Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Nell: Interview With a Five-Year-Old

Nell turned five in May, which seemed like a good opportunity to ask her some questions and jot them down for posterity.

{Photos taken Easter 2017}

What's your favorite color?
"Pink."  {of course}

What's your favorite food?
"Noodles.  Pasta.  And macaroni and cheese.  And I love cookies and olives and sour green apples and potatoes and eggs and bacon and English muffins and blueberries and strawberries."
{She loves pasta so much it's worth being thrice redundant!  It's true!}

What can you do now that you're five?
"I might be able to ride my big girl bike now that I'm five.  And I can... wear bigger clothes."
{A day will come when that prospect is not nearly so enjoyable as when one is newly five, I have found... speaking as one recently postpartum!}

What do you like to wear the best?
"Dresses and sparkly things, and I like to dress up in my dress up dresses and dance in them."

What are some of your favorite things to do?
"Ride my balance bike.  Play with Wilbur {her stuffed pig}, feed him his bottle like Fern. {We read Charlotte's Web back in January or February, and it was a big hit.  A very big hit!}  Dance to ballet.  Play my violin.  Do swimming lessons.  When can I do swimming lessons again?  I love to hold Molly.  I love to snuggle, color, make cards for you and draw pictures for you, paint things, draw things."

What's your favorite music to listen to?
"The Nutcracker.  Bach.  The Mozart Adagio {in E Major for violin}.  The Brahms Sonata {in G Major, the first movement}.  Eine Kleine {Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Mozart; she loves the slow movement}.

What do you like to watch on the television?
"The Ballet." {A production of The Nutcracker they like to watch on YouTube and dance along with}  "And I like to watch This Old House with Daddy.  And Chip and Joanna!" {Fixer Upper, another thing the girls watch along with Nathan occasionally when I'm teaching violin lessons.}

What is your favorite animal?
"Pigs.  And bunnies."

What's your favorite book?
"Happy Little Family. {by Rebecca Caudill}  The Hundred Dresses. {by Eleanor Estes}  Charlotte's Web."

What's your favorite toy?
"Slides and swings.  My dolls."

Who's your best friend?
"Aunt Hannah, and Ruby Grace, and Auntie Cara, and Marie, and Molly."

What do you want to be when you grow up?
"A ballerina!"

And the funny face outtakes:

Nell seems so grown up to me lately.  And I suppose that being half a decade old is pretty grown up, after all.  At five years old she is already so many things I wouldn't have imagined a five year old could be: thoughtful, empathetic, and kind.  Genuinely helpful.  Generous and caring, endlessly creative, always forgiving.  Her remarkable memory never ceases to amaze me, as she correctly recalls details from when she was two years old.  She narrates entire memorized stories to herself softly sometimes, or draws her sister into acting them out with her as they play together.

She's a big idea girl, and hardly a day goes by when she isn't presenting me with a long list of plans and ideas for the new day over breakfast in the morning.  "Let's read Ramona today, and finish the book!  And I'll do my own reading practice!  Maybe I'll finish learning to ride my big girl bike!  And we could go to the farm and play and pick peas!  Let's make cookies or something today!  Let's dance ballet and play dress up, and can you do my hair in a bun?  Can I wear a twirly dress?  Can we read the Brambly Hedge book too?  Can we go on a nature walk and do paintings in our nature journals?  Can I help you do some gardening?  Let's go to the beach, too!"

Thankfully, she's been understanding thus far about the fact that her mother isn't Wonder Woman, and we're lucky to get just a couple of her dreams and goals accomplished on any given day.

Keep planning and dreaming, sweet Nell.  You are the best.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Ree: Interview With a Three Year Old

Back in May, Marie turned three.  She is capable and increasingly independent, while always eager to have a good snuggle with me.  She loves music, dancing, singing, being read to, and playing imaginatively all day long.  She sleeps in a twin bed and goes to sleep quickly and easily each night, for which we are very grateful - and when she has a nightmare, she calls for Daddy, saying, "Daaaaaaddy!  I shared (scared)!"  She will turn up her nose at biscuits and gravy, but chomp away happily at sticks of raw zucchini or a kale salad.  She likes to creep into my bed in the early morning hours and offer to scratch my back or "braid" my hair.

In case you thought it was all rainbows and roses around here, the truth is that Marie loves to hate her long-suffering big sister Nell, and makes comments like, "I love Mama and Daddy and Molly and me but not Nell!" or "You bad, Nell!" just to try to get her poor sister's goat - and she's usually successful, of course.  But then she turns around and plays with Nell all day long: dancing and twirling in tutus and dress up clothes, building towers with blocks, cooking in their play kitchen, pretending to teach one another violin lessons, "conducting" and singing together, taking imaginary trips in their wooden rocking boat, etc. etc. etc.  There is really no end to the imaginative things they come up with to do, and they often keep one another entertained almost all day long, for which I am exceedingly grateful. They're never too far away from a squabble, but they're also never far from a good old fashioned twirling session together.

I decided that being three years old made for a good opportunity to ask Ree some questions:

What's your favorite color?
"Um, two kinds.  Purple and pink."

What's your favorite food?
"Grapes.  And olives.  Blueberries and strawberries.  And salad!"

What do you like to wear?
"I yike to wear my fwirly (twirly) dresses, and wompers (rompers)."

What are your favorite things to do?
"Go outside.  Ride my bike.  I like to snuggle with you.  And pretend to talk on the phone.  I yike to dress up in my dress up clothes.  I yike to yook at books, and sing my singing books." 

What do you think three year olds can do?
"Play.  And snuggle.  That's all my things I did for one day!"

What kind of music do you like?
"The Wheels on the Bus.  And finkul finkul yittle tar.   The Mister Moon song.  And The Happy Farmer."

What do you like to watch on the television?
"The ballet." (A video production of The Nutcracker)

What are you good at?
"Doing pictures like cards for you and Vamma and Vampa (Grandma and Grandpa), and coloring, and singing, and jumping, and snuggling."

What is your favorite animal?
"Cows.  And my stuffed vaffe (giraffe).  And ephanants (elephants).  And porcupines.  And hot dogs!"

What is your favorite book?
"The Humpty Dumpty books!" (Our nursery rhyme / Mother Goose books)

What is your favorite toy?
"Molly is my best toy to play with!"  (And how does Molly feel about this, one might reasonably wonder...)

Who is your best friend?
"Mama."  {Well okay kiddo, you've got me firmly by the heartstrings with that one!}

What do you like to do outside?
"Dig in the dirt, and help Mama water the plants, and play in my sandbox."

What do you want to be when you grow up?
"A ballerina.  I want to be a pumpkin.  And a bunny.  Or a girl named Helen Pelen." {I have no idea.}

And the outtakes: the silliest of silly faces.  {One of which is truly frightful, I might add.}

I showed Ree these pictures, and she laughed with glee. "Yook at dat funny face of mine!  Yook at dat one!"

Oh, Marie.  Her screams when she's frustrated or angry have a certain timbre to them unparalleled by my other children (at least in my recent memory).  She's a bit of a ham, a bit of a character, a bit of a handful, and I can't imagine our family without her!  But I have a feeling life would be a lot quieter, Nell would have fewer opportunities for growth in the face of being provoked, Molly would be less frequently squashed with over-zealous love, and I would have a lot more personal space.  But personal space is over-rated, anyway.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Molly at three months

Little Miss Margaret has been three months old for almost a week now, and I'm convinced she's the sweetest three month old in the world right now.  She's solidly grown into her 3-6 month clothes, weighing 13 pounds even.

Nicknames: Molly, Molly Moe, Moe, Molly Malone, Mol, Screech Owl, Chubby Wubby

Expertise: Bubble blower extraordinaire.  Drool queen.  Can nearly fit her whole fist in her mouth, and attempts this skill frequently.  Rolls from tummy to back!  Is trying out something resembling a laugh -- which is THE BEST!

Aspirations: To refuse the bottle every time it is offered!  {She's successfully taken it only two or three times in total, but I have a few summer gigs coming up, so we shall keep trying.}

Loves: Her big sisters cooing and chatting to her in the highest voices imaginable.

Hates: Outfit changes.  Pooping herself awake during much-needed naps.  Overly-enthusiastic hugs from a certain sister.

The Jury Is Still Out: This may possibly be my first baby who doesn't always like being worn in a carrier!  With utter disregard and ingratitude for the way my ring sling was her one and only happy place for the first two months of her life, Molly now fusses in the sling or the Ergo, and unless she's ready to go right to sleep, she prefers a better view of the world and likes to be held facing out much of the time.

Like any baby, Molly has her fussy moments or difficult days, but for the most part she's so content and happy that it's hard to imagine those first two colicky, miserable months she had.  She's content during diaper changes (although she still hates being dressed or undressed!), and smiles at me happily on the changing table.  She even rides in her car seat without screaming most of the time!

Sometimes while I'm putting away laundry or getting the bigger girls ready for bed, Molly will lie in her crib happily on her back and stare up at the sailboat mobile her Grandma and Grandpa made, playing with her own fingers and looking around quietly for quite a long while.  She also doesn't mind sitting in the swing while I do chores or snuggle with her big sisters a little bit here or there.  Sometimes she comes out to keep us company in the yard while the big girls and I do some gardening, and she hangs out in the Rock N Play and gazes at the trees.

She's the sleeping queen right now, but I must confess to a sense of foreboding about this situation: all Nathan and I can remember about Marie is that she was undoubtedly The Most Terrible Sleeper In The History Of The World until she reached the age of two and a half.  But upon browsing the archives of this blog, I see that she was sleeping marvelously and napping well at three months of age.  So I can only imagine what may lie ahead for us with Molly.

We are enjoying the good sleeping while it lasts, though!  Not only does Molly take at least one good solid 2.5-3 hour nap each day, along with a couple shorter ones (sometimes two long naps a day -- once last week she took a 3 hour morning nap and a 4 hour afternoon nap!), but she also usually sleeps 8-10 hours at night without waking, usually from 7:00 to 3:00 or 4:00.  And unlike my two previous babies, she sleeps those hours in her own crib!  It's pretty surprising to me, but she seems to prefer it and sleep better alone now.  She even falls asleep in her crib more easily than in my arms most of the time, just wanting a little back- or bottom-patting and "shh-shh-shhhh"ing.  I had always heard that these kinds of babies, for whom holding or co-sleeping was almost too much stimulation or too disruptive, existed, but I'm not sure I really believed it until seeing Molly as she currently is.

The flip side of this good sleeping is that she often wakes for the day around 6, and when she's up, she's up for an hour before she's ready for her first nap, by which point everyone is good and awake.  I sometimes miss the days of having just one baby who I could snuggle and nurse back to sleep, and buy myself a nice long morning sleep-in when I needed it.  These days everyone is up early around here, and that is... not my favorite.  But if I must be up with the sun, I've been trying to make the best of it by getting going early, and trying to be ready to squeeze in a little exercise a few mornings a week during Molly's first nap.   Gotta shed that baby weight if I can, so that when people think this girlie resembles me, it's not the double chin they're noticing!

"Excuse me, has anyone seen my neck?"
Dear Molly,

Summer weather is here, and with it the unspeakable joy of your sweet chubby baby thighs resting against my arms as I carry you about.  You bestow so many smiles upon us each day, often big smiles that involve your whole body as you draw your legs up or arch your back with glee.  Your sweet cheeks are so kissable and smooshable that your three-year-old sister Ree keeps trying to squish them into a fishy face.  The word "gentle" doesn't seem to be sinking in for her, though, so we have to keep a close eye lest she injure you with her love and adoration.

When you were a newborn, I felt a little sad and sentimental to know that time would fly by and you'd grow up so very quickly.  But I must have forgotten that as much as I do love a sweet newborn, a three-month-old is so very lovable, too.  I love these days just as much as your newborn days, and maybe more.  You seem so much happier these days - sometimes you even stop in the middle of nursing just to grin up at me before resuming your eating.  I love that!  




Monday, June 12, 2017

Molly at Two Months

I want to record a few memories of Molly at two months, seeing as she's just turned three months old!  We're coming out of the so-called "fourth trimester," life is feeling manageable again, and we're finding a good rhythm to our days now more often than not.  It's time to try to get caught up on many things around here... but keeping the family memories needs to stay on that to-do list, no matter how busy things are, right?

{These photos were taken a week after she turned two months old.}

As for Molly, her own life was so busy and exhausting that at two months old, she wanted to sleep a lot.

She weighed in at around 11 lbs 10 oz, give or take.  She was getting so much happier I could barely wrap my mind around it, and I wandered around in a daze of disbelief - had she really been so miserable before?  Did I imagine those bleak, challenging two months?  And was she really sitting in her swing happily while I folded laundry?  Was she lying on the floor cooing at me for long minutes at a time?  I could barely believe it.   At two months old, we were getting more and more days where the clouds of Molly's sad screaming would part and reveal the smiles of the happy personality that was under the surface of her gastrointestinal misery.

Between 7 and 8 weeks old was when the proverbial clouds began to part and our Molly girl began to get happier.  I have no idea whether to attribute this to the implementation of block feeding, the fact that I took her to a chiropractor for a gentle adjustment, the Hyland's cell salt homeopathic tablets I started giving her, or that other great natural medicine, the passage of time.  {The cell salts were something that I kept coming across as a remedy that parents of gassy / colicky / refluxy infants swore by, and a good alternative to reflux medication, which I didn't want to try at that point for various reasons.  It really did seem that they made a difference, although I started them at the same time I took her to a chiropractor, so it could have been either/both of these things, or, as I said, just the passage of time.}

In the sling, while she'd occasionally still have miserable burping gassy episodes with lots of screaming and kicking of her little feet, she was usually content and could sleep for long periods of time.  My lower back was beginning to feel the twinges of more baby wearing than I could handle, so it was a good thing that Molly began to be able to sleep independently a bit more.

At night, she still slept beside me, but she gave me a couple of five hour stretches here and there, and one six hour block of sleep!  Amazing.  When you've just slept in two- or three-hour chunks for a while, you forget how good and refreshing those longer sleeps can be!

I decided I could sort of keep my head above water now, and pulled out the cloth diapers.  Boy did it feel good to stop putting a full garbage bag of disposable diapers out to the curb every week!

Molly began to hold her head up so often that it got harder to carry her around in her usual favorite spot up against my shoulder.  She'd lift her head, bobble around, and throw her weight off center!   She also began to wonder if she could fit an entire hand in her mouth, and liked to blow spit bubbles to entertain her older sisters.  Her sounds grew more and more conversational, and her social smiles continued to win our hearts.

Dear Molly, 

You sweep us off our feet with your blue eyes, your dark hair, and your beautiful smiles.  I was back to teaching violin lessons by the time you were two months old, and as you began to feel better and decide the outside world was not so bad, I was relieved to know that you'd be okay with Daddy, Aunt Hannah, or other babysitters while I was working.  I'm sure someday I'll tell you stories of how sad you were as a newborn.  But I hope you'll always know that, as hard as those early days were for me, I mostly thought about how hard they were for you.  I wanted to help you feel better, and I wanted you to know that we still thought you were the best baby in the world -- screaming notwithstanding.  


{that gorgeous dark hair!}
{the doting big sisters}

Friday, May 12, 2017

Molly at One Month

Molly at one month was not a very happy camper, and in fact, the one month mark came and went without me being able to take pictures, because every time I put her down, she cried.  Not just fussed, but really cried and quickly escalated to all-out screaming.  So I held her constantly and we all muddled through some difficult days, as I wrote about in my last post.  

But when she was about five and a half weeks old, she had a good calmer bit of an afternoon one day, and I put that little lady in a white onesie for a good old-fashioned baby photo shoot, as I've done with my other girls to document their early months of life.  And now here I am, finally finding a quiet moment to write some memories of Molly at one month -- even though she's now two months old!  The belatedness of putting pictures and thoughts to 'paper' here is perhaps one of the best indications of how challenging the early months of Molly's life have been for our family.

Molly reminds me so much of Nell as a baby that I get nearly daily doses of deja vu!  (Even the way her dark hair shows up in photos looking lighter and more reddish, as Nell's always did in sunlit photos, too.)

Lest we look back at pictures someday and think all was sunshine and smiles, Molly obliged with some images of what most of our real life looked like:

Oh, wait, that's not it... that's just a slightly disconcerted face.  Here we go:

Yes, yes, that was the face I saw any time I tried to put Molly down for even five seconds.  She could escalate from quietly sleeping to terrible screams in no time at all.  It made it a bit tricky for me to take a shower, or even use the bathroom or brush my teeth!  I just held her all the time, in the first week or two just in my arms, and then, when it was time for real life to regrettably resume, in my ring sling.  The ring sling was her happy place, with her feet all drawn up inside the sling and her tummy against me, her head resting on my chest.   At one month old, it was her favorite place to snuggle and her favorite place to sleep.

Ahh, sleep.  That elusive, sought-after commodity of the early months.

From some of her earliest days, Molly catnapped or dozed fitfully, the way I remember Ree being.  Ahh, she's asleep!  No, she's awake!  Asleep at last!  But her eyes just opened again!  A lot of the time she napped in the ring sling during the day, or sometimes on my chest if I could be lying down or resting myself.  She resisted being transferred, resisted sleeping on her back, and resisted even elevated attempts at sleep in a rock 'n play.

I kept muddling through with the constant baby wearing and cosleeping, but also kept trying for a little more independence wherever I could get it.  Is it worth repeatedly trying to transfer a baby on the slim hope that she'll remain asleep in her own bed, or is it better to leave one in the sling for a predictably nice long nap?  It all depends on how much one's lower back is hurting in the moment, I suppose!

We spent $15 on a secondhand fancy AngelCare monitor and promptly began to let Molly try sleeping on her tummy, and all with no side effect of parental guilt whatsoever.  The swaddle and back sleeping just was not working for this little lady, and while the tummy sleeping wasn't a guaranteed success either, it did buy me one or two reasonable not-in-the-sling naps a week, and the occasional shower or time for a load of laundry.

Fortunately, for all the difficulty of her days, she slept pretty well at night, as long as I didn't attempt to transfer her to the cosleeper or move her away from my own body.  In the crook of my arm, she'd sleep 2-3 or even 3-4 hour stretches at night.  Many nights we'd both fall asleep first with me leaning against my big blue 'husband' pillow, holding Molly upright against my chest, and then once she had been solidly asleep for a while, I could inch my way down to sleeping horizontally and roll on to my side with Molly beside me.

I would probably be dead of sleep deprivation if it weren't for cosleeping.  I know it's not for everyone, but then again, not everyone has babies who scream like this one did every moment when she wasn't in bodily contact with me.

Who, me?

Yes, you, kiddo.

Hey!  It's a hint of a smile!  And in fact, Molly first smiled at just four days old.  Which is sort of ironic, because she subsequently turned into the saddest and most inconsolable of my three babies, but it's true.  At four days old she looked right into Nell's face and smiled a decidedly social and beautiful smile.  And a couple of days after that, she bestowed one on me, too.

So, Molly's first month of life in a nutshell.  Her happy place was in the ring sling, with the Ergo as an occasionally acceptable substitute if she needed to be with Daddy.  In the early weeks she could also sleep snuggled up against my shoulder, held upright.  I remember walking around a lot with her cozied up on my left shoulder, holding her with my left arm, my right arm free for a few menial tasks and chores here and there.  Molly's love language was frequent and nearly constant back-patting.  She hated diaper changes, outfit changes, baths, and especially hated car rides with a screaming passion.  She didn't spit up in small, burp-cloth-sized amounts, but did sometimes erupt like a volcano with an entire feeding coming out her mouth and nose simultaneously.    Her little smiles were beautiful and heart-melting.  She received many compliments on her alertness, her bright and curious eyes, and her magnificent, unparalleled head control.  She seemed perplexed as to why the fingernails attached to her own hands kept scratching up her perfect little face.  And she weighed nine pounds and something-or-other ounces, a detail I'd no doubt remember if my brain hadn't melted from sleep deprivation, stress, and worry.

And yet, not surprisingly, I wouldn't have wanted any other baby than this one.

When Molly was just a few days old, Ree said, "Isn't our baby the best baby in the whole world?"  And Nell said, "She's just the baby I always wanted."  And I couldn't possibly agree with those sentiments more.  We are completely head-over-heels about this little girl.

And finally... the three sisters together!  (Because everyone knows that if you're taking pictures of one child, the others will soon feel left out and want to join in on the fun.  Even if Molly didn't think it was fun.)

Previously on the blog:
Ree at one month (who also insisted on being held all. the. time.!!!)
Nell at one month (who I'm told also needed to be held constantly, but I can't remember and if so I was probably largely unaware of it at the time, as she was my first and I didn't have as much else to do anyway!)

Yes, I'm told that magical babies who sleep in their own beds and doze off in swings or nap happily in bassinets or even lay on blankets gazing at their surroundings happily exist, but those kinds of babies have not been born into our family, at least not for their early months of life!

If I resolved anything in Molly's first month of life, it was that if there are any more babies in my future, I will choose to stand much firmer in my resolve not to receive IV antibiotics in labor.  I went to the hospital prepared to decline the antibiotics even though I was GBS positive, but under pressure from the midwife (who was in all other respects quite lovely and wonderful) I agreed to have them.  Obviously I can't say for certain that the antibiotics wiped out my digestive tract and Molly's and also affected both our immune systems for the worse, adding to the difficulty of her first month of life, but I am personally pretty convinced it played a part.   Yes, one can live through a cold and even a two-week miserable sinus infection, and even a baby can live through slight case of the sniffles.  But the miserable gassiness and painful wet burps and reflux, the periodic projectile vomiting episodes (burp cloth? who needs a burp cloth?  we need a bath towel, changes of clothes for everyone in the vicinity, and a change of bedsheets!)... I cannot help wondering if this little lady's GI tract could have gotten off to a much better start without those antibiotics.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

these difficult, wonderful days

The seven weeks since Molly was born have been some of the hardest.  Most wonderful, of course, but also hard.  

To start everything off, the day after we came home from the hospital we were back in the ER because I had chest pain and difficulty breathing, so we needed to rule out the possibility of pulmonary embolism.  (Fortunately, all the tests came back clear and it was nothing nearly so serious as that in the end!)  But spending the better part of a day in the ER with your three day old baby and your two year old and four year old, while your milk is coming in and your hormones are crashing and you're suddenly just a little bit afraid that something could be really wrong and you desperately want to see your children grow up -- well, that was a rough day.

Then severe neck pain set in, which lasted a week and a half.  I had to take ibuprofen and tylenol around the clock just to function and not be snapping at everyone I crossed paths with.  The pain was pretty bad, and I could barely turn my head in either direction.  An after-effect of two nights in a hospital bed, perhaps?  Or from sleeping strangely once we got home and the baby wouldn't sleep unless I was holding her?

By the time the neck pain resolved, I had also had a cold, which my bigger girls proceeded to get as well, and even poor baby Molly got a hint of the sniffles.  Nell got a fever and a one-day tummy bug in the midst of all that, as well, and my cold turned into a raging sinus infection.  My head pounded around the clock, my teeth and eyes ached, and I could barely sleep at night from the discomfort -- and of course, any time I did fall asleep I'd be assuredly awakened by my newborn soon thereafter.

* * *

While still in the midst of sinus misery, on the weekend of Palm Sunday, when Molly was four weeks old, Nell started complaining of stomach pain.  Her tummy, her sides, her back, and her chest hurt her.  Then she began to say it hurt to breathe.  We had no idea what this could be, and of course it was the weekend so we couldn't just talk to someone at our family doctor's office.  She was running a very low-grade fever, about 99-100 at any given time, and the pain she complained of seemed to come and go.  That Saturday night Nathan mentioned that he used to get stomach aches as a child from worry, and asked if Nell might be worried about something.  Sleep deprived and in pain and worried about my girl, I spent the entire night awake, reliving every less-than-stellar moment I had ever had as a mother, wondering what I could have done wrong to give my poor four-year-old such anxiety that her whole body was in intermittent pain.

The next day, when Nathan got home from work, we went to Urgent Care, wondering if it might be appendicitis, and they sent us onward to the ER, where Nell was diagnosed with... pneumonia.  A rather mysterious form of pneumonia that involved almost no coughing and barely an elevated temperature at all!  The doctor called her a "mystery patient."  And in the wee hours of the morning, when Nathan and Nell returned from the ER (I had come home with Ree and Molly so the little ones could sleep) -- poor Nell having suffered through three attempts before they got an IV in her little arm to administer fluids and antibiotics -- I hugged her for a very long time and we all snuggled together in our big king sized bed for the rest of that night.  And I finally slept, despite my sinus infection, relieved that her symptoms were a real physiological illness that was now being treated, and not induced by terrible parenting.

A couple of days after that I began to feel better at last.  There was light at the end of the tunnel.  We would all be healthy, and be able to get our feet under us as a family of five... if only this poor baby wouldn't be so inconsolable all the time?

* * *

Yes, around the time Molly was three or four weeks old she wasn't that same sleepy little newborn anymore; no longer did she just cry when I tried to lay her down in her bassinet or in the swing.  Now she cried sometimes even when she had been fed and changed and burped, when she was upright in my arms up against my shoulder in her favorite position, even when I walked circles around the house singing and patting her back and bouncing and swaying.  I was lucky to get a rare nap from her where she'd sleep alone once every two or three days.  Usually, her eyes would drift closed only to reopen in one or two minutes, over and over again each day.  So I just wore her in my ring sling constantly.  And sometimes she'd take nice long naps there, but other times she'd cry and cry, and I'd have to say to the big girls, "I can't hear you over the sound of Molly crying, I'm so sorry," and get right down on their level, and then tell them that no, whatever they wanted me to do with them right then, I probably couldn't do it.  I couldn't sit down at breakfast with them; I had to keep walking.  I couldn't sit on the couch and read.  I couldn't pick them up or snuggle with them as much as they wanted me to.

Nell started to draw pictures of Molly always with a sad face.  (And honestly, I'm surprised she hasn't been drawing me that way, too.)

* * *

In the week leading up to Easter, Nathan was working many hours to prepare for the big day, and I remember telling him late one night when he got home, "I just feel like every day is harder than the day before."  It was, I suppose, the opposite of the experience I might have expected to have as we adjusted to having three children.

In the midst of all the baby sadness, I was trying anything I knew to help her be more comfortable.  I gave her gas drops and infant probiotics, I cut dairy out of my diet, I bicycled her little legs, I held her with her legs curled up high against her tummy.  On Good Friday, I took her to get her lip tie clipped in the hopes that it would help her latch improve so she'd swallow less air and be less gassy and uncomfortable.  I kept her upright nearly constantly; she screamed any time I tried to lay her down.

I remember my other babies needing to be held a lot, but was it like this?  I know they didn't always like going in the swing or car seat, and I know they demanded more of me than I knew I had to give (as any baby will), but was it like this?

Sometimes we'd have a few happy, contented moments or the several calm hours of her napping in the sling against my chest, and I'd second guess myself and wonder if anything had really been as difficult as I felt it was.

Easter came and went, and sweet Molly was baptized at the Easter Vigil and then proceeded to have a pretty content and calm Easter (snuggled against my chest in the sling for most of the day, of course).   But the following days were still difficult, and I wondered if it had to do with Molly's latch, or if her tummy was just generally bothering her, or if maybe she had something called silent reflux.  So next, Molly and I went to see a lactation consultant.  The LC was wonderful, and suggested I do a method of nursing called block feeding, which we switched to immediately, and has seemed to help.  She recommended block feeding for a while rather than immediately trying reflux medication (which I asked about), since sometimes reflux is caused by (or can even just be misdiagnosed, apparently) overactive letdown and/or foremilk/hindmilk imbalance.  So block feeding is hopefully working to address those things.

But possibly the best thing the LC said, even more wonderful than her knowledgable help, was when she observed Molly smiling at me for several minutes after she nursed.  "Wow!  I've never seen a five-week-old smile so much!  She's so engaged with you and so social and so sweet."  And then a few minutes later when Molly began her inconsolable crying, the LC asked, "Is this what it's like most of the time?"  And my eyes filled with tears as I responded, "Yes... I don't know what I'm doing wrong..."  And the LC looked me in the eye, and put her arm around me, and said, "You aren't doing anything wrong.  And this isn't her personality.  She's not an irritable baby; she's a sweet baby.  Those sweet smiles, that was her personality.  This crying, this is her being uncomfortable.  It's not her personality."

I didn't even know that I needed to hear that, but apparently I did, because I felt relief wash over me.

* * *

We are still awaiting our happy ending, still hoping to find some way to help Molly be more comfortable and happier.  There are wonderful moments of happy smiles, and a few contented minutes where she'll sit in the swing for three or four minutes while I wash dishes and give my lower back a break from the constant baby carrying.  Nights are not bad, for which I'm incredibly thankful - they're probably her easiest times.  As long as I don't even try to move her into her bassinet, but let her sleep in the crook of my arm, she will sleep 3-4 hours stretches, so I'm reasonably well-rested for her difficult days.  And right now, she's lying beside me, drifting in and out of slumber, nestled against my side in bed, and life is good, and things are peaceful.

But oh, those hours when she cries and cries and I don't know how to help her - that is so, so hard.

* * *

We have been upheld by friends and even acquaintances in more ways than I can say, and we are profoundly grateful.  We've been brought meals, and I've been reminded of what an indispensable blessing that is to a family with a new baby.  And at other times, just having someone come by to play with the bigger girls and give them some time and attention, or to hold the baby for a bit, has meant everything and helped me keep some valuable sanity and perspective.  A week ago, as I got back to work teaching violin lessons, the dad of some special students cleaned my kitchen for me, the cleanest it had been in months.  Each of these things and so many more - like a friend stopping by with a cup of coffee - has served as a reminder to try to do likewise for others once we have our feet under us a bit more.

And I'm learning to say "yes" more than I ever have before: Yes you can come hold the baby.  Yes you can help out.  Yes you can come step into our messy, messy house, and into our messy, messy lives.  And the rewards for saying yes are not just the help in the immediate that we've received here and there when we needed it, but also the relationships forged and growing.  Saying "yes" to others' offers to help can be a hard thing, but such a good thing.

* * *

I second-guess myself almost constantly.  Do I know anything about babies?  Is all this crying normal?  When she's happy, I sometimes think, "Why did I think she was miserable and inconsolable?  She's happy!  I must just have been doing something wrong.  I'll get it right next time she cries."  And when she's crying, and I'm pacing the house, bouncing and patting and shhhing and singing, I can barely remember how I managed to calm her down in other moments.

When we are out and about, she'll often sleep happily in the sling at church or other events, and I'm not sure anyone would know or believe what these long days at home can be like.  Inevitably someone will come up to me and say, "Enjoy every moment; it goes by so fast."  (And I look down at my almost-five-year-old and I know that they are right.)

Someday, when this is behind us, I find myself wondering what my faulty memory will retain and what will slip through the cracks.  Will I look back at photos of this sweet baby smiling, and wonder what I was so agitated about, why my head and jaw ached from the tension brought about by listening to a baby crying and not being able to soothe her?  Or will I remember the desperation of the moments when I just didn't have enough of myself to go around, to tend to everyone's needs, to hold everyone close enough?

{If history is any indication, I'll probably still be second-guessing myself, doubting whether my memory of events is at all accurate, and assuming I simply didn't handle things as well as I should have!}

I am a little tired, and filled with self-doubt at times, and I am sad for my baby girl when she is sad.

But mostly I am filled with a sort of fierce love -- that no matter how many friends have happy, contented babies who may sleep well and coo and giggle all day long or sit in their car seats or swings happily -- this baby, our Molly girl, is the one I love dearly right now, and I will continue to do anything I can to try to calm and comfort her, and when that fails, I will just keep whispering to her, "We'll figure it out, girlie.  I'm here with you.  We'll get through this.  I love you."

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Nellisms, Vol. 8

Nell: "Mommy, can you say something to me?"
Me: "What do you want me to say?"
Nell: "I want you to say something presentable."

It's been a long time since I've done a post of Nell quotes, so some of these are from quite a while ago.  But here we go... a few particularly "presentable" conversations that have happened in our family in recent months:

* * *

Playing on the piano one day:
High notes - "This is Mozart!"
Low notes - "This is Bach!"

* * *

Pretending to play an air violin:
"I have to practice this piece.  It's a really hard piece.  You have to wiggle all your fingers at the same time.  It's a really finger-wiggling piece.  You have to practice it two times every day."

* * *

"If you practice really hard on your violin every day then you can be a doctor.  But if you don't then you can't be a doctor."

* * *

Practicing her violin one day:
"I just am done playing and my brain doesn't have any more music in it today."

Wobbling her head around: "I'm being a wild wild wild girl!"

* * *

She enjoys all types of weather with equal enthusiasm:
"It's such a nice rainy day out!  It's so nice out!  I love this rainy day!" //  "Isn't it delightful out today?  It's so warm and sunny!"

* * *

Upon hearing a song about a Christmas party on the radio back in December:
Nell: "Christmas potty?"
Me: "Christmas party!"
Nell: "Oh.  But is there a Christmas potty at the Christmas party?"

* * *

"When I'm grown up, next Halloween when I'm really big like probably fourteen, I'm going to make a costume and be a real mermaid."

* * *

Very sadly one night at bedtime:
"I'm just so scared because I don't have my beautiful Daddy with me right now!"

* * *

Crying out in her sleep, clearly having a nightmare about The Nutcracker (a borderline obsession of hers):
"The mice!  No, no, the mice! The mice!"
(I kind of love it that her scariest dream has been about a ballet.)

* * *

Me: "I'm going to come play with you guys in the family room in a minute."
Nell: "Mamas don't play.  They wash dishes."

After telling me she was afraid of a fly:
Me: "You don't need to be afraid of a fly; the fly is probably more afraid of you because it's so little and you're so big compared to that fly!"
Nell (crying): "The fly doesn't like me because I'm big but... but... I like me being big!"

* * *

Nell: "I read a book today with Aunt Hannah!"
Me: "What book?  What was it about?"
Nell: "It was about... like... a girl... and such and such."

* * *

"I wemember because I have a weally good wemembewy."

* * *

At bedtime:
Nell: "Oh no! I won't be able to dream tonight!"
Me: "Why not?"
Nell: "Because I don't have 'dreamer' on, you know, my little bum! I'm not wearing my undies that say 'dreamer' on them!"

* * *

Me: "Nell, I'd like you to pick up the books all over the floor please."
Nell: "Umm, okaaaay, I will just do EVERYthing."
(Our poor over-worked Cinderella child)

* * *

"Ballerinas don't even need to go potty did you know that?"

* * *

Me: "Do you want some pear?"
Nell: "Some WHAT? Some BEER?!"

After talking about how birds eat bugs and worms:
"But that's not nice to eat a nice beautiful dead worm that is feeling sad!"

* * *

Me: "How old do you think Grandma is?"
Nell: "Fourteen."

* * *

"I just don't really like boys; I like girls, and I don't like boys, except I do like daddies."

* * *

Me: "What's your favorite book?"
Nell: "I like all books.  Well, not bad books."
Me: "What makes a book bad?"
Nell: "Well, I like nice bad books."
Me: "What's a nice bad book?"
Nell: "Like a book with a bad guy but two nice guys too."

A few theologically-inclined quotes and conversations:

"I'm just nice! God made me nice!"

* * *

"You mean Jesus never did anything wrong?  Wow.  Then I'm going to do that today, too."

* * *

"When God made me he got some paper and he drawed me and then he colored me with a shirt and shorts and then he cutted me out with scissors, he cut right around my five fingers like this so then I had fingers!"

* * *

 And on a subsequent day, clearly still pondering the matter of creation:
"Wait, how does God attach you?  How does God make you and attach you?"

* * *

Nell: "How are we going to be raised when Jesus comes back?"
Me: "I don't know exactly how; the Bible says a trumpet will sound and all the people who ever died loving Jesus and trusting in him will be raised to be with him forever."
Nell: "Wow.  That's pretty magic."

Pondering the future:

"When I'm grown up and have kids I'm going to give them lots of chocolate for dessert.  And I'm going to give myself lots of chocolate, too."

* * *

"Who can I marry when I want to get married?  Because Daddy is already married to you and Uncle Andrew is married to Aunt Hannah, so there's no one left."

* * *

To me and Nathan:
"I want to stay here forever and never move away when I grow up to be a grown up, because I love you guys and I want to stay with you forever.  I'm never gonna move away; I'm gonna stay here.  I promise.  'Cause I love my bedroom and I love seeing you guys."

* * *

"When I grow up, I'm never gonna get married and have a baby because having a baby might hurt, but I want to go to someone's house that has kids and just ask them if I can have one of their kids and take it home."

And finally, some sister conversations!

Sitting on the toilet, singing improvisationally:
"Mawie is my sister!  She's a sister and I'm a sister!  I love her so much!  Sometimes we fight and we need to figure it out!  Fiiiiiguuuuuure it oooooouuuuuut!"

* * *

"Mawie you're a sweet girlie.  I love you and your face makes me happy."

* * *

Pointing to Ree:
"That girl is a bad bad bad bad witch."   (Then, turning to me, by way of practical explanation): "...PRETEND."

Playing together at the park:
Nell: "We're in California and we have to go all the way across the river because we're going to Africa!"
Ree: "Yeah!"
Nell: "It's like, ten miles at least!"

Patiently explaining to Ree how to make the sound "Shh":
Nell (slightly patronizingly): "No Wee it's not 'sssss' it's 'shhhhh' with your tongue back in your mouth more!"
Ree (agreeably): "Oh! Dah! (yeah!) Ok!"

* * *

Nell: "Do you want a little tuft on your head?"
Ree: "No!"
Nell: "But Wee I weally want you to be a tufted titmouse!"
(Can you tell we enjoy birds around here?)

* * *

Playing doctor together:
Nell: "Okay Mawie now we need to cut you open."
Marie: "Whyyyyy?"
Nell: "I know, I know!  But it will not hurt; I'll do it so so gently okay?"

* * *

In the car:
Nell: "Mawie are you asleep?"
Marie: "No."
Nell: "Are you awake?"
Marie: "No."
Nell (exasperated): "You have to be something Mawie you can't just be nothing!"

 I'd say both these girls are something, indeed.

Life can be pretty entertaining when you have young children!