Nine Months In; Nine Months Out

Forty-one weeks ago, Miss P made her long-awaited debut- all 7 pounds, 1 ounce, and 20.5 inches of her.

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Introducing Little Miss P

She didn’t emerge with gusto, the way some babies do. Instead, she was limp and silent.

We were transferred from a free-standing birth center to the hospital in the final stages of labor. Before Miss P’s entrance, a nurse explained that there was meconium in the amniotic fluid. Though this didn’t necessarily signify a problem – it actually wasn’t too uncommon – a team from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit would be standing by incase of complications.

The moment Miss P was born, time was suspended like the lingering pause between a bolt of lightening slashing the night sky and an angry crack of thunder in the distance.

“Meconium. It’s the meconium,” I heard someone say.

The doctor rushed to cut the umbilical cord, swaddled a languid Miss P in a receiving blanket, and placed her in my arms for a fleeting moment – a moment in which someone snapped our first family photo. I barely had the chance to look down at her before she was taken from me, whisked away to the NICU.

Suddenly, there was so much going on around me: bright lights, loud voices, medical staff shuffling back and forth. I could hear the incessant chatter and laughter of nurses seated at a desk in the hallway and the bleeps from equipment in neighboring rooms. A nurse scolded me- something about bending the IV – an IV I wasn’t even supposed to have – as I gripped my cell phone and tried to focus on the 2″ by 3″ photo of my baby girl the student midwife from the birth center had sent me before she left the hospital.

The whole thing was so far from the peaceful private entrance I’d been fantasizing about since we switched to midwifery care and found a supportive doula.

Then for the first time in forty-one weeks, I was completely and utterly alone.

Miss P had what we like to call a rough start, but less than halfway through the day, she was breathing unassisted, alert, and nursing like a pro. Even so, the first 48 hours of her life were spent in the NICU under observation. During this time, Tim and I were allowed to stay with her. We were allowed to hold her and care for her, though not quite in the same ways we would have had the situation presented itself differently.

I find myself often wondering what it would’ve been like had my baby not been pulled from my arms moments after her birth- to have experienced the “Golden Hour” they often referred to in our childbirth classes in all its sanctity: no weighing and measuring, no bath to compromise the precious vernix, no generic blanket and cap to mimic the warmth of that initial skin-to-skin contact with the mother.

I wonder what it would’ve been like to hold my baby close without a tangle of cords hooked up to various monitors intruding between us, to know the sound of her breath without the drone of equipment – equipment that in our case was completely unnecessary. I also wonder how I would’ve felt had I not had to watch a nurse push the empty plastic bassinet from my room, its wheels squeaking across the tile floor.

I don’t often recount the first days of our lives as a family of three, but when I do, most of my listeners tell me to move on. After all, I was fine. Miss P was fine. It was just a rough start. We live under the guise that a healthy mom and a healthy baby are the only things that matter when they are not. And, by the way, the term healthy isn’t limited to outright physical vigor. We can’t know for certain the repercussions – regardless of how delayed or seemingly unrelated they may be – of separating a newborn baby from its mother. I’m not sure I’ll ever emotionally heal from Miss P being taken away from me, even if it was only for a few hours, even though we both ended up being outwardly “fine”.

As much as I daydream about it, I can’t go back in time and make Miss P’s entrance a peaceful one. I can’t change the fact that she spent her first hours in a stark bassinet  instead of in the arms of her mother and father. I can’t change that she spent her first two days adorned with tubes and wires. I can’t alter the past, but I can move forward consciously and with intention.

I think this is one of the reasons I’ve really resonated with many aspects of attachment parenting. I didn’t set out to be an attachment parent; I didn’t read books on the subject or watch documentaries, I just started doing what, to me, felt natural, and I’ll continue to do what feels natural- to utilize the mother’s instinct that was born with my daughter. I don’t want my sweet baby to succumb to fear or loneliness. I want her to know I’m here for her, now and always.

So, here I sit, forty-one weeks later, with Miss P napping beside me. The room is dimly lit, piano music is playing softly in the background, and the scents of lemongrass and cedarwood tangle in the air as they escape the diffuser. This has become our evening ritual- a nightly Golden Hour of sorts, albeit delayed.

I can’t alter the past, but I can move forward consciously and with intention.

As I sit here this evening watching Miss P sleep, I’m trying to wrap my head around the significance of this extraordinary milestone we’ve just achieved as a family: nine months in; nine months out. Or, in our case, forty-one weeks in; forty-one weeks out.

It’s no secret that human infants are nearly helpless at the time of their birth. Though a full-term baby is born around the nine month mark, its gestation period most definitely continues outside the womb, and in many ways, the nine month milestone, with its bold determination and mobility, seems to bring this external gestation full-circle.

I think back to the night we brought Miss P home from the hospital. Those first few weeks were visceral. They were full of laughter, tears, ambivalence, joy, and utter mental and physical exhaustion.

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Relaxing during our first week home

Everything was methodical, and there were so many calculations to keep track of: last nursing session, which side it took place on and for how many minutes, wet and soiled diaper output, frequency and duration of naps, and duration of nighttime sleep.

What was her temperature? Did she burp after she nursed? Did she burp twice? Was she too hot or too cold? There was also the uncertainty about how much milk she was actually consuming- a figure that I now know wasn’t something I needed to worry about, yet I spent our first month together agonizing over this lack of information and intermittently texting my midwife for reassurance.

And don’t even get me started on the fit of anxiety that stems from clipping those itty bitty fingernails, keeping her floppy slippery body upright during baths, and pulling her head and delicate limbs through the tiny openings of her sleepers and onesies.

Now Miss P tries to climb right out of her bathtub, and she pulls her shirts up over her head to undress herself. She creeps and crawls and cruises along the walls and furniture. She points when something catches her interest, bounces when she hears a song she likes, and she clears out the kitchen cabinets at least five times a day.

She calls for our cat, Oliver, with me- says, la la, pssst psssst – and wobbles with excitement as he trots over to us. She buzzes and hums and clicks her tongue, and she never tires of smiling at her reflection in the mirror or probing her finger along the owl wind chime that hangs in our living room if you hold her up beside it.

She’s full of spunk and a touch of sass, and she has so much energy that all of our latest pictures are blurry because I can never get her to stay still for more than a moment.

Our baby girl has now grown outside the womb for more or less the same amount of time she spent developing within, and although her exit was turbulent, every day thereafter has been filled with peace and love and a surprising amount of clarity.

Sure, there’s clutter, and chaos, and exhaustion sprinkled in as well. There are often dirty dishes piled in the sink, and baskets of clean laundry that take far too long to get put away, and there are days here and there that end before I’ve even had a chance to shower, but there’s a certain element of beauty in imperfection, and I wouldn’t trade a moment of it.

I’m constantly astounded by this little person who now consumes me. I don’t know how I existed before her, and then I remember I didn’t exist; I was born alongside of her forty-one weeks ago. And oh, how we’ve both grown!

9 months Chalkboard

Happy 4th of July. Miss P is 9 months old!

41 In 41 Out

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A Maypole for Miss P

It’s May 1st, and this morning we celebrated Miss P’s first Beltane. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it involves much more history and lore than I currently care to dive into, but here’s a snippet of background: Beltane – which falls halfway between the spring equinox and summer solstice – is an ancient pagan fertility festival that’s still observed by many today. It’s a time to celebrate life and the Earth’s abundance while acknowledging summer’s impending arrival.

Perhaps one of Beltane’s most widely known traditions is dancing around the Maypole (a tree or pole adorned with colorful ribbons). I must confess, there wasn’t much dancing around here, but there was some bouncing and clapping – one of Miss P’s newest tricks – and our celebration featured a miniature Maypole, which Tim helped us make last night.

In addition to the Maypole, I spent some time last night making daisy floral crowns- one for Miss P, and one for another tiny friend. Daisies represent simplicity, which is something I’ve been trying to align myself and our home with since Miss P’s arrival. It’s been a slow process, but, I must say, we’re making progress.

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Miss P’s counting down the days till summer in the dress her Grandma and Grandpa brought her back from their recent trip to Mexico.

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It’s so sweet to see her communing with nature; she just loves being outside.

Beltane 1

Of course while many are welcoming the summer after a long harsh winter, in South Florida, we’re enjoying our last days of temperate weather before the heat and humidity take over. We certainly live in a different world.

Wishing you all a bountiful summer!

Beltane 7

Spring Fever

woodsSpring is in the air around here. Okay, okay, I must admit, spring in South Florida is just a lump of hot days where I wait, dreading the humidity’s impending return. I guess what I should’ve said was, spring is on my mind.  Yes, that feels a bit more accurate.

This is my eighth spring in South Florida. I thought the first few were pretty spectacular, what with not having to wait for the snow to melt and all. In fact, I decided to move to Florida as an undergrad at SUNY Oswego when I roused one late-April morning, and looked out my window only to see two inches of snow had settled on my car while I was asleep. I decided to blow off my classes and go back to bed; there was no way I was pulling a snow brush out that late in the year. I’d spent two-and-a-half decades in Upstate New York- enough was enough.

[Next stop, South Florida]

Year round warm hot weather turned out to be a novelty that I quickly grew bored with. My year used to be marked by four seasons. Sure, some unpleasant weather popped up from time to time, but these seasons worked in harmony with one another and gave my life a sense of time and balance. In the absence of traditional seasons, I feel disconnected; I’m living in a vacuum.

This year Miss P is with us, and I’m realizing that if we stay in South Florida, she’ll never know the crisp pungent air and blazing leaves of fall – the season she came to us. She won’t wipe the fog of her warm breath away from the window as she peers out at snowflakes gathering on front lawns and mighty pines or feel a stir of anticipation as the inclement weather slowly gives way to the rebirth of spring. She won’t dance in the sunshine, inhaling the sweetness of lilacs and fresh cut grass as the first signs of summer reluctantly creep up, or run barefoot though the velvety lawn collecting crab apples and lady bugs.

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The delicate blooms of a lilac bush. (Very special thanks to Jasmin Efing in New York for allowing me to share her photo.)

In South Florida, I’m forced to experience the beloved seasons I speak of mentally rather than physically. I keep scented candles and trinkets representing each one stuffed in a bureau drawer – a sandwich bag full of colorful fabric leaves, a snow globe that lights up and sends glitter swirling onto the encased landscape, a pine cone I picked up off a dirt path in Vermont – and I draw upon these collections throughout the year as a means of triggering my mind to take me back. Still, there is a hollowness and palpable longing.

These treasures will never evoke the seasons for Miss P; not as I know them. They won’t coax vivid images onto the back of her eyelids or fill her nostrils with scents that aren’t really there, yet are so powerful, at times, they seem to take over the room. They won’t leave her reeling with a visceral longing to hop in the car and head north until she’s home, because she is home, and here she will know her own seasons. Non-seasons. Seasons that fall out of balance with my own.

These are some of the things I’ve spent the last few months pondering, but life doesn’t slow down while I dwell on its implications, so I must continue to move forward. We’re already busy around here creating our own spring traditions- hybrids of the way spring is meant to be experienced and how it presents itself in the subtropics.

I’ve been making floral crowns for Miss P and taking her for leisurely strolls around our neighborhood. We recently learned the Poppins Hip Carry in our new woven wrap, and it’s become one of our favorite carries for walks because it allows Miss P greater freedom to look around at the world while still providing an opportunity for her to turn into me and nap when she’s had enough.

These days we’ve been enjoying every moment of fresh air we can, because soon it will be so hot outside that the candle residing on a tabletop on our patio will turn to a pool of wax in the blistering afternoon sun.

Spring Fever

My little flower child

crown

Most would call this sudden urge to be outside, this urge to commune with nature – to honor it with time and flowers and feelings of gratitude – spring fever. For me, “spring fever” has become a seasonal symptom of another psychological malady called homesickness.

For Miss P – this world where lilacs don’t bloom, and Robins don’t lay their speckled eggs the color of the June sky, this world where leaves don’t turn luminous with hues of gold and red and burnt orange in fall, and snowflakes don’t blanket the forest in February, this world of year round mosquitoes and greenery, this world where the air has only two settings: hot and hot and humid – this world of suspension is home.

I can’t wait to take her home with me.

I’ll leave you with a handful of photos from our spring shoot.

And what spring photo would be complete without a Beatrix Potter book? My sister and I adored Potter’s books – and the furry creatures that run wild throughout them – when we were kids.

Spring Photo Shoot Book 3Spring Photo Shoot Book 1Spring Photo Shoot Book 2

Miss P looking like a magical fairy in the frilly dress her Grandmom sent:

Spring Photo Shoot 1Spring Photo Shoot Tinkerbell

Howling at The Moon

We’ve been keeping late hours around here lately. So late that I’ve made the executive decision that we will no longer be observing Daylight’s Savings Time in our house. (I get to make decisions like that now.) I’ve never cared much for the whole “Fall Back” and “Spring Forward” anyway. No, I definitely won’t miss it. Besides, arbitrarily changing the time on our clocks throws my circadian rhythm all out of whack.

I’ve always been a night person. Before Miss P came along, I often joked that I was on Pacific Time because I’d be cooking dinner at 9 PM, or if I was in bed at a decent hour – decent meaning 11 PM – I’d toss and turn until I finally gave in, opened a book from the pile on my nightstand and read until a few hours before my alarm was scheduled to go off. That being said, I really need to start getting Miss P to bed much earlier than her new self-appointed bedtime, which seems to be falling somewhere around 2AM.

[2 AM bedtime for Miss P = No time to work for Mama.]

I’ve overheard mothers saying that their little ones are in bed for the night by 7:30 PM, or sometimes even [gasp] 6:30 PM. (6:30? In this house, dinner isn’t even on the table yet at 6:30.)

We typically start our bedtime routine with an hour of playtime around 8, followed by a bath and baby-massage. At that point, the house is dimly lit and quiet, and it stays that way until morning regardless of whether we’re still awake or not. Since we usually don’t have to wake up early, I’m fine with Miss P staying up until, say, 10 or 11 PM, but 2 AM is a bit extreme.

"What do you mean some babies are in bed by 6:30 PM, Mama?"

“What do you mean some babies are in bed by 6:30 PM, Mama?”

So yeah, we’ve been having quite the sleep fiasco, but I digress.

The past month has brought many firsts to our home, and lack of nighttime sleep isn’t one I wish to spend much time dwelling on. I’d rather revel in the thrill I felt as I recently watched Miss P master the complete roll, which means, for all intents and purposes, she’s mobile.

[Oooh. Ahhh.]

That’s right, folks, she’ll roll from one side of the room straight across to the other. She usually only rolls in one direction though (to her left), so once she gets to the end of the room, you have to spin her around so she can roll back. It’s fun and exciting and bittersweet– a word I catch myself using quite frequently these days- watching her growing and changing and acquiring so many new and stupendous skills.

As if the rolling wasn’t fascinating enough, about a week ago she started sitting up. It’s the most adorable thing to see her sitting there with her legs outstretched, knees bent and toes curled under; she always has her toes curled under.

Sitting

In addition to the motor skills Miss P’s been hard at work on, she’s become quite the little chatterbox. She’s always been extremely vocal, but her coos and babbles are now much more pronounced, and they’re really beginning to mimic the rise and fall of sentences. Sometimes she’ll let out a declarative, “blah, blah, blah, blah,” or an excited “la, la, la.” Tim and I both swear she said “no habla” the other day, and we’ve been laughing about it ever since.

One night last week we were all sitting on the couch and she was yammering away. “Come on, Miss P, let’s howl at the moon,” I said, and we yipped and giggled until it was time for bed.

At times like these, I find my mind briefly drifting back to the evenings Tim and I shared long before her arrival. Despite recent sleepless nights, I’m still in utter disbelief at how much joy she’s brought into our lives. There’s something so sacred and beautiful about these intertwining moments of stillness and chaos, something so profound about the impermanence of these fleeting stages, and we celebrate each of them because we understand we can’t have light without dark. Besides, sleepless nights often lead to lazy mornings full of cuddles, and that’s certainly something worth celebrating.

Poet and OliverCuddles

 

Ceremony

I celebrated my birthday this week.

I’ve always been a birthday person. With three March birthdays in my immediate family (belonging to my mom, my dad and me) we decided, years ago, to dub the entire month March Madness, and, so, with the flipping of the calendar page, a month-long celebration, bearing no relation to basketball, commences.

It’s hard to say exactly why I’ve always loved this day, my day, so much. Of course it marks my birth, and while that’s something, that’s not quite it. It’s also not the cake or the singing of Happy Birthday. I was a nervous child, and the very thought of a raucous group of people singing and clapping and staring down at me in my attempt to extinguish those tricky candles with one breath was enough to send me into a full-fledged panic attack; it still is.

My Second Birthday

My doll Jessica Judy and me on my 2nd Birthday. (Before I started hiding under the table when it was time for cake.)

I suppose one of my favorite things about my birthday has always been that it’s like my own personal New Year’s- a year older, a fresh start. It’s also the one day each year I’m guaranteed to feel like I matter. People send messages expressing sweet sentiments and greeting cards with thoughtful notes scrawled inside. Sometimes there are even gifts involved. It’s all about me, or so I’ve always thought.

[Fast forward to this year]

I celebrated my first birthday as a mother this week, and, now, I can’t help but look at this whole birthday business from an entirely different perspective. The day that marks my birth also marks what was once an extraordinary transition for my mother- a rebirth, if you will, and this is the first year I’ve ever been able to grasp the magnitude of that. In fact, I’ve spent nearly 32 years, in their entirety, thinking this day, the anniversary of one of the most significant days of my mother’s life, was about me.

I also now realize that, under the surface of all that joy, this anniversary can be quite unforgiving for a mother. After all, her once brand new baby turns a year older, then another, then another, not to mention the painful memories that will inevitably be dredged up year-after-year if the birth didn’t go as planned; Miss P’s didn’t, and I’m accosted by a combination of anger, sorrow and resentment each time I think of this. I know we often tell each other – and I’m guilty of this as well – “A healthy mom and a healthy baby are all that matter,” but this is just not true. At the very least, those things certainly matter, but let’s just stop with the pleasantries already.

I’ve been thinking of Miss P’s Birth Day often lately; I strip it down to raw emotion in my mind, hoping one day I’ll be able to accurately convey its power and mysticism through thoughtfully placed words, but, today, this task feels a bit like simultaneously constructing a fortress and summoning a unicorn.

At my first postpartum visit, my midwife urged me to write this story -Miss P’s story- and to do it soon, lest I forget the details. There was no doubt I’d write about the birth of my daughter, but, it’s a meandering tale, and I knew it wasn’t something I could recreate with words until I had achieved some emotional distance. Five months later, I’m still struggling to recount the day, hours and minutes that led up to her arrival.

On my first birthday as a mother, I couldn’t help thinking about the birth of my daughter, letting the events play over and over in my head, but, for one of the first times, I also contemplated the events of my own birth. I saw through the hoopla of previous years: greeting cards, balloons, the dreaded Happy Birthday tune and those stubborn candles, to name a few. I came to terms with the fact that although this day marks the anniversary of my birth, it’s larger than me, and I wanted to find a way to honor that. 

As I was playing with Miss P, my baby book, which had been tucked away on a shelf under the coffee table caught my eye.

My parents spent last summer at our family’s former house in New York State, which now belongs to my sister and brother-in-law. During their stay, my mom spent some time in the basement sorting through a mound of cardboard boxes and plastic bins all brimming with books, clothes, toys and photographs.

At summer’s end, she returned to Florida lugging with her an array of forgotten, but once beloved, objects; among them was the baby book she’d put together for me during my first few years of life. The book features numerous photographs, lists of my monumental firsts recorded in her tidy handwriting and keepsakes such as a map of Disney’s Magic Kingdom and embossed plastic wings from my first trip on an airplane.

The day she brought the book to me, we spent the afternoon thumbing through its pages. I was expecting Miss P at the time, so there was something very special about looking at the old photographs and mulling over my milestones and achievements. When we were finished, I set the book aside and continued preparing for Miss P’s impending arrival.

On my first birthday as a mother, I once again opened my book. As I flipped through it, with Miss P sitting in my lap, a stack of yellowed type-written pages tumbled out. It was a newsletter of sorts, from what seemed to be a school my mother was attending at the time. The packet, dated April, 1981, was stapled in the top left corner, and, sandwiched between a list of local happenings, recipes and a brief history on Ukrainian Easter Eggs, was my mother’s birth story – my birth story – printed in faded serif typeset and titled, An Early Spring Blossom.

Mom's Birth Story

Miss P kicked her legs and smiled as I read my mother’s words aloud. Though my mother’s experience was different from my own, the sense of anticipation, wonder and urgency she recorded was universal. Towards the end, she took a moment for reflection. She said, “I never really thought much about actually giving life– just living it.”

My Birth Day

My Glowing Mama (who I hope won’t be upset that I’m sharing this picture) and all 6 lbs, 14 ozs and 18 7/8″ of me on my Birth Day.

For me, that’s just it. Sure I’d fantasized about being a mother for years before my wish came true, but it wasn’t until I experienced the birth of my daughter that I was able to grasp my own birthday in all of its beauty and complexity, to see it for what it really was: the day my mother and father finally got to meet the child they’d given life to- the day a family was born.

Future Perfect

The longer I live in Florida, the more I miss the traditional four seasons and the changes each one brings along with it. When I hear people complaining about cold weather and countless inches of snow on the ground- and, believe me, I used to be one of those people- I can’t help but feel a pang of anger and a tinge of jealousy. It’s halfway through February, the “coldest” time of year around here, and the South Florida sun is still so hot that I can’t even open my blinds and allow daylight into my house. It’s like we live in a cave.

I’ve been longing to return to the Northeast since we found out we were expecting Miss P, and it’s been very difficult for me to accept that Tim doesn’t want to move. While I’ll never give up on the idea, I’ve decided I need to make the most of our time here. That means instead of staying cooped up inside the house all day, Miss P and I need to get out more, and, I have to say, we’ve really been living up to this goal. In fact, last week was full of fun and firsts.

Speaking of firsts, we got our first woven wrap last weekend. So exciting! We began using a stretchy wrap when Miss P was a newborn, and it worked very well for us (once we finally figured out how the heck the thing worked, that is). Since the fabric is, well, stretchy, we started running into problems as she got heavier (around the three-month-mark). It says on the package that it can be used until your child is 35 pounds, and while it may be true that the fabric is strong enough to accomplish this, by the time Miss P was approaching 14 pounds, the wrap became terribly unsupportive and, as a result, uncomfortable. We’ve been using a soft-structured carrier over the past month, and while it’s easy to use and extremely supportive, she’s still a bit too small for it. So far our woven wrap is perfect for us.

Miss P also had her first trip to the beach last weekend. By the time we arrived I was starving, so we stopped at a Subway along the boardwalk. Veggie Delight, anyone? Of course Miss P was so cozy in our new wrap she was asleep by the time we finished eating, and she slept through the rest of our excursion. This was a bit disappointing because I really wanted her to get to see the ocean. Looks like we’ll be making another trip soon.

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Miss P’s First Trip to the Beach, and Mommy’s First Wrap-Job- February 9, 2014

Miss P’s not the only one around here experiencing firsts. Our dog, Brooklyn, and our cat, Oliver, have never had the pleasure of knowing a baby before, and it often seems like they’re not quite sure what to think of this whole ordeal.

From time to time, Oliver is fascinated by Miss P. He likes to relax along the edge of her play mat. He sprawls and preens and watches every little move she makes, which is wise because Miss P’s quickly becoming an expert at reaching for and grabbing objects, and said “objects” often include Brooklyn’s tail and Oliver’s fur.

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“It’s a fine day to enjoy the sunshine,” thinks Oliver.

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“Whoa. Why is that tiny human getting so close to me?”

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“Okay, enough. I just know she’s going to pull my fur.”

Miss P seems to be quite fond of Brooklyn and Oliver. Her eyes widen and she smiles each time they pass by. Sometimes she kicks Brooklyn- on accident, of course- as he prances across her activity center. You’d think he’d learn to walk around it, but no. Miss P startles as he lets out a meek yelp, then she smiles.

The other day I managed to retrieve a sizable clump of dog hair from her hand as it was en route to her mouth. It was a close call.

ollie4

tummy time1

In addition to her sudden interest in the family pets, Miss P has discovered her thumb! According to the manuals, I’m supposed to be horrified, but I must confess, I think it’s quite cute. She seems positively thrilled with this new toy. Just look at that smile:

MisterX 1thumb

She’s also found her feet. She constantly reaches for her toes and tries to roll over while holding tightly to them. The other evening she kept grabbing her foot and bringing it up to her face while she was nursing. She became so infatuated with her foot that she stopped eating so she could shove it into her mouth. After a few seconds, she let out a growling sound that told me she was still hungry and wasn’t having much luck getting any milk from this exciting new object.

As far as outings go, Miss P’s been on the move. Last week we had a lovely picnic at the park with a friend and her daughter.  We’ve also met up with a local babywearing group a couple of times, and, I have to say, It’s been wonderful getting out of the house and meeting some new Mamas! These occasions aren’t just fun for me; the more alert and observant Miss P grows to be, the more she seems to enjoy the change in scenery as well. (That is when she’s not sleeping.)

meetups

If all this excitement wasn’t enough, Miss P just celebrated her first Valentine’s Day. We spent the morning conducting an impromptu photo shoot, because, seriously, I can never seem to take enough pictures of this little woman. She was so eager to show off her tummy-time skills and that sweet little smile. I used a clip art kiss because no Valentine’s Day picture would be complete without one, but I just couldn’t bring myself to smudge lipstick on my baby’s face.

vday kiss

After our photo shoot, we took a walk to the mailbox where Miss P’s first official Valentine was waiting. It was from Grandma and Grandpa Bob. (She’s since gotten a couple more.)

vday card

That evening, on the phone, my mom told me that she and my dad chose that particular card because of the bow (which is actually a detachable barrette). Legend has it, when I was a child, all of the little girls I drew- and there were many- each had a bow, just like the one on the card. My mom and dad thought it was cute and ironic and couldn’t resist this card because of it.

As for me, I don’t remember the bows. I vaguely remember the little girls. I clearly remember adding eyes and a smile to every sun and tree I drew throughout the entirety of my childhood. Thinking back, it seems that a smiling sun and tree were featured in nearly every drawing I created.

Sometimes the tree branches boasted bright green puffs- my rudimentary attempt at leaves. Other times, they were adorned with red, orange, and gold swirls. If it was a tree I drew on Valentine’s Day, the branches would likely be bare, in reflection of winter. Regardless of the season, I guarantee there was a smiling sun peeking out from the top left corner. Isn’t it funny what our minds choose to cling to?

I can’t wait to share the story behind Miss P’s first Valentine with her when she’s a bit older. She’ll wear her red bow as I tell her that I, her Mommy, drew a bow just like it on all of my little girls when I was her age.

I wonder what characteristics Miss P’s future drawings will feature. One thing is certain: I will have made it my mission for her to grow up in a place that allows her trees to change throughout the year.

Clean Dishes and Momsicles

I want to share a picture of the cleanest dishes ever:

dishwasherThese dishes have been through the wash four times. How does this happen?

Yesterday morning I realized someone accidentally added a couple of dirty dishes to an otherwise clean bunch, so I decided to run them all through the wash a second time. The dishwasher ran its cycle and shut off, but I forgot to unload the dishes.

Later that night, I was nursing Miss P to sleep on the couch (yes, despite the advice of nearly every book, article and person, I nurse Poet to sleep every night) when I realized the dishwasher was running again. I didn’t want to disturb her by yelling upstairs to Tim, who was already in bed at this point, so I decided to try to ignore it, even though it was making me crazy knowing that these dishes where on their third whirl.

It was still bothering me about 20 minutes later, when Tim came downstairs for a drink.

“Why is the dishwasher on?” I asked.

He was still half-asleep and misunderstood me. I suppose he thought I was telling him that the dishwasher wasn’t shutting off, that it was just running and running. Thinking he was remedying the problem, he twisted the dial around to OFF before the dishes were finished.

“There, it’s fixed.”

“Are you serious?” I asked. “Why would you do that?

I explained that I asked why the dishwasher was running because the dishes in it were already clean, not because it was broken and not shutting off on its own. Since the dishes had not yet finished rinsing, I asked him to turn the dial back to where it was before he’d touched it. He did, and went back to bed.

A few minutes later, I got up to put Miss P in her crib when I realized he’d, once again, started the wash cycle from the beginning, and I totally went to bed without shutting it off.

Hence the cleanest dishes ever.

***

We’ve been playing a new game around here, which is one of the reasons I forgot to unload the dishwasher in the first place. The game goes like this:

  • Lay Poet on her back.
  • Poet rolls over.
  • Poet looks around at the wonderful things she couldn’t see before.
  • Poet is tired of being on her belly, but doesn’t know how to roll the other way.
  • Poet screams.
  • Flip Poet over.
  • Poet rolls over.

It goes on like this until I pick her up. Over and over and over. I’ve been trying to teach her how to roll from her belly to her back with no success. I think it’s just something she’ll learn on her own in time.

Miss P’s Grandma and Grandpa found the cutest crawl mat at the flea market, so her play area got a serious expansion this week.

matw2 matw4 matw1

I don’t know what it is about this mat, but she gets so happy every time she’s on it. She seems to get a kick out of rubbing her hands over its surface to feel the texture and scratching at it with her nails. (She also does this with the couch, blankets, her toys, basically anything she can get her hands on.)

Miss P loves to be naked, so, we’ve been giving her five minutes or so of naked play-time on her mat every night before her bath. In this time, she kicks her legs, rolls over and squeals with delight. One night, she peed.

Whew! You’d think all this excitement would wear her out, but she actually seems to be on a napping strike right now. (That’s what I get for mentioning naptime in my last post.) It’s like she’s afraid to close her eyes for fear of missing something really fantastic. I tell her she’s the most interesting thing going on in this house these days and that when she sleeps, I just sit next to her and write about all of the wonderful things she does when she’s awake, but I don’t think she believes me, because boy is she afraid to close her eyes.

Here’s my solution:

Ergo Nap

This thing has magical powers. Seriously. As soon as she starts showing sleepy cues (usually rubbing her eyes and/or yawning), into the Ergo she goes. Within minutes she’s peacefully snoozing, and my hands are free to write, clean, do laundry, unload the dishwash– wait, maybe I don’t have an excuse as to why those dishes went through the wash four times after all. Darn. Don’t tell Tim.

***

Lately, we’ve been on a mission to get Miss P to take a bottle. Tim used to try to give her a bottle every night after her bath as part of her bedtime routine, but she’s never consistently taken it. We’ve tried several different types of bottles and various feeding positions with little success. Since these attempts often ended with Miss P crying and Tim frazzled, we eventually gave up. I guess it just seemed like more trouble than it was worth.

Now she refuses the bottle altogether.

I keep telling myself it’s not that big of a deal that she won’t drink from a bottle, and it hasn’t been yet, but there’s a peace of mind in knowing that if, for some reason, we were separated, she’d be able to eat. It would also be nice to get to use the 45984 bags of pumped milk that are crowding our freezer.

While scouring the Internet for suggestions on how we might get Poet to take a bottle, I stumbled across what I thought was a fun idea: Momsicles! Momiscles are “popsicles” made from breastmilk. Who comes up with this stuff? I liked the idea of freezing breastmilk and offering it as a treat so much that I had to try it. (Hello logical and enjoyable precursor for solid foods!) It also seems like a great natural alternative to using ointments and such to alleviate teething discomfort.

I pumped while Miss P was napping, poured the milk into a popsicle mold, popped it into the freezer, and Viola! Momsicle in the making! I couldn’t wait for Tim to get home from work so we could try it.

The results:

Momsicle1

Momsicle2

She, obviously, didn’t chomp the whole thing down, but she was definitely interested. It was a bit messy, and it would probably take her two weeks to eat the whole thing, but it was fun. I will definitely be keeping these on hand when teething is in full-effect. Hopefully by then, she will be able to hold them by herself.

We still haven’t come up with a solution for the bottle. I don’t think we’re going to.

What’s Miss P’s opinion on this whole ordeal?

Just this:

bottleAnd there you have it.

Miss P Moves In and Rolls Over

If I kept a running tally of the questions I’ve been asked about Miss P since her birth, the two most prominent would be: How is she sleeping? or Does she sleep though the night? I’m not really sure why this topic generates so much outside interest, but, for the record, the answers have pretty much always been great and yes, mostly. That being said, the sleeping situation in this house has still been upside down for quite some time now.

When Poet was a newborn, she slept in our Pack n’ Play’s bassinet attachment. By the time she was six weeks old, she was moving around so much that I was scared to let her continue sleeping this way, but we weren’t ready to transition her into her own room yet. We decided she’d continue sleeping at the foot of our bed in the play yard, sans bassinet. Tim removed the attachment, and my parents were appointed the task of finding sheets.

On the first night of this arrangement, I was excited as I set a peacefully sleeping Miss P on the mattress.

“Look how sweet.” I said to Tim, and we both hovered over the Pack n’ Play, smiling in silent observation.

The mattress was flat, unlike the surface of the bassinet she’d been sleeping in since birth, and it allowed her the space to stretch her quickly growing limbs out. Even so, she was on her back with her legs in the fetal position, her knees suspended in the air as if the bassinet was still cradling them.

Just as Tim and I settled into bed there was a thunk, which caused us both to jump up. In an instant, we were back in front of the Pack n’ Play. We took turns looking at Poet, then at each other, then down again. We watched as she pulled her legs into the air, extending them straight out, only for them to come crashing down onto the mattress a couple of seconds later. Each time her heels hit the mattress, her arms flailed at her sides and her head jerked in alarm.

It only took a few more rounds of this before Miss P was wide-awake and staring up at us in confusion.

Bedtime fail.

I nursed her back to sleep while Tim snapped the bassinet into the frame of the play yard. When she was, once again, sleeping peacefully, I lowered her into the bassinet. I spent the rest of the night checking on her every five minutes to make sure she was safe.

The next several nights brought more of the same. Tim removed the bassinet attachment, I gently laid her down, she flailed around on the mattress until she woke herself up, then I nursed her back to sleep while Tim reattached the bassinet.

“I have an idea,” I said at the end of the week. “Let’s bring the Pack n’ Play downstairs so she can play in there during the day and get used to being on a flat surface.”

“And you think that’s going to work?” Tim was skeptical.

“I do. I really do.”

In reality, I was only sure of two things:

1) I really needed to get some sleep.

and

2) That wasn’t going to happen with Poet sleeping in the bassinet.

We started with a window of play time each morning, then began  incorporating naps, as well. By the end of the second week, Poet was sleeping on the flat mattress throughout most of the night, and I was sleeping on the couch beside her. She usually woke up around 4 am to eat, at which point I brought her on the couch with me. When she finished eating, she slept in the crook of my arm until Tim woke up for work at 5 am. The hour she was in my arms was always the best sleep I’d gotten since she was born.

Once our sleeping routine was established, we moved the Pack n’ Play back into our bedroom. I was more excited and optimistic than I’d been the first time we tried this, and I silently cheered as I laid a peacefully sleeping Miss P down then tiptoed to bed, where Tim had already been asleep for over an hour.

Within minutes there was a thump. I closed my eyes.

Thump.

This is going to work, I repeated in my head. She’d been sleeping on the flat mattress for over a week now. What difference did it make what room she was in?

Thump. Thud. Thump.

I jumped up and looked into the Pack n’ Play. Two eyes stared curiously back at me. Miss P was wide awake.

“What’s wrong?” said Tim. He rubbed his eyes.

“She’s up.”

We sat at the end of the bed peering into the Pack n’ Play. Poet kicked the mattress and yelled. When she didn’t stop, I scooped her up and comforted her while Tim folded the play yard and brought it back downstairs. Thus ensued our previous sleeping arrangements.

Over the past couple months, Tim’s lugged the Pack n’ Play up and down the stairs at least ten times. The last time he moved it, he said, This is it! I’m not moving this thing one more time, and, so, it’s been downstairs ever since, and I’ve been sleeping on the couch with the Boppy.

Last weekend, I decided I couldn’t possibly go on like this. Our solution? Tim moved Poet’s crib from her nursery into our bedroom.

This was her upon waking up on her first morning in Mommy and Daddy’s room:

Crib

We had exactly two nights like this. That’s right TWO, and not because of Poet; she slept great. This time I was awake because of our chihuahua, Brooklyn. Brooklyn likes to pee on the carpet, so he sleeps in a crate in our room at night. He usually plops into his mound of blankets and goes right to sleep, but he decided to spend this particular night whimpering, barking and scratching at the bars on the crate.

To prevent Brooklyn from waking Poet with his antics, I let him out of the crate and gave him free rein downstairs. What did he do with his freedom? He spent it pawing at the bottom step and whimpering, while I sat in bed listening to the ruckus he was creating and wondering how I could possibly be the only one awake though all of this.

Eventually, his whimpers escalated into yelps and before I knew it,  Miss P was back in the Pack n’ Play, and I was on the couch with Brooklyn panting, shaking and cowering above me.

This was a week ago. Since then, I’ve made one more attempt to sleep upstairs, which came to an abrupt end when Miss P rolled over and got her leg wedged between the crib’s slats. (We decided to forgo a padded bumper after reading countless articles all declaring them to be a safety concern.) Operation Sleep in My Bed is now on hold until we get a mesh bumper for Poet’s crib. I certainly don’t want her to suffocate on a padded bumper, but I don’t want her little arms and legs getting caught in the slats, either.

Until then, the couch remains my home. Hey, it’s comfortable.

In other news, sometime over the past few weeks this started happening:

tummy time

Last week, I set Miss P on her back on her play gym and took two steps to the kitchen to pour myself a glass of water. I looked up a moment later, and she was on her belly pushing herself up. She looked at me, a huge grin on her face. I can’t believe how quickly she’s growing and changing.

She started rolling from her back onto her belly just before the three-month mark. In these early attempts, she usually made it over, but one arm always got stuck underneath her. This made her so upset she would scream in protest until someone either flipped her back over, or freed her trapped arm.

roll

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!” translates to: “Help, Mama! I can’t get my arm out!”

Now she’s a pro! Every time I set her on her back, she rolls, almost effortlessly, onto her belly and looks around at all the things she couldn’t see before. She’ll stay like this for several minutes, then she’ll briefly lay her head down before, once again, pushing herself up. Eventually she’ll get upset in this position, and since she can’t yet roll from her belly to her back, she needs a little help flipping over.

tummy time 2

Over the past week, she’s been rolling onto her belly in her sleep and planting her face right into the mattress, so I’m back to the days of jumping up to check on her every five minutes.

Life is rough

“All these new developments are exhausting!”

At least nap-time’s a go!