Hallmarks of Having a Ten Month Old (You Might be a Big-Babe-Slave If...)







Time gets wonky when you're raising a manic pixie dream baby. The first day of parenthood flows like sotten molasses. 




The first week feels like years. The first month is a minor hop-skip-and-jump over eternity.

 But then, the engines start revving. You scale the parental Alps to peak at a few months. 





Then you slam straight into six.






 And then all the sudden you're mopping up mascara rivulets at little baby girl's PhD graduation. Holy whatsit, how old is my child? How old am I? What day is it? Where is my flying car and sassy robot housekeeper?

Ok, we're not there yet, but time flits and flutters about enough that you might need a little checklist to recall where you are.  





A ten month old is an interesting creature. Not quite an infant; not yet a toddler. I guess they're like pre-toddlers? Twoddlers?? 

There are a few surefire symptoms, though, that might help give you a clue if you happen to have one of them. 

A few quick ones include: 

Body By Baby-Pacing:

They're vergingly mobile in ways that you don't even want to fathom (hazard seeking missiles that they already are)



Verging on the precipice, they long for nothing more than the absolute perfection of their mischief. And that means walking, climbing, and spelunking. And you are on the hook. Once upon a time, you had horrible back problems from the havoc wreaked on your pelvic floor during delivery (well hopefully only if you're the mom - I don't know what happens in the delivery room to wreak havoc on daddy's pelvic floor, but it's best not to imagine).

Now, that's all healed. And instead, your back is permanently twisted from (1) helping baby run-stagger marathons around the kitchen island all day, and (2) sitting a frustrated and probably injured baby on your dominant hip when she needs a reboot. My left arm is getting ripped and I'm starting to really get the teenage hip-jut out. Did I mention Chaya often wants to be held for hours on end, but strongly believes that using a baby carrier to "hold" her is cheating.

Yes, even my little munchkin has a little bit of separation anxiety now. It's really sweet when she protests as I leave the house or wants mommy and only mommy in the morning. But it's also kind of exhausting when that carries over to wanting to be held by mommy without being put down for a second during a bad teething/tummy/sleep day.

Oh yeah, so you know how in the television show House, M.D. it's never lupus... except that one episode where it actually was? With Chaya it's still never teething... except that one time where she went and popped out her first little fang. There's another one quite visible under the gum, but it's been threatening to pop for nearly a month now. This girl teethes at a glacial pace. I'll still arbitrarily blame teething for any manner of maladies, though. Regardless of what they are, they occasionally require a lot of kitchen laps with a thrashing baby clinging to my neck and sliding down my hip.







Having a purse (pocket/car/bag/chair/floor) full of "toys"





They are toys. Not trash. Not refuse. Toys. A chopstick. An empty gum wrapper, the nipple of a bottle, shreds of parchment paper. Empty tubes of lipgloss. A ziploc bag. A paper cup. A tragically masticated roll of toilet paper.


Toys.

Amassed by a canny mommy and strewn about the curtilage like so many rose petals at a coronation.

This is my version of "nesting" - like a gull pecking at a dumpster, I immediately case a space for anything that might hold my little pumpkin's interest for a spare minute. Or, if I'm truly fortunate, maybe five minutes. If a candidate holds even the slightest glimmer of viability, it goes in the purse and gets a desperate audition with the big baby somewhere along the road.

I have actual toys in my purse as well. And my car. And the cupboards. And pretty much anywhere you could imagine. Actually, I really don't have much other than toys and a spare diaper in my purse. Most of the time I have a wallet in there too, but not always.

Diaper bags? For amateurs and maybe for travelling.



Curating your own museum of beverage containers






Chaya nurses less and less, and eats more and more. This is great since I want to wean off the domperidone pretty soon. But she's not always getting enough liquid when she nurses less. She's not dehydrated, but she does tend to get - er - stopped up. I am convinced that I will find the perfect cup to encourage her to drink. And that this drinking will help the flow go. And that I'll have more faith that once she weans, she'll ever have liquids again. Because that's kind of important to me.


By god, I will find the Holy Grail of sippie cups. Some day, Chaya will not just sip but slurp and guzzle from a damned cup. In the meantime, I'll spend a minor fortune attempting to nail it.

So far she's flirted with the following:

(1) A Nubie No-Spill Super Spout and Grip with handles and a soft plastic nozzle. She's had this one since five months old and occasionally drinks from it. Possibly by accident. She seems to mostly get liquid from it when she's in a reclined position. More often she favors the valve for intensive chewing.

(2) A Boeing themed sipper with a hard plastic nozzle that her daddy brought home from his super top secret mission to their El Segundo site (seriously, I have no idea, but perhaps they are engineering the perfect sippie cup?? If so, they have a ways to go). It pours water really quickly. Her favorite thing to do is upend it and bang it on the floor until there's a massive puddle. There's a theme here (prolepsis!)

(3) Another munchkin brand sippie cup with a similar chewie spout as the nubie but without handles. Ok, I found this on the trail by our house and thought she might like the variety. Her favorite thing? To drop this repeatedly, since it's kind of hard to hold. Then to fling herself about in a desperate attempt to escape the bonds of her seat.

(4) A Munchkin Click Lock with a weight at the end of the straw so it can be tilted. This thing is impossible to suck water out of. I've turned myself blue attempting to do so. She enjoyed chewing on the straw for a while and... then updended it and banged it on the floor. This continues whenever it comes back into rotation.

(5) One of Andrew's water bottles. Actually, this is one of the more successful drinking apparati so far. She goes through phases in which she allows somebody to help her by holding it to her mouth. And she enjoys pushing the stopper in and out.





(6) A regular house cup. She's fascinated by this and enjoys putting her hand inside to play with the water. Then she tries to lap up the water. Then she turns it upside down, chews on the bottom and starts banging it racuously until she drops it on the ground and falls into a rage.



(7) A "Doidy cup" - So apparently this is totally awesome. The cup is a regular open cup with little handles and a slant. It's cute. The idea is that the "unique slant lets children to drink easily as they can see the contents without thrusting their heads forward and downwards. They also learn to put the cups down properly." And it can be started as soon as three months. Chaya tries to lap water out of it. Then chews on the rim. Then turns it upside down. Then bangs it to a thorough cacophony before probably dropping it and falling into a rage. When empty, it makes a great floor-toy. I also bet that when she's college-aged and wanting to drink to excess, that will make a pretty awesome cup for such skewed debauchery.




(8) Dr. Brown's bottles. We only have a few of these left after buying a few dozen back in the early days. They still have the preemie nipples. I don't even know if she'll drink from them or not at this point. She did when I had mastitis, but that was a while ago. When she crawls across rooms to wrest Sebastian's bottle from him, she usually only chews on the nipple and expresses no interest in the formula inside. I suspect if we gave her a bottle, she'd upend it and bang it on the ground until she dropped it and became irate. Just a random guess.

(9) Some Take and Toss straw cups. She hasn't tried these because I can't get the plastic straws through the plastic lids.

(10) Some fancy bottle we got for our baby shower that has never been opened. It's still upstairs.

(11) Other babies' Nuk Learner Cups. Babies are sippie cup sluts. They swap their fluids like little libertines in one big orgy of nozzle-chewing and flailing infant arms. It's a good cup. Every one of Chaya's friends has one. She's tried several. I don't think she actually drinks from it either though. 



(12) An Apple & Eve Fruitables Berry Berry Juice Box - Yeah, I went there. She's not super interested in the juice itself. Perhaps because it is only half liquid sugar and half some veggie stuff. That said, she has used that straw to taste it. Now, though, she wants to pull the straw out of the box an play with that, then grab the strawless box and squeeze juice all over the floor. I've been slowly making my way through the juice box that we opened together.


Oh well. One of these days...

Holding two conversations at the same time... all the time.

I'm desperate for adult conversation as often as not. I get my fix bloviating on the internets about politics/science/philosophy/religion/nutrition/gender-issues/whatever-else-often-belies-that-humans-have-tendencies-towards-evangelicistic-asshattery-but-also-deep-thoughtfulness. But I also just like having conversations with those who visit.

There are usually two ways these conversations go for the people around me:

1. They are immune to the presence of a little baby and just barrel through despite the increasing efforts of Miss Chaya to garner attention from "new" (and therefore more interesting) person.

2. They are stunned in a tractor beam of baby cuteness and fall into babbling parentese.

Either way usually involves a sort of stichomythic pitter patter of my two conversational selves. Most of which go something like this (imagine interlocutor either continuing on unphased or totally mute staring at cute baby):

- Uh huh (to the interlocutor). Yeah, that's interesting, tell me more about ____. What did you mean when you said ______

... BLLLLLLLAAAAAAARG (raspberry)

- right, of course.

- Do you have a LION!?! ROAAAAAAR momomomomomo.

- But I was wondering about what you said the other day when _____

- Do we want a sippie cup? No? C'mon. Just a li' ... ok, we can throw it on the floor...

- (in a sing-song voice that obfuscates which individual i'm speaking with) Uh-huh. Yeaaaaaah. I can seeeeeee that.

- HUHUHUHUHUH HUHUHU


- So a lot like that passage from Augustine's Confessions where...

- Oooooooh pooop baby, poooop, c'mon, you can do it! Oh sweetie poooooop. 

And so on. 


Never Using the Bathroom The Same Again:


Ok, the days in which I can sneak into the bathroom and leave a self-contained baby alone in the minefield of havoc are coming to a close. Between her absolute talent for finding peril, and her occasional separation anxiety, Chaya is not really somebody to be left alone. 

I remember telling Andrew that I'd made it to the store only to realize that I'd forgotten my purse, so I just used the bathroom and left. Struggling through a mien of perplexity he finally asked "where was Chaya?" I was, of course, wearing her at the time. Sometimes she comes with me in a stroller. Most often, I just give her a toy and hold her on my hip. Occasionally I let her just crawl and wander around the bathroom, but then it gets into the awkward situation where I'm either struggling to distract her from various attractive nuisances (toilet paper, plunger, whatever else you never realized is not baby proofed). 

Even when I do actually manage to solo it, I have fallen into the habit of leaving the door slightly ajar. Just in case there's a crash and a howl requiring rapid action-mommy action. Because the way I'd be leaping into said action, a closed door would likely leave me concussed. Sometimes I do use the bathroom, say, during a nap or when I'm out on a date with my husband. But I still never quite feel alone. 


Food Ort is Your Most Prominent and Prolific Accessory:

I think my little baby has a budding eating disorder. A bunch of makes makes it in or near her mouth. A bunch more comes right back out. It's kind of like Christmas when we take her out of her seat - an untold trove of goodies
It sheds from her clothing, hands and hair like little baby fair dust all over anything she touches. And if I don't hug it right into myself directly, I'm likely to roll in it when I'm on floor duty (all the time - do people still sit in chairs these days?)

And, yes, I'm learning too much from my baby. First instinct when I happen upon a crumb in my hoodie or elbow crease? To eat it. Though, unlike her, I usually manage to keep it in my mouth.

...

These are only a few symptoms of course, but if several apply, I'd check your home for ten month olds.

Burden of Baby-Proof - A Plaintive Parent's O(h-my-)nus Begins







Well it's beyond the time you knew you shoulda started on your grand baby-proofing journey (I hear the Mirena IUD works wonders when combined with a vasectomy and a few appropriately fitted condoms...). 

Baby is mobile. Not that sort of loud grunting toilsome mobile. Not the sort where you can hear her tromping and straining to army crawl across the expanses. Not walking yet, thank god. But stealth crawling like a teeny tiny cheetah. And boy can you learn a lot about how tenuous the separation between our lives and instant death really is just by following the little one around the house for a day. Babies seem to have hazard radar.

And so, after all that diligent preparation, you find yourself woefully ill-prepared? No worries. There's time to catch up.



1. Buy a kit. Actually, you probably did this before baby even started crawling. I'm sure that you've hit the lowest common denominator and covered most of the exposed plugs (by now, you've probably even moved a lot of your electronics out of the really exposed areas. The kit will also have several bumpers for pointy furniture edges. Some latches for the doors. A few of those awful things you put over doorknobs to render them inutile. Some "appliance locks" which confuse and terrify you.

2. Realize the bumpers for pointy furniture don't stay on the corners of anything. Deem them teething toys, after baby co-opts them. Call it good.

3. Eschew the doorknob destroyers. that's a ways off, knock on wood.

4. Consider the safety latches, feel overwhelmed at how many drawers and cupboards you own. Realize that screwdrivers and mangling furniture is involved. Panic. Put that off as well.  Fear the latches that keep the toilet and other appliances closed. Why do you think they'd just lead to accidents? Promise you'll keep the baby gates (when they exist) and all the bathroom doors closed at all times.




5. Instead of installing safety latches, move all of the heavy objects and hazardous materials out of the lower shelves onto the topmost shelves that you can barely reach. Fill bottom shelves with towels, wrapped and sealed foods ("toys"), and actual baby toys. Call it good for another few months.

6. Baby gates! You probably ordered those a while ago too. In fact, they're mostly stashed behind the sofa. Baby has crawled on them repeatedly. She's even climbed up the stairs to bat at them from a taller vantage point.

7. Think about trying to put them up when baby is napping. Misunderstand instructions and believe wall-screwing (oh my!) is involved. Panic. Beg your husband to help out.

8. A week later, not wanting to feel like a nag, but starting to think that putting baby at the far end of the room and running to the bathroom to get a headstart is not ideal. Find it still a little awkward to bring baby into the bathroom with you, since she inevitably still tries to climb up on you in between attacking the plunger and the toilet paper. And lose stomach for the wails of recrimination involved when baby is placed in the nefarious Plastic Maiden (i.e. "her bouncer") when mommy heeds the call of nature. More pointedly request that husband "at least" do the one bottleneck that leads to the stairs and baby's future Jack and Jill gymnastics. Insist he needn't do all three. Attempt to stop him again after he's well into the second one a wee bit past bedtime. Thank him profusely, but tell him to go to bed. Leave the third and most complicated (but least necessary) one for some future date. 





9. Discover that baby gates are the best baby toys ever. Spend several hours on the opposite side of baby feeding her freeze dried blueberries while she cage dances. Help baby step over the little door threshold. Thank the lord that there is now something sturdy and non-pointy that baby likes to climb.

10. Move furniture. Heavy furniture goes in front of wires. Tape down bubble wrap on the mantle place. Tap cords shoddily down in a way that just attracts baby. Keep moving furniture. Use an old baby hat to tied a cabinet shut.

11. Decide that the death machine rocking chair and swaying bouncer are good for baby's balance.




12. Follow your baby around at (almost) all times. Say inane things like "careful!" and "is that a fun thing to climb?" between "Hmmm how can we get you away from that without a massive temper tantrum... how about this piece of trash? Would you like a nice safe piece of trash?" 

13. Realize that the Amish had a good idea getting all wires and cords out of their lives. Amish baby proofing must be significantly easier.

14. Get yourself into a thorough snit fit over the internet outrage (mostly by men you notice) against the mom whose baby climbed into the gorilla pit. While ranting about this off-the-charts insipidity, hear a loud THUD and baby sobs for the twentieth time of the day.

15. Feel relief that baby doesn't seem that close to standing. Declare a momentary break and spend your days following baby around retrieving her from deadly situations. Consider investing a bale of bubble-wrap and a nice comfortable baby leash.



Baby-Mamma Chronicles - Extracting the Me from Mommmeeeeee (or is it maaaaahmaaababaalaaamaaa?)

But enough about Chaya. Let's ditch the thinly veiled parental narcissism of obsessing over one's "flesh and blood" and just go straight for ME. And maybe a little my boytoy. But mostly ME.




A few weekends ago, the (W)right family was at the park when "serious conversation" leapt upon us with more spring than our little can-can girl's wildly pumping gams.



It sprawled with as many tentacles as a mutant cephelapod, but a few topics got me thinking: Andrew had started urging me to do more "me" things (as in "me-Adella"/"you" and less "me-Andrew"/"serve me" things). Get a massage. Go running. Take a class. Heck, take a week away and go visit my sister. Have something that was mine. It came from a good place. He'd been talking about his big races. His away-rides. His me-time. He felt odd that I didn't have the equivalent. He wanted to make sure I was taking care of myself. And/or he's always viewed feminine sentiment as a bit of a pathology, so my frequent Venusian behaviors do worry him more than a touch.

In a sense, he struck a pretty common theme in our relationship. Andrew defines himself by what he does. I define myself by the relationships around me. By my sense of place in a community. And by the internal thoughts and ideas that I have. I've never really had the same emphasis on external activities. It's alien to him to think of a self without these. So my amorphous activity-based identity has always been peculiar to him. But it's become more of a contrast in this last year.

My initial reaction was mildly defensive incredulity. Obviously he didn't understand what it was to be a mom. While he can put on and take off daddy-hat, ME is written write into "mom-Meeee" (ok, MY is written into Mommy, which might imply the more possessive nature of all this mothering). For him, Daddy is just an additional thing he is among several other things. Chaya's an additional relationship he has in his life. An important one. But relationships always recognize contrasts, boundaries, separation. It's not like that for me. Chaya is my me.


I've always been fiercely resistant to categorization. I've been a _____ (dancer, attorney, Johnnie), but also... and except for how I'm not... I mixed freely among cliques when I was younger. I've always held one foot out of the water. Until now. I have never felt so fully subsumed in an identity as I am "Chaya's mommy." It's the fulcrum through which all of my previous talents and passions, and quirks are manifest.

One problem with this though: I don't feel like I'm really all that great of a "Chaya's Mom" Not really. There just aren't metrics for that, for one. And if there were, well...

  I'm usually good at what I do. I was a pretty darned good dancer. I was the Outstanding Graduate in the East Asian Studies Department. I was top percentiles in Law School. Other attorneys actually have praised my briefs, and I'm famous for my work as the secretary of the WCP. Hell I used to make award winning fruit baskets as a produce clerk, and was a top scooper at the salsa factory.

I'm too neurotic to let that get into my head and inflate my ego, but I certainly took a kind of pride in the occasional fawning and markers of success at any rate.

 As mom, I don't know. I'm somewhere between "treading water" to "bobbing along passably." I have yet to get my special framable Summa Cum Mom plaque, believe it or not. Sure, Chaya looks to me when she's grumpy, and only I can sing her or snuggle/rock to sleep. (Why is it on days that Chaya's moody, fragile and underslept, her favorite consonantal string is mamamamamamamamama... mom... ma... maaaaamaaaa? When she's happy, it's babab or even papa) But that's largely because I do it all the time. Chaya's an awesome little beast. She would thrive with any half-decent caregiver.

 I'm sometimes a little jealous of the moms with velcro babies, of those whose kiddos have genuine separation anxiety. Babies who cry when other people hold them, and who get jealous when mommy holds other babies. Chaya gets overwhelmed in new situations, but after that, she's a little flirt. I imagine some part of me is afraid to let others care for Chaya because I don't want to discover that she'll forget me. That I, mommy, am disposable. That some other Alpha ape-lady will try to steal my monkey baby!

And of course, Chaya will grow up. Right now, she mostly needs somebody to give her the basic essentials and restrain her from leaping headfirst off the couch. But eventually, she'll need role models, not just guides and guards. I'll need to keep in touch with myself as she becomes herself. And someday she'll be off to conquer the world. I kinda need to stay in touch with the non-Chaya ME, for Chaya's sake.

Ok, so all that percolated after our initial conversation...

And I got to thinking, I'd best devise a plan to make sure I manage this me-ness!

ACK!

WHO AM I???



... Then my second thought was, well actually I am still here. But in specific ways that contain the potential for expansion as the little one grows up.


Things that I think of as quintessentially me: 

1. Writing - It's always been my way of processing the world around me. And engaging with it. And manipulating it. And laughing at it. Whether it's blogging, writing briefs, or taking notes as the Secretary/Poet Laureate of the WCP, it's an essential thing for me and my sense of self. I am trying to make sure to at least keep the blog semi-active, even if it's all baby-poop, boobies and naps all the time. As Chaya's naps start to hit longer paces, I've been able to find some down time by occasionally ignoring all the things around the house I'd like to do. It's not quite the morning discipline of writing for an hour after first waking. But it's a start.

2. Research, Esemplastic Epiphanies, and Analyses - This is a complement to the writing. I'm damned good at synthesizing large swarms of raw data into cohesive wholes. It's dragged me into a bit of a quagmire with babydom, since I'm compulsively aware of all the information out there and constantly tinkering with it to ongoing uncertainty.

3. Supporting others - I'm neurotic and self-centered and thoroughly introverted, but I also am an empathetic person. I am able to hear other people, support and affirm their experiences, and help them forge through the inner chambers of their murky minds. I also am able to reach out from my own experiences and relate instead of supplanting. I find myself becoming that sort of figure through the various moms groups, especially as an advocate for women struggling with fertility or lactation issues.

4. Fitness - This one has really fallen by the wayside. Although I still eat quite well and have maintained a slimmer and semi-toned figure, I am just at a nadir of fitness. My abdominals are jelly. My toosh has been vacuum packed into my milky bosoms, and just generally I'm not all that strong. And that's a little weird for somebody who has been in pretty peak condition for at least ten years prior. So that one isn't quite there, but I am still in decent shape. I'm hoping in the future to get back my abs o'iron.

5. Whimsy - It's in my sense of humor. When I'm putting effort or conscious thought into dressing, it shows up there quite a bit. I love sparkles and splashes of colors. Fun and playful babble. My massive sock collection. I like to subvert expectations. Sometimes with a sere irony that skids past the minds of most, and sometimes with a facile pablum of sing-songery. You're never too old for make believe. Sometimes I wish I shared this more with Chaya, but I think I still do somewhat. I hope.



And then, aside from that, there are things that I still do that were my ME-things. And some that I don't.



Things I do/did "for me":

1. Writing - see above

2. Crosswords - word puzzles. Word play. This is totally the leisure activity that has survived babypocalypse. It's easier than most immersive activities, since I can put it down and re-assume without losing a beat. And with the synapses misfiring left and right, I suppose it's palliative to have some badinage still beating about my battered aphasiac brain.

3. Reading - Much of my life, I could fling myself down the rabbit hole of good literature and only re-emerge several hours later. Possibly completely changed. Certainly dazed and startled about having debouched back to "reality."This has fallen by the wayside recently. It's something that requires my undivided attention and I don't have a lot of that these days. But I do read aloud to Chaya several times a day. I have many of her books memorized, and chant them to her at random with pantomime and gesture. I'm really looking forward to when she is older and I can share my favorite children's stories with her.

4. My strange form of cooking and playing with food - I don't exactly do "fine dining," but given my particular style of eating, I certainly have learned my share of idiosyncratic approaches to cookery. My favorite Saturday activity used to be cutting and preparing vegetables, firing up the slow cooker, and making yogurt. I'm currently channeling these impulses into baby food and occasionally making more interesting meals for my hubba hubba. I'm afraid to use my larger food processor. It's loud and messy. but my immersion blender is fairly awesome.



5. Musical Immersion - Nowadays that means playing music in the house, singing to Chaya, and occasionally grooving in the kitchen. It used to mean dancing, which I love but which was already becoming a late night activity when I was gravitating towards early mornings. I also honestly find social dancing more diverting with strangers. Part of the fun and excitement is the unknown and the utter fantasy. When you become too familiar, that goes by the wayside.

It also meant and will mean attending concerts, the opera, and singing at the Taize service or in some other community setting.

There was also performance which related to music. I feed off the connection with a partner, but also the vibe of a room and feel such a rush competing or performing dance. I really do miss that. Teaching and competing was very satisfying that way.




6. Walking and other forms of physical engagement with the world and my body. There was a phase in which running was a big thing for me. I still take a walk with Chaya every day, despite her occasional cavils. And I like to charge up the high grade areas. But not quite like when I walked several hours a day at my desk. Or ran. But even if running is "easy," it's not that easy. I can take Chaya in the stroller, sure. But then I need a shower. And before that I need to change. And probably nurse her on either side. And stretch. It's involved. I may try to get back into it with Andrew at least on the weekend. And when she's a bit older, I think I will look into getting back into

7. Spirituality. I'm a cliche for my generation. I tend to find a deeply spiritual experience in all things. I find all religions to hold a kernel of truth. I embrace the inarticulable and believe that no true belief can be held without struggle and doubt and paradox. But I found something really meaningful in my occasional excursions to the Taize service with my dad. And the holiday rites we share.

So there's all that. I'm still here. I could be more here. But I'm still here.



We are so related...




Another familiar refrain that came up in our conversation was Andrew and I having things that were ours. To an extent he's always regretted that we don't share more things in common. I take this mostly as his emphasis on activity versus being. And also a bit of guilt/regret that he feels he has to choose between "time with wife" and "time doing my things." But of course, noting back burners a shared few things like a baby. Or subsumes it.

I mean, my first response was "We have a baby we're raising together. Chaya is our thing!!" But I get it. We still do date night, but I may find it even harder to stay out for long and have my phone out plenty. And I don't want to waste a great spouse because I'm flooded with baby-momma hormones that will evolve and make room over time if only I let them.



So, the things we do/did/have done together:

1. Netflix. Seriously, dude, a shared marathon of a tv show is a big thing. You have the inside jokes, topics of conversations, a shared laugh or tear. It's incredibly communal. We watch marathons of shows together after Chaya goes to sleep. It's drab. But it's grounding.

2. Walking and talking. Not Andrew's favorite thing, walking, but we always have had a bond in motion. It takes a while for his head to spin down from work/cycling, and for my gibberish to coalesce into a nice desultory chitter-chat, but it happens when we walk together. I like that we do this together on the weekends.

3. Ballet. We both danced once upon a time and for a good while we went to the PNB together. It was a really special little thing to share, but it's a long day trip, so certainly not this year. And I probably won't be comfortable being away that long for a little while longer. But perhaps there are events in town.

4. Dancing - As I said, in many regards, I enjoy dancing more when I'm single (and in shape, but that's a different thing). And my other challenge with this is that I have tended to gravitate naturally towards an earlier schedule. With the baby, that is magnified intensely. Sure, I could let somebody else put her to bed (after she's weaned a bit more anyways), or go out after Chaya's down for the night. But sleep! I need sleep! I'm usually ready to crawl into pjs and zonk by 8. But of course, if there's a good tune in playing on the radio... and the man is near... I think if we could find a few things during the day, it would be lovely.



5. Running/Working out - I'd like to get back into this. And it would be fun to have a standing running date with the hubba-hubs.

6. Exploring and Traveling - Not as much as some of the others, but we have done our share of continent trotting.



PHEW

So at any rate. Wherever you go, there you are. You might be covered in prune puree, washing yourself with wetnaps and unable to form coherent sentences that don't involve baby poop or nonsense syllables. But there you are.

In some ways, I am developing a course of expected re-discovery. First off, some day I'll stop referring to myself in the third person. And this will simplify life a lot. Working in all those "me" and "I" constructions should help, right?

But really. I'm planning to wean. Myself. From the transcendental umbilical cord.

In ancient writings, the word “wean” meant “to ripen” — like a fruit nourished to readiness, its time to leave the vine… Weaning was a joyous occasion because a weaned child was valued as a fulfilled child; a child was so filled with the basic tools of the earlier stages of development that she graduated to take on the next stage of development more independently.
— from The Baby Book by William Sears. MD and Martha Sears, RN, p. 187


The thought is that around a year Chaya will hit a point where she'll have fewer, more predictable naps. Ok, Chaya will never be predictable per se. But I think it's a little more reasonable to scootch her towards a schedule at that point.

 And at the same time, when she's a year old, she'll have satisfied the AAP recommendation of "at least one year" of getting the larger part of her nutrition from breastmilk. It's an arbitrary milestone. But at that point I expect to start cutting back the domperidone in earnest. And letting her wean down as that occurs and my supply diminishes (this assumes the situation stays static until a year - a few razor-baby-teeth and we might reconsider formula or pumping). I'll hold onto those night feedings to the last, but the day feedings would certainly be less missed and add a little more portability (since she can't nurse on the go) and predictability.

And that will make it easier for me to plan a few things. Which will mostly kill my excuses and force my out of my (sometimes uncomfortable) comfort zone of all things baby.

Maybe that means more trips to the doctor and dentist. Or the highly needed PT (my achin' back!) But it also means I will gradually start letting myself spend more time away from Chaya at a sitting.  Maybe work my way up to an hour or two at a time.  A lunch out alone while Andrew watches the baby.  And then occasionally a day trip even. And I'll work my way into leaving her at the daycare or with friends while I do little "me" things.

When I stop nursing, I've promised to celebrate the tough road by buying myself (1) a new wardrobe (for those smaller boobies that don't need to pop out easily), and (2) a gym membership (to handle those extra hundreds of calories I've been munchkin in for Miss Chaya's booby juice). She'll have a chance to catch all those fun bugs at daycare that she missed this year!

Of course I say this as every day, it gets harder and harder to want to lose a minute. But gosh darnit. For Miss Chaya. I will. Eventually. In a couple of months. Really...




I'm sure she won't forget me immediately. And hopefully none of those Alpha monkeys are hanging around on the porch too closely to swoop in on my little monkey baby! Because once I get into my cardio kickboxing, well meaning mommies who get too near to my baby are gonna be in trouble.

State of the Nine-Month Old (mommydom) - Nursing and Napping Nonsense

State of the Babe: Nine Months and Counting... 



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 

Napping, 

boobie battles, 

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.


Aaaaaaaaand...


  • 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.