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.