One Year

{ Wednesday, June 30, 2010 }
Today, at 3:23 pm, we will be celebrating the anniversary of the bean's birth. I've thought quite a bit over the last couple weeks about what I want to remember in this birthday post. I wanted to remember the bean's birth story and how I had wondered for nine months what contractions might feel like and if I would recognize them, then laughed when the first one came because it was unmistakable. I wanted to tell how we had taken so many classes and read even more books, but during transition, no relaxation technique could have helped me. How, at the moment of her birth, I was consumed with the pain of labor and didn't realize she had been born until our midwife told me to open my eyes and see her staring up at me.

But going back that far, to the moments before and during her birth, leaves out all of the magic and pain and tears and beauty of this first year. I also wanted to talk about how surprised I was the day I put her on her stomach for tummy time and she rolled onto her back for the first time. And how proud I was day that I tried to put a rattle in her hand and she held it for a moment before it fell to the ground. The first time she pulled herself up onto her hands and knees. The first time she looked up at us and smiled back, or the first time she laughed a big, joyous, belly laugh. Her first step. The first time she tried to put her toes in her mouth. A celebration of our bean's first year must also include a celebration of these, and many more, happy moments.

I also want to remember the struggle, to see how far we've come. I remember so many tears those first two weeks--we were all so tired and the three of us were learning how to be a family; how we were going to get along and what it would take to take care of each other. I wanted to talk about how I thought I would die if we weren't sleeping through the night by six months and how, when we still weren't (and still aren't now) we figured it out. We made it work and learned to get by and its not as hard as I thought it would be.

I wanted to tell the story of how hard breastfeeding was in the beginning, how exhausting and painful it was, how I literally could not take a shower without the bean crying to nurse while I was away. I wanted to say that sometimes it still is exhausting and painful, but now its mostly just sweet and lovely. A year is such a big milestone and, while we aren't planning to wean just yet, I'm starting to see that someday this will end and there is more sadness and less joy at that thought than I had imagined. I love being able to comfort and nurture out little bean and my heart melts a bit when she reaches for me.

Most of all, I wanted to remember the day, the exact moment when I hit my stride as a parent. I want to remember when the idea of going to the grocery store with the baby stopped terrifying me. The moment when I stopped wondering how the world could continue as it had before, while here I was just trying to function. The day I decided it wouldn't really hurt anything if I pulled my dirty hair into a ponytail and went on about my day without a shower. When was the exact moment that my peripheral vision and reflexes becamed sharpened to the point that I can now catch a dropped sippy cup midair without pausing my conversation? The day that I learned just how many diapers to pack in the diaper bag without running out or having too many? The day that being vomited on stopped fazing me? I wish I knew. Sitting here now, as the mother of a one year old, I feel calm and confident and its only when I look back at the new parent I was a year ago--scared, confused, and unsure--that I realize how far we've come, but there are no exact moments I can point to.

Today, we celebrate the bean's birth and all the joy she's brought to our lives. We celebrate the fact that we made it through this first year and we're also celebrating this subtle transition. The bean is no longer a baby. I'm not sure when in this last year it happened, but today its unequivocal. The boy and I have also grown. A year ago, we became parents but at some point during that year, we turned into moms.

Hey Good Lookin'!

{ Friday, June 18, 2010 }
In addition to preparing for the bean's upcoming birthday party, we've been busy working on three homemade gifts.

The boy deserves all the credit (or blame, depending on how you look at it) for being the brains behind this first project. Inspired by all the cute play kitchens on sites like ikeahacker, the boy decided we could handle putting one together too. We gave ourselves plenty of time for planning and building--we actually started on this way back in January. We started with Ikea's trofast storage system. We like this particular piece because its made from solid pine and we love not bringing more particleboard (and offgassed nasties from the glue) into our house.

Aww, look at how little the bean was!

After the frame was together, it just took a trip to Home Depot to get a sheet of plywood that we had cut to create our doors and back piece. At this point, the project lagged for a while, since it was hard to get up the energy (and find the time) to prime and paint all that wood, but thanks to the bean's new nap situation, we finally picked up the pace the last couple months.

Once again, the boy had a stroke of genius and suggested we leave the center third of the base cabinet unpainted to act as a cutting board. Too cute!

The base cabinet and doors were easy enough, but we wanted the back "wall" to have stripes, and taping off stripes is my job around here. It hurts my eyes a little bit to look at the tape in this picture, but the stripes are evenly spaced (more or less).

Finally (finally!) it was time to put everything together, although it didn't go as smoothly as our pictures make it seem. First of all, you may know that Ikea (like the rest of the world) uses metric measurements. Home Depot, on the other hand not so much, so we got a funny look when we asked for cuts down to the 1/8 of an inch and the helpful orange aproned man asked if he could round up. I figured we needed to sand down the plywood anyway, so what could it hurt? Well, as it turns out, that was a mistake. The boy sanded everything down before we painted it (since sanding is the boy's job around here), then sanded some more when it appeared that the doors were too big and finally sanded a third time for good measure until finally, everything fit the way it was supposed to.

In the interest of safety, the boy rounded off the corners on the three doors (oven, "drawer" under the oven, and fridge). We're also pretty sure that the back wall is never coming off. That sucker is held in with over 30 screws. There's still a sink, faucet, window, and place to hang utensils still to do, so stay tuned for the big reveal in a couple weeks when we'll (hopefully) have some pictures that weren't taken in our dingy basement.

On Sleep--Part Two

{ Wednesday, June 16, 2010 }
In my last post, I shared our sleep issues and now I'm back to tell you how we've (hopefully!) solved them.

First of all, I gave up on the idea of the bean sleeping every moment in her crib and decided to focus on naps. I told the bean I'd meet her halfway and continue to stay with her in the evenings after she fell asleep if I could just get her to nap on her own. I also let go of the idea that this would be a quick transition and set up a multi-step plan that we'd work at over the course of several weeks.

The first step was to get the bean used to sleeping without a body right next to her. Instead of cuddling with her through her nap, I started to roll away from the bean after she drifted off to sleep. I also stopped nursing her to sleep while lying down and instead would sit up and hold her until she fell asleep, since my ultimate goal was to be able to nurse her in a chair and then put her in her crib. This took a good two weeks to get to the point where the bean would fall asleep easily this way and nap soundly without cuddling up to me.

For step two, I brought the mattress out of the bean's crib and put it on the floor right next to our bed and had her sleep on that. This step was probably the most difficult for her to adjust to and there were a few days that I ended up laying on the mattress with her, but after another two weeks, she finally got it. (Yay!)

Next, I moved the mattress into her bedroom and put it on the floor next to the crib. We play music while the bean's sleeping, so I moved that into her room too. At this point, I started to put the bean on her mattress by leaning down as if I was reaching over the crib rail to try to get her used to that feeling.

After a week of that, I put the mattress up into the crib and fully expected a repeat of our previous experience (i.e. screaming as soon as her head hit the mattress), but I was shocked that it actually worked! Not every time, but I could usually get her down in the crib after a couple tries.

At first, the bean would only nap for about 20 minutes at a time, but I wasn't complaining. I was loving being able to get some things done, but after a while of that, 20 minutes turned into 30 minutes and 30 turned into 40 and then one day she napped for a full hour without waking up. She'll now nap for 1 1/2 to 2 hours at a time, which makes me so happy that I'm doing a little happy dance right now as I write this.

After the naps were established, I started putting the bean in her crib at the beginning of the night, and that started with 30 minutes stretches. We're now up to 1 hour at a time in the evening and I'm totally fine if that's how things stay. I'm able to get some things done in between her wakeups and at some point I give up and bring her to bed with me.

I never knew how many things I could accomplish in such a short period of time, but I usually map out my plan of attack before I put the bean down and then I run like crazy getting things done. It feels so good to be able to accomplish some things and I feel like a better mother when I can focus on her while she's awake and leave the chores for naptime. Here we go with the happy dance again!

So there you have it--how we got the bean to finally nap in her crib. Knocking on wood and crossing my toes that it stays that way!

On Sleep--Part One

{ Monday, June 14, 2010 }
We're big fans of Dr. Sears in our house and have several Sears parenting books. One piece of advice that is repeated in a few of the books is: if you resent it, change it. I've been resenting our sleeping situation for some time now, but felt powerless to change it which just added to my resentment.

Well, let me start from the beginning. For the first several months of her life, our bean slept in a bassinet beside our bed at night. During the day, she would only nap in our arms, but she was good for 2-4 hours at a time in the bassinet at night. After a couple months, she outgrew the bassinet and we transitioned her to her crib at the foot of our bed, which went fairly well and she even napped in her crib a few times, but at close to 4 months that all changed. There were a lot of things going on around that time--the weather got cooler and we stopped sleeping with a fan on, we weaned her from her swaddle, maybe she was entering the four month sleep regression, but whatever the cause, she flat out refused to sleep in her crib.

Now, you may remember that I posted a researched explanation of my thoughts on co-sleeping and had come to the conclusion that I wasn't sure we could do it safely and I wasn't really comfortable doing it full-time. I later said that I was too scared to bring the bean into our bed and had (almost) given up on co-sleeping until the day the bean decided she'd had enough of her crib. We had spent one night where the bean had been up every hour. She would wake up, we'd go to her room where I'd change her and nurse her back to sleep--a process that took a good 30-40 minutes. Then I'd very slowly and carefully lay her down in her crib, hoping she'd stay asleep and then spend 10-15 minutes trying to get myself back to sleep. Add that up and that gave me about 15 minutes of sleep before the next wakeup. I was a zombie the next day and the following night was the same deal--up every hour until one time I tried to put her down and she screamed the moment her head hit the mattress. Normally, I would have started the whole routine over again, but I was so desperate for sleep that I brought the bean into the bed and there she stayed the rest of the night. I tried to put her in her crib the next night, but it was the same deal--screaming at the top of her lungs when she touched the mattress and that was it. We were full-time co-sleepers ever after.

For the most part, we've loved it. The bean doesn't have to fully wake up when she's hungry, so she goes back to sleep faster and easier. I don't (usually) have to fully wake up to feed her, so I also go back to sleep faster and easier. The boy and I are both a little neurotic, so having the bean in bed is perfect. We just lay a hand on her chest when we want to check her, rather than having to squint across the room in the dark and wonder if she's really breathing or not.

In my original sleep post, I worried about safety. Here's what we've done--we removed two pillows from our bed so now there are only two thin pillows that we keep as close to the top of the bed as possible. We sleep with the fewest, thinnest blankets we can get away with and keep them folded down to waist level. We make sure our fitted sheet is tucked in nice and tight and we routinely check that our (firm) mattress is pushed all the way up to the headboard, with no gap. We also use bed rails--at first just one on my side of the bed, but then two once the bean started moving around more in her sleep. I laugh now when reading my sleep post because I said that its hard to get in and out of the bed with a rail up and you know what? It REALLY is, especially when you're carrying a sleeping baby that you don't want to wake up, but we make it work. For many months, we also had large feather beds on the floor on either side of the bed to soften the fall if the bean were to accidentally fall out of the bed, but we now feel more comfortable with our setup and don't worry about falls as much.

OK, now for the part that I have been resenting. We worry about falls and, for that reason, don't leave the bean alone in the bed. So that's 2-3 naps per day plus bedtime (which is at 7pm for the bean) that I have been trapped in our bed (or at least the bedroom) while the bean is sleeping and I am not. I have alternated between the optimistic (this is forcing me to take a break and rest!) and pessimistic (I have dishes and laundry and cooking to do!) viewpoints, but at the end of the day, it just wasn't working for me. I resented it. I wanted to change it.

We've tried several things, such as making a bed on the floor in our living room for the bean and something I call "crib bootcamp," which ended up being as painful as it sounds. (Crib bootcamp meant the bean wasn't allowed to sleep unless she was in her crib and, faced with those options, she chose to not sleep at all). Our results have ranged from minimal success to full out failure and, in case it isn't already obvious, cry-it-out isn't a strategy we're interested in trying.

I love the bean to death and I want to spend almost every moment with her, but I would have loved to have a few moments to shower or clean the house or even just sit on the couch and stare at the walls instead of lying next to the bean nursing every few minutes.

I'm going to share a solution with you in my next post. I hope I'm not tempting fate by calling this problem solved but, knock on wood, cross my fingers, and throw salt over my shoulder, its been working consistenly for over a month now so I'm hoping we're on the right track. Stay tuned.

11 Months

{ Monday, June 07, 2010 }
Eleven months, eleven months. Where does the time go?

At eleven months, the bean has taken her first step, but is much too timid to actually take off and walk on her own. When we try to get her to walk towards us (or even to just stand on her own), she puts her arms out to the side as if to say, "Whoa mom, why'd you let go?" and very slowly eases herself down to the floor. She'll be running circles around us soon enough, but for now I'm OK with her taking her time.

The last few months, the bean had slowed down a bit with her babbling, but now her voice is back and she has a lot to say. She still has no words, at least that we can recognize, but she sometimes will slap her hand down on the table and repeat the same sound louder and I imagine that she's frustrated that we just don't understand what "Gah. GAH!!" means.

The bean is getting more and more social every day and loves to wave at every person (and inanimate object) that she sees. She loves to be out and about and is a big crankster if we try to stay around the house for a day. Not that we've been doing much of that now that the nice weather has arrived, but it means we'll have to get creative this winter.

The boy taught the bean how to give kisses and she's now a bit out of control with them. Everybody gets a kiss (or two) along with all her toys and every page of all her books, the dog, the cat, the table. Its a regular love-fest at our house.

After months and months of sleeping issues we had just resigned ourselves to the fact that we had a bean who was never tired. Somehow a switch was flipped at eleven months and the bean is finally sleepy. I would even go so far as to call her a good napper now, which feels strange to write after so long with her not napping at all. I have a few posts planned on the topic of sleep and what we did to encourage her, but I think mostly the bean just decided sleep was alright after all.

Finally, let's have a moment of silence for the Itsy Bitsy Spider. It used to be almost magic in its ability to calm the bean down and end crying, but no more. Luckily, we've discovered a replacement in the form of a little dog named B-I-N-G-O. I would have liked it to be something else (maybe something more soothing and less tiring to sing?), but the bean loves BINGO and who am I to argue?