Thursday, February 26, 2009

Spoke Too Soon

Total sleep regression last night. I guess the kid wants to make sure I still know who's boss.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cool As The Deep Blue Ocean

I've had a lot of support and quite a few questions about how the weaning process is going with Mr. Baby, so I wanted to post an update. As of today, we have had two milk-free, tantrumless nights in a row. He has slept from about 8:45pm to 6am, and although he's still waking up a little during those hours, he is able to get himself back to sleep without throwing a big fit. I'm nervous to officially state it, but it does appear that a new era is dawning, one in which we both get the sleep we need and our relationship isn't marred by middle-of-the-night power struggles.

It may appear from my previous post on the topic that this all occurred in the last week or so, but the road to this point began months ago. It started in the fall, when I first tried removing nursing-to-sleep from our nightly routine. The first step was small, just moving our last feeding of the evening from the bed to the beanbag three feet away from the bed. I'd nurse him while I read Miss M her pre-bed book, and he soon began to associate reading time with his evening snack. But, thanks in large part to the nap routine established at Mama KT's, he would eagerly crawl into bed with his sister and lie down on his pillow, tell me nigh-nigh and pull up the covers. Which was all a big act, of course - he'd still ask to nurse, and goof around, and crawl on top of me in order to fall asleep, but within a week or so, he got pretty accustomed to falling asleep without food in his mouth.

Now, falling asleep while still playful and happy and full of dinner is different from getting back to sleep in the middle of the night, all cranky and hungry and confused. Or so Mr. Baby made sure I understood when he would wake up three hours after going to bed. At that point, I'd bring him to bed with me (or, on rare nights, pick him up when he staggered into my room) and nurse as needed through the rest of the night.

And that worked, more or less, for awhile. He got some practice going to sleep on his own (relatively), but we still avoided major midnight meltdowns that would disrupt the entire household's rest. But then, as seems to happen with many toddlers between 12-18 months old, his night-nursing started to become more frequent and ferocious instead of less. I knew there were a number of factors involved - molars coming in, huge motor milestones, general winter malaise - so I tolerated it as long as I could. I'd get to the point of feeling I couldn't stand it anymore, and go a night or two listening to him scream in my arms, but then a new tooth would start poking through his gums or he'd get a phlegmy cough that woke him up all night and I'd think, well, I can't do it now. Knowing that a move and possible (although thankfully avoided) daycare change were also imminent, I put up with the disrupted nights in the interest of keeping as much consistency in his routine as I could.

And then, as detailed in the post before last, I just couldn't anymore. The all-night nursing was becoming all-day nursing as well, and it seemed like our every moment together was focused on when he could feed next. So, knowing that he had a couple nights away from me on the horizon, I began last week resolved to cut him loose, with the first step being night-weaning.

Sunday was our last normal evening, but then on Monday night, I greeted his first wake-up with nothing but my arms and a firmly in-place sweatshirt. Mr. Baby thought that was a huge load of crap, and made sure I knew it. He screamed and hit and kicked at me, hollering the whole time for "nursie." After about half an hour, it occurred to me that we'd be having a houseguest the next night, and although the kids manage to sleep through these tantrums, I couldn't expect an unseasoned, childless adult to ignore them. And so, in frustration and fatigue, I gave up and pulled him to me. He calmed down instantly. I sobbed.

The next night, our impending houseguest a no-show, I steeled my will and prepared to go into bedtime battle with a loving but firm commitment to our mutual good. And this time, I went in with supplies. His appetite miraculously returned, I fed that baby about to bursting, all evening long. He went to bed with little fanfare, and when he did wake up a few hours later, his fury over being denied the boob was fairly low-key. He'd flop around and fuss and pull at me, but all in all, he seemed to accept that he should probably just go back to sleep. Wednesday and Thursday went pretty much the same way, with some fits slightly louder than others, but in general, a begrudging acceptance that the all-night diner was closed.

So after that fairly well-tolerated start, I was thinking we'd be in great shape the following Sunday night, with two completely nurse-free days and nights behind him. Because, clearly, I'm an idiot. I didn't factor in that he'd also spent two completely mom-free days and nights, and so his need to be close to me was only going to be the stronger, just as it always is after those breaks. I did nurse him during the day, since it wasn't interfering with his regular eating and we needed the catch-up time. But Sunday night was, simply put, a misery. I wouldn't even say he was crying. He was bleating. He would sit up on his knees, close his eyes, and wail, "AAAAAHHHHHH! AAAAAAHHHHHH! AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!" It was heartbreaking, but, somehow, not as bad as if he were producing tears. I recently read a night-weaning essay/instruction guide by Dr. Jay Gordon, and in it he said:

Now, he will tell you that he is angry and intensely dislikes this new routine. I believe him. He will also try to tell you that he's scared. I believe he's angry, but a baby who's had hundreds of nights in a row of cuddling is not scared of falling asleep with your hand on his back and your voice in his ear. Angry, yes. Scared, no, not really.

And that's how it felt. Mr. Baby was definitely not a fan of the plan, but he wasn't hurting or frightened by it. I was right there with him, holding him and talking to him, giving him back his sippy cup and ducking out of the way before he clocked me with it. And so although I spent a collective two hours, over the course of four wake-ups, with him yelling at top voice in my ear, I stayed committed to our goal.
I was exhausted and miserable the next day, and dreading the night ahead. I felt just on the verge of bailing the operation, but wasn't willing to give up the week of hard work behind us. On the plus side, Mr. Baby was tired from his rough night and went to bed willingly and peacefully. He had four baby dolls piled up in his arms and, with his one free finger outstretched, requested "joooos." I gave him his cup and, within moments, he was out.

And out.

And out.

When I startled awake and looked at the clock at 4am, my first feeling was, of course, panic. I checked to make sure he was breathing, which, of course, woke him up. But it was 4am! In the morning! And he wasn't screaming at me! What he was doing was cooing, "Maamaa?" and climbing onto my chest to fall quickly back to sleep.

If we weren't done with middle-of-the-night feedings, I would have eaten him up.

I warily assumed that night was an anomaly, brought on by the exhaustion from the night before, but Monday went in basically the same pattern (except with me smart enough not to wake him up). And so, after 7 nights of struggle, I'm feeling fairly confident in announcing that we have successfully night-weaned, and even more important than that, begun a routine of solid night-time sleep. After five years of interrupted nights (and 1500 words of description), I can't even begin to tell you how good it feels.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Wanna Hear Some Happy Baby Talk

This is meant to be informational and for posterity rather than just braggy, but I read recently that creatures Mr. Baby's age should have a vocabulary anywhere between 10-50 words, and that made me think, hm, he knows at least 50, maybe more. So I figured I'd count up all the ones I could think of. Not just the stuff he can monkey back at me, but the words he comes up with on his own. These are the first 80ish that I came up with:

all done
Mama KT
Miss M
Miss S
uh oh

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I Am Milk, I Am Red Hot Kitchen

Look, son, we've got to talk. And this is going to involve more than the names of facial features and types of fruit, so I need you to pay careful attention.

This thing you're doing right now, the refusing to eat real food in my presence? It's not good, honey. In fact, it's really quite frustrating. I know there's a lot going on right now, with the moving and the teething and the injection of five vaccines at once. I know that, as your mama, I am your safe harbor and font of never-ending comfort in times of uncertainty and pain. But the font, my love, is about to run dry.

Trust me, this realization is even more painful for me than it is (or will be) for you. I expected weaning to be a gradual process, like it was for your sister. First dropping night-time feedings, which would lead to better sleep and a generally better mood during the day, making it easier to cut down those sessions as well. But so far, the only time we've consistently cut out is getting-into-bed, and that only works out because we've usually just nursed through Miss M's bedtime book, story and song. Even the getting-ready-for-school feeding that we got rid of months ago has crept back into the routine lately. So instead of a gentle tapering, we've actually been amping back up to circa-first-birthday levels. And, I have to admit, it's making us both miserable.

The moment you see me, you want to nurse. The moment I sit down, you want to nurse. The moment I place food in front of you, you want to throw it on the floor. And then nurse. And that doesn't even begin to cover night-time, when your pitiful dinner-eating leads to all-night hunger and thus, all-night nursing. It's like you're a little milk junkie, incapable of thinking about anything but your next fix. You scream, "Nursie! Nursie! Nursie!" in my ear. You pull at my clothes. You cry and fuss and whine and flail, and will do so for an hour if your need is not met.

But only, apparently, when I'm around. By all outside reports, you are a happy, playful, well-nourished child. For everyone else, you eat like a champ, play and explore on your own, and are a general delight. I know that it's very common for toddlers to save up all their angst for mom, but in this case, it's hard to ignore the biggest factor that's making our shared time difficult. When you see me, you don't notice the cuddling arms or soothing voice or any other maternal offering. Instead, you see a woman in a cow suit, and you are focused like a laser on the udders.

And so, my baby boy, after twenty months, the milk truck is about to stop making deliveries. It is so much more bitter than sweet for me (the reasons above are sufficient; I won't trouble a one-year-old with the associated aesthetic nosedive I'm about to undergo), but I really don't know what else to do. I want you to be happy and healthy, and I want our time together to be the best that it can be. This is going to suck (no pun intended), but I've finally come to accept that things are going to be a lot better on the other side.

I'm sorry, baby. I love you so much.

Post Script: In a stunning display of empathy, Mr. Baby spent all of last night eating. And eating. And eating. Maybe it was the Tylenol given half an hour before dinner, or maybe he just knew I'd had enough, but he filled his belly about to bursting and then peacefully went to bed, barely deigning to nurse beforehand. Knowing that he was at least physically fulfilled made it easier to deal with his night wakings without succumbing to nursing. He went all night without feeding, and more importantly, without totally melting down. Fingers crossed for a new precedent ...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Takin' Care Of Business

The concept of our new living arrangement has raised a lot of questions. Well, one question, mostly: "Do you think you'll all get along okay?" The veiled, deeper question being, "How are two households going to meld without a lot of strife and frustration and seething resentment over whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher? And how many kids is that, again?"

I guess I have no direct answer to that (surprise!), because I don't expect a seamless, stress-free fusion. But I also think it's pretty pessimistic to assume that a group of reasonable adults can't work through whatever issues may arise from a new situation. I've been living with roommates, many of them practically strangers at the outset, since I moved 400 miles from home at 17-years-old. I can hope that, in fifteen years of sharing living space, I've even improved a little in the core concepts of domestic harmony. So far, I have yet to engage in a stereo war with any of the children, and I shared the abundance of my rice cooker with K, even though she insisted on making it meal-like by putting taco sauce and cheese and meat on it instead of just dashing on soy sauce and a couple pineapple chunks.

Of course, since the initial query is generally coming from other mothers/wives, the even deeper question is, "We all know Mama is the boss, so who's running the show when there are two women/mothers in the house?" And the very diplomatic, equanimity-minded answer to that is, "Der. K." Okay, maybe that's not entirely true, but if we were handing out executive titles, she would likely garner CEO for her swift, decisive action and facile networking. She is the company visionary, always keeping the big picture in mind. R, then, would be the household Chief Operations Officer, coordinating and managing the daily activities and making multiple complex tasks run smoothly in parallel. And me? Well, probably some combination of Chief Financial Officer, Chief Information (as in IT) Officer, and my favorite, Chief Compliance Officer. Wikipedia says, "Generally, a CCO is in charge of overseeing and managing compliance issues within an organization, ensuring … the company and its employees are complying with internal policies and procedures." In other words, the goody-goody. Bingo! And of course, we all serve at the mercy of our Board of Directors, a six-person team of tyrannical, and rather short, trustees who call our every decision into question. And question. And question.

And then we have days like yesterday, when we're all put in our proper places as janitorial staff. To celebrate the end of our first week in our new home, our plumbing decided to send us a present. The back-up and overflow of our pipes coordinated nicely with the onset of GK's violent stomach virus. By noon on Sunday, every towel in the house was either catching vomit or keeping sewage at bay, and every adult in the house was engaged in one or both of those endeavors. They say there's no "I" in "team," although the lesser known but even truer aphorism is, there's no "Uh, I'm busy" in "poop coming up through the bathtub drain."

So can we all get along okay? After a day like that, it's hard to see how we couldn't. I'm sure that any one or two of us could have survived it without the other(s), but I think we're all grateful that we didn't have to. Living together might make us a company, but cleaning up each other's co-mingled waste? Now it's a family business.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Our House, In The Middle Of Our Street

Oh, hey, there you are!

Or here I am, in case you were looking.

It's been a frenzy of activity around Secret Agent Mom headquarters lately, with more going on than I can even begin to detail. Or fully care to, really. The biggest news, however, is that SAM HQ itself has relocated. I've packed up the crossover sedan, thrown out the club clothes, and headed east to the relative safety of the almost-suburbs.

I never expected to leave Midtown, and I certainly didn't foresee living in a 1971 ranch-style further east than Whole Foods and Target, but when I started haunting Craigslist six months ago, I couldn't help noticing the ad that detailed a huge house on a huge lot for a not-so-huge rent. Granted, it was more room than I needed, but it was just the right size for, say, my people plus a family of six. Especially a family of six currently living in a 1200 sq. ft. home that was poised to bust a joist as soon as the Puberty Fairy arrived.

With two thirds pessimism and one third blind faith, we kept an eye on the house listing as it reappeared week after week, all through the fall. As the year drew to a close and my move became more imminent, I got in touch with the owner and plead the case for renting her home to two good, decent families whose credit reports happened to be tainted by the red ink stain of small business ownership. And at nearly the very last minute, she decided we were worthy.

There's something to be said for expecting the worst, because the thrill of being proven wrong is just that much greater. I spent the days after our lease approval feeling positively floaty, even with all the arrangements that needed to be made and made fast. The landlord's sister let us come by with the kids and let them survey the empty house, and the joy in their faces as they ran through room after room (after room after room) mirrored my own excitement. After such a long period of stress and uncertainty, I finally knew I was home.

(This atrium is in the center of the house, accessible by doors on all four sides. It is one of my very favorite things about the house - it's already served as a perfect baby play yard, and I envision many cups of tea, stacks of books, and broadcasts of Prairie Home Companion being enjoyed within it.)