Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Try (Less) Hard

Abe is a really cool kid. He was pretty much the perfect baby for his first holiday, Thanksgiving. He decided it was best to show off his skills for fear of the dead bird on the table and how it got there.
After Thanksgiving, my darling son became a monster once again. You know, this tricks me everytime. He will be a smiling angel from God and suddenly, the lord leaves us and we're left once again with the Baby Monster...he chose four of my shirts he hated and spit up on all of them, redecorated the couch, cried out to the government for better work laws for babies loud enough so they could hear him from DC, bitched and moaned about the price of gluten-free bread all day, poked me in the eye, poked himself in the eye, refused all of his toys/chairs/swings/playmats/other ridiculous things that now riddle our living room, and refused to sleep for more than 15 minutes without "checking" to ensure I hadn't gone deaf. I literally punched a pillow at 2am out of pacifier-replacement frustration. 
For most moms, this is just a bad day. But I'm not most moms. I have major problems. A bad day in my brain means there is no tomorrow unless the bad day is first labeled, defined, and treated. Google becomes my best friend; the kind of best friend you hang out with because you've known each other for so long but you secretly hate each other and you never deal with it so you just go on pretending you like each other until one of you dies or moves to another country and it's "too hard" to stay in touch. I start entering things into Google like, "Why is my baby spitting up so much?" and "3 month old has gas" and "baby stomach virus". I then start reading like a heroine user. I find a million reasons why, why not, how come, how many, how long, and how to. I decide Abe has one of 70 babies diseases and/or afflictions and begin panicking about how quickly I can get my hands on the antidote. My husband usually attempts to peel me off of my computer when I start doing this only to hear me snap, "I need to read this." ("Just one more hit.") Finally, when I feel I have come up with a good enough solution as to why my baby is upset or crying, as well as the steps I must take to help him, I can resume worry and anxiety in another part of the house.
Last night, I began this process. I decided that someone had slipped dairy into something I ate over Thanksgiving and Abe was having a reaction. I researched enzymes I could give him and probiotics I should take to help avoid his further discomfort. I read about skin rashes, poop colors, you name it. And finally, I started reading one of my favoriate question-and-answer mom sites. The question yesterday was, and I'm paraphrashing, "When does it get better? I work my ass off reading and researching to ensure I know as much as I can about my baby and this still sucks and she's still screaming." All the moms who answered clearly understood and empathized. But one mom wrote something that caught my attention. She said the best thing for someone like her was to "try less hard." That's right. Try LESS hard. She went on to say that if your baby has a rash, gas, colic, sleep issues, or anything else, it will all eventually go away because it's a baby and that's what happens. I couldn't believe this was advice. I'm his mom, I should be trying my hardest!! And then my husband laughed and said, "You should write it on your bathroom mirror." Really? I should try LESS hard?!
I got a dry-erase marker and wrote it on my mirror and stared. Hmm. Try less hard. How do I even do that?
I decided the best way would be to make a list of things I wanted to accomplish that didn't involve Abe. I started first thing in the morning and I worked on my list all day. In the mean time, I fed, changed, and sang to Abe while he was awake. But I never stopped to Google, stare at the rash on his cheek, or diagram any of his noises or cries. In fact, I even put him in the Swing of Death while I folded the laundry and he didn't cry once. Guess what? He's still alive. And he's fine. I tried LESS hard and he's just the same, and I got to clean the kitchen.
The moral of the story is I'm going to try and stop personalizing my son's moods and/or bad days. It's probably a good idea that I adopt this principle now because if I don't, I will likely need to be medicated by the time he's 16. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010


There is a fierce opposition in the world to a sleeping method known affectionately as "Crying It Out". This method, coined by Dr. Ferber, originally stated that a baby should be put to bed awake and allowed to cry or fuss until he/she eventually falls asleep. The idea was that babies don't know how to soothe themselves to sleep and that they must LEARN. Sleep is natural; going to sleep is a skill.
Dr. Ferber's ideas were popular for several decades until Dr. Sears finally got loud enough. Eventually, a whole new world of parenting gained momentum. Dr. Sears said NEVER let your baby cry. If your baby is crying, he or she NEEDS something and you could damage your child's psychological skin if you do not help to build your bond of trust by responding to every sound of discomfort. Dr. Sears' following grew so vocal that Dr. Ferber was forced to adapt. An updated version of his book included a modified "Cry It Out", checking on and soothing your baby at intervals instead of just leaving them to cry.
As there are thousands of methods that fall somewhere in between these two extremes, I was forced to research and read about all of them (when I should have been sleeping) to try and decide what kind of parent I was going to be. Am I a CIO or a Sears? If I'm a CIO, am I willing to suffer the slings and arrows of my peers who aren't? Do I wear the badge of "monster mom"? If I'm a Sears, do I give up a majority of my days and nights to ensure my son never, ever has to cry without his mother racing to his rescue? Sure, I brought him into the world and knew that it would be my job to care for him, but does that mean I'm never allowed to sleep again as a consequence?
Then I remembered something about food. That's right. Food. Michael Polan, author of The Carnivore's Dilemma, is often quoted on talk shows as saying, "Don't eat it if your grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food." I decided food is much like sleep, so I referenced Abe's grandmother. I asked, "Did you let me cry until I fell asleep or did you cuddle and love me as much as you possibly could?" And as I suspcted, the answer was indeed somewhere in between. My mother told me that I would cry everytime she talked on the telephone and so, when the phone rang, she put me in my crib. I would usually cry in my crib while my mother chatted. At night if she knew I was fed, clean, and safe, she would let me cry. Occasionally she could come and pat me on the back (because I slept on my belly, too) so that, as she puts it, "I knew she loved me and that I was safe." And on particularly fussy days, my mom would walk back and forth through the living room holding me because she knew I wouldn't be this little forever.
What's the right answer? The right answer is that you do what works for you. On the days that Abe makes me wonder why I gave up pedicures and primetime TV, I may let him cry it out a bit longer. But on the days I know he really needs to be held securely in my arms, I will hold him all day. So on this Thanksgiving I am thankful for friends who don't judge, a baby who smiles so big his face can't even hold it all, a husband who sings ridiculous songs all day long, a mother who remembers in detail the way she raised me, and for my instincts that tell me exactly what is right for my baby boy (the way no book could).

Thursday, November 18, 2010


You do what you have to when you become a parent. Rules do not apply, espeically when it comes to getting enough sleep. We've created some interesting methods for getting through life with an 11 week old.

My husband and I began sharing nighttime shifts when Abe was 5 weeks old. David came home one day from work and I was a used dish rag on the floor with Abe, crying and probably rocking back and forth like a mental patient. My husband had just begun giving our son bottles that week and I incoherently explained to him that he would now be giving Abe a bottle during one night feeding so I could sleep. Swiftly he realized his wife had been diminished to a babbling pile of milk ducts, so he agreed.

Nights at our house then: Dave came home at 5:30 while Erin was finishing dinner. We'd sit down, watch a tivoed show or just chat at the dinner table with dogs at our feet and wine glasses full. After dinner we'd clean the kitchen and catch up on house projects, movies, or maybe a nice long walk with the dogs. We'd get in bed around 10 and read for a half an hour or so before hitting the hay. Sometimes on a weekend or special week night we'd go out to dinner with friends of maybe catch a movie!

Nights at our house now: I feed/fight with Abe through his crankiest hours until about 8:30pm when he finally begins to give in to exhaustion. I feed him one last time, swaddle him, and put him in his crib by 9pm. I rush to brush my teeth and get into bed so that I am sleeping while he is sleeping. I put in my ear plugs and this begins first shift. (We trade off first shift every other night.) At around 1am, sometimes earlier if it's a crummy night, I am woken up by David informing me that Abe is squealing into the monitor. I take out my earplugs, walk upstairs and put the pacifier back into his mouth and fall asleep in the bed in Abe's room. I usually wake up once or twice more to put the pacifier into his mouth before he actually wakes up to eat. Between 2 and 4am, Abe eats while simultaneously sleeping for about 20 minutes. Once he's back in his crib, I then walk back downstairs and get a bottle ready and set it on the counter. I go back to bed and put my earplugs back in. Second shift has begun. David gets up between 4 and 6am when Abe, again, announces he's hungry. He walks to the kitchen and gets the bottle I've prepared and walks upstairs. Most nights he trips or stumbles up the stairs and wakes up the dogs. He feeds Abe several ounces and then changes his diaper. This is when he begins to pray that Abe has not peed through his diaper. If he has, he then changes his entire outfit while repeating, "Please don't wake up, please don't wake up." He gives Abe the rest of the bottle and puts him into the crib. Then he comes back downstairs and gets back into bed. And finally, at 7:30am, he wakes me up to tell me he is getting ready for work and I have to take out my ear plugs to listen for Abe. Every. Single. Night.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Good Mom/Bad Mom

Reasons why I'm a bad mom:

  • People take one look at Abe and say, "Oh my gosh, he is ADORABLE!" I'm all, do you not see that baby acne? Or the stork's bite on his forehead? And speaking of his forehead, you could play football on it. It's that big. The hairline isn't doing much for him either. He's almost sporting a mullet at this point. Is it crazy that I don't always find my baby to be the cutest creature on Earth?!
  • I don't boil the pacifiers. I mean, maybe once a week. I rarely even wash them off. I lick them. I'm one of those moms. As long as there's no visible bacteria or spiders on them, I lick them and put them back into his mouth. I also lick my (dirty) thumbs to wipe shmutz off of his cheeks. He seems to be fine so far.
  • I wear him in the grocery store only because it's really cute and people will talk to me about it. I don't have anyone else to talk to all day so I have to manufacture relationships this way.
  • I rarely, if ever, accomplish giving my son "tummy time" for more than 5 minutes in a day. For this reason, I doubt he will ever roll over, crawl, or run for public office.
  • Folks are always asking if they can hold Abe, which is fine with me. The part that gets me is they all say, "Oh! Should I wash my hands?" I always respond, "Oh. Yes. Good idea." Because it is a good idea. Meanwhile I'm thinking, when is the last time I washed MY hands?!?! Early August, I think.
  • I let my dogs lick Abe. Sometimes on the mouth. Sometimes in the mouth.
  • I bathe my baby everyday. Doctors will tell you it's completely unnecessary and can dry out their skin and a whole host of other awful, life-altering side effects. But what else do we have to do? There are only so many times I can stand the songs his bouncy chair plays, and only so many times he can stand staring at the creatures on his play mat. He's 11 weeks old. 
  • Occasionally, if there is little to no spit up on it, I will let Abe wear the same onsie for 2 days. The only reason I would change him is to see him in something different and frankly, that just adds to the laundry. 
  • I give him belly raspberry kisses, even though it makes him cry.

Reasons why I'm a good mom:

  • Abe is healthy and still alive.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Not going to lie, motherhood still sucks some days. Abe is doing many, many cute things that help me stay motivated to keep driving when we come up on a fire station. Sleep is more common at night, though there is little of it during the day. They call it "consolidated" napping when Abe sleeps more than 20 minutes without screaming, spitting, or writing a novel about how he was "wronged" in his early life. Needless to say, he's up to chapter 5.
In other news, people are still lying to me. You'd think that with all the blogging I've done regarding the truth about being a mother here in the beginning that people would get it: I don't take well to lying. Now, I'm not claiming that the whole, "It gets better," catch-phrase that the entire world has apparently had a meeting about and decided to use on me is a lie. I'm sure it does get better. He has to move out eventually, right? What I don't understand is why people keep telling me the exact week it will get better. "The first 3 weeks are the hardest." Yeah, it didn't get a whole lot easier week 4.
Then when I continued being honest about my troubles after four weeks, I got, "He'll turn the corner at 6 weeks, you'll see!" Guess what? No corner. Why would you say that if there's even a remote possibility that my baby will not turn a corner at 6 weeks?
Then it just got funny. When 6 weeks passed, I was spoon-fed, "They start sleeping at 8 weeks." I bought that hook, line, and sinker.
Finally, it almost became comical when I was told, "You'll really see a change in personality at 10 weeks." Well, we're at 10 weeks. And if by "personality" you mean "tone of voice while crying," then yes, his "personality" has changed to a higher, screamier pitch.
I'm hopping off the Negative Nelly Horse now to tell you that "better" is relative. What I've been missing all along is that "better" cannot be a comparison to my old life. I will not sleep until 9:30 on a Saturday for a long time. I won't even sleep through the night for a long time without waking up to wonder what my baby is doing, if he's hungry, or whether or not my boobs will explode if I go back to sleep without pumping. I won't run by Target to "grab" something again for many, many years. My husband and I won't have meaningful conversations over casual dinners and a good glass of wine anytime soon. HOWEVER, I will find some new and weird little game to play with my baby that makes him laugh, and I'll play it day in and day out for a week with nearly the same satisfaction I feel when I find a sale at Old Navy on top of the 15% off coupon I have in my pocket. "Better" is now defined by only getting up twice in the middle of the night as opposed to 8 times.  It's now 40 minute naps instead of 10. It's baby poop everyday instead of once a week. It's spitting up RIGHT BEFORE I change his outfit instead of right after. It's Abe's eyes tracking a toy and his hands holding onto my shirt. It's watching him think and discover. It's actually enjoying the time I spend with him and looking forward to him waking up.
So, if you were one of the people who gave me the next, "Everything will get better in 2 weeks" line, there is a special place in heaven waiting for you for giving me a reason to live for two more weeks.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


From "Bonnie"

When my first born was 2 weeks old, I was bound and determined to get a haircut. I loaded him up in the car seat and away we went. Somehow I got lost along the way and was late to the appointment. In a rush to get inside, I grabbed the car seat and walked briskly into the building where I promptly slipped, tripped, and slid across the room. I dropped the car seat, baby and all. I lunged for the seat, pulled it towards me, and began checking to see if I’d broken my baby. I then sat bawling on the floor of the hair salon because I was certain that he would never recover and that I'd scarred him for life. Of course, the baby was fine. The worst thing that happened was he woke up!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Make a Scene

So much has been said about bullying in the past few months. I love seeing people like Ellen using her celebrity to bring attention to how bullying can affect a child. The girls who bullied me in high school did it with such perfect manipulation and judgement that I couldn't even tell someone how badly it hurt me because I wasn't even sure how to explain their actions. I just knew I was alienated and alone. Sure, I was a drama nerd, but even drama nerds shouldn't have to eat their lunches in the bathroom. No one should.
Then came the dad in the Orlando area who got onto his daughter's school bus and went all "Florida" on the kids, threatening every child with death or severe pain if any one of them bullied his little girl. Extreme? Sure, but the kids were taunting her, hitting her, pulling on her ears, smacking her bottom, and even throwing things like condoms at her head for weeks. Now that I have Abe, I can't exactly say I would do much differently if I knew my little boy confided in trusting adults that kids were hitting him on the bus and no one did a damn thing about it. Who else will protect my kid?? And now that dad is facing jail time because he stood up for his baby when no one else would. (Sort of a parent's job, wouldn't ya say?) Where are the parents of the bullies? I don't see them facing any consequences.
Since becoming a parent, my brain has been flooded with memories of my father (who passed away when I was 7) that were long since buried. And when bullying became a hot topic in the media I was reminded of an ordinary school night when I was about 5 years old. My dad was all of 5'4", maybe? He was broad-chested and had a firey spirit (yep, that's where I get it). I came home one day and told him that a big boy on the school bus was bullying me. The boy was in 2nd grade and he would tug on the lace of my pretty clothes and laugh at me, or flick my hair and call me a baby. I was terrified of this boy and everytime I got on the bus I felt like I was going to throw up. My dad told me the best thing to do is ignore the bully and sit far away from him. I think my parents told the bus driver because she always tried to make sure I wasn't seated near to him, but she had a whole bus to worry about. Moving away from him worked for the most part.
One night my dad asked me if I wanted to go out for I-C-E C-R-E-A-M. He spelled it and because I was only 5, I had to write the letters one by one on a piece of paper and try to decipher his message. I figured it out in a few minutes and shouted, "ICE CREAM!!!!" The moment we walked into the ice cream place, I saw him. The bully was waiting to get ice cream, too. I whispered, "That's the bully." My dad looked at me and I saw a flame light in his eyes. He turned around and, rather loudly, asked me, "Him? That's the bully?" I think the bully was taller than my dad, but that didn't matter. My dad marched up to him and started SCREAMING right there in the middle of the ice cream place. I only remember him saying, "YOU SEE THIS LITTLE GIRL? IF YOU EVER..." , and then I remember both the boy and his mom running out of the ice cream place before they even got ice cream. He didn't bother me anymore after that.
I hope more parents start standing up for their kids instead of waiting for the schools to do it for them.
I remember feeling so safe and protected by my dad. He did what a lot of parents would be too scared to do. He made a scene. I can't say that I will chase any kids out of an ice cream store, but I can tell you that if anyone bullies my boy for any reason at all, I know how to make a scene. A pretty big one. And I'll do it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Through a Husband's Eyes

I asked my husband to write a blog from a man's perspective on what it is like to be a first-time dad. It took him a few days, and this is what he decided to send me. It is the text-transcripts between himself and Doula Schmoula in the days and hours leading up to Abe's birth. I realized that my husband was somewhat freaked out while I was in labor, but even I was surprised to read his level of concern and self-doubt throughout those early morning hours. 

2010-08-26            Afternoon, Three Days before Abe was Born
2:28:23           From Husband            At doctor now. 4cm and 80% efaced.  Doc said we are in labor. Still talking.  Will keep u apprised. I think he wants to admit us. Fighting to go back home.

2:37:22            From Husband            Ok. We wiggled our way out. Gonna head home.
2:37:30            From Husband            Call you in a bit
2:38:12            From Doula Schmoula  Um. If you're not contracting, you're not in labor. ;)
2:44:38            From Husband            She is contracting. Several times an hour. Nothing consistent or regular, but strong enough to stop her from doing anything
2:47:27            From Doula Schmoula            Ok.

2010-08-29            The Early Morning Hours of the Day Abe was Born
04:13:41            From Husband            Were up. She's still exhausted and having some contractions. It seemed like she got some rest
04:14:36            From Husband            From about 10-3 there wasn't much but now were moaning. She says she wants to be done. Dunno what the next step is
04:16:59            From Doula Schmoula The only way to get to the end is to walk through it. Do these contractions seem like before or do they seem different?
04:18:29            From Husband            In the middle of one. Seem the same as when we left for the hospital From what I can tell
04:20:18            From Husband            She's just too exhausted. Says she can't take it anymore. Dunno what the threshold is. Should we go in?
04:21:24            From Doula Schmoula   Ok. The key here is to not ask her to do things but to tell her, i.e. "this is the next step". Put her in the tub and feed her something. Toast and egg maybe?
04:22:18            From Husband            In tub now. I gave her some melon.
04:24:43            From Husband            Making toast w peanut butter now
04:26:22            From Doula Schmoula   That is good. As far as the "i can'ts" go, we know she can. And it is best to try to keep her in the moment and out of her head. Is she relaxing or is she fighting them?
04:28:10            From Husband            They are progressing. The mental is tough on her. The I cants are rolling in
04:29:49            From Doula Schmoula            How long as she been in tub?
04:31:25            From Husband            Maybe 20. She's out now. Got out on her own while I was making toast
04:32:35            From Doula Schmoula            Ok. Eat some toast and then go for a walk. Is she shakey?
04:33:33            From Husband            She is walking the room. She is shakey she said. Walking and moaning
04:34:15            From Doula Schmoula            Moaning with contractions or the whole time?
04:35:08            From Husband            Pretty much the whole time
04:35:35            From Doula Schmoula            How quick are they coming?
04:35:55            From Husband            3 min or so. On the bed in her knees for contractions. Kinda doing what she wants. Doesn't wanna listen
04:37:43            From Doula Schmoula            That's fine. She is following her instincts. Knee chest is good. Or on ball doing big circles. How are you feeling?
04:38:31            From Husband            K. She is discouraged. I’m worried for her. It's tough. She said she doesn't think you understand. Dunno what that means. They seem to be getting more intense to me
04:40:16            From Doula Schmoula            You think i should head back over?
04:41:06            From Husband            Maybe. If you don't I would probably take her in. Just don't have the confidence
04:42:50            From Doula Schmoula            There isn't an absolute right or wrong here. Let me change clothes and i'll see you shortly. Need coffee?
04:43:46            From Husband            If you're already stopping. If not just come here and we can make some here.

04:45:18            From Husband            Ohh. Maybe come here? It's making me nervous. Seems to be getting stronger
04:45:29            From Doula Schmoula            K. I'll hurry.
04:46:18            From Husband            K. Call when you're here. I'll let you in
04:46:26            From Doula Schmoula            K

05:18:59            From Husband            You could probably get coffee if you want. She might have hit a rhythm
05:20:28            From Doula Schmoula            K. I'll run back to the Gate Station. Whaddya want?
05:21:37            From Husband            Just a coffee. Thnx.
05:22:09            From Doula Schmoula            Sure

05:40:39            From Doula Schmoula            I'm here

Doula Schmoula Left the Delivery Room to Update the Moms
10:58:14            From Husband            they're getting delivery cart ready