Category Archives: Life and Family

Liam at 14 months

Liam is 14 months old! We zoomed right past his birthday and somehow ended up here!

Happy birthday, baby!

Happy birthday, baby!

We’ve celebrated his birthday, gone to the beach, played in the pool, and had a pretty great summer, despite an unexpected shakeup in his daycare situation and all the chaos that inspired. He’s getting big and strong and fast and LOUD and he’s just the greatest.

Sleepy beach baby

Sleepy beach baby

Current Liam status report:

Movement

He started army crawling in May, and now he zooms around the house chasing the cats and yelling. He’s gotten fast, and we gated a bunch of doorways to keep him from getting too far when we blink. With some help from the physical therapists, who’ve taught us how to properly facilitate his movement, he’s gotten very good at pulling up to his knees and even pulling to his feet if we sit him near a box or table. He still mostly needs to support his weight by leaning his chest or belly on whatever he’s standing beside, but he’s slowly gaining control and in the past few weeks he’s gotten better at just holding on with his hands. He still doesn’t move his feet and cruise along, though. Instead, he pulls his whole body up onto the table and then crawls across it. Smart baby, going for the route that’s easiest for him! He’s very clever and thinks up workarounds when he hits an obstacle. I can tell we’ll be in for trouble as he gets older.

On the move

On the move

Over the summer, he also learned to push himself from a lying position into a sit, which is huge. It was a major source of frustration for him not to be able to get up and change his position to see better or play with a taller toy. And now that he can do that, he’s shifting his energy to learning how to pull into a stand. He can hold himself in a standing position for a long time once we help him up, and that’s a whole new way for him to look at the world. He LOVES standing.

cats

His hypotonia means he has to work harder than other kids to do the same motions, so the fact that he’s come so far means he’s working really, really hard. We’re very proud of him.

The newest delight: he dances. In the high chair or on the floor – he’ll bop side to side with a big grin. He’ll also wave his hand back and forth like he’s conducting whenever he hears music. Adorable.

Sleep

Sleep is pretty good right now, but god love you if you take our WubbaNubs. We have a short bedtime routine and he’s able to put himself to sleep within a few minutes most nights. When he’s sick or upset, he still needs company in his room to fall asleep, and sometimes even on a good night he’ll be up chatting to himself and rolling around for an hour or more. That’s been happening more as he gets more physical. I think that’s normal for a kid who’s making big leaps in abilities. He still wakes up a few times a night, but for the most part he’s able to settle himself again without any help, and we just watch on the monitor as he settles into a new spot with his butt in the air. He’s still napping twice a day most days, but sometimes the daycare report says he only took one nap around midday. At home, though, it’s always one morning nap around 9 and an afternoon nap around 2. He likes his sleep.

Communication

We’ve started getting some signs out of him, which is wonderfully helpful. He uses the “milk” sign to mean both milk and water, and I think it’s also extended to “cup.” He taps his mouth to mean hungry/eat/food. He signals “safe” when he means he’s had enough lunch, and he lifts his arms for “up.” He has a few proto-words, like Bubba for his WubbaNubs and “gak” for cat (he used that for three days and then dropped it, so I’m not sure). He’s doing ah-ah for uh-oh, and “ga-row-ga-row” for the ceiling fan (it goes round and round). He doesn’t know when to end a word, though, and “bye bye Wubba” becomes bababuhbuhbuhbuh!” But he uses that every time we leave his room and toss the Wubbas back in the crib, so I know he’s connecting it with that activity.

He understands a ton now, too. He knows how to point out a ball, a cat, mama and daddy. He understands “up,” “bring me,” and If I ask him what a dinosaur says, he’ll RAWR. He also started singing. Not words, just a string of syllables, but he’ll do it when he hears music, and it’s the sweetest thing. And he claps his hands!

Still no real mama or dada, though. I hope that comes soon.

Toys & Games

Simple shape sorter: he can get the circle in the hole very easily (and claps his own YAY when he does), and he’s getting better with the square and triangle. If we play when he’s too tired, he’ll give it two tries and then fling the more difficult shape across the floor in disgust.

Boxes/cups/bowls and small toys to put in them and pull back out. Any combination will do. We’ve got a huge coffee can he likes to fill up, and a cardboard box with a hole cut in it. Both are fun to stuff rubber ducks and plastic balls into.

He gets a huge kick out of holding things to his head or feet and then looking at us so we can tell him whether the item is a shoe or hat. He will also place things on our feet, because everything is shoes. Except when it’s hats. He likes “where’s Liam” peekaboo games but doesn’t try to hide himself yet.

Liam, is that a hat?

Liam, is that a hat?

Books are his favorite thing ever. He will scoot across the floor dragging one to toss at my feet and stare at me, which means I have to read to him within the next few seconds or he will push the book INTO my feet to make his point. His favorites right now are Peek-a-Zoo, Carry Me (full of pictures of BABIES!) and Who is That, Cat the Cat? I know them by heart. I now understand why my parents repeatedly hid the Grover at the Farm book when I was a toddler.

Food

We’re in a food slump. On his hungry days he’ll eat a ton, but the variety of foods he’ll accept has declined horribly in the past month or so. He doesn’t want to touch anything squishy, except to squish it. Many very serious experiments on the compressibility of grapes and blueberries taking place on his highchair tray. He’ll mash fruit pieces gingerly with a thumb to see what will happen – and sometimes if we’re lucky and it sticks to his thumb, he’ll bring it up to his mouth and pop it in.

He’s very into cheese and crackers, holding the big round crackers triumphantly to the ceiling before chomping on them, He also loves applesauce and meatballs. He wants to feed himself with a spoon but his aim is still horrible, so we mostly keep that activity for bath night. For the moment, I can get veggies into him by making purees into pancakes or smearing them on bread to make a sandwich. It’s so sad, because he used to love broccoli before (much to the diaper genie’s dismay), and he refuses to touch it now.

eyes

Every week there’s something new going on, and he’s starting to put the pieces together and make sense of the world and his place in it. He’s trying to move and communicate and he’s developing his personality, and every change amazes us. It’s hard work for him and for us, but it’s so much fun to see who he’s becoming. Love you, little man.

Who am I?

It’s been almost a whole year since Liam was born. He’s such a different baby now than on that first day. The changes are remarkable and bring me so much joy. But he’s not the only one who’s spent this year growing and changing. I’ve stopped and looked at myself several times over the past year and asked “who am I?” Covered in gluey banana chunks, hair in a limp ponytail, eyes circled with exhaustion and frustration… through all of that, I think I still see me. I still like board games and cheese and windy days. I still swear too much and leave pretzel crumbs in my car and post Simpsons gifs to Twitter when appropriate to the discussion (spoiler: ALWAYS appropriate to the discussion).

I feel like I haven’t changed. But my entire life has. And I suppose that means that I have, too. I’m not just Jen anymore. I’m Liam’s mom.

zoo

My body is different. It goes so far beyond the stretch marks. None of my clothes fit quite right, but not in the ways I was expecting. I’m squishy and my boobs are too big and I have no idea where my ass went. My hair fell out and is growing back in very slowly in awkward little tufts at my temples. I find myself looking under my glasses when I’m trimming Liam’s nails, and I think that might signal the start of my bifocal years. The quality and quantity of my showers have declined. I don’t get to shave my legs as often as I’d like, and I haven’t had time to get my hair cut or paint my nails in months. My back is sore from hoisting a baby up from the floor multiple times a day, and from angling him just right so he doesn’t hit his head as I put him in the car seat. I have intermittently debilitating pain in my hip and pelvis that sometimes leaves me trapped on the couch in tears. I’m older. I feel older.

My brain is different. My attention span is shorter than it used to be, and I can’t seem to focus on a book or TV show for more than a few minutes at a time. When I’m tired from a long night of interrupted sleep, which is more often than I’d like, my brain isn’t working with a full crew. My memory is a mess and I rely on lists and reminders in my phone – which only work if I remember to note them in the first place. I can’t juggle as many thoughts as I used to, but I have more thoughts to juggle than ever before. It’s exhausting. Overwhelming.

My priorities are different. I wake up earlier than I want to, so I can feed him and get him to daycare. I wash dishes and do laundry and get lunches ready every evening instead of watching TV or catching up on sleep, because those things are more important. I commute almost three hours a day and work 40 hours a week because my salary and health insurance are necessary to my family’s well-being, even though that means that I only see my son awake for two hours every work day before it’s bedtime for him and dishwashing time for me. It’s hard. It’s so hard. But it’s what life has to be right now. Everything is about him and nothing is about me, and while I have a nagging feeling that it’d be healthier to pay attention to myself now and then, the guilt nags louder and keeps me from many flights of self-indulgence.

YSsmf

See? Told you. Always appropriate.

But it’s not all bad. I’m wiser now. I’m a calmer parent than I thought I would be. But I’m also a louder advocate and stronger fighter than I ever thought I could be. I’m much more bullshit-averse, and that seems to apply to everything, not just matters involving my son. My depression and anxiety did a number on me in the months after Liam was born, but I think I’ve gotten better at dealing with them. Not perfect – I still have my triggers, and it can still get pretty bad. Just ask my husband what happens when we’re running late for something. But I think maybe I’m more aware of the gray areas of life and working on accepting that sometimes none of the answers are completely right or completely wrong. And maybe it doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks. Maybe it just matters that I love my son and my husband and that they love me. All that’s really important is that my family is safe and happy and healthy, and that I’m trying my best. Maybe.

Maybe when you add everything up, I’m a slightly better me than I used to be. Thanks for the nudge, kiddo.

Liam at 9ish months

Liam at 9 months:

  • 28 inches
  • 19lb2oz
  • Size: at the gap between 6-9 month and 9-12 month clothes, so he’s wearing a lot of too-short pants until we can bump him up to the bigger size.
  • Teeth: Sharp! Two on the bottom front.
  • Favorite foods: meatballs, sweet potatoes, and Puffs.
  • Favorite toys: “My Pal Scout” puppy, and spoons. Metal kitchen teaspoons. Best things ever.

Liam’s done an awful lot in the two months since my last update post.

Our daycare provider had a baby and took some well-deserved maternity leave, so we had to come up with a six-week backup plan for Liam. Dave’s parents and my mom were total superheroes, swooping in to help us out. Liam definitely enjoyed the extra time with his grandparents, and I know they loved all that quality time with their grandson. The cost of a daycare center for those few weeks would have been astronomical, and we’re just so incredibly grateful that we had access to this wonderful alternative. It was a huge job for them to take on, and we know how lucky we are.

His sleep got progressively worse between 6 and 9 months. First we blamed a cold, then teething, but the real problem was that we’d gotten into a routine of rocking him to sleep every night. Rocking time was sweet and wonderful bonding time, but not a good strategy for teaching him to fall asleep on his own. Eventually, we could only get him into his crib by rocking him all the way to sleep and then inching across the room and putting him down sloooooowly so we wouldn’t wake him. We got really good at it. We could creep silently through the dark like a goddamned panther. But then he started waking every 2 hours during the night needing to be rocked back to sleep. It could take up to an hour of rocking-crib-scream-rocking-crib-scream repetition before he’d finally settle back to sleep. We were all miserable. So we tried sleep training. And it sucked. We used a version of “letting him cry it out” where we sat by his crib until he settled down to asleep. It took almost two hours the first night, with Dave sitting by the crib reassuring him but not picking him up or rocking him. It was so hard to hear him screaming for attention, and it must have been so confusing to the poor little guy, but we just couldn’t keep doing what we’d been doing. The second night was better, and the next one even better. Over the course of a couple of weeks we moved further and further from the crib. Finally, we got to where we could say “night-night” and put him down and leave the room completely. He still fusses a bit – some nights are harder than others – but he’s gotten very good at calming himself down and falling asleep without us. But I don’t think we could have gotten there without his WubbaNub. He used to wake up a few times a night and flap around trying to find his pacifier. Switching the small pacifier for his Wubba at bedtime has made a huge difference. It’s so much bigger and easier for him to find. We bought two more Wubbas as backups.

Wubba Wubba Wubba

Frog WubbaNub (Photo from overstock.com)

New development: he’s waving at everyone. Mommy, Daddy, the cats, his reflection, even the ceiling fan. He’s working on clapping but so far can only do a “gimme five” thing, slapping someone else’s hand over and over. He’s delighted when I hold his hands and make them clap, but when I let them go he flails them up and down instead of towards each other. He’s really all about his hands these days. Wiggling fingers and bending wrists, trying to pick crumbs off the floor and freckles off my arms. He will sit with quiet focus for a full minute trying to get polka dots off my socks. The upside of all this hand-work is that he’s very good at feeding himself now. He’s mastered Cheerios and is getting better at softer and squishier things, although some of those still just get smashed into the highchair tray. Because smashing things is fun.

Still no crawling, but the rolling has gotten faster and more determined. He’ll barrel roll across the floor until he hits an obstacle, at which point he’ll whine as he spins in place trying to get through the immovable object. Or he’ll lie there and kick it to teach it a lesson about getting in his way. He especially loves kicking the filing cabinet.

rollHe still can’t get himself from a lying to a sitting position, and hasn’t tried to pull up from sitting to standing. But while he’s stalled on crawling, he’s getting better on his feet. He can easily bear his weight on his legs and just needs some help with balance. We’ve started showing him how to play with some of the stand-up toys to encourage him, and he can stand there leaning on the play table for a solid couple of minutes with only the slightest support from one of us keeping him from tipping over.

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Standy-uppy baby!

Still talking. SO MUCH TALKING. No real words yet, just chatter, but he really enjoys “talking” to us and the cats. He’s got ba, da, ga, wuh, mmmmuh, tststs, and fff nailed down pretty well by now. He’s fascinated when I show him “bzzzz,” reaching out to feel my lips, so maybe he’s aiming for that one next. He’s paying so much more attention these days when we name things and talk directly to him, so I think the wheels are starting to turn in there. My money’s on “book” or “Animal” for first words, because we say them a lot and they’re sounds he can handle. He did say Ah-MUH once when Animal was around, but I think it was coincidence.

This baby has been the best baby for taking out on adventures. We go out every weekend, whether it’s to breakfast or Home Depot or to visit friends, and he’s such a wonderful easygoing traveler. He loves restaurants (and waving and flirting with our servers) and loves watching people from shopping carts. He sleeps well in the car, and chats with us or stares intently out the window while he’s awake. He hates having the sun in his eyes, and that’s the biggest problem in the car. None of the window shades we’ve tried does a good enough job, and if the sun’s sneaking past it into his face he gets frustrated, flappy, and loud. I’m still looking for the right shade, but I’ll have no problem pinning a big thin blanket over the backseat to make him a sun tent if that’s what I need to do.

Mom came to visit, and we played out in the snow. Auntie Michelle came to visit and we went to DC to see the Air & Space Museum. And lots of other friends came to visit in between. He’s such a friendly kid and loves to see everyone. But I can’t hand him over to anyone right now, because he’s starting to show some social anxiety. He’ll dive and scramble and whine while trying get back to me. It’s age-appropriate but it’s tough to not be able to give my arms a break at parties. And I can tell it makes people feel bad when he bursts into tears as soon as he’s in their lap. He’ll grow out of it soon, I hope.

visits

Visits with Grandmaman and Auntie Michelle

The thought hadn’t occurred to me until recently that as he’s learning all these new things, there are other things that are being left behind. And not just the teeny tiny PJs that no longer fit. So many adorable things that he’s not doing anymore. He doesn’t bounce his head off my chest like a dippy-bird when he’s hungry. I miss that. Waking up after naps, he used to have the cutest whole-body arched-back stretch, with his little legs folding up fetus-style and his arms reaching way above his head. Now he just flaps around and rubs his eyes. I think those curly legs are gone for good. He’s not a tiny baby anymore.

yard

How was your day?

5:15 – Wake from a nightmare about flipping my car off the highway in the rain. Take a second to make sure I’m in bed and not dead. Roll over, try to doze back off for 15 min until my alarm buzzes.

5:28 – Liam beats the alarm and starts fussing. Dave is already zombie-shuffling to the bedroom door because it was his duty night, so I tell him to just entertain the kid for a second while I pee and brush my teeth.

5:30 – Pee, brush my teeth.

5:33 – Take over so Dave can shower.

5:34 – Nurse hungry baby. Sing him his little morning song. Get him changed, dressed, and bibbed.

5:45 – Carry him downstairs, load a K-cup into my Keurig with the hand that’s not holding a baby.

5:46 – Sit him on the floor in the family room where I can see him from the kitchen, and give him his train to play with. Empty the dishwasher while playing peekaboo with him over the counter to keep him from crying.

5:51 – Feed Mojo, who is howling in the mudroom. Narrate this process VERY LOUDLY AND CHEERFULLY so Liam can hear me in the family room and not freak out because I’ve disappeared.

5:52 – Retrieve freaked-out-and-crying Liam from floor. Bring him upstairs. Carry him into my bedroom and plunk him in the middle of the bed (so grateful he’s not crawling yet) and hand him a bright striped sock to distract him while I retrieve my clothes and get dressed.

6:00 – Remember there’s a coffee waiting for me in the kitchen. Carry Liam back down. Add cream and sugar to the coffee cup, using one hand. Stir. Turn face and coffee cup as far away from little flapping hands as possible. Sip.

6:01 – Give up, give him the spoon.

6:02 – Back upstairs to play.

6:05 – Dave takes over on the floor.

6:06 – Dig through the dryer and find extra bibs for today. He’s drooly.

6:08 – Feed the other two cats since I just let them out of the laundry room anyway.

6:15 – Check that my pump parts and bottles are in my bag by the door. Throw food into my lunch bag for work.

6:18 – Put bottles and meals into his lunch bag for daycare. Put it in his backpack with two of the bibs, leave it with my pump bag by the door.

6:20 – Kiss Dave goodbye; he’s leaving for work. He hands over the baby and then brings all the extra bags to the car for me on his way out.

6:22 – Sit at my computer and have a sip of coffee. Push the button on his Baby Einstein Take-along-Tunes to hear a song. Turn around while kiddo’s distracted, and reply to an email from the pediatrician.

6:25 – Read stories, push the button again for more songs, and submit to being beaten cheerfully with a spoon.

6:40 – Remember that I haven’t brushed my hair since getting up. Leave kiddo on the floor (thank goodness he can’t crawl yet) and head to the bathroom to find a brush.

6:41 – Nope, he’s screaming at being left alone. Go back, pick him up, put him on the bathroom floor with an empty toilet paper tube. He eats it while I get my hair into a ponytail and hum one of the classical Einstein tunes.

6:55 – Put him in the carseat, strap him in, and position the musical elephant and twinkly bird toys where they can be easily thwacked. Tuck a blanket around him and leave his arms out, for thwacking.

7:00 – Drive him to daycare. Play Doubleclicks songs and sing along badly while he practices his da-da-da, ba-ba-ba and bfpfmmmpfpppb in the backseat.

7:15 – Drop him off at daycare, giving a sleep and feeding report.

7:20 – Drive to work. Listen to news radio so I’ll have something to talk about with other adults later.

8:30 – Arrive at work.

8:40 – Realize I forgot deodorant this morning. But it’s ok; I have a spare stick in my purse. Beside a ziplock bag full of Gerber Puffs and a tiny pair of socks.

10:00 – Pump break.

10:30 – Back to work.

1:30 – Lunch; check FB, check Twitter, click “like” a lot.

2:00 – Pump break.

2:30 – Back to work.

4:30 – Leave work. Listen to science podcast to keep my brain from melting from disuse.

5:35 – Arrive home. Dave’s not back with baby yet. Traffic must have been bad.

5:36 – Drag recycling bins back to the garage, because the truck guys left them blocking half the entrance to our driveway.

5:38 – Pick up cat barf in the kitchen, wash that part of the floor. Feed howling kitties. Consider that if they’d stop barfing the food up they wouldn’t be so goddamned hungry all the time.

5:40 – Wash bottles and pump parts. So. Many. Parts.

Bottles

5:55 – Prepare Liam’s dinner for tonight (chopped-up meatball, zucchini bits, and a Gerber chicken-and-apples dinner thickened with oatmeal) and breakfast for tomorrow (oatmeal with banana and plum purees from the freezer).

6:05 – Put on comfy pants and take a few minutes at the computer to work on a blog post.

6:10 – Dave arrives with Liam. I play with him on the floor while Dave puts on his comfy pants and comes back to join us.

6:30 – Get Liam set up in his high chair while Dave gives me the daycare report: timing and quality/quantity of naps, bottles, and poops.

6:35 – Feed Liam dinner. Meatballs are a big hit – none make it to the floor. When he’s done eating, we wipe him and the highchair down.

6:50 – Take Liam upstairs to play for a while. He’s really into his “My Pal Scout” puppy, and is fixated on poking him between the eyes again and again. I read him a couple of 6-page board “books” and Dave tries to coax him to crawl by placing toys out of reach. It just pisses him off.

7:20 – Put him in an overnight diaper, PJ’s and sleep sack. He does not like the sleep sack. There is a whiny protest.

7:25 – Try to nurse. He fights it, not really interested.

7:35 – Dave reads stories and rocks Liam to sleep. I bring a bunch of stray coffee cups downstairs for the dishwasher.

7:40 – Start peeling potatoes for dinner.

7:45 – Dave comes downstairs and we decide we’d prefer fast food tonight, so he heads off to pick something up while I cook the potatoes anyway (they’re peeled, may as well) and put them in the fridge.

8:10 – Eat dinner in front of the TV. Make fun of almost everything Christina Aguilera says on The Voice.

9:45 – Prepare bottles for tomorrow’s daycare.

9:48 – Feed howling kitties.

9:50 – Wipe counters and wash the dishes I dirtied while making the potatoes.

10:00 – Decide we want dessert, search the freezer for ice cream. Eat ice cream.

10:35 – Collect cats and put them in their rooms for the night.

10:40 – Bed.

11:55 – Liam’s awake. I go in and plug his pacifier back in. He’s quiet for 2 minutes and starts up again. Hungry? I make him a bottle, he drinks half an ounce and passes out again. I rock him for a while to be sure he’s out cold.

12:40 – Back to bed.

5:00 – Liam’s hungry. My alarm is set for 5:30 so I just turn it off and decide I’m up for the day.

Five, Six, Seven! Fun fun fun!

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I don’t need to look at the pages any more.

I planned to write a post for each month of Liam’s first year, so I wouldn’t forget anything. Turns out that what you need takes precedence over what you want once a baby shows up, and that need is often sleep or food or quietly thumping your forehead on your desk at 3am as you try to use Jedi mind tricks to stop the crying in the nursery*.

I started this post two months ago, intending to have it up when he turned 5 months old. Then I came back to it last month and went for the 6 month deadline. Third time’s a charm, but I’m not sure how coherent all of this will be, because it was written and edited in bits and pieces, mostly in the very early morning. (TL:DR summary: Liam is 7 months old. He’s a lot of work, but he’s pretty cute. We’ll keep him.)

Liam at 6 months (close enough):

  • 26 inches (22nd percentile)
  • 16lb11oz (33rd percentile)
  • Size 6-9mo clothes and size 3 diapers
  • Teeth: Zero
  • Faking us out to think he’s growing teeth: OFTEN
  • Hair: Kept most of it, still wispy and blond and cowlicked like mad
  • Eating: everything I throw at him
  • Favorite toys: Musical elephant, plastic rings, tupperware lids, Mommy’s feet (especially in striped socks)

He found his own feet somewhere around 5 months and has barely let them go since then. Every diaper change, without fail: pants come off, legs fly up and feet go in mouth. But everything goes in mouth now. Mommy’s hands, Daddy’s collar, toys, remotes, everything within reach. We’re having to watch him a lot more closely.

Not too closely, though, because he’s not rolling or crawling. I know he can roll front-to-back and back-to-front, because I saw him do both around 5 months. But he doesn’t want to do either any more. When he’s on his back he’ll sometimes roll partway over to grab at a toy, but he mostly lies there and kicks like mad. He’s just figured out sitting in the past couple of weeks, and he loves being upright, but he still topples over a lot thanks to his giant melon head.

MELONHEAD

And down he goes.

He loves his jumperoo and would bounce for an hour in that thing if we let him. He’ll bounce in your lap, too – he can be exhausted, whining, and rubbing his eyes, but stand him in your lap and those legs can’t help themselves.

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BOUNCEBOUNCEBOUNCE

As much as he’s stubbornly stalled in some of the physical milestones, this kid is seriously determined to talk. He will flap his arms to get your attention and then tell you stories for half an hour, hardly stopping to breathe. He talks to himself at night, he chatters during car rides, and he gives very long-winded speeches during diaper changes. Don’t you look away or try to interrupt – he’ll just talk louder. He also loves music, singing, and dancing, and will go quiet and listen whenever I put on a Cookie Monster song or a Doubleclicks video.

He’s good at smiling. Also good at whining, which is new and really irritating. He’s starting to get upset if we walk away, which makes my mornings very difficult. I’m getting good at making coffee and brushing my teeth while holding a baby in one arm. Also getting good at drinking coffee at weird angles so he can’t grab the cup.

We’re slowly working towards better nighttime sleep, but every second or third night is still full of wake-ups and feedings and fussiness. The nights in between are wonderful 6-hrs-at-a-stretch nights, though, and I’m hoping those get more frequent. He’s learning. We haven’t tried any real “sleep training” except to try and get a consistent routine going and to leave him in his crib longer when he wakes up, to see if he can get back to sleep on his own. And he sometimes does, so I have hope for our future.

Breastfeeding is still going great, even though I’ve had to start supplementing with formula to keep up with his appetite. I thought it would be hard. I thought it would hurt and I’d hate pumping. When he was born I told myself I owed him the effort, and I’d try for at least a month. And then it wasn’t nearly as traumatic as I feared. He latched well (most of the time), and it didn’t hurt after the first couple of weeks. Where I thought I’d resent being needed as a food source 24/7, instead I found that I enjoyed our nursing time together. I decided I’d keep at it until it was time to go back to work, and then maybe I’d try pumping for a week. I did a week. Then a month. And here I am, at 7 months, still doing it. I’m not sure how much longer I want to do it, but I feel like I’ll miss it once we stop.

He started solid food at the 6-month mark, and now he goes at it like he’s training for a competitive eating championship. He’s had rice and oatmeal cereals, peas, green beans, carrots, zucchini, potatoes, sweet potatoes, avocado, banana, apples, peaches, and pears. He’s also making num-num hungry-guppy faces every time he sees us eating, and taking serious swipes at whatever we’re having if it’s within reach. Juice and pretzels fascinate him and he’ll twist all the way around in my lap to watch them go in my mouth. He still can’t grip little bits of food, so for now we’re giving him a mix of jarred/packaged (it comes in little plastic boxes nowadays!) and homemade purees and mashes.

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Homemade mush

I would have liked to do all homemade stuff because it’s so much cheaper, but the prepared stuff is easy and fast. And once we’re into mixing flavors, I’m not going to be putting together my own kale-mango-quinoa blends for him. I’ll let Gerber and BeechNut have fun with that.

He’s adjusted well to being at daycare every day, and I’ve adjusted well to being away from him every day. I still have occasional pangs of guilt about it, especially with my hour-long commute getting me home only an hour before his bedtime, but I’m very happy with the provider we found. She has a small gaggle of other kids under her watch, but she handles them so well and I never worry that Liam’s being left on the floor to cry. She’s much more of a Fräulein Maria than a Captain Von Trapp. I don’t know how she does it. I’m confident he’s in good hands there. And he’s also sort of a big deal at his daycare. As soon as we’re through the door in the morning, we’re greeted by shrieks of “It’s Liam!! Liam Liam!!” from his fan club stampeding towards him. It’s adorable.

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He’s had his first Halloween, his first Christmas, his first snow… My little guy is growing up so fast and I’m afraid to blink.

 HOLIDAYS

*Mind tricks don’t work on him. So either he’s a Hutt or I need to go back to Dagobah for more training. Examination of his leg rolls indicates the former is a strong possibility.

Octobers

In October of 2012, I lost two people I loved very much. One was my grandmother, who lived a fierce and fascinating life. One was a baby whose heart never had a chance to beat. I remember the news and the numbness. I was sure that I would run out of tears, that I would shut down. I was sure that the world would end. It didn’t, of course. The world always turns and we’re carried through another day whether or not we’re ready. I wasn’t. But I was swept along, with everyone else, into November, December, and a new year.

In October of 2013, after a hormonal assault on my ovaries and my pride, a little seed of hope was planted inside me. A fragile, beautiful ball of cells. October 2013 was anticipation and anxiety. It was joy tempered with caution. I didn’t dare imagine what might be. It’s hard to hold love in your heart when it’s a love that’s hurt you before. But there was room for the love, in between the pain and the guilt and the worry. There was room, and I held that love tight.

In October of 2014, I hold my son in my arms. He squirms against me, trying to burrow through my shoulder with his drool-soaked chin. He chatters and smiles and pulls on my shirt. This is love. This is more love than I deserve. I’m filled with wonder and gratitude. I inhale and take in his sweet baby scent. He smells like diapers and milk. He smells like Dave and me. He smells like home.

Necessity, meet invention.

Liam was sitting in his carseat, ready to be hauled off to daycare. It was pouring, and I had nothing to cover him with. The cute flannel receiving blankets are too small for the job and would just dangle in his face if I draped them over the handle. An umbrella wouldn’t have been much help, since  I don’t have the strength and dexterity to both hoist the 30 pounds of combined plastic and baby and cover everything adequately with an umbrella. He’d end up jostled, wet, and angry.

So… other options… I found a small bath towel and draped it over the carseat. It was exactly the right size to cover the seat without dragging on the floor, but I couldn’t pick it up. The towel slid all over the handle and wouldn’t give me a good enough grip. The carseat canopies you can get custom made on Etsy, by people who have talent and time, have little straps so that they hang under the handle.

Hmmm…

Binder clips. Baby toys.

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Canopy.

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Patent pending.

Liam’s Birth Story

Liam’s birth story begins with an ultrasound tech saying “Hmm.”

“Hmm” meant my amniotic fluid was very low. It meant an anxious phone call to Dave warning him not to leave for work. It meant they were getting a room ready for me in Labor & Delivery, because as the perinatologist put it, I’d be “having a baby this weekend, one way or another.”

Induction. What I’d most wanted to avoid. I wasn’t having contractions, my water hadn’t broken, and I felt absolutely fine (besides huge, sweaty, and sluggish). I’d read enough to know that pitocin’s no picnic, and that inductions before term had a decent chance of failing and sending Mom to the OR for a C-section. I wasn’t afraid of the C-section itself, but I dreaded the thought of being in pitocin-cranked labor for hours and hours and hours and then needing a section anyway.

I called Dave to confirm we were about to start the party early. I called work to tell them I wasn’t coming in for, oh, a few months or so. Then I drove home. I could have walked across the parking lot to the hospital, but I needed some time to come to terms with the induction plan. I was twitchy and distracted. I couldn’t make my eyes focus on anything. I pulled the hospital bag out of the car to check it and recheck it and make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. Dave stood by patiently, knowing I’d already checked it two days ago. He was so calm. On the outside, anyway.

Then we went to Panera, because I wanted a chocolate chip cookie. Gestational diabetes be damned, if I was to be done gestating in a few hours. I wanted a goddamn cookie, and I was going to have a goddamn cookie. And it was THE BEST COOKIE EVER.

After the L&D receptionist gave us our armbands, a nurse brought me to a room and asked me to get changed into a hospital gown. I stood at the door, frozen.

“Don’t I start at triage?”

“Oh, no, we’re getting you started right away.”

Giant speeding truck of reality, meet my head. Head, meet truck. Ok, we’re settled, then.

A nurse took my vital signs, then strapped monitors to my belly. Whoomp whoomp, baby was still doing fine even though his swimming pool was down to a puddle. It took three tries and both arms to get my IV installed, because although the nurse was really good with her needle, my veins are full of valves. Good for doing their blood transportation thing, but bad for snaking a tube through. We laughed about it. I joke around a lot when I’m nervous.

Dr. Rojas came in, smiling as always, and explained what was going to happen. We’d be using a couple of waves of different medications, and we’d see what my progress was like after each one before moving on. That sounded fair to me. Slow and steady. I was relieved that they weren’t just going to fill me with pitocin right away. I was given Cervidil around 2pm and told to stay in bed for twelve hours while it worked its magic, opening up my cervix. 12 hours is a long time when you know you’re not supposed to move except to use the bathroom. I think we watched some TV. Dave went to get food, but I was only allowed liquids and jello and long wistful looks at his takeout. Sometime around 8 or 9, the nurse offered me Ambien so I could get a little sleep before all the craziness planned for the morning. I took it gladly, and drifted in and out of sleep for a few hours. Hospitals are hard to sleep in. So much beeping.

I started feeling contractions somewhere around midnight. They intensified steadily, and the nurses offered me some IV painkiller to take the edge off. It helped, and I drifted back in and out until Dr. Rojas came back in at 2am to check on me. He was happy enough with my progress to switch me over to pitocin. He told me things were going to start getting more intense, and that the medical team would do everything they could to minimize my pain – when I was ready for the epidural, they’d get right on it. He told me not to be a hero, to ask for it when it started to hurt. He squeezed my hand before he left.

It didn’t take long. By 3am, I was feeling contractions strong enough to make me whimper, groan, and squeeze the sides of the bed. I was making enough noise to wake Dave up, and I felt bad. After half a dozen contractions, I knew two things. One, I would never be the type to choose a medication-free birth. Two, it was epidural time. Well, it was ask for an epidural time. Took them an hour to get to me. That was a rough hour.

A needle into the spine is not fun. And the fact that they leave a little tube in place, similar to an IV in my back, freaked me out. But, you know, contractions. Pain. For how many more hours? So I leaned forward and tried not to move while the anesthesiologist did his thing. I flinched when the first medication went in, because it felt like my back was on fire. Pro tip: do not flinch during an epidural. You will be yelled at. Which may make you cry. Just saying, theoretically. He secured the tubing by taping my back up like he was shipping an international package in a questionably-constructed box, and then I got to lie down again and rest while my contractions continued. Or so the monitor said. I couldn’t feel them at all. Ah, pharmacology. I love you so much.

Fun fact: the epidural medication pump had an intermittent squeak that sounded so much like a tiny kitten that I was sure either Dave or I had changed the notification tone on a phone or tablet and we were getting lots of messages. I’d say it was just the drugs making me crazy, but a nurse confirmed the pumps squeak. Most people think it’s a bird. But it sounded enough like Horton that it helped me to smile through the pushing stage later on, so I’m grateful for it.

Dr Leak took over later that morning, and came in to check my progress. Three seconds into the exam, her eyes popped open wide.

“You don’t feel that?”

“…no…?” (Hello, that’s why I got the epidural!)

“His head’s right here! It’s pushing time!”

There was a whirlwind of gowns and tarps, some parts of my bed disappeared, and someone set the baby warmer to preheat in the corner. Before I had time to even think about it, they were hoisting my legs up and asking me to tell them when I felt pressure so I could push with the contractions. I did pretty well, or so they kept telling me. We laughed a lot through the delivery, which made me so happy. My son was coming into the world in a room full of laughter and silliness and joy. It helped tremendously that both Dr Leak and the nurse were incredibly relaxed and kept everything low-key and informal. It was like having three Daves in the room with me. I’d feel pressure, tell them “Maybe now?” And they’d say, “sure, let’s push.” Dave stood at my side and helped support my neck when I curled up for each push, and he encouraged me the whole way, telling me what a great job I was doing. After about an hour of that, Liam was born.

They put him on my chest and rubbed him down, suctioned the goo from his throat, and let me have a look at him. He was gross and squishy and beautiful. They didn’t leave him there long, because they didn’t like his breathing. They called in someone from the NICU to have a look, but they reassured me that it was almost always nothing, just a transition from goo to air that made them sound funny and struggle a little. I didn’t worry much. But then the specialist saw Liam’s hands shaking. They ran a bedside glucose test. His result was low. Very low. So low that they weren’t going to let me breastfeed him yet because he needed to get his sugar up ASAP. Before I knew what was going on she’d whipped out a bottle of formula and plugged it in his mouth. So much for avoiding bottles.

For the rest of the day, they checked his glucose every few hours, after nursing sessions. He was doing better by late afternoon, but not good enough for the NICU specialists, who decided he needed an IV with a steady sugar supply so he wouldn’t dip into hypoglycemia. They took him away around dinnertime. I was devastated. I’d just met him, and a few hours into our relationship, he was leaving me for the hectic bright world of the NICU.

We kept thinking they’d let him go as soon as his sugar looked good, but they were very cautious and wanted to wean him off his glucose drip very slowly, to be sure his body could manage sugars on its own after he left. So we spent three days visiting him there every three hours. Dave wheeled me down the hall 8 times a day so I could feed Liam, even if the little guy only got a few drops out of me and needed to be topped off with formula. We stayed for an hour each time, holding his hands and stroking his hair and trying not to notice the tubes and wires attached to our little man. The nurses were wonderful and he got the absolute best care from all of them, but Monday night became the hardest night in my life when I had to leave the hospital without my son. As we were packing up to leave, I saw the beautiful flower and balloon arrangement from my mother-in-law, and I fell apart. On TV, the woman being wheeled through the lobby with the happy “It’s a BOY” balloon is holding that boy in her lap. But I wouldn’t have my boy. And in my blind emotional state, I refused to entertain the thought of leaving this gift behind in the room. So Dave, wonderful, wonderful Dave, picked it up and walked three steps behind my wheelchair.

Liam won’t have any memory of the NICU, but we’ll never forget it. The sinks at the entrance, where 3 minutes of scrubbing with antiseptic soap stood between these babies and possible infections. Liam’s poor little feet covered in bandaids to hide the dozens of cuts from the lancets used for his blood draws. The tiny plank strapped to his arm to keep his IV in place. The care with which his nurses swaddled him up for the night. The shrieking of the heart monitor if we bent the wires the wrong way when picking him up from the plastic bassinet. The regular hum of the IV pump blending with Liam’s snorting and sucking as he was held to my breast. The sounds of other parents, getting news you can’t ever be ready to hear. We were so lucky that it was just a little blood sugar issue. He was only in the NICU because they were being extra careful. I can’t imagine the stress that other mothers must feel when their babies are stuck in the NICU with serious issues for days or weeks or months.

But Liam’s body just needed a couple of days to figure out how sugar works. We brought him home on Tuesday, healthy and happy and asleep. We got him into the house and let the cats sniff him. We put all of our bags in the front closet to be dealt with later. We took our son out of his carseat, looked at his scrunchy sleeping baby face, and wondered… what the hell were we supposed to do with him now?

Ruining everything, in the nicest way

My son is already a month old.

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That went by fast.

I meant to write up his birth story and share it on the blog, but the thing with having a newborn around is that you very seldom get around to the things you meant to do. Instead you’re busy with all the new things you absolutely have to do. Like changing diapers and feeding a thrashing baby and driving to urgent care at 2am. And sleeping, if you’re lucky. We’ve been lucky. So far. When I find a small block of time for myself, I indulge in a decadent 5-minute shower. Sometimes, I make it 6 minutes, and break out the conditioner.

Life is so different now. Harder. More stressful. I miss my old life some nights, when I’m walking laps, bouncing my son and listening for the fart that means his gas pain has passed and his diaper needs changing. I could be sleeping. I could be enjoying TV. My husband and I could be out for dinner or a game night with friends. But it isn’t about us anymore. It’s not an easy thing, to find your entire life’s focus suddenly and irreversibly redirected to this tiny creature who needs you for everything.

I’ve been peed on, pooped on, and barfed on several times in this short month. The house is a mess, and will likely stay that way for decades. Outings are much more complicated than they used to be, and they revolve around his schedule. He eats almost constantly, so I’m never asleep for more than 3-4 hours at a time before my boobs need to deliver. And when he eats, he likes to clamp down and yank until it looks like he’s an early bird getting a worm. It’s hard to see this as the new normal. Hard to wear the “parent” nametag for this new job, knowing I can never clock out. It’s terrifying.

But this tiny creature needs me for everything. I’m so incredibly important. He’s so new and so small and so helpless. He’d never make it without us. He’s awe-inspiring and difficult and beautiful and frustrating. Soon he’ll start smiling and cooing and interacting with us. He’ll crawl, and walk, and have a favorite color and a best friend at school and want to be all sorts of things when he grows up. And it’s my job to get him there, to help him reach all the milestones and to guide him through every single day.

So after I change that horrible oozing diaper and pick him back up to help him with his next fart, I hold him tight to my chest while I pat his back. He’ll never be this tiny again. I lean in close to his little ears and I tell him Mommy’s got him. Mommy will always have him.

 

You should know
How great things were before you
Even so
They’re better still today
I can’t think of who I was before
You ruined everything
In the nicest way

-Jonathan Coulton, “You Ruined Everything”