All I want for Christmas is an earlier bedtime

Night before last I slept like a baby. A newborn, actually. I was up until midnight, and wide-eyed from about 1:30 to 6 a.m. At which point I drifted into peaceful slumber for 90 minutes.

I went to bed late after Stella went to bed late. I slept from midnight until 1:30 a.m. Then I found out that my third nephew, my youngest sister’s first baby, had been born!  Three thousand miles away. He’s why I’d stayed up to begin with–I wanted to know about his grand entrance and all the key details as it happened! But frankly, it was taking forever. So I went to bed with the phone next my head and bolted awake at the sound of an incoming text. And I don’t care what cynical people say, it’s a miracle! It’s amazing! He wasn’t here and now he is, out in the world, a new person that is partly my sister and partly her husband. He and my sister, they’re just one of those “meant to be” couples. They’ve been together forever, and oddly and horrifyingly and at different times, they’ve both sustained life-threatening accidents and spinal injuries.  They are soul mates and survivors and now they are not only still here and okay, they have a son! He was eight pounds, one ounce, and super adorable. Like Stella, he took his time joining us out here. But why not? That’s kind of a big transition. Nothing to be rushed into. But don’t tell my sister I said that. She was pissed. All that aside, I just can’t believe that my littlest sister is now a mother. I’m not sure why it stands out so much out of an entire childhood together, but way back when, I did her gorgeous, shiny, long strawberry blond hair for the prom and made it frizzy and she was so kind to me about it, whereas I would’ve thrown a fit. She’s just great. She’s my baby sister. She’s a mom now. It’s crazy wonderful.

And that got my brain hopped up on all kinds of big thoughts, including how fleeting and wondrous all of this is and how I really need to do and be better and will I have another child and why do I live in Seattle instead of in Boston near my family and did I miss the holiday episode of Modern Family, all of which kept me awake until 5 a.m. That’s when I started to drift off, and that’s when Stella started screaming as if being attacked by vicious  zombie stuffed animals. So then I slammed my door open (it can be done, as I demonstrated), and rush into Stella’s room. Her “paci-binky” (yes, she came up with the term and I think hyphenation is warranted) had escaped from the crib and I could not find it a-n-y-w-h-e-r-e. So in a rage, I turned on the lights, and scoured the area muttering like a mad person. With no luck. So I went back into my chamber of insomnia and dug up an old pacifier and I have no idea why I knew that we still had it or furthermore, that it was in my underwear drawer. The unconcious is a funny thing when furious. So I gave it to her, thereby probably causing her to need braces and major an costly orthodontic intervention as that old pacifier is big and bulbous and probably for little babies with no teeth, and then stormed back in my room. Full of adrenaline and devoid of hope for any sleep whatsoever.

It was quiet for a while, as my body’s adrenaline surge died down, then I thought I heard a peep. Or two. Then there was animated talking about monsters and Santa and robots, and then the screaming. Again with the screaming! It’s totally contrived, but at times very convincing. In that moment, I decided to let her scream and scream because fake screaming shouldn’t “work” and cause me to come running only to have her immediately quiet and smile (because she’s been totally fine the whole time) and cheerfully say, “Papa bear likes porridge!” in an attempt to engage me in early morning playtime, but I was clearly allowing it to work and so here we were, but as of tonight I was having none of it anymore! You hear me?! None! Of! It!

I knew, before caving, that she’d tossed her lovies, blankets and pacibinky out of the crib (but not Dolly or zebra–they’ve somehow been granted amnesty). When rage again lifted me from my rumpled bed, I held it in. I robotically located and returned the crap to the crib, put the blankets her and left. Yes, two blankets, because she has to have the one Mimi made her and the one from when she was a little baby, plus her two lovies (the blandly but lovingly named blanky and pup pup) plus her new bespectacled dolly, named Dolly, and her zebra, of course, because how could you drift off to dreamland without a black and white striped animal next to your head? I was then able to sleep from about 6 a.m. until 7:30 a.m. All told, I’m pretty sure my sister, the one who’d birthed a baby early that morning, got more sleep than me. She will punch me in the face if she reads this. Well, she’ll want to, but like I said, she’s wonderful and will restrain herself.

Stella has, by and large, been a great sleeper. Which is good, because if she’d had both eating and sleeping troubles, I’d have been committed long ago. But in the last month or two, something has changed. I keep telling myself that earlier naps and an earlier bedtime are the key. That we will put Stella in her crib by 8 p.m. on the dot (at the latest!) every night, that I’ll make sure she’s down for her nap long before 1 p.m. (today it was 2:14). It’s just not happening. Today she slept until 9:15, making up for the previous night’s shenanigans, and so we’re off kilter again.

Clearly this calls for a Christmas miracle! Or a watch. You hear that, Santa?



Lest ye be judged

Hi all, I’m super tired and have been working (freelance writing) like crazy, during naps and until midnight most nights, and I need sleep and definitely shouldn’t be blogging right now. Just wanted to check in, I suppose. By the way, I am almost done editing my interview with Lenore Skenazy, and will post early next week! The free-range parenting guru is still popping up in big-time media a lot these days, and I felt honored that she spent close to an hour on a Sunday to chat with me. It was a delight. Also on deck for my Confident Mom Interview Series are a roller derby mama I once had the pleasure of working with and Cody’s 90-ish year-old grandmother Torie, who is sharp as a tack and one of the most open-minded, least judgmental people ever. Which brings me to my thought of the night.

I read a blog post today, in which bedtimes like Stella’s (8:30pm these days) were deemed inappropriate. You know, it was just another mom, blowing off some steam, admitting that she judges moms who are out with their babies past 6pm or so. My first response was to laugh so hard tea came out my nose. Then I got annoyed and even a little bit mad and defensive. I wasn’t afraid to post my response. And my response to her response. And then I realized it was karma.

Not too long ago, I left a slightly jokey, gentle, but still essentially critical comment on a certain blog by a certain “crazy mom” (those are her words–the very ones I use to describe myself). She’s pretty well known (not in Dooce’s league, but way above mine) and wacky and brutally honest and I’d be amazed if she didn’t wind up with a reality TV show. About five minutes later, I felt mildly sick to my stomach. I knew it was wrong to judge her. I knew it wasn’t my place. Yet I’d given in to the urge to judge, something I usually try hard to suppress. I thought about the lactivists who have posted hurtful judgments on the Fearless Formula Feeder‘s site, as if just to shame moms who have already made their feeding choices, and realized I was no better.

The much-more-popular-than-I blogger that I’d criticized responded to my judgey remark, and in the very succinct, reasonable message she sent me, it was confirmed: I was an ass. I didn’t really know that I was talking about. Be ye not so stupid. Do not judge another mom’s choices (or any person, for that matter)–you know, the kind that don’t affect you at all and you have no business contradicting? Especially not based on a small snapshot of their life. That’s arrogant. You are most likely 100% incorrect. You haven’t walked in their shoes. You may, in fact, be doing it to feel superior or secure yourself. It probably has little to do with the judged, and a hell of a lot more to do with the judge.

To the certain someone that I judged: I am so very sorry. You were right. I was wrong. Won’t happen again. To the person who inadvertently judged me: Get ready–the cosmos are currently concocting a serving of of judgment for you. Wait for it… wait… for… it…

I feel better now. Good night all!

Nine months

Stella's a little shy in the pool--at first.

Stella's a little shy in the pool--at first.

So, Stella has been outside the womb for just about as long as she was in it. This seems like a big milestone to me and my uterus.

Stells (that’s not a typo–it’s one of our nicknames for her) celebrated her nine-month birthday on Sunday. The occasion was marked with a Waterbabies class (with a stop at Bellevue’s Downtown Park beforehand), and a walk to Gasworks Park. The next day, we went in to Dr. N’s office for her nine-month check-up. Ah, yes. Time for those dreaded percentiles.

Cody and I let out a sigh of relief and our shoulders dropped about six inches upon seeing the number on the scale: 19 pounds, 2 ounces. We knew that if she wound up at 19 pounds or so, she’d be at or above the 50th percentile for weight. I know, I know. It doesn’t even matter. One look at Stella tells you how happy and healthy she is. But we’ve got a nasty, lingering case of feeding aversion/tube-induced PTSD  and are grateful for any extra reassurance.

After the measurements were taken, the doctor came in, shook our hands and started tapping away on his touchscreen. He’d plugged in Stella’s stats in order to show us her growth curves, charted electronically.

“Look at this beautiful curve, ” he said, highlighting the fact that Stella’s weight was right between the 50th and 75th percentiles, just as it had been at her six-month check-up. He continued, with a bit of sing-songy positivity in his voice (which I loved), “And this curve looks great…” We saw that, for length/height, she was in the 75th percentile, just like last time. We were flying high.

Then, pointing to a dot, adrift above the highest percentile curve, he noted, “And this is how smart your baby is.” He was kidding, of course, but her head size was clearly “off the charts,” as they say. Last time, it’d been on the highest curve. Her head circumference has risen by a few percentiles between each check-up apparently. It’s not uncommon, really, and not a concern. Unless it keeps going, of course. In which case learning to walk will be a lot more challenging.

In short, Stella is thriving. Her doctor told us to feed her solids three times a day (I’d limited it to two, fearing that she might not take enough from the bottle otherwise), and to stop tracking how much formula she takes outside of that. He also suggested changing her formula to the normal 20-calorie-per-ounce concentration, which we have done. At one point, in the wake of all this, I stuttered, worriedly, with what I’m sure was a look of concern and confusion, “Um, so, like, h-how much f-formula does she NEED now?” The doctor kindly told us that we’d worried enough, and that we could stop now. Worry had become like air to us. So we are pretty much adapting to life on a new planet.

He also pointed out that, in a way, we are allowing Stella to wean herself off of the Ranitidine by not upping the dose as she grows. It reminded me of the progress she’s made int hese last three months. She’d been on two reflux medications until a couple months ago. We’ve lowered the amount of Simply Thick we put in her bottles, with the goal of soon weaning her off of that, too. She is back to the “normal” caloric density for formula–just like I’d predicted (boldy, it felt at the time) in her early tube-free days.

And that brings me to my point. So often, these days, when I look at Stella’s impossibly beautiful, beaming face, I can’t help but cry. Especially when she laughs. I remember, somewhere in the dark, dark days of December, bawling at most commercials. Our situation and those post-partum hormones were brutal–even bland Sleep Country USA ads opened deep, previously forgotten psychic wounds, apparently. But there was something especially gripping about the “Peace on Earth” spot for Pampers. Those soft, gorgeous baby faces! Those cherubic, chubby cheeks! Yes, those cheeks. Those cheeks, free from evidence of medical intervention. Those perfect baby lips, moving as if the baby is nursing in her dreams. They tormented me. Because to Stella, eating was a nightmare, not a dream, and our view of her angel face was obscured by two kinds of tape and a long yellow tube. Those babies were chubby and sleeping in a sprawled out fashion–not being force-fed while sleeping swaddled and strapped into a giant foam wedge. That commercial just seemed cruel to me at the time.

I go into her room and look at Stella every night before I go to sleep–despite that fact that by doing so I risk letting our super creaky floor wake her up. I have to do it. How could I miss out on the most beautiful sight imaginable? It is a triumph, a joy and a reminder to be grateful. I just watched the Pampers commercial again. And I have to say, Stella would fit right in with that bunch of sleeping angels–those arrogant bastards.

Drowning in snot

A coughing baby has to be one of the most heartbreaking sounds in the world–to any parent at least.

Stella has coughed so hard, once yesterday and once today, that she threw up a mixture of mostly formula with some bile and mucus mixed in. Her hacking is HORRIBLE. It sounds painful and junky! She has to endure the ol’ blue bulb syringe several times a day. After her experiences with the tube, she has very well-honed avoidance tactics including head shaking and arm flailing. I could develop a very challenging video game based on this scenario. Suck-a-Muck. Just as exciting as Whack-a-Mole but more gritty and intense.

Amazingly, though, Stella’s still happy most of the time. She gets tired more quickly, just like anyone with a bad cold who is bogged down with congestion.

She’s sleeping in her wedge and staying more upright in general until the worst is over. We put eucalyptus and lavender essential oils in her vaporizer, which is on all the time. A couple times a day we steam up the bathroom and hang out in there until we’re sweaty and curly-haired. And as noted, I suction her nose often, but haven’t resorted to the Angela’s Ashes method of simply placing my mouth over her nose and literally sucking it out and spitting it into the fire. But I would totally do that if it would make this nasty bug leave her alone sooner. In fact, I would do it right now if I thought it would help us all sleep. But her mucus production is simply too high. Any improvement wouldn’t last for long. So I’ll hold off on that tactic.

At the moment, we’re just riding this thing out. We’re not worrying about weight gain at all, just feeding her when she seems hungry and focusing on getting her well. I have to say, it’s her first illness, and seven months is a hell of a run. Nicely done, Stella Bella. Now let’s kick this cough to the curb!

“Formula was a bad choice…”

Almost drank a glass of formula before bed last night.

Instead of grabbing the Brita pitcher, I grabbed Stella’s Dr. Brown’s formula pitcher and started to pour.

Luckily, I noticed something was off before I took a big thirsty gulp. Her non-dairy, amino-acid based formula smells like feet and tastes like a liquid multi-vitamin–gross, but I guess it makes sense. Close call.

I need to get to bed earlier.

P.S. If you didn’t catch the reference in this post’s title, you need to rent the movie Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy immediately.

A taste of spring, a touch of sleep deprivation

She gets more email than me. Probably has more Facebook friends, too.

She gets more email than me. Probably has more Facebook friends, too.

Spring sprang for a few hours today. And it was lovely. Stella and I went for a sun-drenched walk, and later, we sat outside on the quilt Mimi made. (If only Stella would put down her Blackberry and live in the moment once in a while!) This evening, it rained cats, dogs, and ponies. It was like two days’ worth of weather crammed into one. I was confused. Stella loved it all. She enjoys rainy walks in the carrier and even helps me hold the umbrella.

Have I mentioned how much Stella loves going for strolls in the Baby Bjorn? We head out two or three times per day, rain or shine. I am beginning to wonder if our wandering, and general lack of structure, is getting the way of a proper “sleep schedule.” You see, I basically follow Stella’s lead. When she seems hungry, I feed her. When she seems tired, I put her down for a nap, or to bed for the night. In recent weeks, she developed a lovely habit of falling asleep upon finishing a bottle. HOWEVER. Lately, it isn’t so easy. Stella is fighting sleep, especially during the day. And I’m not sure what to do about it.

There are lots of theories on why this happens and what to do about it. I have an annoying book called Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. I hadn’t looked at it in months but perused the section about five- to 12-month-old babies today, immediately prompting near record levels of neurosis. Apparently, Stella should be awake by 7am. Then have a nap at 9am and 1pm, and perhaps, another late afternoon nap if she seems tired. Well, today, Stella woke up around 9am, napped for almost two hours (unusual and fantastic) at noon, then napped for five minutes at around 4:30pm. And that was that until she went to bed at 9:30pm, after her last bottle of the day. Every day is a little different, but most often she doesn’t nap for more than 30 to 45 minutes at a time tops. As a result of this, my annoying book tells me, my brilliant, usually cheerful Stella is on the path to A.D.D. and behavioral problems. (I told you this book was obnoxious–not to mention HORRENDOUSLY EDITED. I will admit, however, it did help us a bit early on. Especially the bit about how sleep begets sleep, and that in their very first weeks and months, babies can really only be happily awake for one to two hours at at time.) In recent days, a troubling trend of screaming and crying–even though she is obviously tired and in need of a nap and rubbing her eyes like crazy–is emerging. The book says that by comforting her, I am being a terrible, terrible parent. What to do?

Spring looks good on Stella.

Spring looks good on Stella.

Before I decide what, if anything, I need to do about Stella’s sleep schedule or lack thereof, I am going to see what happens over the next day or two. We just enjoyed a visit from Mimi and Grampa (my parents), and perhaps all the excitement got us out of our normal rhythm. Or maybe she’s teething. Or, I’ve heard that the development of new skills disrupts sleep, so perhaps her recent advancements in the areas of rolling and sitting up have thrown her out of whack. Or the normal phase of seperation anxiety is to blame. Or maybe there’s a pea under her mattress.

THE THING IS. After all the craziness with the feeding aversion and the tube, I think I get especially worked up when she gets worked up. When she cries, there is a part of me that is truly terrified that something is seriously, seriously wrong and if I don’t jump on it, it will explode in our faces. Because way back when her feeding issue was just starting, there were signs. They haunt me.

Crocus Pocus. Spring is starting to work its magic. Hopefully it will extend its powers to Stella's napping.

Crocus Pocus. Spring is starting to work its magic. Hopefully its powers extend to napping.

But there is another part of me–a sane part buried deep within, a beaten down part that often gets drowned out by panic–that knows that babies cry. And that babies often prefer play over sleep. Hek, so do I. Even when I’m exhausted, and when earlier that day I berated my bedraggled self for going to bed late, I’ll stay up and watch LOST. Or write a blog post. Or check Facebook for the billionth time. It’s the same thing. Only instead of Facebook, she has a network called “mom and dad.” And instead of LOST, she has the suspenseful thriller entitled “mom and dad.” And instead of a blog, she has Goodnight Moon (read to her by mom and dad).

So, I’m trying not to worry too much. And just  follow my instincts.

Sunshine helps a bit.

And with that, I’m 41 minutes late to bed myself. A.D.D., here I come!