My little baby has become a toddler.
He's a hot-blooded little giggle monster with a mouth full of hard-fought teeth, a head full of crazy ideas, and a freakishly strong little body. He is capable of expressing both violence and tenderness, depending on his mood, and surprises his parents on a daily basis with new words, tricks, and pranks - mostly pranks.
It's hard to describe the difference between C as a baby and C as a toddler. The only way I can think to describe it is to recall that scene from Jurassic Park when Satler chuckles and says "...unless they figure out how to open doors. Psssht!"
Yeah, it's like that. He knows things that we never taught him. He's been LISTENING. Now that his speech and motor skills are taking off he is finally able to show us just how much he's overheard over the past eighteen months.
Important discoveries - such as the existence of Sesame Street - have been made earlier than expected. Subsequently his tantrum skills are also taking off.
He has favorites now too! His favorite color is red. His favorite animals are cows, bears, and dinosaurs. He even has a favorite Pandora station! Every night he makes us turn on the Elvis channel so he can shake his little booty.
Suddenly he is no longer an adventurous eater and stubbornly insists on eating only three or four foods (at all, ever) all of which fall into a muted palette of white, yellow, and sometimes orange. Pink and red are occasionally tolerated, but really CC would prefer to eat macaroni and cheese or Pirates Booty for every meal.
He scales the walls, climbs over gates, jumps out of bath tubs, and hurls himself down slides head-first. He remains our rough and tumble little boy - forever reaching past his limitations and up towards whatever he sees the "big kids" doing.
He doesn't seem to care that his feet can't reach the ground while riding on a big-kid swing, or that they can't reach the pedals on his tricycle. He wants to do it anyway.
It's just who he is.
We were at the park yesterday with a particularly warm and wonderful abuela. Her sweet little grandson was having second thoughts about the playground's tallest slide so I helped him down the steps. As I was doing this, C was launching himself up the very same staircase and barreling toward the slide. "Oh my!", she said. "He's not certainly not afraid of heights, is he?"
We laughed and she told me some stories about her first son who was just like C - climbing everything and giving his poor mama nightmares. I confessed to her that I'm sometimes embarrassed by the looks that I get for "letting" such a little kid climb the way that he does.
She sweetly shook her head and said. "Oh no, dear. You can't fight nature. All you can do is help him".
When CC was an infant I would sometimes wake in the night with my heart pounding out of my chest, overcome with the pure and undiluted anxiety that I imagine all mothers must taste at some point or another. Those were the times when I thanked goodness for the invention of our co-sleeper, a device that allowed my baby to remain within touching distance throughout the long nights of his infancy. I would reach out, lay my hand on his sleeping belly, wait breathlessly, and finally exhale when I was rewarded with some small sound or movement.
During the years I waited to become a mother there were countless emotions that I had come to expect. I knew I might feel inexplicably sad at times, and profoundly happy at others. I thought I might catch myself in moments of insecurity or even jealousy as I found my place in the world of parenthood. Of course I anticipated exhaustion and love, but there was one feeling I was surprised by. I had no idea how vulnerable being a mother would make me feel.
The only thing stopping me from being the perfect parent is having a kid.
Before CC was born I had lot of ideas about how things were going to be. For one thing, he was NOT going to go around man-handling my cell phone. My brilliant plan to stop this from happening was just not to ever give it to him. Duh, right? I mean - come on. It's not rocket science.
Fifteen months later this is one battle that I have clearly lost. I can't even share a photo of him fondling my cell phone since I'm too busy trying to stop him from destroying the blasted thing. How often is that? Let's just say that CC has a whole telephone routine worked out. It goes something like this "Dada?! Dada!! Mwah heh ya ya ya no nonono." He throws his head back and laughs as if he were the villain in some eighties ski mountain movie. You know - the guy with hair like a Ken doll and a sweater tied across his chest? I call him "Blaine".
So if you ever call me and ask to speak to "Blaine" he will gladly oblige.
By the way, this isn't meant to be one of those snarky things you plaster on expecting mothers' Facebook walls. When I was pregnant I hated that stuff. Let them have their dreams, ladies. Who knows, maybe some mother somewhere has actually managed to accomplish all of the goals she set for her perfectly perfect little baby. Good for her. I'm sure Little Blaine will be very well adjusted.
This is a heavy one, folks. I debated whether or not to share this story - my story of loss, but after finding comfort in the words of other bloggers I felt that I should try. For those of you who would rather skip the emotional stuff please feel free to scroll on past. If you do want to hear about something very sad, you can read my story after the jump.
I was old enough when I had CC to realize just how fleeting his babyhood would be. Many times over the past year I paused to try and save a moment in time. I tried to freeze it by closing my eyes and telling myself to remember. I can't be sure I got them all, but here are a few that made it.
These are the memories that come to mind when I think of the past year.
Recently CC had a major developmental leap, making him much more aware and interactive. This makes him extra fun during the day. He laughs at everything, plays little baby games with us, and even claps his hands (sort of) to show us when he's enjoying himself. It's really wild to watch him discover his world. Just the other day he found his shadow. Talk about magical moments of babyhood. I just about melted as he started waving his little arms and reaching out toward his sillhouette.
At night his new powers of observation are a little less fun. Remember how I talked about us having issues with sleep? Well, it won't come as a surprise to any of the fellow parents out there that our saga has continued.
I mentioned that our first goal was to break him of the whole falling asleep while eating habit. Well, the good news is that it worked! CC rarely passes out mid-suck anymore. The bad news is that he has replaced nursing to sleep with wigging out to sleep. He now spends the last twenty minutes of wakefulness climbing my head, pulling my hair, and trying to gouge out my eyes. It's like trying to cuddle a rabid koala bear - except with more biting.
He also does this thing where he pretends to be fascinated with just about anything he can lay his little peepers on. He suddenly can't go to sleep because he HAS TO check out this spot on the wall, like NOW. Let me tell you something: whoever invented footy pajamas with funny faces on the feet did not think that whole thing through. It's sort of like that scene in Die Hard...
OR he just never stops sucking and somehow sleep-eats through his entire nap. And YES, I have tried breaking the latch and trying to put him to sleep. He either roots incessently for more or shoots me a huge grin and starts playing with his feet.
We are making progress though. Scott has somehow managed to sleep train CC for his own bed time and nap time shifts. It started out by Scott taking the rabid koala off of his head an putting him on our bed instead. He let him roll around and foam at the mouth and whatnot as he sang lullabies and consoled him. A few days later he started putting him in the crib instead. Then he stopped singing. Then he started sneaking away before CC was actually asleep. Now when Scott puts him to bed it seems to take all of twenty minutes. I'm still looking at an hour and change at bedtime with naps being complete wildcards.
Scott says I'd better get on board. He's probably right, but I SWEAR the kid just won't dance to this song for me. He doesn't melt down or freak out anymore, but he won't go to sleep either. He just giggles and wiggles and blows raspberries at the crib sheets until I am convinced that there is no Earthly way this child is ever going to sleep.
He's trying to bite off my nipples!
Whoever decided to give babies teeth before giving them self-control really wasn't considering the well being of mama-kind. I'm looking at YOU, deities. You've got some splaining to do.
Who is this voracious barracuda and what happened to my sweet little pooky?
Six and three quarters months is long enough to breastfeed, right? Probably also a good time to kick a baby out of your bedroom... or to stop swaddling your an eighteen pound child. Guhhhh.
No one ruins Dylan like Dylan and no one guilts me like myself. Will this cycle of self-inflicted nipple trauma never end? The guilt! The pressure! The biting!
Mama needs a drink.
Also, happy holidays. Wishing you all a joyful and bite-free celebration. (And if you are caring for a small child I also wish you whiskey - plenty of whiskey.)
Generally speaking, I'm not one for self-doubt in the face of adversity. For the most part I've always just done my own thing regardless of what my friends or the rest of the world thought. At times it was lonely to be such a weirdo, but I was born a dedicated outsider, so making my own way came naturally. (As I got older I was able to make friends with other wackos. Turns out the world is full of us.)
Sufficed to say, I'm used to disagreeing with people when it comes to living life. I don't have a history of letting that get under my skin. Instead I tend to let them do it their way while I do it mine, and the world spins madly on, oblivious to the fact that I decided to wear a tie and suspenders at six years old instead of a pink frilly dress, or that I shaved by head on a whim one afternoon after quitting high school. Really, my personal philosophies, lifestyle choices, and private inclinations are just that - private. As in, nobody elses business and certainly nobody elses decision.
So it struck me by surprise just how incredibly sensitive I became shortly after having CC. At first I chalked it up to hormones. But the baby blues came and went and still I felt so shakey, so insecure, so unlike myself and my usual approach to life. And every time I spent time with other parents it only got worse. I found myself listening to their stories about raising kids and feeling uncertain about my own choices and methods. I felt worried that I was doing it all wrong. I felt scared that they would think I was doing it all wrong. I felt scrutinized and judged and naked.
On top of all that awkward social interaction with real live people there was the internet to contend with. (Which I've spent a whole lot of time on since becoming a curious/frantic/desperate mother.) People on the internet are just plain mean. Those folks aren't just over-sharing or accidentally making people feel bad with their perfect-sounding lives. They are actively shaming and bullying eachother over everything from breastfeeding to sleep training styles. If you want to give a new mom and anxiety attack just leave her internet browser open to a mommy forum. For real, it's crazy.
And it was flipping me out.
But then a friend of mine came over with her big cute pregnant belly and I found myself rattling on about inane details of my life with CC - how I fed him, how I bathed him, how I played with him and talked to him. I wasn't trying to pressure her into doing things my way with her own kid. I just had this urge to share - kind of like I share here on my blog. Except once I had a real live human person in my clutches it was so much more intense. Before I knew it I was share-vomiting all over her. Blah blah blah blah. Listen to me talk about my kid. Blah blah.
So it hit me - maybe all these times I'm feeling judged by other parents they are really just giving in to their own urge to share. Maybe like when I listen to people talk about other topics relevant to my own life, I could listen without taking every word personally. Perhaps it was up to me how I decided to take it.
It's sort of like the other parent's stories or advice or whatever are just a bunch of raw potatoes. Eating potato raw isn't very pleasant so I need to make it into something else before I can ingest it. I have the choice of making myself a plate of I can't believe her pompous ass mashed potatoes, or a basket of wow, her choices are different than mine would be but that's totally OK french fries.
So maybe us parents should all stop shaming and feeling shamed, and instead enjoy some tasty white starches. Unless of course, you're paleo, then I guess you'd be taking my sharing starch and quietly slipping it into the rubbish bin. Actually, come to think of it, that's not a bad strategy for dealing with unsolicited advice either.
Scott and I marathoned episodes of Parks and Rec during the last few weeks of my pregnancy. During the episode where Chris tried to pick up parenting advice from Ron Swanson I remember thinking "what's a ferber?". Having mostly avoided reading about parenting methods up to that point (well, up to this point, really) I wrote ferbers off as something obnoxious without giving it another thought.
Now I'm about six months into motherhood and completely entrenched in a sleep training saga. My poor baby can't sleep, and to be totally honest, it makes me feel really inept. I won't get into the gorey details. Sufficed to say that the last few weeks has been one long sleepless night after another, and my days haven't been much better - spending anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours putting him to sleep. Even naps are insane. Either they don't happen at all, or they end up taking place on my chest.
As much as I love cuddling up with my little honey bunny we just can't keep this up. I need time to sleep, time to work, time to reclaim my sanity. The worst part is that I look at CC and I can tell he's tired too. Somewhere along the way I was supposed to help him learn to sleep on his own and I just missed it. The last three months completely disappeared on me. He wasn't sleeping perfectly, but he was sleeping well enough for me to ignore the issue. I guess I just assumed he would naturally fall into a good rythym if I kept letting him sleep as he pleased. Little did I know how hard that would bite us both a little later.
I've spent a lot of my wakeful nights reading about sleep training. I ended up buying an e-book from The Sleep Lady whose method promised to be a gentler approach then crying it out. Instead of leaving the kid to wail in the dark you hang out with him - soothing him as he finds a way to soothe himself. Then you move a little further away each night until baby face doesn't need you anymore.
Sounds great, right? I'm sure this works for plenty of babies, but for CC (and for me) it was just plain torture. I'm not use how long I lasted, but there was no indication that our baby would ever stop crying. He only became more and more frantic until I just couldn't handle it and gave in. I picked him up, sat on the couch, and tried not to cry. I'm weak - and as bad as I feel for leaving him in a crib to scream his head off, I feel even worse for failing at his sleep training. We're still stuck in the same crappy cycle where neither of us gets enough sleep.
Being stressed out and overtired I decided to hand the reigns to Scott on this one. He's currently researching all of the sleep methods he can find online to see I what else we can try. Right now it looks like our two major goals are to establish a better bedtime routine and to stop letting CC nurse to sleep.
Another thought I had - purely to save my own mind - was to start using formula to let Scott feed CC before bed. (Giving me an extra hour or two to work every day.) Naturally I took to the internet to try and figure out what kind of formula to buy, and of course the answer was anything but simple. Apparently baby formulas contain all kinds of nasty shit, like BPA and chemicals used in rocket fuel. Awesome. The hippie moms say to make your own formula from raw milk and raw chicken livers. Even if I went for it there is no way Scott would.
I ended up taking a look at Earth's Best, which supposedly doesn't contain the nasty stuff in other formulas. Sounded great until I looked at the price. A tub of formula goes for about $40, and according to the moms in my hippie Facebook group it goes bad after one month. So I would be spending 40 bucks a month to give CC one bottle a day. Ughhhh.
If only I could pump - but when? When does one pump when every waking moment of your life is spent caring for the baby you are meant to feed? I honestly can't figure out how anyone does it.
Even amongst all of the sleeplessness part of me doesn't want things to change. He's not the only one addicted to having him nurse to sleep in my arms. How can it already be time to let that go?
This was like, yesterday, wasn't it?
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