Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sleep, it's complicated

I hate that feeling of ”is he sleeping or did the worst thing ever happen?”.  We stopped leaving the baby monitor on at night when he was around a year old but we still have it hooked up in his room with units in our bedroom and kitchen. I will grope for the unit in the dark and turn it on, holding it close to my ear waiting for any sounds of breathing or snoring.  Hearing him sleep is the best sound ever.  It is a reassurance of life and peace.

Now that he is older, the fear of SIDS has gone away along with some of my irrational fears.  I remember those nights of “should I go in and check on him or will that wake him up?” and some nights they make a comeback.  I hate that feeling of that the house is way too quite. I can remember going into his room and practically putting my face on his chest to ensure it was still moving up and down at a healthy pace.
If I do hear Orion cry out, cough, or make any other unusual sound in the night it causes me physical pain. I hear it and almost shit myself with worry. The bottom drops out of my stomach and I am on my feet ready for action. This is why I had to shut off the baby monitor, to prevent myself from running to his bedside anytime he made the smallest sound. Granted, the worry has been replaced a bit with a fear of losing sleep.  If he is crying and I hear I cannot sleep, we are not cry it our people. I just want to make it stop as quickly as possible so I can go back to sleep. 

I am way more excited to see my baby after we both enjoy a full night of sleep. Many nights I have gone to bed at 8 or 9 because I know he will be up at some point in the night like he was the night before or because I am just plain exhausted.  Some of those nights end with me waking up at 4am to take a slash only to be unable to fallback asleep.  Regardless of how tired I am, I have always had a hard time falling asleep and falling back asleep.  There are nights when I jealously listen to the sound of my husband and baby snoring happily and soundly.  Patrick has the ability to fall asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow.  He has even fallen asleep while talking or reading me a bedtime story. (Before Orion came along he used to read me bedtime stories. He read me all the Harry Potter books, Snow Crash, and The Once and Future King to name a few) 

It is rare that I am out of bed before Orion.  He usually wakes up between 6 and 7am.  That is when decent human beings should wake up.  4am is for farmers, 5am is cruel, and sleeping in past 10 is for stoners and teenage boys.  The worst is when Orion wakes up at 4am. He is not a farmer and has no business being up that early.  The chance of getting him back to bed is slim but I will try in the hopes of catching some more zzzzs. If he is truly up I know that a 7am naptime is possible and I have to decide to drink coffee and not be able to sleep during that nap but be awake now of stay sleep and miserable until we both get our nap.    
When I am out of bed before baby boy I get filled with this feeling of excitement at seeing him for the first time. He somehow looks cuter and acts sweeter.  My stomach gets filled with the fuzzy buzz of glee that he slept all night and I am recharged and ready for the day ahead.  I want to scoop him up in my arms while he tells me all about his dreams in his secret language.     

Some mornings when I am up before him I know that it will not last long.  I will think “OK, I heard snoring, he is sleeping but he will wake up any second now so I can't really get anything started”.  I don’t want to fold that laundry because he will wake up and throw it all on the floor. I can’t take a shower because he will wake up as soon as the shampoo touches my hair. The great thing is that I actually don’t need to do anything.  This can be a hard thing for a mom to realize and actually do because there are always a million things that need to be done. The luxury of enjoying a hot cup of coffee alone while checking the Facebook without a baby on the loose is an indulgence.  Sometimes you need to do nothing and you will be better for it.

If anyone out there is thinking about becoming a parent but are unsure here is a little trail you can set for yourself.  Set an alarm clock to go off every 2 hours between 7pm and 7am. Once it goes off pace up and down your bedroom or hallway while holding and rocking a 10lb bag of sugar (or whatever) for 20 minutes.  Repeat this for at least 6 weeks and see how you feel.  Bonus points if you repeat this trail 9 months later. Having a newborn is hard but then you start sleeping through the night and you return to the joys of a full night’s sleep and think the worst is behind you.  Then out of nowhere, BAM! Baby is up 2, 3, 4 times a night.  It’s like they want to remind you of how far they have come, and how much it used to suck, and aren’t you glad that doesn’t happen every night.  Really baby, you do not need to remind me.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

To breed again or not to breed again

On a good day I will think that we should totally have a sibling for Orion. Months ago I spent some time watching a friend’s lovable daughter who gets along amazingly with Orion.  For the first time I thought, “Hey, I could chase after 2 kids, I am ready for this”. We could try for a girl this March and she would be born under the sign of Aquarius in 2014.  Before I got pregnant, I did not care if I would have a boy or girl, I really wanted an Aquarius.  That window closed quickly and we had a bouncing baby boy so now I want a girl.

Patrick has always wanted a daughter and I like to give my husband what he wants even though I know there really isn't any picking and choosing when giving birth to a baby. I may just be setting us up for disappointment. I have an older brother so to me having two kids, a boy and a girl, just makes sense. (I hate it when people say that they do not care about the sex as long as the baby is healthy. What if the baby isn't healthy, you won’t love it? They should just say they don’t care as long as it is a baby and not a Power Puff Girl. These chicks also hate it

But then we have our bad days and I think Orion should be an only child like his father.  When Orion doesn't sleep and I don’t sleep or he nurses nonstop I think there is no way in hell I could handle another baby.  2 years of not sleeping followed by 9 months of being pregnant and another 2 years of not sleeping is holy shit crazy bananas.  What if baby #2 isn't an easy baby like Orion, what if she has colic and never ever sleeps through the night. What if Orion doesn't want to have a sibling? What if he isn't weaned and becomes jealous of the new baby for taking away his boobs.  What if I can’t do it, can’t take care of two kids, what if I get sick?  Because of having MS, I feel like I need to be done with all my baby making by 35 because things get more complicated after 35.  In just a matter of days I will be 33 which leaves me about 2 years to have a baby.  The clock is ticking.

Prior to the craziness that started just before Christmas with sickness and not sleeping, I was primed to get pregnant around March/April. Now, I feel like I really cannot do it until Orion is fully weaned and sleeping independently. I had these feelings before but thought maybe it would work itself out. After all, I hear some babies wean once mama gets pregnant because they do not like the taste as much.  

It isn’t even the nursing but the lack of sleep that is freaking me out.  When I was pregnant I was working on my feet full time which slowly got cut back more and more. After work I had to nap for a few hours because I was exhausted.  I can only imagine that pregnancy #2 I will be in need of long daily naps in the middle of the day. Orion takes his naps on me but as my belly grows, that might become an issue.  I can at least get him off the boob for his naps but if I try to put him down it is over.  And if Orion is still interrupting my nighttime sleep I may be is big trouble.

I have said jokingly that I have been waiting for Orion to be able to have a conversation with me about naps, nursing, and sleeping through the night.  Maybe I need to add having a sibling to that list.  Since he will be 2 in April, I feel we should be at this point where we can talk about it but he doesn't speak much which kinda freaks me out.  He has said 10 words or so but chooses to speak in his gobbly gook which is indecipherable.    

For now, I guess Orion will continue to be an only child. If we wait too long and can’t get pregnant again, we have talked about adoption. I know adoption is not easy and no one will just hand us a baby and that it could take years.  Even if we do have a second child or choose to not get pregnant again we may adopt anyway. We have also talked about being foster parents. I spent some time working as a driver for a foster care company and really loved those kids and wonder what they are doing now.  Sometimes I even think that when I grow up I could go into social work and work in the foster care system.  

With all the ups and downs of raising Orion, I really do love being his mom regardless of last night’s dream that had me running away to Florida with friends then calling Patrick in tears as soon as I arrived that I would take the next flight home.  I have even thought that no child could ever come anywhere close to the awesomeness that is Orion. He is so cute and sweet that there is no way to top that. I do know that it isn't a contest between kids.  We will just have to wait and see if there will be kids. Sometimes making plans is surest way to be disappointed.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

Nursing a toddler: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Orion will be 21 months old next week and he still nurses like an infant, but only in all the annoying ways. We nurse when he wakes up, then before breakfast, and after breakfast, before lunch, during his nap, after nap, pre-dinner and then to fall asleep at night.   He won’t nurse long enough for me to enjoy an entire episode of Ellen or any of the other million shows taking up space on my DVR.   Then there are the really quick nursing sessions that are pointless.  It’s like he does to just prove that he can or he needs to touch home base but it only counts if it is boob to mouth.

The worst part is that he has refused to nurse on my right side for months leaving good old lefty with all the action.  This means lefty is a heavyweight while no milk righty is back down to her pre-fighting weight.  You would think he would be done with my right nipple but oh no it is now a toy. Righty is now a plaything for him to poke, pinch, and twist while he nurses on the good boob. This really drives me insane. I have to remind myself to keep righty covered which can be hard to remember when a crying baby wakes you in the middle of the night and you find sleeping in clothes strange.  

Nursing a toddler is not comfortable.  He loves to slap my face or drum on my boob while my nipple is in his mouth.  Somehow he can still manage to put if his in my face.  At his 18 month checkup he was 32.5 inches long and 25 lbs. and 13ozs. Go grab something with those measurements and try holding it to your nipple for 20 minutes, bonus points if it is squirmy.  Orion doesn't seem to notice that he has gotten any bigger so he tries to nurse in the same positions he did when he was an infant not realizing that me and my nipple cannot contort into those position any longer.

And the teeth, so many teeth! He loves to drag his teeth along my nipple before he lets go. He does on occasion bite and we did go through a very bitey phase but for the most part he just has a lazy dismount.
So why do I still do it? For one, I do not know how not to nurse. I do not know how to refuse my baby (I know he isn’t a baby anymore but he will always be my baby) something he wants and that I can provide that gives him such wonderful nourishment and comfort.  If he doesn't get it he will pull at my shirt and has stretched out a few of my necklines.  And because this is what we have always done and I still hold on to the delusion that one day he won’t want it anymore.

If he wakes in the night I can (usually) nurse him back to sleep in no time with less physical effort than standing, holding him, and rocking him to sleep for a half hour.   If he is sick, nursing will provide him comfort and good antibodies. If he falls I can whip out a boob and wipe those tears away!  It is awesome to see his happy sleep face nestled against my breast.  But these are on our good days which are becoming less and less.

I want him to want me for me and not what my breasts can provide. My arms can comfort him just as well as my breasts. I can wipe those tears away with kisses and keep my shirt on.  I want to be a weaner.  If he was nursing on both sides or only nursing 3 times a day or if I could leave the house wearing a real bra, a dress, or shirts that do not have easy access to my nipples, maybe I would continue nursing. But our current situation is just too much for me to handle.  Sometimes I find nursing stressful because I am sore and neither of us can get comfortable.  At night when I try to nurse him back to sleep, it can take way longer than I would like and it can make me feel a bit angry.  Since I have the boobs and Orion associates them with sleep, it is me that he wants when it is time to sleep or when he wakes up in the night.  It would be great if Dad could put him to sleep/get him to nap/get him back to sleep. 
I also do not want to force or rush our nursing relationship to an end. So I try to keep us busy and out of the house as much as we can during a Mid-Atlantic winter. Last week when we went to the indoor playground he did not want to nurse at any time but he did go over to the highchairs to tell me that he was ready for a snack.   I try to distract him, if he wants to nurse I will offer him a sippy cup, a snack, story time, or some other activity.  This can make him mad and end in tears with a boob in the mouth.  When I try to delay nursing it will usually frustrate him as well.  Baby just doesn't seem to have much concept of time.  I guess I need to get him a baby wristwatch.

I have always nursed on demand and starting around 11 months went the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” route.  I don’t even understand how “don’t offer, don’t refuse” is even a method for weaning.  It has not changed anything. Orion has always nursed so much that it can be hard to keep track.  The first 6 weeks he was home I timed and noted every nursing session and which side he nursed.  I guess it is time to start making these notes and then systemically start refusing a few nursing sessions. 
This past Friday I had a doctor’s appointment and it felt so good to leave the house wearing a real bra, earrings, and a necklace. I was even joking with the phlebotomist that I was just happy to be out of the house.  My body has not been my own for about 30 months, that is 2 ½ years. I would like to have my body back because I am oh so selfish. I need a month or two to have my body be mine if I am ever going to get pregnant again. I know some people say that getting pregnant helped them wean but I worry that it wouldn't work for us, being pregnant and nursing would exhaust me, and that Orion would resent the new baby for taking what was his.

I am still hoping that one day soon he just will not want to nurse. Maybe I can give him chocolate milk like in Desperate Housewives and he will only want that instead of nursing. Legend has it that when I was nursing I was all business, often to the disappointment of my engorged mother.  I did not hang out on the boob, I was 3 chugs then off. (I also loved being my crib so I was just the coolest baby ever) Around 9 months I rejected the boob like it was something disgusting and that was the end of that.  Funny that my guy is such a booby monster, I guess this is just the first of many ways that my baby will be drastically different from me.

I have been waiting to change up our routine, when we nurse and how we sleep.  I have used excuses like he is sick or he is teething.   I keep saying that next week we will really work on this nap nursing situation but next week never comes. I worry that I have ruined Orion and spoiled him with my boobs.  Then I see him playing with other kids and he is happy and kind. He shares well and isn't possessive of me or his toys. He is a toddler so there are times when he does not want to share whatever he is playing with at the moment but this is a kid who will have 2 cars in his hand and will give me one so I can play with him.   He does not cling to my legs when we are in a group setting and will often go off on his own to play happy as a clam. 

There is a part of me that wants to go on vacation alone for 2 weeks in the hopes that I will come back to a happy weaned baby who sleeps independently and through the night.  Or maybe I could put him in daycare for a month and they would work their magic and solve my problems.  What I really want is more me time, an hour to myself in the middle of the day while he naps seems like such a luxury.  I also want my time with my son to be because he wants me and not my milk. 

I know I will have to work hard to change this relationship and it will not be easy.  Change has started, I now nurse him to bed at night in his room instead of our bed.  If he wakes at night I nurse him in his room and not in our bed. But I still nurse him for naps in our room so maybe today I will change this and nurse him to sleep in his room and hopefully he will stay asleep when I remove him from the breast and put him in his crib. (He has only ever napped in his crib a handful of times) I also need to put an end to napping in the car. These two changes will start today and hopefully bring us a few gentle steps closer to the end of nursing. (Update: today he feel asleep unexpectedly on the boob an hour before his usual naptime)  

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Resolutions 2013

If we were the type of family to make resolutions, they would be the following:

Get off the boob and sleep independently
Use my words
Be diaper free by the end of 2013

Stop cursing
Exercise more
Write more

Stop cursing
Sleep more (we all need that one)
Return to the joys of cycling

The new year is a great time to take stock of your life and see what areas need improvement.  It is also a great time to open a new toothbrush and replace your water filter.  2012 is kind of a blur, it happened and i was there but...

It seems my life is divided by before baby and after baby.  2012 I tried to be a really nice person, I started meal planning, and made a household budget.  These are all good things that have become habit.  None of them were resolutions, if I made resolutions last year I have no clue what they were.  At this point, I will view 2013 as a great success if I can stop cursing in front of my child and we can all overcome this cold we have been dealing with for the past 2 weeks.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What an Ideal 2013 would look like for me on a daily basis

I would wake up every day at 6 am without an alarm clock as if by magic feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. First thing would be to write 3 pages stream of conciseness. Then I would ride the exercise bike for 45 minutes.  After, I would hit the shower and then get dressed.  Around 7am  Orion would wake up and Patrick would change him and give him breakfast. (In this ideal year we would no longer be nursing.)  

After I eat breakfast, Orion and I would have morning story time or do an activity à la Playat Home mom.  Then he would have some independent play time while I wrote these here blog posts. We might even run an errand or have a play date. Lunch would be around 11 or noon and would include healthy, organic, homemade deliciousness that Orion would gobble down with gusto.   Lunch would be followed by some light playtime/story time to get Orion ready for nap time.  Nap time would last from 1 until 3 and he would fall asleep easily without my assistance.  

After naptime, we would enjoy an hour of playtime together.  Then at 4 I would start cooking dinner which we would eat no later than 6pm. While I cook dinner Orion is playing happily and safely by himself and not watching any television. Dinner would be met with the same excitement as lunch and Orion would no longer throw his sippy cup/plate/bowl/spoon/fork.
After dinner there would be some quality father and son playtime that would fill the house with giggles. Two or three times a week we would have bath night which is one of Orion’s favorite activities. Orion would be soundly asleep in his bed between 7 and 7:30. Then I would still have energy left over to spend some time at the sewing machine. Before my 10pm bedtime, I would write 3 things about my day which would clear out my brains and leave me set to fall asleep quickly.

Looks pretty simple and boring I know but it is my wish for the New Year. I know weaning will not happen overnight but it is something to work towards. So far, we are off to a pretty good start with just this blog post. Happy New Year!