The Light at the End of the Fourth Trimester

Sugarpie is quickly approaching her 3-month birthday,  and the official end if the newborn phase. And, oh my gosh, what a phase it has been!

For those that don’t know, the first three months of a baby’s life are now often referred to as the “fourth trimester”, a period when baby wants and needs to be kept close – preferably to Mom – under conditions that closely mimic life in the womb. The idea is that this period is a time when parents gently help a baby transition to this big, loud, bright world we live in.

Every baby is different, and so it has been with Sugarpie and her big sister. To be fair, I honestly don’t remember a whole lot about Babycakes’s newborn days. But their temperaments have been different from the start.

We have dealt with mild colic and gassiness (which thankfully seems to be abating for the most part). We have dealt with inconsolable crying, which is now termed “purple crying” (perhaps to make parents feel better). We went from ridiculous all-day sleeping to “We don’t need no stinkin’ naps!”

The sleep is one area where Babycakes and Sugarpie have some similarities. Babycakes was a crap napper, and we struggled with night sleep for a long time (those of you who have been with me for a while will recall my lamentations on sleep training, etc.). While Babycakes was sleeping 10-11 hours straight at night by about 10 weeks before going back to multiple night wakings from about 4 months until 15 months, Sugarpie still wakes once or twice a night to eat. I usually get a big chunk of 5-6 hours (once she went 7!) at the start of the night, so that has helped me immensely. But the lack of good naps (I mean, longer than 10-20 minutes, I kid ye not) makes it hard to get anything done during the day. I know naps will get better, because they did for Babycakes, but it does make it hard.

Temperament is very different, too. Babycakes was a content baby who displayed almost no interest in moving on her own for the longest time. I would put toys just out of reach to entice her to roll over, watch her get 3/4 of the way from back to tummy, and I could seriously see the moment when she decided the toy just wasn’t worth it. She didn’t crawl until 8 months and didn’t walk until 14 months. Sugarpie, however, is in constant motion and, other than that first bought of night sleep, isn’t really completely settled when she’s asleep. And she is just now starting to play reasonably well on her own for a little while (which gives me time to, you know, attend to nature’s call).

I don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining, or trying to compare my kids. Both of my children are amazing blessings that I honestly didn’t think we would have. Maybe it’s because we were so far removed from the baby phase that it feels harder. And I know it will get better. Within a couple months, the naps will start consolidating (and I can perhaps get a regular schedule going for myself and my writing!), and life will become normal again – at least, whatever normal will be for us now.

My Goals for 2020

2020 is upon us, and with it the obligitory Yearly Goal Setting Post.

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This year, I’m piggybacking onto the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge, hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

So what’s on tap for me this year? I’m trying to be conscious of the fact that I have a new baby, which obviously changes a lot in terms of how much time I have for any sort of goal setting. But here goes.

Writing

Obviously I want to try and do more writing this year. This includes submitting the historical romance that placed 2nd in three 2018 contests (yes, I know that was a goal last year, too). I also need to return to the first installment in my Sweet Somethings spinoff trilogy, which has sat in First Draft Limbo since last February.

This also incorporates freelancing. I had several excellent freelance writing gigs the past couple years and I want to keep that up, in addition to my independent contractor work with Newsela.

As an extension, I would love to finally set up a copyediting business as well. This has been sitting on my chairside table for over a year. I should probably start perusing it:

Ultimately I would love if I can make enough with my pen, so to speak, to cover Babycakes’s school expenses and maybe a little extra.

Reading More Books

Or just reading books.

More on that later.

Cooking

I love to cook and bake, but haven’t had time to do much of either since I went back to work in 2015.

Okay, since Babycakes was born and then we moved to Charlotte and most of my kitchen stuff stayed in boxes for almost a year.

Being a stay-at-home-mom again for a while will, eventually, give me time to cook and bake again like I used to. For now, it helps that I am now the owner of an Instant Pot:

Apparently I can make yogurt with it? I’m also interested in the fact that I can also apparently sterilze baby bottles with it.

Being Mommy

Of course this year, I want to focus once again on being Mommy. I am officially on maternity leave for the rest of the school year, and then we have to reevaluate our plans beyond that. But I have a 5 year old in kindergarten, and I want to volunteer at her school. And of course, Sugarpie is here.

I also hope to not only finish filling out Babycakes’s baby book, but also keeping up with Sugarpie’s.

what are your big goals for 2020?

A New Edition – I mean – Addition

2019 is coming to a close, and what a whirlwind year it proved to be.

I got started with some very cool independent contracting work, which I’m looking forward to continuing next year.

I self-published a historical fiction short story.

And our family welcomed a new “edition”, you will.

I found out on April 1st (no joke) that we were expecting again. It was the first time since having Babycakes that we had a positive test, and disbelief isn’t a strong enough word for how I felt. As with Babycakes, worry and a lingering need to remain somewhat detached were the norm.

It was not an easy pregnancy.

With Babycakes, I had pretty severe nausea and vomiting from week 6 to week 16 of that pregnancy, and this time around was worse. The nausea began around week 5 and continued literally until the day before I delivered. I had food aversions, mainly meat – which caused anemia. I felt tired. I felt terrible. And as with Babycakes, I worried that, no matter what I did, there was a chance this just wouldn’t work out.

But on December 4th, Sugarpie arrived.

She is an unexpected blessing.

Now, we reenter The Baby Bubble.

School’s Out For Summer!

Friday was my last day of work for the school year, which, weekend not withstanding, means today is the first official day of summer vacation.

Ahhhh….

Of course, though our neighborhood does have a community pool, I don’t exactly envision myself spending the next two months relaxing by or in it. Wading around the kiddie pool trying to keep my toddler from falling and smashing her head into the concrete edge of said kiddie pool? Maybe that’s a bit more realistic.

(I jest. The kiddie pool is actually pretty sweet, and Babycakes totally loves it.)

In any case, it’s been quite a whirlwind of a year. Starting a new teaching job, putting Babycakes in daycare, taking Babycakes out of daycare and into Gramma-care, moving to our permanent home, releasing two novels (remember that Better Than Chocolate and When In Rome are both available for Kindle, and Better Than Chocolate is now in print!), and of course surviving my first year teaching fourth grade.

So what does the summer hold? Some training for work. Getting ready to change schools and grade levels. Writing Sweet Somethings Book #3, of course (and hopefully Book #4 as well). And a trip back to my old stomping grounds in July to visit friends and family.

And my first book signing! Details on that for those local to my old stomping grounds will be forthcoming once everything is completely finalized. Stay tuned to my Facebook page for the event announcement.

And the best is spending lots of time with Babycakes, who is now almost 2 and entering the “I won’t eat anything in the fruit or vegetable groups except carrots and asparagus and maybe some apple if you’re lucky” stage.

She also wants soup every day for lunch.

If it’s not one thing, it’s another, right? ūüôā

The Bittersweet Moments We Cherish

Today is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day, and this year, as last year, is a bittersweet day of remembrance for me.

Those of you who’ve followed my blog over the past few years know our story, but for those who don’t, here it is.

The hubs and I started trying for a baby in June of 2010, but never saw the “two pink lines” we hoped for until a full year had passed.

Joy is an understatement of what we felt.

We shared with a select few friends and family members, and started making our plans for a nursery, for names, for baby furniture, and everything else that goes with it.

Then, it ended.

On August 4, 2011, my early missed miscarriage was confirmed by an ultrasound. My body had not recognized that our baby had died in utero, so we opted to have a D&C procedure. I remember asking my husband the night before if we should request another ultrasound, just to be sure. But in the end, we knew it would be useless and would just confirm what we already  knew.

Our prayed for, hoped for baby was now an angel.

It took several months for me to even begin feeling like myself again, but so much had changed. I was a mother, but I would never be able to hold my first baby. I would never know the color of that baby’s eyes or hair, or hear that baby’s laughs or cries. I would never watch that baby learn to roll, crawl, stand, and walk, and never pace the floors at night when that baby couldn’t sleep for teething, sickness, or because it was Tuesday.

We went on to undergo round after round of fertility treatments, but to no avail. We were losing hope, and each year when March 4th rolled around – the date our first angel would have been born, would have celebrated a birthday – my heart broke all over again. On the outside, few people knew how much we were hurting, but the truth of our loss was always there – in the panted and recarpeted bedroom that should have been the nursery, in the one early ultrasound picture that, once upon a time, confirmed for me that our baby had a heartbeat, and was now hidden away to prevent further pain.

In March 2013, two pink lines again appeared. We dared to be joyful again, but it wasn’t to last. In fact, it lasted only a week before the numbers from my blood draws confirmed it.

This second baby was also an angel.

In some ways, this second pregnancy was less real, because I never reached the point of feeling exhausted or nauseous, as I had during my first pregnancy. We started talking about our options. We decided to apply to begin the process to adopt. At the same time, we continued a few rounds of fertility treatments, both medical and homeopathic, as well as tests to try and determine why I couldn’t get pregnant, or if I did, why I couldn’t hold the pregnancy.

There were no answers. Just empty arms.

We’d finally given up on having a biological child. We were accepted into a home study program for domestic infant adoption, and were a week away from beginning.

And then…

Two pink lines.

We were actually at my in-laws for Thanksgiving when we learned of our third pregnancy. I was terrified, certain this one, too, would end in miscarriage. My doctor put me on a medical regimen to prevent miscarriage, which included the use of progesterone supplements, hormone shots, baby aspirin, and injections of a blood thinner. My lower abdomen was a patchwork of bruises from the daily injections, but it was also a reminder that we were doing all we could to hold onto this baby.

Nausea set in. It wasn’t just morning sickness. It was all-day sickness. If I was awake, I was on the verge of puking. I was exhausted. My sense of smell went crazy, and I could barely eat for weeks, let alone cook anything for myself or my husband. We didn’t travel at Christmas to visit family like we normally did, for fear of being too far from my doctor. I had ultrasounds and blood draws every two weeks, and my doctor promised that, if it made me feel better, I could have ultrasounds done in between just to see my baby.

We made it to the end of the first trimester. The “morning” sickness ebbed away. My belly began to become a bump.

I felt the flutters, then the little kicks, that told us Babycakes was there.

Alive.

Growing.

Safe.

I never let go of the fear of losing her, even to the very moment she was born by c-section, following 12 hours of labor, on August 14, 2014. In the back of my mind, shadowing my entire pregnancy, was the knowledge that I’d hoped twice before, and lost twice before.

Even as I labored at the hospital to bring Babycakes into the world, I thought of my angel babies.

The first, who would have been a two-and-almost-a-half year old toddler, overjoyed at the prospect of a baby sister.

And the second, whose brief time with me imprinted on my heart but is even more bittersweet because, without that loss, there would be no Babycakes.

The first time I held Babycakes, the first time I nursed her, I felt the aching, missing weight of the two babies I never got to hold, and never will in this lifetime.

The first time Babycakes cried out in the night, I remembered the two babies whose cries I never got to hear or comfort.

The first time Babycakes looked at me and recognized me, smiled at me, laughed at me, I heard the voices of the babies whose voices I will never hear and whose smiles I will never see.

Babycakes has been the most amazing, unexpected blessing. She is a gift, a miracle, a joy we never thought we’d knew. At times I feel guilty when she has to be left to cry in her crib because I have to use the bathroom, or I feel like I’m being ungrateful when my frustration over her lack of uninterrupted night sleep has me drained, frustrated, and failing as a parent. I end up holding her and crying as she nurses back to oblivion, whispering how sorry I am for not being perfect, and feeling in my heart that I will always be trying to make up, with her, for the things I will never get to do with my two angel babies.

I still cry for my angel babies, the first who would be three and a half, the other not quite two years old.¬†I hope someday I’ll be able to explain to Babycakes about them, how someday we will all be together again.

I still wish for them.

I hope they know how much I still love them.

In Which I Lament My Toddler’s Sleep Patterns, Beg for Advice, & Giveaway a Kindle Book

I’m going to apologize ahead of time for the length of today’s post, but if you’re willing to listen to me whine a little, please read to the bottom. I have an incentive for anyone who’ll help me out and share any wisdom you have when it comes to tackling toddler sleep.

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know that I’ve been a little obsessed with Babycakes’s sleep patterns.

Okay, a lot obsessed.

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I’ve read many books and websites that all supposedly contain the key, the magic formula, to perfect night sleep (naps are a different beast which I admit I have passed on to her daycare teachers to battle – and luckily they have had surprising success). We have implemented many routines and tried many strategies to help her fall asleep on her own, stay asleep, and/or go back to sleep on her own if she wakes in the night.

Here’s my conclusion:¬†It’s all bollocks.

There is no magic formula. There really isn’t even a consensus as to what a magic formula might look like because NOT ONE PERSON ON THE FACE OF THIS PLANET KNOWS HOW TO GET BABIES TO SLEEP CONSISTENTLY.

There, I said it.

Here’s the thing. The hubs and I worked for literally months to get Babycakes to fall asleep on her own at bedtime. We have had a solid bedtime routine in place since she was like three months old. I gradually shifted the final steps around so she went from nursing to comatose to nursing to really sleepy, to putting her down awake enough that she fussed a few minutes after I left the room. Then we did the big leap of putting nursing BEFORE books and the goodnight songs, and she got to the point in short order where I could lay her down while singing the final verse of her goodnight song, she’d look at me, roll on her side, and I’d walk out of the room. The first couple weeks, it took 5-10 minutes of fussing before she’d fall asleep (and on the occasional night when it took longer, the hubs went in and worked his Daddy magic to get her down). Every now and then, she’d have a crap nap day and would fall asleep while nursing, but it didn’t seem to do any damage to bedtime overall.

But beyond that, we could never get consistent with her nighttime sleep habits. Sometimes she’d go like a week or more when she’d sleep from bedtime (which has been between 7 and 7:30 for a long, long time) until 4 or 5am, at which point she’d nurse and go back to sleep for a couple hours. And then she all of a sudden would start a stretch of waking every two hours and sometimes having a cryfest in the middle of the night for two hours straight. We were sort of on survival mode for a while, but I wasn’t back to work so at least I wasn’t blerging my way through the day.

Aaaand then I went back to work and we started daycare and the onslaught of Constant Sickness.

Between the ridiculously slow and apparently painful teething, the separation anxiety (my mom’s theory) of going from “always home with Mommy” to “with Not-Mommy all day” in the span of a week, constant colds and post-nasal drip that have resulted in numerous puke-in-her-sleep episodes that we don’t discover until 3am when I go in and get hit with the smell of vomit, and last week’s double ear infection (from said constant congestion), survival mode hit Critical Mass.

It became a game of “Let’s just do anything to get her back to sleep.”

Sadly, many of the habits we’d broken (namely nursing to sleep) have become crutches to eek out just a couple more hours. Our lofty plans to night wean have been put on the back burner until such a time as we can get her healthy enough to not need the extra soothing and/or she sleeps a consistent enough stretch that we can rest up for the certain nightly battles of a strong-willed 13 month old who quite clearly indicated to me this morning, through baby sign language and baby babble, that she wanted “more nursing” when the hubs brought her to our room at 5:45.

(You can tell how wiped out I am because I just wrote, like, four paragraphs that are actually crazy long run-on sentences. And I kinda don’t care.)

In some respects, I think we’re content to function in survival mode for another month, at which point my mother will have retired and moved to Charlotte to live with us. We will then be able to pull Babycakes out of full-time daycare, which should do wonders for her overall health. I will probably relax, which should help Babycakes relax, and maybe we’ll all start sleeping better. But most of all, my mom is a veteran mom, and among other things, she is planning on making a solid, consistent, long afternoon nap that Babycakes falls asleep for on her own a reality. In turn, that should help night sleep.

Or so all those “experts” tell me.

But survival mode – which basically means we go to bed at 9:00 every night like we did when Babycakes was a newborn, we bargain with each other in the middle of the night over who gets to try and put her back down when she wakes at 2:00, and I guzzle Coke through the day like it’s my job – will only get us so far. Because a couple other weird problems have surfaced in the past few¬†weeks.

We don’t know if it’s the fact that four or five teeth are imminently about to erupt, if it’s because of the double ear infection, one of the dreaded “sleep regressions” that you basically have to suffer through every other month, if she’s waking at the wrong point in a sleep cycle, or what. But two things are happening.

First, her morning wake time has gotten stupid early. Like “you should only be getting up this early for the day if you’re catching a flight to Disney World” early. Sometimes it’s before 5am. It’s ridiculous, especially since she doesn’t get a nap at daycare until after 11:00 (despite needing one at 8 or 9). What use to be her “snooze button feed” is now “I’m up for the day.”

Second, she’s not waking happy. For the most part¬†since we moved her to her own room, she’d wake up happy and we’d hear her babbling to her loveys. She’d play for up to 45 minutes before starting to complain. Now, all of a sudden, she wakes up crying like she’s been abandoned. The hubs thinks she’s starting to be scared of the dark, but she’s always had a dim nightlight in her room, so she’s never even slept in a pitch-dark room.

We’re stumped. Nothing we’ve tried is getting her back to sleep at that point. All that helps anything is bringing her to our bed (which use to be a weekend morning treat to play after she woke at 7:30 or 8) and letting her nurse for 45 minutes or more.

I’m asking – no, BEGGING – for advice and help from the veteran moms out there. How do I get Babycakes to sleep longer in the morning again? How to we get her to wake up happy? And for the love of all that is holy, HOW do we even start planning to night wean?

Fair warning – we are not cry-it-out parents. Do not tell us to just turn off the monitor and let her cry herself back to sleep. We’ve tried that a few times and it does not work. She will cry at the top of her lungs for an hour or more until I go in and let her nurse. I can’t take it. I lie awake knowing she’s in there crying her eyes out, and I’m laying there crying MY eyes out in turn. Plus, given the post-nasal drip, her sensitive gag reflex, and the aforementioned puke parties, CIO¬†is not a road I wish to trod.

CIO aside, I will open-mindedly listen to any and all advice anyone may have. In fact, I am so willing to take and try anything, and so desperate for more than 3 consecutive hours of sleep in a single night, that I will give one commenter the Kindle book of their choice.

That’s right.

Leave me a comment with your advice, and on Wednesday, September 30th (that’s one week from today), one commenter will be selected through a random integer generator, and I will giveaway to that person any Kindle book you want from Amazon.

And GO!

That Sleep Training Thing Again

It seems like only yesterday we were bringing Babycakes home from the hospital – and now she’s just days away from being 10 months old.

She also still has not reached the “sleeping through the night” milestone.

I’m aware that, for many babies, it is developmentally appropriate to wake 1-3 times a night well into their second year or beyond. But the hubs and I are tired.

Babycakes is tired.

We’re starting to run on fumes.

The hubs and I had sort of agreed that we weren’t going to force sleep training on Babycakes. At least, we weren’t going to make her Cry-It-Out or even do controlled crying, or that thing where you stand there and watch your baby cry and fuss and reach for you while you just keep telling her it’s “time for sleepies” (which is what her pediatrician said to do).

That last option really just seems incredibly mean.

I’m standing right here. I hear and see you desperately trying to get me to pick you up, and I know as soon as I do, you’ll stop crying and settle down. But that creates dependency, you see, and I don’t want to have to move into your college dorm room with you to help you fall asleep when you wake up in the middle of the night.

Bollocks.

To be fair, it’s been a long time since Babycakes has nursed into complete oblivion, and it’s a rare thing for her to be totally asleep when either of us lay her down, whether after nursing or rocking/bouncing. How do we know this? Probably 99% of the time when we lay her down – on her back, even though she’s capable of rolling, crawling, sitting up, standing up, etc. and ends up on her tummy a couple times a week anyway – she rolls onto her side and props her feet up on the crib rails. So whatever we’ve been doing seems to be working. She’s getting to sleep without crying herself to sleep, and most of the time we’re just getting her calm enough to allow her to finish falling asleep on her own.

That’s the point, right?

Of course, if we even wanted to try sleep training, there’s no good time. All the “expert” advice says not to do so during the following situations:

  • When traveling or about to travel
  • When baby is sick (horrible cold right at 6 months)
  • When baby is teething (She’s been since 2.5 months and we only have two teeth to show for it. Teething is sort of a constant state of being, so….)
  • During the holidays (yeah, there went Christmas, which included travel)
  • During a move (Did I mention we just moved to Charlotte? We moved to Charlotte.)
  • During a time of transition to new childcare/mom’s return to work (so all of August will be out if I go back to teaching)

See what I mean?

I guess we’ve sort of developed our own sleep training method. Babycakes is (usually) well-rested, and definitely thriving.

One of the things I’ve tried to do for a number of months is get her attached to a lovey.

In fact, she has four.

The Sleep Entourage: Lambie, Purple Pingu, Bear, and Giraffe

The Sleep Entourage:
Lambie, Purple Pingu, Bear, and Giraffe

I was so desperate to get her attached to these loveys that we invested in a second Lambie and a Spare Bear, there are three different colored Pingus, and that pink Giraffe is the younger sister of the yellow Giraffe my mom gave Babycakes for Christmas (it lights up and plays music if you press the tummy).

These four friends, along with her Classic Pooh mobile that was over her crib until she started pulling herself up about a month ago, have been with her pretty much constantly during sleep times since she was four months old.

I know.¬†No stuffed animals in the crib. But before she was mobile enough to do anything dangerous, Lambie and Bear were lashed to the rails, and Pingu and Giraffe are so round, one little bat of her hand would send them flying. She had plenty of opportunities to play with the second set, so by the time she was yanking Lambie and Bear so hard the ties were coming loose, I knew she’d be okay to have them unlashed.

(We also used a blanket securely tucked under the mattress. I know. More rule breaking. Maybe we’ll be better about the rules with Hypothetical Baby #2.)

In my motherly opinion, having the sleep entourage has prevented a lot of unwarranted crying. Why do I know this? Because since we moved her to her own room, we’d often hear her talking to her loveys when she woke in the morning. She also plays happily with them when she wakes from most naps. So it was worth breaking (or at least bending) the rules a little bit.

Of course, the funny thing is that the item she actually attached to, that she fiddles with and gets sleepy when she rubs it on her face?

The frigging cloth diapers I use as burp cloths.

It’s probably because I’ve used them since she was born, so she associates them with nursing and Mommy.

So while we have a small fortune in Sleep Entourage members, both primary and secondary, if I filled her crib with extra burp clothes, she’d probably be just as happy.