And we’re here

Well, I was definitely worried about our day of travel but I have to say, what we experienced was 1,000 TIMES MORE HORRIFIC than anything I could have imagined. It just goes to show that there is no point in worrying, as you may have to deal with something far worse than you were worrying about in the first place.

And yesterday was far worse than anything I had imagined in the week prior to our trip. Yesterday was the worst travel day I’ve ever experienced.

It started with the storm hitting California and the fact that the first leg of our journey was from San Francisco to LA. We had purposefully chosen this layover as there are rarely winter weather problems in LA and we figured we’d be safe from any snow storms that might close midwestern airports. Of course we end up flying on one of three days of the year that southern California gets weather or any kind, let alone of the inclement variety.

Needless to say we realized pretty quickly we were not going to make our connecting flight. So we got booked on a much later flight to Dallas and then an early morning flight to St. Louis. The problem was that we had so little time in between when we landed in Dallas and had to be back at the airport the next morning that it made more sense to sleep in the airport.

Sleep in the airport. With a 6 month old.

Yeah, that was the plan. Lacking other options we took the new flights, requesting that our luggage go to Dallas with us so we’d have the checked car seat and baby bed with us for our overnight stay. We were told our checked bags would meet us there (anyone detect ominous foreshadowing?)

By the time we got booked on a new flight we’d already been in the airport for over three hours. We had two more until our Dallas flight was estimated to leave, but it had already been delayed several times. Isa was so overstimulated by the lights, people and announcements that she wouldn’t eat much of anything and she certainly couldn’t sleep. I kept trying to feed her but it only resulted in my milk letting down about four times and my daughter not actually eating anything, leaving me with very heavy, uncomfortable breasts.

When it had been five hours and Isa still hadn’t slep I decided to try some Benedryl which our pediatrician had said we could use to coax her into sleeping. The stuff had barely touched her lips before she vomited all over me. All the effort I’d spent trying to get some nourishment and hydration into her tiny body was totally ruined. Also, I was covered, literally covered, in vomit. I had no clothes and was about 7 hours from reaching my first destination.

Now the real fun begins.

We finally get on the plane. Isa still hasn’t slept and has barely eaten anything. It’s past her bedtime and she’s skipped her second nap entirely. Still, she’s being a great sport. On the plane though, things start to catch up with her. She’s tired but she can’t sleep. She cries a lot and blows out her diaper. The fasten seat belt sign NEVER turns off so we have to change her across Mi.Vida’s lap. Isa also throws up all over me again. The man next to us never once acknowledges our existence. I end up spending the only thirty minutes of the flight where she actually sleeps sitting sideways so her feet won’t hit his arm or rest in his lap. Mi.Vida is upset that we’re even attempting this insane overnight in Dallas. Isa cries or vocalizes loudly for much of the flight but rallies at the end and is all smiles. We wonder how in the hell she’s still standing.

We arrive in Dallas past midnight and promptly discover that our luggage was not detoured to Dallas but has checked straight through to St. Louis. The good news is it will beat us to the airport the next morning. The bad news is we don’t have a bed for Isa or a car seat to take her to the cheap motel we’ve decided to spring for. Luckily (I’m trying to find the silver lining here), airlines have car seats they loan out when the ones people check are lost (I guess this happens a lot) and they are able to wrangle one up for us if we can only walk a significant distance to another baggage claim. We do so and the cheap motel’s complimentary shuttle service picks us up. I have to speedily install this foreign car seat in time to stop the driver from speeding away with the trunk door open. It’s a scary two mile drive to the motel.

Once there we try to make the most of the 3 hours and 45 minutes we have to sleep. Isa throws up her fourth meal. Some of it lands in the bed but most of it makes it to the floor. We lay out a towel to keep from sleeping on the wet sheets. Isa sleeps between Mi.Vida and I with her Forest Rain sounds blasting from Mi.Vida’s iPod Touch at the head of the bed. It takes her about an hour to settle down and fall asleep. I make it through the entire Forest Rain track (55 minutes long) two times before I managed to put it on repeat and fall asleep. At 4:45am our alarms go off and we get back into yesterday’s clothes. I haven’t brushed my teeth and I’m still wearing the same pants and shirt that Isa has thrown up on multiple times. Throughout the trip I’m accompanied by a constant wafting of vomit smell from my shirt.

By the time we make it back to the Dallas airport Isa has only slept four of the 16 hours she’s accustomed to. She’s managed to keep only three meals down, none of them very big. She’s obviously EXHAUSTED but handling it like a real trooper. She is amazing.

Luckily our Dallas to St. Louis flight leaves right on time and is practically empty. Isa gets to lay down over two seats and sleeps for an hour of the short flight. She is also keeping down her considerably sized breakfast. Things are looking up.

At 8:40am we arrive in St. Louis. I realize that I haven’t once actually thought about making it here, I was totally focused on surviving the insane journey.

Today was very low key. Isa slept 5 hours during the day and then had a meltdown at around 6:30pm. By the time we got her home she was way too tired and it took her over an hour to get to sleep. As I’m typing this she finally seems to have nodded off. We’ll see what tonight brings.

I have to say, the almost 24 hours it took us to get here were harrowing, but we made it. I’m so tired and can’t wait to hit the sack myself. Of course, our bed is covered in luggage and clothes and we have to clean it off in the dark without waking our sleeping daughter, but after last night’s ordeal it seems very manageable.

I hope all of you have much easier travel experiences than we did this Christmas.

Happy Travels!

Mountains and Valleys

Saturday morning I wrote the following post:

Mi.Vida and I are fighting. Or we just fought. I don’t know. I’m too tired to discern the difference.

Somehow I haven’t mentioned it much here but Isa’s sleeping has been really rough lately. Gone are the days of our amazing sleep trained baby. I don’t know what it is, but my baby girl is crying through long parts of the night. Never more than an hour at a time, but sometimes 40+ minutes, three times a night. It’s wearing on me. Making me sad, depressed even. It is sucking the joy out of my days, my last days with my daughter. It’s really, really hard.

The problem is I don’t know how to make it stop. Do I just start picking her up and comforting her, throwing away all the sleep training we did? Even if I did pick her up, would she stop crying? I don’t know what she wants, what she needs. Has she been thrown off by the time shift? Is she cold at night now that the temperature has dropped? Am I not producing enough milk? Is she napping too long? Not enough? Is she now used to sleeping next to me with her binki in the day and wants to do so during the night? Will simply rocking her be enough? There were so many nights when she screamed in my arms for hours on end and nothing I could do would help. Is this a similar situation? What is happening to my baby girl?

Mi.Vida and I are fighting because I feel like it’s my responsibility to solve this problem, or at least offer possible solutions and try them out. I spend so much of my day reading about sleep issues, trying to contact sleep consultants or enroll in sleep solution classes (which are all wait listed this month). I mull over possible problems and decide on how I might tackle them. I attempt different strategies and when they fail I return to the drawing board equipped with this new, and many times, unhelpful, information. Every once in a while I run my ideas past Mi.Vida and invariably receive an “okay” or “sounds good” or “that makes sense” in reply.

I didn’t get to finish that post but I was going to talk about how overwhelmed I feel and that I can’t handle being responsible for making all the important decisions about raising Isa. I know Mi.Vida has had much less experience with children and can’t spend as much time as I do researching these things but I need his help. I was going to talk about how resentful I was feeling. I was going to broach the subject of the rift I forming between us.

I was going to talk about how I was starting to worry that the stresses of parenthood might actually come between us, like really come between us, like cause irreparable damage. I was going to talk about how I worried that, eventually, I’d lose him to these challenges.

But then we had a really good day. Despite being exhausted and frustrated and unsure of how to proceed we picked ourselves up, dusted each other off and actually found it in ourselves to support one another. We made jokes about how the bottom felt like it was falling out. We scrambled to take the blame for both “covert and overt needling”. We laughed. We giggled. We doted over Isa and reflected on our incredible fortune. We assured each other that we’d make it through this.

And to my great relief, Mi.Vida showered me with affection and showed me that he had it in him to get through this, despite how hard it might be. By Saturday night I felt so much better.

Then Saturday night, despite a very difficult start to the evening, Isa allowed us 8 straight hours of sleep and we both woke up so well rested and refreshed. Literally the first thought through my head upon waking was, I don’t feel tired right now. It was regenerative.

Sunday was a busy day. Isa and I went to visit a family I used to babysit for while Ben headed to airport for a 24 hour business trip to Chicago. After visiting two girls who’s diaper I used to change but who are now almost in high school we rushed back to the city for a sleep solutions seminar. It was GREAT and I can’t wait to put all I learned into action. I promise I’ll tell you all the great stuff this Useful Tuesday.

To finish up the day, I dropped Isa off with my in-laws so I could turn in a paper that was due by 8pm.

Finally we headed home, I got Isa in bed (and asleep) by 7:30 and then I started the first of many loads of laundry.

All in all it was an eye-opening and ultimately endearing weekend.

What did you do this weekend? Anything fun?

BUENAS NOTICIAS – Mi.Vida took Friday off and we took Isa up to Sonoma for some wine tasting. Isa was a great sport and I got to wet my lips with many a wonderful vintage. I also took some great pictures of Isa, but you’ll have to wait until Wednesday to see them!

Sleep Watch Update: Sleep Training Attempt #1

I have no time to blog tonight. I’m at a cafe while my inlaws watch my daughter. I should be doing my grad school work but instead I’m writing this. I just hate going a day without putting something out there. So today I’ll just say that we’ve come to a decision about the sleep situation.

After two pretty horrendous nights of me getting up myriad times to reinsert Isa’s paci, we’ve decided we’re going to start sleep training. All this time I haven’t been sure, but now I finally know that this is what’s right for our family. You might think it’s horrible that we’re going to let our daughter cry tonight, with only a few visits at her cribside to assure her everything is alright, but we truly believe it’s what’s best (in the long term) for our wee one. She always seems tired, is constantly rubbing her raw, red eyes and just seems like she needs a much better night’s sleep than she’s getting. I’m hoping it won’t be too bad, as she already falls asleep in her crib at night, sometimes without the aid of a paci. While I know it is going to be heartbreaking, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

Last night I was up with her so much, and nothing was being accomplished, it was all reactionary. At least tonight I’ll know that the crying has a purpose and the exhaustion (hers, mine, my partner’s) is bringing us closer to something. Even if it brings us closer to knowing this doesn’t work, at least we’ll have more information than we had before.

I am nervous, don’t get me wrong. Every smile today has broken my heart. I feel like she’s showing me her love while I silently know I’m about to betray her. Having said that I ABSOLUTELY feel this is the right thing for my daughter, for me and for my family. I do think it’s going to work, even after just three or four nights, and it will be difficult if it doesn’t, but I know now that we need to try.

I will post again tomorrow telling you how it went. Wish us luck.

Useful Tuesdays: A Mothers Group

Foreword: I’m sorry this is so late. My darling daughter did not give me a minute this morning to write and then we were at our city college child observation class and then we were returning a stroller and then we were walking to Safeway and then it was bedtime. Ffew, I’m tired just writing all that… Anyway, I never know if I should even post a “day” post (like Mindful Mondays or Thoughtful Thursdays) when it’s this late since everyone is actually going to read it on the following day, but I guess I’ll just go for it. Tomorrow is Wordless Wednesday anyway, so it’s not like you’ll be inundated with “writing” from me anyway.

Today, for Useful Tuesdays, I want to talk about Mothers Groups. I’m sure every pregnant mother is urged to seek out and attend a mother’s (is it mothers or mother’s or mothers’?) group while pregnant, or in the early postpartum days. Some mothers respond with, “well OF COURSE I’ll join a mothers group, I’m actually already sign-up for two” and others nod their head politely while sighing to themselves, “there is NO WAY I’m going to sit around with a bunch of other new moms in sweatpants and puke stained shirts waxing philosophical about how all I want is four hours of shut eye.” I can understand both view points, but I really do believe that mothers groups are more beneficial than detrimental, and here is why…

1) It’s a group! (Ah, so it’s not just a clever name) Motherhood can be quite isolating, especially after all the family has come and gone and your partner is back at work. The days at home with your tiny baby, who’s not really bringing much to the table, can drag on and on. There are only so many times you can sing Itsy-Bitsy Spider or raspberry their stomach or read yourself them a book. Eventually, it becomes mind numbing and being out with other people, whether you really like them or not, can be very therapeutic. You’d be surprised how much it helps to just talk to people, or even just lay eyes on them. And the best thing about a mothers group is that …

2) Everyone there is a mom! (Again, the name kind of gives this one away). This might seem less than necessary, and there will be times when you CRAVE some time with a girlfriend you had before your baby came (and who doesn’t have a baby herself) and you should definitely do that when the urge arises (or even when it doesn’t), but being with other mothers is also very helpful, especially in the early days. You might not think you want to talk about sleep schedules or breast/bottle feeding or projectile vomiting or pumpkin colored poo, but when it’s all you think about, and all you do all day, it can be nice to compare notes and put things in perspective. Of course you’ll want to spend time NOT talking about your child too, but most of the time, especially at first, that is all you’ll want (or be able) to discuss, and generally nobody wants to discuss it with you except other (new) moms.

3) It gets you out of the house. Did I mention the days get long? Well they do. Long and monotonous and there is something really wonderful about having something to do in a day. You’d be surprised how much faster the day goes when you know you have to be somewhere and then come home from that place after having been away for while. Even if it’s only for an hour, by the time you factor in getting there (which takes three times as long with a baby in tow) and getting home (which I find sometimes takes even longer), a good chunk of your day has been spent. And that feels really, really good. I find that days without anything scheduled downright scare me and I usually create my own adventure to fill the afternoon. Take two buses across town, spending more than two hours in transit, to buy some water mat a friend recommended? Why not? I literally don’t have anything else to do and my daughter LOVES being out and about. Mothers groups are an especially nice destination because when you get there, you actually have someone to talk to, besides the crazy guy sitting next to you on the bus, and (adult) human contact can be very, very valuable indeed (see numbers 1 and 2 above).

4) You learn something. I have learned so much from my mother’s group, but mostly I’ve learned that whatever I think is wrong, is probably alright and that generally, I can stop worrying. I learn this from the leader of our group and I learn this from the other mothers. Talking with someone who has some knowledge about babies (the group leader) and other people who are struggling with (or rejoicing in) similar situation (the mothers) helps me keep things in perspective. For some reason it really does make me feel better to know that other mothers are also not getting any sleep and trudging through their days like zombies because of it. I’ve also loved all the songs and activities I’ve learned at my mothers group. I may not have mentioned, but my mothers group is in Spanish and every day I learn a new rhyme or song or story in Spanish that I can share with Isa during the long, laborious days when I’m not at mother’s group. I’ve been introduced to some wonderful children’s books and even made fun finger and hand puppets and other simple toys to share with my daughter. She delights in all of these little treasures and they really do help pass the time. I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile with Isa when I got the idea from mothers group.

Basically, a mothers group gives you a community that you can fall back on in the early days, when you need it most. Having a baby is crazy culture shock – the most intense of transitions. It’s hard to make the change from your former, normal self to your new, nurturing, know-it-all, selfless, confident and kick-ass mother persona and it helps to have some support from people who are making the move themselves.

And that is why I think mothers groups are worth the time, the effort and even the money (if you can’t find one that’s free). If you have any questions about how to find a mother’s group in your area, feel free to email me and I’ll give you some tips that helped me.

Mindful Mondays: Impermanence

I was going to write another Sleep Watch post but frankly, I’m, well, tired. I’m tired of thinking about sleeping. I’m tired of talking about sleeping. I’m tired of reading sleeping. I’m tired of writing about sleeping. I’m tired of tracking Isa’s sleeping.  But most of all I’m tired of being tired.

I think the only way I can get through this right now is just to just… get through it. I’m currently attempting to accept this situation as not good or bad but just what is. I’m trying to embrace my feelings of exhaustion without regarding them negatively. I’m trying to live in the present moment and not look back at the disastrous night before or look ahead anxiously to Isa’s next nap (or returning to work). I’m trying to remind myself that everything changes – the great Buddhist teaching of Impermanence.

I keep asking myself, why is being tired bad? Only because I view it as being bad. (That, and my mind is so frazzled that I just dropped (or put down) my wallet at Old Navy on Friday and then cried for twenty minutes before someone turned it in.) But really, exhaustion is something we perceive as negative because physically we feel less than stellar. Interestingly, our negative feelings about being tired actually make the experience worse than it would be if we just experience the physical sensations without judgment and with the realization that this too, shall pass.

On Friday, as I trudged back downtown to pick up my wallet from Old Navy, I came across a wonderful teaching in Buddhism for Mothers. I was feeling like a super worthless excuse for a human being and I was sure I was going to ruin my life, my daughter’s life and my partner’s life with my absentmindedness and distraction when I came across this paragraph. Even while wallowing in self pity, I recognized how perfectly this message related to my mind state.

When I’m feeling at my lowest ebb emotionally, I notice my tendency to generalize the negativity: everything is dreadful, it always has been and it always will be and it’s all my fault – and everybody else’s too. It sounds almost comical with I’m in a lighter mood but at the time I believe these thoughts. With it’s emphasis on impermanence, Buddhism helps us at such times acknowledge that the mood will pass, that we won’t feel like this for long and might even feel quite happy in a few hours time; we can weather it for now and avoid assigning it any major significance.

I’ve tried to hold on to this teaching this weekend. There are times when I’m better at remembering than others. There are times when I’m better at accepting this teaching (and my tired eyes and aching back) than others. Many have reiterated what I’ve told myself, this too shall pass, and while I know it to be true, it’s hard not to struggle against the unpleasantness now. But if I remember that everything is impermanent, everything changes, I do feel a weight lifting. I do feel… like I can do this.

Then I realize that much of the unpleasantness is my anxiety about how this will affect graduate school and then my return to work. I’ve repeated many times that if I were just at home with Isa, this would be bearable, but when I return to work I’ll be unable to function. How I’ve said this countless times without ever once realizing, but right now you ARE just at home with Isa so right now it IS okay and nothing about right now says anything about six weeks from now, when you’re back at work. Now I see clearly, once again, that only by living in the present moment, and accepting it without labeling it as good or bad, can I find peace. Dwelling in the future, a future I can’t know before it transforms into the present, can do absolutely nothing to improve how I’m feeling now. In fact, it can only make me feel worse.

But what about all the things right now that do bother me? What about my disaster of an apartment and my looming graduate school work (that tomorrow morning will be a large part of my present)? What about the fact that I’m sick of shit sticking to my feet when I walk down my halls but I don’t have the time or energy to sweep?

Well, as a good friend of my said to me today, wear slippers.

Of course. Slippers! And right now, in this present moment, wear slippers is what I shall do.

My kind of Mother(hood)

I’ve been having a really hard time lately. And I’m recently realizing it’s not just the sleep deprivation, it’s much more than that. Lately, I’ve been having a mother-related identity crisis. It’s not that I don’t know how to incorporate motherhood into my identity, but more accurately I don’t know how to define my motherhood. I don’t know what kind of mother I want to be.

But that doesn’t really say it either. Of course I know the kind of mother I want to be. I want to be a caring, supportive, loving mother who challenges her child intellectually, understands her emotionally and supports her creatively. I want to my nurture my child while encouraging her independence. I want to teach my daughter my values and raise her to question those values before championing them herself. I know what kind of mother I want to be, the problem is I don’t know how to be that kind of mother.

Not two days ago I proudly posted about learning from my mistake to following my instincts. I told a story of how I felt betrayed by the medical establishment and wished I had listened to my gut instead of my lactation consultant. Ah how simple it seemed then. How obvious. I look back on that post and wonder how it alluded me for so long.

This desperation I’ve felt – all this time I thought it was a mixture of sleep deprivation and the frustration of being totally ineffectual. Now I realize it’s much more than that. While those are two big components of my current crisis, the real issue is the fact that I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to be the mother I want to be. I don’t know how to turn my aspirations into actions.

Today I went on Amazon and put five books about motherhood into my basket. Even though I will never have time to read those books, I felt desperate to buy them. As part of my current stopping-overshopping efforts I paused and asked myself why I wanted these books. Why did I suddenly feel like I had to have what amounted to over 1,000 pages of reflection on motherhood, being a mom, parenting and relationships after children? What did I hope to find in those pages?

What I hoped to find is a connection. What I hoped to find is a philosophy that feels right. What I hoped to find are instructions on how to be a mom: instructions that I actually want to follow.

In my “I am mother! I shall trust my instincts!” post I forgot to tackle a very important pothole in the highway of Follow My Gut. That all consuming crater is, What Happens When My Gut Doesn’t Tell Me Where To Go?

In the past week I’ve read pages upon pages about sleep training. I’ve read about crying it out and kind of crying it out and nighttime parenting and no-cry sleep solutions. None of these seems immediately right or wrong to me. None of them take me by the shoulders, shake me wildly and scream, Ah yes! This makes sense to me. This is definitely what I want to do!

I’m definitely not a full fledge attachment parenter. I don’t think I should always wear Isa instead of push her in a stroller. I can’t imagine carrying my daughter in a sling around the house for three or more hours a day either (neither do my shoulders and back). On the other hand, I don’t think I should leave my daughter to cry in her crib for an entire night nor would I suggest she sleep in her own room from day one to learn independence. I suppose I, like so many mothers, fall somewhere in the middle. The problem is, there aren’t a lot of books written for us middle-of-the-road mothers. And if there are, they mostly tell you what both sides are saying about the issue and leave you to decide.

And I suppose that is my conundrum, I don’t know how to decide. I don’t know what to do with my daughter to make her sleep. I try patiently putting her paci back in her mouth every time she cries but when I’ve been in there fives times in an hour I start to wonder if I should just let her cry it out. Then I tell myself, one more week of this no-cry stuff and you bring out the big guns and try to let her cry. Then she’s crying again and I’m standing outside her room thinking, maybe I just give her five minutes right now, maybe she’ll fall asleep just like that, and this will all be over. Standing over her crib, waiting for her to spit her paci out for the umpteenth time I ponder the most difficult question, “when is what’s best for me also what’s best for my daughter?” “When do my needs come first so I can be there more effectively for her?”

I think tonight I’m realizing that no book can answer that question for me. Tonight I realize that I have to answer that question for myself. And whatever I choose, that choice, and all the subsequent choices, will define who I am as a mother. It’s not who I want to be, but what I actually do. And every day I’m going to make choices that affect my daughter profoundly and I’m not always going to know how to best make those choices and I guess that’s going to have to be okay.

And now comes the part where I make peace with my imperfections and take comfort in the fact that my daughter will be okay, as long as my choices are made out of love. And while I may not know what to do, I’m certain my overwhelming love for my daughter will always guide me in doing it.

Sleep Situation Update

Well, things continue to go poorly. I know that what I’m doing will be helpful but I’m realizing I have a lot working against me.

For one, I don’t know if my daughter is enjoying her crib, or more accurately, if her being away from me is making her wake up more.

I also KNOW that as I try to ween her from her Woombie addiction by keeping both arms free, she’s waking up much more than usual.

My first thought was, get all of it over at once so when we come out on the other side of this there will be no reason to go back. But as the nights wear on and my exhaustion amplifies I don’t know if I have that in me anymore. I don’t know if I should just bring Isa back into my room or keep her one arm in her Woombie or both. I just don’t know anymore. I’m so tired. I feel so broken. I just don’t know how this is ever going to be better.

Last night I woke up for no reason, sure I could hear Isa crying. The monitor didn’t light up (I love that it lights up when she really does cry – it’s so easy to see) but I was sure, just sure I heard her. I lay there for over ten minutes before I realized that sleep deprivation was driving me a little batty. I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up.

I’m going to keep going with the feeding schedule. In my desperation I both brought Isa in my bed this morning and nursed her to sleep only two and a half hours after her last feeding. We both slept in until 9am (which I didn’t want to do as I’m trying to keep her on a schedule).

Any advice on what I should do? Did you deal with problems while transitioning away from the swaddle or into a big crib? Should I just let her keep using the Woombie even though she’s about to roll from back to front (which she might have done yesterday)?