Tag Archives: parenting

I did a podcast!

A friend of mine invited me to do a podcast on motherhood for her friend / client Lisa York. I agreed! You can find it (and also a brief summary of it) here (warning: loads a little slowly), on Lisa York’s SuperMum website.

Yes…. SuperMum. I have to admit that my friend asked me to do a podcast and I was all “yeah! yeah, sure!” and never really asked what it would be about (I know.. I know). Then ON THE DAY of the podcast I listened to some of the archived podcasts (which I loved!), and dug around in the site and found out that it was all about tips for motherhood. Interestingly, not parenting per se, but motherhood – how to keep sane, or keep happy, or just keep going while “mum-ing”. For example, there were tips on how a quick morning meditation can help your day, and how to have a quick “mummy reboot” or how to “Find Your Lost Identity”. So, my immediate reaction was to look at my unwashed hair and creased clothes, and the general disarray of my life, and think “Cripes, I have got literally nothing to offer here”. It is not unusual for me to wear the same clothes three days in a row because I didn’t have time to wash / choose / think about anything else. There. I admitted it. Be grateful I use Febreeze y’all.

Lularoe cassie pink classic T

Unwashed hair in bun, make up non existent, T-shirt left over from yesterday… and off to work I go. For realz y’all.

Plus, I was worried Lisa would also want parenting tips, and I don’t give parenting a lot of thought. I’m not saying I am a brilliant parent-er, but through a combination of over confidence and and inertia (I like to think inertia sounds better than laziness) I I just mostly do what feels right at the time, somewhat in consultation with the other ‘alf, and rarely actually take stock of what I am doing. I mean, I am prone to suddenly going “ermagahd we all need watch less TV” or “waaaaah, the minions are not being adequately controlled by their masters and anarchy is on the horizon in this household” but at these points I can’t think of a time where I have investigated HOW to watch less TV, or HOW to control the parasites. I just sort of try to do it for a little while, and when a new panic comes [“We all need to take Probiotics everyday or we’ll be 20-stone and ridden with ebola!”] I forget about the old one, and who knows if I actually effected any behavioral change.

I am totally on board that I could do things better, and that my kids could be better in some areas, but I am just not motivated enough to like, read a book about it, or an article. Or, let’s face it, even a listicle (unless it has super amazing gifs, including one of Ryan Reynolds (Greatest Dad Ever TM) in his underwear). I do love that plenty of my friends read this stuff, because then when I am whining that my kids can’t do a basic human act like sit at the dinner table, I can absorb their collective wisdom (nicely digested, synthesized and often tested) as I sob into my Malbec.

Toddler feeding doll

Caroline may be more of a SuperMum than me

So, I totally freaked out, but Lisa (who runs the website and its podcasts) was ah-maz-ing and told me just to be myself and then gave me a write-up that made me even want to listen to myself (to be clear: I have not! Ha! I am way too awkward and worried that I’ll sound like a fool or spend all the time fretting about my answers to do that). But, I am glad I did it. As we talked about things like differences between the US and the UK, and the fact that I don’t read parenting books, I am super worried that I will offend someone – but still, I am glad I did it. And I definitely enjoyed it. And Lisa seemed to think that the message of “Oh, I’m just winging it because I guess deep down I don’t think what we do makes an enormous difference anyway…” was an OK message to put out there. Or maybe even a reassuring one. So, if you needed to here it – there we go.

I’m winging it and you can too ūüôā

Sam being a SuperParent

But also, it was good that one of Lisa’s goals with SuperMum is just to tell mum’s stories… and I really enjoyed listening to those – kind of like an audio blog if you will. I’ve subscribed on itunes and I am trying to listen to new podcasts on the way to work, so maybe some tips will seep in after all…

Oh, and at the end of the podcast every person is asked to give their definition of a SuperMum. Apparently the most common definitions involve happiness and health. I won’t tell you what my definition of a SuperMum is (go listen to the podcast!) but can I just make a plea that we stop tying success to happiness and health? Both of those are gifts that are only somewhat within our control. It’s easy to agree that someone who has cancer / has children with cancer (i.e. the health part is tough) is no less a SuperMum than someone without. So, can we generalize and say that someone who is depressed / has children with depression – or is even just struggling to be happy and content right now – is also no less a SuperMum. And this obviously goes beyond parenting: your success, and your worth and your value does not have to tied up to your health and happiness. It’s up to you to decide what it is tied to…

 

Perfect weekend

Noah's Ark Houston

Quality Mummy-son time

2 1/2 years in, and I am definitely still adjusting to motherhood. 3 years in, and I am still adjusting to Houston. I have written before that I was unhappy for much of 2014, and 2015 was looking to possibly shape up in a similar way (albeit a little better). And honestly, partially because I don’t really recognize myself as unhappy (maybe a bit ‘flat’ or a bit ‘whiney’) until I get it right. Until I realize that I have made myself happy. That happened this weekend.

Saturday morning I took Sam to a kids’ swimming pool (Noah’s Ark) and we just had a blast. It was lovely to focus totally on him, and to be a big kid myself – yes, I climbed through all the water tunnels (so elegantly with my whopping bump), went down all the kiddos’ slides and picked Sam up and threw him in the water fountain (much to his delight). It was delightful, silly, exhausting fun.

I definitely did not look this cute on the slide

I definitely did not look this cute on the slide

Cue a stupidly large Mickey D’s, and then an unplanned nap on the sofa. Although I was woken by Sam waking from his nap (after only 2 hours! 3 hours at the pool is supposed to buy me more than 2 hours!) ¬†he then played happily for several hours while I made a new card for my Etsy shop (<— still a work in progress) and updated my Stampin’ Up! blog. Pizza dinner, easy night down for the dwarf and then movie night with the Husband – we watched St. Vincent which was pretty good.

IMG_0607

Baby shower card

Today I played hard with the kiddo in the morning and then went and helped a friend set up her Stampin’ Up! website. She fed me lunch and I got a delicious frozen StarBucks on the way home. Sam woke the second I got home (again, after only 1.5¬†hours! What is up with this kiddo?) so we tidied the house together and then hit the garden.

IMG_0621

One of the best things Wes & I did was fence off a small area of our garden for Sam. We put in his sandbox, my hammock, and small IKEA table and chairs, a bench, a slide and a paddling pool. If Sam and I go out there I can get snatches of anywhere between 15 and 90 minutes to myself blogging, surfing the internet or reading. And when he does want to play, it’s easy for me to engage in water fights and sandcastles and chalk pictures on the wall. We usually have a blast and today was no exception.

Tea, Emma Bridgewater cup, biscuits for dunking, blogging and the boy playing happily - what more could I want?

Tea, Emma Bridgewater cup, biscuits for dunking, blogging and the boy playing happily – what more could I want?

 

We finished up with snuggles in the hammock – occasionally Sam will take his sippy cup and drink it like he would drink from a bottle as an infant, seeking out things to play with with his hands, his eyes going heavy and going into the ultimate snuggle mode¬†– it’s BLISS.

Snuggles beats all else

Snuggles beats all else

Now the little one is in bed, I am finishing my blog post while eating delicious pecan toffee, and somewhere in there I even managed a face and a hair masque.

So – why was this such a blissful weekend? What made it feel perfect? It wasn’t tantrum free (you try telling a hungry 2-year old that is 1.5 hours past his nap time that he has to leave the swimming pool of awesomeness). I bought a new nail polish and don’t like it (damn you Essie). I didn’t get time to blow dry my hair and it looks a mess. I did, however, have¬†time to really play with and engage with Sam – both at home and out and about. There was time for my hobbies, and some friend time. But what is most surprising, is that there was no work. Not a single email, nor a review. I didn’t open anything I am working on to poke at it, and yes, I let a few overdue things just sit in my inbox (I am certainly not luxuriating for time at work right now).

It’s odd. It’s uncomfortable if I think about it, and yet it seems like the most natural thing in the world. I realize that even 2.5 years in, I am definitely struggling to adapt to (working) motherhood. When I became a mum, I tried to carry on just like before – keeping work the same and fitting the kiddo in around that. When I couldn’t fit everything in, I dropped the ‘me’ things – make-up, skin care, crafting, blogging. I squeezed Sam in when I could (after a whopping great 3 weeks of maternity leave), and I did whatever it took to keep work going.

IMG_0630

My world

It’s not working for me anymore (sorry for the pun). Academia is hard – the way funding is (pretty nonexistent) it seems like a lot of input for not a lot of payback. At the end of the road, when I have focussed so much mental energy on work, and I have nothing to show for it it is hard to look at my beautiful son and think “I am glad I put you second” and “I’m glad I don’t know you as well as I could” and “Sure, I read you stories, and tuck you in, and I’m the one you run to when hurt – but I don’t mind having missed out on those little interactions that are your whole world right now”. It’s hard to look in the mirror at an uncared for reflection¬†and say “I am glad I look a mess”. It’s hard to look around the house and say “I don’t mind that this doesn’t reflect my personality”.

I don’t have the answer. Academia seems to get harder and harder, and survival seems to depend on more and more publications and collaborations and grant submissions. And truly, I love what I do! When I can focus on my real work (not work I have foolishly agreed to do for others, so I am working on reducing that), I truly am fascinated by behavioral genetic questions and I love answering them and writing on them. But kiddos don’t wait, and papers don’t hold me¬†at night. It feels like the wonder in Science is getting less and less, while the wonder in my son grows daily.

Yet, I still hugely look up to so many great Scientists. I cannot let the dream of being like them go. It’s clear that I need to reduce work. I also need to¬†streamline what I do (focussing on behavior almost exclusively) and be much¬†more efficient when I am working (less Facebook, more papers…). Yet, I am scared I cannot be successful like that. It’s hard to let go of the 24/7 work mindset. But I am also scared that I won’t be be successful continuing like I am, and I will have sacrificed everything anyway and be left with nothing. Perhaps these are the ramblings of the third trimester, but ¬†I am scared of not having more papers than most people at my stage, of not having more grant submissions, of not having funding. I am terrified of saying no. Yet,¬†I feel I have to take the plunge. I need to turn work off sometimes, and reprioritize when I am at work. I’ve never been like this! I have always been able to do anything and take on any task. I could work my way out of mediocrity. Perhaps this was the fearless I needed to be¬†when I wrote back in January 2014. Anyway, I have to give it go. I have to make some changes.

Hammock snuggles are the best!! If not the most flattering angle ;-)

Hammock snuggles are the best!! If not the most flattering angle ūüėČ

I have no idea if anyone else struggles like this – I see so many people having careers and personal lives seamlessly, but I am happy to go out on a limb for a minute and say: I am struggling. I am not getting it right. I am changing. I don’t recognize myself and I am worried that the ‘old me’ would have negatively judged the ‘new me’ (what a bloody awful confession).

I am optimistic, I am scared, I am excited, I am terrified. I have no idea how this will play out.

 

Dear Breastfeeding Mother

It's a boob. Get over it.

It’s a boob. Get over it.

Dear Breastfeeding mother:

wbw2013-logo-h3

Happy World Breastfeeding Awareness Week! Breastfeeding can be tough emotionally, physically and practically – if you decided that this was best for your child and have been able to do it: awesome. I am pleased you are parenting as you want to.

In honor of this week please:

Keep up the good work! It is so important that parents get to raise their child as they wish to!

IMG_0276

Help to normalize breastfeeding. It is a great choice for many, and it is a shame that many people feel too inhibited. Please feed in public (covered up or not), or in your car, or in your home, or wherever you want.

Share your opinion on the benefits of breastfeeding. How have you found it? What did you enjoy about it?

Milk coma

Milk coma

Enjoy this unique time with your LO. I remember breastfeeding so fondly. In fact, curled up on the couch, nestled up to Sam, gazing into each other’s eyes – it is probably my favorite early motherhood memory.

Enjoy it. Revel in it. Be proud of it.

But

Please do not:

Have the arrogance to judge a formula feeding mother. Do not, DO NOT, assume you know the cost of breastfeeding to her. You know HER pain? You know HER emotional state? You know HER struggles? Like hell you do. Do not write some condescending ‘I understand those with a medical necessity to formula feed, but not those who are just embarrassed’. Have you felt HER embarrassment? Have you been in her shoes? No. Her shoes are not yours. So don’t judge them.

This took me over an hour to pump

This took me over an hour to pump

Do’t ever think a formula feeding mother is not doing her best. You are just not doing your best at stepping outside your own skin.

Ever forget that a formula feeding mother may feel tremendous pain / guilt / regret that she has ended up formula feeding (or she may be totally awesome and feel relaxed in her choice). Support her. Make her feel welcome. Make her feel normal. Make her feel the success she is, if she is doing the job of raising a loved child.

Misconstrue Science. Science has shown that breastfeeding is associated with lower rates of mild infections. It has failed to show that breastfeeding is associated with an increase in IQ, when the correlation between IQ and breastfeeding itself is controlled for. It has failed to show that breastfeeding is consistently associated with lower BMIs, or that it is associated with lower BMIs at all beyond childhood. It has never shown that if you force someone to breastfeed who did not want to, that there are any benefits.

This is both a terrible misunderstanding of Science, and an example of the cruel things formula feeding mothers have to deal with:

bottlecoffin3

I am aware that breastfeeding mothers complain about stares, and rude comments: I would take that over being told I was choosing to willfully endanger the life of my child any damn day,

Make judgments about how worse off her child is. Or I’ll show you my formula fed son, who slept through the night at 4 months, crawled at 5.5 months, stood unassisted at 6, spoke at 8, and (because I have a developmental Psychology PhD and F*&^ING know the original attachment theory, and actually know what it is, rather than guesswork) who I know is extremely well, and securely, attached to me.

Yeah, I am doin' OK thank you Mum.

Yeah, I am doin’ OK thank you Mum.

More than any judgement on me, or my decisions, it hurts me to the core when you think my child is not everything wonderful that he could possibly be.

Assume formula feeding is some grand statement about a woman’s parenting (or life) philosophy. She may formula feed and co-sleep, cloth diaper, home school or she may formula feed and use cry-it-out, Pampers and day care from 2 weeks. You do not know.

I formula feed and baby wear. Suck on that Judgmental Judy.

I formula feed and baby wear. Suck on that Judgmental Judy.

Assume that because you breastfed, you are a better parent. I know the Scientific literature pretty inside out. Whether it is your sleeping decisions, your weight, your eating habits, you daycare decision, your discipline method, your screen time (your lack of Seasame Street screen time), the family you have or do not have and how often you see them, the role model you are as a woman for your child, your body image, you decision to live in the city or rurally; – I promise that at least some of these are not optimized for your child. Do not think that breastfeeding is some magic panacea that wipes the slate clean and makes up for everything.

He's awesome.

He’s awesome.

Think that your judgmental words don’t make some formula feeders cry. I know, because I just today cried for an hour over this post.

So please, if breastfeeding is important to you: fight for it! I did. Be a brave, fearless, passionate, pro-active, advocating breast-feeder. If it is not: be a brave, fearless, happy, secure, comfortable formula feeder. But whatever your choice, be supportive, understanding, kind and realistic.

Perhaps this puts it more humorously.

And this page from a pro-breastfeeder has the best ending: “As Jill Churchill so wonderfully put it; ‚ÄúThere is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one.‚ÄĚ So if you see a baby glugging a bottle or suckling a nipple, perhaps instead of smug judgement or tittering at her mother‚Äôs exposure, you might just smile and think what a lucky baby and what a great mom. ”

Dear Samuel… 265 days

530 days together

530 days together

Dear Samuel,

265 days. 265 days in, and here you are now: 265 days out.

265 days today

265 days today

I am so proud of you.

I took you to ‘The Little Gym’ playgroup today. The group was for 10 months plus, but the younger groups do not meet at the weekend. We decided to see how you would do in a group for older children. You tried everything. With only one other crawler (a strapping 13 month old), you still kept pace with the big kids. As the group was reaching the end of their semester, they were far into the moves; today was ‘finishing off’ tumbling. You have never tumbled, but you tried. You rolled over the blocks on your tummy, stretching your hands out for the ground. You were not so impressed at the idea of ‘tucking your head under’, but you let us flip your legs over your head. You looked confused – why were we doing this? Wasn’t just crawling sufficient? But, OK, you were game – and you even let us do it backwards. You let Miss Nicky use you as a demonstration baby for the class, although you kept casting glances at me to make sure it was OK. You sat in a large foam donut while we span you round and around on a parachute singing our ‘A, B, Cs’. Again, you looked confused [why do adults do such weird things?], but after a moment you looked resigned, and despite the crying toddlers around you, you smiled and clapped along. Thank you for humoring us. You were adventurous, you were fun, you were brave and you were sweet-natured.

I am so proud of you.

IMG_1640

When I think about what this day means to me, I think about independence. I think about 265 days you were in me. For 257 I knew about you. For another 5 I suspected you were there. I spent 262 days working so hard to keep you safe inside me. I fretted over every can of mini Diet Coke, I worried about your stress when I had dental surgery, I choked down vegetables when I could. Then you came into thid world and you were even more vulnerable. Tiny, so tiny. You couldn’t even control your eyes. As parents our job was clear: to love you and nurture you so that you felt safe enough to leave us and gain independence. As much as we wanted to hold you close to us endlessly, we saw our job, very clearly, as being to give you the skills you needed to function in this world on your own, although we are always behind you. And you have! You go to bed on your own, in your own room, with ‘Mr Wolf’ to keep you company. You play in your room by yourself, pushing your cars along and shaking your tambourine, for ages at a time.

IMG_1431

You feed yourself, and you talk: you tell us when you want breakfast, or your bottle, and when you need your Mama.

Mmmmm... sushi

Mmmmm… sushi

I see in you the ability to take the world on, to meet challenges head on, and step outside of your comfort zone and rise up a level when things are difficult.

Learning how to play

Learning how to play

I got this!

I got this!

I am so proud of you.

Putting your aquarium on for bedtime

Putting your aquarium on for bedtime

But more than we have given to you, you have given to us. You love us unconditionally, and despite all our mistakes, you have turned out pretty damn brilliantly. You bought out Daddy’s best side: he looks after us so well. You have made him build us a home, and fiercely protect us, but with gentleness. You have taught me to trust myself and to trust my decisions. You have taught me flexibility and not to judge others. You taught me not to sweat the small stuff – what was stopping breastfeeding early, in return for all the hours we got together? And from the unconditional love you have given me, from your first word being a very clear “Mama” said with outstretched arms when I was off to work, you have taught me that I am worthy of love and that I earn it: I have the love I earned well. You, in learning to be independent from me, gave me independence from my insecurities.

I am so grateful to you.

You made us, us!

You made us, us!

I am, and always will be, so proud of you.

May this journey be long, and may we always be hand in hand, even as we forge our own paths.

First playground trip

First playground trip

Happy 265 days Little One.

Mama.

IMG_1609

Why I love the (hashtag) Royal Baby & a special milestone for me and Sam

I am so excited Prince George has made a safe and healthy entrance into the world. I read some of my American friends criticizing the news (and one British) and having ‘mixed emotions’ about what the monarchy stood for. Although I may be a noisy political advocate for many causes, this was not a political cause for me.

ens_0726123_princeGeorge-500x379

I guess at the heart of everything, I do not have an intrinsic problem with the monarchy. They return more money to Britain than they cost, they don’t interfere with everyday life, but they do try to do some decent charity work without too many bells and whistles (LOVE Prince Charles quiet support of organic farming, and much as I did not like Diana, she did amazing work to remove a lot of stigma from HIV patients). And, all countries need their identity; the monarchy is part of ours and if not something to be proud of, to me, not something to be particularly ashamed of.

So, for me, as my heckles do not get raised by the mention of the monarchy, the Royal Baby story was just a story about a young couple, who fell in love, and had a baby. All the criticisms: they didn’t swaddle properly! She came out after only 12 hours! She has a manicure! She can’t nurse in that dress! She showed her belly! All those bitchy little comments just reminded me so vividly of my first few days (months?) as a parent.

Swaddle fail

Swaddle fail

I failed utterly, utterly, at swaddling, despite great instruction from my Bradley Method teacher, AND getting the nurses to show us how to do it several times in hospital AND having step-by-step diagrams in ‘The Happiest Baby on The Block’. I just said: Thank goodness for ‘swaddleme’s [and for the friend who bought me three].

Also failing at using a Swaddleme. Oh well.

Also failing at using a Swaddleme. Oh well.

I was utterly confident I could see people immediately, even though I was clearly very sick, and visitors were not allowed in ICU anyway. But I was on a great high – I was utterly in love with a new little human. I was convinced her was the cutest / most well-behaved / smartest baby ever, and I just wanted the world d to meet him.

What do you mean I am not ready for visitors? But I invited my colleagues over for cupcake (no... I really did...).

What do you mean I am not ready for visitors? But I invited my colleagues over for cupcakes (no… I really did…).

OK, I didn’t have a manicure, but as soon as I was able to unhook myself from my IV I scuttled off to bathroom and put make-up on (which in retrospect, because I was deathly pale and swollen from blood loss, just looked vaguely clown-like). Had I been able to have a full shower, you can bet your bottom dollar I would have had a blow-out (I got the straighteners out as soon as I got home).

Yes Lekki, you look awesome. Not deathly pale with clownlike levels of blusher at all. AT. ALL.

Yes Lekki, you look awesome. Not deathly pale with clown-like levels of blusher at all. AT. ALL.

Nursing clothes? Messed that up. I found my clothes were totally inappropriate for nursing, especially in those first few days when you haven’t got your technique down. Even when Wes went and bought me special nursing tops I got lanolin and milk all over them. C’est la vie.

Hoodies: Not awesome for nursing. Also: terrible swaddle (again).

Hoodies: Not awesome for nursing. Also: terrible swaddle (again).

And as for that belly? And the ‘Did Kate decide to show she was normal?’, “Did Kate purposely show her belly?’ question. While I applaud Kate for not getting into a girdle, I suspect she, like me, had no idea what people meant when they said ‘you’ll still look 6 months pregnant when you leave’. Seeing that I barely put on 4 lbs of non-baby weight, while I heard people say ‘take maternity clothes’, and I heard them tell me my belly would take weeks to go down, I was used to stories of Alex Curran leaving hospital in her skinny jeans, and I didn’t really think the ‘6 months pregnant belly’ would apply to me. Boy-oh-boy did it ūüôā

When am I due? Oh, 7 days ago actually...

When am I due? Oh, 7 days ago actually…

They were not mistakes, they were just ‘learning to be a parent’ moves. They were just a reflection that nothing can really prepare you for EVERYTHING it is to suddenly have a brand new newborn. You can read books, you can visit friends, you can watch videos, but as soon as you have that little thing in your arms you realize you had NO IDEA what it is going to take.

And that is why I love the Royal Baby news: I guarantee that at this moment, Kate & Wills are not marveling over the heir to the throne, or thinking about the press, or planning their every move. They are completely and utterly absorbed in their new one, wondering how to be come parents, and blown away by how clever they are to have bought the cutest / most well-behaved / smartest baby ever [apart from mine] into the world.

Reliving that special time through them is wonderful. Tomorrow marks the exact number of days, since Sam’s birth, that reflect the time he was inside me (i.e. from ovulation to birth). I am fairly emotional about that, and hearing about wee Prince George just warms my heart and reminds me this is the best thing I have ever done.

Best. Baby. Ever. Fact.

Best. Baby. Ever. Fact.

 

Oh, and I am not proud of this, but we also didn’t get the car seat right:

Not a good way to strap the wee one in

Not a good way to strap the wee one in

Chest strap too low, head not properly supported, and in fact, should have had side impact protection (Sam was very small!). We’ll do better next time.

Sam at 6 months

A delicious 6-month birthday cake baked by our sweet friend Lizzie!

A delicious 6-month birthday cake baked by our sweet friend Lizzie!

Wow… I came to write a post and found this sitting here waiting for editing. It has to be 6 weeks old! It is funny reading it and realizing how much Sam has changed in that time, and how out of date it is. Oh well, I will post it anyway – better late than never, eh?

Sam at 6 months

Sam at 6 months

And our little man – who as you will see below has turned out not to be so little – has turned 6 months. We took him to his pediatrician and Sam is now 18 lbs 10 and 27″. He has come a long way from his 6 lb 15 oz, 20″ self. More impressively, he is moving up and up on the growth-for-age curve. At birth, his height and weight were in the low 30th percentile. By 2 months he was hovering around the 50th percetile mark, and now he is up in the 75th percentile for both height and weight.

It's not polite to ask a boy his weight you know...

It’s not polite to ask a boy his weight you know…

Notably, his head remains a stubbornly pin-headed 16th percentile. Oh well. Any extra brains would only get bashed out as he rises the UFC ranks and becomes world MMA champion ūüôā

27 inches of gorgeous

27 inches of gorgeous

We had his vaccinations and Sam cried for all of 3 seconds. I cried way more. The first one is never too bad, for neither me nor Sam. It is the next two, which both he and I knowing that they are going to hurt him. I find it funny that our pediatrician seems genuinely glad to leave the room for the shots, and says that he ‘hates the mean part’.

Snoopy plasters (band-aids) don't make it any kinder...

Snoopy plasters (band-aids) don’t make it any kinder…

I am so glad we have a pediatrician who we can trust and who works well with us. He is very knowledgeable and up to date on current statistics and treatments, but more than that, it is just a good personality mix. He is good humored, and laid back. Willing to work with us on what we want, yet seems to know when to put his foot down (gently). I am sure this is in no way unique to Dr. Injac, but he also really seems to just love Sam and being a pediatrician. He also looks after me too, and I will always be grateful to him for that. So we discussed Sam, and his many milestones achieved over the last 2 months.

Crawling at just shy of 5 months and 3 weeks

Crawling at just shy of 5 months and 3 weeks

Movement: Yay! Sam is crawling. He started crawling a week before he turned 6 months. Having spent weeks on all fours rocking but going no where, or almost accidentally slithering along the wooden floors at home, Sam has debuted his army-style low crawl while a Houston airport, with maximum audience potential. This quickly gave way to real crawling, and for just 3 days there was an adorable stage where he would unsteadily reach his hands out, fingers splayed and wobble along. But now that is gone, and he fires around the house willy nilly and at great speed. Or he would if we had not bought him a cage to contain the madness (starting the octagon training already).

Baby prison

Baby prison

And he is a great sitter now, and will sit himself up from either his front or his back, but prefers tummy time and crawling. He will also stand at his new table and play for ages, sliding down to the side quite gracefully when he is tired.

IMG_0862

Talking: So, when we proudly told our pediatrician Sam was crawling already, he smiled and said ‘does he babble’. Er…. well…. Let’s just say yes, OK? I mean he can… he just chooses not too. We nodded and hurriedly moved on. Letting the side down Sam!

Little war wounds

Little war wounds

Sleep: Yay! Still sleeping through the night. He goes down at 7 pm now, usually quite awake. He’ll fuss if I am in the room, but as soon as I leave he rolls over onto his front and activates the electric fish tank on the side of his crib, which plays music and has soft blue lights. Sometimes he will turn it on and off a few times, but mostly he just switches it on and watches it until he falls asleep. The fish tank was a gift from my friend Alanna – I would have never considered getting one, but it has turned out to be a godsend. Sam just loves it. We feed him at ~10.30 and then he sleeps until around 7.15, give or take 15 minutes. I am grateful that Dr. Injac got us to sleep train, I know that it is not for everyone (and believe me, I don’t give a fig how / when / if you sleep train your child), but for me it has served two purposes: one, I don’t worry about it. Good quality sleep is an extremely important health behavior to me, and I would have worried about getting Sam into a sleeping pattern – for his own good as much as anything. Now that load is off my mind, I am more relaxed.

Our pediatrician advised us to start giving Sam a toy in bed in each night, to help him feel comfortable after developing object permanance

Our pediatrician advised us to start giving Sam a toy in bed in each night, to help him feel comfortable after developing object permanance

Two: It has made me realize how ridiculous the Mummy-wars are. Seriously. The crap I read about cry-it-out and its effects, you’d think that practicing it was tantamount to child abuse. I get that it is not for everyone, but we were left with a very happy, well-adjusted child who still cries for his Mum (or Dad, or bottle, or toy) sometimes in the day and fully expects his cries to be answered, and who often just chills in his crib giggling and playing with his hands / soft toy / fish tank. So when I read articles or blog posts which have the tone of ‘this is one of the worst things you can do to your child’ I laugh, and remember how ridiculous that is, and take that feeling forward to other articles with similar scare stories about other parenting techniques (what? You allow your kid to watch TV? He has his own room? You let him hold his own bottle? His life is ruined, ruined I tell you).

Our damaged child

Our damaged child

I guess I am grateful because it has made me chill out about parenting so much. As I have said before: with so many things: breast vs formula; co-sleep vs crib; baby wearing vs. stroller; CIO vs. not; baby led weaning vs. purees – the differences in terms of child development, if there are any, are teeny tiny (with the exception of infections / illness and breast feeding I think, but oh well…). I like asking people how they raise their children, and I like taking advice, but really, with 2 Psychology degrees, an early Years teaching degree, 2 years special needs teaching, several years nannying and a whole lotta love for my wee one: I trust myself not to super damage my child too much psychologically and to get him to where he needs to be.

Momma-love

Momma-love

In the interests of honesty, Sam is not a perfect sleeper (which I choose to find reassuring, as Ferberizing didn’t turn him into an automaton). Occasionally, he will really yell. If I think he is genuinely not tired I will cuddle him for a while, whipping him back in his crib if he is looking very sleepy. I’ll also always offer him food just in case he is hungry. But 85% of the time he goes down with no more than 2 minutes fuss, and 95% of the time he sleeps through the night. Sweet!

IMG_0752

Food: He is munching his way through sweet potato sticks, pear, scrambled eggs, bread and banana. A more varied diet is definitely on our ‘must do’ list. We are trying to find out if he is allergic to dairy. He has developed heinous eczema, which our pediatrician prescribed a steroid cream for. While I have utterly failed at being a hippie alternative mother, I am not keen on drugs if they can be avoided. I aksed our pediatrician if we could consider dietary causes, and he readily agreed. He said that in about 50% of cases, it was a food allergy and so we are swapping his formula for a non-dairy formula and seeing that helps – our pediatrician gave us 2 weeks worth of free samples – SCORE!

Sweet freebies!

Sweet freebies!

[Edit & Update: The dairy-free formula worked! His eczema cleared up, and a challenge test bought it back. So that’s that then.]

Love my boy!

Love my boy!

That’s it! Sam is fun. He is a lively, sweet natured boy, who loves to play bu himself, but wants cuddles as well. This seems to be a beautiful time in our parenting journey. Everything seems to have returned to pre-pregnancy levels: my body, my job, my mind in general. I feel I am able to be the old Lekki again, and have Lekki’s life back, but with a wonderful addition ūüôā I am no longer freaked out or guilt tripped by proclamations of what I must and mustn’t do to raise Sam. I have figured out he is pretty good at letting me know when he is displeased with his up bringing. Bring on the next 6 months!!

I'm not the only one who loves Sam) and HE loves the attention, clearly).

I’m not the only one who loves Sam (and HE loves the attention, clearly).

The best of visits… the worst of visits

Sam is back from his 2-month check-up with Dr. Injac. As the title suggests, it was the best and worst of times.

baby being weighed

First up: a weigh and measure. He is 12lbs, dead-on (37th¬†percentile) ¬†and 24.5″ long (44th percentile). Perfect, and right where he was on the curve at birth and 2 weeks.

Next up: Mummy’s question time. This made it the best of visits.

Sleeping baby, Liverpool onesie

Oh, he’s sleeping *now*…

My first question concerned sleeping. He sleeps very well does our Sam (a little too well, you’ll see why later), but going to sleep is not so easy. He’s pretty mellow, he just liked to be rocked and cuddled to sleep. A quick burst in the neglect-o-matic (his electric swing) will often also do the trick. This is OK, but at some point, this has to stop. It is going to seriously cramp his dating if his Mum has to rock him to sleep every night ūüėČ

I raised this with Wes, but he said ‘He’s just being a baby’ and that was kind of that… it is hard to have too much of an impact when I am at work every day ūüė¶ If it was daycare they’d have to do as I say! If it is my husband… doesn’t quite work that way. Anyway, rocking / ¬†cuddling / swinging to sleep it was. I asked the pediatrician if this was OK, and his opinion was that it was time to stop. He said there was zero need to ‘Ferber-ize’ (cry-it-out, leave him alone) Sam yet, but that it was time he was woke up where he went to sleep and so no sleeping in arms, no sleeping in the swing, not downstairs etc. Fine to stay in the room, sit by him, pat him, sing to him. Fine to rock him to ‘really sleepy’, but he should finally go off in his crib / bassinet / co-sleeper / wherever we let him sleep finally.

I¬†realize¬†that there are many, many styles of sleep training, at many, many ages. And probably, no one is better than the other. I think it is very much each¬†to¬†their own and I just didn’t feel ours was right for Sam. I liked our pediatrician’s moderate approach: start the process, but nothing too severe. He thinks 4-6 months is time to get Sam¬†self-soothing completely (or Ferber-ize him as he said), before he starts forming real memories, but for now it is just good to start the process now.

I’ll tell you: I was pleased to hear it, but I am not entirely sure how we are going to do it. Sam doesn’t really understand “hey, I am sitting right by you, and this is all for your benefit so you don’t get some huge shock at some point”. I am not sure he is suddenly, magically, going to sleep in his crib, but hey ho.

Baby sleeping in swing

No more of this, young Sam

OK, onto the next question: Feeding. Ugh. This is an emotional one. Actually, this was nearly the subject of a post, but it was too hard to write about. So.. here we go:

As an aside: Do you know, feeding is the only thing that has made me cry about parenting? I cried about it once in the hospital, once at home, once in the office and now¬†once¬†at the pediatrician. That is 4 cries in 9 weeks. I cry every 2.5 weeks because of feeding. It’s HARD! Anyway…

When I was pregnant I wasn’t that wedded to the idea of breastfeeding. I said “Weeelll… I’ll give it a go and see how it goes”. I was lucky – with a lot of support, it went pretty well. And I liked it, and wanted to continue it. It became pretty important to me. I¬†can’t¬†explain why… because of the time with Sam.. because of¬†guilt at no maternity leave… because of¬†feeling I was doing something ‘right’… I am not sure. I just really wanted to give him breast milk for 6 months. It was, for me, instinctual.

Breast feeding

But, I was back in the office, on and off, when Sam was 3.5 weeks. It made feeding on demand very difficult. It also made pumping on a schedule difficult because I didn’t want to pump and then not be able to feed Sam by breast. That made it very difficult to establish a decent supply. Also, as above, Sam is a deep, deep sleeper. He sleeps deep and heavy and although he wakes to eat, since about 3/4 weeks, just has a small snack. If I wake him fully, he still doesn’t eat. He either spits out the nipple, or ‘fake sucks’ so no milk comes out. Again – the 14 hour night gap of not properly feeding made it difficult to establish a supply. I could have fed Sam, then pumped. But at 2 am, when you know you are at work, and you have just been up for 20 mins feeding, a 20 min pump is a hard, hard thing to motivate yourself for. There was always an excise: well, I have an 8 am meeting… well, I have to see my student… well, there is a deadline I am racing for. I just didn’t do it.

It's a love-hate, sometimes hate-hate, mostly hate-cry-hate thing.

It’s a love-hate, sometimes hate-hate, mostly hate-cry-hate thing.

In the end… Sam had to be given a bottle of formula in the afternoon. At first I hated it (I didn’t even tell Wes the first time I gave him one!), but then I thought it was OK, as long as it was one bottle. But… returning to the office full-time (when Sam was 7.5 weeks) co-incided with Sam deciding more and more of his intake should be in the day – he has 5 oz (formula) at lunch and a whopping 8 oz (expressed) at night. Plus¬†regular¬†sized feeds in between. Geeez – meant that not only could I not keep up, but as he drank from me less and less in the evening / at night, I seemed to produce less and less of what he needed.

If you formula feed – that’s cool. I just think, where possible, every Mum & Dad should have the right to bring up their kid in the way they want to. I wanted to bring up Sam mostly on breast milk, keeping supplementing to a minimum, and was upset I couldn’t. Not just upset: guilty. I felt guilty that I was not pumping at night. Very guilty. I even pumped for up to an hour every 2 hours (and that is every 2 hours from start of each session, not finish… sometimes I had only 40 mins between sessions by the time I had set up / dismantled and washed¬†everything). But, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it at 4 am, knowing I was in the office the next day.

Anyway, I mentioned this to the Dr. He was wonderful. He cut me off when I said ‘I could pump at night…” and said “REST.. you are working… REST”. He then said the words I think every new Mum needs to hear. Umprompted, he said:

“You are doing wonderfully. In fact, you are doing more than enough, above and beyond. You’re a great Mom”.

And he didn’t say it because I asked, or because he thought I needed to hear it. he just said it,¬†almost¬†to himself, as he checked Sam’s¬†reflexes.

Cue tears.

However, he did look at my milk output, which dwindles to ~ .5 oz in the afternoon, and said it was lower than expected and prescribed me something to help. Yeah – so some people think you shouldn’t use these drugs. Eh, I am cool with that. I trust my pediatrician. One of the risk factors for not producing enough hormones is bleeding after childbirth, so maybe I just need to recover from that.

Anyway, it was wonderful to know that I was doing all I reasonably could for Sam, and to have support and help. And, I have not met anyone who I felt really understood my desire to breastfeed as much as possible. I actually wanted to kiss him.

Unfortunately, the drug is not covered by my insurance. It is OTC in the UK (why does this happen when my UK friends are RETURNING already), and I am fighting the insurance company, so we’ll see what comes of it. I have asked my Ma to send me out some and perhaps I’ll order online. In the meantime, I am going to take Fenugreek and actually remember my iron.

Then we moved on to the terrible part of the visit: the inoculations.

War wounds on the legs

War wounds on the legs

So many of my friends kindly told me that the vaccinations were actually fine, and their kids were fine, and it was all OK. I felt a million times better when I heard this and feel I should add my voice to this call to help others. But I can’t. It was terrible! Sam screamed at the first injection. A real yell of pain. He took my knuckle and calmed down but when the second and third came, he had no interest in being calmed, and cried his heart out. It probably didn’t help that I was weeping like a baby too.

Ugh. We dressed him, and he quickly calmed down. In fact, while Sam & I were waiting for Wes to bring the car around, Sam was like this:

130109_0002

Of course… I was still crying. Ah well. Must be stronger next time.