Sometimes the good stuff comes at the end

Today was a bad day.  If I had to guess it was the combination of an overwhelming workload and PMS.  PMS on a Saturday I can handle.  An overwhelming workload on a day that my hormones aren’t all out whack from recently growing a human I can handle.  PMS on a Tuesday at 10 AM when I realize I’ve missed another deadline and look at the next three months of planning where enough work exists for four of me?  Not so good. 

It was a day that 18 months ago would have been rewarded with a cold beer and fried cheese.  And for a moment, just a moment, I found myself missing the ease of having a bad day and wallowing in it.  Coming home and soaking in a hot bath with a glass of wine and a good cry. Or bitching to a co-worker at happy hour.  Or running to the mall and buying new shoes. 

Then, I came home to this face. 

Bundled up in the car seat for the 100-yard ride from Nauni's house to ours. What? It was cold out.

And we giggled.  I clapped while she practiced rolling.  I put her down on one side of the floor and picked her up when she rolled to the other.  She ate carrots and yelled when I didn’t get them in her mouth fast enough.  We gave her a bath and I laughed as she splashed me.  I took pictures, calling her name and making funny noises to try to capture her smile. 

And when I rocked her to sleep and felt her head heavy on my shoulder and the rhythm of her breath on my neck, I found myself wondering why my day was so bad.

Nap wars are going to kill me

I’d like to be writing a beautiful post right now about the joys and struggles of motherhood. How I look at C’s face and fall more in love every time I look at her.  Or even one about how I struggle with weekends because I want to turn off work, but my to-do list is still looming and I just know that if I put in a few hours over the weekend, my week will be much better.  Or, talk about how we went for a walk this weekend with C in her Baby Bjorn strapped tightly to Craig’s chest and the vision of my husband with my giggling baby girl was the best thing ever. 

But I can’t write about those things because I am dead.  The nap wars have killed me. 

I fall into the category of parents who think that kids do better on a schedule.  I also tend to think that it’s OK for them to cry a little and I believe the books that say it’s important for babies to learn to fall asleep on their own.  Or maybe, I’m just scared to death that they’re right and I will be breaking bad sleeping habits when she is old enough to talk and walk and thus it will be a hell of a lot harder, so really I’m just lazy and taking the easy way out. 

A few weeks ago, I thought I was working my way into the Mom of the Year competition by sort of getting C to sleep on her own and take naps that lasted longer than 30 minutes.  Then it turned out that she was sick.  Can you say observation fail?  So, instead of sleeping because I was such a rockstar sleep trainer, she was sleeping because she had a virus.  Still, I fought on.  Made a few changes to her daily environment including loading my mother in law up with sleep sacks and lullabies.  The weather broke so now they go on walks and she sleeps in the stroller.  And I thought it was getting better. 

Until this weekend.  When she took two 30 minute naps Saturday morning and then I missed the window for her afternoon nap.  By the time she realized she was sleepy she was also pissed and didn’t want to sleep.  So while I rocked and walked her, she screamed.  She didn’t want to be held.  Didn’t want to lay down.  Finally after 30 minutes of screaming, I gave up.  Another 45 minutes later, my mom got her to sleep.  Sunday, she fell asleep in my arms for her 9:00 nap and again after our walk around noon.  When she got fussy, Craig took her on a walk and she fell asleep. 

So at the end of another weekend, I feel like a failure.  Like maybe someone else knows my kid better than me.  Has a better “way” with her than I do.  Spends more waking hours with her and knows more about her schedule and patterns than me, who has to ask for a recap.  (Just a way to add a little more working mom guilt to my blog.) Leaving me to wonder what I can do to help my kid sleep better, longer, consistently. 

And, I’m stumped.  Because I’m worried that the stroller is becoming her crutch for sleep.  I know that we don’t want to be pushing the stroller around the house because that’s the only way she’ll fall asleep.  But I’m out of ideas, and at this point, I just want the child to sleep.  I’m trying not to get all worked up and react to a bad day.  Generally, she’s a pretty happy baby.  What I’m really looking for is someone, anyone, to say that she’ll be OK.  That, maybe, as she gets older, she’ll start sleeping longer.  That there’s nothing I can do differently. 

Anyone?  Anyone?

Where did the last 5 months go?

And when did I stop counting in days and weeks?  It seems like just yesterday that I was answering how pregnant I was in weeks (Most conversations went something like, “I’m 35 weeks pregnant, yes I have a few more weeks to go, even though I am the size of a house. Thank you.”) Then in late September I was counting down the days until I met my baby or the number of days I went past my due date.   

Then I was welcoming visitors into my house and gushing over my newborn who was 10 days old already or going back to work and telling everyone about my 6-week old munchkin. 

But now? My squishy little newborn is a full-fledged BABY.  Who babbles and giggles, rolls around in her crib, pulls my hair, puts EVERYTHING in her mouth and wears shoes.  She’s five months old and I would have to do the math to figure out how many weeks or days old she is.

How is time going so fast that I don’t know how many days it has been since I met the person who stole my heart right from my chest?

Finding Balance

Finding balance has been the hardest part of the four months I’ve been back to work.  Wanting to be as productive and on my game as I was pre-baby but not sacrificing my baby for my job.  I know I’m not the only mother to face this.  I’m not special or any worse off than anyone else. 

Most days I’m pretty good at recognizing that this is the life I chose.  I knew before I got pregnant that I would be a working mom.  Because I like to work.  I like getting up, getting out of the house, having adult conversation.  Don’t get me wrong, not working is not an option.  We are a two income family.  But, knowing that staying at home is not an option helps me to put things in perspective.  I am able to remind myself that part of my job as C’s mother is providing for her.  Because I work, she has a house with a yard she can run and play in (you know, after she learns to walk), she has Pampers on her butt and food on her table. 

I don’t feel like a part-time mom.  But it’s hard to know that my kid spends more time with her grandmother than me.  It’s hard to realize at 10AM on a Tuesday that I’m already so far behind that I have two hours of work awaiting me after I put C to bed.  It makes my gut twist when I see my husband look at me out of the corner of his eye when I answer an email while I’m feeding her.  I feel guilty calling my mom three weekends in a row to ask her to babysit while I try to catch up.  I hate that I probably missed the first time she rolled over and I recognize that may be one of many firsts that I miss. 

The place I question myself the most as a mother is letting my job take up so much of my time and my attention.  I’ve promised myself that when she needs me I’ll be there for her.  I’ve sworn that I will be there for her doctor appointments.  I will leave work early for sporting events.  Hell, maybe I’ll even coach her softball team (eh.. maybe not.  I’ll be the mom that brings the snacks.)  These are easy promises to make when your kid is five months old.  I’ve never had to put them into practice. 

Until last week.  When I took a few days off work.  In the middle of tight deadlines and deadlines that I had already missed by a mile (at this point are any of you wondering why I’m still employed?).  I put a request into my boss, said my kid needs to be on a better daytime schedule and I would be out for a few days doing it.  And out I was.   Now, the scheduling thing didn’t really work out because she got sick.  But I was with her father when we took her to the doctor (twice).  I comforted her when she cried, walked the hall with her at night and didn’ t think about what was happening at the office.  Even when the little red light was flashing on my phone indicating that I had emails. I ignored them when my daughter needed me.  Granted Nap War 2010 was an epic fail, but I feel a little better in knowing that I can turn off the career driven voice in my head and focus on my baby.

Flashing my “First Time Mom” badge

I don’t have Mommy instinct.  There I said it.  To everyone who said “you’ll just know what to do,” I say “you lied”.  I don’t know what to do.  When C was a wee one and went through a fussy spell every night in the early evening, I read “Happiest Baby on the Block” to learn how to soothe her.  I decided what to dress her in for bed because it was what a friend of mine dressed her daughter in.  When she got to the age that I thought she should be learning to put herself to sleep, I asked another friend for advice and bought “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child”.  We decided to start solid foods because the doctor said we could.  “Just knowing” has not been a part of my parenting experience.

So.  When I kissed the back of C’s head yesterday afternoon and it was hot enough to make me take her temperature (101.4) I immediately flashed back to our child birth class.  The one where a pediatrician came in and talked to us about when to go to the doctor.  My head was spinning as I texted friends, talked to my mother-in-law and called Craig.  My thoughts were jumbled, 90 miles an hour and went something like this: 

“My baby has a fever. OMG.  MY BABY HAS A FEVER.  It’s 101.4.  That’s high for babies, right?  The doctor said to bring her in if it was more than 101 and they were under 6 months.  Or was it 100 degrees and 3 months.  I can’t remember.  I think it was 101 degrees, under 3 months.  But she’s 5 months.  So, what do I do?  I should call.  No, I’m not calling.  She could be teething.  I’ll give her some Tylenol.  Ok, I should still call.  They’ll make me bring her in and it could be nothing.  Maybe I’ll give it an hour.  No, in an hour the office will be closed.  I think maybe I’ll call and ask if they can see her.  But Oh, hell, I haven’t showered yet today.  I’ll wash my face while I call.  OH MY GOD MY BABY HAS A FEVER.”

Craig made the decision easy and told me to call.  So I did and got an appointment for 6:10.  Where she played and giggled in the waiting room.  Another mother even said to me, “She sure doesn’t look sick”.  Then they took her temperature and found it was 99.4.  Could be a difference in thermometers, could be that the Tylenol kicked in.  Doctor gave her a clean bill of health and said to watch her an if it got to be 104 to bring her back. 

OHHHHH….104 is the magic number.  OK then.  Here is my first time mom badge and my $20 co pay.   Have a lovely day.

I need a baby instruction manual

I don’t even know what word I would use to describe this weekend.  Hard. Terrible. Frustrating. Painful.  There was fussing and crying and tears.  There was yelling and a head of lettuce thrown across the kitchen*.  There was bitterness and heartbreak at not understanding what she needed and pleading with her to just TELL ME what she wanted.  There was a massive glass of  wine consumed late Saturday afternoon. 

For the first time since C was about three weeks old, there was literally nothing I could do to comfort my daughter.  She didn’t want to play, didn’t want to sleep.  She was fed, dry and comfortable temperature-wise. And after a few hours the sound of her crying was literally like a knife to the heart.  I just wanted it to stop.  I tried laying her down and letting her cry while I cried on the floor beside her pack ‘n play, but frankly I suck at that.  So I walked around with her and let her cry in my arms and did my best to keep it together.  (Obviously not completely successfully – hence the head of lettuce that I threw into the kitchen sink when she screamed as I tried to make a sandwich.)  When she calmed down a little I put her in the exercauser while I took a bath.  That lasted exactly two minutes. 

When Craig came home he found us on our bed – me with my hair still in a towel and inches from losing my mind and C eating with tear-filled eyes.  He took her and gave me time to pull my shit together.  As I calmed myself down, I devised a plan.  The baby needs a schedule.  Kids thrive on knowing what comes next.  It’s what all the books say and want every friend of mine who has babies older than C swear by.  And, it’s what my gut has been whispering to me for two months.  So, OK.  I decided I would take a few days off at the end of the week, and come hell or high water,  I will put this baby on a schedule.  She will get up at a consistent time and nap at consistent time.  I expect more tears (from both of us) and more wine (for me).  But we will do this. 

Only now, 28 hours later, writing this, I’m wavering.  Because now, it’s hit me that she’s five month old and maybe, just maybe, she’s fussy because she’s teething.  I’m not sure if it was process of elimination that gave it away or Craig pointing out that she was chowing down on a teething ring like it was baby crack.  Why oh, why didn’t I think of this earlier?  And why didn’t I trust my gut two months ago when I thought she needed a schedule?  If I had A) this would be behind us or B) I could narrow down the cause.   So, now?  I don’t know.  I still think she needs a schedule and I still think I’m going to try to put her on one, but hopefully with a little more patience and understanding that what I had on Saturday. 

I hate, hate, hate that I was so flustered with my baby.  I’m annoyed at myself for being short with my husband and that when she went to bed, I feel asleep (probably from the massive glass of wine) instead of taking time to actually talk to him.  I feel guilty that I didn’t lift a finger to do any kind of cleaning and very little cooking all weekend long.  I’m anxious that I’m starting the work week with a list that didn’t get any shorter over the weekend. 

I know that this was not the norm.  (Actually the cooking and cleaning thing is, but I want to work on that.)  I’m usually a really good mom to my daughter.  I know that it will get better and it won’t always be like this.  I just really think that babies should come with instruction manuals that tell you if they are tired, teething or just hate you. 

*No lettuce or child was harmed this weekend, I swear.

Where I whine about naps (or lack thereof)

Please stop, child.  Please.  I beg you to stop with the fussing and the whining and the crying. Please cool it with the kicking and the thrashing of your head and the spitting out of the paci.  You just ate and I changed your diaper.  It has been 2 hours and 25 minutes since you woke up from your last nap.  The second of the day.  The second time today that you closed your eyes for exactly 30 minutes.  You don’t want to be entertained, you don’t want to be cuddled.  You don’t want to be in your swing or your jumperoo. 

So, you know what?  You NEED TO NAP.  You need to close your eyes, breathe deeply and drift off to sleep.  I know that you think 30 minutes every three hours is enough sleep, but as your mother, I beg to disagree.  It leaves my happy, content, easy to please baby grumpy and whiney and tired 45 minutes later. 

Napping is good for you.  I’m sure there’s a book on all the reasons, but just trust me.  It’s good for you. 

And it’s good for me.  I need you to nap.  It is 12:53PM and I have not showered, I ate a bowl of cereal five hours ago, and I’m not entirely sure that I brushed my teeth.  I have work to do, laundry to fold and bills to take to the mailbox.  These things are challenging, if not impossible, to do while you are attached to my hip or when you whine the second I leave the room.  So I’m sorry, but I need you to nap. I need a break from the constant demands of work and I think that’s supposed to happen on the weekend; but not if you don’t nap. Especially when your daddy is working. 

So, please, for the love of bottles, stuffed animals and loud obnoxious toys that make you squeal with delight.  Please nap. 

If bribery is more your thing, I will buy you a car when you turn 16 if you nap. 

PS.  And, because I’m feeling extra needy today, if you are reading this and have tips for getting a baby to nap regularly, for more than 30 minutes, in a pack ‘n play or crib, please tell me how you do it.  If it works, I will buy you a car too.* 

*Totally lying, but you will have my undying gratitude.