Chaya's made it outside longer than inside, and that means mommy (who is perpetually perplexed at the complex syntax involved with referring to "herself" with a third person title that occasionally ebbs and flows into first person conjugations) is/am also "making it." As Tim Gun says, "I'm making it work." I guess. Sort of.
Anyways, I'm sure that a young mother's obsessions are lacking in lurid fascination for the laity of the world, but several battles have been waged and they continue. I figure that my baby-bearing omphaloskepsis has prolixity enough for a couple of posts
It seems fit to give an update on the many fronts. At the moment I can envision
the unproven baby-proofing performances of a woman too afraid to conquer the baby gates just yet despite her child climbing the stairs in order to paw at the baby gates stashed behind them...
And self-care/identity preservation in a baby-centric universe.
No doubt, additional battles remain that I've forgotten.
But since Sleep Wars and Boobie Battles are the age old angstifier, let's start with those...
DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUUUUN - Sleep Sorties!
Naptime is basically like being caught in a continual computer game circa the early nineties. Like that one where the snake goes around eating apples, getting bigger and bigger until he eats himself (ouroborous) and ... game over. Or maybe Pacman. Even the windows pinball game that came standard on 90. It's fairly basic, but it's unending, the timing is deliriously delicate and mercy upon you if you happen to sneeze at just the wrong time.
There are rules. I think. But, because a baby is involved, the rules are often tacit.
Here's what you know: Sleep is a good thing. It makes your baby grumpy when she doesn't get sleep. And when she doesn't nap, she tends to sleep worse at night. She needs to sleep at night or she also doesn't sleep during the day.
- Rituals are good. Sacrificing chickens, however, is against several health codes. Better stick to essential oils. Which your child is probably allergic to. Fine, a sleep sack, a book, and a song. We're also pretty certain about dark spaces and sound machines.
- Babies have "windows" (not 95) during which they will (1) Actually take a nap, (2) nap for more than fifteen minutes, (3) level up into baby nap bonus round where you get to eat cherries and turn the ghosts blue.
- The result of missing the window is more or less the same on either side: difficulty falling asleep (maybe) and a thirty minute nap. So you don't technically know if your baby was over or undertired.
- When babies pass their nap window, they tend to get hyper. Sometimes happy hyper. Sometimes fussy.
- Why they reach the end of their window they might get fussy. But they are also babies. And they will get ragingly mad because they can't open the dishwasher and stand at the same time. Especially when they are trying to crawl. Or they have gas. Or they realized that there are stairs to climb that mommy won't let them get to.
You don't know a lot of other information that seems essential, but you don't even know what it is. You know that you can basically repeat the exact same thing one day and have drastically different results. But you don't quite know why. Babies are just that way.
- Baby sleep patterns evolve.
Not only are conditions different from day to day in variable ways (sleep the night before, gas, constipation, cold, teething, overstimulation, understimulation, the conditions of the surrounding naps), they evolve as well. As is true of all things baby, baby sleep patterns have this amazing way of becoming undialed just after they get stabilized. Chaya's older. She's now working on walking. And that's gonna be a long slog. But it does mean some major cruising around the crib whenever possible. And a baby-brain that never shuts down.
Something seemed broken when she started fighting almost every nap with untold eons of crib-surfing for about a week straight. Good exercise, but it eventually led to fussing and crashing. Not fun. So, like I said, she's older. That's a good clue that it's time for things to change. I can only blame "developmental milestones" (bastards that they are) and "gas" for so many weeks.
And, well, she's kind of a tantrummey baby at nine months. Just because she's getting worked up, doesn't mean she's tired. Maybe she's tired. Maybe she's mad that I wouldn't let her eat the spider. Maybe she realized that she'll grow up in a world without David Bowie. Who can say?
Which makes it really challenging to predict how long she can be awake before becoming overtired. True sleepy cues remain elusive to me (having a baby has eternally shot any self-conceit about being a perceptive or intuitive person, holy crap); she often is blissfully awake right until she's totally crashed. Sometimes she wakes up yawning and fussing and gets happier the longer she's awake. If you wait too long, she's overtired and will not crash for nothin'. And while she's busily trying to conquer walking (of course - untold weeks angsting over crawling and then one day, she forgot about crawling in order to stand up, and now she's a master of crawling but could give two snips about it, being on to bigger and brighter things)
She can stay awake for longer stretches at a time. Some of the time. It's actually a moving target - one about as mobile as my terrifyingly mobile baby - but generally speaking she has an increasing length of wakefulness as the day goes on.
Most nine month olds have already dropped their third nap. Some nine month olds can stay up for three to four hours at a time. Chaya's not quite there (though we kinda force it getting to bedtime sometimes), but part of that is that she continues to take shorter naps more often than not.
So far, the moving tally at nine months is:
1. Morning naps still tend to want to be around two hours after waking up. Sooner if she's had a restless morning. After a good sleep, we might go a little longer. But only through external interference do we get up to two and a half before a crash. I've been reading the Velveteen Rabbit to her every morning. The last several days, she's fallen asleep in my arms by the third-to-last page. This seems true no matter what kind of mood she is in when the story starts. Maybe the book is magic? Except it's a morning magic that decreases in potency through the day? Typically the morning nap is a little short. Between a half hour and forty-five minutes. Yesterday, she slept for an hour though. Who knows.
2. Second naps can vary a fair bit. I've been mostly taking her upstairs after she's been up for a little over 2 hours and putting her down around two and a half hours after she last woke up. We take a nice calming ten to fifteen minutes of changing, singing and reading. Recently, she's been falling asleep while I'm reading to her. Or when I am singing to her. And then waking up somewhere between thirty minutes and two hours afterwards. Again, nothing particularly different that Chaya's told me about. She keeps it close to her chest.
3. Third naps have been a crapshoot ever since the fourth crap-shoot nap officially went away. Theoretically these afternoon naps are the "optional" "bridge naps" to keep her from getting overtired before bedtime. In practice, they can turn into the longest nap of the day. Or the nap that baby refuses to take. Nobody can say. You can bet, though, that she will show no signs of being tired right up until she's passing out and/or screaming (then passing out) in my arms. Even while I'm reading to her, she'll be bubbly and awake and thoroughly energetic, rocking back and forth, shoving a hand in my mouth or nose, going "huhuhuhuhuhuhuh". I've been taking her up around three hours after her last nap. Too much longer or shorter and it's a really big battle for a short nap. Though that can vary by whether she's had good or bad sleep coming into them and whether she's been out and about. She stays awake through reading (usually, although not the last two times), but has mostly fallen asleep while I'm singing to her. Might take several choruses of Dream a Little Dream with a baby's finger in my mouth, though. If she doesn't quite zonk, it probably won't go well. As such, I hate the third nap. It runs a high risk of either being non-existent or too long. I don't mind the "too long" as much until...
4. Bedtime is ... what it is. It's probably ridiculous to keep a rigid bedtime when her naptimes can vary so much. And it probably shouldn't be right smack after dinner. It's completely unpredictable whether she'll be exhausted, grumpy, giddy, hitting a third wind... Sometimes she passes out immediately upon a final nursing. Sometimes she thwaps me in the face repeatedly for forty minutes, pops on and off, and still needs to be sung to sleep. Sometimes she's overtired from being awake too long and wakes up after an hour. Sometimes she sleeps until 4 a.m. There is no telling. And the way naps went during the day has an equally unpredictable impact.
There's a theme here... so much for "drowsy but awake." But hey singing or reading a baby to sleep? Mother's lullabies are a trope for a reason. And since I expect I won't be nursing for the rest of Chaya's life, it's probably just as well that we have some sleep crutches that can work for a while. Though holding and rocking her is a little challenging as she gets heavily and more mobile. Go Magic Velveteen Rabbit juju. Rah Rah.
5. Middle of the night, a feeding still happens. For a while, it looked like she was planning to drop it entirely. I have to admit, I woke up a few times with swollen bosom and a fear of Mastitis Andronicus: 2Clogged2Feverish. I admit to even "dream feeding her" at 4 a.m. (this is where you pretend that you can actually steal into a baby's room, pick her up, attach her to your teat, and sneak an extra feeding into her without disrupting her sleep; that incidentally works better if you don't struggle trying to draw her from the deep well of baby crib that is Chaya's current sleeping quarters - and seriously, wouldn't you wake up if somebody suddenly started squirting a milkshake into your mouth??)
Dream feeding fun aside, her middle of night feed has migrated back to a fairly consistent 2 a.m. waking and feeding. Most of the time she falls back asleep after nursing. Occasionally, she wakes up when I put her back in the crib and rolls around for lord knows how long. That typically predicts/correlates with a more restless and earlier morning. Which usually means earlier nap, shorter wake time in the morning, and the dueling possibilities of a long nap to make up for lost sleep, or several grumpy short naps!
I keep fantasizing about a consistent schedule emerging. Sometimes I think it would be so freeing to have Chaya take the two naps that "most average babies" take by their ninth month. Her short wake times, plus the need to be home while nursing, can make going out a little challenging. The uncertainty of the third nap can be aggravating. The ability to make anything approximating realizable plans more than a half our in advance. These are all very appealing. Then again, I worry about her dropping that third nap. In theory, the best way to handle this is a temporary earlier bedtime, but it's been nice to have Andrew have dinner with us before bedtime. And I know "sleep begets sleep" but I just have a fear that it will just lead to her waking up even earlier than she does already!
And also, well, holding her in my arms, reading to her, and rocking her to sleep is one of those supremely affirming and momming experiences in a world where mobile maniacal baby doesn't stop for too long to pat me on the back and tell me I'm doing ok, here. Dropping a nap means dropping one of those sessions.And that rapid half hour flurry of "DINNER" making activity during her third nap is kind of a nice break for what is usually an evening of highly interactive baby. She gets less and less self-contained as the day winds down, so getting things done after about three p.m. is challenging.
Battle The Second: Boobie Battles
Speaking of thing that I both will and will not miss with equal plangency...
The History of Adella's lactilulus
First six weeks: I basically nursed all the time and tried to continue being super-mom and wife. It was exhausting. I overdid it, holding baby to my bosom while running about making food, cleaning etc. etc. It's amazing the things I could do and did do while nursing.
Second month: My milk evaporated. Likely due to the same hormonal issues that made it hard to conceive. But possibly weight related or due to stress. Whichever. I made my peace - after some really tough pumping/supplementing/bottle with saying adieu to the nursing relationship. Until I agreed to try domperidone, a stomach medication that also boosts prolactin. I pumped all the time, and needed help. It was exhausting, but to my shock, we actually got to a point where I didn't need to supplement with formula. Chaya had gotten used to the flow of a bottle, though, so I was chained to an eight times a day (including three times in the middle of the night) pumping routine. It was kind of wretched. I'm glad I had help. And I'm glad...
Third month: Very gradually, Chaya took less and less (with my insistence and subject to quite a few "NO, she's NOT hungry, she's fussing because _____" with my husband, who shared my guilt about briefly starving her and viewed a brimming bottle as the ultimate panacea). Meanwhile, I was getting a small silo of frozen breastmilk, clogging up our regular freezer as well as the standalone. Finally, Chaya went a few days without taking a bottle. Then another few days... and at the very end of the month, we shelved the bottles.
Fourth month: Chaya hit her sleep regression like a bowl of mushy pasta against the wall. She woke every ninety minutes and nursed to sleep. I ditched the overnight pumps and my sanity. Until we sleep trained her and cut her down to three times a night again. I didn't resume my overnight pumps. She stopped napping on the go. I started "nap training" and became a stay-at-home mom. Still nursed her to sleep for naps and at least every two hours whether she requested or not. But over time, I realized nursing her to sleep wasn't working for her staying asleep. And so we stopped. And I got tired of pumping every single nap. So I dropped a couple. Chaya slept longer at a time. She gained weight. And...
Fifth month: Nursing was brutal. Chaya popped on and off, fully alert and aware of the world around her. She had razor sharp nails and liked to dig them into my bosom while nursing. I broke skin on both sides. Pumping made it worse. Neosporin made Chaya want to nurse less. Bandaids reduced pump suction and Chaya was put off. Clogs developed. The broken skin and the clogs intersected before I could pump anything free. Mastitis developed. And then I developed two abscesses on my right side.
Sixth Month: Nearly a month of antibiotics, becoming chained yet again to the pump (even in the middle of the night), breast soaks, and actively scraping at the nipple (and that was the positive part). Chaya stopped nursing on the right side briefly. I had to get two ultrasounds. I had to get an abscess drained. My right breast swelled up to a thoroughly un-swell distortion of bosom. I was back to bottle feeding for a brief spell.
Six months had been my original goal for breastfeeding. I was so ready to quit, but I couldn't even if I wanted to, since the cure for clogs is constant emptying of the breast. Besides, Chaya was only getting started on solids and didn't take other liquids. And then finally, on the third weekend of aggressive hand expression, oils, and massage, the dam burst. It took another couple of weeks for the red and swelling to subside, but Chaya nursed again. Things still hurt. I was still worried. But things mellowed. I donated most of my milk. The freezer had room again. Still I kept pumping to avoid another bout of mastitis.
Seventh Month: I had made my peace with possibly transitioning from breastfeeding. Given there are some pretty hefty side effects to domperidone withdrawal, I began the very slow process of weaning. I felt like it was a matter of time before Chaya self-weaned. She'd not been particularly excited about nursing since she started trying to crawl back in the fourth or fifth month. She'd often pop off and complain about phantom issues, then be perfectly happy again a minute or two later. I couldn't nurse in public. Heck, I couldn't nurse with another person in the room. Or in a different room. It was frustrating. But I was mostly concerned that she'd stop and I'd be consigned to several weeks of still taking domperidone after she'd weaned. I gradually dropped down from 120 mg to 80 mg. Not much changed. Chaya took to solids, but she didn't take to liquids. She gained well, but would get constipated. I worried she wasn't nursing enough. We kept nursing. She dropped two overnight feeds in the course of a month. Sleep consolidated. It was... nice. But I worried. And I wasn't ready to give up the little moments of peaceful nursing we shared at night and occasionally during the day.
Eight Month: The pattern persisted. We nursed a little less often, but not drastically less. She still didn't develop teeth. She still only sporadically drank liquids. She still didn't much like to sit still. But we fell into a pattern of nursing every three to four hours during the day and once at night. I still had to do it at home. If I tried nursing elsewhere, it was a battle. She would eventually become incredibly grumpy and hangry and crash when we finally made it home and she was able to nurse in peace.
Ninth Month - So Far:
I've dropped down to 70 mg of domperidone. And I do see a decrease in the little bit I pump. I'm not sure if that's my body regulating or the lower prolactin. Chaya continues to be an eensie bit less interested in nursing. I offer more than she demands. But she still nurses pretty enthusiastically. Sometimes violently even. A hand in my nose, then jammed in my mouth, kicking, pounding my chest like the bar after a shot of whiskey... it's not exactly the peaceful Edenic version of nursing they promise.
My original goal of six months has expanded to one year. That's the benchmark where babies can transition to whole milk (or possibly other milks) according to the average pediatrician. And it's a nice round figure.
Nursing is a complex thing. It's a continuation of once having her be part of me; the vestiges of a time where body intuitively and sustained her every need. It's something that only I (and any other lactating woman, but we don't do that here) can offer her. It's time that anchors me to her and her to me in a way little else does. Sure, it's nutrition. But it's also the skin-to-skin comfort in the middle of the night, etc.
Still, we're at nine months. She's always been distractible. That busyness is reaching a fever pitch. Not only is she squirmy and sometimes violent while nursing, she's also far too excited about moving to linger in my lap the way she once did. Often she'll break off hooting impatiently, immediately trying to crawl up over my shoulder towards the next deadly series of wires and electronics.
I hear this is common at this age. That it isn't "self-weaning," but more of a phase. That they'll come back. To keep going. But I'm not keen on taking domperidone for years to come. It's potent stuff. It messes with my hormones, when they were already messed up. It keeps me from getting the cycles back that would help my body build up my bones and otherwise keep me healthy. I figured I'd get to one year and start weaning from the drug in earnest.
I don't want to, exactly. I don't want to end the relationship any sooner than Chaya is ready. But I fantasize about feeling free during the day. We're so close to the age where babies should be weaned from bottles, I don't want to use them again. I want to move her forward with sippie cups. Which means I do feel tied to our trusty "nursing spot" every three or so hours. And, again, letting go of the one thing in which I am singularly and unquestionably qualified to offer something Chaya cannot get elsewhere... that's hard to let go. The excuse to not quite wean myself from omnipresent mommy. I know when she's older (I've arbitrarily said first a year and then even more so at two years), I will strive to take more time "for myself." To be away from Chaya for more than an hour or two at a time. To have "my things" again. Not because I want to. I'm too tired really to want to be vibrant or exciting. But because it would be good for Chaya and in the long run I don't want to find at seven years down the road that I've "lost myself."
At the same time, I honestly feel more of a warm glow when she falls asleep in my arms as I'm reading to her. Or when I'm calming her after her fiftieth head bonk of the day. Sometimes, when it's been a tough day and she reaches for me. Not my breasts (beast no longer comfort nurses), but me. And I look forward to the day where I am no longer worried about nursing gone awry causing physical havoc (premature loss of supply or more mastitis).
For instance, we're going on a weekend trip to San Francisco in a few weeks. I'm excited, but also constantly concerned that she will go on a nursing strike for the duration. I'm plotting out what that might mean. How to cope. What to do between a long car ride and a busy airport. Steeling myself for that tough transition. There's a BBQ at Andrew's work in Mukilteo and I'm mentally scoping out the possibly dark areas to nurse. Estimating whether we can fit it in a four hour session, which is also fine for her to go without nursing. It's just one more thing to fret over when I already have oh so many options. But because of how we've struggled and because it's such a personal issue, it's a particular item of fretting. I don't want to chose to end it, but I also look forward to letting go of the anxiety.
I remain uncertain of how the transition will happen. And making my peace that eventually it will. Chaya may ideas of her own. Or those teeth (it's never teething, but seriously it will be someday) make a fairly strong decision on that part. In an ideal world, I could wean off the domperidone and continue nursing Chaya at night and in the mornings. Then she would be fine the rest of the day. It doesn't seem likely. I'll keep going slowly with the flow and following Chaya's lead as best I can. I'll mourn and be relieved when we finally transition and I understand it will be sooner than I'd originally intended, but far longer than my secondarily revised intentions.
And one day she'll be living off of Red Bull and dorm-scraps, while sleeping in jags over long-break weekends. And all this will be a faint memory of a senile middle aged lady with small saggy bosoms, but hopefully a stronger abdominal wall again! But more about my future self... soon.