I wrote this over 6 weeks ago and rereading it, so much has changed – especially the ROCKING, which is gone, gone, GONE! Sleep training is a tremendous gift parents can give their children and themselves. I cannot say enough about it – and because it’s such a personal issue, I won’t. I’ll just say that it has revolutionized our baby-centered lives.
I am preempting the following piece by saying that the elements of your life you focus on almost compulsively are gone by the time you figure them out. Lesson learned: when you figure it out, they switch it on you … and if it happens to be a few months of smooth sailing, don’t worry – daylight savings time will come along and kick your ass.
I realized I hadn’t blogged in over a month. Last thing I wrote about was our summer family vacation. Now it was into November – the day he broke out the North Face jacket. I think back on October and it’s a blur. A month highlighted by a trip to Kansas City for his sister’s wedding. Her first plane ride. Her first Halloween. It was a month of continued firsts – but the days went by.
I look at the clock all the time, a ticking in my head of schedules – by the person – by the day. When do I pick up the boy? What time does the baby need to eat? When is his gig on Sunday? When is the next pediatrician appointment? Is it the day of after-school?
The days go by and mid-week I get a break. I don’t have to drive him anymore so I can go back to sleep when the baby naps. Mondays are the hardest in the early evening. Homework, dinner, bath, rocking. This is how it is to be a parent; it goes by so much faster. You live for the smiles in between. For the giggles. For the sound bytes and snapshots of your life.
My baby is 5 months old today. Almost half a year of our lives have passed with this sweet girl that serves as a heartbeat to our days.
These last two months were drastically different from the first three. Obviously she is more alert and a big smiler and laugher – but gone are the days of sleeping all day. She was amazing for those first few months and during our (2-week!) family vacation through New Hampshire and Maine. She slept and ate like a champ – but as they grow, and stay awake longer and want more entertainment – less time for mom and dad to get anything done. This is especially challenging when you work from home and are trying to kick off some important projects off the ground.
Most days I feel lazy and tired and am hard on myself for being a slacker. It seems minimal and inexcusable to just get up and feed, dress, play with, put to sleep, bathe and keep putting baby to sleep.
The last two months there was also a lot of rocking. So much rocking that I’ve been thinking there should be a new-mom exercise video involving rocking. Side effects of said rocking include lower back and neck pain (from looking down at falling asleep baby). Positive side effect is slight cardio and a pseudo-six pack that sits above the jelly belly souvenir of my pregnancy.
Early days of rocking were blissful. A slight motion would send her eyes rolling to the back of her head and then the sleepy smiles would start to pop up around her mouth. Sweet dreams or muscle spasms – it didn’t matter. I could hold her in my arms for hours and not get tired; watching the slumber enter her face and then her limp and heavier body.
Now that she’s just about 13 pounds, I feel her weight sooner and more severely. We rock her before each nap – about 3 a day and then the major night sleep. Lots of rocking and my back doesn’t like it. I try to be conscious of my posture, periodically checking the full-length mirror in her room to see if my bad rocking posture is what’s causing the ache in my back. My posture looks perfect. I tighten my abs and try to use those to do the swinging, but know that I’m suing all the other muscles I shouldn’t. I’m good at that – knowing exactly what I shouldn’t be doing but not knowing how to stop doing it anyway.
We were somehow able to live with the rocking that seemed to overtake our lives because she was such a happy baby. As soon as she opened her eyes, she was a Smiley-Pete … and as a bonus, I had a particular knack for getting her to giggle. Surely there is no more potent a medicine than your baby’s giggle.
Other major changes in the last two months have been the introduction of the bottle. We waited over three months before we introduced a bottle. This created a domino effect of positives and negatives. On the plus side, I was given a leash longer than two hours that I could be away from my baby. On the negative side, she now preferred the flow of the bottle to the flow of my boob and decided to go on a boob strike for most of the day. I started to pump … all the time when she stopped taking the boob – and then I was either pumping or rocking. Or driving.
With the start of school in early September, I had to drive my son to Riverdale and back 3 days a week. That means to school and then picking him up from school 5 hours later; 2 hours in the car each way. Many of early fall days seemed like this: Wake, nurse (or pump if she was still sleeping), breakfast for the boy, drive to Riverdale, drive back to the city in rush hour traffic, pump, eat, play with baby, rock to nap, drive back to Riverdale, pump, dinner, homework, baby bath, rock baby to sleep, night-night for big boy, make dinner for grownups, pump. Collapse.
The whole time I kept thinking when is it me time? Or time for me to write? The pregnancy was supposed to be my time to write – but instead I threw up for 9 months and wrote about nothing more than bodily excrement and sadness.
Now it’s supposed to be time to write and instead I’m rocking, pumping, cooking and wiping up spit-up and shit from everyone and everything.
I’m hard on myself but all the same, forgive myself and go another day without putting words to paper. On the car rides to Riverdale and back I write in my head. Different stories for different projects. I get angry on the ride because it’s two hours that I’m not spending being productive. I could be dictating or listening to books on tape (“research”) but alas when I bring the iPod I only blast the same playlist over and over. At red lights I take out the undersized hardcover notebook with the holographic picture of a lion on it. I take notes. I scribble down writing ideas. Inspirational thoughts that I could turn into essays, character traits for a short story or plot points for a novel. I have reels in my head. Names, events, places, descriptive scenery. But in 5 months I can judgmentally say I have not written anything productive.
I have milked and cooked and showered and bathed. I have driven for over 100 hours up and down the Henry Hudson Parkway and watched the trees change color and the sailboats get sparser. But the novel, the short story, and even the dozen of blog posts that never got posted – they’re all just a jumble of thoughts in my head and scribbles in the lion notebook.
Then there are the things on the things to do list that don’t get crossed out, but just get re-written when I make my new list on a new piece of paper with a new colored pen. It’s the unemployment issue I have to deal with. It’s the American Express erroneous outstanding balance that I have to fight because it’s from a ruined vacation over 2 years ago. It’s the Mac classes I have to take before the one-on-one runs out again. It’s the closet that never got organized. It’s the bedroom that never got the decorating finishing touches. It’s the ABC painting that I never finished for the baby’s room. It’s the book that’s only written in my head.