Bringing Up Baby – what I’ve learned about sleep and my baby

AJ co-sleeping with her monkey.

Ah, sleep – it’s such a wonderful, wonderful thing.  I remember the days – back when it was just R and I – when we’d go to bed whenever we felt like it and sleep the whole night through without a care in the world. Those were the days!

These days, sleep is more elusive.  It’s not as simple as putting on my PJs and crawling under the covers with a good book until the Sandman whisks me away into dreamland. These days, we have a 10.5 month old!

Going into motherhood, I had preconceived notions of what I thought I would do when it came to putting my baby to sleep.  When we were preparing her nursery, we bought a lovely white crib and I outfitted it with green, white and pink linens and a flower mobile.  And when I was still pregnant with her, one of my favorite things to do was spend time in her room, picturing what she would look like sleeping peacefully in that crib.

But as it turned out, we’ve been a co-sleeping family since night one with AJ.  She was (and still is) a very sensitive person and she was content and calm when in my arms or snuggled up right next to me.  I remember those first few days when I couldn’t figure out why she wouldn’t just lay in her crib like every baby I’ve ever seen on t.v. or in the movies (I didn’t have much hands-on baby experience going into this!).  I read SO MANY BOOKS about “sleep training” but at the end of the day, I couldn’t bear to let her “cry it out.”  I did try several times but I found that I wasn’t cut out for it . . . and neither was AJ.  Instead, I learned to wear her in a sling when she needed to nap and I nursed laying down in bed, drifting off to sleep next to her at night – this was the only way that all of us could get some rest.

10.5 months in, co-sleeping has become a wonderful, bonding experience for us.  When I went back to work after 12 weeks (too early in my opinion – I wish the U.S. had better maternity-leave standards but that’s another post for another day!), having her in my bed at night gave me the skin-to-skin snuggle time that I missed so much during the day. I LOVE smelling her baby soft scalp and nuzzling her head as I drift off.  In addition, I’ve been able to nurse her through the night as she never truly taken to the bottle – she’ll drink a little throughout the day but she gets the bulk of her milk between the hours of 8 p.m. and 7 a.m.

So, for a plethora of reasons, my little one does not “sleep through the night.”  Gah! I can’t tell you how much I hate being asked about her sleep habits! So many well-meaning women of experience have advice for me when I tell them that my little one still wakes on average five times a night (sometimes more, sometimes less depending on growth spurts, teething, illness, etc.).  A lot of people think that co-sleeping puts a damper on a husband and wife’s “personal” time and that it’s unhealthy . . . I’ve heard opinions that co-sleeping doesn’t provide babies with independence nor does it provide healthy boundaries.

There are nights – the rough ones when she is up a multitude of times, cries and wants constant rocking – when I wonder though my sleepy haze if we are doing the right thing.  But in my heart I know that this has been a Godsend for us and I’m so glad that I’ve followed my heart and not the baby training books or the multitude of people (including family) whose advice just wasn’t right for us.

The number one thing I would tell a new, inexperienced mom about parenting in general is that it’s not a straight line from point A to point B.  Sometimes you take two steps forward and one step back.  Flexibility and fluidity is key – there’s no room (in my short experience) for rigid routines and power plays.  I know that when I try to force AJ into sleep because, according to the clock on the wall that says 7:30 p.m.,  it’s nighttime, she will fight me on it and it is MORE stressful than if I had just waited another 30 minutes until she showed me in her own way that she was ready for bed.  I have to remember to trust MY instincts and allow AJ to follow her own as well with positive guidance and love. To me, this is the foundation of parenting.

Over the last few weeks, AJ has gone down for naps in her crib on the weekends (she also sleeps in a crib at daycare) and at night I’ve begun to put her down to sleep at night in her crib. I feel that we are both ready for this new transition.  The last few evenings she has been up at 9:30 p.m. and I nurse her and put her down again.  After her second wake up (about midnight) I bring her to bed with me.  I think we’ll continue to do this half crib, half bed sleeping for a while until we are both ready for her to sleep independently in her room. 

And I must say, that my husband has been amazingly wonderful and supportive of co-sleeping throughout these last 10+ months.  I couldn’t ask for a more understanding and loving man to be my partner in raising little AJ.  He loves her being in our bed as much as I do as it also give him the time – as a working father – to being next to her . . . to listen to her sleep . . . to have her know that his comforting and protective presence is there in the night. 

I’ll end this post with something I hear R say to a good friend a few weeks ago.  We were at a Memorial Day BBQ at a friend’s house.  Our friend, E (who happens to be recently married but is currently childless) said that we must now know so much about babies that we could write a book about it!  R replied, “Well, we could write a book about how to raise AJ!”  His point was (and he still often reminds me of this when I temporarily go off track) that AJ – like ALL babies – are unique.  You can’t always expect that what worked for someone else will automatically work for you and your baby too.  Just like how all families are different, so are all babies.  While co-sleeping works beautifully for us, I don’t expect it to be the right thing for every family.  I encourage all new moms and dads to tune out the “noise” and just focus on what their heart and their gut are telling them – because it’s usually right!! 

Peace and love,

Margie

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Monday Morning Chit-Chat Swimming Eddition

Monday already?!  Seems like these summer days are just flying by!  We had a jam-packed Saturday and Sunday which included AJ’s first swim lesson at the YMCA!  She had a GREAT time.  It was so awesome to see her “swim” like a little fish in her dad’s arms. Considering that six months ago she was still crying through her evening baths, this is quite the accomplishment!

Loving the water!

Another big milestone that happened this week is that our little one is WALKING.  She’s been taking steps here and there but over the weekend she really got going! Crawling is still the preferred method of locomotion when she wants to get somewhere (or get to some thing) fast . . . but she’s getting very confident in her walking skills!  On Sunday, my mom and I took her shopping for walking shoes.  I didn’t end up buying anything because as it turns out, her feet are wide and most of the shoes looked uncomfortably tight on her.  There was a pair of Stride Rite’s that looked pretty good, but I thought I’d check out a boutique nearby where I purchased her first pair of pre-walking sandals. But I’m glad I took AJ in person to try on shoes instead of shopping online like I do so often for her clothes.  Shoes are one of those things that really need to fit just right! 

Other things that happened this weekend: My friend, A, spent a few hours on Saturday afternoon just hanging out. She is 12 weeks pregnant with her first child and it’s interesting to experience a friend being pregnant from THIS side of the delivery table. 🙂 And, we had lunch with my dad and step-mom.  Dad is undergoing some health issues and it was really special that he made it out to AJ’s lesson and then lunch. I could tell he was hurting but he really wanted to be with us.  

Now, on to Monday Morning Chit-Chat brought to you by Carla

What are you….

  • Reading… The second book in the Fifty Shades of Grey series.  I wanted to see what the hype was all about and it’s pretty awful . . . but I give major props to the author for publishing such a phenomenon!
  • Watching… I feel like there isn’t anything good on t.v. right now!  I watched the “Sister Wives” special with Natalie Morales last night (and this morning via DVR).  Ho hum.
  • Cooking/Baking… Tonight will be R’s favorite tuna casserole . . . other things on the menu this week include baked pacific flounder, spinach and tomatoes with pasta and feta, and lots of greens!
  • Happy you accomplished… I feel like I didn’t accomplish much with how busy the weekend was . . . it’s such a small thing but I’m glad that I did all our laundry, folded it and put it away as well as outfit planned the work week for AJ and I.  It really does help our mornings go much smoother!
  • Looking forward to next week… I’m looking forward to seeing my good friend R and her triplets this Saturday!  It will be the first time our babies will meet as she just moved back to town!
  • Thankful for today… My dad and all that he has done for me and continues to do for me today.  He had surgery on Thursday and we’re waiting to hear back on the results of a biopsy (this Friday).
  • Listening to.. Dave Ramsey in the car to and from the chiropractor’s office this morning.
  • *Bonus Question* What is the WORST movie you’ve ever seen & couldn’t be paid to watch again? Ugh, there are so many because R and I have such different tastes in movies . . . all of his “picks” are pretty bad.  But one that comes to mind is Transformers.  I know it’s such a blockbuster but meh, not my cup of tea at all.

Have a good week, everyone!

Happiness isn’t the Only Acceptable Emotion

I am the first to admit that I am a perpetual people pleaser and I’ve been that way pretty much as long as I can remember. If I were to psycho-analyze myself, my best guess to why I am the way that I am is because my mother is the complete opposite.  Growing up, I always felt the need to be her buffer with the rest of the world. I felt compelled to smooth out her hard edges and get people to like me despite my mom’s difficult “stir-the-pot-and-deal-with-it” personality. 

In some ways I think my people pleasing ways has served me well.  I am a chipper, can-do kind of girl. I can put a positive spin on almost anything.  I like being polite. I like doing a good job at things.  I see the glass as half-full not half-empty. When others say no, I like to be the one that says, “yes, I can help you,” or “yes, I’m able to do that.”

But the downside to being a people pleaser is that I’m extremely uncomfortable with conflict.  I hate arguments and I’m not great at standing up for myself or my opinions.  With age this has gotten better – I’ve grown a bit more of a spine – but being the voice of dissent will probably never be something I am every comfortable with.  I could never be a politician!

Another downside is that I have come to believe that “happy” is the emotion of choice ALL the time. I rarely give myself permission to be sad or angry or depressed even when being happy is inauthentic and untrue to how I’m REALLY feeling on the inside.  And as a mom, I see how that carries over to my parenting. I don’t ever want my little girl to be sad or to cry or to be upset. I hate the term “Cry It Out” and failed miserably at it because I just couldn’t stand by and listen to my daughter wail – it’s ingrained in me to provide comfort.  It’s who I am at such a deep level.

But I’m starting to realize that while I’ll probably never be a CIO parent, I don’t have to feel compelled to fix everything for my little one.  It’s okay if she’s not happy all that time. I want her to know that sometimes it’s okay to cry and there ISN’T anything that makes it better.  I want her to know that she can express her emotions and that I will always listen to her and be a safe harbor. I want her to know that she has the power within herself to find solutions to problems.  And I want her to know that life is messy and there isn’t a “happy ending” with all situations. Most of all, I don’t want my daughter to feel – like I did – that she has to be inauthentically happy.

The Joyful Daily Groove and Work In Progress Wednesday

(Pinterest photo credit)

Lately I’ve been noticing that I have been doing a lot of wishing away of the present. I have all of these goals . . . I want it to be the weekend, I want to buy a house, I want to have another baby, I want to pay off my car and be consumer debt free, I want to work part-time, I want to go on vacation, I want to have time to go to yoga class, I want a massage and I want all of these things other material things that are not attainable in this moment.  But the thing is, this moment is pretty darn good.  No, it’s actually pretty freaking great – but I’ve been too focused on the future, racing to the next goal post, and haven’t been enjoying the ride that is life.

My life is, TODAY, has been showered with abundance!  So, I decided that starting today, I need to refocus my inner voice that is telling me that my life isn’t good enough. . . because it IS.  In fact, from here on out, I’m going to end every blog with three things I’m grateful for because it’s not about the boring daily grind, it’s about the joyful daily groove.  Am I right?!

Work In Progress Wednesday

I’m finally starting to get back into knitting after many months off after the birth of my daughter.  I’m easing myself into it with a few simple projects and right now I’m working on a washcloth.

 

Cotton washcloth

 

Yeah, I know, don’t faint from excitement. Could I be knitting anything more dull than a brown, cotton washcloth? But hey!  There are yarn overs!  And cables! 

Another project in progress was inspired by Pinterest.  Man, I LOVE that site.  I saw a few shadow box displays that people had put together of newborn clothing and I thought it was a pretty awesome way to display the teeny tiny onesie that AJ wore when she came home from the hospital! This one is my source of inspiration:

(Pinterest Photo Credit)

incidentally and, sort of oddly, I actually have a shadow box that is perfect for this that’s been sitting around collecting dust as I figured out what exactly I wanted to use it for, but the finish is a dark wood.  So, over the weekend, I started painting it and this is what it looks like as of today:

Probably should have thought of priming it before I started painting. . .

It’s going to take a few more coats of paint . . .

But I’m excited – I think it’ll look pretty good when its done!

Today I’m grateful for . . .

1. My job, which is mentally stimulating and brings me into contact with interesting and friendly people on a daily basis whilst also providing a solid means of providing for myself and my family.

2. My daughter, who started waving at me happily when she first saw me this morning.

3. Having the time to do 20 minutes of yoga this morning before packing lunches and getting the day started. It’s an excellent way to wake up.

Monday Morning Chit Chat: Father’s Day Edition

This weekend we celebrated Ron’s first Father’s Day!  We met my dad and step-mom along with our good friends (A and E) and E’s mom, at Extraordinary Desserts.  Lunch was so-so but that was okay because we were truly there for the amazing cakes, tarts, scones and other treats.  We gifted Dad a framed photo of him holding a sleeping AJ in his arms (she was probably about 4 months old – photo below).   After lunch we headed home and just relaxed the rest of the day (and did a ton of laundry).

Opa and AJ

Sunday, Ron went out for a Father’s Day surf session with one of his best friends who has two daughters – a 5-year-old and an 11-month-old.  When he got home he opened his Father’s Day presents which included a photo collage I put together of him with AJ, an art project that AJ did in daycare, and an art project that I did of Ron’s hand print covered with AJ’s hand print (saw it on Pinterest but it didn’t turn out quite as good).  We had lunch at Beachside and in the evening I made dinner – Creamy Shrimp and Mushroom Pasta – which turned out great (well, it had 10 tablespoons of butter in it and 3 oz of cream cheese – it would have been hard to mess up this one!)

 

One of the photos in R’s Father’s Day photo collage: I love this one! She’s about 4 months old.

 

To wrap up today’s post, I’m going to start a blog tradition of filling out a weekly survey of what I’m up to (as seen on Carla’s Blog)

What are you:

Reading: A Storm of Swords (Book 3 in the “Game of Thrones” series)

Watching: Over the weekend I watched the Season 5 finale of “Mad Men.” Ah, I love that show!  I wish I could take the fashion and socially accepted drinking at work into this era (but leave the sexism and racism).

Listening to: Ocean waves at night using a sound machine app on my iPhone. 

Cooking/Baking: See above paragraph – I’m excited to eat leftovers on Tuesday!

Happy you accomplished today this weekend: Folding and putting away ALL our laundry . . . and then organizing and setting aside what we are going to wear every day this work week (for baby and I – a new thing this week – I hope this will help get out us out of the house earlier in the morning.  I love to dress the little one and I tend to linger too long in her closet when I should just be grabbing stuff so we can go! Same goes for me – sometimes I can’t decide what to wear and it’s an agonizing process of trying on multiple pants/skirts/shirts before I’m “ready.”)

Looking forward to next this week: an all day work meeting in LA on Thursday where I’ll get to see a lot of industry peers I only get to see every six months or so. . . and AJ’s first swim lessons on Saturday!

Thankful for today: My husband – he’s a really wonderful dad and he loves us both so much.

*bonus question*:

If you could have just one item off of your wish list right now, what would it be??  A cupcake stand like this one – for AJ’s 1st birthday party which will be cupcake themed!