figure.

I am slowly… slowly… turning my office into a craft studio. Soon the days where all my craft stuff is buried deep in draws and boxes will be long gone, and everything will be out for me to see.

So, Wes made me a super cute stamp storage space that fits neatly behind my door – thank you honey 🙂

130328_0004

P.S. Anyone else pin a heapload of stuff, but never actually check their pintrest boards? And then spend hours googling something online (e.g. ‘baby shower cakes’) only to find out you had a whole pintest board devoted to that thing AFTER you spent hours finding a project? OK. Just me then.

Introducing Ellie

IMG_1504

Two Fridays ago, Wes and I went down to BARC shelter to look at dogs to cheer ourselves up and NOT to buy one just yet 🙂 While Wesley continued his tradition of liking ‘proper’ dogs and looking at the large breeds, I asked to get a little chiweenie out of the a cage (chiweenie = a ridiculous cross between a dachshund and a chihuahua). I took it to the play area, but we didn’t quite get on. With some sadness, but not too much regret (we were, after all, only looking, and I reasoned a little play outside was better than nothing for these creatures), I handed her back to the volunteer to go back in her cage.

The volunteer at BARC said that she had another chiweenie and asked if I would see her. “Sure”, I said nonchalantly. Why not? A quick cuddle and home. She bought out 2 chiweenies: a run of the mill short hair, and a beautiful long haired brown and white one. I dutifully played with the brown and white one, gave her some exercise and handed her back. The volunteer placed the plain Jane next to me and she immediately she hopped into my lap and licked me. I grinned, scratched her head, received a ‘kiss’ on my face… …and it was love.

130312_0014

We played, we walked, we romped, but we mostly cuddled. I asked Wes if she could come home with us, but Wes said no (!) Adamantly. He wouldn’t even play with her. He firmly said he didn’t like her, and that she had had puppies and he didn’t want a dog who had had puppies. The tears started, and rolled unheeded down my face. The volunteer took pity on me and said “the small ones often go… she’ll find a home”, but I was not comforted. Still, what could I do? Wes wouldn’t even look at the dog, so we left, chiweenie-less and broken-hearted (me).

IMG_1529

I understood (we can’t get a dog one of us doesn’t like) but was so sad. I cried all the way home. And around Target. And through the movie that night. I tried to brave, but I missed the dog so much! Wes confessed that he was regretting his decision, and said that he didn’t know why he had said X-nayed her, and offered to return to the pound to get her the next day get her the next day. Poor Wes, he happily lived a loner life where no one bothered him, and he couldn’t bother anyone else, until 3 years ago when he fell in love with the most er… passionate… woman around. I have a lot of love people… it manifests itself in strange ways.

130311_0004

Confused at how his life had spiraled, and how he had inadvertently found himself breaking his one true life goal (make Lekki (and now Sam) happy), Wes took us back to the pound early on Saturday morning. We could not find our chiweenie! They bought out an identical one, which they claimed was the same one (psssshhhhh), but I sadly shook my head and asked her to be taken away (and cried a little bit more). Apparently she had been fostered, so they gave our number to the foster agency.

130323_0013

Thus began the waiting game. It was odd, as dogs are not normally fostered over the weekend – it is the busiest time, so they like the dogs on display so they are more likely to be adopted. When we didn’t hear anything by Sunday, Wes called the pound – the volunteer quietly told us that she was not listed anymore, with no record of adoption, and our assumption was that she had been put down.

Poor Wes, his life was spiraling into more and more guilt through no real fault of his own. In desperation, he left a tearful me with Sam at home, and went back to the pound in person just to see if he could speak to someone…

…. and he came back with my chiweenie!!!!

130323_0017

Now we have lil’ Ellie. She is very submissive – more even than you would expect for the breed. But she is coming out of her shell now that she is learning that we are her forever family 🙂 She is now about 80% house trained, and has learned to use a leash. Not perfectly, but she does walk on it. She has bonded with me well enough that I can even let her off the leash in the park, and she returns when called (and does not stray too far anyway). She is a joy to watch outside – all leaps and bounds and fast galloping runs.

130320_0006

But, best of all, she is the ultimate snuggle bug. She loved to tunnel like a little mole under covers, and snuggle up. When I am working, she sits between my butt and the seat. She is a joy to have and I am so glad Wes went back and found her.

130320_0005

Sam LOVES her. She will let him stroke her (well… he tried… he’s a bit clumsy) and she often makes him smile. She chose to sit on his lap for part of our road trip to New Orleans, and he loved it.

130318_0012
It was meant to be 🙂

Sleep training

Sleeping at the WRONG moment!

Sleeping at the WRONG moment!

Oh controversy… we have found thee, and thy name is sleep training. Do what you will with your own family.

Our reasons for sleep training:

Principally, because Sam’s sleep was getting worse. He was waking more frequently in the night and eating less each time (i.e. it wasn’t hunger). Not only that, but getting him to go to sleep in the evening was getting worse. It was moving from a 30 minute ‘story-bottle-cuddle-crib’ routine, to a 60 minute ‘story-bottle-fuss-bottle-scream-wail-anger-come downstairs-fuss-fall asleep downstairs-go ballistic if he woke up again in his crib’ routine. OK, it wasn’t always that bad, but there were elements of that, and it was heading that way.

It was clear that Sam had figured out when bedtime was, and didn’t want to go to sleep. It wasn’t really a problem yet, but I have seen the result of when it is a problem in older babies, and that was potentially on the horizon. Further, it was clear to us that Sam’s problem was sleep. Just sleep. Not being in his crib (he would happily play in there during the day), not being on his own (never normally bothers him, plus we stayed in the room with him at bedtime), and not that he was hungry (he was not eating much, and we waited out the extra wakings to see they were growth spurt related). For sure, sleep (he would similarly fight sleep in the day, when out and about and he would start to go mad if he suspected sleep was on the cards for him).

Now sleeping in the WRONG PLACE!

Now sleeping in the WRONG PLACE!

On a deeper level, I guess the decision to sleep train reflects Wes & I’s shared philosophy that while it would be great if we were all living in the plains as we are probably designed to do… we don’t. We live in a modern world, and part of our job as parents to to help Sam figure out how to fit into the modern world, while also loving and protecting him, and helping him be an individual.

In a general sense, we also felt Sam was ‘robust’ enough to deal with it. He was a solid, happy baby. Screaming fits didn’t upset him beyond when the reason for the screaming fit had passed. He didn’t need lots of reassurance in his life. He was along normal developmental lines: sitting, almost crawling (a slithering thing), loving tummy time, not babbling yet but reaching for toys, and moving them around. So, he saw no reason why he would not be ready.

IMG_1487
NOT one of our reasons for sleep training:

So we could sleep through the night. I actually think that if you are really suffering from lack of sleep, this is a very good reason! But, for the record, Wes and I were not suffering because we had fallen into a neat switch in-and-out routine that got us both a decent amount of sleep and went something like this:

10.30: I go to sleep, Wes feeds Sam

12.30: Wes feeds Sam & goes to sleep

3.30: I feed Sam and doze with him in his room

5: I feed Sam

6ish: Sam wakes

7: I hand Sam to Wes and I go to sleep

9ish: We finally are all up.

I guess it was easier for us because I could sleep until 9 and still be in work on time (10) 🙂 So, we were both actually pretty rested.

How we sleep trained:

One sleep training day... he seems to be OK with it.

One sleep training day… he seems to be OK with it.

I didn’t read any books, so I don’t know that this is exactly what we did, but I think we ‘Ferbered’. Or ‘Ferberized’ our baby, which sounds more horrendous than it is. Basically our plan was (read our experience below, it was a little different!): Sam goes in his crib. If he cries, he is left for 3 mins, then we come in and without picking him up, reassure him. This is repeated next after 5 minutes, then after 10… and right up to 40 minutes. At night, if Sam wakes, we leave him, unless he sounds hysterical. I think that is Ferber? I don’t know. I think he also has more specific routines or something.

Why we ‘Ferbered’:

Sam after being Ferbered (or Ferber-ished)

Sam after being Ferbered (or Ferber-ished)

Main reason? Our pediatrician told us to. We trust him, as he does not have a harsh / strict philosophy overall. His sleep philosophy up to 1 month is to do anything the baby needs: feed to sleep, cuddle to sleep, love on as much as possible. He told us not to Ferber at 2 months. He says that during the day, it is ‘impossible to spoil a child under 6 months’ and so you should go to them whenever they cry (if reasonable) and pick them up as much as they need. He thinks parent-led routines are not a problem, but not necessary. So, he is very gentle in his approach, but he really felt Sam needed to be sleep trained before 6 months, when he said it would (or could) all get a lot harder.

We had also tried other methods. Sam got wise to everything. We tried the patting, we tried to Hogg ‘pick up and settle and put back down’ as much as possible, we tried sleep cues, we tried a loving bedtime routine, we tried ‘cuddling to Sam to 98% asleep then laying in his crib’. Sam wised up to it all – as soon as he figured out it was leading to sleep, the screaming would start. And things were not slowly getting better. I truly believe that Sam is not a kid who would have naturally picked up a nice bedtime routine given some more time – he is just not a good sleeper. Even in sleep, he seems to fight it, and struggle to give in to sleep.

I also asked a number of very experienced mothers. I have a friend with three children. They are all happy, well adjusted, extremely well turned out children. She ‘Ferbered’ two of them, and the third is still, apparently, her worst sleeper. I asked my Mum – she said that she did the same to me (although it did not have the catchy name then) but way younger – she believes it is fine as a method. Even Wes’ sister-in-law’s-mother told me to do it – that it works well, and she wished she had done it for the elder child, whom she was still rocking to sleep (sometimes all night) at 2 years of age. I trust all these mothers, and their input was invaluable.

Our sleep training experience:

Bathtime. Part of the nighttime routine.

Bathtime. Part of the nighttime routine.

In reality it didn’t go quite as planned. Because we did something I think is key to raising a kid: adapted the plan to suit us and our baby. For what it is worth, here is how it actually went for us:

Night 1: Sam was put in the crib awake, and left alone. He fussed in his crib at bedtime (7 pm). I left him for 5 minutes, went up, and was just in time to see him put himself to sleep. He fussed at 12 and it took him a while to put himself to sleep. He fussed at 3.30… and then cried for about 40 minutes. This was horribly heart breaking, I cried, and I might regret that part of it. But he did put himself to sleep, and woke up at 7 am.

Night 2: Wes told me that Sam had been going crazy at nap time during the day, and I saw it at bedtime. He didn’t just cry, but SCREAMED. So, I didn’t leave him alone, but sitting with him didn’t help. I brought him down while we had dinner, and then took him back at about 7.40. Put him in his crib and he SCREAMED again. After about 5 mins, Wes came in and patted his back and said a loud ‘shush’ until he went to sleep. That took about 15 mins, and I decided that the shush and pat routine was better than sitting by him. I don’t think he woke at 12? But he did wake at 4 and cry. I felt bad. Quite miserable. He cried for about 40 minutes, then he woke up at 5.30 again and I went and fed him.

Night 3: I moved to a ‘shush and pat’ routine at night. So, Sam got a bottle, and a hug on my chest until very sleepy. I laid him in the crib and every time he went to cry, shushed and patted him until he went to sleep. I stayed in the room the whole time. It took about 15 minutes. Then I went down, ate dinner and went to bed dreading the night cry. I woke at 7.15 am to the sound of giggles 🙂 Sam had woken at about 6.30, made such little noise I didn’t wake (he fussed and grunted) and Wes had fed him and they were playing in the nursery.

Boom. From then on every night has been the same. A shush-and-pat bedtime with me in the room. He’ll often wake once or twice within 40 mins after I leave, sometimes with a real yell. But I go in immediately, I don’t pick him up, but I shush and pat, shush and pat. He will go to sleep. Sometimes it seems like a long time, but has actually never been more than 5 minutes (and he has never cried alone for more than the 20 seconds it takes me to run up the stairs). He sleeps until 6.30 (boo) – 7.30 (yay!). I have seen him wake and settle himself back to sleep. And rather than wake up in the morning and scream miserably (as per before sleep training) he wakes up and watches his mobile until he is bored, when he fuses for us (unless he is hungry when he yells… no mistaking that).

He is still not a fabulous sleeper, and will wake several times in the night, or grunt and whine and fuss in his sleep. We deal with this by having turned the baby monitor off. Thus – this doesn’t wake us, but we do hear if he actually cries in distress, rather than just complains.

Note: we do a ‘dream feed’ before we go to bed at 10.30-11 (Oh, how we are party animals) but essentially, our wee one sleeps through the night.

How I feel after it:

Shark bathrobe before bed

Shark bathrobe before bed

It was hard. But I am glad we did it. Sam now has a nice regular bedtime, that seems less distressing than before. Before he would wail and cry for ages, stay up until he was over tired and so on. Now he fusses (occasionally yells) for a brief period, during which he is not alone. I don’t think it is bad for him, he is telling us he doesn’t want to go to sleep, and we are saying ‘tough buddy, you have to’. But, we are staying with him, and reassuring him, and loving him. Bedtime is easier for us all, emotionally.

He seems less stressed in general to be in his crib. I has been told that if we Ferbered him he would still be very distressed in his crib, he just wouldn’t express it – having learned that his cries would not be responded to. Well… I don’t believe that for Sam. He wakes up and indeed doesn’t yell now, but this is a picture of how Wes found him the other morning (‘scuse the infant Tylenol stains on the bed):

Good morning Sam

Good morning Sam

Rather than thinking that his cries go unanswered, he seems not to need to cry.

He sleeps better during the day too – he is easier to put down (note: easiIER not easY!) because we follow the bedtime routine, and as a previous 1-cycle sleeper (awake after 45 mins) he will now sometimes put himself back to sleep and get 1.5-2.5 hours. So, he feels better during the day.

He is just as happy, and just as giggly during the day. He loves me just as much. He loves Wes just as much. He cries as much as ever during the day for exactly the same reasons (bored / hungry / tired / I accidentally bashed his noodle into the door frame [happens way too often]) but not any more than before.

I honestly just feel like we have taught him to do something he found very difficult.

The only downside is that I miss the little critter! I miss out nighttime cuddles and morning snuggles. I hate knowing that when I put him down at 7, I won’t se him for 12 whole hours! Boo! But that is why I have my new puppy (the subject of the next blog post).

IMG_1542

What I think about the Ferber controversy:

Beh. I read a lot about sleep training, and how harmful it could be, and I really took it all into consideration. At the end of the day, I felt Sam was a naturally bad sleeper: he never slept well (day or night) and actively fought bed / sleep. He regressed, not progressed. I think if we had left it, he would either have NEVER been a decent sleeper, or we would have had to teach him when he was older, and found it much harder to learn. So, I think this was the lesser of two evils.

And I don’t think it was that much of an evil. I think it worse for me (oh, I cried!).  Sam had some crying periods, which I am sure he doesn’t remember now, and has emerged as a child who can negotiate going to bed, and being in his crib, with way less angst. He isn’t silently unhappy, because he keeps giggling and grinning when he wakes. He is just fine.

I do know about the infamous cortisol study. In brief, they took two groups of parents: one who did cry-it-out sort of as we did (going back after 5, then 10, then 15 etc minutes) and one group who did not (I forget what they did). The cry it out group got all their kids to learn to sleep very quickly, but when the researchers measured salivary cortisol, it was higher in the cry-it-out infants, even after they had been sleep trained. The conclusions drawn not by the scientists, but by the popular press (gotta love ’em) was that the babies were miserable, but silent about it, and this was going to cause them anxiety problems in later life.

Stepping aside of the small sample size, lack of randomization and the lack of replication, and taking these results as if they were scientifically valid, here is the thing: we stress our babies all the time. Cortisol is not new to the baby. Hands up if you have ever been stuck on the interstate, and you can’t pull over, and your baby is going ballistic (*raises hand*). Cortisol. Got a baby who goes through periods of deciding he / she doesn’t want to be in his car seat, but you put them in anyway? Cortisol. Every time. Doesn’t like having their diaper changed? Or waiting for their lunch? Or having their vaccinations? You got it: all stress.

Oh, he is smiling now. But, man does he sometimes hate his seat.

Oh, he is smiling now. But, man does he sometimes hate his seat.

We subject our babies to stress because, sadly, they have to deal with the modern world. There is good stress and bad stress. Bad stress is pain and cruelty. Neglect. Good stress is necessary to adapt to living in the world. Or as some night say: learning. I like to think we have just taught Sam how to manage cortisol in a good stress situation: because he has gone through it. He has learned how to sleep. He is happy.

And asleep. He is currently asleep, and will be for the next 8 hours. *smug*

Advice:

130312_0004

(1) Yes, be consistent, but at the beginning reevaluate and figure out a routine that works for you. We adapted the bedtime routine, but stuck with the nighttime routine.

(2) Involve your pediatrician. Find out what they recommend, knowing your child. Also, then, if it is not working after a set period of time, you can contact them. I would not have left Sam screaming for weeks. It is supposed to be a brief period of discomfort, to get them to a more comfortable place. Not agony.

(3) Rope in support. My Mum, Brenda, Alanna and Laura were all huge supporters, and Johanna and Frances all reassured me I wasn’t damaging Sam. Definitely build up a support network to go to – it was 2-3 days for us, but they were not easy.

(4) Read up before hand, make your own decision, and go for it. Remember that you know your child, and your family best.

(5) Be prepared to be lonely at night now! Get a dog. And wine. Dog + wine + Love Actually uninterrupted = benefit of sleep training 🙂

Sam at 4 (and a bit) months

Sam at 4 Months

Sam at 4 Months

Happy 4 months Sam 🙂 You have turned out to be one of the happiest, most rambunctious, noisy, roly poly, grinning little wriggler. Luckily for Mum, you are still quite the snuggler too.

Snuggles, but with Dad.

Snuggles, but with Dad.

Well, we are back from our 4 month check-up, somewhat chastened. Last time we visited the pediatrician, he told us that we should not be rocking Sam to sleep in our arms / feeding him to sleep, but establishing a bedtime routine where we comforted him, soothed him, got him sleepy and then put him in crib sleepy, but awake. Dr. Injac said that we could pat him and sit with him while he was in his crib, but he should learn to recognize sleep time cues, so that he could soothe himself to sleep in his crib, with us nearby. Then at 4 months, it would be easier to just put him down and leave him. A sort of step-by-step approach.

It all sounded absolutely fabulous…

….in the safe confines of the Doctor’s office.

At home it was a different story. It sort of worked until Sam figured out that the boppy was a sleep cue – whereupon he went ballistic when he saw it. Then he figured out that ‘lights out’ meant crib time was coming, and went equally as spare. He would wail, and we would soothe him, then as we put him down he would wail again. This would continue until he would fall asleep in my arms during one of the soothing times, and boom – objective not achieved.

In Mummy's arms only, please

In Mummy’s arms only, please

I guess I should at least be pleased he’s smart / streetwise?

Honestly, it eventually slid to me (or Wes, but I like to do the bedtime when I have been working) just cuddling him to sleep, and then laying him oh-so-gently down. Periodically I would ask Wes if we should be stronger with Sam, but he wasn’t keen and asserted that he was too young. Although not entirely comfortable, I would give in. I asked some Moms and got a mixed bag of answers. Although my head wanted a better routine… my heart was not quite in it. Without Wes pushing as well, I would put it off.  

130210_0002

Today at the pediatrician’s we saw a student first. She asked us about sleeping, and we said he was going down at 7 and then being fed at 10.30, 1.30, 3.30, 5.30. She asked if he was eating much at those times, and when we said “Not really”, she said “Because we expect formula fed babies (oh the guilt!) to sleep for 8 hours by four months”. Right. I confessed that we had forgotten the baby monitor twice – but Sam’s room is next to ours so we’d hear wails, if not grumbles – and she said that she was not surprised.

She asked how he was going down and we were honest. We asked what to do – what should we do about him crying at bedtime? What should we do with the night waking? And she said that she didn’t know (!) but would get Dr. Injac. Well… at least she was honest.

So… Dr. Injac came in with a twinkle in his eye and said “so… I hear you are a softie…”. [Me??]. He laid it on the line: the kid should he sleeping through the night. He said that our job as parents was to love Sam, and to protect him, but to help him manage the stresses of life – and sleeping well, on his own, was a stress we had to help him negotiate. Unless, of course, (in his words): we wanted those thighs to continue into childhood (another pitfall of formula I guess). So, he said to leave him when he cried at night, if it was fussing, not if it was unhappy wailing.

I hesitantly confessed that we had forgotten the baby monitor twice. Before I could qualify with an urgent and embarrassed ‘But we’d hear if he wailed!” Dr. Injac said “Good”. Dumbfounded I stared at him. He grinned and said “The vast majority of babies across the world do fine without monitors…”. I admitted that when he had forgotten the monitor, we had woken at ~ 5 to a sleeping Sam. At ~ 6 Sam had woken up, not cried, seemed very happy and not seemed starving – he had eaten a good breakfast, but not until he had woken up a bit.

“So…” said Dr. Injac

*pregnant meaningful pause in which he looked optimistically at me, and I looked desperately blank pretending not to know what was coming*

“… turn the baby monitor off”.   I then asked what to do about bedtime. With some amusement Dr. Injac said “what I told you last time. Let him cry. For 5 minutes. Go in… soothe him… reassure him… pat him. Then go. Go back after 10… then 15…. up to 40 minutes”.”Forty??”.
“Forty.”
*glaring from me*
” It won’t get there.”
*cuddling of Sam from me*
“If you’re a softie – sit with him. Just leave him in his crib.”.

He grinned and said “And if you’re going to tell me that this is your special time with Sam, just you and him, and your favorite time of being with him… that’s just fine. I am sure he will learn to sleep on his own in college”.

Ouch.

Then

with a soft smile he said “Two to three days. That is all. And he’ll sleep. You’ll feel better. He’ll feel better. And… it’s the only way he is going to get a sister”. So, let me say at this point: I felt Dr. Injac was offering his advice on what was best, and not telling us what must happen for the healthy development of a baby. He did not push us, or be mean, and although he was strong in his opinion, he was kind and understanding. I think he made jokes because he knows us well. Personally I think there is no best way to sleep train, and no best time. It depends on the baby, and probably more, on the parents and what they want. I thought I would be an attachment parent-er. I wanted to be. It just didn’t work out. I couldn’t breastfeed…. Sam hated baby wearing until he was old enough to face out (~4 months)… I was at work and so on. And it just didn’t really click for me. I was actually glad we had moved Sam into his own room at 3 weeks – it felt right for Sam, and for us. And although I love to comfort my boy, and love to stop his tears, I had personally been uncomfortable with a completely Sam-led night. Great if it works for you and your family (all methods pretty much end up the same, I figure), it just wasn’t for us. Had it been, when the student asked how he was sleeping, instead of a worried recount, I clearly would have given a breezy “just fine”. So. With deep breaths and hardened hearts (and cheery wheat beer and Malbed wine, and pecan butter ice cream) Wes and I tried it tonight. Settled Sam in his crib, and turned the baby monitor sound off. Our monitor has video, and a little sound bar, so that even when the sound is off, you can see if there is noise in the room.

There was noise. On and off in bursts. Grumbles and wails. Usually at the first sound of wails I go up, but Wes reminded me that we were giving it 5 minutes. Deep breath. On the DOT of 5 minutes I RAN upstairs and softly said “Sam” and went in his room. I got there just in time to see him find his thumb and fall into a deep sleep. We have not had a peep since.

 

If, IF, it sticks, I think we were lucky enough to hit it at the right time: the time when Sam was old enough to self-soothe, but young enough not to form memories about what was happening – that happens at about 6 months, and at around 7 months you get object permanence and all the vagaries of the accompanying attachment anxiety. So, hopefully we lucked out. We’ll see. Would we have gone for a 40 min cry session? I doubt it. I don’t know. A child who goes to bed easily, and independently is very important to me… I just don’t know how important until tested I guess.

Finding his length

Finding his length

The rest of a the visit was a breeze. Despite looking chunky

Chunky monkey :)

Chunky monkey 🙂

Sam is 60th %ile for weight (16 lbs, 4 oz), and 56th %ile for height (25.5″) – still basically an average Joe. His head is only 26th %ile though – pin head! I have a pin headed baby! So, maybe his little head makes his body look chunky!

Not such a chunker as we thought.

Not such a chunker as we thought.

The Doctor mentioned solids, but I am not interested in introducing them yet. If Sam was breastmilk fed, I would definitely wait until 6 months. As he is not, I will *think* about it at around 5 months. 5.5 – 6 is a rough target, unless I happen to think he is extremely hungry before that. Dr. Injac mentioned rice cereal and bless my awesome husband, he knows how important nutrition is to me and said “we were hoping to avoid grains for a while; are fruits and vegetables OK instead?”. Dr. Injac said that that was fine – it wasn’t his view, but he said rice cereal was mainly used because it was convenient (he did say not to put it in a bottle), and that the French blamed America’s obesity problem on early grains, and not enough vegetables early on. He said whatever worked for us was fine, the main thing was to get Sam used to different tastes and textures. Seems to me that, like with sleeping, advice changes and waxes and wanes, and ultimately, you need happy comfortable parents doing something they believe in. So, any time between 4 and 6 months for food is fine – depending on your instinct. Mine is later… some say earlier. Dr. Injac did say to get messy and have fun with it – now that was advice we could go with.

War wounds.

War wounds.

Then vaccinations. Boo. Sam didn’t flinch for the first one, wailed at the second, but I managed not to cry (I did eat cake after though 😉 ).

Other than that, Sam has been having a wail of a time.

He loves his bumbo:

Bumbo tray viking

And hanging around in his new bouncer:

130306_0008

He *almost* crawls. He moves forward across the floor to his toys, but only as a kind of belly shuffle, using the surface as friction (not his muscles). If he is on a slippery floor he can’t slither forward and yells in frustration.

A successful slither

A successful slither

No sitting yet – he makes a rubbish weeble, he wobbles, but he also falls down:

He is great at reaching for, and grasping his toys. He can even grab his big rattle in tummy time, upend it, do a little push up, and negotiate it to his mouth for a good ol’ chomp. Vocalizing – yes, a lot. But not babbling yet, he is just grunting and wailing. I can’t wait for his first proper pre-speech sounds!

Although, Sam did recently discover how to screech, in joy.

For 20 minutes.

In the car.

Until he completely lost his voice.

 

 

Joy 🙂

He is just a happy, happy baby.

130301_0010

Anyone got any sleep training advice or experiences to share?

Bye bye Walter

Walter Matthau

Walter Matthau

Sad to say that this morning, my dog Walter passed away. It was very sudden, and we don’t know why. I gave him his usual cuddle goodnight, and then sent him to his blanket on the sofa. Wes came downstairs this morning while I was still sleeping. He saw Walter on his blanket, on the floor, and assumed he was sleeping. While Wes was feeding Sam, Walter let out a moan and lost control of his bowels. Wes called me, and at first I didn’t understand what was happening. Wes was calling Walter’s name, and I kept saying ‘Is he sick? I don’t understand, is he unwell’. I thought he was just listless, but rapidly, it was clear to me that he was lifeless and Walter had already passed. I am sad I didn’t see him that morning.

038

Wes kept calling his name, but there was no response in his eyes. They were lifeless. Wes even tried CPR – Walter’s chest would not inflate so we think he swallowed something which got stuck. We tried slapping him in the back, but nothing could be dislodged. We gave Walter a lot of cuddles, closed his eyes, and told him how much we loved him.

Coming home with us.

Coming home with us.

Walter was a very special dog! Some of you know the bizarre events that lead to me getting him. When I got married, I went on the birth control pill. I don’t know what happened, but I became super depressed. I would cry all day, I would sleep on the floor next to dog crate if Wes was working late… if Wes came to lay next to me, I would yell at him that he couldn’t ‘pick me up and put me down’ when he wanted.

Neither of us are too sure what to do!

Neither of us are too sure what to do! And neither of us look very comfortable.

I can only, retrospectively, describe the feeling as an aching loneliness (weird after just getting married). So, to ‘plug’ the loneliness  I – someone who does not like dogs – went and got Walter from a trailer park in jasper, Alabama. I look at the pictures from the day I bought Walter home: I clearly had no idea what to do with a dog. I was half afraid, half curious. Walter was the perfect match, because he did not have much idea how to be a dog 🙂

Walter on his very first night with us. This is my favorite picture of him.

Walter on his very first night with us. This is my favorite picture of him.

The first night, I put Walter in his crate, he cried. I didn’t know what to do, and Wes said “Are you going to go to your dog, or not?”. I didn’t know what to do, so I made a bed by his crate and slept next to him. When I woke in the morning, I opened the crate door and let Walter creep under the covers. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship 🙂

Our first race together

Our first race together

Walter exhausted after his first 5K

Walter exhausted after his first 5K

From then on, Walter and I were fairly inseparable.  He used to come to UAB with me everyday and sleep quietly under my desk.

Sleeping under my desk.

Sleeping under my desk.

He hiked with me, shopped with me, and was an excellent training partner when I ran. He even ran races with me 🙂

Hiking Oak Mountain with Stella - who loved him to death (even when he pooped on her floor).

Hiking Oak Mountain with Stella – who loved him to death (even when he pooped on her floor).

Hiking Cloudland

Hiking Cloudland

 

When I took Walter to flyball, Steve turned to Wes and said “She really babies him, doesn’t she?”. Well, maybe just a bit. All his outfits (including PJs) are testament to that.

PJs for Walter

PJs for Walter

Winter coat for Walter

Winter coat for Walter

And I remember when I took Walter hiking with my friend David, and had to carry Walter after about 9 miles. David was in absolute disbelief!

I came off birth control 2 months later. I cheered up immediately (it was like a dark cloud lifted) and I used to say “Ugh! Now I am stuck with a dog! I should have just had a baby!”. But I was joking – Walter was my buddy for sure by then. Every evening he would curl up on the sofa with me, and many nights I would sneak him up into my bed (it’s supposed to be ‘no dogs allowed’ upstairs in the new house). He shared my love for dressing up (or at least I like to think he did).

Santa Walter

Santa Walter

Christmas Walter

Christmas Walter

Halloween Walter

Halloween Walter

Halloween Walter

Halloween Walter

Walter liked everyone, but he love, love, loved me. When we would take him to the park, rather than run around freely, he would prefer to walk alongside me. He was a people pleaser who just wanted everyone to be happy. He had a permanently confused expression, but would do anything to please anyone – he just didn’t often understand what he was supposed to do. He was a character, very timid, very lovely. We called him ‘Walter Matthau’, ‘Wussy’, ‘the little giraffe’ and (sometimes), ‘a rat on stilts’.

Walter snuggling Robert

Walter snuggling Robert

It really was impossible not to love Walter. Even dog haters like my Mum fell for him. People who haven’t met him fel for him. He was a little, dependent, quirky, loving and lovable creature.

We’re very shocked he went. He was only four years old. He was supposed to grow up with Sam. We have two special memories of him, from his last day with us. One, during the day Sam fell asleep with a toy monkey clutched in his fingers. While he was asleep Walter ever-so-gently reached in and took Sam’s monkey. He knew he wasn’t allowed to, because when Wes said “Walter!” he dropped it and ran straight out of the dog door. It was very cute.

Just before the monkey was snatched

Just before the monkey was snatched

Two, that evening, we had little sauteed potatoes for dinner. We had lots left over (Wes is on Atkins, I wanted my carbs to be cake batter for that meal (!)) so we were feeding them to the dogs. You could throw them at Earnest from any angle, even behind your back, and he would jump up and catch them in the air. Walter however could only let them bounce off his head onto the floor, and then eat them. We tried to get him to track them and follow them with his eyes, but it was all a mystery to Matthau. We concluded that we would NEVER teach Walter that particular trick.

Truer than we would know.

soppy Walter

Love you little puppy.

Where's Walter?

Where’s Walter?

What I was up to while M.I.A.

This has helped my recovery

This has helped my mental recovery

I’m back. You may not have noticed that I had gone… but it has been a relatively long time since I posted. I blame busy-ness. I would like to blame time business (too much stuff to do), but I know me, if I want to do something, I make time for it. Really, I have not been in a good emotional place for a while and that lead to a combination of (1) needing to sit on the sofa watching mind numbing TV at night and (2) feeling too raw to write my thoughts down. It is all past (passed? I never know which one to use) me now, so I feel OK to write about it. In a nutshell:

First, I did not cope very well with my MRSA surgery

Actually, that is an understatement. I turned into a giant baby about it. I still don’t know why, but I utterly fell apart over the surgery. It wasn’t even that painful. I will say that it was deeply shocking to me to go to the Doctor’s for some anti biotics, and to leave being told I needed surgery under a general anesthetic. It bought back a lot of the feelings I had going to the OR after birth, and the thoughts I had when I came around in ICU and was told I was not out of the woods, but they were doing their best. Of laying there, with my son watching me, discussing with Wes about who we would call to warn about possible impending bad news, rather than the great news of Sam. About lying there thinking of the people he was telling while he made the ‘phone calls, feeling bad I was wrecking their night (I remember telling Wes not to call Clio becaue it was 4 am in England, and him saying ‘she will want to be woken up Lekki!’) and all the time wondering how the hell we had gotten to this place so quickly.

Anyhoo, the surgery went fine, was a piece of cake, and I came around only slightly sore (I mean geez, a med student with a fish knife could have done it). So, really I should have been fine. I should have bounced back. Bouncing back is what I do. It’s my thing. Like when I weightlifted with a fractured elbow. Or negotiated the gym on crutches. Or finished my training plan with stress fractures. Or fell down a waterfall and climbed back up. Instead I let Wes do Sam’s night feed that night, and on Saturday took Sam to bed with me and refused to move, for the whole day. Wes was pleased, I think, but very shocked. He came and bought me lunch in bed, and seeing all my stuff around me said “Wow, you really are planning to stay here then?”.

Recovery Day!

Recovery Day!

Yes. Yes I was.

That was only the beginning of me starting to lose it. I went to the surgeon two days later to have my dressings changed. I expected to see a cut. A skin wound. I did not expect to see an inch long, and 3/4 in deep hole into my flesh. I did not expect to stare down into my flesh and see all the white and yellow and red and so on. In fact, I was so shocked I handed Sam to the surgeon and promptly lost my lunch.

The surgeon told me I had to pack the hole with gauze twice a day. I had to pull the old stuffing out, and stuff it with new stuff. I had hydrocodone to deal with the physical pain, but mentally, I couldn’t hack having a hole in body. I cried for 40 minutes when Wes told me that I absolutely had to change my dressing. I hid from him. I sobbed. I begged him to leave it. I ranted that no one should have to deal with this (while fully aware that people deal with far worse every day). I shrieked at him “You don’t get it! No one should have a hole in their abdomen! Not an every day person! I know you were an EMT and saw car crashes and dead children and far worse, but that is a whole different spectrum. That is a different scale! On the everyday scale no one should have to deal with seeing their flesh! It’s not at the acceptable part of the everyday scale! This shouldn’t have happened to me!”

A somewhat confused Wes dryly remarked “At least I didn’t marry someone really dramatic or anything”.

To this day, I have no idea why I flipped my lid so utterly. Wes thinks I have not processed everything from Sam’s birth, and that this was a reminder. That burying all my emotions about the hemorrage caused them to surface with this little surgery.

I don’t know… there may be some truth in that… I don’t know. I do know that having hardly spoken about it (heck, I didn’t even really blog about it), I have the urge to grab people by the lapels and go “Do you know what I went through? Do you know they told my husband that they didn’t think I would make it? Do you know they told me that? Do you know what it is like to lie in bed, with your baby watching you from a friggin plastic box, while doctors just look sorry and worried, and use vague phrases like ‘you are not out of the woods’ and lie there dealing with the guilt that your nearest and dearest are hearing about this because you can’t make yourself better? What it is like to hear about a difficult birth and want to be sympathetic, but want also want to yell “you were carrying your sweet kid home, in your arms, with your partner so proud, before I was allowed to be in a room alone with my son, and while my body had failed and I had let everyone down and was just lying there in that stupid state?”. But then I remember that from everyone’s super kind emails to me.. yeah… they do know that, and it is only me who doesn’t 🙂

All that is left from surgery

All that is left from surgery – super recoverer!

On the upside though, (1) I am processing all that as best I can; (2) all the self pity has ended, and (3) the MRSA is totally gone and I am all healed. My surgeon (who is 75! – 75 – !) was so shocked at how quickly I healed, he did a double take. I have no pain, and just a little scabby scab. Sure, my lucrative bikini modelling career is prematurely halted, but I can deal with that.

Me before my MRSA surgery. No, really.

Me before my MRSA surgery. No, really. It was that bad.

So, I dealt with it by sitting on the sofa watching Grey’s Anatomy.

Second, work has been stressing me out. I set myself a number of goals for my first year as faculty: submit an NIH grant every cycle, and apply for one other grant each cycle. There have been 2 cycles, I have submitted 5 grants – boom. I also wanted to submit three first-author papers – done, collaborate with the ARIC group – done and get my student through her exams – done. So I did everything in 9 months not 12, but instead of making me feel good, it made me freak out.

I had my annual review. I understand that when you go for these things, you are supposed to pain a picture of ‘yes, I am awesome. See? I am a wonderful member of your community, worth far more than you ever have realized, and I have identified this tiny, surmountable weakness which when I conquer will make me even more invaluable to you’. Me? When my Chair said “So – how do you think you are doing?’ I had a meltdown and said that I had lost all my time management skills, that I was not only not working to full capacity but barely putting in 9-5, that my motivation had changed and I no longer cared about papers and prestige and that nothing I was doing was sustainable long term and I had been busy but not useful. Then I said ‘it is lucky my annual review was not last week, because I was crying about all this back then. Now I am just stressed about it’.

Ha. Luckily for me I have an awesome Chair. He said that my changing priorities (less about papers, more about advancing Science) was just a sign of maturity and made me a more welcome person in his Department. He said that time management after a family was incredibly hard – that he has struggled with it, but solved it. That he could not solve it for me, but was sure I would solve it on my own, if I just gave myself time and space and patience. We talked about ways of making my research more sustainable.

I also received an email from a dear friend / mentor / surrogate sister who pointed out that I had undertaken marriage, new job, new city, new baby, serious health problems.. all within 16 months. It was OK to lose focus a bit at work. To not have the energy to feel passionate about it. To feel like work and success are the not most important things. To feel that Sam, and our home, and my family are more pressing, and need to be clung onto more dearly.

And my mentor at UT put it most succinctly when she said “I told you not to give yourself a hard time until a year after Sam’s birth! In 9 months, you can give yourself a hard time. Until then: NO.”

So, I chilled and yes, I was very busy getting 3 grants in in Feb, but I was also very busy drinking Chocolate Stout on the sofa. Good times.

(3) I was not quite as chilled about giving up breastfeeding as I had thought. In fact, I didn’t want to give up, so I have kept on pumping, only to the following rules: no more than 3.5 hours a day & no stressing when my supply is weirdly low (think 1.5 oz after 45 mins). I just focus on getting Sam some of the antibodies and microbiota and stick at what I can give. However, it was a hard adjustment. And when I had to go from pumping 8-10 and feeding at night to 100% pumping & dumping and 100% bottle feeds, Sam decided he was not going to take the breast at all anymore. He still prefers the taste of breastmilk to formula, but even when he is super sleepy at night, he won’t drink from me, or even suckle. Little rat (lovable rat). It broke my heart.

But… it is all good now. I pump a reasonable amount and just supplement. I offer Sam my breast, he spits it out. I hug him a little tighter while I bottle feed him. It’s all good, but that also contributed to me need to sit on the sofa and eat Whole Food’s Pear and Almond Dark Chocolate. Yum.

Why wouldn't you do this anymore Sammy-Sam? Rat bag.

Why wouldn’t you do this anymore Sammy-Sam? Rat bag.

So, sofa + Grey’s Anatomy + Chocolate Stout + Pear and Almond Dark chocolate, with my puppy, has been pretty sweet. And very restorative. But, I have not done nothing…

I finalized and submitted a paper, which is now under review at Atherosclerosis. I got 3 grants in, and made a clear plan to my R01 submission (in 1.5 – TWO years – long term). I got my student a good plan to make sure she is productive and successful (that worries me a lot) and I wriggled in some quality time with my son – even bringing him into work if I had been working late and so missing his playtime all week.

Sam with Shine Chang - a very eminent Professor at MD Anderson. He doesn't know how lucky he is!

Sam at work with me, with Shine Chang – a very eminent Professor at MD Anderson. He doesn’t know how lucky he is!

I have also been doing paper crafting (fancy word for making cards!):

Birthday card for Wes

Birthday card for Wes

Baby shower card

Baby shower card for Bing

Good bye card for my OB practice

Good bye card for my OB practice

Thank you card for me WONDERFUL OB who is sadly moving :(

Thank you card for me WONDERFUL OB who is sadly moving 😦

(including some not pictured things on their way to friends in the UK – yes!)

AND, because the other thing making me sit on the sofa and sniggle Walter is my OB leaving (yes, the lovely Dr. Boswell – of to do community work! Sob), I mad some cookie monster cupcakes to say goodbye to her:

P1010675

I also hung out with friends, and ate excellent Dim Sum (which I have not found since I left the UK!):

Mmmmm.... Dim Sum...

Mmmmm…. Dim Sum…

So… it has been a time of just processing and chilling, and looking after my son and myself. In that time, little Samuel has turned 4 months! So, I will write a post on that next.

Sorry for the brain dump. Feels good though.