Saturday, July 12, 2014

Enjoy it now

What is there to do, really, other than just accept that every day I will hold my child for a few hours while he naps and I will get up around 5:30 a.m. every day? It won't last forever, and as I'm being commanded, I ought to ENJOY THIS NOW, because these moments are fleeting.

Which I get. I've understood it from the first second I saw my boy's little alien eyeballs blinking back at me. When he was just a newborn, my mom gave me a 6-month outfit for him to wear later, when he would fit into it, and I was almost angry when I saw it. THIS IS SOMETHING A BOY WEARS, NOT A BABY. He mustn't grow, mustn't, mustn't, and then he just kept doing it and now he's 7 months and wears 9 month outfits because he's pretty much going to be an enormous human being.

So yes, I'm enjoying this now, even though I average five hours of broken up sleep a night and I've seen way more sunrises than I'd like. People talk about how they never understood how they could love something as much as they love their children, and my theory is: When you look at your kid, it's like looking at the best, most deserving, untainted part of yourself. It's pure narcissism, is what it is. It's all the chances you ever wanted to truly wipe the slate clean and begin anew. Pure love and trust pours off babies' little bodies, and it's pretty impossible to respond with anything other than utter adoration.

And I do adore this kid, so much. Sometimes I feel a physical need to just crack open my chest and store him in there for a while so I can REALLY HOLD HIM, every part of him, compress his little body with my righteous new mom love. I would bite him, hard, if it didn't hurt him, because sometimes you just want to bite something you love, hard.

So it's funny how sometimes this feels like a merry-go-round that's spinning around at 90 miles an hour. Get up, feed, dress, play, clean, nap, feed, nap, feed, nap, feed. I wonder at myself, my Groundhog Day-edness, and whether it's wise to just continue neglecting housework, exercise, this blog, my other writing, the sorry-ass state of my saggy-ass mom jeans. I read somewhere the reason 1950s housewives could do it all -- have kids and keep a house and feed their families -- was they just put their kids in playpens all day and got shit done. Is that what I should be doing?

It's easy for me to get stuck in ruts because I am, at heart, a surly hermit. I'd normally accept any excuse to stay in my home, alone, all day. But, you may be surprised to discover, even surly hermits have their limits, and their tiny little pink hearts sometimes even crave adult human interaction. When the CHOICE to be a hermit becomes more of a necessity, this particular hermit becomes somewhat more surly than usual.

It's extraordinarily difficult for me to ask for help. I just never got any good at it. And I'm a fairly terrible friend, as I have an aversion to talking on the phone and I will rarely be the one to suggest a girl's night out or anything fun, truthfully. (See above re: surly hermit status) But, I've realized I need help. Ooh, it hurts my tiny heart to admit it, but I do. And I will need to ask for it, as people so rarely are gifted with extra sensory perception. I will need to call people on that dad-blasted phone of mine, and beg them to come hold my child so that I can clean the bathroom or write or go buy some clothing from this decade. Or I will beg them to sit with me and converse as normal adult humans sometimes do. Maybe we will even eat a meal of food. It's a little overwhelming to think about.

I don't want to do it. I really don't, a whole lot. A big part of me keeps saying I should be able to do this. I'm perhaps the forty bajillionth woman to have a child on this planet, so it's hardly anything special to raise a child. And I wanted this boy so badly, it makes me feel guilty to sense anything but gratitude when it comes to the situation I'm in.

But this temporary, "fleeting" time, while flashing by at 90 miles an hour, has been really difficult. Isolating, frustrating, monotonous, crazy-making. I hesitate to admit it, but I believe many mothers feel this way at times. I believe it is normal, and I believe that because our villages have dissipated, it's up to us to rebuild them around ourselves in our times of need. I've never called upon my village until now, and now, I am calling.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sleep Training: The Seventh Circle of Hell

Well. It's possible there couldn't be anything more dull to read about than how my kid sleeps (or doesn't), and yet this is my blog, and my kid's sleep consumes my Every Waking Hour, so that is all I am capable of writing about at the moment.

Where to begin ...

Possibly with the sleep books. I have read:

  • Secrets of the Baby Whisperer
  • Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems (Ferber)
  • Good Night, Sleep Tight
  • The No-Cry Sleep Solution
  • The New Contended Little Baby Book
  • Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

I have tried the suggestions in each of these books, to varying degrees, and what I have found is that my child is one of those who will cry hysterically for hours, even if he can see me; even if I am holding him; even if I am patting him gently and murmuring consolingly; even if he is well-fed and has a clean diaper and is sitting prettily in the magic sleep window.

What I know:

- If I let my kid cry, he will eventually fall asleep after many hours. If I let him cry continually for days on end, I am somewhat certain he would eventually get the picture and learn to sleep on his own.
- I cannot let my kid cry for days on end.

Which puts me in a difficult position. And on the receiving end of quite a bit of advice. "He will have to cry." This has been said by my husband; by my pediatrician; by my mother; by many, many friends. Eventually, they say, he will have to cry. If not now, then later. The longer you wait, the harder it gets, etc, etc.

I'd come to accept this, and I chose a method that allowed him to cry but also allowed me to comfort him while he did so (The Good Night Sleep Tight method). This method works, although not as quickly as Ferber's method or the extinction method, which I was OK with because it's supposed to be gentler -- babies tend to not react so terribly when their loving parents are sitting at their crib side. I know many people who have successfully tried this method and none of their children reacted as mine did, which is to say he cried so hard for so long that he began choking and finally choked so badly that he stopped breathing and I nearly called 911. So here's how I now feel about any sort of hysterical crying during sleep training: Hell to the no.

The No Cry book is my last hope, and is, of course, the slowest and most difficult method. Which is fine, except for the fact that in the meantime I am the only person who can currently feed or put this kid to bed without him going totally bonkers. And the nap time and bedtime rituals are very elaborate and time consuming. For example, since the 4-month sleep regression (this is a real thing all parents should fear), I have had to hold Graham for the entire duration of his naps. *insert unamused emoji* For weeks, I tried to continue doing what I'd done previously -- nurse the kid to sleep, then put him in his crib for the remainder of his naps. He wasn't sleeping great, but he was sleeping. Now, whenever I put him down, he immediately wakes and cries.

This is not a child who falls asleep easily, or just anywhere. I see people posting photos of their kids asleep on the floor, in the bathtub, in the high chair, you name it, and I just laugh and laugh. If nothing else, I have learned that what moms all say is true: All kids are different. What works for one will not necessarily work for another. I'd amend that to say: What works for most kids probably doesn't work for mine. And that's OK. He comes from a long line of stubborn buttheads. Stubborn buttheads even marry into the family and produce even more stubborn buttheads. I am certainly a stubborn butthead, but apparently not enough of one to force my kid to cry until this problem is solved. Others in my family have solved this same problem with the cry-it-out method and describe hours of crying and vomiting. Stubborn buttheads for life, I tell you.

All that to say ... I just needed to write this because dealing with this on my own most days is a lot. It's grueling at times. I absolutely understand postpartum depression now. At times I feel very alone and desperate and hopeless. I cling to comments from friends who've been where I am and remind me this isn't forever and there are things that will work and to keep trying and when all else fails, there is wine.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My writing process

I'm delighted to be fairly alert and with a laptop perched on my knees this evening. If all goes well, Graham will stay in dreamland and I will finish this post tonight.

Katie of Ettible asked me to answer a few questions about my writing process. I rarely think of myself as having an actual process, but I am a writer of sorts -- I once made a living as a newspaper reporter, and most recently published an e-book on Amazon.

Here are the questions:

1) What are you working on right now?

I've mainly just been focused on keeping up with blogging, because all of my writing was derailed by the birth of my son in late November. I really need to get back to all of my writing, if only for my sanity. I have two more books in the works at the moment. One is science fiction and unlike anything I've written before. The other is the second book in the Nicky Beets series (the first book is called "Bigger."). I can't wait to get back to it!

2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I can't honestly say that it does. When I was a reporter I wrote a few clever articles that were entertaining and funny, which can be difficult to do on a deadline. That was always my favorite way to write -- whenever I could editorialize a little -- so it was probably a natural progression to start writing fiction. Although I have to say I must have been one arrogant SOB to just jump into fiction with exactly zero training in fiction writing. Turns out writing novels is not easy! So long story short -- my fiction writing is nothing special, really, although I personally think it's at least entertaining.

3) Why do you write what you do?

I've always wanted to write a novel. I've always loved reading and have always been a daydreamer with a crazy imagination. I wanted to turn my daydreams into a book that I would love to read. I also continue to blog because I want to stay fresh and satisfy my unholy urge to overshare most of the details of my personal life. It's a problem many introverted writers have.

4) How does your writing process work?

Hahaha! "Work" is an overstatement. At least half of "Bigger" was written while I was slightly inebriated. Much of it was written while listening to Chopin (see above re: arrogance). I tended to hem and haw for much of the day before forcing myself to finally sit at my desk and then write write write until something interrupted me or it was suddenly dark and I was hungry. Once I finally had a rough draft, I tore it to shreds in editing. I rewrote, edited, rewrote, edited, rewrote, edited ... The final product only barely resembles what I started out with, and I am still not completely satisfied with it. But if I have to edit that thing again, I might lose my marbles. I'd really love to edit and rewrite this entire post, actually, but I don't have the time.

I haven't asked anyone to answer these same questions, but I think if you're interested, you should! I'd love to read about how you do it!