Tuesday, July 31, 2007
There was the time two days ago when I felt like I was finally discovering his rhythms and deciphering his cries – distinguishing between the scrunchy I’ve-got-gas face and the head-bobbing I-really-do-need-to-eat-something-now whimpers – and then swiftly meeting his needs. It felt almost mystical, like I was really settling into my role as mother, finally understanding the needs of this tiny being, finally connecting to him more deeply.
Then yesterday, although Owen took some nice naps, his time awake was all agitation. He doesn’t like to lie anywhere or sit propped on a boppy pillow or lounge on my legs or sit in a bouncy seat for more than a minute at a time. He’s not yet comfortable in a sling or a front carrier and most of the time he’s not willing to sit in the swing.
We just can’t achieve even four-minute stretches of Happy Awake, and Rob and I started trying to remember wearily last night if Will seemed this constantly needy while awake at Owen’s age. Sure, he screamed with much more fury than milder-mannered Owen but we think we remember some wide-awake and content moments too. It’s as if little Owen is reading past blogs (see "Feisty Angel Babies" on July 20) and saying, “Ha! You think you can label me Angel/Textbook Baby! I’ll show you…”
And yet he is an angel, just an agitated one, always in need of a new position, a change of scene and probably still wishing he could retreat back to the womb and do some laid-back upside-down floating once again.
Monday, July 30, 2007
We borrowed an Arm’s Reach Co-sleeper from a friend and we have a little baby nest bed (The First Years Close & Secure Sleeper) that sits on our bed, but somehow in the middle of the night it becomes difficult for Owen to go back to sleep once I move him back to the co-sleeper or the nest bed. So he had been right next to me in our bed, with the secure sleeper dividing him from Rob, who is a heavier sleeper and who is the one we’ve worried about in terms of the dangers of baby suffocation. Side by side, Owen and I seemed to sleep in more harmony (just as Will and I did in that first year) and I’m a light enough sleeper that I’ve always felt in tune with his presence and his needs. (Go to http://www.askdrsears.com/html/7/t071000.asp to read Dr. Sears’ arguments about how mothers act as breathing pacemakers for their babies, how mothers and baby’s develop “sleep harmony” side by side and how co-sleeping may reduce the risk of SIDS).
But a visit to our pediatrician, Dr. Mansfield, for Owen’s two-week well visit on Friday got me rethinking things again. He told me about a story he heard on NPR discussing the suffocation deaths of five infants (ages 27 days to 3 months) over the past week in Detroit due to various co-sleeping scenarios which weren’t laid out in detail (one incident occurred when the infant was co-sleeping with a sibling). You can hear the story, which aired July 26 and was entitled “Infant Smothering Deaths Spike in Detroit,” at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12262817. Now for the past couple nights I’ve been forcing myself to put Owen back into the arms-reach co-sleeper after nursing, even though it may mean a slightly less peaceful night for all of us.
I know all the arguments by co-sleeping advocates that if you’re not overweight, not consuming alcohol, not smoking and especially if you’re the mother of the infant (and biologically tuned in to his every peep), then co-sleeping is safe and provides emotional benefits to baby and parents. But just the remote possibility of losing little Owen to some sort of bed-related accident frightens the heck out of me. So Friday and Saturday night I made myself put Owen back in the co-sleeper even though he couldn't settle into it easily and we lost some sleep as a result. But last night a few gentle pats was enough to reassure him and we slept more soundly and a bit longer than we have since his first sleepy week of his life. He may have just been exhausted, but hopefully I've arrived at a good compromise: with Owen safe but still nearly next to me and maybe less likely to develop a years-long co-sleeping addiction.
If you have any thoughts on co-sleeping and why you did or didn’t go down that road with your own children – or how you did it safely, please share.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Please share your own silly kid moments anytime. Kids are my favorite comedians.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Will, who declines zucchinis when they come sautéed, boiled, steamed or camouflaged in casseroles, dug right into these chocolate-chip-covered delights. The truth is, though, that while there may be a couple cups of shredded zucchini to help you see this as a healthy dessert, you really just need to try this recipe because it’s so much tastier than plain old chocolate brownies. Grace’s four-year-old daughter, Ella, may have added her own special touch to the desserts as she helped her mom measure and stir the ingredients.
Here’s the recipe with Grace’s notes about how she altered it along the way. Happy baking:
3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups grated zucchini (I bet you could use squash and maybe carrots)
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 3/4 cup sugar (I used less - about 1 1/4 cup)
1 cup vegetable oil (I used less - about 3/4 cup)
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla (I used more - about 1 1/2 tsp)
12 oz chocolate chips (I used less - just enough to cover top)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (I omit since we don't use nuts in our house)
Combine first 4 ingredients in bowl, stir well. Combine zucchini and butter; add to flour mixture. Stir well. Combine sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla; add to mixture. Stir 2 minutes. Pour into greased 15 x 10 inch pan; top with chocolate chips (and nuts if you are using). Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (I found it took longer to cook). Test center to see if "cake" like. Yield: 32 brownies.
Do you have a yummy, kid-friendly recipe to share? Please post.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
There is something almost magical about finally managing to graduate one kid from diapers (well, except for the one essential nighttime diaper) just as we are beginning the diaper cycle all over again with the wonderfully odorless mustard-colored poop of a breastfed infant. Still odorlessness is about all that’s wonderful about newborn poop, since it comes so frequently that I feel like I’m changing diapers every hour. There must have been some higher power looking out for me, saying, “This woman can’t handle two diapered kids. She just might go berserk.”
Actually it’s Rob’s dad, Will’s “Papa,” who says he deserves some credit for Will’s progress. I didn’t realize it, but while he was loading Will up on pecan waffles at the Waffle House and strolling him through the mall in the run-up to Owen’s birth, he was also having long discussions with Will about his new role as a big brother and about how big brothers poop on the potty.
When I told Will on Tuesday that I wouldn’t be able to take him potty at school anymore because Owen and I wouldn’t fit in the little bathroom with him, he didn’t seem at all disturbed. We talked about how excited Ms. Amber would be if he peed on the potty with her, and I caved in to the briber within me again, and promised him a few bites of fruit roll-up before his nap if he decided to take the plunge.
And the deal was sealed. Goodbye to those overpriced pull-ups, which are really no more than glorified diapers and did nothing to speed along potty training for us. (If you’re still in the throes of diaper training, try some sexy Elmo underwear as incentive for your style-conscious toddler, as well as some cotton training pants to make accidents and clean-ups less traumatic. We got some Luvable Friends training pants from amazon.com.) An especially sturdy, tall foot stool that gives our short-statured Will a place to rest his feet while he poops helped with that portion of Will's potty training (little poopers experience more discomfort with dangling legs). We stole ours from his Aunt Alicia's laundry room after discovering how much more magical it was than our shorter wooden footstool at home.
If you have any potty training tips or stories, please share.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
So now I’m relying more than ever on two books to help me get it right with this newborn in terms of sleep and general peacefulness: One is "The Happiest Baby on the Block," by Harvey Karp, loaned to me by my friend Julie, who said she discovered it too late to help her once fussy son. The subtitle makes a big promise: “The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer.” Karp argues that humans really need a fourth trimester in the womb (that’s why we come out screaming and generally helpless, while creatures like horses can emerge from mama and start walking straight away). It’s just that our heads are so big that we’re forced out too early so as not to bust mother’s hips apart.
So Karp suggests using five “S’s” to help recreate the womb environment for the first few months: swaddling, carrying baby on his side or stomach when he’s awake, loudly “shhhing” your baby with white noise or your own vigorous shushing, swinging, and sucking (on breasts, bottles, pacifiers).
So far a nighttime swaddle and some white noise from a sound machine or radio static definitely seem to help Owen get to sleep and stay asleep longer. (The baby swing and a good toting around on the tummy are less reliable soothers for him.)
Of course nursing is the all-time favorite sleep inducer, but Owen would prefer to nurse whenever he’s awake even if it means spitting some of it back up from his overloaded stomach. So after avoiding pacifier use with Will, we're planning to try it with Owen – once we’re past the third week and any danger of nipple confusion. Karp says it’s pretty easy to wean a kid of his pacifier if you do it before about five to six months of age, so we’ll plan to make it a short-lived support system if Owen’s willing to take it.
I’ll cover sleep bible number two in an upcoming post.
And please leave a comment if you have any baby-calming tricks up your sleeve. I’m considering trying an exercise ball for bouncing Owen to sleep, since the rocking chair's not a sure bet with him.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
His favorite was “the bathtub song,” which he made my mom sing dozens of times, and which my grandmother used to sing to my mother when she was a child. I found a website with a variation on the lyrics and guitar chords to go along with it: http://alumni.media.mit.edu/~kristin/songbook/Silly/Alice.pdf. Here’s my mom’s version:
“Alice, where are you going?”
“Upstairs to take a bath.”
She was so tall and skinny
Just like a big giraffe
And when the bath was over
She pulled the stopper out
(Say this line at breakneck speed): Oh my goodness, oh my soul, there goes Alice down that hole!”
Another silly rhyme passed down from my grandmother that appeals to the icky-loving instincts of male toddlers:
Ooey Gooey was a worm
And a useful rhyme for teaching your toddler to look both ways before crossing the street. (We actually learned this one from Grammy long ago and have been singing it for at least a year now.):
Stop, look and listen before you cross the street
You use your eyes, use your ears, and then you use your feet.
Grammy, who is a former preschool teacher and director, also led Will on multiple thigh-slapping bear hunts. The words and motions that go along with it (as you climb a tree, go through tall grass, swim across a lake and descend into a deep, dark cave) are too lengthy to share here. But you can find a variation of them at
And one last danceable Grammy hit that she used to sing with her preschoolers
Johnny pounds with one hammer, (pounding fist on floor)
one hammer, one hammer
Johnny pounds with one hammer
Now he pounds with two
Johnny pounds with two hammers, (pounding two fists on floor)
two hammers, two hammers
Johnny pounds with two hammers
Now he pounds with three
Johnny pounds with three hammers… (pounding two fists, one foot)
Johnny pounds with four hammers… (two fists, two feet)
Johnny pounds with five hammers (add bobbing head)
five hammers, five hammers
Johnny pounds with five hammers
Now he goes to sleep. (lay head on hands)
Monday, July 23, 2007
It’s hard to know, though, how you’d mark regression with Will, whose potty training has been a several-months-long process. We’ve got peeing in the potty down pat, but Will still won’t go with his teachers at school, so he wears a pull-up on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. And like some other finicky toddlers, he’s been deathly afraid of pooping on the potty.
Our favorite potty books – “My Big Boy Potty” by Joanna Cole and “Everyone Poops” by Taro Gomi (with all its crude pictures of gorillas pooping on the ground, alligators pooping in the water and people pooping on the toilet) – have fascinated Will but never got him past his poop phobia.
So, as much as I try to avoid bribery, I decided to make an exception here. Seemed like if he’d go once or twice and realize it’s not such a big deal, the dangled carrots – which have included toy cars, fruit roll-ups, and trips to McDonald’s for an ice cream cone – could quickly disappear. But for months Will never took the bait.
Then the day after Owen’s birth, Will just up and told his Aunt Alicia that he was going to poop on the potty, and after he accomplished that long-awaited feat, he informed her that he was going to get an ice cream cone. She took photos of the poop, called us up at the hospital and let Will tell every member of the family about his poop and then took him for an ice cream cone. After two ice creams, and a lot of pooping in his diaper in between, the incentive switched to Edy’s fruit pops (they’re all-natural except in their coloring so I can feel less guilty as briber). And now for two days, Will has been consistently pooping on the potty and making no requests for his diaper.
I’m pretty sure I never should have bothered with the bribing, though. I think it’s less about ice cream or fruit pops and more about Will’s new-found status as a big brother that’s inspired him to take one tiny step away from babyhood, one giant leap toward the toilet.
Yesterday after his first poop of the day on the big toilet, Will said proudly, “I could go all day long, ‘cause I’m a big brother. But babies don’t go poo-poo on the potty, but when baby gets a little bigger I can teach him to go poo-poo on the potty.”
Since the day we brought Owen home, I’ve made a concerted effort to ensure that Will is excited by Owen’s diaper changes rather than envying the time I’m spending changing Owen’s diaper (which I’ve heard can be the cause of potty training regression). I have Will dip cotton balls in warm water and ring them out for me to use as I clean Owen’s newborn bottom. I ask him to get the new diaper out, and have him help me put the lid back on the Vaseline. They’re all simple tasks that would be just as easily done without Will’s help, but it makes him feel included and responsible.
Next up: Convincing Will, who once shared with me his notion that his former teachers were afraid of his penis because there was a roaring lion inside of it, that it’s fine to let your teachers help you go potty.
If you have any potty training advice or war stories, please share. Dr.greene.com offers some advice for coping with little anti-poopers at http://www.drgreene.org/body.cfm?id=21&action=detail&ref=762.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Rob and I had been bracing ourselves for utter exhaustion as we anticipated little Owen’s arrival. Those first three months with Will were still vivid in our minds. No matter how many times we had been warned about sleepless nights, nothing prepared us for just how sleep-deprived we became tending to a kid who could scream for hours on end. He wailed when we changed his diaper, he wailed when we put him in his car seat, he wailed when we wished he would sleep at midnight and 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. as we danced him around the house in desperation.
Almost three years later, Owen arrives on the scene -- and sure he’ll fuss a little toward the end of a diaper change or when he’s ready to nurse. But his cries are easily addressed and he goes back to his sweet peaceful self. He’ll wake up a few times a night to nurse and go right back to sleep beside me (we’re going to co-sleep for a few months and then probably bring a halt to it before he learns to depend on it). Sometimes, Rob looks at me in the morning and asks if Owen ever woke up. We just can’t believe our luck.
Funny how many mothers have told me about their second babies being more peaceful than their first. I figured it might be because those moms, and their spouses, had figured something out along the way – maybe as seasoned parents they were no longer stressed out in their interactions with their infants or maybe they had learned not to dote on or over-stimulate their babies too much. But in this case, Owen seems to have just come to us a different kind of soul. We love Will’s spirit, but we’re kind of excited to have a mellower baby (assuming this isn’t just our newborn honeymoon).
My mom has a theory that first babies spend nine months in a tighter womb and emerge more stressed out because of it; then subsequent babies have just enough more wiggle room that they come out significantly more relaxed.
Whatever it is, it’s fascinating to see how the same mix of genes can create such totally different personalities even before environmental and parenting factors have time to kick in.
Plenty of parenting magazines, web sites and books offer baby quizzes to help you assess your baby’s temperament and then learn how to best deal with them accordingly. Dr. Vincent Iannelli talks about three categories of baby: “slow to warm up,” “adaptable,” and “feisty” at http://pediatrics.about.com/od/infantparentingtips/a/04_temperament.htm. For a run-down of some of the standard variables that psychologists use to study children's temperaments, go to http://www.drkutner.com/parenting/articles/baby.html. Tracy Hogg’s book “Secrets of the Baby Whisperer” offers a 20-question “Know Your Baby Quiz” to help you determine whether you have an angel baby, textbook baby, touchy baby, spirited baby, or grumpy baby. I’m not even bothering with the quiz specifics on newborn Owen (I’m not much for quizzes anyway and it’s too early to answer many of the questions for a one-week-old.) But I think I’ve got him pegged as a textbook/adaptable baby, who, after handling a very spirited/feisty baby looks like he came straight from angel baby land.
Monday, July 16, 2007
There is nothing like that instant when an unknowable fetus that has been floating and squirming within you for nine months suddenly becomes your baby boy – so human and perfect and full of personality even in that first wide-awake hour of life.
Rob immediately agreed – after all the name games – that Owen suited our son just fine. And he pointed out that it was a fitting name to describe this past-due-date baby who had been teasing us with increasingly more convincing bouts of false labor for two and a half weeks. As in: “Oh When?”
But it was that last night of labor that became the real emotional roller coaster. After a morning power walk, a potentially labor-inspiring dilation check at the OB office and spicy Thai takeout for dinner, some regular contractions began to kick in. They weren’t too painful, but enough to make me pause and appreciate a back rub, and they stayed steady at four minutes apart even after a bath. Given my first fast labor, the doctor on call and my certified nurse midwife, Melissa Terry Flynn, thought it made sense to go the hospital and see if I was in labor.
So Rob and my mom (who was filling a sort of unofficial doula role for us) and I set out for the hospital, chatting the whole way. That was the first sign – I just wasn’t uncomfortable enough in the car. This labor’s almost fun, I was thinking. At the hospital I checked in at 5 centimeters dilated with contractions still about 4 and 5 minutes apart, so they sent me walking the halls to try to push things into high gear. We’d get the contractions revved up to 3 minutes apart but as soon as I sat down for monitoring they’d space out to pathetic 8-minute intervals.
Even the close-together contractions weren’t too much to bear and my mom started joking about how she was sort of a useless doula with no real role in this labor, which was beginning to look less and less like real labor after all.
Finally Melissa asked me if I’d like to go home and try getting some rest or try to spur things along by letting her break my bag of waters. We all discussed the risks of that plan and decided against it.
I’ve always wanted a natural birth – and it was important to me to let this one begin naturally, even if I was going a bit nutty after all the false starts. On the way home, Rob, mom and I all found ourselves in exhausted hysterics, laughing through tears about the fact that we were hospital rejects. And some of my tears were real – I didn’t want to have to wait for yet another day and I felt somehow silly for showing up at the hospital only to be turned away.
But after 45 minutes of sleep back at home, real labor kicked in. These were contractions like I remembered with my first-born Will, and they grew closer together over time. We labored at home - in the bath tub, walking and side-lying, even catching five minutes of sleep here and there – for a few hours and waited until we were all 99 percent convinced this was the real thing before we called Melissa.
Then it was off to the hospital again: “This feels like doula vu,” Rob joked. But this time it was real labor and I needed lots of help. Rob rubbed my lower back as hard as he could through each contraction, and my mom would begin modeling deep breathing – rather than telling me to breathe – when she noticed me losing my focus. (Later Rob would tell me that he had to suppress a joke about mom as “Doula Vader” when she was doing that heavy breathing. He was lucky he did because I was not in a lighthearted mood by the time Doula Vader arrived on the scene.)
In any case, this was real labor that felt at moments manageable, at moments very uncomfortable, and in a few of the worst moments – as I was transitioning toward pushing -- nearly unbearable. It was then that I told the nurses, as Rob rubbed my back in the shower, that I thought I needed to push.
“You can’t push yet,” they said. “Melissa’s not quite here.”
I felt a wave of fear hit me, but then, by some minor miracle, it was a matter of seconds before Melissa arrived on the scene.
We soon discovered I was fully dilated, fully effaced -- and the pushing began. A couple student nurses observed quietly (they witness natural births relatively rarely so I had agreed to let them watch the birth) as I worked on making my body do what seemed like the impossible. Melissa – who had coached me through Will’s birth three years before – now had to coach me into a good pushing position, coach me through my breathing, coach me through everything at that point – I’d forgotten all my Bradley lessons about how to push well. Her wise, calm voice provided steady reassurance that this was work I was capable of doing.
I watched in a mirror as first the bag of waters started to emerge and then little Owen’s head began to peek its way into the world, and – with the power of seeing that progress – I was able to prod his big head and shoulders out of me with relatively few pushes and everything else was an afterthought. It was incredible, unimaginable pressure but it was over quickly and the pain washed away completely.
There was Owen in my arms. Nine pounds of serenity and well worth waiting for.
I love to hear the birth stories of other moms. If you have one to share, please post. (It's a good excuse to record those memories before they start to fade.) Other comments are welcome too.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Meanwhile Will has managed to catch himself the worst cold he’s had in months. When he’s laying down and trying to breathe, he sounds like a snorting pig on his death bed and I want to just open his mouth and tell him don’t even bother trying to get air through that little blocked-up nose. The Zyrtec and Nasonex that he’s taking on doctor’s orders – oh I hate giving medicine – seem to help little. And so Rob carts our struggling-to-breathe, insomniac son back to bed about 50 times a night while I lie there sometimes wishing he could be with me instead rubbing my back through an occasional contraction. We are all so needy and exhausted now. It feels like we are being tested. And yet I’m managing to keep perspective most of the time – still excited for this baby to come join our crazy household and beginning to think that he’s wise enough to be waiting for us to finally get our act together. Hey, solve some of this chaos, and maybe I’ll come meet you, he must be thinking. So I’m trying to keep him in my forethoughts and repeating my own versions of the Seinfeld mantra “Serenity now, serenity now.”
Saturday, July 7, 2007
Maybe he’s waiting to be named. Rob and I just can’t quite name this kid. We settled on William Thomas Addington for our first son months before his birth and I talked to Will in the womb. It was an easy decision – a family name from both sides, my grandfather’s name as the first name, my father’s as the middle. But a classic, and so ordinary, name.
This time I’ve been pushing the name Owen. Rob likes the name but he won’t settle. He’s tempted by names that are more unusual – almost unheard of, in some cases. We have one very traditional William (whose name we’ve learned recently ranked number 1 among baby names in the South) – why not give this second boy a name that is almost unique – a name that exists on websites like http://www.babynames.com/ but a name that you may not have realized was a name at all. Some Rob suggestions: Onus (a half-joking proposal that nevertheless keeps rearing its anus-like head), Padrig, Alden, Avery. With the exception of the first two names, they’re not all bad. I could perhaps live with Alden if Rob decided he couldn’t live with Owen. But I prefer Owen. And Rob prefers non-commitment. He’ll settle on Owen but each night when my false labor starts to crank up, he’ll propose a new name.
Will has joined the naming game. Among his suggestions: Tigger, E.C., Ally, and several other nearly unpronounceables that most definitely don’t exist in the baby name books and web sites. And plenty of times he says, “I like Owen,” and I want to give him a big squeeze for temporarily taking my side.
For now, I tell this baby in the womb, you are my Owen and I know that if we have some revelation upon seeing your beautiful bright red crinkly newborn flesh that makes us realize you need another name, you will forgive me for giving you a different nickname for the womb. So come on out Owen or Baby X; we’re ready to meet you.