L’allaitement est finis

In early February, Grayson kicked off what we hoped was a nursing strike.

It was just before 11pm on a Friday — his new witching hour. He was reverting to his extra-wake-ups routine just in time for the week Mommy had early meetings, high-level presentations, and deadlines. I knew he didn’t wake up from actual hunger but once a night, sometime between 2 and 3:30. But when he’s teething or Learning Something Big or not feeling well, there’s a wake up before midnight and another around 4:30 or so, just late enough that…

Yeah. Once, maybe twice? He was up FOR THE DAY at 4:45 because it was easier than letting him scream for at least half an hour. Because Grayson.

And things were going on. He was cutting a giant front tooth, and I’d thrown my back out and started physical therapy. There were maybe two days when I could hold him, but not lift him, and a few when I couldn’t get him in or out of the crib. So we tag-teamed night wakings the way we did when he was brand new and I was recovering from the c-section. Graham would go get him while I adjusted to a reclining position, Grayson would nurse in the bed, and Graham would take him back to the crib. (The crib wasn’t part of the new-new-newborn routine, but it took me time to get in position.)

Co-sleeping would’ve been ideal for this, but…nope. Not with this kid. Not until it’s a bit safer and he doesn’t go exploring before his eyes are even open yet. Besides, it was only a few nights and nursing was the most reliable way — the only way, really — to soothe him back to sleep.

But then…

That night, he just stopped.

No weaning. No warning. Just…done. I went in to nurse him back down and he wanted none of it. He’d start to latch, then stop and get really, really upset. This was one of the reasons we thought it was a strike, and probably a result of the incoming tooth. Another reason is that he still wasn’t into solids (and he still isn’t).

That first night was rough. He’d had baby Advil (teeth!), and he wouldn’t eat and refused any other comfort (blanky, skin-to-skin, snuggles…no, no, NO) so we eventually set him back down and tried to let him self-soothe, which was a disaster.

He eventually went back to sleep, but not for long. When he woke around 3 and still wouldn’t nurse, Graham made a bottle and I hooked myself up to the pump and began to fret.

The thing about being obsessed with nursing, annoying though it may seem, is that we knew what to do. (Fretting, however, is a thing you’re not supposed to do. Like that’s realistic.) Keep offering. Try different positions and locations. Get him when he’s groggy or asleep. Pump on his feeding schedule to keep up supply. Bottle feed and supplement as necessary, because, when you get right down to it, “Feed the baby” is the only rule that matters.

Nothing worked. Nothing for days. We wondered if missing me when I went in to the office on Monday would help. Nope. Would being topless and accessible take the pressure off? No way. Bait and switch? Oh, HELL NO. Within one day, he stopped even pretending to latch; within two, he was resisting before we even got to the glider, where we normally nursed. By that day, though, my instinct told me he was done. And having him push me away, over and over again, was killing me inside.

We still did all the things. I was pumping like crazy, trying to keep up. We worked out schedules and plans for solids, but we were supposed to do that anyway. I bought formula to have in the house in case the stress of keeping up with his bottles tanked my supply. And the following week, I had a conversation with the lactation consultant who was so helpful in our first weeks.

What she said surprised me…except that I already knew she was right.

“I think he’s telling you he’s done.”

“Wait, what? You’re supposed to be more gung-ho than I am. Why aren’t you pressuring me to get him back on the boob?” (I can be a little direct. I find it saves time.)

“I’m a lactation consultant, yes, but I’m also a nurse practitioner, and I think we have to honor babies’ needs and desires. Someone has to initiate the weaning process eventually, and I think he just did that.”

Graham maintains that quitting cold turkey should not be called weaning. I am inclined to agree.

Our LC was stunned that he wasn’t on solids at all, especially because he’s mobile and likes to chew on everything, and she told me there’s no way my supply could increase enough at this point to keep up with his caloric needs through pumping unless I was willing to pump in the middle of the night…which she didn’t recommend. I could pump and he could still get breastmilk and all of its amazingness, but we’re at the point where other sources of nutrition are more okay than before. (Which is not to say that formula isn’t okay, but we were at nine months, which means he’d gotten the vast majority of the benefits he could get from being exclusively breastfed.)

I was not ready for this. My spirit crashed. I was a wreck for most of the week, most of which I can blame on hormones and some of which was due to the difference in how Graham and I deal with wrinkles in our best laid plans. (I research the hell out of everything and construct contingency plans, and he takes more of a wait-and-see approach.) I was ready to be done with the pump, not with nursing! And before talking to the lactation consultant, I was pumping when Grayson was eating. I went from always feeding him when we were together to never feeding him, and I was NOT okay with it.

Once we worked out a plan, I had to ask Graham about his bottle-feeding routine. I’d never given my son a bottle. I’d also never had to think about taking him out for a few hours — I was always carrying his food with me. We had one boneheaded episode at Ikea when I realized we’d left right after his long nap and he was clearly getting hungry and we wouldn’t be home for at least another half hour…and I hadn’t thought to pack a bottle. The only thing that saved us was a half-empty snack pack of puffs I’d forgotten to take out of the diaper bag. /mommyfail

So.

I pump. I pump when I get up in the morning, once at midday, and once before bed. Fortunately, this has refilled the freezer stash and kept more than enough milk in stock for his daytime feedings, which are usually around 20-24 ounces. My supply is holding out and we do still want him to get breastmilk, but it’s a little bit less each week (thank goodness for our LC, though, whose pumping advice/schedule helped establish a good supply early). He gets a bottle of Vermont Organics formula before bed and finishes about six to eight ounces.

Solids are still a problem. We’re trying lots of things, but we’re also hoping that the impending time change will help with the scramble between when I get home from work and when he goes to bed; we’ve been having a makeshift dinnertime with him, but I get home at or after 5:30 and he’s out by 7 at the latest — the timing just doesn’t work, especially on bath nights or if my train is late… For a while after the time change, bedtime will be closer to 8 and we’ll have some wiggle room. (We also need to get better about meal planning so there’s something for Graham to start before I get home.)

We were so, so convinced Grayson would like Big People Food…ah, well. He’ll get there.

Grayson_allaitement

In the meantime, I still offer the breast occasionally, especially if he’s upset, but he wants none of it. I’m still a bit sad, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last 10 months, it’s that breastfeeding is hard and unpredictable, and the duration of it, for those of us who choose and are able to do it, just ain’t up to us. It’s so easy, with an infant, especially as new parents, to get into a groove that you think will last forever. It seems so silly, but this turned out to be the nudge I needed to realize that my son will always need me, even when what he needs from me changes.

Ah, well. Au revoir, nursling. Bienvenue, almost-toddler!

Month 10

Dear Grayson –

Okay, February should  barely even count. February is short! Also, it’s Mommy’s busy season at work, so February barely feels like a month. I call do-over.

***

10mos-squawkLet this be a lesson to you, son — Mommy is not actually in charge of time. Thankfully, you won’t read this until after we make it through whatever “Time out” will look like in our house.

This month’s challenge: Feeding you. About a week into your 10th month, you decided you were DONE with breastfeeding. You did not wean down. You did not give any outward signs, aside from being as distracted by ALL THE THINGS as you’ve been since you were three and a half months old. You nursed down for the night, then woke up for your first “comfort nurse,” which is standard when you’re teething, but you would not nurse and you were pretty pissed off about it.

That’s understandable, Grayson. You woke up to do your comfort thing, not realizing that you’d decided not to do your comfort thing anymore.

Also? You were still (and remain) unenthused about solid food. And there was no age-appropriate formula in the house.

One might suspect that you did not think this through very well, young man.

So we scrambled a bit and have given you every opportunity to change your mind. We were planning to carry on for at least the first year, but when you were done, you were done. And that’s okay. (Well. It’s okay for you. Mommy had kind of a hard time with it, but that’s not your fault. That’s just dumb old biology getting in the way again, and that’s a post for another day.)

And you know what? None of this should be a surprise. You’ve got an independent streak a mile wide, emblazoned with neon No Parking signs. You are particular in your habits and desires, to the point of being hilariously predictable.

10mos-swing-face

For example, the plastic shapes are not allowed to stay in the plastic shape bin when you are around to dump them out. THEY MUST ROAM FREE. If you are within earshot when we start to put them back in the bin, you whip around, shoot us a rather dirty look, and speed-crawl over to put them back where they go — on the floor.

I would say you’re a little OCD about it, but only if we can redefine OCD as Obsessive Chaotic Disorder.

You are less invested in the freedom of your squeezy stacking blocks, but I think that’s because you just don’t like them as much. They don’t make nearly as satisfying a “clack” when you bang them together. Your “Free The Toys” campaign does extend to puzzle pieces, however. Those do make a satisfying “clack” upon impact.

Are you seeing a pattern here, buddy? The louder the clicky-clacky sounds, the happier you are.

Which leads me to one other challenge: Fingernail trimming. Nursing was my ace in the hole, the only time I could trim your terrifying fingernails without triggering an epic fit of whiny wriggling. (You are an Olympic-caliber wriggler. Don’t let anyone tell you different.) Without that, what was I going to do?!

Simple. Now I just pull out my phone and open up the video of my old friend Jon‘s recent beatboxing solo. That’s 4.5 minutes of prime clicky-clacky distraction. So far, this works better than anything else we’ve tried. You’ll watch him and smile and forget for a few minutes that I’m removing pieces of you without your consent.

10mos-wine-walking

It’s possible that boots-and-catsing at you for your whole life has…left an impression. Daddy probably won’t mind if you become a drummer, kiddo, but those piano lessons are non-negotiable. (P.S. Pianos count as percussion.)

We spent this month deep in Leap 7, defined by a “knack for destruction.” Honestly? You’ve kind of had that going for a while. I see your understanding of sequences growing more in how you’re learning to walk. You nailed crawling and you never stopped pulling up on everything, and now you’re pushing things around in a way that reminds me of nothing so much as how we kids all learned to ice skate (we pushed wooden chairs around on the pond). You’re more careful in this than in anything else, and I can see you engaging your muscles and balance in order, catching yourself, learning, and adjusting.

And then I see you standing unassisted for longer and longer, and I get so, so excited for you!

Anyway, you do know that some things have to happen in an order, and some things go on or in other things. You sometimes stop drinking your bottle before you’re done so you can practice putting the cap on, and taking it off, and putting it back on, etc. And when you wake up in the middle of the night for a quick 5 ounces, you know to bend down and grab your blanky just as I start to pick you up. (You don’t do this when it’s time to get up for the day.) A week ago, I was picking your blanky up; this is just one of the many, many manifestations of your Do-It-Myself attitude.

This month, we’ve noticed more and more how much you like solo play. There are times when you want to be on our laps and times when you’re all, “See ya!” and you take off to explore until you get bored, hungry, or stuck. You’ll dig into your toys or investigate some drawers or pull different books off the shelf. (These are not books you want read to you. These books are purely for mess-making enjoyment.) You’ll practice walking with your Rocktivity “Walk N Roll” Rider. Eventually, you’ll come back, just to check in or because you’re ready to eat. We didn’t really think about this change that much, though,until someone commented on how well you entertain yourself. It’s fun to watch you play, and we do get down and play with you…but you’re very clear about wanting play by yourself sometimes.

You are a very, very vocal little guy and still love experimenting with volume; the kitchen acoustics that are great for singing are equally great for yelling. You have excited squawks and plaintive whines and syllables that sometimes come out in an order or at a time when it almost seems like you’re saying something on purpose.

You are inquisitive and rambunctious and joyful, from your head down to your toes. You are also determined; when something is in your path, you toss it aside without a second glance and continue toward your goal. You still have fussy moments and fussy periods, and sometimes we have to remind ourselves that you’re a person, not just a baby, and all people wake up on the wrong side of the crib from time to time. Mostly, though, you’re only fussy when you’re tired or hungry (just like Mommy, really). And you obey our few safety-based commands rather well for a tiny, still-newly-mobile id.

When you stopped nursing, I worried a little about what would happen to our cuddle times. See, when I say you’re rambunctious and determined, I mean ALL THE TIME. You are not a snuggler, my boy, not even when you’re sleepy. I knew I would miss the quiet, relatively calm time with you. Instead, we now have Reading Time. The week you stopped nursing, you started sitting in my lap for, I don’t know, half an hour at a time?, reading Click Clack Moo and Brown Bear, Brown Bear over and over again, with Moo, Baa La La La added as needed.

More reading? I’ll take it!

I love you,
Mommy

P.S. You have four teeth now, although the top ones aren’t all the way in yet. You will eat some solids, but you mostly stick to puffs, Mum-mum crackers, and the newly introduced freeze-dried yogurt bits. Basically? You only like Baby Kibble.

Reset

The word for 2014 is Reset.

Last year changed a lot of things for me. It shook me to my core…more than once. I’m not the same person I was just 18 months ago. Hell, I’m not sure I’m the same person I was just eight months ago. In fact, I rather hope I’m not the same person I was eight months ago, because that person was shattered. Utterly, completely shattered.

I’m not going to pretend I didn’t hit post-partum depression running. I saw it coming. I knew it was likely. I knew enough to talk to my OB/GYN in advance, much as I talked to her about an old back injury exacerbated by pregnancy that I figured would also rear its ugly head when Grayson was on the outside (it did).

Most of the time, for better or worse, I know myself pretty well. There was a time in my life — a longer time than I like to remember — that I was depressed enough to need relatively serious medication; eventually, the right dose of Cymbalta lifted me up enough that I could peek out of the hole I was in and climb out of it. The fog cleared a bit and I remembered that there once was a time when I was happy. It literally felt like one of those stupid cartoommercials.

I managed, with a lot of help and support and some of the best friends a girl could hope to have, to get back to happy. Really, really happy.

It didn’t come without a cost — 2008 was probably the most important year of my life so far, but it was also the last year of my mom’s life. The one thing I know for certain, the one thing a little old lady at Ma’s memorial service confirmed for me, is that she died knowing I was better. I was happy. I was me again.

2013 busted me down to my basics, and what I found there was exactly what I’d expected and less than I’d hoped to discover. Pregnancy, blessedly uneventful though it was, wrecked me. I’ve never been so tired and so….god, I was so listless. Childbirth was run-of-the-mill awful and ended the way I’d feared it might. C-section recovery was a terrifying mess of helplessness. The first four months of Grayson’s life were a round-the-clock battle with exhaustion and ineptitude and good intentions and “OMG, this is how people get to the point where they shake babies, isn’t it? This is why that’s a real thing.”

(We did not shake the baby. But there were nights when I felt decidedly uncharitable toward my helpless, squalling infant, nights when I hated myself for just being mostly normal.)

I didn’t get to the point where I felt meds were the right solution. My doctor offered, but I think I was right in my assessment. It was situational and, presumably, temporary. Plus, meds mess with breastfeeding, and that was a huge priority for me. (I fought really hard and got really lucky, which left no room for quitting.) Even so, I wasn’t prepared for the toll breastfeeding and pumping would have on me, either.

Being back at work was a total fustercluck of scheduling nightmares and getting used to being That Person. You know the one. That one co-worker for whom it’s always something. Well baby appointments. Canine glucose curves. Missed ferries, slow trains, and broken water mains. Teething. No scheduling flexibility. Bad colds. Catching up after hours because of pumping, pumping, and more pumping. I’ve never been that person before.

I love — really, genuinely love — my career, and somehow it still rips me apart to be at work instead of with my infant…and I have ZERO illusions about whether I’m cut out to be the full-time parent (I’m not). It’s an apples-to-oranges situation, really. There is absolutely no contest between which is the more important role. In the grand scheme, “Mommy” trumps “web expert,” hands down.

My priorities have shifted and I’m not comfortable with it yet. I still haven’t figured out how we all do this or why we accept it without going quietly mad.

(Or? Maybe we’re all quietly mad.)

Anyway. I’m hoping that weaning, when it happens, will reset the hormones and make it a little easier to deal with spending more time away from my tiny child than I spend with him. I’m grateful for the time I was able to take off without bankrupting our family (thank Maude for the state of California and family-friendly companies), but being away so much while he’s still so little is…hard.

I am stewing in the knowledge that no one in my life is getting what they need or deserve from me. Work is getting the best I can manage while still adjusting to this dual identity (and to a new schedule — we have less flexibility now than we used to*). Grayson is getting the best I can manage in the drastically reduced time that we have together (less flexibility means at least 90 minutes of commuting, per day, at least four days a week, which feels like completely wasted time). Graham and Rodney are getting what’s left when the nursling goes down for the night, my friends are getting used to knowing me only through Facebook, and me?

Well.

I’m…not good at me. Hot baths and the occasional pedicure are all I’ve managed recently, but my goal is to reset how I feel physically in time to start running again in April. It’s a small goal, but that’s about what I can handle right now. Grayson is sleeping (/letting us sleep) more, I’m eating better, and changing my work setup should alleviate some lingering pain. April is realistic.

This is the year for stepping back and resetting expectations — the ones for myself, for my career, and for our family — at least for the short term. What do I need? What do we need? What is more important, or less? What do I want to model for the tiny human learning from me?

Who am I now?

2013: Family

2012: Home

2011: Courage

2010: Whole

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Month 9

Dear Grayson –

The months are speeding up on us, buddy. People are starting to ask what we want to do for your 1st birthday, and I’m like, “What? Wait. What?” (“People” = Auntie Bean, mostly. She wants to make sure she doesn’t schedule anything for Jack that might conflict because she wants to celebrate with us! You will learn that this just like Auntie Bean.)

Happy_New-Year-2014

Honestly? I’m excited about you turning 1 soon, but I don’t have daydreams about you diving headlong into a cake. Cake is not breastmilk, which means your reaction to it may be anticlimactic. It may not even be YouTube-worthy. (Daddy says, “You should tell him that YouTube is a web 2.0 video site.” Mommy says, “Web 2-dot-phbphbhtttt!”)* Then again, there are a few more months between now and then, and you do change your mind about things from time to time.

I do have daydreams, though. This month, it’s dawned on me in a much more real way that you’re a person who’s going to be part of my story for the rest of my life. You’ll have your own story, but you’ll also always be an epic part of mine. Someday, probably sooner than I think, you’re going to hug me and call me Mommy. You’re going to bake cookies with me. You’re going to sing with me and argue with me and ask me for help and hide out in your room. You’re going to grow up and not be a baby, but still be…here. With us. With me. Always.

It’s sort of jarring, at 36, when my story already feels so well established and bullet pointed and coordinated across platforms (one might say), to realize that I’ve just invited a choose-your-own-adventure plot shift into the narrative. Someone asked me, a while ago, what I was most proud of, and I realized I am now a parent and “My son” would be a totally appropriate answer. I don’t think I’m ready for that answer yet, though. Right now you are still so small and so brand new that putting you on a Pride Pedestal seems like a lot of pressure.

I’m still pretty proud of you, though. You can ask the other mamas who use the pumping room at my office. “How’s your little one?” they ask. “Mobile,” I say. “Also fast. How’s yours?”

Your progress both terrifies and absolutely delights me.

You are on the go this month, little guy. You are a speed demon on all fours and never miss an opportunity to cruise the furniture or our legs…or a wall. You are beating the hell out of your poor knees and have sustained several impressive knocks to the head from falling down or just dropping your head on the linoleum. When you’re on a mission to get to Over THERE, you callously toss anything in your way off to the side. You’ve had a few terrifying moments of standing on your own, but I don’t want to talk about those right now. I swear we can actually see you working out the mechanics of walking in your head (your “I’m workin’ this out” face is very easy to recognize).

I knew a few months ago that the time would come when I would call you Racin’ Grayson, and that time is here.

G-moving

Now that it’s here, though, it seems like a dumb nickname. Oh, well. (“SpeedGrayson” is another contender.)

Pulling up to stand in your crib is now basically a reflex. It’s just what you do, if you find yourself awake in your crib. You don’t have to be fully awake — just a little bit awake will do. This has made for some rough nights, but I think we’re settling back into a somewhat reasonable pattern. I’m not crazy about you waking up at or before 5:30, but once you’re up, you’re up. (Ferber has some advice about changing this, but we haven’t tried it yet.)

You’ve started to hate your crib again, which is heartbreaking. I know it’s nicer to sleep cuddled with us, buddy. I’m looking forward to a time when it’s safer for you to sleep with us again, at least from time to time. You just move around too much during the night to safely stay in our bed, even with a rail. Daddy thinks it would be nice to nap together the way you used to, too, but…it’s weird. You’re reliant enough on your routine that sleeping somewhere else doesn’t work well, but you would prefer not to be set in your crib. And we can’t sleep in the glider, much as we wish we could.

Alas. You’re at a separation anxiety peak, kiddo. All we can do is love you through it.

You’re pretty much down to one nap a day most days. On a good day, that nap is two hours or more. On the other days, we’re lucky to get 90 minutes out of you before you’re up and out and playing Magellan across the top floor of the house. You’re getting the right amount of sleep for your age, but you really don’t want to do it during the day if you can help it.

Oh! Hey! You also hate your changing table right now. You scream and twist and roll and sit up and try to stand and get at the stuff on your dresser and OH MY GOD, CHILD, YOU NEED TO STOP. We’re supposed to have a little more time before we have to learn to change a diaper on the run.

I’ve got to tell you, Grayson — sometimes it feels like we already have a toddler who just can’t walk yet. I said that to your doctor at your check-up (after you outsmarted her attempts to distract you from grabbing her stethoscope instead of the toys attached to it), and she nodded sagely and said that’s pretty common for active 9-month-olds.

And then you peed on her. True story. But she opened up your diaper, so…you know. She knew the risks.

Rodney has responded to your current level of mobility with tired wariness and impatience in equal measure. He’s much more reachable, which he finds disruptive and a little annoying, but he also gets frustrated when you are clearly willing to play with him but don’t understand how Tug of War works. Still, he is the FUNNIEST and can make you giggle in a way no one else has managed. We get close sometimes, but he can get you going every time.

I think he might miss the days when he could safely hang out by your playmat, out of reach but still watchful.

In addition to squealing your head off when you’re happy and whining like WHOA when you’re not, you’re working on consonants again. “Mamama” is back in rotation, at least this week, as well as “fffffff,” “nth, nth, nth,” “bababa/puhpuh,”and “nuhnuhnuh.” I’ve heard what sounded like “dadada” once through the monitor, but Daddy thinks I’m making that up. Sometimes, your babble just comes out as a loudly sweet “eeeay, eeeay, eeeay,” and you seem utterly delighted with your ability to make different sounds.

New words you “know”: breakfast, coffee, bonk, come here/come get me, puzzle, Grayson/baby, blanky, giraffe, monkey (you’ve known this one for a while), snuggle (= sleepsack), and Yoda.

Yes. Yoda. If I say, “Where’s Yoda? Can you get Yoda?” this happens:

…and then you set him down and move on to something else. You don’t have a favorite toy or lovey, although you do like the routine of snuggling a blanky at bedtime.

I’m pretty sure you understand “no”; you certainly know when you’re doing something we’re about to stop you from doing (making a beeline for the back stairs, FOR INSTANCE). You’ll crawl a few feet, look behind you, make eye contact with one of us, grin, and take off at babywarp…then pause and repeat until we chase after you.

Earlier this week, you stayed up a little late and watched the beginning of your first State of the Union address, delivered by President Obama. You’re late to the party, but it makes us happy that you won’t ever know a United States that hasn’t had a black president. I hope it will seem like a very small thing when you’re old enough to notice, but it’s really, really not. (With any luck and a lot of work, you won’t know a United States that hasn’t had a woman as president, either.)

I have some qualms about the world you’re going to grow up in, Grayson — kind of a lot of them. Right now, today, it seems sort of important to let you know that there’s still a lot of debate in this country about what kind of society, what kind of culture we want to be, whether we want to be the kind of nation that eases the everyday burdens of its citizens or adds to them. It’s not obvious who will win, even though it seems obvious who should win. Let’s keep it simple for now, since you’ll probably read this before you get into a proper civics or economics class: A rising tide lifts all boats.

Love,
Mommy

*I have no idea when you’ll read this, kiddo, but let’s just say that Mommy works in web and “2.0″seems like a million years ago already.

In review: 2013

Hoooo, boy. This year. Wow, 2013.

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before? Gestated, birthed, and cared for a baby. Breastfed that baby. A lot.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? The word for this year was Family and we are plus one for the year. Next year’s word may have to be something a little less ambitious.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? So many! Welcome, welcome to Peyton, Calvin, Sidney, Gabe, Dani, two East Coast Evelyns, and AJ. (I got specific on the Evelyns because there are also two in our Mommy group. Is “Evelyn” this year’s “Amelia”?)

4. Did anyone close to you die? No, but Graham lost an uncle.

5. What places did you visit? Alta Bates Medical Center. Also Nevada.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013? Better planning.

7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? My son’s birthday.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? I made a person. A big one.

9. What was your biggest failure? I fell prey to all the classic first-timer childbirth blunders. Totally predictable and unfortunate, but not really a “failure.” Spending most of the year pregnant and then navigating the world as a new mom didn’t help rack up a whole of lot of work “successes,” either.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? I got a bad cold, but was otherwise fine, apart from major abdominal surgery.

11. What was the best thing you bought? The house. Probably.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Graham’s. Full-time parenting is hard, and our boy is very, very demanding.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Some parts of my post-birth experience were less than ideal. People were involved. People who meant well, in their way. Probably.

14. Where did most of your money go? This goddamn house.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? An opportunity that didn’t pan out as I’d hoped.

16. What song will always remind you of 2013? “Simple Man” by Skynyrd or Shinedown

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder? Too exhausted to choose.

b) thinner or fatter?  Thinner/considerably less pregnant.

c) richer or poorer? Poorer. Thanks, house!

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Writing.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Wondering how to change people.

20. How did you spend Christmas in 2013? Celebrating in our first home with our first kid, with family, and with friends.

21. Did you fall in love in 2013? Yup.

22. What was your favorite TV program? Friends. I marathoned it during cluster feedings. One might say The Show about The People got me through a pretty difficult time. Also Sherlock and Dr. Who.

23. What did you do for your birthday in 2013? Um. Nothing. I was bogged down in baby and didn’t know how to come up for air yet.

24. What was the best book you read? Limits of Power, which may have also been the only non-baby book of the year.

25. What did you want and get? A healthy, interesting kid.

26. What did you want and not get? See #15. Also, sleep.

27. What was your favorite film of this year? We…don’t go to lots of movies, for several reasons. So I’m going to say the RiffTrax showing of Starship Troopers, because that’s all I’ve got. Also, it was great.

28. Did you make some new friends this year? Yes! Thank goodness for mommy support groups.

29.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? A slightly less harrowing birth experience. It was rather run-of-the-mill in its escalations and outcome, but I could’ve done without the epic heartburn.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013? Nonexistent/driven by breastfeeding or pumping needs.

31. What kept you sane? Some might argue that I’m not, exactly. But for the sake of argument, let’s say pedicures.

32. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? J-Law FTW. Cory Booker still has my attention, too.

33. What political issue stirred you the most? Obamacare. Seriously, y’all. It’s imperfect, but it’s a decent step in the right direction. Eliminating the fear of Bankruptcy by Hospital Bill is critical to keeping this nation alive…literally, but figuratively, as well.

34. Who did you miss? My veteran mommy family/friends (the list is long, but distinguished) and my fellow new mommy family/friends (the list is shorter, but no less distinguished) back east. Also, my brother. Raising our kids this far apart seems weird.

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013. This body is aging and needs care to be well.

Month 8

Dear Grayson –

Grayson_1st_xmas.2Merry first Christmas and Happy almost first New Year! We have worn you out with the celebrating. Nana and Papa were with us for the week of Christmas, which included a LOT of excitement and far more presents than you need or can play with in the near future. Your favorite presents were…wrapping paper and boxes, predictably. You do enjoy chewing on the plastic shapes and stacking rings, and your first doll is a Cabbage Patch Kid, because Grampy wanted both you and Peyton to have a Cabbage Patch Kid.

I can’t explain that, kiddo. It shocked the heck out of all of us. But Grampy gets a little mushy when it comes to thinking about Mommy and Uncle Chris as kids, and the year Mommy got her first Cabbage Patch Kid was a pretty special year. (Uncle Chris did not have a Cabbage Patch Kid. When he was little, they had a “My Buddy” doll that was…well, just a well-marketed doll, really.)

You’ll probably notice later on, many Christmases from now, that Mommy also gets a little mushy at this time of year. The truth is, buddy, that Christmas for my family when I was a kid was straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting, skating ponds and all. Figuring out which traditions translate and which don’t is an ongoing struggle for me. And the truth is that your late grandmother, my mommy, loved Christmas so much that it’s still hard sometimes to have Christmas without her.

Alas. Christmas is and will always be fun, no matter what. That’s my promise to you, son.

The day after Christmas, we had the extended Harper family over for Boxing Day in what Daddy’s cousins and we hope to make an annual tradition. (We’ve done it twice so far — go, us!) And we had our first annual (we hope) Wookiee Life Day Open House so that we could get together with friends while most of us have time off.

It’s a tricky time to have a house full of people, as you have been a bit wary of…well, of anyone who isn’t me, when I’m around. But you were a champ and played with Auntie Shan’s girls and some of Mommy and Daddy’s friends without too much complaint. And if I’m honest, I have to admit that I love the way you snuggle into my neck when you’re not ready to go hang out with someone else.

You are, however, usually a spirited and mischievous little imp most of the time. You are so, so curious and very intent on exploring your world. You spent the first part of this month fighting us on EVERYTHING. Diaper changes. Feedings. Naps. Being set down. Getting your fingernails trimmed (this one is not new, obviously). Most of the time, though, when you are out of sorts, there’s a pretty good reason. And more often than not, that reason is CRAWLING.

You can crawl. It’s haphazard and not quite consistent enough to keep you from getting frustrated, but you’ve got the basics down and can generally get where you want to go. You have not given up on walking, as promised by our apps and your pediatrician. You still want to stand up whenever you can…including in your crib. It’s only happened a couple of times — you’re rarely in your crib unless it’s time to sleep, but we set you in there the other day, not two weeks after we lowered the platform, and BOOM. You stood up and started gnawing on the crib rail.

Eight months. You’re only months old, dude.

Grayson_8mosYou are very, very vocal and we love listening to you chatter on. (Sometimes, I think you’re trying to sing.) Words you know (as in, you look in the appropriate direction when we say them), but cannot say: Mommy, Daddy, Rodney, puppy, book, bounce, kisses, up, splish-splash (= bath), Christmas tree, night-night, and “turn the page.”

Words we think you know…but cannot prove: Walk, nap, sleep, snooze, Grayson/baby, diaper, toy, and “pick up your butt.” (Crawling instruction takes some funny turns sometimes.)

You love to play games, especially if they involve an element of surprise. You spend countless minutes giggling madly, just waiting to see what funny noise Daddy will make next or wondering where the next raspberry will land. It’s the anticipation that tickles you, not the raspberry. And while skyping with Grampy this week, you started putting one of your stacking toys in my mouth, waiting for me to spit it back out again. It was the first time you’d initiated something like that with a toy — very exciting!

Going outside is one of your favorite things. You seem to look forward to walking the dog and you get especially excited when we take Rodney into the yard and chase him around. Once you know we’re heading to the back door, you start bouncing and squealing in my arms like you just can’t WAIT to go out and play.

Your bouncing is very, very cute, buddy, but when you do it in your carrier, you remind Mommy that it’s time to invest in some physical therapy/core workouts, because OW. At eight months old, you’re coming up on 21 pounds of solid, wiggly, extremely strong boy. (You grow out of everything so fast! Thank goodness for friends with slightly older boys and bags of hand-me-downs.) We’re grateful you’re growing so big and strong, but we’re also a little tired and sore. You are bigger now than some kids are at a year old…and you still don’t even care about solid food. Oof.

It seems like these posts are getting harder and harder to get ready on time, Grayson, but part of that is because you’re a pretty active and demanding little guy, and I’m still trying to make sure I spend more time playing with you than writing about you. In the long run, that will matter more to you than knowing how old you were when you crawled, walked, or said your first word.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, we’ve got some baby-proofing to do…

Love,
Mommy

Month 7

Dear Grayson –
Happy first Thanksgiving! This year, we are thankful for smart, strong, active, inquisitive little you.

This was a frustrating month for you, little guy. You are so, so ready to get moving. You roll and rock and wiggle your way all over every surface. When we hold you (and right now, you prefer being held to not being held), your top priority is to go…somewhere else. You don’t usually know or care where — you just want to GO. And once you get there, wherever there is, you decide on a new someplace else to try to reach. (Daddy says you are hell-bent on getting from Point A to Point B…without crawling.)

IMG_20131115_165202[1]Sometimes, what you really want is to be suspended by a parent in mid-air within reach of a playmat AND a pillow AND the dog, while also still being within reach of the parent for when you feel like twisting back for a quick snuggle. That parent, right now, is often me. Mommy-only phases are pretty rough on your primary caregiver, kiddo. You’re gonna need to go easier on him.

You almost never wake up where you went to sleep; we usually find you crunched in a corner. Everything is out of your crib except two lovies and your robot blanky. Once I walked in on you lying on your belly, playing with your monitor — you’d turned on the nightlight but not yet turned off the monitor (same switch, other side) — your inconvenient mobility/dexterity could no longer be ignored.

We’re lowering the crib soon, too.

You cut your first tooth this month! And then you cut your second one right next to it. Once both of them pushed through, you were in a much better mood and the amount of drool in our lives decreased dramatically for about a week. We’re pretty sure you’ve got at least one more coming in now, though, because drooooooooolllll…

A couple of weeks ago, you started working on consonants, beginning with a mostly silent “puh” sound moving into a not-at-all-silent “MAMAMAMA.” (This sparked a furious campaign for “DADADADA,” at least during business hours.) The jury’s still out on whether you know what “mama” means, aside from knowing that it’s good for expressing a complaint of some kind. We haven’t heard it recently, though. Sometimes, it seems like you’re learning so many things at once that you need to set some of them aside and come back to them later.

You are still crazy about the dog. Sometimes, all he has to do to make you laugh is sigh heavily, which isn’t a lot to ask of him. And when he races around the room (whether chased or unchased), you’re completely entranced. This, for the record, is the very best time to try to deal with your fingernails…which is still a struggle, even when you’re pleasantly distracted.

To say Rodney is crazy about you in return would be an overstatement, but he seems to have accepted responsibility for you as part of the pack.

G_Fresh_PondWe took you on your first road trip this month so we could spend Thanksgiving with Nana and Papa. Traffic was minimal and we made excellent time, not that you appreciated it. You are still categorically opposed to car seats and anything else that requires you to be still. You snoozed for a while (we timed it that way on purpose in both directions), but then you screamed from Folsom to Fresh Pond and all the way down the Kingsbury Grade…and for roughly the same periods on the way back. Good times! We’re sorry, buddy. We’ll try to make it easier next time, but the truth is that sometimes we have to sit in the car for a while. It’ll be better when you can read or otherwise better entertain yourself…probably.

You know what comes with road trips, though? Luggage. And you know what comes with luggage? ZIPPERS. Zippers, stickers, and laces were excellent distractions for you on this trip. And we needed some distraction, because you’re a creature of habit and your exersaucer wouldn’t fit in the car, which seriously cut into Daddy and your daily routine.

Also, traveling completely blew up your sleep schedule. There were missed naps and more night wakings and increased general whining…but you were still pretty cheerful most of the time.

After you hit six months, we started offering you some solid food. Daddy was afraid that might be the end of bottles — you’ve been lunging for our food for so long that we were sure you’d stuff your face when given the chance. Turns out? Not so much. You hate rice cereal on its own but will take it mixed into a bottle. You’re warming to bananas. You’re not sure about sweet potatoes. Green beans were a non-starter. I peeled a Fuji apple and cooked half of it for you on Thanksgiving — you didn’t care for the cooked bit, but you chewed joyfully on the uncooked half I tried to eat before dinner. (You come by that honestly — I hate most cooked fruit, with the sweet, sweet exception of applecake.)

You may hear, later in life, that I was excessively strict about what solids you were fed and when. We’ve been going slowly, for sure, and we truly don’t think you need sugar or salt or high fructose corn syrup at the ripe old age of 7 months — there’s plenty of time for that. The truth is, though, that you just don’t care all that much about Big People Food, and you don’t have to for a while yet. You’re pushing 20 pounds at 27 inches on breastmilk alone, and that’s totally okay.

Thanksgiving2013

Love,
Mommy

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