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?



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!

Stella is four months old.

Love at first sight.

Love at first sight. (Four days old.)

On Wednesday, December 17th, Stella turned four months old.

It’s absolutely stunning to think that she’s only been here for four months. How is it even possible to love a virtual stranger so deeply in so little time? How can your world change so drastically in a matter of mere weeks? How can so much drama, change, growth and wonderfulness unfold in just one third of one year?

Today, we went to Dr. Numrych’s office for her four-month “well child” check-up. Stella continues to amaze. Sure, she’s had some setbacks with eating due to her reflux and dairy intolerance, but developmentally, she’s right on track. She’s supporting her own weight when you stand her up and help her balance. She’s grasping and pulling things to her. She recognizes her parents from across the room (you can tell by the big smile). She babbles and laughs often–her signature sound is what Cody calls “motorboat noises” while I see it as a cross between cooing and purring. Basically, all of this and a few other skills make her one fabulous four-month-old.

Of course, at these check-ups, you get the line-up of baby stats. So here goes. She now weighs 14 pounds and 6 ounces, which puts her in the 75th percentile for chubbiness. She is 24.5 inches long or tall, depending on how you look at it, which places her squarely in the middle at the 50th percentile. Her head circumference of 43 centimeters means that her noggin is in the 90th percentile, which should come as no surprise. Cody and I have giant heads.

Big heads run in the family.

Big heads run in the family. (Two weeks old.)

A couple summers ago, I headed to a nearby bicycle shop on a simple, safety-conscious quest to buy a helmet. To my embarrassment and salesperson’s awkwardness, the largest women’s helmet was way too small. My head looked like an orange with a mushroom cap sitting on top of it, so I had to head to the men’s section. Cody just bought a one-size-fits-all wool cap from our favorite coffee shop, Fuel, and it doesn’t cover his ears, so it’s practically useless in this cold winter weather and just serves to squeeze the top of his head while emphasizing his cheeks. It kind of reminds me of when we put Stella’s Red Sox cap on for the first time–we really had to squeeze it on. In a most adorable fashion, the hat accentuated her chubby cheeks and left an indentation on her forehead. (Later, I stretched it out and it fit just fine, but it took some doing.)

I woke up at midnight, 3am and 6am to feed Stella last night–I did it one extra time because we’d fallen behind yesterday. Each feeding takes 40 minutes to complete. We woke up at 8am. So some quick math should tell you how braindead I am right now. But even in the midst of sleep deprivation delirium I can tell you that despite all the challenges, fear and exhaustion of the past four months,  I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Not even a blissful eight-hour stretch sleep on a magic mattress made of soft, billowy clouds.

Stella celebrates her four month birthday.

Stella celebrates her four month birthday.

This blog is supposed to be about Stella, but I can’t help but reflect on how the past four months have affected me. I’ve become expontentially stronger and a lot more vulnerable at the same time. I’ve cried and laughed more in these four months than in the rest of my 31 years combined. I’m more tired than ever, but also more alive. I’ve lost my mind while becoming more responsible. I’m a different person, but more fully myself. It’s insane. Insanely difficult! Yet it’s truly been the best time of my life. Stella has brought me more joy than I ever could’ve imagined. And we’re just getting started.

The question I keep asking Cody is, “How did we get so lucky?”

Recipe for Sleep

Serves one almost-eight-weeks-old baby.


75-minute PediaSleep hairdryer mp3


Old-school stereo system

One small fan

Vicks warm mist humidifier

Memory foam sleep positioner

Pottery Barn Kids bassinet

Two swaddling blankets

Over-used exercise ball

One warm receiving blanket

Download the 75-minute PediaSleep hairdryer mp3, add it to your iPod, and set it to play on a continuous loop. Connect iPod to archaic stereo, and tinker with volume until it’s just short of “way too loud.” Turn on fan to provide some air circulation in the room. Turn on humidifier to combat drying effect of your home’s forced air heat–be sure to select the lower setting to prevent water from dripping from the ceiling (again).

Set up swaddling blankets, and double-swaddle baby so her arms don’t bust through during the night. This may take (more than) several attempts. Holding baby in a snuggly cradle position at a 42 degree angle, sit on exercise ball and bounce the baby gently until your back feels like it’s on fire. Up to an hour and a half later, once the baby is sound asleep, place her in the bassinet, nestled within the sleep positioner. Do this without waking her (somehow). Place warm receiving blanket over the swaddled baby, and say a prayer.

Sleeping time ranges from five minutes to six hours.