Sunday, December 9, 2018

Joy and grief


It's Adrian's first December and I'm struggling with the fact that I feel like this is supposed to be my most joyous Christmas ever!!! ™ and instead it's feeling like the hardest holiday season since the first one after my dad died. My dad's birthday was on Friday and I held it together all day and then listened to Gary Jules' Mad World in the car on repeat while I drove home from work and I cried. A lot. It was one of the last gifts we gave him - the album with that song. He heard it in our car and told Dustin he loved it and now I cry every time I hear it, thinking about him, thinking about death. This year is particularly emotional for me. I say my dad's name a million times a day now, since my daughter is named after him, and I feel like he has never been closer to us, or further away.

I had a resurgence of grief while I was pregnant - I didn't want to tell anyone about the baby, because every time I told someone it just reminded me that I couldn't tell my dad and stepmom. But I guess I didn't fully expect this December to be so hard. I thought that now that she's here I would be overwhelmed with joy and experience the holidays in a whole new way. (No pressure, right? Most joyous Christmas ever!!!)

And there is a lot of joy. Adrian will be eight months on Monday and I feel like I say this about every stage, but this is the best. She's crawling like a champ, and it's so much fun to be able to walk around the house with her following along. She loves being mobile and she's just delighted by everything and we're constantly discovering that she understands more than we think she does. It's amazing, she's amazing.

On the other hand, I'm coming off a particularly exhausting quarter at work, and combined with the sleep deprivation (I've just accepted the fact that she'll be continuously teething for the next two years) and the fact that my body is always fighting off daycare germs and my house is a mess because I never get past the bare minimum of tidying, every day feels like a crazy repeat of pumping and dishes and baby meals and I never seem to get ahead. I'm just worn down and it feels like my dad's birthday pushed me right over the edge because all weekend I've been crying, pretty much at the drop of a hat. For me, the holidays haven't been about gifts for a really long time. The feeling I strive for is peace. The quiet sense of calm when I would sit on the couch in front of the tree, with the whole house clean and a candle lit, the hours I would spend in the kitchen baking and then assembling boxes of cookies. I had a lot of time to myself, time to sit and think and remember the people we don't have anymore and feel grateful for the ones we do. I guess it was how I was coping, these December rituals, the hours I spent in my own head. And I'm realizing that it's going to be a while before the holidays look like that again. Don't get me wrong - I'm excited for this season of chaos, but I think I'm also having a hard time letting go of what it used to look like and I'm trying to figure out if there's some middle ground, where I'm embracing the insanity but also not living in a house littered with baby toys and abandoned cups of cold coffee (am I ever going to get to drink hot coffee again?). And beneath it all, constantly, is the grief, swelling up, brought so much closer to the surface because all my emotions are closer to the surface these days and it's scary but also kind of liberating and it's making me question the way I've handled emotions up to this point.

We are complicated beings, and I'm learning to sit in the middle of joy and grief and accept that I'll be feeling both, probably forever, but maybe not quite as intensely as I am in this moment. I'm probably going to cry a lot this month, and that's okay. The sweetness of watching my daughter gnaw on Christmas tree ornaments doesn't offset the sadness I feel, but it does bring a new dimension to my life, and I'm grateful for this experience, for this love, for this fleeting period when everything is new and fresh and my emotions are spilling out everywhere.

But I'm also going to try to use the rest of her nap to clean the house because let's be honest, there's only so much chaos I can embrace.

{photo of me and my girl, in front of a painting by my dad that hangs in her nursery - thanks to jamie for capturing this for us}

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Life at 6 months

Six months

You guys, six months is so much fun. I thought that all the newborn snuggles were amazing, but watching her rapidly gain all these new skills (and sometimes getting to sleep through the night) is the best.

Our lives at six months are crazy and it feels like we're in the weeds most weeks, but (most days) I actually love it and feel really full and content. I mean, don't talk to me after a night of teething related sleeplessness, when I hate the entire world with a fiery passion. I will admit to crying while driving to work just because I'm so exhausted and there's nothing to do about it. But there are other nights where she sleeps for 11 hours and then wakes up babbling and I feel amazing, like we're conquering the world. It's a lot of highs and lows but the highs seem to wipe out the memory of the lows pretty quickly.

I worked full time from home all summer while taking care of her, which was maybe the craziest decision I've ever made. I was so tired and done at the end of those three months. I felt like I was on call 24/7 and I was never sleeping and I felt guilty a lot of the time. Around 5 months she started to outgrow her willingness to take loooong naps in the wrap (the only thing that made this crazy scheme possible), which put my workday into a tailspin. She started daycare at just the right time (5 months + 1 week) and it was the best thing for both of us. I feel so much better being able to focus exclusively on work during the day and then shift to her at home, and she loves being surrounded by other kids and gets the biggest grin on her face when we hand her over to her caretakers each morning.

We're still figuring out how to juggle our lives as two working parents, but we're settling into a routine.

I wake up just before 6 am, pump while getting ready (I have the Spectra S1 which holds a charge, so I can walk around the house while pumping and I don't know how I'd survive without it), leave a bottle of milk on the counter and then get out the door by 6:30. Adrian wakes up between 6 and 6:30 so some mornings I'm lucky and get to see her and others I don't (but then that means she's sleeping in, so lucky in a different way). D takes point in the morning Monday through Thursday (we switch on Friday due to my meeting schedule) so he gets her up, feeds her the bottle, gets her dressed and drops her at daycare by 8:30.

I'm at work by 7 am and I just plow through as much as I can. I rarely take a lunch break. I pump three times at work (9:30, 12:30, 2:30) for about 15 minutes each time. I'm incredibly lucky and have an office so I can just shut my door and keep working while I pump. In theory, I try to leave the office by 3 so that I have a little bit of time to go to the gym or run errands, but I think that's happened once so far. This is a really busy time of year for me, but things will settle down at some point and I'm hoping to reclaim that hour. The absolute latest I can leave is 4:30, otherwise I'm risking being late to daycare pick up because traffic is a total crap shoot. It can take me 30 minutes or an hour, who knows?

I pick up Adrian by 5:30 at the latest, but usually closer to 5. We head home and she plays on the kitchen floor while I get her dinner ready, pack her lunch for the next day, and set up the bathtub and nursery for bedtime routine. Since I'm solo in the evenings I like to have everything staged before we start dinner. I set up the bathroom and put her towel on a baby bouncer so I have somewhere to put her when she's done with her bath. The first time I did bathtime alone I didn't do this and then I had a squirming wet baby and nowhere to set her down. I also start the kettle so I can quickly get a bottle ready in case she wants one before bed.

Depending on when she woke up from her last nap I'm aiming to put her in bed between 6:30 - 7:00, so I'll usually give her dinner around 5:45 pm, let her play with her food for 15 - 30 minutes (she usually has a bottle around 4:30 pm, but if she didn't then I'll breastfeed her as soon as we get home so she isn't too hungry at dinner). During dinner I don't multitask at all, I sit with her and talk to her and have a snack while she eats. We're doing baby led weaning, so she eats real food and I basically watch her like a hawk for any signs of choking (so far just plenty of gagging, which is healthy and normal). It's a really sweet time of day, because she's so excited about her food and also seems to think it's fun to watch me eat.

After dinner I carry her straight to the bathroom and she takes a quick bath, then I put her in pajamas and nurse her. If she's especially hungry I'll give her a bottle of pumped milk afterwards. She sometimes likes to tank up right before bed if she was having too much fun to eat much at daycare. We dim the lights, read a story, turn on the white noise and then I sing her bedtime song and lie her down. Most days she squawks to herself for 10 minutes then cries for 5 minutes, then I go in and soothe her a little and she falls asleep shortly after. Other days I have to go in multiple times. Once in a while we hit the timing just right and she falls asleep right away and I don't go in at all. We're supposed to put her down awake but if I've gone in multiple times I'll usually cheat and just nurse her to sleep because by that point in the day I'm really tired. I clean up from dinner (Circe helps with the floor) and wash all the bottles and pump parts and then pick up the house while I'm listening for her cries. She's usually asleep between 6:30 - 7:00 and I check my work email and handle anything that came in after I left.

If D makes it home by 7:30 then we'll catch up and eat something quick together (we're doing a lot of eggs these days because we just have zero energy for cooking), maaaaybe watch 30 minutes of TV and then I start getting ready for bed, take a quick shower (I'm so bitter on nights I have to wash my hair because it eats up extra time) and make sure I'm all packed up for the morning. I pump one last time around 9 pm, put my pump parts in the fridge for the next morning, and try to be in bed by 9:30 pm. I used to make sure I pumped or fed her every four hours at night, but that wasn't sustainable for me so around 5.5 months I started stretching it out and now I can go from 9 pm - 6 am (there are a lot of nights where she wakes up to eat once during that stretch, but if she sleeps through I'm fine too). It was uncomfortable for a couple days but my body adjusted pretty quickly.

Adrian is still inconsistent at night, so sometimes she'll sleep straight through, which is heavenly, but fairly often she'll wake up once in the middle of the night because she's hungry, I'll feed her and then put her back in her crib and she falls asleep right away. If she's teething or sick she'll sometimes have so much trouble sleeping that one of us will just go in there and hold her all night. It is not awesome but if it happens we alternate nights so that we at least take turns being zombies. This week she's cutting her top two teeth, so I had a really rough night with her on Monday, and D took over for Tuesday. If the pattern is the same as her first two teeth she'll only have a couple hard nights and then it will get better. We've tried Tylenol but it doesn't seem to make a difference, she just wants to be snuggled.

On good days this level of busy-ness feels pretty fulfilling and on tough days it feels like a grind and every once in a while it feels like I'm actually drowning, but I'm so aware of how short this stage is. Everything changes every few months, so nothing lasts for very long, good or bad. There's also a chance that she'll be our only kid, which makes everything seem very bittersweet because I know this might be the only time we get to do this and be in this moment, so I try to just sink into it and pay attention to the good parts and move past the hard parts as best I can. Easier said than done, but I feel so lucky to be here right now (can you tell I'm writing this post after getting a full night of sleep?). There are multiple times a week where I'm watching her and I'm just in awe that we get to do this. Even putting all the crazy mushy emotions aside, it is a huge privilege to get a front row seat and watch a human being develop. Does that make sense? Seeing her learn everything from scratch is just amazing.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

"Soothing ladder"

We are attempting pre-sleep training. I'm not sure what you're supposed to call it. Cosleeping had been going great then last week a switch flipped and after a couple nights of broken sleep we realized that Adrian was having trouble sleeping because she needed more space to roll around and our presence had stopped being soothing and started being exciting. I immediately ordered two sleep training books recommended by friends and we decided to start with the "soothing ladder" method from The Happy Sleeper. We kind of dove into it and amazingly we were able to transition her into her crib in the nursery for the first time ever, which I honestly wasn't sure was possible. That's not to say it hasn't been bumpy. The theory is that at this age you only let them cry for a minute, so if she cries you go in and soothe her in the least intrusive way possible (i.e. stand there, if that doesn't work give her a paci, if that doesn't work, talk to her, then rub her back, pick her up if all else fails). Sometimes by some magic stroke of timing she's in exactly the right place for a nap and she just takes her lovey and rolls over and goes to sleep on her own with zero fuss. More often, we go through the soothing ladder a few times (or for an hour). Sometimes I have to go in there so many times that I'm about to decide I misread her cues and she isn't sleepy and she is never going to go to sleep again probably. That's often when she finally falls asleep.

In order for it to work I have to adopt this sort of zen mindset, where I just accept the fact that I will be walking in and out of her room every few minutes, possibly forever. I have to ignore the pressure I feel from the work that piles up while I do this during daytime naps and focus on radiating calm. I'm usually the opposite of a "woo" person, but I put so much focus into projecting calm and the sense that I have all the time in the world for this and I swear it helps. I spend a lot of time standing in the hallway, staring at the timer on my phone and trying to decide whether the noise she is making counts as "crying" (which you are supposed to intervene with) vs. "fussing" (which you are supposed to allow them to do). But it feels worth it because when she does go down she sleeps well, and she's learning to string together her sleep cycles on her own, which is pretty sweet to see.

This week I'm camping out in the nursery at night because the idea of her being in her own room that long is too much for me, so I get to see when she starts to wake up at night and then (like magic!) quietly fusses about for a few seconds before drifting back off. I just can't believe she's capable of this. Watching a baby develop new skills is just amazing, I can't get over it.

You guys, baby sleep is such a crazy thing. I knew that this was going to be one of the big challenges, but it's still mind blowing to me how much time and thought and energy you put into it. I'm trying to change my mindset, because I'm so type A and I like consistency and planning, so I'd been feeling really guilty about "failing" at baby sleep. Like, I purchased this super expensive bassinet and only used it for two months. We ended up cosleeping when that wasn't our plan. But I'm trying to flip that and tell myself  that we're doing a great job reading and responding to her cues. The SNOO was a huge blessing during the first few months, when she was so tiny and we needed to feel that she was safe above all else. And she was sleeping 6 - 7 hour stretches in it! And then when she started to resist the bassinet but she would fall asleep instantly with me, we transitioned to cosleeping and it was best for all of us. And when she started to struggle with sleeping in our bed, we noticed and now we're showing her that she can self soothe and sleep alone. There will probably be a hundred other transitions with her sleeping, and I need to get over the fact that things aren't going according to "plan" because there is no plan with a baby.

Also, I've lost the ability/time to actually edit posts, so all this baby stuff just gets written out in a 15 minute burst and then slapped up here as is. It kind of kills me, I just do not have the mental capacity for any fine tuning right now. The hardest part is keeping posts to a reasonable length, instead of spilling out a million tiny details and sidebars that are currently occupying my brain. Also, not using emojis, because I definitely would add the sideways laugh/cry face here, which is slightly different from the straight on laugh/cry face because it would subtly indicate that my current mindset is not just funny/sad but also that it's slightly crazy. Okay, that's enough, I'm out.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Surviving maternity leave

I really had no idea what to expect from maternity leave. I've always worked, even when I was in school. All my friends work, so it isn't like I could count on meeting up with people on a weekday. D took four weeks of leave, and that time passed in this lovely haze (mostly - the first week of c-section recovery is a special form of hell, but after that things got better). I mean, we were tired, sure, but we took advantage of the newborn stage and went out a lot. If there was an outdoor patio, we were there. And then he went back to work and I knew I needed some kind of strategy to get me through the next couple months. I have struggled with depression and anxiety in the past, so I was hyper-aware of my potential for developing postpartum depression and I wanted to do everything I could to try to keep myself in a good place.

I want to make it crystal clear here that PPD is not something to take lightly and I don't believe that you can pull yourself out of depression with sheer willpower. I was 100% prepared for the possibility of taking medication if necessary. I am incredibly lucky because I didn't develop PPD (yet - did you know it can set in months after giving birth? stay vigilant!) but I can't say that was due to anything I did. That said, I know that there are steps I can take that help keep me on track when I'm struggling, and I felt better when I had a plan.

{scene from my daily walk}

When D was getting ready to go back to work I sat down and made myself a list of categories that I needed to hit in order to feel human each day. These might be different for you, but for me it was:

Social - text, phone call, actual meet up with other people (I went to a support group once a week but that was often the only in person thing I did)
Self-care - shower, brush teeth, change clothes even if it's just to a new pair of sweats, do a face mask
Get out of the house - walk outside, or sit in backyard, or drive somewhere
Productivity - laundry, dishes, vacuuming, grocery shopping, writing, etc.
Physical activity - taking a walk or even just cleaning the house
Eating - remembering to eat is a real issue sometimes, so I kept a good supply of decent snacks (mostly trail mix packets) in a visible location

The bar was suuuuuper low in each of these categories. I only had to do one of those things in each category each day (although I did try to shower, brush my teeth, and change my clothes daily). There were plenty of days where the only social thing I did was send a quick text to a friend, but it still helped. The categories can overlap too. Spending 20 minutes running around cleaning the house counts as productivity and physical activity. I made sure that I got a little bit of time alone each evening when D was home where I could just retreat to the bathroom and spend a luxurious 15 minutes washing my face and brushing my teeth to get ready for bed. The nighttime routine felt like a chore pre-baby and now it feels like a full on spa day.

I found that days where I followed this checklist were the easiest for me emotionally. I'm not saying I never felt sad, or lonely, or exhausted and isolated and confused about why this country doesn't take parental leave seriously, for fuck's sake. Ahem. But having goals made the time alone feel more structured and manageable and even enjoyable. The newborn stage is hard but it's also such a sweet time and I wanted to be able to be aware of it and savor it to whatever extent possible. I think I did a pretty good job and I'm grateful for the time I had to focus on her exclusively.

This all fell apart when I started working from home, FYI. I can't tell you how many times D gets home in the evening and I suddenly realize I haven't brushed my teeth or eaten all day, forget actually making it out for a walk. Trying to squeeze in work during every possible free moment is no joke and I'm not killing it in the balance department these days but it's for such a limited time that I'm just kind of surviving. It helps that my sister is here at least a couple days a week to help with the baby, but I still find that I'm crawling the walls by Thursday evening. I have never appreciated weekends so much, because even though I still have to use them to catch up on work I at least don't feel like I'm on call 24/7 and D is home to take care of the baby so I can focus. Sooooo ... note to self - maybe revisit the checklist and see if I can't do a better job of taking care of myself for the rest of the summer, as brief as it is.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Four months postpartum

She's turning into such a little person, and I can't believe it's only been four months.


My absolute favorite thing right now is watching her work on her fine motor control. The look of absolute concentration on her face while she figures out how to make her hands do what she wants amazes me. This week she's started reaching out and gently running her hands over our faces while she stares intently and I just die.

Four months is an exciting time for her, and a weird time for me (what isn't weird about being postpartum? I have so many feelings about this stage of life). My hair abruptly started falling out last week. Not like "oh, that was a lot of hair to lose in the shower" but like "dear god, those are entire clumps of hair just falling out in my hands" - it was a horror show. I'm surprised I have any hair left at this point. I need to get it cut so that I feel slightly less frumpy but I feel like it's safest to wait until the hair loss hits a plateau, so that my stylist knows what he has to work with. Please tell me there will be a plateau.

I also threw my back out this week and had to go to a chiropractor for the first time. Apparently the c-section decimated what little ab strength I had (I've always hated ab work) and now my back is over it. So I need to work on that. The chiropractor asked what I do for exercise and usually when I'm asked this lately I lie and say I walk several times a week but I was just honest and told the truth. I do nothing. Absolutely nothing. I was walking daily until I had to go back to work and then I was still managing to walk a few times a week but then the weather got crazy hot and now I just do nothing. Is it any surprise that my back is failing?  The chiropractor looked like no one had ever said that before. She even said "oh, walking counts" and then I had to tell her that no, I really meant nothing, no walking, nothing. Am I the only one in LA who doesn't exercise? I would love to say that I went home and took a walk but I just went back to working and then ate a bunch of cookies instead of getting lunch.

Last week I gave in and went to Madewell and got the highest rise pants that they had in a size that fits me comfortably. I don't know what I've done right in my life for mom jeans to come back into style just as I had a kid, but I'm very grateful.

I know that at some point I need to get my act together and start taking better care of myself but this summer is almost over and I just can't be bothered right now because all I want to do is eat cookies and watch my baby grab stuff. But I swear I'm going to start doing those postpartum ab exercises, because the back spasms are no joke.


P.S. You try making a baby smile without looking like a total idiot, it's impossible, I'm pretty sure.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

SNOO review (sort of) - months 2 & 3

First SNOO post (months 0 - 2) here.


So I should admit up front that I considered letting this series die a quiet death and never posting about baby sleep again because I feel like a huge failure. I basically gave up at week 11, which was my second week back at work (aka - no more naps during the day) and a wonder week leap, and I just gave in and started cosleeping*, which was never in my plan. But here I am posting this anyways, because even if it isn't really a review of the SNOO anymore, maybe it's still helpful to someone? Or maybe just acknowledging that babies are different and getting your sleep in whatever way works best for your family is okay? I hate to discourage people from the SNOO because it was so great for us during the first couple months, and I have heard from so many other people for whom the SNOO was a lifesaver. I should try reading those emails to Adrian to see if they can convince her.

Anyways, here are my notes from the last two months.

Week 9: 6/12 - 6/19 Started out strong, still getting those nice 6 -7 hour stretches in the SNOO at night. But it kind of fell apart towards the end of the week, probably a perfect storm of her getting all her two month vaccinations and being a bit fussy and me getting stressed about going back to work. We dipped back down to 4 hour stretches for a few nights.

Week 10: 6/19 - 6/26 My first week back at work and everything is kind of topsy turvy and we're trying to figure out a schedule. She decides she isn't into the bottle anymore (nice timing!) and we have a little regression on the evening fussiness. Still getting 4 - 6 hour stretches consistently at the start of the week, but shit starts to fall apart on Friday and then I realize we are entering a Wonder Week (since she was born a week late she goes through her leaps a little early, because they are based on due date and not birth date).

Week 11: 6/26 - 7/3 Wonder Week leap three in full swing, I'm not even attempting to get her to sleep anywhere but on me. We're actually relatively lucky because she mostly stays cheerful during Wonder Weeks (so far!) but she just cannot sleep on her own while she's going through a leap. She naps happily in the wrap during the day, but at night she hits a fussy wall and it takes a concerted effort to calm her down and get her to eat and fall asleep. Then if you try to put her in the SNOO she will sleep for maybe 40 minutes, then she's up and inconsolable. I give up and just accept that we're co-sleeping this week. It's crazy that she can be crying and refusing to sleep for ages and then falls asleep within two minutes if I lie down and hold her. I'm barely sleeping because I'm so aware of her, but knowing that there is an end date for this makes it bearable and even sweet. I'm hoping that she rebounds after this leap and maybe we'll even get a magical 8 hour stretch.

Week 12: 7/3 - 7/10 Things are still terrible. Did I ruin our baby by letting her sleep with me for a week? She is refusing to sleep for more than 15 minutes on her own, at any time of the day or night. I know that we need to suck it up and make a big push to get her back in the SNOO but we're both working and I just can't face even one night of waking up a million times to soothe her back to sleep. I tell myself we'll try over the weekend.

Week 13: 7/10 - 7/17 Yeah, that didn't happen. We had a crazy heat wave and all ended up camping out in the nursery, so she's still sleeping with us. The thing is that she sleeps so well that it's hard to motivate to get her back in her bassinet. Even though I don't sleep heavily when she's with me, not having to get up multiple times a night feels so good that I'm reluctant to give it up. I don't fall back asleep easily once I'm up, so I'm extra motivated not to wake up fully over and over again.

Week 14: 7/17 - 7/24 Why am I even writing this review? I feel like a failure because I haven't even attempted to get her back in the SNOO and our kid will probably be sleeping with us until she goes to college. At least we're pretty well rested? Her nighttime schedule is like clockwork now. We put her down around 8 or 9 pm, she sleeps solidly until 2 - 3 am, when I feed her half asleep, then she's back down until 6:40 am. I still sleep pretty lightly with her next to me, but I've stopped feeling quite so terrified that I'll roll over on her. We're both always in exactly the same position every time I wake up. I did put her in the SNOO for a couple of her daytime naps this week, which went over okay. She'll sleep for about an hour in the SNOO during the day, whereas I get 2.5 - 3.5 hours if I wear her in the wrap. She's always been a good daytime napper, and the only thing I do is adhere pretty firmly to the "awake times" theory, so I only let her stay awake for about an hour and a half at a time during the day, then I make a major push to get her down for a nap. Part of the issue is that I really NEED those long naps because I'm working from home and I need concentrated times when I can bang out a ton of work without interruption. So wearing her is worth it to me because she'll nap better and longer.

Week 15: 7/24 - 7/31 We're deep in Wonder Week leap four (which lasts for-freaking-ever) and she started rolling over for real this week and it made her completely crazy for a couple days. Cosleeping started to get weird because instead of staying snuggled up next to me all night she now wants to lie on her back with her arms spread out, which means that this 13 lb infant is somehow taking up 1/3 of our bed. She's also waking up more, and I don't know if it's the four month sleep regression or the rolling but I'm bummed.

Week 16: 7/31 - 8/7 Ugh, it's been a week of her waking up every 2 - 3 hours wanting to eat, or just being fussy. I'm exhausted. I know it's just a phase, but towards the end of the week, not having had more than 1.5 hours of sleep at a time for five nights in a row I told her to go fuck herself when she woke up at 3am and then I felt bad. She didn't seem to care either way so I guess we're still friends. She's still sleeping super sprawled out in bed and I'm thinking maybe instead of getting her back into the SNOO we'll just work on transitioning her to her crib. We'll see.

This is ending on a sad note, but I'm happy to give a spoiler and note that week 17 has started off really well, back to 7ish hour stretches at night the last couple nights. Fingers crossed this sticks for a bit. I am a way nicer person if I get at least one uninterrupted stretch of sleep at night.

* Thoughts about cosleeping - I've never been anti cosleeping, and I know plenty of people who do it happily and safely, but it always seemed like it wouldn't be the solution for us. Our dog sleeps with us, for one thing, and I like my space at night, and after 9 months of forced side sleeping I was really looking forward to being able to roll around to my heart's content. Initially, we "coslept" for short periods by letting her sleep on my chest while I was propped up, just to get a couple hours sleep during fussy nights. Once she was 11 weeks old it started feeling less scary because she was so much stronger, and she'd sleep alongside me, against my belly/chest with her forehead just below my chin. We followed some standard safety tips, like limiting bedding and pillows. Luckily it was summer, so we mostly just slept without blankets, or only pulled the blankets up to my waist and we already have a firm mattress. Circe kind of resolved the dog issue because she's been sleeping with us way less since we came home from the hospital. She gets annoyed that I have to get up to feed Adrian at night, so she started sleeping on the floor beside our bed instead, although she'll hop up and sleep on Dustin's side for some snuggles in the beginning of the night. I also got more comfortable with the idea of Circe and Adrian coexisting, because they spend a lot of supervised time together on the playmat during the day, and once Adrian started rolling it was pretty obvious that she's strong enough (and loud enough) to wake us up if Circe gets too close. Circe has also proved herself surprisingly tolerant. She chooses to lie beside Adrian during playtime, and waits patiently and stoically while I have to detach Adrian's death grip on her fur multiple times a day. If she gets too annoyed she'll leave the room, but in general she seems willing to put up with a lot, which I definitely didn't expect. But at night she consistently avoids Adrian, to the extent of not wanting to come over to my side of the bed at all, so I guess her tolerance has limits. Circe is pretty committed to sleeping.

Anyways, long story short, cosleeping didn't feel as scary as I expected it to once she got bigger, and even though I'm still hoping this is just a short phase in our lives (she starts daycare in another month and she has to learn to sleep on her own before that) it's been a surprisingly sweet one.

Friday, July 27, 2018

The giant pregnancy post

Soooooo I wrote this just a couple weeks after having Adrian, then kept telling myself I'd come back to it for editing and to split it up into a few easier to read posts about specific aspects of pregnancy. But that isn't happening, and today I realized that it's the one year anniversary of finding out that I was pregnant, so I'm going to just dump it here as is. Otherwise I probably won't get around to posting this until the kid goes to college. Things covered in this post - body image, first trimester misery, (not) exercising while pregnant, discovering I had a defect in the umbilical cord (SUA), dealing with contractions from 28 weeks on.


By the time we decided we were ready to try for a baby, I wasn't all that worried about the actual baby. I'm incredibly lucky because I've been able to spend a lot of time and develop a close relationship with my sister's kids, and even the newborn phase didn't seem too intimidating because I got to stay with them for the first two weeks both times. I wasn't stupid enough to believe that this was the same experience as actually parenting, but at least I knew how to hold a newborn and how to change diapers and that sometimes when the umbilical stump falls off it is really freaking gross but that doesn't necessarily mean that anything is wrong.

But I was pretty anxious about the pregnancy. I was afraid I'd gain a million pounds, or that I'd be incredibly sick the entire time, or that I'd hate the feeling of sharing my body and that my anxiety would spike up. I worried about it a lot. I wanted to have a baby, but I just couldn't imagine myself pregnant.

And then (several months later) I was pregnant and it wasn't bad. None of the things I was worried about happened. Other things happened, things that I wasn't expecting and hadn't bothered to worry about, which is probably some kind of lesson that I should learn except that right now I'm pretty tired from carrying a human around for 41 weeks and so I'm not in the mood.

I'm sharing this not to say that hey, pregnancy is easy and there's no reason to stress! Everyone's experience is so different and there's no way to really anticipate how pregnancy will feel. I'm just sharing to say that maybe it's not worth stressing too much in advance because you can't predict how you're going to feel or what is going to happen. And each pregnancy can be different, so even being pregnant before doesn't necessarily mean you'll know how you'll feel the next time around.

Physically, I had a pretty easy pregnancy, for which I am super grateful. As soon as I got a positive pregnancy test I decided to kick into super healthy gear. I was going to eat protein and vegetables and drink tons of water! I was going to exercise moderately every day! I would be my best self and then I would have the world's healthiest baby!

This lasted for approximately two weeks, at which point morning sickness kicked in, which in my case was more like a 24/7 hangover of epic proportions that dragged on until I was 20 weeks along. I was lucky that I wasn't actively throwing up, but the nausea and lack of energy meant that I spent a lot of evenings lying on the kitchen floor in front of the refrigerator trying to convince myself to open the door and eat something, anything. Even in the moment I was aware of how ridiculously dramatic this was, but I honestly didn't feel up to anything else. I ate a lot of peanut butter for "dinner" during this time. I also had to force myself to drink water, for the first time in my life. And I had this lovely pregnancy symptom where my mouth tasted weird all the time, but especially after eating. That sentence does not adequately communicate how incredibly disgusting and frustrating this was. If anyone else is suffering through weird pregnancy mouth, I can say that I finally figured out that eating protein (mostly cheese sticks, in my case) didn't make it any worse, but any kind of carbs, especially sugar, was a nightmare. Also, chewing minty gum helped a little. I ended up eating zero sugar for two thirds of my pregnancy because of this (so at least I had one healthy habit).

Even once the morning sickness cleared up I had zero desire or energy to exercise. I can count on one hand the number of times I worked out during pregnancy. My only saving grace was that I committed to taking the stairs everywhere I went, even though I park on the fifth floor of the structure everyday at work. I told myself that this sort of counted, but in practice I was basically a land slug. I want to say that if I had another chance I would do it differently but to be honest I'm just not sure I was capable of it.

Surprisingly, I didn't gain a million pounds, and I actually ended up really feeling okay with my body during pregnancy. I was shocked by this. I've struggled with mild to moderate body image issues for most of my life and they tend to flare up when I'm stressed or dealing with major life events. At the time I got pregnant I was already at the heavier end of my personal weight spectrum and I thought that adding on extra pounds would raise a lot of issues. But I think I ended up being so busy and distracted that I didn't really think about it much (postpartum body image is turning out to be a whooooole other thing that I'm still in the early stages of figuring out). Once I got over the morning sickness I expected my appetite to rebound like crazy but instead it just went back to normal. I never felt overly hungry while pregnant and I think I mostly continued to eat like normal, although I did make an effort to keep healthier stuff stocked, so I snacked on a lot of nuts and yogurt. I wasn't perfect and I was pretty stressed at work, so I admit that I sometimes had a pretty sporadic daytime meal schedule. I would start out well (I ate the unsweetened Trader Joe's instant oatmeal with a sliced banana for breakfast every single week day of my pregnancy, because it was easy and I could do it at work) but then I was trying to cram so much work into my day that I'd realize I'd been sitting at my desk for hours and hadn't gotten up to go to the bathroom or eat. I vividly remember sitting in the grocery store parking lot one afternoon after work crying because I'd waited too long to eat and I already felt like a bad parent and this kid wasn't even born yet and what was wrong with me and why couldn't I get it together? Turns out that there are a lot of dramatic pregnancy moments that feel either hilarious or embarrassing in retrospect but are dead serious in the moment. Anyways, long story short, I thought I was going to be dealing with massive body image issues while pregnant, but instead I gained a totally normal amount of weight and felt surprisingly good about my body the whole time. I do credit part of this to switching over to maternity clothes pretty early. It's hard for me to feel good about myself if I have buttons or zippers digging into my midsection. Over the belly pregnancy jeans are basically leggings that look work appropriate. I'm honestly not sure why we don't all wear them all the time. I also found that I wore tighter clothes during pregnancy than in my normal life. I tried the beautiful hipster tunic-y or drapey maternity clothes and I looked like a house. I figured out quickly that I felt my best if I was wearing form fitting clothing that made it clear I was housing an actual baby and not just an extra large burrito, so I stuck with that. I mostly lived in maternity jeans and a few long sleeved maternity tops. Since I was pregnant during holiday season, I also bought a couple festive maternity dresses (I got a few pieces from both Pink Blush and Asos and found that at both places the quality is super mixed. The holiday dresses I got from Pink Blush look cute but they are seriously the cheapest feeling things. D asked if I was flammable after he felt the fabric on the dress I wore to his holiday party BUT multiple people commented on how amazing the dress looked, so it served its purpose and I just made sure to stay away from candles. On the other hand, the maternity workout leggings I got from Pink Blush are ah-mazing, and I wore them non-stop for six months - they don't seem to have the same exact pair anymore but they were similar to these. So I would say just order stuff and then return anything that feels cheap once you try it on.)

The parts of pregnancy I didn't anticipate were the hardest. At our 20 week anatomy scan we were so excited to finally confirm the sex of the baby, and instead we found out that I had an umbilical defect. Most umbilical cords have two arteries and one vein, but I had a condition called single umbilical artery (SUA). Five minutes of googling later and I was totally freaked out. An SUA can be isolated, meaning that it is just an anomaly and not associated with any other issues, or it can be associated with chromosomal abnormalities or heart or kidney defects. We found out on a Saturday and I was crushed and panicked. Everyone I talked to told me to get off the internet right away, and I tried to follow that advice and made it a full 48 hours. Then I talked to a friend and my therapist and they both told me that it was perfectly understandable to want to learn more about it and they reminded me that I had to advocate both for the baby and for myself. I understand why people tell you not to start googling, but how else are you supposed to know what questions to ask? I already spend a good chunk of time reading and discussing scientific articles for work, and so I went straight to the source and looked up every peer reviewed journal article I could find on SUA. At first it was pretty disheartening. Even if an SUA is isolated and not associated with any other issues, it can still lead to a higher chance of restricted fetal growth or late term miscarriage or stillbirth, presumably because the cord is more fragile and prone to damage. Dustin and I spent a pretty depressing night sitting up in our bed, surrounded by my stacks of highlighted articles. But after going through everything I felt confident that our doctor was following the best course of action. Given that the anatomy scan showed a healthy heart and kidneys, and that the prenatal screening and anatomy scan didn't show any signs of chromosomal issues, there was every indication that we had an isolated SUA and the only action indicated was closer monitoring during the third trimester. I'm not going to say that I was able to immediately let it go and stop worrying, but I did my best. The last month of pregnancy I was increasingly worried but the extra monitoring (two non-stress tests per week starting at 32 weeks, plus growth scans every 2 - 3 weeks) helped reassure me that she was growing just fine. And she was just fine, as it turned out! I did end up having an unplanned c-section, and the SUA factored into our decision on that. Her heart wasn't handling the contractions well but the doctor might have let me try to labor a little longer if they weren't concerned about the SUA already putting her at higher risk. I 100% do not regret that decision, even though the c-section was stressful and the recovery kind of sucked. I just feel so lucky that she arrived healthy and happy, after all that concern.

And then there were the contractions. At 28 weeks I had a particularly hard week at work and also felt terrible physically and then finally figured out that I was having contractions every five minutes. I spent two separate nights in L & D that week, but it became clear that the contractions weren't causing my cervix to dilate, so they told me to try to rest more and warned me that this might just be my baseline for the rest of the pregnancy. Ugh. I did what I could to modify my schedule, splitting up my work day between the office and home as often as possible. I found that I couldn't stop the contractions but with tons of hydration and lots of rest I could keep them to a manageable level. They weren't painful, just uncomfortable, so once I knew they weren't an indication of pre-term labor I was able to mostly relax and ignore them. Every single time I would go in for non-stress tests the tech would look startled and ask if I knew I was having contractions. YES. I KNOW. I was worried I wouldn't know when they transitioned into actual labor and that I'd have the baby on our bathroom floor. SPOILER - as uncomfortable as they are, those early contractions feel NOTHING like actual labor. I woke up with a contraction the morning I went into labor and immediately knew that this was the real thing. I can't even really describe how it was different, but I could tell it was. In the early stages the contractions feel similar, but with real labor they started getting painful and increasing in strength pretty quickly.

So that's a whole bunch of pregnancy stuff crammed into one post. Long story short, there is really no way to predict how a pregnancy will go, so my recommendation is to try not to stress (or build up big expectations!) ahead of time and then just roll with it as best you can when it happens. I know, I know. Easier said than done. I'm sorry! I guess my only real advice is to get into maternity clothes ASAP.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Baby gear for the newborn stage - what we needed and what we didn't

Baby gear is such a crazy subject. My first and strongest recommendation is to take the hand me downs, take all the hand me downs. Sure, it's nice to imagine one of those picture perfect homes where all your baby stuff is gorgeous natural wood and white linen and your baby is always wearing clothes that are perfectly aligned with your aesthetic, and maybe if we had unlimited funds I would have been tempted to go that route (110%). But you use the baby gear for such a short window of time, in my opinion it's better to just use whatever motley collection of hand me downs you can get and realize that you really won't care, partly because you're going to be tired and partly because your baby is going to be so cute that it won't matter what color her play mat is. You're going to have to pass most of this stuff along within a year anyways and then you'll probably barely remember it. If you don't have a network of friends desperate to unload baby gear (not exaggerating - bins of stuff started showing up on our porch as soon as we announced I was pregnant - people want that stuff out of their house) but you want to save money then join a local mom's group on Facebook or troll Craigslist.

baby equipment

This post has affiliate links to Amazon, but if you have a good local store in your area (shout out to the Pump Station!) I highly recommend going there instead. Not only because you support them, but because it can be a huge source of support for you, and having someone to talk to and ask for advice is amazing in those first few weeks. That said, if your local options are limited or if getting out of the house feels unmanageable sometimes, most of this stuff is easily purchased online. I'm basically on a first name basis with the UPS guy now that I'm working from home and can't get out much.

We wanted to keep it fairly minimal, but here are the things we have ended up relying on:

Bassinet - they need a place to sleep. We use the SNOO. We've also used the Dockatot a few times because we got one from a friend. If we hadn't gotten the SNOO I probably would have gone with a simple basket set up, or a bedside "cosleeper" option. I'm not an expert here, because she's been sleeping with us the last few weeks at this point and I'm starting to wonder if I'll ever get her to sleep alone. (My first review of the SNOO is here, next update is due soon)

Car seat and stroller (duh) - we got a really nice infant car seat as a hand me down (only a year old) but I recently broke down and purchased a used car seat that was compatible with our stroller. Adrian hates getting in and out of her car seat, and it was making errands really hard. Being able to just pull the car seat out of the car and clip it into the stroller is amazing. I thought this was a luxury I didn't need, I was wrong. If possible, get a car seat that works with your stroller if you live somewhere where you're going to be driving a lot. We got the Cruz stroller (tip - look for the last year's model to save some money) and now have the Mesa car seat, which is great because you can wash basically all the cloth parts in the washing machine. If you're in a local mom's group on Facebook, car seats and strollers frequently pop up for sale. I wouldn't feel comfortable purchasing a used car seat on Craigslist (they expire and you can't use them if they've been in an accident) but I felt good about getting one because the mom's group is tight knit and I trust people in it.

Baby wrap - in the infant stage I find the wraps easier than the structured carriers, because it's more comfortable for wearing around the house. I got two of the Solly wraps because they seem to be the most lightweight, and we use them constantly. I actually got the second one a week after the first, because I was having trouble getting a chance to wash the first one because we used it so much. I wear her for several hours a day, both in the house and when we go out. She loves it (luckily) and I feel like it's our best bonding time. We also have an Ergo that we'll be using once she's a bit bigger.

Place to set baby down - our friend gave us this bouncer seat and it's been a lifesaver. She has no interest in sleeping in it like some babies do, but it's perfect for when she's awake and happy. She likes to sit in it while I work in the kitchen or shower. Side note - everyone raves about the Rock N Play, but I got one for free with points and she just isn't interested in it at all. Just a good reminder that babies don't all like the same things!

Changing pad with extra liners - we just used an old dresser as a changing table but we got a changing pad and some cute covers. I impulse registered for some of these changing pad liners, which you lie over the cover to reduce how often you have to wash the cover, and then we liked them so much we ended up ordering another set. I still love our changing pad and I'm bummed that we ended up needing to switch to the Hatch Baby Grow so we could have a scale (but I loooooove the functionality of the Grow - see my full review here).

Play mat - I didn't realize this was a thing, but our friends gave us their old one (similar to this one) and we use it all the time. It's nice to have a place for her to lie down and do tummy time and she really does love having her toys suspended above her.

Cheater swaddles - our bassinet comes with a velcro swaddle, so we use that. My sister used the halo swaddles with her kids and I liked those too. I know that it isn't hard to learn to swaddle them with a blanket, but I just have zero interest. I've already had to learn how to operate several bewildering pieces of baby equipment and that's enough.

Receiving blankets/swaddle blankets - despite not knowing how to swaddle I do use swaddle blankets all the time, mostly for breastfeeding or tucking around her when she's sitting in her bouncer. They are scattered all over our house, so I'm glad we have a lot in patterns/colors we are okay with. Personally, I prefer the swaddling blankets over the receiving blankets because they are bigger and lightweight so if I had to do it again I'd probably skip the receiving blankets. There are a million cute options out there, but you'll probably get a bunch as gifts anyways. If you want super soft and organic, we were given a two pack of the Wee Sprout brand and they are the softest, but you don't get the fun patterns.

Pacifier - opinions vary on this, but I was in tears during the first couple weeks of breastfeeding because we'd have 45 minute stretches at night where she was using my boob as a pacifier and I was in pain. I'd heard you had to wait six weeks to introduce the pacifier but our lactation consultant gave us the okay to go for it sooner. Of course, she didn't accept it right away but by four weeks it was my savior and I'm okay with it. She only takes it when she needs to go to sleep and it's easy to tell when she's hungry vs. when she only wants the pacifier. Our lactation consultant recommended using Soothies, but initially she wouldn't take those and we found that the Mam pacifier was the perfect gateway. After a few weeks with the Mam she graduated to the Soothie and now she happily takes it anytime she's feeling tired and ready to go to sleep. I also got a little pack of pacifier clips, which are critical if you don't want to have to pick the pacifier up off the floor a million times a day. (FYI - the reason I didn't stick with the Mam is that I found it harder to sterilize. Water would get into the nipple and it didn't seem to fully dry and one day I saw mold growing in it. I'm not sure if I was doing something wrong, but yuck. The Soothies are all one piece, so there's nowhere for water to get trapped.)

Clothes - footie pajamas and a couple hats. If you wanted to go super minimal, I think you could get away with a few sets of pajamas and 1 - 2 hats for the first three months. We are obsessed with the Cloud Island footie pjs from Target (pattern options change all the time, so that exact link might not work but just search their website). They come in packs of three, they're lightweight (pro for us, might be a con for you) and they have an inverted zipper, which is amazing for nighttime diaper changes because you don't have to fully undress them to get at their diaper.

Nursing pillow - I relied on the Brestfriend really heavily for every feeding the first few weeks but by two months in I was mostly just using it during the day and by three months I've stopped using it almost entirely. It does make breastfeeding much more comfortable in the beginning.

Nipple cream - so critical during the first weeks, now only used sporadically. They sent me home from the hospital with a tube of Lasinoh cream but my lactation consultant recommended this option from Motherlove because it's more moisturizing and I liked it better.

Hand pump - I got a free electric pump from insurance, but this Haakaa silicone hand pump is amazing for night time feedings. Adrian only eats one side during her early morning feeding, so my routine is to pop her on one side, then put the pump on the other. It is a simple vacuum system, so there's no noise and I just massage a little to help it out. It's surprisingly effective this way, although the set up takes a bit of juggling (let's not talk about the time she kicked the pump off my boob and I spilled four ounces of milk all over the bed and myself). It's a single piece, so cleaning it is so, so easy. I've been able to build up a freezer stash of milk this way too. (I didn't get anything fancy for freezing milk, I'm currently just using our regular silicone ice cube trays and then double ziploc bagging the cubes - UPDATE - I actually regret not just getting bags immediately. They are so much easier than the ice cubes and my daycare prefers them. I like the Medela ones best because they feel sturdiest and don't have weird flowers printed on them. We do use some of the ice cubes for teething but they're not convenient for bottles.)

Bottles - we started trying to get Adrian to take a bottle at 6 weeks, per the recommendation of our lactation consultant. It's been up and down. I've tried four different types of bottles and so far her favorite is the Nuk Simply Natural. She will also take the Comotomo, but those are three times as expensive and while I love how they look I hate how they tend to tip over. My only recommendation for bottles is not to register for a ton of one style, because you have no idea what your baby will take. If possible, borrow a variety from a friend, or just buy a couple to test out. We try to give her one bottle a day, in the hopes that she won't starve once she starts daycare. Some days are better than others, honestly. We don't use a bottle warmer, we just put some hot water in a cup and then swirl the bottle in it until it warms up. Works fine since we aren't heating bottles constantly.

Drying rack - I'm not sure if this is necessary but I like having a separate drying rack just for her stuff. Most of it is small enough that it would fall through our large rack, plus this seems cleaner. We got the Boon strip, which takes up minimal space and I think it's cute.

Diaper pail - we got this fancy Ubbi diaper pail and it does look nice and it works well. My sister happily used this much cheaper option, and as she wisely pointed out "No matter how nice it is, it's still just a trash can full of baby poop." I also have friends who avoided the diaper pail altogether and just made more frequent trips to take the trash out.

We did register for other little things - a forehead thermometer, hooded towels and washcloths, baby nail clippers, some rope baskets that we use for toys and laundry (separately). I got this back of the door storage organizer and use it to hold diapers, burp cloths, and other daily essentials, the stuff that you want to be able to grab quickly but don't necessarily have counter space for. I got a bath sling because it was cheap and simple and it's fine (I have this one but it cost $6 in store). Having some high contrast cards and books are nice, and I love these Wee Gallery alphabet cards in particular. A friend gave us this Silly Tails crinkly book and it's been a huge hit and I have to remember to take it with us everywhere.

What we realized we didn't need: a ton of clothes (as I mentioned, a few pairs of footed pajamas are probably all you need initially), a ton of toys, a full infant bath, a bottle warmer, a real changing table (dresser works fine). Probably a ton of other stuff that was on the recommended registry list that I'm currently forgetting.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Hatch Baby Grow review + my new favorite baby app

We've been having some issues with weight gain over here and I wasn't really prepared for the emotions that go along with that. Adrian was in the 80th percentile for weight at birth, but dropped to the 60th at her one month check and then down to the 30th at her two month (she's been steadily 95th for both height and head since birth). After we got the news at her two month appointment our ped suggested that if she was still falling lower on the chart in another month we would want to discuss formula supplementation. While I'm open to doing whatever we need to do to make sure she's getting what she needs, I immediately started feeling guilty and stressed about her eating. The thing about breastfeeding is that it's a total black box. All I could do was time how long she was eating but that doesn't really tell me how much she's eating. When we'd visited our lactation consultant back in the very beginning she would weigh Adrian before and after eating so we could calculate how much milk she got. It was so cool that when we were at the baby store and saw the Hatch Baby Grow we definitely considered purchasing it, but we convinced ourselves that it was ridiculous and over the top and obsessive.

Hi there, week one us! This is two month us, and we are ridiculous and over the top and obsessive and we have zero regrets. Nice to meet you.

So yeah, we purchased a changing pad that is also a baby scale, so that we can weigh our kid obsessively and know how much she eats at each feeding. And I love it. We've only been using it for two and a half weeks (I will update this review if we have any issues down the line) but it's been amazing. And as it turns out I love the app that goes with it so much more than the previous one we were using (and you can use the app even if you aren't using the scale, so I'll give a little detail on it below in case you're just interested in that).

FYI - this is 100% not sponsored, I purchased it myself and the company has no idea I exist.

Hatch Baby Grow

Thoughts about the Hatch Baby Grow -

They made an attempt to make it look modern, but honestly, I liked our regular old changing pad better because I could put cute covers on it and it was brighter. I feel like the grey is a little dark in our space. I can understand why they didn't go with white, but I kind of wish it was white or a super light grey.

The material is a soft-ish plastic foam. It isn't hard or slick but it definitely isn't cushy at all. Again, I prefer our conventional changing pad because with this one I have to be super careful to set her down gently or I risk bonking her head (which wouldn't injure her, this isn't a brick surface, but it does startle her). On the other hand, you can just wipe this surface clean with a wipe, which is kind of amazing.

The functionality of the scale outweighs these cons, though. I love the scale. There's no digital display, so you have to connect it to your phone via Bluetooth and use the Hatch Baby app. But it's super easy to use and I've only had issues connecting with it once. Basically, you open up the scale in the app, lie your baby down, and then tell the app if you want to record a weight or do a feeding. If you record a weight, it just saves the info for you. If you are starting a feeding, it takes a pre-feeding weight and then you come back after the feeding and weigh the baby again and it will automatically calculate the feeding amount and then save it for you. Being able to track her feeding amounts has given me so much peace of mind. I can see that she's a pretty consistent eater, taking in pretty much the same volume every day, and I can also see that all my efforts to get her to eat more often aren't really making a difference. I realize that sounds discouraging, but it's actually great info to have! Adrian naturally seems to want to wait and only eat every 3 - 4 hours during the day, sometimes even stretching it out to 5 hours if she's having an epic nap. If I go by her schedule and let her do that, she'll eat 3 - 5 oz per feed. If I try to encourage her to eat more and wake her up every two hours to feed her, she eats 1 - 2 oz per feed, and my daily total comes out the same, even if her total eating time is much higher. She also doesn't sleep any longer at night. Knowing this makes me feel so much more comfortable about letting her set her own schedule. (Standard disclaimer here - every baby is different, this is definitely not medical advice, and I'm consulting both my LC and my pediatrician as I figure out what works for us - we might still need to supplement with formula).

Technical stuff - it's accurate to 0.25 oz, which is good enough for our purposes, and it seems to be pretty consistent with our doctor's scale. Baby weight obviously fluctuates day to day, based on how many fluids they have on board, etc. I do daily weigh ins for her but don't stress about her being up and down on the day to day. If day to day fluctuations are going to stress you out, then weighing once per week is probably better. The weights you get for feedings throughout the day aren't meant to be weight checks, because you don't bother to undress or undiaper them for those. Just keep them consistent by not doing outfit or diaper changes. I weigh her in whatever she's in (with paci, if she's using it), feed her, and then immediately weigh her again before changing her diaper or anything. That gets you the most accurate weight.

Adrian is super wiggly and this scale still works well. If she's moving like crazy it won't get a reading, but I've found the leaning over her and talking to her gets her to smile and hold still long enough for the scale to capture the weight.

Max weight is 44 lbs, at which point I'm pretty sure Adrian will be way too big for this scale anyways.

The app calculates the weight percentile automatically. They use the WHO growth charts, FYI, which may or may not be what your doctor uses.

Hatch Baby app -

Hatch Baby app

Even without the scale, I think I would still love this app. We aren't at the point where we're making any attempt to put Adrian on a schedule, other than trying to set bedtime for approximately 8pm, and trying not to let her stay awake much longer than 1.5 - 2 hours at a time during the day. But my favorite thing about the app is that it gives you a chart that lets you line up the last several days and see the eating and sleeping patterns. This has been awesome for me, because I can kind of see how she's developing her own schedule and it gives me an idea of when to expect her to be awake or asleep or hungry. The visual just helps my sleep deprived brain so much.

Other things I love about the app (we were previously using Baby Manager, for reference):
You can easily navigate through it even while you have a feeding running. With our other app, if you were in a feeding you couldn't do anything else until the feeding was finished. This sucks because I like to be able to enter diaper changes, check sleep times, etc, while I'm sitting there feeding.

The feeding interface is nice because it times the overall feeding and also the time spent on each breast. You can just tap to switch sides, and the app will save which side was last and show you that info when you go to start a new feeding. My previous app showed each side as a separate feeding, which made it really complicated to add up how many feedings she'd had that day, since she sometimes eats from both sides but sometimes only eats from one.

Cute little detail - you're prompted to upload a photo for each day and it's just way cuter to scroll through your data this way.

Things I don't love - no place to enter head circumference, which we had previously been tracking as well. Sometimes the app is a little glitchy about letting me delete entries and they reappear (this only seems to happen with the auto entries from the scale, so it might be an issue specific to that). I also wish the visual distinguished between wet and dirty diapers. You can see that info if you are looking at the list of diapers, but it would be nice to see it in the daily summary visual. At some point we'll stop tracking wet diapers and then it will be more clear, but since we're still worried about her weight gain I'm trying to make sure we're tracking everything.

Random thing that only a parent would ever request - I wish there was an app that let you attach photos of your diapers to the diaper entries. I realize this is disgusting and before I was a parent I would never have imagined that I'd want to request a visual, timed record of shit. Now, I want a shit slideshow, with dated entries, so that I can figure out what is normal and what is weird and pull it up later without having to scroll through my entire camera roll. I can't be alone here, right?

Monday, June 11, 2018

SNOO review - the first two months


First things first, if you want to judge me for purchasing a very expensive robot bassinet, that's fine. As someone who has a lifetime of experience with periodic insomnia, I place a really high value on sleep. Which isn't to say I didn't have qualms about this big ticket item. So many qualms. But I read a million reviews and then they had a big Black Friday sale and we decided to go ahead and order. If you're considering a purchase, keep in mind that they frequently have 30% off sales, last year the Black Friday sale was 40% off, AND you can select your desired ship date to coordinate with your due date (critical, since they also offer a 30 day trial period in case your baby is not one that loves the SNOO). I also feel pretty confident that I'll be able to resell it when we're done with it in six short months (yes, it's only intended for the first six months or so, which I realize makes the price harder to swallow).

This is a completely unsolicited and unsponsored review, just in case that wasn't clear. Along the way it kind of turned into a sleep diary of the first two months, so there's a lot of detail in here that doesn't necessarily relate directly to the SNOO. Also, some of these notes I wrote as we were going through it and some I added later on, so the tense is inconsistent throughout and guess what? The baby is waking up right now so I've decided to I'm not going to fix it because otherwise I don't know when I'll get a chance to finish this. Sorry.

If you don't want to wade through my week by week thoughts, here is my summary after two months with the SNOO: There isn't any way to say exactly what is making a baby sleep, but I do think the SNOO is contributing to better sleep, especially as we get her acclimated.

PROS: The SNOO is good looking, I looooooove the app which gives me a really clear picture of her sleep patterns, and the SNOO swaddles are amazingly easy to use (you can also buy their swaddles for standalone use if you don't want to get a SNOO). By week 8 we are consistently getting 6 - 7 hour sleep stretches (knock on wood) and we can even sometimes lie her down drowsy but awake and she'll put herself to sleep with the help of the SNOO. The customer service is great and they are happy to talk through your situation and troubleshoot with you on sleep issues (see my notes from week 6, when I broke down and asked for help).

CONS: It's really expensive and they usually grow out of it by six months. However, they have big sales regularly and I think I'll be able to resell it pretty easily when we're done. The only other con I have is that you can't see through the sides of the bassinet, so in the beginning I would get up a lot to see if her eyes were open. I've thought about clipping a little camera on the end of the SNOO so that I could check on her from my phone but at this point she's sleeping longer stretches so it doesn't feel as critical anymore.

Okay, deep breath. If you want allllll my sleep deprived thoughts about our first two months with the SNOO, read on ...

Initial thoughts: The SNOO arrived exactly the day we asked for it to be shipped, a couple weeks before she was due. I went with the earlier arrival time because our doctor told us there was a chance she'd have to be delivered early. Ha! She hung out until 41 weeks and the SNOO just sat there taunting us. It's super easy to set up (based on my observation - I watched D do it while I lay on the couch) and it's very sturdy (also heavy). It fits right in with our blend of midcentury modern and Ikea furniture. It comes with one fitted sheet and one swaddle sack in each size. I went ahead and registered for an additional sheet and an additional sack in each size, assuming we'd need to do laundry.

Critical - the SNOO can be operated without the associated app, but you really want the app. It's beautifully designed and lets you control the SNOO from the comfort of your own bed, but the real advantage is that it keeps a log of your baby's sleep times, and how often the SNOO has to step in and soothe the baby. This is amazing, especially in the blur of new baby craziness. I love being able to look back and see how she's sleeping (bearing in mind that in my case, I do wear her a lot for daytime naps, so I don't have any data for that). Every morning we check the log and I realize that my sense of time is not great at night - sometimes I think she was awake forever and it turns out it was just 30 minutes, other times I'll think we had a decent night and realize that I spent 2 hours rocking her at 3am. In the app, the light blue represents peaceful sleep, while the dark blue shows where the SNOO steps in and comforts her by increasing the motion and the white noise. Most of the time she isn't anywhere near fully awake at these points, she's just going through a light sleep cycle and struggling to get back to a deeper sleep. If she fully wakes up and opens her eyes, we can usually tell within 30 - 60 seconds that she isn't going back to sleep without our intervention, and then we just take her out and soothe her ourselves. The SNOO has a time out function, but we have only ever let it time out once early on. We learned pretty quickly how to recognize when she needs us, vs. when the mechanical comforting is enough.

snoo logs months 1 - 2
Example nightly logs from SNOO (I just picked out a few to show the general progression of her sleep during this time - the light blue shows her sleep, the dark blue is where the SNOO is soothing her)

Week 0: 4/10-4/17 We started her in the SNOO the first night we brought her home, and we were getting 2 - 3 hour stretches within the first day. We didn't count on the SNOO to rock her to sleep, so I would usually feed her, hold her a bit and then put her down. The SNOO swaddle sack is super easy to use, even when you are exhausted. The only concern we had is that it's super light and breathable and partly mesh, which will be amazing in summer but we were having chilly nights. It's not a huge deal because you can just put them in warmer pajamas. The sack slides into guides to secure it in the SNOO, and you can't operate the SNOO unless the sack is in place. We alternated between putting the sack in place in the SNOO and setting her down and zipping her in vs. getting her settled in the sack, rocking her to sleep and then setting her down and securing the sack into the guides. Either way, the moment of transition is the awkward part when you have to be super careful not to wake her up. By week 5 we'd realized we could improve our odds of success if we gently pre-heated the mattress by placing a heating pad in there on low and then pulling it out right before putting her in. The last day of week 1 she slept for almost 7 hours straight and we nearly broke our hands patting ourselves on the back for our genius purchase (spoiler - this was an anomaly in those early weeks!).

Week 1: 4/17-4/24 Still sticking with 2 - 3 hours stretches at night. We mostly accepted that she didn't want to go to bed until 11pm, and the hours between 8pm and 11pm were the hardest of the day. We took turns jiggling her in a dark room, with lots of white noise, to try to get her to fall asleep deeply enough to transfer her. But once we got her down, she'd generally sleep from 11pm - 2am (or sometimes 3:30am!), wake up to eat and go down easily and sleep for another few hours. This felt super manageable. We weren't being super consistent about putting her in the SNOO for naps, because we were both home and it was too tempting to either hold her while she slept or go on little outings while she slept in her carseat.

Week 2: 4/24-5/1 No real change, but towards the end of the week we noticed that her sleep was much more broken, and the SNOO was having to soothe her a lot more. In practice, that meant that we weren't getting all that much sleep, because even though we didn't have to get up and rock her back to sleep, I would still wake up whenever she got agitated and then I'd watch her to make sure she fell asleep again (again - these aren't full wake ups with crying and open eyes, it's just her going through a light sleep cycle and struggling a bit to fall fully asleep again). She barely made any noise that this point, so a deeper sleeper probably would have been able to sleep through it, although I think most moms will wake up. I think the SNOO was hugely helpful here, because if it wasn't soothing her back to sleep one of us would have had to get up to rock her each time. 

Week 3: 5/1-5/8  Mostly the same as week 2. We're averaging 1 - 2 wake ups per night (really just for feeding, though, and she usually would go back down easily) and can usually count on a 3 hour stretch and even get a few 4 and 5 hour stretches. The time between 8pm and 11pm is still our hardest but once we get her down around 11, we at least know that she won't fight going down after feedings for the rest of the night (babies are weird - I'm not sure how to explain this but it was incredibly consistent). We're feeling pretty decently rested at this point, partially because we're still both at home on leave and can sometimes nap during the day.

Week 4: 5/8-5/15 Dustin goes back to work and Adrian's sleep starts getting off track (I don't think those things are related but it does mean that we can't take turns napping during the afternoon so things start feeling hard). We still have some nights that follow the usual pattern but we have others where she wakes up multiple times and we struggle to get her back to sleep in the SNOO. She will fall asleep easily after nursing, but then get angry when we try to transfer her. I start keeping her on my chest for longer and longer after nursing, hoping that she'll be deeply enough asleep to move her. It sometimes works but sleep deprivation is setting in. I am super focused on making sure she sleeps during the day so she doesn't get overly tired. I wear her for hours each day and it does seem to help because we no longer have to jiggle her for three hours to get her to sleep at night.

Week 5: 5/15 - 5/22 All hell breaks loose. Our longest sleep session in the SNOO this week is an hour and a half. We have mostly solved the transfer problem (by pre-heating the SNOO mattress and rocking her deeply to sleep before putting her in) but now she's waking up 30 - 45 minutes after we put her down, almost like clockwork, and the SNOO can't soothe her back to sleep. She is AWAKE. I am totally desperate, and end up letting her sleep in our bed for a few nights, which I really, really, didn't want to do (note - let's not have a co-sleeping debate here. I am 100% supportive of safe co-sleeping, but we just aren't set up for it, mostly because I'm not willing to kick Circe out of our bed - she is 13 and going through enough transition already). Adrian is a champion sleeper on my chest at night (and in her wrap during the day), going for up to six hours, but I'm barely getting any sleep because I'm so worried about her. We get a Dock-a-tot from a friend and test that out for a night and it works okay because at least we don't have to get out of bed as much to check on her, but I still want her in her bassinet if at all humanly possible.

Week 6: 5/22 - 5/29 I email SNOO in desperation, asking for advice and they immediately set up a phone call with one of their sleep consultants (if you get a SNOO, don't wait to ask for help!). The consultant calls as scheduled and I'm shocked and a little star struck when it's Dr. Harvey Karp himself (not sure if this is normal or if everyone else was busy). He is incredibly nice and asks a lot of questions about Adrian's sleep patterns, age, etc. and offers his recommendations, some of which might have sounded weird if we weren't already half delusional from lack of sleep. Per his advice we:
1. Elevate the head of the SNOO a little bit. They sell risers for this but in a pinch you can do it by placing tuna cans under the legs, which is hilarious.
2. Raise the baseline setting for the SNOO, so that it rocks a little more throughout the night (done through the app).
3. Increase the white noise, possibly by using a hair dryer. We haven't gone this far and just increased the volume on our noise machine.
4. Elevate her legs by placing a folded receiving blanket under them, inside the SNOO sack. We folded up a blanket into a square, placed it so that it was pressed against her butt and her legs would rest on it.
5. Place a one pound bag of rice on her chest, to mimic the pressure she feels when she sleeps on us. I weighed out a pound of rice into a sandwich size ziploc, wrapped it in cloth and we zipped it inside her SNOO sack. Between the rice and the blankets under her legs, we had to size up to the medium sack and the entire set up looks totally crazy.

But it's working! After a few nights she actually seemed to associate all these things with comfort, because even if she was fussing when we laid her down in the SNOO sack, she would start to calm down as soon as we started zipping her in, and she seemed much happier. A few times we were even able to put her down drowsy but awake (the ultimate goal) and she would go to sleep on her own. Her sleep started improving and we were getting back up to four hour stretches. I started making an effort to put her down in the SNOO for at least one daytime nap, to help her adjust faster. They recommend having your baby sleep in the SNOO for all naps for best results, but at this point sleeping is her main activity, so if I set her down for every nap I'd almost never get to hold her and I'm not willing to do that.

Week 7: 5/29 - 6/5 Regression - she spent a couple days sleeping all the time, then a couple days not wanting to sleep. I guess this is a wonder week for her (she's a week ahead on that timeline because she was a week overdue) so maybe that's the reason. She isn't cranky, but it's so crazy to spend an hour rocking and soothing her to sleep, then the second I lie her down her eyes pop open and she looks at me with a huge grin. After a few days it clears up and she's willing to settle down again.

Week 8: 6/5 - 6/11 We finally start getting longer stretches of sleep! I'm not sure how much is due to the SNOO, how much is due to her age (and the fact that she's finally over 10 lbs), and how much is due to the fact that we have finally been able to get her to take a bottle. She has always had a hard time eating at night and she'd cry to eat but then pull off and cry every minute or two, leading to a ton of frustration for both of us. When I frantically googled "baby fussy in evening" all I got was a million hits about the witching hour and cluster feeding. She's usually a really efficient eater and doesn't do much comfort nursing, so it's a stark contrast to her daytime behavior. The night we were finally able to get her to take an evening bottle she drank five ounces and then went right to sleep with no bouncing and slept for six hours straight. Our new routine is for D to give her a bottle every evening before bed. I often just pump and then pour it directly into a bottle and for some reason she's much happier taking it that way. She's been really consistent this week with sleeping a 6 - 7 hour stretch, waking to eat and then sleeping another 3 hours or so. I never thought that consistently getting five hours of uninterrupted sleep would feel so good.

It's nice that the first two months wrapped up on a high note, but of course I'm worried that by posting this I'll jinx us and she'll go back to refusing to sleep. I just keep reminding myself that everything (the good and the bad) is just a phase, but it will gradually get better over time if we keep working at it.

If you have questions about the SNOO let me know and I'll do my best to answer based on our experience. My plan is to post three of these reviews, each one covering two months (since they usually stop using it at six months).


Monday, April 30, 2018

Pre-baby splurges

We made a couple of indulgent purchases for ourselves right before the baby arrived, since we figured that we'd be spending more time at home for the foreseeable future. We stepped things up in two specific categories, both of which directly related to being new parents:

new coffee grinder

Caffeine - we'd been using a 20 year old coffee grinder that we inherited from my parents over a decade ago. It had finally gotten to the point where it needed to be held together while in use, because otherwise it popped apart and spewed coffee everywhere. It took us six months of debate to finally pull the trigger on a really nice (and very expensive) coffee grinder (the Baratza Virtuoso), but I have no regrets. Our coffee tastes better, the grinding is quieter, and it's much easier to use and clean. We've been putting it through its paces since we went on parental leave and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we get many years of use out of it.

new bedding

"Sleep" (it's probably more accurate just to say "bed" since these days we spend a whole lot of time in bed but NOT sleeping) - when it comes to sheets I like having just one really nice set that we use every day (plus a set of flannel sheets that we'll use if it gets really cold in the winter). It takes up less storage space, and I don't mind just washing them every Sunday and putting them straight back on the bed (no folding!). I'm a little crazy about sheets and I tend to read a million reviews before purchasing. I want to feel like I'm sleeping in a hotel, and I want them to be crisp and heavy, nothing sateen. I splurged on a set of Parachute's percale bedding a little over two years ago, and we really liked the sheets. They had a good texture and held up well to daily use, but two weeks before the baby was born they finally gave in and the fitted sheet ripped right through. I considered just repurchasing the same ones, but decided to give Matteo a try instead. They have a showroom in Los Angeles, so we made a trip over there to check the sheets out in person before committing. We ended up getting lucky and we were able to find the exact bedding I wanted in the showroom, which meant we got 50% off (and I think there was some additional discount? I was extremely pregnant and not super aware of the math, but it ended up being so much cheaper than I expected). If you love heavy hotel bedding, I highly recommend Matteo's Nap line. I can't speak to their longevity yet but they are thicker than the Parachute fabric and I'm sure they'll last at least as long. And yes, we did discuss how insane it was to purchase new white bedding with a dog and a baby, but I really, really love a stark white bed and we decided to just go with it and see how bad it got. A few weeks in and we're doing fine, although I have stepped up the washing to twice a week for the time being (this is definitely necessary because we're in bed at least 14 hours per day, it feels like, and I've given up and now eat some meals in bed too). I have to say that having really great bedding makes the long, sleepless nights and the bleary eyed breastfeeding sessions feel much better.

And yes, that is the SNOO next to our bed, and yes, I will definitely be posting a review once I have a better sense of how it's working for us. Technically, this is our biggest indulgent purchase (although we got it on a big holiday sale and I have high hopes that we can sell it once she outgrows it). We've been using it since we brought her home and I *think* that it helps her sleep longer, but at this point we're all still adjusting to life and every single day is different, so it's hard to really say how big a difference it makes. But I'll update! I know I scoured the internet for reviews when I was trying to decide if we should purchase.

P.S. NOT a splurge but the accidental best purchase we made is this lightweight Gladom side table from Ikea - it's super simple, looks decent, weighs almost nothing and you can pull the top off and use it as a tray (which I do if I'm sitting on the larger couch). We got one for the nursery and one week after Adrian was born we realized it was so indispensable that we ordered a second. They are both in constant use, and we move them all over the house. I never start a nursing session without one.

ikea side table

living room set up

P.P.S. - It hurts my heart a little to have all these cell phone photos on the blog and this morning I alllllmost broke down and got out my real camera because I miss having real pictures, but the process for getting actual photos up is so much longer (my phone uploads directly to Flickr for me whereas getting photos off the DSLR is a four step process that requires loading Photoshop on my ancient computer). Perfect is the enemy of good, right?