Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Let me tell you about my day.

This week has been ridiculous. Then today was the cherry on top of the crap sundae that has been my life.

Dot has been waking up two to three times a night to eat since Christmas, which means I'm generally exhausted all the time, as I haven't slept longer than 2.5 hours in a row for months, and I still get to get up and go to work every day (not that I'm saying being a working mom is harder than being a SAHM, it just has different challenges). I'm exhausted to the point of crying most days.

So last week, when someone plowed into our parked car, pushing it up over a curb and into a tree, I couldn't help but laugh. And car shopping with an infant in tow is nothing short of horrible. Not to mention half the cars we looked at didn't even fit a car seat. Anyway, we finally bought a car, and picked it up on Monday.
This morning, I woke up exhausted as normal. I got Dot ready, Mitch took her to day care, and I laid down for an extra 30 minutes. Which accidentally turned into an hour because like I said, I'm exhausted. So I didn't even shower, and as I'm getting ready to leave I think to myself, I should pump before I go to work. Nah, I'll be fine.

Oh no. I climbed into our schmancy recently acquired car, and rushed to work thinking I'll just pump as soon as I get there. In the midst of this rushing, a car threatens to hit me, and I swerved and hit a curb, rendering my back left tire flat. On the schmancy car we bought two days ago. I parked in a hotel parking lot, called AAA, and then realized that if I didn't pump soon, I would become a walking sprinkler.

*shakes fists at the heavens*
If you didn't already know, I'm very charming. I convinced a lady at the front desk of the aforementioned hotel to let me use an unoccupied conference room to pump. Crisis averted! But alas, as I prepared to hook myself up to the milking machine, I noticed that I forgot the AC adapter. And that there was peanut butter on my dry clean only dress. But I only started crying because of the AC adapter.

I also have the best husband ever, because he was able to understand through my blubbering that I had ruined our two-day old car and that I needed my AC adapter so that I could feed my baby at the day care that I put her in because I so selfishly wanted to continue my career. Also there was peanut butter on my pretty dress. He rescued me, brought me the AC adapter, and drove me to the shop where our car was being fixed.

So I found myself sitting on the dirty bathroom floor at Bob Sumerel, in my peanut butter dress, hooked up to the pump, and I realized that I pretty much suck at every aspect of life right now. Like, not really bad suck, but just like, a moderate level of suck. I think this is what happens when you have a baby and decide to exclusively breastfeed and still go back to work and school. You don't do any one thing well, so you just kind of suck at everything. I suck a little at my job, since I have no time to pursue activities that might help me climb some mythical ladder. I suck more at being a wife, as my husband is generally neglected and lonely . I kind of suck at being a mom, since my baby spends the majority of her days with strangers who are too busy to hold her, and then I only see her awake for a few hours a day, during which I am usually trying to squeeze in dishes and laundry and vacuuming so my baby doesn't always have dog hair in her mouth and eyeballs. I suck at being a student, as evidenced by the extra semester I have taken to finish my thesis. And I suck at being a friend, since most of my friends, particularly the childless ones, think I am probably died in childbirth.

Anyway, this is not to make anyone feel sorry for me. I don't feel sorry for me. I've accepted that I am just going to suck at things for a while. I just have too much. I can't quit being a mom or a wife. I'm almost finished being a student, and I'm not willing to quit my job. So, I'm just going to suck a little until Dot can feed herself and wipe her own butt. On a related note, I'm not going to eat peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast anymore. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

The kids are alright

Disclaimer: The parenting decisions listed in paragraph two are used simply as examples of controversial ones. Their presence in this diatribe does not indicate my opinion toward them.

I have been thinking long and hard about writing something like this for a while, and then my friend posted a blog, and the discourse that followed (on her personal facebook page) was enough to make me engage in a facebook status argument. Ugh. And then I sobbed at my desk for five minutes thinking about how I'm destroying my child. About how my friends might respect me less for my parenting decisions (that was not directed at you, Jillian). And about how I have sacrificed so much for my child, but I'm still being lumped together with "lazy and/or mean" parents because I adopted an apparently unpopular bedtime routine. So I called my pediatrician and left a crazy message on the nurse hotline. Then I pulled it together, and thought critically about why it is so upsetting to me.

I'm not going to defend the choices my husband and I have made. It's irrelevant, and it just invites people to poke holes in my argument. What I will defend is my right not to be judged. I have spent the better part of my professional life working with abused children and violent couples. I have seen lazy and mean parenting up close. To insinuate that sleep-training a child (or co-sleeping or baby-led weaning or using formula or strollers or refusing immunizations or working outside the home or circumcising or whatever else you could be doing) is abusive or neglectful minimizes true abuse and neglect. Further, parents are so bombarded with information these days, it's a full time job just to sift through it all, to determine what's personally important and what's not, what sounds like voodoo and and what doesn't, and what is feasible given your circumstances. With that burden, no one can find all the answers.

In the five short months that I've been a parent, I've learned that a lot of people think they're experts on raising kids. They gleefully dole out unsolicited advice, inadvertently condemning something you may or may not be doing. This judgment only serves to marginalize parents, especially new ones. To separate us when what we really need are supportive parenting communities.

So I talked to old people, and guess what I learned? Not breastfeeding will likely not make your kid stupid. Letting your child cry herself to sleep will likely not make her an axe-murderer. Giving your kid rice cereal will likely not make them dependent on Happy Meals. Putting your kid in day care will likely not turn him into a woman-hating basement-dwelling ineffectual troll. I say "likely" because of course there are correlations out there somewhere. Who knows if the Steubenville rapists were weaned too early or left to cry unattended for hours or were plopped in front of the TV at too young an age. But what's more likely is that they performed heinous acts in a social and temporal context after a long and complex series of life events. There was no one decision that their parents made that caused them to rape and humiliate that girl. So I think we, meaning new parents, can rest assured that we can make these early mistakes. What's more important, in my opinion, is that the decisions we make are made with love and serious deliberation. If they are, the kids will probably be alright. So let's leave judgment up to the mothers-in-law (of course I don't mean you, D-Lo).

This kid is alright.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sleep Training Update

You know, babies just do whatever the hell they want. They just do stuff, and you just have to let them. With sleeping, this means that some nights, Little Miss Dottie Lu smiles when I place her in her crib and babbles herself to sleep. Other nights, she screams for 20 minutes and then wakes up every 45 minutes for the next three hours. There's no pattern. We can't predict what makes her do this. We make all kinds of assumptions. Her room is too hot. Her head itches. She's wet. She's hungry. Something smells weird.The fan is rotating in the wrong direction and the books on her bookshelf are not in the right order. Whatever it is, she can't tell us other than by crying and complaining, neither of which are very specific or helpful.

I don't like listening to my baby cry. It's horrible. But rocking her and cuddling her doesn't help either. When we rock her to sleep, she usually wakes up and screams as soon as we set her down. And if she happens to stay asleep in that moment, she wakes up 10 minutes later, probably wondering why she's not being cuddled and rocked anymore. I think it's a disservice to her that she wakes up alone when she went to sleep otherwise. And frankly, she wakes up smiling and happy every morning regardless. No hard feelings. So this is what we do for our baby. And we don't really have opinions about how other people put their babies to sleep, because I'm sure many parents are just as aimless and insecure as we are. I guess I just rest assured that we're doing the best we can, and Dot will be just fine, if only because she has dozens of people around her who love her intensely.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sleep Training = Blurgh

Reformed screaming demon baby.
Dot is a wonderful child. No really. I know people say this about their children, but she's really animated and curious and happy for most of the day. She experiments and explores and socializes eagerly. She's a hard worker and a good communicator. Day care reports to me that the only time she whines is when she's hungry. She doesn't even care when poo is running down her leg. She takes after her father.

But...BUT, we were having some problems getting her to sleep. Bed time was kind of yucky. We would go through our routine (bath, nurse, stories, diaper, crib), and somewhere in there, usually during stories or diaper, she would short circuit and scream until we rocked her all the way to sleep and placed her carefully in her crib. This placing-in-the-crib business usually happened several times before we could do it without her waking back up. Additionally, when she would wake up in the middle of the night to eat, we would go through the same thing to get her to go back to sleep. This could take an hour to an hour and a half, which meant I wasn't sleeping.Which meant I was a crazy bitter witch lady most of the week who harbored secret resentment toward her peacefully sleeping husband who still managed to complain about not getting enough sleep.

So we decided to try the Ferber method. Before you shoot side-eye at me, we did explore other methods that were more gradual, or "gentle." Dot's problem is that she doesn't respond well to rocking or cuddling anyway, and she won't take a pacifier. She will nurse to sleep, but I'm not okay with that, as I deserve a night out occasionally. We had to stop swaddling her because she thrashes all over the crib, and heaven forbid she roll over in her sleep swaddled. And really, I prefer methodology that has hard and fast rules, so there's little room for error or improvisation. Some of the other methods (i.e. Pantley's No-Cry Sleep Solution or Tracey Hogg's method) just seemed to be too unstructured and indefinite for me. Plus our pediatrician told us to do it, and we just blindly do whatever he says.

I read the book. We picked a start date. And that first night, we sat in silence as our daughter screamed for 80 minutes while we checked on her every three, five, then seven minutes. It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. I held up pretty well. I knew in the long run, she would benefit from this (although attachment parenting advocates might say otherwise). But then the next six nights, she still cried for at least 20 minutes before falling asleep, and it started to wear on me. I felt like maybe it wasn't working. I felt like I was ruining my baby.

Then, after about eight days, she went down happy and smiling and talked herself to sleep. This happened the next day at nap time and the following evening. We seemed to have turned a corner. I was so proud of her for gaining this independence. And even when we traveled to Chicago the following week, she went to sleep with minimal complaining despite her upended routine.

I thought I would be writing a success story here, but I'm not. The last few nights she has started screaming again at bed time, and for progressively longer periods. Last night it took her almost 30 minutes to fall asleep. The confidence I felt that first night has waned, and I now feel slightly nauseated as I check on her and resist the urge to pick her up. We're not sure what, if anything, happened to disrupt our peaceful routine. She still puts herself back to sleep after a nighttime feeding, and she seems to be waking less often at night, so it wasn't all for naught. But we may be searching for other options again if she doesn't improve soon.

All this is to say, we have no idea what we're doing. Other parents may confidently tell us that what they do is good or better or best, but I don't think they really know either. They may have stumbled upon something that worked miraculously well for their child, but they don't know our child or our family or our schedule or our mental capacities (which seem to be limited these days). And frankly, I don't know her that well either. She's constantly changing. Every day is trial and error. She spends the better part of her waking hours with day care providers who are also tending to 19 million other squiggly babies. Even more reason why Dot needs to learn independence. Dot will often be cared for by people other than myself. That is her lot in life. My lot is to make sure that despite the first-world woes of working mothers, she can learn to do things for herself, and that her father and I are always here to help. Crying in her crib, while gut-wrenching and terrible, is not the worst thing I will have to watch her endure. I just hope that by her first breakup or bad haircut or college rejection letter, she has at least learned to blow her nose.