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Teething is very sad for all parties involved. Baby Bear is currently teething (again) and/or sick. She has a nasty-sounding cough, which I think is caused by all her teething drool. Last night at about 12:30 a.m. she would not stop screaming. Usually she will easily fall back asleep if I nurse her, but this was not the case last night. Finally I just got up and sat with her on the couch so that my husband could sleep. After awhile of this she fell asleep and I was able to go back to bed and sleep with her head propped up on my shoulder. She still woke up every few hours after this until we finally got up around 7:30.

It’s days like this that I’m thankful that I don’t have to go to work. Although sometimes I feel like parents who work have it easier, since they get to have a life away from their child. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. (Not that I had the option of going back to work — I got laid off during my maternity leave).

Anyway, I look forward to the time when Baby Bear has all her teeth AND sleeps well all night. I also look forward to the days when she is potty-trained and no longer puts everything in her mouth! And most of all, I’m excited for when she can talk and tell me what she’s thinking and feeling. She is 11-months-old already so I know those days are coming…slowly.

Now I have to go stop her from climbing the bookshelf.

One year later
By Ursula Crawford

One year later,
the tulips are blooming again
and I remember

how in birth
my body was ripped
open. Broken.
My strength taken.

Days later,
I can barely stand and I
dream my teeth are breaking.
I sleep in 90-minute stretches
and pray to stay lucid.

Slowly, over weeks and months
my body heals, my strength returns,
and I piece together a new life,
trading staff meetings for diaper changes,
adult conversation for baby sign language.

One year later,
my life, my heart belong
to you, the one
who grips my finger tightly
in her tiny fist.

In birth I have been made new.

Mothers have been breastfeeding their babies throughout human history, so one would think that this natural act would come easily. At least that’s what I thought, before my daughter was born. My husband and I even went to a breastfeeding class at the hospital in order to be extra prepared.  “Newborn babies instinctively crawl to the breast after birth!” the lactation specialist cheerfully told us.

It was a rude awakening then to find that: 1) my newborn baby had no clue how to latch on, 2) I was so exhausted I could barely hold her in my lap, and 3) I had to breastfeed her every two hours around the clock for the first several weeks of life.

I know that I am not the only one who had a hard time with breastfeeding. I have heard other moms say that breastfeeding is one of the hardest things they’ve ever done. But since nursing is by far the healthiest and most cost-effective option for feeding your newborn, I offer you some tips for success.

Invest in a Brest Friend pillow.  Although I was hesitant to buy a $50 pillow, I found that it was well worth the money. It gave stable support to my daughter’s body and made it easy to get her into a good positioning for nursing.

Learn the side lying position.  Finally learning this nursing position when my daughter was about two-months-old made my life so much better – I wish I’d gotten it down sooner.  When you’re exhausted in the middle of the night, it’s much easier to lie in bed and nurse than to sit up in a chair. You can watch videos of this and other breastfeeding positions on YouTube to learn how it’s done.

Splurge on a double electric breast pump.  Even if you’re not planning on returning to work, this is an important investment – and your insurance company may even reimburse you. You will want the option of occasionally having someone else bottlefeed your baby, and it will be difficult to get enough milk without a double electric pump. Once we got the go ahead from the lactation specialist to bottlefeed, my husband took over one feeding per night. This allowed me to get much-needed four-hour stretches of sleep.

Catch up on your reading list. Reality check – you are going to be spending about eight hours a day breastfeeding your newborn. It can get a little boring. Get some good books or movies to keep your mind occupied and to help make this time more fun for you.

Be positive. Breastfeeding a newborn can be difficult, but it gets easier and more rewarding as time goes on. My daughter and I had a challenging start to our nursing relationship, and it took about a month to figure things out. Now, she is almost 11 months old and I’m still nursing her. Breastfeeding has given her the healthiest possible start to life, helped us bond, saved me time cleaning and sterilizing bottles, and saved our family more than a thousand dollars in formula costs. It has been well worth the challenges.

Candle-flame-no-reflection

 

 

The other week, I attended a dinner party hosted by a lovely couple who had recently lost their baby.  At 38 weeks, he was full-term, ready to join our world. Now, a flickering candle keeps alive the memory of the child they almost had.

I was invited because my husband and I had made them dinner in the weeks following their loss. I was a little nervous about going to dinner. Having a young baby myself, I didn’t want to be a reminder of their pain — as if they could forget.

I was glad to see them strong and healthy, able to talk about their loss without tears. Able to talk about their hopes for a future baby, to smile and laugh.

They were still standing, this attractive and successful couple who had experienced every parent’s greatest fear. It’s hard to imagine surviving such a loss, going back to ordinary routines of work and television and dinners with friends. But what else can you do?

The wife said it helps her to think that her baby is in heaven, and that God needed him for some other task. I’m glad she believes that. And I’m glad I believe it too.

Sometimes it’s easy for me to lose sight of the bigger picture in the midst of the day-to-day. I get caught up in laundry and diaper changes and paying bills. I can forget that I believe in a God who loves me and has an underlying purpose for my life. I forget about my belief that my true home is in heaven. I like how C.S. Lewis describes heaven in The Great Divorce, as a reality even more real than this earth. The ultimate reality.

Still in spite of that, the idea of losing someone I love is devastating to contemplate. To open your heart to love is to be vulnerable to loss.  It would be safer not to love at all. But without love, we would strip life of its meaning. I am so thankful for my daughter and my husband, the joys and struggles and love we share.

 

-UC

(Candle photograph from Wikimedia Commons)

 

 

Dear Baby Bear,

We seem to have a problem. You want to wake up every 2-3 hours at night, and I don’t. I miss the days when I used to get a blissful, uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep and wake up ready to seize the day. Now I spend my days as a half- awake zombie.

I realize that you’re a baby and you don’t really understand what’s going on. The world is new and exciting, and sleeping through the night is a concept you’ve yet to appreciate. Also, I know you don’t like sleeping in your crib, but it can be awkward when you sleep against me, causing my right arm to fall asleep and my left arm to fall off the bed.

Could you try sleeping for longer stretches at night? Maybe even in your own bed? And if you do wake up –– no need to cry. Just go back to sleep and in the morning, I promise we can hang out. What do you think Baby Bear? I guarantee that you and I will both feel better.

Love always,

Mommy

I want to make new friends, but I’m too tired. Plus I forget how.

Probably the first step is to leave the apartment. Which I actually have been doing quite a bit lately. Mondays Baby Bear and I go to sign language class, Tuesdays to the library and on Wednesdays it’s yoga. We try to keep a busy schedule. Hence, I have not been updating my blog.

Going to these activities is great. They provide fun ways for Baby Bear and I to interact, and allow us both to see a little bit of the world. I’m feeling much happier than I did when we sat at home all the time.  However, I kind of wish I could make friends with some of the other moms in these classes.

But how to make friends? If I’m being honest with myself, I’ve never been great at making friends even in the best of situations. Maybe it has to do with being an only child. Or being really nerdy. Whatever. Either way, I’m just an extrovert wannabe.

This is not to say that I don’t have friends. I do. I have some wonderful friends. But it has taken years to make them.

I’ve read How to Win Friends and Influence People. It helped. I now have a general sense of how to converse at a dinner party. If you haven’t read it, the basic gist is: 1) smile 2) ask people lots of questions 3) remember their names 4) give compliments 5) never tell someone that they are wrong – even if they are.

Number 5 is kind of hard. Working on that one. All of them can be hard when you haven’t really slept much for 6 months, actually.

I have made one new friend lately. We’ve been spending a lot of time together. Some might say we’re even best friends. She’s not potty-trained yet, but she does have an amazing sense of humor. Her laugh can light up the whole room.

Me with friends — yes, I have them!

 

Sometimes blessings come in disguise. I have been thinking lately about this Chinese story we read in grad school:

There once was a poor rice farmer, who had a very small field just large enough to feed his family.

Then one day a herd of wild horses came run­ning through the vil­lage. They ran into the farmer’s rice field and got stuck in the mud, and since they couldn’t get away, they were his.

His neigh­bor came run­ning over and said, “This is good news! Such good for­tune! You are rich, this is amaz­ing!” And the rice farmer said, “Good news, bad news, who knows?”

A few weeks later the farmer’s 12-year-old son jumped up on one of the wild horses for a ride, only to be thrown off and have his leg bro­ken. The neigh­bor comes run­ning over and says, “Oh no, this is such bad news!” And the farmer said, “Good news, bad news, who knows?”

A week later a Chi­nese gen­eral is march­ing through the farmer’s vil­lage on the way to war. On this march, the army is con­script­ing every healthy boy over 10 years of age. So they took every boy in the vil­lage except the farmer’s son because of his bro­ken leg.

The neigh­bor comes run­ning over and says, “Yes! This is won­der­ful news, how lucky are we!” And the father replies, “Good news, bad news, who knows?”

During my maternity leave, I was laid off from my job at a private school. Enrollment was down, so my position had to be eliminated. This probably sounds like bad new! But it has allowed me to collect unemployment benefits, about equal to the amount of money I would have been making at that job. So, it is sort of like getting paid maternity leave for another six months or so. This gives me precious time to bond with Baby Bear while she is little.

Another thing is that I did not have health insurance through my work. As a result, I became a member of this great cost-sharing organization called Christian Healthcare Ministries, which paid for all of my prenatal care. They would have also paid for my delivery costs, but I was able to get Medicaid to pay for those costs. And now Baby Bear is on Medicaid, so we don’t even have to pay a co-pay for any of her doctor visits. Other people I know with regular health insurance have had to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket for their deliveries. We didn’t have to pay anything. A huge blessing!

I am sometimes a little bit worried about not having a clear plan for the future. I get frustrated with applying for jobs that I know have hundreds of applicants. I would have had a better chance of getting into an Ivy League college than I do of getting most of the jobs I apply for!

Because I am receiving unemployment, I had to go to the WorkSource office a few weeks ago to take some tests and meet with an employment counselor. The counselor looked at my resume and said, “Oh, you’re a teacher. Time to think of Plan B. We see so many teachers every day.”

Okay, sure. I would also accept a job as a writer for National Geographic or Outside magazine. Maybe White House Press Secretary. I do have a journalism degree, that should be worth something right?

Right?

Well, the point is, I don’t know quite what the future holds. Besides a lot of diaper changes. All I can do is enjoy this opportunity I have to bond with my daughter while she’s a baby. I am thankful to God for this opportunity. I love our time together! Although our conversations are a bit one-sided.

Saturday is Baby Bear’s three-month birthday! Oh my goodness! What a whirlwind these past three months have been.

One of Baby Bear’s favorite things to do is sit on the couch and stare at the elephant mobile that hangs from our ceiling. I hold her and her eyes lock onto the elephants, and she immediately gets a huge smile and starts saying “Ooo!”

I imagine she is saying, “Hello elephant friends! I love watching you dance in the air.”

One of her other favorite things right now is trying to stand up. She will straighten her legs, and then I will hold her up and help her balance. She’s strong! I guess the joke will be on me when she starts walking.

Spencer started walking at 9 months. His mom said that one day he just stood up in the middle of the room and started walking. I also started walking around 9 months, but with assistance. My parents would take me on walks in the stroller and I would get out and push the stroller.

It’s been amazing watching the changes in her over the past few months, from sleepy newborn to smiling, giggly three-month old. I’m looking forward to watching her continue to grow and change.

On Sunday we had her baby dedication service at church. We wanted to have her wear a beautiful christening gown and hat that her great-grandmother had lovingly knit for her. But it was about 90 degrees that day, and the church doesn’t have air conditioning. Not only that, but for some reason the heat was on in the church and no one knew how to turn it off! So, it was too hot to wear the long-sleeved, wool christening gown. She wore a lovely floral dress instead.

All of her grandparents and one great-grandmother came for the service. I love how the baby brings everyone together, and how she is starting out her life with so many people loving her already. Our good friends Jay and Holly, and Bob, came as well — we’ve decided they have honorary aunt and uncle status, since Spencer and I don’t have siblings.

For the dedication, we went up on stage and Spencer prayed for her, and then our pastor prayed for all three of us. When I was pregnant, I had already prayed for her that her life would be dedicated to God. But I felt it was also important to do so publicly. I believe that her life is a gift from God, and I always want to remember that. She is God’s child even more than she is mine.

______________________________________________________________________________

Blessing babies is important in many religious traditions. My denomination holds dedication services, some hold christenings and others perform infant baptisms. Are are any of these rituals important to you? Why or why not?

I know I’m very lucky. Baby Bear is quite an easy baby, who loves to smile. Last night I went to bed at 10 and didn’t wake up until 4:45 a.m.! She was still asleep, but I woke her up to feed her anyway. She’s only 11 weeks and is still supposed to eat at least every 6 hours at night. Then, she went right back to sleep after that and slept until 8 a.m.

I’m so thankful that she’s such a great nighttime sleeper, because I really cannot function without good sleep. I’ve never been one to stay up all night cramming for an exam or writing a paper. I always figured that staying up all night to study for a test does more harm than good.

One thing that is a little difficult with Baby Bear is the frequency of diaper changes. Last night, I took her with me to a baby shower. I only stayed for about an hour, and I had to change her diaper three times! After three diaper changes, I figure it’s probably time to go home. They were all just pee diapers. Every time she pees while awake, she gets fussy and demands a diaper change. So I frequently change her diaper three or more times in an hour. Probably adds up to 15-20 diapers a day. This is expensive and quite exhausting. Many parents seem surprised by this, so I’m assuming that a lot of babies either don’t complain when they have a wet diaper, or just don’t pee as frequently. The upside is that I assume she will be potty trained at an early age. I’m hoping by age 2 — fingers crossed.

In her early weeks of life, we also had the occasional projectile poop during changing. Once I was changing her diaper and she let out a projectile poop that flew across the changing table and hit the door a few feet away. Wow! Quite impressive. Sometimes she also has fountains of pee while I’m changing her, that spray all over herself. I’m just glad Baby Bear is not a boy!

The best is when is when I’m changing her poopy diaper, then she pees all over the changing pad, and then spits up all over herself. The trifecta. She used to spit up frequently during changing. Now she doesn’t spit up as often, probably because her stomach is bigger, and I have also been more vigilant about burping her.

This is the life of a new mom. Cleaning up poop, pee and throw up 20 percent of the day, and breastfeeding the other 80 percent of the day. Reminding yourself to take time to shower, brush your teeth and eat three meals daily. But when I look at my beautiful little girl, it’s all worth it.

How did I survive the first few weeks with a new baby? How does anyone?

My friend Courtney was visiting when Baby Bear was about three weeks old. I told her that we hadn’t been sleeping much, but things had improved since the first week when we hadn’t slept more than a few hours a day.

Didn’t you start hallucinating? she asked.

One would think! According this article I found on the Internet (so we know it’s true!), some side effects of prolonged sleep deprivation include hallucinations, temporary insanity and sometimes death.

I’m happy to say that I didn’t hallucinate, although at times I did feel like I might die. Some things that helped me through the craziness were my husband, our moms, and our amazing friends who brought us meals for the first week. Homemade brownies and lasagna can help you through anything. As can love.

Baby Bear was born on a Saturday, after a night of no sleep.  When we finally got to go home on Monday afternoon, I had still hardly slept despite my extreme exhaustion. The lactation consultant was very clear that I needed to feed her every 3 hours from beginning of feeding to the next. So, if I started feeding her at 8 and finished at 8:45, I would have to make sure to feed her again at 11. That doesn’t leave much opportunity for sleep in between.

I was also still exhausted just from the birth itself. So tired in fact, it took about all my strength just to stand. And I’d experienced some tearing complications that had me on Vicodin and generally feeling awful.

Additionally, we had appointments for Baby Bear every day that first week. She had jaundice and was having problems breastfeeding. So we had two pediatrician visits, two lactation consultant visits, and two trips to the hospital for bilirubin tests.

On Wednesday, they determined she had lost a little more than 10% of her birth weight, which is a red flag for jaundice. So the lactation consultant put us on an even crazier regime where every 2 1/2 hours I had to breastfeed her, then Spencer would feed her breastmilk from a tube while I pumped breastmilk.

On Thursday we both had a meltdown and I called my mother-in-law and asked her to come spend the night. She came, did laundry and dishes, and took over Spencer’s tube feeding duties so that he at least could get some sleep.

Somewhere around Saturday I started having REM sleep again. I’d gone that whole week without dreaming, but I became so exhausted that I would sink into a deep sleep during each brief break between feeding the little one.

On Monday we went back to the lactation consultant, and she still had not gained much weight. I couldn’t believe it after we had worked so hard. The nurse gave us a new plan, where I would breastfeed her and then Spencer would feed her from a bottle. The bottle was able to fit quite a bit more milk than tube we’d been using.

The next day we returned to her pediatrician to find that she had gained several ounces. Thank God! Of course, we had to keep feeding her constantly, but the whole situation was becoming slightly less stressful.

Things have continued to get easier, and now at 10 weeks, Baby Bear is in the 75th percentile for weight and 95th percentile for height. She goes to bed regularly around 10 p.m., and I get up with her around 3 a.m. to feed her. Usually she sleeps for a few more hours after that, although last night she declared a sleeping strike from about 3:30 – 5:30.

Now, she is napping peacefully. I still can’t believe how beautiful she is, with her long, dark eyelashes and little elf ears. It all seems like such a miracle. To have such a sweet, healthy baby. To get through a natural birth and weeks of sleeplessness. To have all of our needs provided for when I was so worried that they wouldn’t be. I don’t know how it all happened. I can only say, thank you thank you thank you.

Now maybe I should nap.

 

Mama and baby ducks.