Category Archives: parenting thoughts

Sleep

I promised a sleep post, but there are a lot of sleep posts out there. The truth is every baby is different, and there is nothing you can read that will change that. I know that’s not much comfort when you’re climbing out of your bed for the fifth time in one night. I know how badly I wanted a solution to my kids’ terrible sleep patterns. But my conclusion is that there is not much that can be done about how a baby sleeps. Here’s how I know that: I raised two babies, under exactly the same conditions at the exact same time, who sleep so differently you’d think they were raised on opposite ends of the earth.

So let me tell you about sleep according to Baby A. My daughter.

My daughter was a cluster-feeder. For three or four hours every evening she needed to be on the breast. She would scream bloody murder if I tried to take her off. She would fall asleep at the breast, and then, unconscious, finally roll off. By 5 or 6 months though, she was only waking up about twice a night. She slept beside me, and I would watch as she would kick her legs and kneed the blanket, trying to figure out how to fall asleep. And then, miraculously, around 8 months, I slept in the spare room one night, and she did not wake up once. Like so many articles said, by sleeping next to her, I was, perhaps, hindering her ability to sleep through the night. She slept through every night after that, and I would place her in her crib, drowsy but awake, and close the door to her room, only to go back in 12 hours later to my well-rested little munchkin.

Here is sleep according to Baby B. My son.

My son slept fairly well until he was about four months old. Then – growth spurt? Teeth? Developmental milestone? – he could not go more than 45 minutes without waking up. And he would not go back to sleep without nursing. By 12 months, he was waking up every 2 hours, and I considered that an improvement. He would only go to sleep with nursing and rocking. He needed to be sound asleep when he was put back in his crib, or he would jump up screaming. I stopped co-sleeping with him when he was 6 months old because he would just head-butt me and practice crawling all night long. One night, when he was around 10 months old, I spent the night at my best friend’s bachelorette party out of town, and my husband rocked that boy from 10pm until 5am. He would not go to sleep without nursing. There were times when we would let him cry. And I promise you, I PROMISE you, there was no crying it out for this boy. I have no doubt that he would’ve screamed all night long. By the time he was 18 months old, and I was heading back to work, I night-weaned him slowly over the course of a month. We talked about it a lot. I explained what was happening to him. And he finally, finally slept through the night. I don’t think it would have happened a moment earlier than it did. My son needed that time to figure out his sleep. He was such a busy guy during the day that I think he needed the night-nursing, to reconnect and get in some cuddle time.

My son napped hard. During the day, I could pop him into the pack ‘n’ play in the middle of the living room and he would be OUT. Later, it was a quick nurse and rock, and he would sleep for hours in his crib for 3 (or more) naps. My daughter required me. I gave up trying to get her to nap alone. My best bet was to wear her in a carrier until she nodded off, and then lower myself onto the couch for an hour of TV. If I was very lucky, I would wear her on my back, and once she was sleeping, I could transfer her onto the bed so that I could get a bit of alone time. My best memories of their early naps are when I would strap them into the car, drive around aimlessly until they were asleep, and then get myself a latte and chocolate chip cookie from the Starbucks drive through.

Now, at two and half years old, my son sleeps like a champ, asking to get into his crib for nap and bedtime. With my daughter it’s a bit of a negotiation to get her to finally lie down and sleep, and there are multiple sips of water, trips to the potty and songs. Her afternoon nap only has a 50% success rate.

When you read articles about how a child should “learn” to sleep, and what you should or should not be doing, remember that they are just that author’s experience. Follow each sentence of the article’s advice with “…if it’s right for your child.” For example, Help your child learn to fall asleep if it’s right for your child. Co-sleep if it’s right for your child. Put your child in a dark room with white noise if it’s right for your child. Night-nurse if it’s right for your child. So much of this is trial and error, but the only advice that should be apply, is the advice that is right for YOUR child.

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Mean Girls

I have something to admit. Sometimes I feel like a failure. I feel it most acutely when I think about our dog, Charlie. Because, you see, we gave her away.

There came a time, in the midst of that blurry first year with the kids, that we realized it would be selfish to keep her in our home. We were just not able to care for her the way that loving ol’ girl deserved to be cared for. I won’t go into the details, because this post is not about how difficult our situation was.

This post is about mean girls and judgement.

We were so thrilled to find her a loving home, on a beautiful farm with hundreds of acres and other doggie friends to play with. No children, no more leashes and hurried walks, no more hiding behind baby gates. This weekend, however, I received a scathing email from the woman who found this beautiful home for our pup. She felt the need, now that Charlie was all settled in, to let me know her thoughts on the decision that we made for our family. I was floored. I hadn’t felt such judgement or hatred in such a long time. I tried to explain that she didn’t know how hard we had tried, how long we had all been hoping our situation would improve; how she didn’t know what went on in our home.

She told me I wasn’t the first person to have kids and a dog.

After a weekend of hurt and anger, I am now looking inward and asking myself why it hurts so much. The answer is because part of me thinks she’s right. I failed. I couldn’t have kids and a dog.

And then I started thinking about all the other people who have judgements thrown on them, regarding breastfeeding or formula feeding, bed-sharing or placing their newborn in a room by themselves, returning to work or staying home, daycare or hired help. Every time I’m on Facebook I come across another article describing one of these judgements, telling moms everywhere that they may be failing at the most important job on earth. Or our food choices: animals, dairy, organic, processed…we all have kernels of self-doubt inside of us, making us vulnerable and sensitive. I couldn’t handle the judgement because it hurt so much to wonder if the right decision had been made.

As I place more space around her words, I am using this to remind myself that I need to choose the comments I let into my world. As the young kids say, haters be hatin’. There will always be mean girls.

Some will say mean things behind your back, and some will say it to your face. Some comments, you won’t really care about, and some will really hurt you, because they will hit your place of self-doubt. The mommy wars, dietary choices, politics, bullying – these issues will always be around, because there will always be mean girls (and boys) who are operating from their place of self-doubt. The only way around it is to take care of ourselves, to know our own reasons are enough. To take care of others, by offering support, listening and – before we dole out opinions and advice – remembering: we cannot, ever, truly know what it’s like to be someone else. Our paths in life are too varied; our perspectives are too unique.

Words that come from insecurity are damaging. Words of understanding come from a place of love.

My anger from the words that were written to me is finally receding, and so I will push out words of love:

To the person who wrote them, I allow that you do not understand our reasons for giving up our dog, and I forgive that you felt the need to tell me that. Perhaps you too have been hurt by words.

To our dog Charlie, I am so sorry that we were unable to make things work with you in our family, and I know that you will have everything you deserve in the last years of your life.

And to myself, I release myself from guilt, because we chose the hard decision, the unpopular decision, the one that was best for ALL of us.

My lovely readers, I urge you to offer words of love to those around you, and to yourself. And especially to those whose choices you don’t understand.

Every word counts.

Sarah


Detaching

Winter babies!

Winter babies!

I will be back at work in one week. My babies are 17 months. I have been practicing “attachment parenting” for that long – bed-sharing for 8 months, baby-wearing every day, breastfeeding on demand – and now I have to let go. Now I have to push myself away and untangle myself from their little toddler world. This is day 3 of Detachment Parenting.

 

I am sitting in a coffee shop, typing on my laptop, which is fun. I feel like I’m 21 again, when I used to scribble away in coffee shops in Montreal, except it’s not 2am and no one smokes any more.

 

I feel like I’m forgetting something. I look around constantly, trying to think of what’s missing. I’m slightly on edge, I feel out of place and disoriented.

 

It took so much energy to figure out this motherhood thing. Learning how to get through a day with two infants, now two toddlers. Finding that rhythm, figuring out how not to go crazy, searching out connections through Facebook or twin groups, stressing over the dishes and laundry that wasn’t getting done, the cooking that wasn’t happening. And then it’s over. I’m going back to work, and a whole new way of living will have to be discovered.

 

I’m not happy about it. But I’m not unhappy about it either. I have images of leisurely coffees, solo bathroom breaks, maybe some adult conversation… But the mother in me is aching. My body is aching. My body remembers the little things that lived inside of me, that fed from me. That needed me every second of every day.

 

Something about it just seems so over. I no longer mourn not having had only one baby. I am proud and thankful for the experience that I had. It was the.hardest.thing. I will ever do. It was so intense, so all consuming. But I have emerged a better person, I’m more aware of my place in this world, what is important and what is not. But, BUT…because it all happened at the same time, it’s all over with at the same time too. We only want two children, that’s what works for us. I spent 32 years thinking about having babies, and now babyhood is over. My body is mine again, my toddlers walk and run, talking is on the tip of their tongues, they are funny and kind, they get angry and sad. They are their own little people.

 

When Jude was nursing 3 or 4 times a night, and I would be rocking him, half asleep, so exhausted, I would tell myself to enjoy it. I would tell myself that it would be over soon. It’s a really really hard thing to believe at 3am when all you want to do is sleep. But now I’m so glad I did. I took a long mental picture of every snuggle, the way he would clasp his hands while he nursed. The way he wouldn’t let his eyes close fully. The way his feet pushed against the chair. The way he would wiggle back into his crib when he was done.

 

I wrote previously about how it was both horrible and beautiful. The amazing thing about motherhood is that slowly, the horrible falls away, and all you remember is the beautiful.

 

So I have chosen the pictures I will be putting up in my office. I savor how happy they are when I return home in the afternoon. I am holding them extra tight as we enter our final months of breastfeeding, and I am letting myself feel the sadness and joy of watching my children grow up.

 

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I will be taking my blog in a new direction with my return to work. I am noticing the need for more conversation around food for children, and I am so excited to get back into the details of what I’m feeding my vegetarian babies! I will probably retire this blog, and begin something new, so please stay tuned!

 

Sarah xoxo


All About Boob: Part 2

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, mostly because after this article came out, I realized that I am extended breastfeeding. It sort of snuck up on me. The one year mark has passed, and we are still going strong on the boob. When I was pregnant with twins, and when they were newborn, the message I got was loud and clear: It is very very difficult to breastfeed two babies exclusively or for a long period of time. I didn’t set out to prove it wrong. In fact, my breastfeeding success is mostly due to the fact that I am lazy. In the beginning, the thought of preparing formula, or pumping seemed like so much work, that I just decided to go for it. It definitely wasn’t easy, and now that Thea’s teeth have come in, it’s pretty obvious that she has an undiagnosed upper lip tie, which probably led to a lot of the problems I had. I was sore for months. MONTHS. Couldn’t stand under the shower, sore. Couldn’t lie on my stomach to sleep, sore. Took a lot of Tylenol sore. But slowly, we all figured it out, and now that we have it down, I don’t want to give it up!

I never imagined I would be nursing toddlers, but here we are. I’m slated to head back to work in February, so I’m hoping by then we’re down to only nursing before bed, but that seems unlikely given my little girl booby-monster.

Booby Monster

Booby Monster

 

Jude feeds less, really just before nap and bed…and 2 or 3 times during the night.

As a believer in Attachment Parenting, I’m trying to find the balance right now – basically of how to un-attach myself a bit. Extended breastfeeding definitely makes that more difficult. I can’t leave Dad in charge of bedtime or nap time, because they need boob to go down. And with two, I’m still really feeding every 3 or 4 hours. So that’s not a lot of alone time. But all that said, here’s my list of why extended breastfeeding rocks:

1. Instant soother – bumps, scrapes, fingers caught in doors, teething, colds, you name it, booby fixes it!

2. Cuddle time – Jude is just too busy for much cuddling, but when it’s booby time, he nuzzles in and I get my cuddle fix from him.

3. Nutrition – They pretty much eat everything now, but sometimes I worry that I’m getting all their nutrition in. At least I know they are still getting breast milk, so I don’t stress too much…yet!

4. Weight loss – I know, it’s pretty vain, but I’m burning 1000 calories a day breastfeeding these two! So I can enjoy guilt-free Starbucks lattes! (Mmm…peppermint mocha…)

5. Breastfeeding Embassador – I had NO idea how to breastfeed. I hadn’t really seen anyone else doing it. Now that it’s so easy and natural, I like showing other new moms how great it is, especially mom’s of multiples, since as I said, we aren’t given much hope that it will go well.

I know that not everyone can breastfeed, and that formula or pumping or a combination is a great option for some. Breastfeeding has been such an unexpected part of my parenting experience. I hadn’t really given it much thought, other than knowing that I wanted to try it. Looking ahead, I’m not sure how long we’ll go. I would love it if they self-weaned when they were ready, but I know that they need to be able to go all day without me when I’m back at work, so my goal right now is to make it to 18 months. And maybe I’ll be able to fit back into my old bras one day!

My toddlers

My toddlers


Sickies

So the littles are sick. Like, horrible rattling cough, snotty faces, whining, tired, miserable sick.

Two sick babies mean mommy and daddy don’t sleep.

And not “don’t sleep” as in “oh, my baby was up all night, he only slept for like 5 hours” sort of don’t sleep. No, that IS sleep my friends. No sleep is rocking a wheezing baby in a rocking chair for 4 hours because he won’t let you put him down, and hearing another baby stirring in the next room, after it took her an hour and a half to fall asleep two hours earlier…

That is no sleep.

No sleep is putting the sick baby in his crib and telling your husband, I can’t, because it is dawning on you that not only have you been rocking sick, snotty babies all day, and all night, but in 3 hours you’re going to have to do it for another whole day.

No sleep is crying silently because if you wake a baby you might throw up.

Okay, that’s a bit melodramatic.

But not untrue.

They will get better. They will sleep. The snot will dry up. But right now? Mommy and daddy are wondering how the human race has survived this long.

And I’m pretty sure daddy is making an appointment for snip snip.

That is all.

Sarah

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