Ridiculosity and Other Sundry Items

I should’ve named this blog Tales of a Neurotic Mommy. Here’s how ridiculous I am: on Saturday, I had a full day of panic because instead of waking up between 4:30 and 6 a.m., my child slept in until 7:15.

Let me say that again: I spent all day Saturday spreading anxiety around my house because my sweet, tired baby SLEPT IN AN EXTRA HOUR. Heaven. Effing. Forbid. Really.

So instead of enjoying my extra hour of sleep and using that to be a better mommy and, in general, a more likable person, I spent the whole day trying to recalibrate when he would be taking his naps, how long he might sleep and how it would affect his bedtime. I mean, really. I’m getting frustrated with myself just writing this. What is wrong with me?!?

Yes, nothing, hormones, first-time mommyness, yada, and we did otherwise have a very nice Memorial Day weekend, in which we went to the pool, mulched the yard and ate two burgers and four desserts apiece in one sitting. But still. An hour. COME. ON.

There is a positive. Lately, every time I do something like this – freak out for no reason or freak out way more than I should – it gets me to do some combination of run, write and reflect (aha, alliteration! I’m so clever, really. I should copyright that.). After Saturday, I’m now hyperaware of my obsessing over when or for how long Dane sleeps. But then I wonder, should you be hyperaware of not being obsessive? And the cycle starts over again.

In other sundry news (I love the word sundry. I mean, deeply, deeply love it), I’m eating crow this week. This is another neuroticism I have as a mommy: I’ll say something like Dane’s a great sleeper!,  and then he stops sleeping completely. So a few posts ago, I said I’m not really a reading kind of mommy, and as of last week I am obsessed with Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby (Tangientially, while I appreciate Dr. Weissbluth for all of his assistance, he’s kind of an ass on his blog. Not that this affects the quality of his advice, but still). Anyway, there you go. Karma at work again.

And finally, I have decided if I ever write a book about the mommyhood, it’s going to be called Eat, Sleep, Poop. Because, let’s face it: that’s how we roll. And maybe add on at the end something about love, too. You get me.

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Winning (See: Charlie Sheen)

Despite my recent posts of bitching and moaning, I do think being a mommy is the best job in the world. Almost every day has challenging moments. Today, I fed my child peas and he slung them across the kitchen; tried to put him down for a nap with less than perfect results; looked up while changing his diaper to discover he had outwitted the forty wipe barrier placed between his dirty diaper and his nose; and fought inexplicable, for-no-reason nausea all day.

And then, I went to snuggle him and discovered he’s ticklish under his arms, and we spent twenty minutes giggling with his giant gummy smile and one tooth peeking through his bottom gum.

Peas wipe, but underarms are forever.

Mommy Mojo

I seem to have lost some of my Mommy Mojo. And I didn’t start with all that much in the first place. When we decided to have a baby I more or less assumed I would be good at being a mommy because (a) it’s in my genes (I have a great mom and my sister is an awesome mom, too) and (b) I’m usually pretty good at whatever I do. Yes, I sound snotty. But I think a lot of being good at what you do is about confidence and believing in yourself and so most of the time, my confidence/snottiness has served me well.

Not so (or at least, not lately) in the mommyhood.

It’s been up and down since Dane’s birth. There was panic when I brought him home from the hospital, partly because I felt like someone pulled out my heart, wrapped it in a blanket and handed it to me, and partly because (in addition to loving this miniscule smushy thing SO FREAKING MUCH), what the hell did I know about caring for a tiny baby?, and also because he lost almost 20% of his birth weight in the first three days of his life when my milk didn’t come in in a timely manner (like I ordered it, and it just came late, right? Who’s the supervisor here? Can I call to complain?). After three months, when I was finally in a groove, I had the low milk supply/falling off the weight curve debacle and we all stopped sleeping and bad hoodoo, friends, I could barely remember my middle name. Over the past month or so (with help from my aforementioned genetically-motherhood-gifted family), I regained some confidence, only to get a sinus infection and hit a rough patch in trying to help Dane nap, and now it’s all up in the air again. Not to put too fine a point on it, but WTF, mommyworld?

I know motherhood is two steps forward and one step back (or three. or five.). I’ve tried church, and exercise, and talking it out, and writing. All of those things help, but what I really want to do is look inside myself and find my inner snottiness. Of course I’m a great mom, because hey, I’m a badass. Why have I forgotten that? How has having a baby somehow made me lose faith in myself? Maybe because the stakes are higher than any other time? This isn’t about failing a class or losing a job or  failing at a relationship. This is about supporting and nurturing another human being, whom I love above all else. My fear of failing him is raw and visceral. And learning to live with it – master it, even – is one of the most important things I’ll ever do. So God help me and cowboy up. Right?

Um… right.

Crashing Through the Underbrush

As it turns out, I’m not a reading kind of Mommy. My style of parenting is more like crashing through the underbrush: instinctual and based on anecdotes and miscellanous advice. That’s not to say I don’t read. I try to keep up with Touchpoints and What to Expect the First Year. I even read a few chapters of Babywise before throwing it across the room. But overall, despite being an ex-engineer, I’m not really a textbook kind of mommy.

This fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants method has had positive and negative results. When I started feeding Dane solids, I didn’t bother to look up a menu. I went to Target (because, really, what problem can’t be solved by going to Target?), bought a box of rice cereal, a baby spoon and those cute Playtex bowls with the car on the bottom, and went to town. Only after three weeks did I bother to read T. Berry’s take on teaching your child to eat (or, more accurately, letting him learn to enjoy mealtime by flinging food all over the kitchen). It pretty much jived with what I was doing, and Dane so far is a reasonably happy eater. Score one for mommy.

On the flip side, my recent attempts to get Dane to nap have been far less pleasant. I believe I’ve documented in a previous post how napping has, until the last few weeks, not been Dane’s favorite pasttime. So, in desperation, I turned to The-Method-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named (and boy, did I eat crow on that one, after swearing I’d never use it, and also note that I am calling it The-Method-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named because I have no interest in anyone commenting or criticising on my use of said method. So don’t.). It’s not that I went in without knowing what I was doing; I was educated enough to avoid causing permanent damage to my child. Perhaps if I had read more, however, I would’ve been (a) better prepared for how hard it was going to be for me as a mommy (leading to greater consistency in implementation) and (b) better able to handle the little kinks that have come after the big stuff has been handled. So like I said, no permanent damage to my mellow mushroom of a baby, but I might have scarred myself for life in the process. At the minimum, I’ve taken a serious knock to my (already) fragile mommy confidence.

The thing is, more often than not, when I listen to my instincts, I’m right for my baby. That’s not to say I wouldn’t be right sooner or more consistently if I did a little more legwork, or that my way is the right way. As a matter of fact, let me be clear… I absolutely DO NOT think my way is the right way for anyone else. But it is my way, and it’s (for the most part) working for me and our baby. I mean, what more can you ask for than this?

Hey, if the worst we end up with is a little oatmeal on the forehead, I gotta say it was a good day. 🙂

Sleep is for the Weak

Warning: This post is 1% book recommendation and 99% bitching about not sleeping. I don’t have justification for this level of bitchery, but what’s the internet for if not airing your grievances in 1,000 words or less to everyone you know and a million people you don’t?

So there’s this book called Sleep is for the Weak. It’s full of very funny blog posts from other Mommies, and it helped me get out of my cushy glider and write again. It also inspired this post/ gripe about not sleeping. So… good/bad. And sorry/deal.

I didn’t know you could get black eyes from being tired. I’ve seen my sister exhausted (she has three kids), but my sister is the second coming of Brooke Shields so even when she’s exhausted, she doesn’t look like she has mascara tattooed under her eyes. I look like I’ve been in a bar fight. My paleness does not help the matter.

I felt prepared for the being tired when Dane was born. My husband and I took the childbirth class, where we discussed strategies for fatigue and were given a magnet reading Fatigue Makes Everything Worse (WakeMed: deeply, truly, thank you.). To our great pleasure, after ten weeks, Dane was sleeping twelve hours at night and taking three hour naps. Jon and I congratulated ourselves on being the best parents known to man, while karma, sitting quietly at the end of the bar, chuckled.

Dane’s scale back started around three months. He would sleep nights, but only nap during the day in the pack and play, and only if I punched the vibrate button every 20 minutes. In a week or so, those naps dwindled from three hours to one and then it didn’t matter about the vibrate button because, hey, who needs a nap, Mommy? I tried the crib, and then, in desperation, the crib on his tummy (which I rationalized was safe because I had a VIDEO monitor and I kept the VIDEO function on at all times, as though Summer Infant had created a monitor that would not only show me my child but also shout at regular intervals his heart rate, oxygen saturation and blood pressure). For a while, I just stuck him in the sling and tooled around, but even that fell off after a few weeks. So finally, I was reduced to holding my fuzzy monkey baby for hours at a time to get him to nap. And still, I thought: I’m getting ten hours at night. Brook Shields with the three kids over there did it. I’ve been meaning to catch up on Teen Mom 2, anyway. Right?

Uh-huh.

February brought what my sister called a tummy bug and I called a nuclear meltdown, and then Dane’s four month growth spurt.  The rolling over started shortly thereafter, and my twelve hour nights went to seven and then three, and all of a sudden I began to question both why my child hated me and the existential reasons for having children in the first place. And still I stuck with it, thinking: this too shall pass and it’s just a phase and it beats a Mexican jail on spring break. Right?

Oh, so misguidedly, misguidedly wrong.

Enter karma: At the four month check-up, we discovered Dane had failed to gain the appropriate amount of weight and his weight curve had flattened and then taken a nosedive (I had a dream that he had LITERALLY FALLEN OFF THE WEIGHT CURVE. Yes: chaos ensued.). Up to that point, I’d felt good about the whole breastfeeding thing. My husband had even come in the room and mooed at me (Don’t ask. I don’t know how I don’t strangle him in his sleep.). Between March and April, however, between not sleeping, being anxious about not sleeping, not eating because of anxiety and not drinking enough water, not to mention being just plain irresponsible with my milk supply, my body forgot how to, you know, NOURISH my child. And in all seriousness, I know there are worse things, but having that particular conversation with the pediatrician – the one where she holds your hand and says your milk is low and for all I know, expired, sour and fermenting – sucks. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not opposed to formula. But breastfeeding was the one mommy thing I knew how to DO, and I had the temerity to think I was GOOD AT IT. And I’m an ex-engineer and TYPE A, for God’s sake.

So now, after spending two months going back and forth with the pediatrician, lactation consultant and my O.B., I’ve fetched up in May pumping like a maniac, mainlining water and trying to manage the massive mood swings cause by Reglan, and, finally, our baby is back to sleeping through the night and even taking a few naps (for which I am eternally grateful. I haven’t watched Grey’s in, like, a month). But here’s the thing: like I said, I was ready for the fatigue-makes-everything-worse newborn phase, but nobody told me about the four to five month mark. It’s like the college boyfriend nobody would tell you to break up with, but once you do, they’re all like, oh, we’re so RELIEVED. And I wonder: what else do I not know? And do I really want to?

I don’t have a happy ending to this post (or really, even, a conclusion), but maybe I’ll end with some advice from Brook Shields with the three kids: that it does, in fact, get easier (when they’re in grade school), and when all else fails: Power Through. And in the public interest, for all the people who believe they will ever sleep after having a child, let me enlighten you: (a) Yes, you should have broken up with him your sophomore year, (b) Yes, four months post partum is too soon to wear your skinny jeans (unless you are Giselle, in which case I hate you and we aren’t friends) and (c) it does get better. I hope. And if not, call me because bitchery is, in fact, my middle name.