Counting Down 'til Daddy

Category: My kids

ELIZABETH & DANIEL

It all started around 7:00 a.m. on an otherwise “normal” Tuesday morning. I had gotten up with the two older kids to get their breakfast and was feeling pretty crampy. No regular contractions, but definitely uncomfortable. More telling was my complete lack of patience for preschooler whining and incessant question asking. After everyone was settled I sat down on the couch to kind of assess my situation. I felt different than I had at any other point in this pregnancy, but wasn’t really sure that labor had started. I knew that I had been given directions to leave as soon as I thought I was in labor, but I really didn’t want to drive all the way to the hospital for a false alarm.

Things continued for the next hour or so and then it was time for Jay to leave for work. I still wasn’t sure that I was in labor, but I knew that I didn’t want him to leave. I figured that we should probably go. Worst case scenario we would have to come home. I had my bag packed and everything ready to go, so Jay threw everything in the van, changed out of his uniform, and we hit the road. Luckily things were not that intense during the car ride to the hospital, but I came to the conclusion that I was not doing the drive again. The babies were going to be born, even if that meant consenting to some method of induction. My doctor had said that if she did think it was necessary to induce that I would be easy: she could break my water, have me walk around and things would get going. I was 37 weeks and six days, so I felt pretty confident that things would be okay and the babies were ready.

We arrived at the hospital, checked in, and were given a room. Upon initial inspection I learned that the room did not have a tub for laboring. They had put me in the room just outside the doors leading to the OR since I would be pushing there, but I asked to be moved to a room with a tub. Ironically I never ended up using the tub, but it was important to me to have the option. I changed out of my clothes and was hooked to the monitor for 20 minutes and had my first cervical check. I was only five centimeters. I had thought it would be more considering my doctor had seemed convinced things would happen quickly. That being said, I wasn’t too surprised since things had slowed down considerably since arriving at the hospital and I was thinking that maybe we had jumped the gun. Anyway, I said no to an IV but yes to a hep-lock and started to mentally prepare for what could be a long day at the hospital.

After my 20 minutes on the monitor we started walking the halls. Contractions were weak and far apart while I was lying in the bed, but considerably more intense when I was up and about. Things were picking up, but it was slow going. I had never arrived at the hospital this early in labor with any of my other three kids. I never had to walk the halls or do anything to speed things up; I always arrived as late as possible. I was not a fan of hanging out, intermittent monitoring, walking laps around labor and delivery…but I was no fan of the idea of waiting too long and not making it to the hospital, so there we were.

My doctor stopped by in the morning then went to her office to see some patients before canceling her afternoon to focus on me. That was surprising, but I appreciated it. After some time she and my nurse brought up the idea of heading to the OR early to be settled and ready when things picked up. One of my concerns about pushing in the OR was the idea of having to move during that phase of labor and this would address that concern. They suggested wheeling a regular L&D bed into the room since it was more comfortable, bringing the birthing ball, and letting me move around in there if I wanted to. I thought it sounded like an okay idea and agreed. It was probably a bad idea. We walked down the hall (my nurse was excited that I was the first patient she walked with to the OR) and were greeted by the ten or so people assembled to join us in the room when the action started. Thankfully they stayed outside until it was almost go time. I settled into the freezing cold OR, had them turn the lights down, and continued to labor.

It seemed like things were taking forever. I had been so excited at the idea of a fast labor that I couldn’t help looking at the clock and calculating how long it had been going on. Contractions were definitely more intense, but still very irregular. Jay commented that sometimes minutes would go by where we could have normal conversation and then a contraction would hit. Then other times they would be coming really fast. At some point my doctor suggested breaking my water. I was very hesitant to do that. I didn’t want to do anything to make things more painful and had never had my water broken before. Generally my waters break as I am pushing. But I was getting impatient, so I agreed. What an unpleasant experience that was. Basically combining a cervical check with a long stick up there looking for a good spot to poke. I think things picked up after that, but it’s hard to say. Finally I was checked and fully dilated. That was another way this birth was different than the last two. I never needed anyone to tell me I was complete and it was okay to push. This time everything felt so much more managed and I found myself looking for more reassurance and direction. I didn’t like it. I started to push a bit with each contraction. My plan had been spontaneous pushing without bearing down. It takes longer, but allows everything to stretch and reduces the risk of tearing (ever since the episiotomy that extended to a fourth degree tear with Madeline my focus has been on doing things in a way that minimizes the risk of tearing). After several contractions like that I really started to question whether things were moving forward. No one seemed that impressed. I felt like it was so painful and there was no end in sight. For the first time in four births I actually asked if it was too late for any kind of medication. I was thinking something light to take the edge off (I have no idea what I actually had in mind). Jay said he was shocked. I was shocked too because this labor was no more intense or painful than any other one. It was just different. There were more people waiting around for these babies to be born, and despite never really needing it before, I was looking for some positive feedback about my progress and not getting any. I was in this cold, sterile room and I just wanted it to be over. Regardless, it was too late for anything. Before I knew it the team of doctors and nurses had filled the room and everyone was in their delivery garb ready for some babies to be born. It got really fun then. I was still pushing some with each contraction, letting my body do most of the work, but now when I opened my eyes after the contraction I had about 6 people staring at me. And no one looked like they were any closer to catching a baby than before the contraction. That really messed with my mental game. I think I asked my doctor if it looked like I was making progress. I forget her exact response, but she told me that if I wanted to bear down and push for ten counts that I would be holding my baby girl in three pushes. I told her I did not want to tear. She told me that she was pretty sure I wouldn’t. I guess I believed her. I agreed to go for it during the next contraction. Three ten counts later and I was holding Elizabeth. My doctor got the eager baby nurses to back off and made sure I got some skin-to-skin and we got to delay cord clamping.

While I held Elizabeth they did an ultrasound to make sure Daniel was still head down. He was, but according to the monitor there were some concerning decels. Nothing indicating we really needed to start rushing things, but some steps were taken to move things along. My doctor gave me a quick catheter to empty my bladder and give him more room to move down (I think I was also peeing a little with each contraction). Then she broke his water. Just after that he moved down and I heard her say she had cord. She never pulled her hand out, so I knew she meant it was prolapsed. She told me to push hard on the next contraction. I did. Basically three successive ten counts without a break. She was able to hold the cord and keep it from compressing while I pushed him out fast. Luckily his cord did not really slip out ahead of him, but came down kind of next to his head where she could keep a hand on it. He went right to my chest where he hung out for a minute before one of the nurses thought he needed a little more attention. He was checked out and was fine and then I was able to hold both of them. Elizabeth was 6 lbs even (a full pound more than the last ultrasound estimate) and Daniel was 5 lbs, 12 oz (the exact size as his last ultrasound estimate two weeks earlier).

I delivered the placentas without any issues. It was cool to see their two sacks and where their cords each attached to their placenta. I was given some pitocin in an IV to facilitate uterine contractions and also a dose of cytotec (which is a rectal suppository, FYI) just to help things along. It wasn’t long before I was out of the OR and being wheeled back to my labor and delivery room to recover. We were there forever. I was freezing and just kept needing more warm blankets. The babies were doing great at breastfeeding and it seemed like they both kept wanting to take a turn. I finally got to eat a sandwich, pee, and move upstairs to the mother and baby unit where I spent the next two nights awake and figuring out how to manage two babies.

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Overall, things went well. I do not recommend delivering babies vaginally in an OR with at least ten people there to do various jobs (many of which were never necessary). That seriously had me off my game. I wish we had not spent so much time at the hospital, but like I’ve said before, a 45 minute drive is not something to be messed with when you are dilated to 4-5 and your doctor urges you to leave immediately. In hindsight it wasn’t necessary to leave that early, and I wish I had been able to labor more at home. I think things actually would have gone a lot faster that way. My labor nurse was great and I really came to appreciate the importance of having a care provider I really trust. My doctor was awesome and the trust I had in her made it easy to follow her directions when things got a little scary during Daniel’s delivery. She made sure I got to hold my babies immediately and that we delayed cord clamping. She even grabbed my phone and took a few photos on our way back to labor and delivery.

This was not the peaceful fourth birth at an amazing birth center like I had planned when I first found out I was pregnant, but I managed to have twins vaginally without an epidural or continuous monitoring or many of the other things people often think are routine with multiples. Despite the assumption that twins generally are and should be delivered early, mine cooked to almost 38 weeks (according to my calculations that I based on my other three babies whose due dates all changed to about a week earlier after a very early ultrasound, these twins may have been closer to 39 weeks). No one had to spend any time in the NICU and we all came home right away. The adjustment to five kids, two of whom are newborns, has been difficult. My mom has been here since about a week before they were born and I don’t know how I would be managing without her. Our generous friends and family have been providing our dinner for the past few weeks and that has been a lifesaver. These are our last babies, so I will do my best to enjoy every phase. Except the sleepless nights. There is nothing enjoyable about being awake in the middle of the night dealing with a hungry/poopy/fussy baby…and then another hungry/poopy/fussy baby.

We love them. They are adorable and an adventure all their own.

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MY FOUR YEAR OLD HAS A CRUSH ON A BOY IN HER CLASS. THIS IS BOTH SCARY AND HILARIOUS AT THE SAME TIME

Last week Madeline informed me that she is going to marry Patrick, a boy in her class. The week before she was still planning on marrying her brother, so this news was a little surprising. Yesterday afternoon we took a little family walk/bike ride and ran into Patrick. Oh boy, did that make her day. This was her face a few minutes after we saw him:

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Little lady is smitten! So cute, but she is only four! I thought we had a couple more years of her wanting to marry daddy or her brother before this stuff happened! According to her teacher Patrick is a hot commodity. He is also apparently a very nice boy and always good to the girls in the class. Good to know she isn’t going for the “bad boys” yet :)

I will be printing this post and saving it forever. I can’t wait to show her when she is older. The video below is priceless.

IS THE MEASURE OF A GOOD MOM THE AMOUNT OF TIME SHE SPENDS ON HER PRESCHOOLER’S VALENTINES? I SURE HOPE NOT

Just ’cause you saw it on Pinterest doesn’t mean you have to do it. Same goes for your stuff you saw on your friend’s Facebook wall or your friend’s cousin’s wife’s sister’s neighbor’s wall that Facebook lets you see because who the hell understands the privacy settings on that thing. I read a blog post on the Huffington Post this morning, titled, Can we Bring the Holidays Down a Notch? Um, yes freakin’ please. Yesterday I picked up Madeline from school and found a note about the upcoming Easter party. She has been assigned to bring in two dozen hard-boiled eggs and 17 trinkets to distribute to her classmates. I’m assuming they are making baskets or decorating paper bags to tote all of that crap home. Yes, crap. Stickers that I will find stuck to every surface of my house, pencils that need to be sharpened but of course I have no idea where a pencil sharpener is, so they will become swords (Houston will bite the erasers off first, of course), stamps and straws and bubbles and god knows what else that will end up in the trash two days later. The same stuff I just threw away after they arrived home in goodie bags from a birthday party. But that stuff is supposed to be for birthday parties. That’s why they sell it at party stores with all of the other birthday party stuff. When kids bring it home for every holiday out there it isn’t special and it just ends up as garbage a lot faster.

Valentines’s Day was eye opening. I received a note in her backpack to send in Valentines for the other kids. Along with the note was a class list. Easy, I thought. Next time we are at Walmart we will pick up a box of cards with one of her favorite characters on it and we’re good. She has kind of a long name and isn’t that great at writing it yet, so I’ll let her decide who gets which card and I will write the names. Done. It occurred to me that her making small cards for her classmates was an option, but I knew she would lose interest before finishing all 17 and we were just getting over virus #1,334,237 this winter and I wasn’t in the mood. It never occurred to me to go beyond the Valentine. Not to send in candy, not to make goody bags, not to check Pinterest for ways to waste time making Valentines for a bunch of 3-4 years olds who would never in a million years appreciate them.

I searched Pinterest this morning to see what ideas were out there for the overachieving moms and here is a sampling of what I found:

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Not too bad…at least it isn’t candy
I’m sure making rice crispy treats and cutting them into hearts isn’t that hard, but really?
Um, yeah right.
Someone (and by someone I mean someone’s mom) made this one for the kids in
Madeline’s class.

If you are a mom and you enjoy doing this kind of thing, fine. But if you find yourself doing it more for yourself then maybe you need to rethink whether it is necessary. Especially for 3 and 4 year olds. Guess what, they can’t read. They have no idea what the shovel means because they can’t read the card that says “I dig your friendship.” They love the chocolate, but do the kids really need more candy? That’s a rant for another day, but an article I read and have seen shared a few times sums it up nicely: Why is Everyone Always Giving my Kid Junk Food.

Not to mention the pressure this stuff puts on parents who both work full time outside of the home and don’t want to spend their precious time with their kids or time to themselves normally spent with a glass of wine and feet on the ottoman making elaborate Valentines. Or the parents on a really strict budget who are thankful that boxes of cards are under $3.00. Why should the kids get more than that and why should we be teaching them to expect more?

Some of this stuff gets me thinking about my honesty post a few weeks ago and the picture we paint with our Facebook posts and photos. I’d bet the farm that the moms who made Valentines like that shovel posted a photo of it on Facebook. How many of us do things with or for our kids and think, I can’t wait to post this on Facebook and show everyone what a good mom or dad I am. Look how much fun we have! Look how much I love my kids because we did a,b, and c and x,y, and z. Obviously not those exact words, but that’s kind of the intent and the spirit behind the action. I know I’m guilty of it sometimes.

We can control how we celebrate holidays in our homes and decide what we deem is important enough to recognize. I don’t think recognizing them at school is a bad idea either. But why make it so elaborate? Why isn’t it enough to be excited that your friend gave you a Valentine with a picture of your favorite Barbie or Toy Story character or took the time to draw you a picture or place stickers on the paper? School is hard enough for kids to navigate as it is without having to worry about being “shunned” for failing to provide candy for their friends. Why can’t the kids hear a story about Easter and do a craft related to the holiday. Do they really need goodie bags and a party?

I don’t place blame on sites like Pinterest or Facebook. I love them, but as with anything there are pitfalls. I’m impressed with anyone who completes projects they have pinned, as I have done one (other than using recipes I found there). However, I think it does give the impression that so many other people out there are refinishing their cabinets and making elaborate sensory boxes for their toddlers and turning trash into thirty-seven variations of treasure. Search for “Pallet” and you will see what I mean.

So next time your kid comes home with this:

Remember there are moms like me signing her daughter’s name on a flimsy piece of card stock with a picture of Rainbow Dash or Twilight Sparkle or whoever and calling it a day.

A LITTLE HONESTY FOR YOUR FRIDAY

In my first post on this blog I expressed how I wanted to be honest about the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to being a stay-at-home mom. I think I’ve done that so far. I haven’t posted any pictures of the one meal I make each week that is photo-worthy in some attempt to make people think dinner always looks like that. In that first post I confessed that I had ignored some cat puke on the floor for more than a day before cleaning it up. Just the other day I posted a photo of my messy living room.

Yesterday I read a blog post that a friend shared on Facebook titled, “We Need to Quit Telling Lies on Facebook.” I don’t try to make life seem better than it is on Facebook. I don’t always share all of the bad stuff, but who wants to read all that crap anyway. People have their own problems; they don’t need to read about ALL of mine. Nothing annoys me more than vague status updates about how hard things are or how someone is always getting the short end of the stick and blah, blah, blah. But I’ll be honest. Sometimes photos are shared and statuses are updated to paint a more positive picture of things. However, I think we are all smart enough to know that no one’s life is picture perfect. Besides, I have this blog to set the record straight. In the spirit of that blog post and to put another check in the honest column, here is a picture from yesterday:

Not that it matters, but I'm not sure it was even wet. I had just changed him and let him go without pants. He might have gone and peed on the floor somewhere...I honestly can't remember because it happens almost every time he is sans diaper.

Not that it matters, but I’m not sure it was even wet. I had just changed him and let him go without pants. He might have gone and peed on the floor somewhere…I honestly can’t remember because it happens almost every time he is sans diaper.

Houston took that diaper off and left it in the kitchen. I stepped over it no less than five times during separate trips into the kitchen before I finally picked it up and put it in the diaper pail.

And if that isn’t enough, on Wednesday Houston poked Madeline in the face with the end of a comb (those pointy ones that are good for parting hair). One second they are brushing and combing her ponies, the next second she is hysterical and bleeding.

The injury and the weapon of choice

The injury and the weapon of choice

Let me know if you need my address to send me the Mom of the Year award.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT SCREAMING THAT IS JUST SO FUN FOR LITTLE KIDS?

Once upon a time I was a pretty self conscious person. I worried about whether I was wearing the right clothes, whether my hair was too frizzy, whether anyone noticed the pimple on my chin (or more likely, the scar left from where I picked the pimple on my chin). But those days are long gone. I can’t say that I don’t care at all what people think, but I don’t care very much and certainly not about what they think about my hair or clothes.

I don’t think I do much to draw attention to myself when I’m out and about, but boy do my kids think that needs to change. Recently Houston has taken to suddenly screaming at the top of his lungs for no discernible reason every time we are out in public. Most recently he has done this at Target, the grocery store, and Sam’s Club. When I say the top of his lungs, that’s what I mean. It is an attempt to yell as loud as his little lungs will allow. Repeatedly. I imagine most of you reading this have children or have seen children and know what I’m talking about. Therefore I’m opting not to record him screaming to illustrate the behavior. Rest assured it is loud and definitely draws attention. The reactions are varied, but usually fall into one of the following categories:

  • The silent smile. Usually another mom or maybe a younger grandmother. They’ve seen this kind of child. They might even have one. They know better than to say something to him, because attention is exactly what he wants. I like t0 think that the smile is sort of for my benefit, letting me know they understand and aren’t judging.
  • The loud laugh and “he’s got a set of lungs on him” comment. Usually a man, more often than not an older man who probably has grandchildren. Worst reaction ever. Nothing my kid likes more than a good laugh. Guaranteed to hear that scream again.
  • The “look.” Usually an older woman. Definitely judging and probably thinking, “Kids these days have no manners. My kids never would have gotten away with that.” Whatever lady. You probably just have a selective memory.
  • The sympathetic mom. This is a woman who is at the store alone and feeling high on life for that reason. She is in a great mood because her kids aren’t with her, screaming their heads off and drawing attention. She is me. She knows not to acknowledge the behavior directly and doesn’t say anything to my son, but walks by and says, “That’s usually my kid.” This is my favorite reaction because it is a good reminder that I’m not alone.

I’ve tried different tactics to stop the screaming, but to no avail. Ignoring him seems like the best option, since he is two and won’t sit and listen to an explanation about why he needs to stop. However ignoring him has not been working too well. He keeps screaming until you pay attention. As much as I don’t care what people think, I also don’t think they need to listen to my son’s scream echo off the walls of Sam’s Club all morning. Telling him to stop never works. Recently I’ve started redirecting him and suggesting he sing a song instead. A two year old rendition of Old MacDonald has to be a better option for the other shoppers. It usually works for a minute, but two aisles later he tries it again.

My fear is that my sweet little seven month old who is calmly hanging out in the Beco on my chest is soaking it all in and learning this awful behavior. This baby doesn’t cry unless he is tired or hungry (or recently because he smacked his face on the floor while attempting to crawl), which is more than I can say for his brother.

Any parents of public screamers out there? Got any tips? I’ll try anything.

HOMESCHOOLING PARENTS EVERYWHERE, I SALUTE YOU

The other day I was “helping” Madeline write her name. In case I needed a reason to feel more confident in my decision to never homeschool unless absolutely necessary, this exercise provided it. I also learned that we should have given her a shorter name. Without the letter “e” and maybe only including letters made from straight lines. I had already decided that I wasn’t going to sit there for three days while she signed her name on Valentines for her classmates, but figured it was as good a time as any to work on the skill. Not to mention her Valentines were tiny cards with pictures of My Little Pony and the 1.5 inches provided was nowhere near enough space for the eight letters in her name. My failure to suck it up and help her make homemade cards for all seventeen kids is a topic for another post.

As we sat there with a pile of paper filled with her attempts I caught myself wondering why I was so committed to her accomplishing this task at this particular time. I have absolutely no idea whether this is something she “should” be able to do. I know that I have seen photos of 3-4 year old work product friends have posted on Facebook, which made me wonder if Madeline was “behind.” If she was, was that my fault? Should I have spent more time practicing letters with her? Does she watch too much tv and that is slowing her down? We’ve practiced some, but I always felt like I was pushing her too much to do something she just wasn’t quite ready and able to do. Kind of like when I thought she should be able to go to bed in underpants and she proved me wrong. When she decided she didn’t want a pull-up anymore she was able to stay dry all night. Funny how that works.

My gut told me that at this point she could probably write all of the letters in her name with minimal practice and focus on the task. So we sat down and I wrote her name and told her to copy it. Oh. My. God. Most frustrating thing we’ve done this week. What frustrated me was not her tendency to write “e” backwards, or start all the way on the right side of the page so that there was no room for more than one letter. It was when she would just quit. I could see her lack of motivation and what looked like laziness. Now, to a three (almost four) year old, the ten minutes we spent doing this probably felt like two hours. But I knew she could do it, so I resorted to the one nearly guaranteed method of achieving the desired result: bribery. I told her if she did it I would give her a cookie. Before dinner. What do you think happened after only two more tries:

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Not perfect, but good enough.

It’s funny when I think of how much time I spent playing school as a kid. It seemed like so much fun to be the teacher. All of those office supplies and the big desk and the books with all of the answers in them… Turns out imaginary students are a lot easier to deal with than real ones. I have so much respect for teachers, including those who are patient enough to homeschool their own students. These moments as a parent also give me newfound respect for my dad and all of the other parents who were brave enough to volunteer as coaches for their kids’ sports teams. I know I was my dad’s most difficult player, and spent most of one softball practice in the car for my bad attitude. I’ve been there when someone else’s dad sent his own daughter home from basketball practice (at least you can do that when it’s your kid).

See the girl with the puffy hair in the back row rolling her eyes? That's me. That's what my dad had to deal with (he's the guy on the end with the equally puffy hair).

See the girl with the puffy hair in the back row rolling her eyes? That’s me. That’s what my dad had to deal with (he’s the guy on the end with the beard and puffy hair).

I’ll still coach my kids when I can and try my best to treat them like everyone else even when they test me. I’ll even homeschool them if we find ourselves living somewhere where the schools are horrible (although as much as I hate the idea of paying for private school I would seriously consider it). But it will be hard and the kids won’t appreciate it. Some parents might since it took the pressure off of them to volunteer, but not the kids. Especially not my kids. Not until they are older and doing it for their children. But that’s okay. That’s what it’s all about.

I’M SOOOO OVER IT

Do you hear me coldflueveryrandomvirusmykidscouldcatch season? I am over you. I am done with fevers and coughing and snot. I don’t get grossed out easily, but there is nothing worse than snot, especially coming from the nose of a toddler who can’t seem to figure out anything to do with it other than wipe it all over his face. With his hands. And then he touches the baby. Awesome.

A snotty nose on an infant sucks too. Ever try to breastfeed a baby who can’t breathe out of his nose? I don’t recommend it. He sucks as much as he can while holding his breath, and if the milk doesn’t let down in those 2.5 seconds he freaks out. Switch boobs and repeat. Over and over until finally there is a let down and he doesn’t have to work so hard. Frustrating for everyone involved. I thought I had a great solution the last time he had a cold – - pumping. But then he got used to just how easy the bottle was and we battled for several feedings once he was feeling better to “re-establish” breastfeeding. Stubborn little boy.

Other than me getting sick, the only thing worse than sick kids is a sick husband. Familiar with “man flu?” It’s the same virus everyone else in the house has but apparently 100 times worse when an adult male is infected. I actually heard a report on the local news here saying that some research indicates this is a real phenomenon and not just men being dramatic. I’d love to meet the man (had to be a man, no question) who did that study.

If I get sick it always seems to be once everyone else is better. All I want to do is lie in bed and sleep and watch Real Housewives or my Felicity DVDs and be left alone. I will keep dreaming. At this point the kids have been cooped up in the house for a week and they need to get out. Unfortunately they are all under the age of four and sympathy for a sick mommy is not a feeling they are quite in touch with. Luckily “mom flu” is short-lived.

Whatever has infected our house this time is making its way through the kids and husband and (so far) leaving me alone. Madeline had a 104.7 fever the other night, but she’s doing much better now. Benjamin is a little stuffed up, a little warm, and has a little cough. Hopefully it all stays little. Houston seemed like he was going to skate by with nothing more than copious amounts of snot to wipe all over everything, but shortly after being put down for his nap today I heard him crying for me and yelling, “Ear hurts! Ear hurts!” Awesome. I’m hoping that doesn’t turn into much. I’m really hoping to avoid a trip to the doctor.

We’ve been hit hard this winter and all I can do is hope that they are building up lots of antibodies for next season. I can’t take another winter full of snot. I can’t.

MY EVOLUTION AS A PARENT (AS WITH MOST THINGS, THIS IS ALL ABOUT SLEEP)

Once upon a time I was a mom of one. My daughter received all of my attention on a daily basis. Focusing on her sleeping, eating, and playing was my only job. I didn’t know much about anything back then. I didn’t read any parenting books, but did read about sleep as I encountered an issue. Basically the book (Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child) confirmed at each stage that her habits were normal. And trust me, I needed a book to tell me that going to bed for the night at 6:00 p.m. was normal. That seemed too good to be true. It helped to read a book by a doctor telling me that in the early months my job was to maximize sleep and minimize crying. That picking her up when she cried was the right answer. My instincts felt validated.

Madeline asleep

Then baby #2 comes along and I was ready. Armed with knowledge and having learned from my mistakes, this go round was going to be perfect. Madeline fell asleep on my chest almost every night for the first few weeks of her life. This made my husband nervous, and his anxiety made me nervous, so I vowed never to do that with Houston. He would learn to sleep on his own and not in my arms. You know what that resolve got me? Nothing, other than many sleepless nights and a lot of tears (mine and his). I have never been more frustrated than I was those nights when he would not sleep in his bassinet or in the pack ‘n play or next to me on the bed or on the floor or anywhere else I thought might work.*

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All night, every night, for what seemed like months.

I was determined to swaddle him because as much as she fought it, Madeline always slept better.

H swaddled

Clearly the swaddle was no match for Houston.

I knew what kind of schedule he should have, so I was going to do my best to keep it. Nevermind it meant I would be a slave to his sleep routine and pretty much couldn’t do anything I might want to do, like take a class at the gym at 9:00, a.k.a. his morning naptime. He was tired and wanted to go to bed at 5:30 and I knew from my reading and experience that it was an acceptable bedtime, so we were going to eat dinner by 5:00. With or without Daddy. Sleep nazi in full effect.

Cue baby #3. Time to purchase a co-sleeper to put in between us on the bed because I knew he was going to end up there anyway. Might as well make it as safe as possible. With the third I was in maximize sleep mode from the beginning. My sleep. With two other kids who have no idea what “sleeping in” means, I knew Benjamin was going to be falling asleep at night wherever he wanted. On my chest, on my lap, snuggled up next to the dog…it didn’t matter. Stuffy nose keeping him (us) up at night? Put him on his belly. Trying to pull him arms out of the swaddle? Say screw it and take it off. By necessity he still does not have a great routine. I feel guilty about it sometimes, like when he is overtired in the evening, or falling asleep in the car. The worst is waking him up to take Madeline to school (and then again to pick her up sometimes). But that’s what happens when you have older children. They have things to do at certain times and the other kids are just along for the ride.

B Belly Sleep

I almost want to have another baby just so he/she can sleep on his/her belly.

At this point I am also more willing to sacrifice a strict “schedule” to do things for myself. My gym routine means he has to take a late nap or sleep in his carseat on the floor of the nursery some days. The only time I second guess that decision is at night when he fights going to bed before 8:00 and ends up taking four naps instead of the customary 2-3 at this age. Both of my other kids were going to be no later than 6:30 at this age. But I know (I’m pretty sure) I’m not causing him long-term harm. He is the happiest baby and even at six months old really only fusses when he is hungry or tired. He is meeting all of his milestones and if I had to guess, he will be crawling relatively soon. Hopefully he will also start going to bed at 5:30.

Some days I wonder if I’m doing everything wrong. Am I yelling too much? Setting too many or not enough boundaries? Feeding them the wrong things? Not paying enough attention to everyone? Letting them watch too much tv? Other days are great. I feel good, the kids are happy, everyone has eaten several servings of fruits and vegetables, and the tv has only been on a little bit. Overall, the good days outnumber the bad. And when my two year old son comes up to me as he did the other day and gives me a completely unsolicited, “I love you” I figure I must be doing something right.

*I never actually put him to bed on the floor. Maybe if we didn’t have a dog and cats I could have…

I THOUGHT I HAD THINGS UNDER CONTROL…THEN WE GOT COCKY AND TOOK A LITTLE ROAD TRIP

I was nervous about having three kids. Not, “How will I ever love a third child as much as I love the others” kind of nervous, but more like, “How will I get them in and out of the car without anyone getting run over in the parking lot?” kind of nervous. Or, “How will I get up in the morning to take Madeline to school after being up all night with a screaming baby” kind of nervous. Then Benjamin arrived and it hasn’t been that bad. My mom was here at first and that was a HUGE help. Jay was off from work for that same time so he entertained the older two while I bonded with and snuggled with the baby. Then my mom left and Jay went back to work and I was on my own. And it wasn’t as stressful as I thought it would be. Now don’t get me wrong, I still lose my temper and have a hard time exercising as much patience as I did with fewer children, but I’ve managed to make dinner most nights and not kill anyone, so it’s a success in my book. To top it all off, by some miracle Benjamin has been sleeping for 6-8 hours (the last two nights were 8) before waking up to eat and then going right back to sleep. I wake him up in the morning to take Madeline to school and it kills me every time. No rule deserves to be followed more than, “never wake a sleeping baby.”

His great sleeping habits might be due in part to being put to sleep on his belly. I’m not afraid to admit it: I’ve been putting him to sleep that way every night and for every nap since I tried it once while he was congested. And isn’t belly sleeping just the biggest secret out there. Right up there with co-sleeping. I followed “back to sleep” like it was law and I’m pretty sure I could have saved myself a lot of tears if I had just put Houston on his belly when he was still waking me up every thirty minutes at six weeks old. On the other hand I know some other belly sleepers out there who still wake up a lot, so it’s more likely that this is just his nature. Makes me even more sure that any kind of “sleep training” at this age is pointless and does more harm than good.

So there I was, confident that I could do this mom of three thing (maybe even mom of four if dad comes around), when we decided to take a little road trip. I need to mention that Benjamin seems to hate the car, so I was hesitant to put him there for hours at a time. I thought that maybe a longer trip with less stopping and starting might be better than just the around town driving we usually do. I was kind of right. He did sleep some and really only lost it when he was probably hungry. His behavior in the car was  the least of our problems (maybe not the least, but definitely not the biggest problem).

There was a tropical storm or hurricane out in the Atlantic which was supposed to make for great waves on the eastern coast of Florida and Jay wanted to go surf. Rather than stay home with the kids while he went by himself, we decided to make it a family affair. We could go to the beach, swim in the pool, etc. I’ve seen the pictures friends post on facebook of their babies asleep on the beach under an umbrella or in a little tent. Looks like fun.

Aw, look at the cute baby in the tent. This lasted ten minutes, and that’s being generous. The rest of the time was spent trying to keep him out of the sun while keeping an eye on the other two, trying not to get him too sandy, and feeding him to keep him from crying.

Big mistake. Not only is a six week old on the beach zero fun under any circumstances (in my opinion), it’s even worse when you try to do it with two other kids while the only other adult with you is surfing. Luckily no one even tried to go in the water until he came back. Houston only tried to dump sand on Benjamin a couple of times.

The drive was fine and when we arrived at our destination it was time for dinner. We decided to go to a pizza place because that would guarantee the kids would eat with little protest. I even found a place with good reviews and a coupon on Yelp that would save us 50%. Win. But wait, Benjamin was tired. He slept some in the car, but sleep while in motion is never as good as sleep in his bed. Cue the screaming in the restaurant. Jay took him outside. That worked for a minute. I took him out of the seat and nursed him. That worked for a minute. You know what worked? Standing next to the table cradling him in my arms and swaying back and forth. While eating pizza. Just as we finished up it started pouring rain. Torrential downpour, thunder, lightening, the whole deal. Instantly soaked on the way to the car. It was definitely time for bed.

We were staying in a suite that was basically a little two bedroom apartment. One bedroom had a twin bed and a full. I thought we could push the full against the wall and Houston could sleep there. He has never slept in a bed alone before and I’m not sure what made me think it would work now, but it beat anyone sleeping in bed with us. Benjamin was in our room in the pack & play. Jay got in the bed with Houston and stayed there until he fell asleep. But then Jay tried to leave…and Houston woke up…and all hell broke loose. No one can scream like Houston. He’s been honing that skill since birth. He was out of control. Just screaming bloody murder. Madeline woke up and she was crying. No one wanted to get in their beds. I got Madeline in bed and then tried to lie down with Houston. He was not interested. I had to hold him down. He finally dozed off and that’s when I heard Benjamin starting to make noise in the other room. Great. I tried to get out of the bed without waking him up. Nope, not happening. I trade places with Jay and it all starts over. It is now about 2:30 a.m. The screaming continues. Jay gives up and now we have kids wandering around the suite. I put Benjamin down and he goes right back to sleep (love that baby). Back in bed with Houston and Madeline and we look at pictures on my phone in an attempt to keep everyone calm. It works and Houston lies down again. I look at the time and it is 3:15. He decides he wants the phone and when I say no the screaming starts again. I spent the 45 minutes or so holding him down, trying to cuddle with him and calm him down, shushing and singing and fighting the urge to put a pillow over his face. Then he passed out. And so did I. We were up at 7:00. You know it was a rough night when the six week old got the best night’s sleep.

Three hours of sleep makes for cranky kids, cranky parents and a less than fun weekend. And dirty looks from the occupants of the adjoining rooms…and probably everyone within a two block radius. I would have rather stayed home with the three of them by myself. That I know I can do without too much stress. Not to mention the trip did nothing for my campaign to have a fourth baby. Just when I think Jay might be coming around we have to go and try to travel. Nothing makes you want more kids than traveling. I’m always hearing people who got off of a plane with kids or out of the car after a long drive and say, “I can’t wait to have [more] kids!”

But at least Jay got to surf and on the way home we stopped at an outlet mall and went shopping at real stores. We also got this:

And last but not least, President Obama is doing a bus tour of Florida and we saw Air Force One parked at Patrick AFB.

Totally worth it*.

* Italics = sarcasm.

They need this in the next edition of the DSM: FTPD – Fussy Toddler Personality Disorder.

Between teething and a cold Houston has not been “himself” for a little over a week. It seems a lot longer than that. So long in fact that I forget what his old personality was like. I know that I used to be able to (sort of) stay on top of cleaning up around the house and clearing the table of breakfast dishes and washing some dishes and emptying the dishwasher and vacuuming and folding laundry and all of the other mom jobs that need to get done on a semi-regular basis. Now the house is a disaster. I can only tell myself that other things are more important than a sort of clean house for so long before the clutter and mess just makes me more stressed than I already am dealing with a fussy toddler. Yes, he is officially a toddler and does not get the same pass he once did to act like a maniac and cry for no apparent reason.

He’s always been pretty needy, but we had gotten to a place where he would play by himself on the floor and look at books or pull puzzles off the shelf, dump the pieces and move on. He would “play” with Madeline or try and “play” with the cats. I could leave the room and get a drink of water or make lunch. I could go pee by myself or let the dog outside. I could put on a Baby Einstein video and make dinner without much interruption. Now it’s a major meltdown if I make a move that gives the impression I might leave the room. Sitting near me isn’t enough; he has to actually be on my lap. I haven’t prepared a meal in forever without (a) leaving him sitting on the floor screaming, (b) holding him and using one hand to cook, or (c) going about my business while he clings to the back of my pant legs pleading to be picked up. It. Is. Exhausting.

I’m at that point where I’m starting to fear he might always be like this. From experience with Madeline I know that these moods go away, but it doesn’t really make it any easier. As mundane as normal is around here, I need things to get back to normal.

Instead of consoling him I took this this picture. Mom of the Year.

Anybody want to baby-sit? I can almost guarantee you will see this face.

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