Posts Tagged ‘The Mommy Gig’

December 22, 2014

Surviving Two

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Having two small children has simultaneously been easier and harder than I expected.

Nicki has been great with Alexis. She’s been very accepting of her little sister “necklace” (seriously cutest nickname ever!), and also a little intimidated by her. When we first brought Alexis home from the hospital, Nicki was very curious about her and asked lots of questions. She liked saying goodbye/goodnight whenever she’d leave for daycare or go to bed, and showed Alexis her toys. She’ll also talk to Alexis, but she rarely wanted to get close on her own. This past week she’s been getting a little braver, offering hugs and kisses. Last night she insisted that her teddy bear give Alexis a goodnight hug. I’m very grateful Nicole has been adjusting so well.

Bonding this past weekend.

Alexis, for her part, has been an extremely mellow baby. She cries during diaper changes (although not as often any more), and when she’s hungry. She’s very content to be put down in her bouncy seat or the rock and play. After putting her down I’ve checked in on her only to discover she’s wide eyed, studying the blinds, quiet as a mouse.

Domingo and I got extremely lucky with both girls. I don’t think we could have asked for anything more from either of them.

One of the challenges right now is our living situation. We already felt cramped in our apartment before, but now it feels almost unbearable. There’s no out of the way place for Alexis to sleep where she won’t be woken up by the typical sounds of toddlers playing, and no easy place for me to rock her. Alexis’ crying will also just as easily wake up Nicki, which means we’ve had some rocky nights where it felt like the girls were tag teaming against Domingo and I.

Alexis is currently sleeping in our room, but in a few months will move to the office which will then become her room. Her future room is right next to Nicole’s. If the rocking chair was in her room, we’d have to walk a crying, hungry newborn right past Nicole’s door multiple times per night. We avoided that problem by having the rocking chair in the living room, but then there’s no way to shut the door and have a quite space for trying to get Alexis to nap in the middle of the day. We finally caved and decided to buy a second rocker (a stork craft glider). Pros: it was easy to assemble. Cons: it’s not as nice as our previous rocking chair (which cost 3x as much so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.) Now we have a rocker in both locations. It seems a little over kill to have two rockers, but if I can get even just 30 minutes more sleep a day, it’ll be worth it.

Another life savor has been our toy closet. We keep all manor of special toys there: play-doh, one of those pop up tunnels with towers, a bubble gun, etc. We started keeping these toys separate because they required more adult supervision. The fact that they’re not freely available adds to their appeal, and so they work wonders at keeping Nicki occupied before we had the second rocker.

The last thing that seems to have helped is making sure we have special Mommy/Nicole only time. Last Sunday I made sure to wake up early enough to pump before Nicole. We spent the morning together while Domingo and Alexis slept in, and in the afternoon Nicole and I visited Santa. Before our special day, Nicole was acting out and testing boundaries a little more than usual. Afterwards she was back to her usual well mannered self. I’m sure it will be a balancing act. Nicole has always had a very special bond with Domingo, so she’ll want special daddy time as well. We’re thinking Domingo may take her out to a pancake dinner after daycare someday soon.

The last thing that I think helped was the big sister books, especially this one by Joanna Cole. We’ve been emphasizing all the fun things Nicki can do that Alexis can’t do yet by reciting the verse about the baby being too little. It helps keep a positive spin on things when Alexis needs extra attention.

August 5, 2013

Coming up for Air

framed photo

I took a break from thesis writing today to frame my favorite photo of Nicki. I seriously can’t believe that came from my camera. No color adjusting or photo editing, I only cropped it.

Sometimes I can’t even believe Nicki came from me. How did I get so lucky to have such a wonderful daughter? We were playing together this evening, she was sitting in my lap and I was doing itsy bitsy spider tickle attack (itsy bitsy crawls up her arm and tickles her under the chin.) My little miss giggle fits loves it. I had just discovered a bug in my code, and I wasn’t sure how badly it was going to affect my thesis. I was two weeks behind where I wanted to be. I was frustrated with myself, and so stressed I was getting multi day migraines. Baby laughter in the best medicine.

It’s so easy to get bogged down in the stress of an incredible to-do pile. I have to remind myself that those self imposed deadlines are, indeed, self imposed. All these things I’m stressing over are nice-to-haves, not necessities.

In my next incarnation after graduate school I will have good work/life balance. I will make this happen.

December 31, 2012

Reviewing My Pledge

Last new year I made a promise to myself and other moms. I promised not to be part of the mommy wars, not to judge and not to respond to being judged, least an overzealous defense leads to someone else feeling judged. Now that I’ve been the mom of an “outside” baby for almost six months, I thought I would revisit my pledge.

Not judging others

If I was grading myself I’d give me a B on this one. For the most part I think I succeeded.

I fully recognize that every baby/parent/family is different and what works for one might not work for another. Further, while I may have opinions on the latest baby trends, I recognize failure to prove an approach or strategy works is not proof that it doesn’t work, and vice versa. I also recognize the placebo effect is a powerful thing. Just the act of doing something with a positive attitude could have positive benefit, even if the ‘something’ itself doesn’t work. I don’t begrudge anyone from trying any approach they think will work for their situation.

But, as I said, I do have opinions. There are some trends that go beyond silly and seem downright dangerous. When I voice my concerns over some new gimmicky gadget or baby strategy to my husband I can get snarky. If I’m not careful my opinion might leak out to someone less receptive. While I may be thinking “that strategy is stupid” what the other person might here is “anyone who considers that strategy is stupid”. I am by no means a baby expert, I should learn to just let it go.

Not getting defensive

I give myself a C on this one.

I sometimes feel like I have a scarlet f (for formula). The breast is best mantra is so ingrained in western culture that I feel as though I’m always bring judged. Even by complete strangers who have no idea how I feed my baby. If they know they will think I am a bad mother. I am in the formula closest, afraid to come out and be judged.

I’ve tried to write a blog post several times about our trials and tribulations nursing. Every time I start to I feel compelled to point out she’s mostly drinking expressed breast milk, or that we still do nurse. I think by making such comments do a disservice to myself and others if similar situations. By treating formula like “The Great Evil” I perpetuate the environment that leads to the feelings of guilt and shame for someone else forced into the same situation.

There is no shame in formula.

If I firmly believe ‘whatever works’ and ‘every situation is different’ for everyone else, why can’t I accept it for myself?

October 14, 2012

Sick Baby

Remember how I sterilized everything in the house when baby was spitting up more than usual? How cute was I in my naivety. Nicki has her first cold. It started a week ago and I can assure you baby colds are every bit as bad as it’s rumored to be.

Nicki surprised us by waking up in the middle of the night a week ago Wednesday. Something she never does anymore. I thought I had jinxed her wonderful sleep habits by talking about them here! She had coughed herself awake, but other than that one episode she seemed fine. She had no other symptoms. Then Domingo got sick Thursday night. Sore throat, aches, the whole shebang. He kept his distance from the baby Friday, but by Saturday morning both she and I were showing the same symptoms. By that Saturday afternoon, all three of us were in full blown cold mode.

We all had sore throats. Trouble is, Nicki would cry to let us know she was uncomfortable. The crying made her throat worse, so she’d cry louder, which made it even worser. We were trapped in terrible feedback loop so we called the pediatric advice nurse. The nurse told us to run the humidifier, saline drops and steam baths. Since Nicki was three months, we could also try some acetaminophen. Luckily we had just been to the doctor, so I knew her weight and we could figure out the right dose. The acetaminophen seemed to help.

Getting her to suck on a pacifier also seemed to help the sore throat. Timing being what it was, though, she had started rejecting the soothie pacifiers. She’d suck on the pacifier once or twice before loosing patience with it. So we were off to the store again to try the brand her day care recommended.

Her cold got worse through the weekend. She was so congested she couldn’t breathe threw her nose with all that congestion. She woke up every three hours screaming. Poor baby was exhausted. At 3 a.m. Sunday I just decided to stay up with her. I sat in the nursing chair and held her upright so she could sleep on me until morning.

We had a little reprieve during the week. My parents were visiting, so after Domingo and I did the “night” shift, they’d get the morning shift and give me a chance to nap. Poor Domingo had to go to work on very little sleep. (Have I told you he’s the best Dad, ever?) Nicki was such a trooper, smiling during the day through the sniffles.

When her cold didn’t abate after a week, we decided to call again on Thursday to see if there was anything else we could do. Nope. Saline drops, bulb syringe, steam rooms, and wait it out. She tolerated the bulb syringe, as long as we didn’t try too many attempts to liberate the snot. The drops were tantamount to baby torture. She started crying as soon as she saw the bottle. Not good. Not good at all.

I called the advice nurse for a third time again yesterday. Nicki’s coughing fits seemed to be getting worse. Sometimes it sounded like she was chocking, and often didn’t end until she had spit up. One time it seemed like she had spit up the entire bottle. Since she had been sick over a week, I was getting very concerned. The advice nurse set us up an appointment with the weekend doctor since Nicki had been sick for over a week. He listened to her chest to make sure it wasn’t something serious, and checked her ears for signs of ear infections. Just a cold. Just a cold. He told us it could last 2 to 3 weeks and the average is 6-10 colds in the first year.

10 colds lasting 3 weeks would mean Nicki would be sick 58% of her first year of life! Even 6 colds at 2 weeks a piece would be 23%. Here’s hoping she gets better soon. Two and a half more months until she can get a flu shot.

Daddy Daughter Bonding – 1 Month Old

“What are your expectations when it comes to who will be responsible for what chores after baby arrives?” It was a question posed in the mid-pregnancy educational class we attended last February. Whose job would it be to make sure the diapers and wipes were well stocked? To take out the dirty diapers each night? The class instructor had everyone fill out a ‘mine’ and ‘theirs’ responsibilities work sheet as we waited for everyone attending the class to arrive. No peeking!

Up until that point Domingo and I hadn’t really discussed diving up the baby chores. We had discussed our general parenting philosophies such as how we felt about sleep training and discipline. We made sure we were on the same page when it came to what kind of parents we envisioned being, what we wanted most for our daughter and our expectations as parents. But the day to day chores didn’t come up.

I gave myself 100% of the responsibility of feeding baby (kind of hard to share that one when you plan on breastfeeding) and night time baby care. I figured there was no sense in us both being up if I had to be awake to feed the baby anyway. (I referred to it as our zone defense strategy.) For everything else I split responsibilities 50/50. I thought Domingo’s sheet would look the same. Wrong! Domingo gave himself 70% of the responsibility of diapering and 100% of household cleaning. As he saw it – if my job was to feed the baby, his job was everything else. Cooking, cleaning, he expected to take on a lion’s share of the chores. But he didn’t expect to stop there. He expected to be awake at each and every feeding.

And he meant it.

After a long day at work, he comes home and is ready to take a shift with the baby to give me a break. Always. On days that Nicki is home from day care, he comes home from lunch to make sure I have something nutritious to eat. Always. Without fail or complaint.

My idea of a zone defense was a bit naïve. Most days it can work, but some days I just need a little extra sleep or a second pair of hands. This morning was one of them. Even though Domingo went to bed after me, he got up to feed the baby. After she eat, she fell asleep immediately in his arms. Rather than risk waking her, he stayed with her in the rocking chair. I woke up to find them there an hour later.

I have the Best Daddy Ever! – Three Months Old

I knew I hit the jackpot with Domingo. I knew he was the kind of guy I wanted to spend the rest of my life with the first time I met him. I knew he was the kind of guy I wanted to be the father of my children before we even started dating. It was the first time I was in a relationship and could see myself in the roll of wife and mother, not just girlfriend. Still, he blew away my expectations. He is all I could ever have wanted and more. How did I get to be so lucky? Amazing husbands make for the best dads.

I did the best I could to prepare for baby. I read the books, watched the videos and attended classes. I knew that no matter how much I prepared, being a mommy would be an on the job learning experience. If I could go back in time, there are three things I would tell my pre baby self.

1.) It is okay to pee.

My first day home alone with the baby ended miserably. Domingo came home from work to find his very stressed out wife holding a crying baby. I was trying so hard to be the perfect mom, to cater to Nicki’s every need, that I forgot my own. I’ll just get her to stop crying first, I thought. Get her to fall asleep and then I can put her down. I somehow had the impression that if I let her cry for one second longer than she had to, I was a bad mom. The longer I held her, the more uncomfortable I got. the more uncomfortable I got, the more fussy she got.

Safe and Sound

Yes, she would have cried harder had I put her down in the crib. But it would have only lasted for a moment. Babies cry. We can’t stop every tear from falling. It’s okay to put them down, in a safe place for a brief period of time, to take care of something important. It results in far less tears from everyone.

2.) It’s okay be break the rules.

Just as no two babies are exactly alike in terms of genetic make up or finger prints, no two are exactly alike in personality. What works for most does not necessarily work for all.

When we had problems breast feeding, the lactation consultant wanted us to train Nicki to suck by giving her our finger. One desperate night, well before the magic one month mark for breastfeed babies, even before the two week mark for bottle fed babies, I gave in to the dark side. I decided there wasn’t that much difference between a pacifier and a finger, and gave my baby her first binky. I was torn between the guilt of fearing that I had just torpedoed our chances to ever breastfeed, and the joy of the sound of a happily sucking baby. One month later she was taking the breast as well as she took the bottle, and we never saw hide nor hair of the nipple confusion beast.

Binky Love

Since Nicki wasn’t really formula fed (she only had formula for a few days) and wasn’t really breastfeeding (most of her feedings came from a bottle) I had so many questions that the newborn care books and classes hadn’t answered. Questions like how to know whether she was eating enough, or how much to pump to establish my supply – did the number of pumping sessions matter, or the length of the sessions? As I dug around the internet for answers I realized how often baby wisdom suffers from the whisper down the lane effect. What was studied to be true under certain conditions, gets reposted and reported as true under all circumstances. You know that guideline that the first two weeks are the most critical for dictating breastfeeding success? It’s a correlation based study – not causal!

Conventional wisdom is conventional for a reason. It’s true for most babies. Your baby, however, could be the exception to the rule. As a scientist it was hard for me to accept that so much of parenting is instinct. You know what works for your baby, follow your heart as well as your head.

3.) It’s okay to not do everything.

Newborns sleep 16 hours a day, and eat 8 times a day. There is not enough awake time left to do everything your supposed to – read, sing, play games to develop their brains. Tummy time was her least favorite activity, and it quickly fell to the wayside. At first I didn’t sweat it. Nicki had great head control from the start so I figured one or two less tummy times wouldn’t make a difference. A few weeks passed and I began to realize how little tummy time she was getting. I kept telling myself the next time she’s in a good mood, when we wake up after our next nap, we’d try again. I soon found us days away from her two month check up, and we still only had done tummy time maybe 5 or 6 times total! The guilt swept over, the books said she should be able to lift her head while lying down by now.

Look Ma, what I can do!

I put her down for an immediate tummy time and she surprised me, not just by lifting her head at a 45 degree, but keeping it up and turning it from side to side. She hasn’t done it again since, at least not to the same degree, but it made me realize that she will develop physically and mentally, even if we skip a few songs, or tummy times. She will still learn to sit, stand, walk and talk.

August 14, 2012

Nipple Soup

What do you do when you’re a first time mom and your baby starts acting sick? Make Nipple Soup!

mmm, yummy

It’s been a tough week for all of us.

Even though I’ve declared myself on maternity leave, I am a grad student, and the world of research doesn’t stop for anyone. I’m taking the summer ‘off’ which means I’m not working on a specific project (or getting paid). When it comes down to it, however, I’m only hurting myself by not working. I submitted a paper about a month before Nicki’s due date and a few weeks ago I found out it was accepted as a short paper. That meant I needed to pare it down from ten pages to five, and it needed to be done by 2pm Sunday or it wouldn’t be published. Needless to say, I didn’t really sleep on Saturday. This week I have another, albeit much less important, deadline.

Then there was the heat wave. The temperature climbed outside to well over 100 for a few days, and inside the A/C just couldn’t keep up. Everyone was miserable. Napping during the day was difficult. We had every fan in the house going. Poor Nicki baby kept wanting to cuddle with Mommy for comfort, but Mommy’s body temperature wasn’t helping matters.

At least the heat wave is starting to abate now, Nicki doesn’t seem to be feeling better. This morning she started spitting up more than usual. She’s a bit of a grumpy gus and only wants to eat and nap. I’d be more worried if she wasn’t having the requisite number of dirty diapers (so I know she’s not dehydrated) or had a fever. Still, to be on the safe side, I decided to re-sterilize her bottle nipples and pacifiers.

Here’s hoping a good night of sleep turns things around.

July 31, 2012

Crunchy or Creamy?

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No, I’m not talking about peanut butter, but what kind of mother I’ll be. I knew that I may have an idea of what kind of mother I would want to be before Nicki gets here, but she would also have her own personality and preferences which may be at odds with mine. I’m also a firm believer in “whatever works” and that you never know what will work until you’re actually in the situation, so I tried not to get too hung up on any one ideal. Now that we’re almost a month into things, I’m getting more comfortable in this mom-gig thing. I’m recognizing her cues more, and able to respond to her needs sooner. I can say I’m not crunchy or creamy, but somewhere in the middle.

Sleeping – We co-sleep. Nicki sleeps next to me in her Rock n’ Play. We also have a crib in the nursery that we’ll use when she’s too big for the Rock n’ Play, but for this stage I really love having her close. Being able to look down and see my baby as she sleeps is pretty awesome. Rocking her back to sleep when she stirs in the middle of the night without getting out of bed is pretty great too.

I did also consider bed sharing when we arrived home from the hospital. In those early days it seemed like we would all get more sleep that way. But we didn’t have a specialty bassinet for bed sharing, and our bed didn’t seem safe without one.

Feeding – My goal was to breastfeed, but breastfeeding at the hospital was a big fat failure. We decided to focus first on whether Nicki was getting enough, then about what she was eating (formula or breastmilk) and finally how she was eating (bottle or breast). Luckily for me, Nicki’s preferences are matching mine. She prefers breastmilk over formula, and from the tap over bottled. By the end of the first week we were off formula completely, and by three weeks we were successfully nursing on a regular basis.

We still drink expressed breastmilk from a bottle for some feedings throughout the day. I’m cool with that. It gives Domingo an additional chance to bond with her and provides a break for me. I’d be cool with formula, too, if that’s what we ended up with. Formula is guaranteed to have all the right vitamins. Our health care provider finds most breastfeed babies don’t get enough vitamins, and recommends vitamin drops to breastfeed babies. I am pro-breastmilk for my family primarily for the antibodies, and plan to continue breastfeeding/pumping at least until her immune system kicks in more fully – somewhere between six months to one year. We’ll decide where to go from there once we get there. Some of that will depend on Nicki, and whether she is still interested in nursing/breastmilk.

Diapering – The cheapskate in me loved the idea of cloth diapering. (Not buying new diapers at 35 cents a pop for 10+ changes a day for two years? Sign me up!) But after doing some research I realized disposable diapers may actually have a slightly smaller carbon footprint than cloth. That’s because of the water, energy and detergent needed to clean them. We’re living in a very arid environment, prone to droughts, so I have to believe that’s even more true here. Of course, water, energy and detergent cost something too. So, for us, we decided to stick with disposable diapers.

Baby Wearing – I love it, and, more importantly, she loves it! I wrap Nicki up in the Moby, and she settles down instantly most of the time. She even sleeps in it. It frees up my hands so I can get chores done around the house. We also have an Ergo Baby Carrier for when she gets bigger.

So that’s me. Nicki’s mom. Every day I’m a little better at being Nicki’s mom than the day before.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” – Eleanor Roosevelt.

This is it, the year I become a mom of an ‘outside’ baby. Over the past year I’ve been thinking a lot about what kind of mother I will be, and how I want to raise my child. I almost never do New Year’s Resolutions, but this year I will. I resolve to be as confident as possible, and try not to let the judgment of others question my parenting skills.

I firmly believe that the vast majority of moms, across all parenting styles, are making the best decisions for themselves, their babies and their families. As a statistician, it’s hard for me to ever use the word ‘all‘. There’s an estimated 84 million moms in the US. Are there one or two ‘bad moms’ out there that only care about themselves? Sure. But that doesn’t mean I’ve ever meet any of them, or the mom with the screaming toddler in the grocery store is one of them. We will all be that mom at some point, no matter which decisions we make. Each child is unique, and what works for one family may not work for another. What ever a mom chooses to do for her family – go back to work or stay home, breastfeed or formula feed, cloth diaper or disposable, medicated or natural birth – she’s doing what’s best for everyone in her family. Period. Full stop.

In my not-yet-card-carrying mom status estimation, I think a lot of the judgment we moms give other moms stems from insecurity in our own decisions. We feel the judgment we receive from our decisions, and the need to defend our actions. Zippy’s not even here yet and I’m get questions about how we plan to deliver or discipline. Questions posed in a way where I know in the question asker’s mind there is only one right answer. I can feel the judgment before I even answer the question, because I know my answer is not the answer the asker is looking for. I can feel myself getting defensive before answering the question.

Each of us know the reasoning behind our own decisions and that we’re making these decisions out of love. It’s easy to conclude the person passing judgment just doesn’t understand us, hasn’t done the research or doesn’t love their baby the way we love ours. The problem is, this kind of thinking perpetuates the war. Even if we don’t intend to, we are judging other moms, and they can tell as well.

So my pledge is this:

I will not let other’s make me question my parenting skills. I will take comfort in the knowledge that one bad day, or series of bad days, will not turn my child into a serial killer. The best I can do is love my child unconditionally. Everything else is secondary. So when I feel the judgment of others, I will ask myself these simple questions: “Do I love my child more than they do?”, “Do I know my child better than they do?” and “Do I know what works and what’s best for my child better than they do?”. Yes. So why am I letting their opinions matter to me?

I will not judge other moms. Under the same philosophy, I don’t know some other mom’s situation and all the factors that go into her decisions. I don’t know her child better than she does. My opinion on whether she’s doing the right or wrong thing does not, and should not, matter. There are better things for me to spend my energy on than judging others.

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