Tag Archive | newborns

The White Flag

The first week Sam was born someone gave us a present. I can’t remember the gift or the giver, but I remember the bag. It was a cheery blue with sparkly glitter and it said in red writing, “Welcome to Parenthood: Home of Sleepless Nights.” I hated that bag. It tormented me. I wanted to smash it, to burn it, but either due to motherhood busyness or a self-inflicted torment, it stayed on the counter for a good week.
If I were to make a bag, it would be a peaceful blue with little teddy bears cooing at you and happy clouds and rainbows. It would say in cutsy handwriting, “Parenting is God’s way of teaching us we have no control.” (And the little baby in the bassinet would be sleeping with a smile on his face.)
For the past six months, I have interviewed, read, analyzed, charted, petitioned, and predicted, searching for the keys to make Sam do what I want him to. At times I thought I had it. If I…give him the blue pacifier instead of the green one/get organic sheets/put him to bed earlier/put him to bed later/use a humidifier/rock him to sleep/don’t rock him to sleep/dust the room/eliminate bananas/use a rubber spoon/heat the bottle 29 seconds instead of 25/get a glow worm/etc., then he will _________. But alas, babies do not obey agendas or conform to formulas. People say, “Every baby is different.” They are being sweet. I will tell you what they are trying to say. They mean, “That’s cute of you to try to figure out Sam. But there is no possible way he will ever do what has worked for any other baby, including himself, more than two times.” You do get glimpses of it…a good nap, a happy afternoon, a neutral-smelling diaper. But these are merely taunts, teases, vague reminders of an ideal, like a leftover candy cane in a coat pocket.
I am being funny. But it’s not always funny. The thrice-interrupted nap, the bad mood during a holiday dinner, the scary realization that despite avoiding malls and sanitizing hands, there is no way to avoid the diseases I am fleeing, or any other calamity. Being out of control is no fun, especially for a ducks-in-a-row everything-in-order kind of person like me. It’s a big step, but Sam/universe/God: you win. I give up! I will roll with the punches! (Just as soon as I figure out how to get rid of this 4 am wakeup call…)

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My Rats Are Disappearing

I had a moment last night. Sam had gas, hunger, stuffy nose, and then playtime – two hours total. The moment was when, rocking him and letting him hold one of my hands for comfort, I thought, “Where else would I really rather be?” And I meant it. This is a big deal, because honestly, this mothering thing has not been easy. It’s a very, very hard job. But not “hard” like you think. Actually anyone could do the work, which is why you can pay $10 an hour to most any teenager to do the job for a few hours. In fact, it’s largely mundane, repetitive, menial tasks, if we’re being honest. Mostly, I wash dishes, read kiddie books and change diapers. Not Einstein.
No, the “hardness” of mothering, I realized, comes not in the quality but the quantity. It never, never stops. From the moment they set your precious little bundle on your chest, every, single minute will be different. Sure, you still enjoy a nap, cup of coffee, conversation with your husband, REM cycle of sleep every once in a while, but each is enjoyed tentatively, with the knowledge that at any moment you could and probably will be called out of yourself for another job. I find myself holding my breath a lot. But I don’t just mean in a bad way, of course. For the whole time your heart is also bigger, filled with more love, worry, and depth than it ever has been. But it is constant.
I’m not good at that kind of love. I’m more used to the love that shows up during a pre-planned week of June in Peru, from the hours of 8-3 in a classroom, or momentarily after a convicting quiet time. This every minute kind of love I can’t do. C.S. Lewis has a quote about rats in the cellar that keeps coming to mind…When you turn on a light, that’s when you see how many rats are there, just like sudden disruptions reveal our character. Hopeful thinking, maybe, but I’m wondering after last night if some of my rats are disappearing….Is it possible the cute little guy in farm animal pajamas is chasing them away? 🙂

Prayers I Have Prayed

Soon after Sam was born I sent out an email to some of my friends asking for their prayer requests. I said I would spend some of my time nursing praying for them. I think they thought I was pretty holy.

So I feel the need to make a confession. Don’t worry; if you were one of those friends your request DID get covered. But I realized recently that since Sam MOST of my prayers have been for selfish, ridiculous, or outlandishly insignificant things. I’m not sure if anyone can identify, but here are some of my prayers…

1. God, please let me finish this spaghetti before Sam gets unhappy in the bouncy seat.

2. Please keep me from tripping over the laundry in the middle of the night when I’m walking the halls with Sam like a zombie.

3. If in the middle of a chaotic moment I realize I can’t keep hold of both Sam and my ice water, help me remember in time which one to drop.

4. Help Sam to not be allergic to peanut butter since my hands were full of it before I gave him his pacifier.

5. Please let Sam get this poop out. (If you’re confused on this one, see previous post “Things Babies Hate,” number 5.)

6. Please keep Sam safe from spiders, child abductors, and snakes (yes) in his crib at night.

7. Make the lightning stop so Sam can sleep.

8. Help me not be a flake and walk away from the grocery cart when Sam is in it.

9. Please keep Sam from screaming bloody murder in Birkdale.
and, here it is…the most-prayed prayer of all…

10. PLEASE LET SAM FALL ASLEEP! (I thought I was a horrible mom until I read this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “There never was a child so pleasant but that that his mother was happy to see him asleep.” 🙂

Things Babies Like

I admit it – I’m a list person. I think, act, and speak in lists. This is evidenced in the fact that about 33% of my spoken sentences begin, “First of all…” There usually isn’t a second and rarely a third, but no one really calls me out on it. Anyway, this list has been formulating in my mind for a while. It’s two lists actually: surprising things babies like (or, “don’t mind”… In my book, not screaming baby = happy baby) and surprising ones they don’t like.
We’ll start with the list of likes/don’t really mind. (First of all.)
1. ceiling fans. WHAT THE HECK IS UP WITH CEILING FANS? It’s an infant addiction. Is it me, or does looking at one for longer than seven seconds give me a swirling dizzy headache? Not sure what the deal is there.
2. being naked. His eyes get wide and there’s something in the look that says, “I’m free!” But then again if I lived in diapers 24/7 I’d be pumped too.
3. drool gushing from the mouth. There are sundry reasons for infants crying, but I’ve never heard of “need to itch saliva dribbling from mouth but cannot” as one. Amazingly. Would that not drive you crazy? Someone told me their sense of touch doesn’t develop there yet…sounds sketchy but who knows?
4. being outside. Maybe it’s my little future landscaper, but it doesn’t matter that our backyard “view” is a vinyl garage, or that he was just screaming bloody murder. Just take him outside and all is well.
5. striped shirts. Must be the contrasts.
6. the vaccuum. This is of course well-documented, but still fascinating. The same machine that sends cats and dogs fleeing for dear life puts hysterical babies to sleep in mere minutes.

Don’t like :
1. any of the above objects listed, once an amount of time has passed (varying). In baby books it’s called “overstimulization,” but what it means in layman’s terms is that an object that has just been a profound sense of enjoyment and fun can very quickly and dramatically become terrifying. You’re tempted to think, “Well, just stop looking at the ceiling fan/smiling giraffe, etc.” But as I told Todd it’s sort of the equivalent of the infant car accident: you just can’t look away.
2. the ice machine. Since baby Sam, the ice machine (used at the wrong time) has been the cause of more marital fights than anything else. I think he feels like the walls are crashing down on him.
3. silence. Confession: I’ve been tempted to keep the shower running after I got out to prolong a nap. Don’t worry, I didn’t.
And the final few, in no particular order.
4. getting burped.
5. pooping. It is VERY hard work!
6. garbage day.
Now, admittedly I have one (1) child and I have been his mother for two and a half months. This list may be somewhat specific. I’d love to know some of yours!

Mothering is an Art

So moms are pretty amazing is what I’ve realized. One huge revelation was the high degree of physical, tactical, and sensory finesse required to do the job. Here are a few skills I’ve honed. I’m pretty proud of them.

– The art of removing a nipple and sliding in a pacifier without the half-eating, half-sleeping baby realizing the change in texture.

– The art of turning down blankets in a crib with one’s toes while keeping a baby horizontal and asleep.

– Without doubt, the most practiced and hoped-for skill: putting the baby to bed. You silently creep to the nursery while maintaining a tight yet still comforting grip around your baby. When you reach the crib you then lean ever so gently over. It is vastly important not to have the baby sense the open air as he leaves your chest in transition. You lay your arm down on the sheets between you and the baby, hoping to warm them in a few seconds. If you sense any resistance from the baby at all, you must freeze and tighten the grip – not too much, just enough to seem natural. I have found “shhhushing” does more harm than good to an awakening baby. It is best to remain silent. If the baby stays motionless on the sheets, you maintain the grasp with one hand while securing the blanket with the other. Again, keep two hands on the baby for at least 30 seconds. If things seem hopeful, say a silent prayer and tiptoe out…

– the art of burping. Okay here’s one skill I actually don’t have but want to. So many questions. Does the patting need to be hard or soft? Positioned low or high on the back? How often does one burp in a feeding? How does one know when the “burps are out”? Does an upright baby produce more burps? Should one alternate positions in one burping session? Any help????

– The art of soothing a fussy baby. This one is the ever-changing, elusive skill. One day your little one needs absolute quiet, darkness, and serenity. The next only reciting your grocery list (or any other repetitive sounding paragraph said in a monotone voice) in a roomful of conversing people with guitar music in the background of an illuminated room works. Somedays the rocking motion needs to be brisk and lateral; others only the cadence of, say, a stationary pontoon boat in a slightly deserted cove – i.e. slow circular motion with “shh-ing” to imitate rippling waves. And then there’s the mysterious pacifier. Somedays it meets the lips with the penultimate satisfaction of a longed-for meal. Others it’s spat out immediately with a look conveying, “How could you. That is NOT the real thing and I KNOW IT!” Oh, one day I’ll be a baby whisperer. Seriously, why don’t they teach classes on these actually useful things instead of Lamaze and tour-of-the-hospital?

I am a big fat worrier

One thing that I’ve realized is the vast amount of unsolicited advice first-time moms receive. I’m not blaming anyone, because since even after about 10 days of motherhood I found myself also offering my own set of hints to pregnant or eventually-will-be moms. It’s funny what people’s “invaluable” advice is. A few of my favorites were, “Scrub your nipples down with Brillo pads to prepare for nursing,” “push like you’re pooping,” and “sleep while he sleeps,” which is comical not because of how outlandish it is but because these people apparently don’t have babies like Sam, whose daytime sleep immediately transitions to wide-awakeness approximately 60 seconds after he leaves the arms of the person who has soothed him into slumber. So, yes, if you mean “barely drift off to sleep while holding a baby on your lap with one hand on a pacifier and the other holding all his limbs tightly to simulate the womb” then, yes, I’ll do that.

Anyways, Amy, a mom of two students I’ve had, visited me after Sam was born and gave me two of the most helpful pieces of advice I’d gotten. The first was to grip your breast like a hamburger when nursing. The second was that God makes parenting so hard ON PURPOSE – so that we would have to rely on him. I had no sense of exactly how difficult the first week of Sam’s life would be. (Poor guy – he’s probably thinking, “You think it’s been hard on YOU!”) Most moms could empathize with the bulk of the list – contractions, labor, lack of sleep, etc. Difficult as they are, these were nothing compared with what first hit me on Day 2 of Sam’s life, about ten p.m. The nurses had finally kind of left us alone. Visitors were gone. The lights were dimmed. We were exhausted. We needed to sleep. Sam and Todd apparently had no hard time with that – Todd was scrunched on the “couch” across the room, and Sam was swaddled in his hospital bassinet which I had wheeled next to my bed. Yet I, as tired as I was, could close my eyes no longer than a minute before – certain that he was choking, suffocating, and had stopped breathing – I would rouse awake and determine to watch him to make sure he was safe. I’d like to say the night ended with my drifting to sleep anyway, but the madness continued until 6:00 a.m. the next morning when I stood in the bathroom, crying, shaking, calling my mom for some sort of direction on how in the world I could ever close my eyes and trust that he would be okay. And as mothers know, that kind of fanatic worry doesn’t end with fear of SIDS – it drifts forward in time, imagining all sorts of illnesses, crimes, rebellions, and calamities that could show up. You’ve never loved something so helpless.

A chronic worrier, I won’t ever lose this for good. But I did have an epiphany moment. We arrived home with Sam on Friday morning. I’d had less than 8 hours of sleep the whole week and the time had come. Leaving my helpless precious one with my husband, who had to promise not to sleep, drop him, or go to the bathroom, etc. etc, I climbed the stairs to our room and collapsed next to our bed. With tears streaming down my face, I choked out to God that I was placing Sam in His hands. Even then I realized the ridiculousness of my thinking – somehow Sam had been in MY hands and MY control all those nine months of developing and growing. Of course not. The same God who started his life and protected every developing cell STILL has him in his hands. But parenting certainly makes you live out that trust you claim you have…I have a feeling the adventure is just beginning!