Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I'm now convinced that, if you wanted to become a millionaire, you should publish yet another "How to Get Your Child to Sleep" book, because it appears to be a saturation-proof market.  And you can feel free to contradict every other sleep book out there, because heaven knows there's no consistency at the moment.  Cry!  Don't let them cry!  Crying is good!  Crying is evil!  They'll get over it.  They'll never get over it.  Never let them sleep with you.  Always have them sleep with you.

Meanwhile, the exhausted parent is trolling the bookstore aisle looking for the shortest of these books, because you can hardly stay awake long enough to read them.

We started with a good-sleeping baby, which is different than many, I realize.  She started sleeping for long stretches at about 8 weeks old, with nary a sleep-book in sight.  You know what that is?  Sheer dumb luck.

Then she hit four months.  And it all fell to shit.  Down to sleep by 8pm, which was great.  And then...up at midnight, 2:00, 4:00, 6:00, or some combination of the above.  I put it down to the "4 month sleep regression" phase and hoped she'd work it out.

Today she is five months.  (Editorial note: 5 MONTHS?  Where did it go?)  And not that I expected her to figure out her sleeping in one month exactly, but I've had the sneaking suspicion for the last week or so that she's developed some bad habits and doesn't really know how to get out of them.  Kind of like she was when first picking up objects: good at clinging to them, not so good at letting go.  She'd be clenching to some small item and look at me like, "are you going to help me get rid of this thing on my hand?  Because I'm done with it, but it won't go away."

The other thing about the sleep books is the minefield of opinions people have about them, and about your choices.  I had a feeling that she just needed to, yes, 'cry it out' for a few nights to get herself through this phase, but I was afraid to do it: both because I hate to hear her cry, but more because I felt the ghosts of a thousand judg-y parents hovering over me, whispering, "oh, I could never let my child cry.  It's just cruel."

But, ghosts aside, we did it.  Friday night, we girded ourselves up for a scream-fest.  Down to bed at 8pm: check.  Up at 10:30pm: check. minute, pat her and soothe her and assure her we are here.  (We're right next to her, given that she's still sleeping in our room, but she can't see us.)  Then, three minutes.  And five.  And ten.  And another ten.  By now she's CRYING, but not in a scared or panicked or painful kind of way: mostly in a SUPER PISSED OFF tone, which is less heartbreaking than the others.  After about 45 minutes, she feel asleep.  I breathed out.   And waited for the next wake-up.

When she started to stir, I rolled over, figuring it was probably about 2am.  I checked the clock.  5:30am.  I checked again: 5:30AM.  Holy.  Mackerel.

For us, it took one bad night.  And that was it.  Since then, she's down by about 7:30pm, and sleeps until 5am.  It is a freaking miracle.  And I am starting to recover the pieces of myself that had been scattered across six wake-ups all night long for the last month.

I don't know what works for every kid, but this is what worked for ours.  At least for now.  At least until the next developmental spurt, or teething festival, or...whatever.

Naps are another matter.  They're getting better, slowly, but certainly not as dramatically as the night-sleeping.  But we'll take what we can get.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

two steps back. or, twenty steps back. whatever. i haven't slept.

Sleep has become a rare commodity in our house these days.

About three weeks ago, Baby Girl started waking up more often during the night.  She had been sleeping from 10:30pm or so until 5-6am very regularly, and I figured her wake-ups came from the fact that we started putting her to bed about 8pm.  Surely, I told myself, she is adjusting to this new schedule and will get back on track soon.



The apex of the whole sleep-thing (well, the first apex anyway) came on March 11, when we took her with us on an overnight and she did not sleep more than 45 minutes at a time all. night. long.  Given that she never even did that as a newborn, it threw us off entirely.  (Those of you who have been dealing with this kind of broken sleep all along: feel free to laugh at my complaining about one bad night.  Spectacularly bad, and the night before I had to spend all day teaching 30 junior high kids, but still.)  Since then, she's been waking up at least twice during the night: around 2am, again around 4am, and then back to sleep until 5:30 or 6am.

This. Will. Not. Do.

(I know.  Insert laugh here.)

Last night, she would not go to sleep.  We did everything we usually do: we put on pj's, nursed, read books, bounced on the ball, shhh'ed and sang songs.  We did this for nearly two hours - it usually takes no more than 30 minutes.  She was finally asleep about 9:30pm, and then up at 11:00pm. And 1:00am.  And 2:00am.  And then 5:30am.  (Woo hoo!  Three hours!)  Now she's down for a "nap," which lasts about 20 minutes.

Today's parenting theme around here: WTF?

In my frantic online research, I finally found a site I like.  It suggests that most kids go through a sleep regression at 4 months old.  That there's so much development in their little brains, they simply can't settle down for sleep.  That they'll get over it.  Eventually.  That it's not my fault - the one time I held her for a nap, or nursed her to sleep out of desperation, or let her cry it out for awhile because I did not know what else to do - all those things have not ruined my child forever and ever and ever amen.

Thank heavens.

I had more to say, but it's been twenty minutes. And she's up. Again.


This too shall pass.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

in the mind of a four month old

There are many, many times when I wish I knew what Baby Girl was thinking.  This would help, for one thing, with the fine line between the "I need to poop" scream and the "I need to eat" wail.  I am not very good at parsing the difference.

So I watch her and think, "what's going on in there?"  She looks so interested in absolutely everything. Like lint. And sunlight. And raindrops. And her own fingers.

I wonder if it might go something like this...

Awake! mmmm...hungry.  Should probably cry.  Will try the 'indicating hunger' cry, because even if mom is woefully inadequate at understanding me, at 5am she is usually fairly okay about it. Okay, CRY.  CRY CRY CRY WHY IS NO ONE GETTING ME WHERE DID EVERYONE OOH!  MOM!  I forgot about her!  She's back!  But why is it taking five whole seconds to get the food where did she go why is she NOT GOING FASTER HURR...mmm.  Boob.

Done with boob.  Time for...OOH!  PLAYMAT!  I love this thing.  I love how the stuffed bees hang over my head and I try to reach them.  Fun. Why can't I get them in my mouth, though?  Frustrating. But, look! Rattle. Oh - smells like oatmeal.  Mom must be getting her breakfast. Time for me to indicate SUPER PISSED OFF AT THESE BEES WHY AREN'T THE...mmm.  Sophie the giraffe.  Love her. Love her more than life. She is the best. Wait..where did she go? Why did she leave? WHERE IS SHE MOM HELP HELP HE...mmm.  She's back. Relief. I love her so much, I never want to let her go.  Never, never, neve...oooh! Fingers! I have fingers! ON BOTH HANDS! This is awesome. Mmmmm...fingers.

Why are we going up the stairs again? And what is that strange sensation in my pants? I don't like it. I DON'T LIKE IT HELP HELP SOMEBODY HEL...mmm.  Dry pants. Oh! And mobile! Hanging over my head! I love mobile. I love the pretty song mobile sings.  So pretty. But, wait!  Why did mobile stop? Will it never sing again? NO! MOBILE! I LOVE YOU! WHY ARE YOU NOT SING....oooh. Mom wound it up again. Thanks, Mom.

Why are we back in this dark room? Interesting. I remember this room. Oh, wait: I know what happens in here. Sleep. I like sleep. I like...oh, no. Wait. I forgot. I like nighttime sleep, but this is light outside and I HATE SLEEP WHEN IT IS DAYTIME I HATE IT I HATE IT I HATE IT MAKE IT STOP MAK....mmmm. Thumb.  Sleep.

Repeat ad infinitum, with the addition of a few new verses, such as:
  • where did dad go? How is his voice on this small black appliance but I can't see him? Strange.
  • how did I wake up at the grocery store?
  • what will happen if I just scream for no reason at all? Oh. Sometimes mom cries too. That weirds me out.
  • mmm...more boob.
 It was much easier to learn German, that's all I know.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

what we have learned today

Today's Helpful Baby Lesson is brought to you by the luck of the Irish:

mama should never, never, never, never again eat cabbage.  Not until baby is weaned, anyway.

(This lesson is actually the second of a two-part lesson; part one was brought to you by the good Germans and their sauerkraut.)

That is all.

Carry on.

Friday, March 11, 2011

in an instant

Baby Girl and I were heading home this afternoon from routine errands.  A trip to Tar.get, another to the grocery store.  She was happily playing with a teething ring.  The radio was on.  We came around the corner, a green light at the intersection ahead.

And then there were sirens.  And a squeal of tires.  And a white truck, coming straight at us, head-on, in the wrong lane.

There were less than 2 seconds to react.  I swerved to the right.  The truck, going at least 70 miles an hour in a 35mph zone, sped through the space we had just occupied, as if the ghost of my car was still there.  Three police cars flew past us in hot pursuit.

There was one second of silence in my car while I realized what had very nearly happened.

In an instant, my mind began to play out the terrible what could have been.  A head-on collision with a much larger vehicle going 70 miles an hour would not have turned out well for us.  There was a second of silence, and then I began to panic.  I gasped for air as if I had been pulled, drowning, out of the sea.  I pulled into the parking lot next to us, unlocked the door, shaking, and stood next to my driver's door, sobbing and panting and looking at my slightly surprised child in the back seat and shut my eyes and saw the white truck, again, coming straight at us.  Two seconds.

If I had been looking down, changing the radio station.  If I had been reaching into the back seat to retrieve her teething ring.  If I had taken the moment to glance at my phone.  If, if, if....

But, fortunately, and all-praises-be, "if" was "not."  There was time.  There was space in the right lane.  Barely, for both, but enough.

I cried all the way home.  She slept.  When we got safely in the house, she awoke.  I took her out of her carseat and held onto her as if...if...if...

It can all change in an instant.  In Japan.  In Libya.  In Egypt.  In Wisconsin.

And here.

And when it doesn't, when you squeak through by the skin of your nose and the grace of God, you ought to take the time to say it:

Thank you.

Monday, March 7, 2011

sinners in the hands of a nursing God

(With apologies to Jonathan Edwards for the title.)

At my church, we follow the lectionary for the Sunday readings.  If you are not a church person, or not a mainline-Protestant church person, the lectionary is a three-year cycle of biblical readings used by lots of churches around the world.  It follows an ancient pattern of seasons - Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost - and assigns four passages for each Sunday: an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, a New Testament reading, and a Gospel reading.  It  prevents me from just preaching on the stories I like, which is good.  It forces me to face up to a lot of the weird, complex, difficult, contradictory, and sometimes harsh stuff in the bible which I usually wish was not there and would prefer to ignore.

Like any system, it's imperfect, so it also tends to leave out a lot of stuff.  It also tends to include some things which aren't all that exciting.  So sometimes you read the assigned passages for the week and think, "good night, I have absofreakinglutely NOTHING to say about this," and you have to practically beat a sermon out of your computer and you are barely done with it when you climb into the pulpit and say a quick prayer that God will not smite you for the half-assed piece of crap you are about to unleash unto God's unsuspecting people.

Not that I have ever done that.  No.  Not me.

Anyway, because Easter is so late this year, we've been reading some passages we don't normally get to.  Like last Sunday, when we read this amazing passage from Isaiah 49:15

Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget, yet I [God] will not forget you.

And it was paired with this, from Psalm 131:

I have calmed and quieted my soul like a nursing child with its mother.

There are actually quite a few female images for God in the bible, not that this gets a lot of press, but the 'nursing mother' image is not one I've focused on much.  Until now.  I wasn't preaching the day of these texts, which was probably good since it would have been a bit too personal to address this idea at the moment (I love my congregation, but I don't really want them thinking about my boobs).

I suppose we are primarily meant to think of ourselves as the children, and God as the mother.  But I found myself identifying more with God this time around.  I think about the cost to be a nursing mother - not money (well, apart from the vat of lanolin and the buy-in-bulk nursing pads I now own), but time, and physical effort, and lack of sleep, and the fact that you can't leave this child for any length of time before your body reminds you that you are, indeed, a nursing mom.

That you can't forget your child, even if you wanted to, because your breasts won't let you.  That you love being the only one who can provide this nourishment for your child, even as you sometimes curse the tie that binds you so closely together when you just want to have a few hours to yourself.

Does God ever have sore nipples? Or get weary of waking up at the slightest cry?  Does God leak all over when any child cries?  Does God sit quietly at night, in what often feels like a holy moment, when the house is quiet and it is still dark and everyone else is sleeping and the baby is happily sucking away?

[Sidebar: Does God ever say, "For the love of Me, please learn to take a freaking nap"?]

Literally, of course not.  This is where being a biblical literalist gets you in trouble, and means you miss out on a lot.  Because it's such a beautiful image.  Real and messy and complex and life-giving and imperfect.  Being a nursing mom is hard.  And wonderful.  And all-consuming.  And frustrating.  And painful.  And exhilarating.

And it's pretty clear that the author of that Psalm is a guy, because half the time my child, at least, is not exactly "quieted" when she nurses - more like squirming, pulling, and yanking my nipple half off before looking up at me with a big smile on her face.

God as a nursing mother.  A new one for me.  And something different to think about next time she latches on.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

grey, a day late

I'm participating in Offering of Love's color photography project - one color for each month. It's fun to take photos of something that isn't, you know, my kid.

February was grey. (In every way, where I live.) And I didn't quite finish in time - but I'm consoled by the fact that I got shorted by a month with at least 2 fewer days than normal.

So, grey.

our back deck - and rain, rain, rain...

okay, the moss is green.  but i need some reminder that spring will, eventually, show up.

my favorite lamp - and our front window is reflected in it, with the grey skies of the day

For March, brown.  I'm thinking about deep, loamy earth and the seeds we will plant.  Oh, and chocolate.  Maybe I need some chocolate.  Right now.  Excuse me.