Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Timing is everything!

Survived a trip to the mall with the baby!  It was a miracle. I was so relieved. After a few nightmarish shopping excursions where she screamed bloody murder the entire time, I was understandably nervous about the prospect of going through the mall with her. I couldn't avoid it forever. I needed to return something and I also wanted to pick up "What to Expect - The First Year" at Chapters. (I had read "What to Expect When You're Expecting" while I was pregnant and although a lot of it stressed me out, it was good to have a guide that was so thorough it covered everything that could possibly happen at each stage so that I was prepared. I figured I might as well have something to guide me through babydom. Babies don't come with a manual but they really should!) Michelle was starting to fuss as I put her in the car but she fell asleep during the ride and when I put the seat into the stroller and started to move, she was good to go. Thankfully she stayed asleep the entire time. I was crossing my fingers as I headed through the mall repeating a mantra in my head "Please be good. Please stay asleep!" Of course, on this occasion the timing had been just right. She had been fed so she wasn't hungry and just as I had put her in her carseat about to leave the house I could hear gurgling down below so I took her out and changed her. It had been a really big orange poop. It was a nuisance having to take her out of the seat and start from scratch again but it was a huge blessing that the big poo happened while we were still home. I'd seen how she reacted to pooing when we were out and it got really ugly. She screamed until she was purple and the poo seemed to implode under the carseat harness. So if I can time my outings for after the baby is fed, warm and dry and clean, she can sleep happily while we're out. Unfortunately it's not always so easy to time things. I never know exactly when she's going to poo. Every day is a little different. You can never be sure. Sometimes it sounds like she's going but it's just gas. I am noticing patterns though. She does tend to have her biggest poops early in the day. But she feeds and poos almost non-stop all day long except for a few minutes here and there when she sleeps. My friend convinced me to start using the diaper cake (it was so pretty I was trying to save it but she said I better use the newborn diapers while they still fit. They are pretty snug now. She's basically a size 1 diaper already. She's in 0-3 month clothes and even fits some 3 month old ones) and I've gone through the first two layers in under a week!

I have taken her out for walks in the stroller a few times now. She seems to like it. It's good for me to get out too. Being cooped up all the time can make you a little stir crazy. It feels good to get some exercise and fresh air. When I check on her in the little window built into the stroller she's usually wide awake. She seems fascinated by the experience. I'm not sure whether it's the bumpiness or the play of light and shadow that she likes the most. They have baby swings but they almost need to invent a baby bumpy ride that simulates a stroller, or a car. I've heard they like the dryer too. Apparently she loves the sound of the vacuum cleaner as well. I had her in my left arm while I vacuumed with the right today and she fell asleep. Housework is a real workout now that I have her! She often doesn't nap long enough for me to do things without her. So I just have to try to "octopus" it and do everything with her in my arms. At least when she's able to hold her head up I can start putting her in the "Snugli" carrier and carry her like a kangaroo while I hop around to do everything.

I've started reading "What to Expect" and I was happy to learn that the reason babies sleep better on formula (while I was supplementing her with formula in those early days, as instructed by the breastfeeding clinic Michelle did seem to sleep a bit more. Sometimes for three or four hours at a time) is that they can't digest cow's milk that easily so it stays in their system longer and makes them feel full. Breastmilk is so easy to digest that it goes right through them so they are hungry more often (which explains the frequent feedings and the endless stream of pooed diapers -- about 5 a day. Not to mention the peed ones too.) I like to have a book where I can find the facts instead of relying on confusing and contradictory advice from well-meaning friends and family. For a while there I was starting to get discouraged. It felt like everyone was a critic and telling me what I was doing wrong. "My baby didn't poo that much...Maybe you're overfeeding her." "Maybe she's lactose intolerant." "Maybe she's malnourished because you're not eating enough protein. You should be frying steaks." "My baby slept all the time as a newborn." It was getting to the point where I didn't want to talk to anyone because they were making me feel worse! I was already feeling pretty vulnerable from over-exhaustion. I know that they were only trying to help but it felt like they were finding fault which wasn't what I needed when I was already feeling depleted and discouraged and trying to do all the right things. I was starting to get defensive. I eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, drink a lot of milk and have some meat but the baby limits what and how much I can eat. She doesn't always give me time to cook anything. I have to grab things that I can gobble in a couple of minutes. I'm on my own. I don't have a partner that can cook or watch the baby while I cook. Sometimes I'm starving, I think Michelle is finally asleep so I run to nuke a frozen dinner and she starts to scream before I even get to take the first bite. So I try to cradle her in one arm and eat with the other. But if she continues to cry, I end up leaving my meal to change/feed her. Breastfeeding takes so much out of me physically and it's not always easy to feed myself so I wind up weak and exhausted. But I don't need people telling me that I'm a bad mother for not eating when I'm trying to be a good mother by putting the baby's needs before my own. When she screamed in the grocery store one time as I threw things in the cart I was saying "Mama needs to eat too baby or Mama will die!" I didn't even care about the people around me staring. Welcome to my Breakdown people! I hope I never have a shopping trip like that again. It almost seems like any time I try to get food for myself (either buying it, cooking it or eating it) my baby will start to cry as though she just can't let me eat! She's the best diet on Earth! Sucks 500 calories or more out of me and doesn't even let me take that much in!

Mom is a worrier and always has something negative to say about something. I don't even watch the news because it just brings me down but I always get to hear about things from Mom. (Though I often wonder if she's getting the story right!) My mother can't resist calling to tell me the latest thing she heard/read on the news. She called frantically that the "Bumbo" chairs had been recalled. They've been around forever. I'm sure they're fine. I guess some people were putting them on tables or something. That's just silly. I would wait until she's old enough first of all. I would certainly keep an eye on the baby if she was in the chair and I wouldn't put it up on anything. Mom also called one day to say that "Eggs are as bad for you as cigarettes." Apparently some report she'd heard on TV. That's ridiculous. I thought that eggs were a healthy source of protein. I know they have cholesterol but come on. One day something is good for you and the next day it's bad. Mom shouldn't be allowed to watch the news. It's all doom and gloom and fear mongering. The worst thing possible for a chronic worrier like my Mom. I try to limit my worries. These days I just don't have time anyway. My biggest concern is the baby crying. Everything else in the world will have to wait!

People like to tell you how things should be. People without kids will tell you what they think or heard from other people or read. People with kids will tell you what their kids were like or what they did in their day (which may have been several decades ago and may have been dead wrong -- for instance they used to say not to feed more often than every four hours and put your baby to sleep on her stomach. That's the opposite of what they say now.) Even people who have had babies recently may not necessarily understand what you're going through. The problem is that each baby is different. Just as no two labours are alike (I heard so many vastly different stories and my own wound up being nothing like any of them. You really don't know what your own experience will be until you have it.) no two babies are alike. Some people have babies that never cry and sleep through the night right from the beginning. Others have fussy babies that cry a lot and rarely sleep. I had some people tell me I have to feed every few hours and that I should wake the baby to feed if she doesn't get up on her own. Others told me never wake a sleeping baby. It's hard to know what to believe. I just let Michelle call the shots. I figure she knows better than anyone when she's hungry. When she cries, I do the checks. If her diaper is dirty (and 9 times out of 10, it is!) I change her. Then if she still cries, I assume she's hungry and try feeding her. She usually nurses voraciously so she was obviously hungry. When all her other needs have been met, if she still cries I assume she's tired and needs to nap so I entertain her by carrying her, singing to her, rocking her, putting her in her swing, going for a walk or a drive, or sometimes just letting her lay on my chest for two hours (she was quite content while I watched my show, even though my chest was hurting I didn't want to disturb her. Sometimes she cries as soon as I put her down so I just let her lean on me as long as she's happy.) She is demanding. Sometimes it's exhausting meeting her demands, but I do it. It makes me happy when I'm able to stop her tears. What gets frustrating is when she'll cry after all of my efforts and I don't know what's wrong. I'll ask her "What's wrong?!" (As if she's suddenly going to be able to speak and tell me!) When all else fails, I've found that making a strange noise, especially a loud shushing sound seems to quiet her. It probably just distracts her so she forgets that she was crying. I've tried playing with her, introducing toys to her but it's probably too soon. I'm not even sure how much they can see at this point.

My Mom and sister came over for a visit and Michelle was thankfully pretty good, though she is high maintenance. When she's not being fed and changed she likes to be constantly entertained. You can't dare to put her down for a moment or she'll cry. It was a treat to have my Mom hold her and walk around with her for a bit to give me a break while I grabbed a bite to eat. Mom said that the baby looks like me and seems to have my temperament (God help me!) I was a real handfull and now I suppose I'm getting my payback for what I put my mother through. Sorry Mom. I had no idea! Thank you for everything that you endured to have me and raise me. I may not have fully appreciated it until now. You always said "You'll never understand until you have kids of your own!" I never expected to have my own children. Now here I am with a baby (biggest surprise of my life!) and I finally understand what it's like -- how much love, how much stress, how much sacrifice and work children really are.

I was hoping she'd take after me and not her father (who as most of you know has been M.I.A. since February. Good riddance.) Then again he was even more high maintenance than I was. M was as needy as a baby, never gave me a moment's peace or privacy, not even to go to the bathroom (don't ask!), was a voracious eater, would barely let me eat anything (sometimes literally took the food out of my hand)...Oh dear, come to think of it maybe she did get a couple of things from Dad. Sometimes she seems to be giving the finger too (see photo!) It was something my ex did often, especially for pictures. Yeah, he was a charmer! I'm sure it's just coincidence with Michelle though. My Mom said Michelle's hair seems to be a little more blonde than strawberry now. I was born platinum blonde and turned auburn later. Could she be doing the reverse? I guess we'll have to wait and see. Her eyes are denim blue at this point but I've heard that they can change as well. Of course both M and I had blue eyes so there's a good chance they'll stay.

Mom carried the baby around, singing to her, bouncing her, keeping her amused until her arms were aching. She said I was the same way as a baby. I wanted constant attention. I wouldn't let her put me down all day long. I also screamed all night and wouldn't sleep. At least thank Heaven, Michelle doesn't do that. She's actually started sleeping pretty well at night at least (a few hours anyway). Knock on wood.

I couldn't resist trying her little shades on her. I'd gotten them several months ago and thought they were adorable. They seemed so small but look big on her. She looks like she could be a baby Elton John! We didn't really get to hit the beach this year but there's always next year. Maybe by then I'll be bikini ready though even if I manage to lose my mommy tummy I don't know if the stretch marks will fade. I'm hoping. I'm still using the stretch mark cream that I got months ago. It doesn't seem to do much aside from smell like cookies. There's cocoa in it or something. Can they invent something that makes stretch marks vanish? Please? Although my appearance is not as important to me these days I look back at photos of me from last summer and want to cry. I worked so hard to get to my goal weight/shape having no idea that I was going to fall in love and shockingly wind up pregnant in the Fall. Still, Michelle is worth the stretch marks (and the stress and sleeplessness). I just hope she appreciates it. Someday if she's giving me a hard time (in her teens for example) I may break out some of those old bikini photos and then show her my stretched out belly. The Mom guilt! My mother certainly used it on me. I guess I'll probably resort to it someday with my daughter.

Time isn't always on my side these days. It seems it rarely is. The baby will fall asleep and I'll rush to get something done only to have her wake at the worst possible moment. One day I had just finished bathing her because she'd had a really messy poo. I had her upstairs, in her towel, about to put on her lotion when she pooed on the towel! I wasn't about to bathe her all over again. Luckily it didn't go too far. A couple of times she's peed while I'm changing her and wet the clean outfit and blanket I had just put on her. At least being a girl she doesn't spray up when she pees (I've heard some nightmare stories about changing baby boys!) Or she'll wake up and start screaming in a crowded grocery store. Or she'll poo through her cutest little dresses. But sometimes I get lucky, the stars align, baby is good, all goes well and it's such a treat. I wish every day could be like that. Baby Michelle would sleep soundly and I'd get everything done. She'd wake up refreshed and happy and never cry. But she's a baby. She's like the weather. Unpredictable. Uncontrollable. You never know what you're going to get. (Though while I'm on the subject I am so grateful for the beautiful weather we've had in August. I was worried it would be too humid when I got back home with no A/C but it's been perfect.)

For a recovering control freak like me it can be hard to surrender control to a small human. You can't reason with her. She wants what she wants when she wants it and you better figure it out because she doesn't speak English yet! Stupidly I always ask her anyway "What is it love? What's wrong? Are you hungry? Do you need to be changed? What is it?" I thought she would have different cries for different things but so far it's the same plaintive "Waaaaa" whether she's hungry, or dirty, or tired, or just needs to be cuddled. So you try each one and figure it out by the process of elimination. It does feel good when you get it right and she stops crying. It's beyond frustrating when you get it wrong and you can't figure out what she's on about. "But you're clean, you're full, you have no complaint! Everything is good! I don't get it!" Those are the "I'm just bored, entertain me" cries. That's when the vacuum cleaner, the stroller, the car, white noise, motion etc come in handy.

One night she kept falling asleep while nursing but each time I tried to put her down she'd wake up minutes later and scream. My favourite show was coming on and I didn't want to miss it. She fell asleep on my chest and seemed quite content. I let her sleep there. It was easier than disturbing her and having her scream. So I let her stay that way through the entire show. My chest was aching and my arm was numb by the end of it but at least she stayed quiet and content.

It must be scary for a baby. They were safe in their little watery world and then suddenly they're yanked out into this strange place (yanked out with a plunger and tongs as well as doctor's hands in my case. It was a rough labour for both of us!) They don't know where they are or what's going on. They don't know if their needs will be met. When they awaken alone, it must be frightening. They were attached to you for so long, they need to feel that connection. Lying on my chest she hears my heartbeat. She knows I'm her Mama and that she's safe. If she's alone to sleep then she doesn't know where I am. I hope that she will realize I always come back to her, that she can feel secure no matter what. I will always be there to meet her needs. I'm never far away. I know that my sister's kids are still so connected to her and don't like to be apart from her (even at 2 years and 10 years.) You see the panic in his face when my nephew realizes Mama isn't there, even for a few moments. It's overwhelming, but at the same time it's an incredible feeling to know that you're so loved, so needed. You are your child's world.

I am Michelle's world. And I will try to make it as happy as I can. I just hope she cuts me a little slack because I am new to this and I am on my own trying to do everything. There's no one else to put out the garbage, do the shopping and everything else. She has definitely challenged me in a way that no one and nothing ever has. Maybe it was what I needed to make me stronger. We've both been through a lot in the first few weeks. We've survived and we're doing pretty well. Maybe the hardest part is behind us and it'll be easier from here on out. Sure. As a stranger told me in line at the drug store (during another one of Michelle's screaming fits) "Yes this is the hardest stage. At least until she hits her teens..." But that's way way off...


  1. So much of what you wrote here is so right drove me nuts to have so many people chime in on everything I was doing, I swore that I'd never do that! But sadly find myself doing it! What I did learn is that I get to make the decisions PERIOD. People will chime in & disagree & blah blah blah but ultimately it's me that calls the shots...well Elena calls the shots but you know what I mean. Anyway, my advice to you (HAH!! there I go, lol!!) is to trust your gut, make your own choice on how to parent Michelle, even umpopular ones & just smile & nod when people are offering there advice & opinions.

    1. Thank you. Yes I just have to take some advice with a grain of salt. I have to remember too that people are (usually) trying to help rather than hurt. I may just be a bit sensitive/vulnerable because it's all new to me & anything that feels like criticism isn't fun! But I will trust my instincts, follow my heart, obey my master (mistress? Michelle!) & learn as I go!