Friday, August 18, 2017

Charlottesville and Little Children

Like most of America, I've been dwelling on the events that took place in Charlottesville this past weekend.  Pondering them in my heart.  Reading about them in what little spare time I have to do so, with three small children and a part-time job on my daily plate of responsibilities.

It seems that there's almost a requirement these days, when anything particularly horrific or offensive or tragic occurs, to take to our individual social media platforms and make known where we stand.  I have seen more than a few people declaring that "If you aren't speaking out against ______, then your'e part of the problem."   "Your silence is deafening," they say.

And yet, I don't actually think that everyone who isn't posting about this on Facebook is a racist, hateful, bigoted whathaveyou, of course.  There are other options, aren't there?  That one doesn't have words, perhaps, or that one doesn't feel compelled to add to the noise of social media, or doesn't believe it helpful, or simply feels called to act in a different, more personal or tangible way.

Myself, I have found myself wondering if the best tactic might not be to just ignore these crazy people so filled with hate.  Why are we giving them media attention?  Why are we giving them a platform for their absurd ideologies?  If we don't meet their protests with counter-protests, who will they hurl their hateful rhetoric towards?  If we completely and utterly ignore them, will they go away?

And then I thought of my young children.  And I thought of the long-standing conventional wisdom that to make tantrums or other bad behavior stop, parents should just ignore it.  And I remembered just how much I've always disagreed with that approach.

* * *

Yesterday, after a long afternoon of playing in the yard, Nell was helping me clean up.  Suddenly frustrated, she began to wail loudly: "MAMA!  I'm doing all this cleaning up and Ree isn't doing ANYTHING!"

For a moment I considered pointing out factually that Ree was picking up the orange peels they had scattered across the lawn, or logically arguing that Nell is five and Ree is three and the expectations are different, or even just saying flatly that life isn't fair and I was too tired to argue about it.  I even considered ignoring her outburst and simply not responding.

Then I tried to see past her yelling.  I got down at eye level with her, and I said, "Nell, I see you.  I see how much you help me around the house.  I notice your hard work and your helpful, kind heart.  I notice the way you try to help so I don't have as much work to do by myself.  I'm so grateful to have a daughter like you.  I really appreciate your help."

I didn't say a thing about Ree.  I didn't say anything to feed into the endless comparison trap.  I just looked at Nell, my Nell, and told her that I saw her.  I let her know that I appreciate her.  You see, I had a feeling that it was never about the work or even about the fairness of it.  Sometimes a person just wants to be seen and loved and known and appreciated.

And do you know what?  Nell happily smiled at me and said, "I'm sorry for screaming, Mama.  Actually I do love helping you!"  She picked up the books and the rubber balls.  And she went over to Ree and said encouragingly, "Marie, you're picking up too!  You're getting bigger and learning how to help!"

* * *

You can't live through teenage years without the realization that people who don't find love and acceptance in healthy places will find it somewhere.  The evidence is all around: gangs, cliques, self-harm, teen pregnancy.  We all need to be seen and loved, and will even go to extreme lengths to find our place in this world.  Even the most marginalized will always find someone; the magnetic human need for connection is just that strong.

Hate-filled groups like ISIS and the KKK know this, you know.  They prey on the lonely, the isolated, the vulnerable as they scour the internet or their own social circles for new recruits.  An angry person who feels marginalized or disenfranchised makes the perfect target.  If you're selling the age-old lies that there isn't enough to go around, that someone else is trying to take the happiness that's rightfully yours, well, in a lonely or hurting person you've just found a potential buyer.  

* * *

It's not so different from toddlers and young children, I think.  They, too, are apt to think that there isn't enough to go around.  They, too, are quick to claim what they deem rightfully theirs.  "Blood and soil," they might chant if they thought of it -- I was born here in this house, and these are my toys, and if other children come and try to play with my things, well, it's just not okay!

The trouble is that ignoring it will never work.

Children need to work through this long, dark tunnel of turbulent emotions sometimes.  They need to be heard and loved, even when -- especially when -- they're angry.  They need connection, not isolation; understanding, and rarely harsh judgment; empathy and common ground where it can be found.  You can't reason with them all the time.  You can't out-argue them.  You can't order them to stop feeling the sometimes silly things that they feel.   You can't meet yelling and acting out with yelling and acting out of your own.

I have attempted to make a verse from Romans my parenting vision: "The kindness of God leads to repentance."

I've found that my children are not so unlike I am: they want to be good, and will do so to the best of their abilities.  They want to please their loving parents, and to learn to subdue their own tempers and willfulness and overcome their temptations for naughtiness.  But they can only do these things within the limits not only of their prefrontal cortexes but also of their humanness.  What is it Paul wrote?  "...I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing."  

And so, I kneel down beside them and give words to their very big feelings: "You were playing with that toy.  She took it.  That's so, so hard.  You're really upset.  You weren't done playing yet!  You wanted more time."   And the wronged child feels my empathy as I share in the injustice of it all.  She nods, and wipes her tears with her hand.  "I'm really sad!  And my feelings are hurt!"  She's said it now, and she already feels calmer.  So I ask, "Can you think of a way we could work it out?  Can I help?"  But she's already running back to play again, and I overhear: "Hey, when you're done, can I have a turn again?  I wasn't done yet.  And next time, can you not take something when I'm playing with it?  You can ask me first!"  The younger one, perhaps caught off guard by the way the anger has dissipated, agreeably says, "Oh, okay!  I'm sorry!"  

They didn't even need my help this time, because we've done the hard work of reconciliation so many times together before. 

* * *

I'm ashamed to say it, but I don't have to look very far to find hate.  It's in my own heart.  It's in my own home.  Being an adult and a parent is more complicated, more confusing, more difficult than anyone can ever warn you it will be.  I find myself wanting to roll my eyes when my five-year-old stubs her toe for the sixth time in one afternoon and wails so very lengthily about it.  I'm frustrated with my baby who won't nap.  My three-year-old is driving me up the wall with the distinctively shrill timbre of her frequent screaming.  And my husband just left his candy wrappers on the counter twelve inches away from the garbage can for the seventeenth time this week.

If I can't abolish the anger from my own heart, how can I expect the wider world to be loving and tolerant?  

It is perhaps the simplest commandment, and it's also the most difficult: Love one another.   Did you know it can even be difficult sometimes to love your own flesh and blood?  That they can bring you to the very edge of your patience and fray your very last nerve?

Love them anyway.  Love them extravagantly and fiercely.  And if they need to be loved more, love them more.   Love them when they're angry.  Love them when their actions are ugly.  

And pray for the grace to keep on loving. 

{It also helps to clean dirty faces and comb disheveled hair, because that makes the loving slightly easier.}

* * *

I have a vivid memory of an exchange I shared with my Dad when I was a kid, maybe five or six years old.  He was standing over the bathroom sink early one morning shaving, and I looked up and asked him "Dad, would you still love me the same amount if I had been born with Down syndrome?"

He thought for a moment before answering.  "No," he said.  I must have widened my eyes at that answer -- it wasn't what I expected.  As children tend to do, I had asked a question to which I thought I surely knew the answer.  

"No," he continued thoughtfully, "I'd probably love you more."


"Because the rest of the world might love you less."

I've thought about that exchange a lot over the years.  The wisdom there, and the glimpse I saw of his depth of feeling for those who were hurting, for anyone who might ever be treated as less valued.

Today I thought of his words again, in the wider context of every different, hurting, disabled, marginalized, victimized person in this wide country of ours.  

If some in the world are going to love them less, then we need to love them more.  

Black, disabled, Jewish, Native American, and all the others who are afraid, or hurting, or angry right now.

Grumpy children.  Babies who won't nap.  Toddlers who act out in every way imaginable.

Even the Klansmen.  Even the Neo-Nazis.  

Because the only thing I can think of or imagine that could draw a person away from hate has got to be love.  

In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare's Shylock delivers the eloquent lines:

"He hath disgraced me and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies – and what's his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge."

But then there was Jesus, who said, 
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..."
* * *

I wish that ignoring terrible, hateful behavior could be sufficient.  I wish it could be enough.  Because the truth is that love is hard work sometimes.  And meeting hate with love must be the hardest of work a person could do, I would think.  I don't pretend to know -- after all, I'm a middle-class white American woman.  But I can imagine that if I find it hard even to love my own tyrannical toddlers in moments, well, there are other kinds of loving that are much, much harder.  

But ignoring bad behavior doesn't work.  It doesn't work with toddlers, and it doesn't work with teens, and it won't work with angry, hateful, racist groups of people.  We have to meet it with love.  


Easy for me to say, I know.  

I keep trying to think of a way that I can help, of some small thing I could do.  I haven't thought of much yet.

But in the meantime, I'll be here, trying to love my children.  Seeing them, hearing them, kissing their owies, empathizing with them.  Guiding them through the dark tunnels of big feelings and out to the light awaiting on the other side.  Because there is light.  The light shines in the darkness.   And the darkness has not, and will not, overcome it.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Molly at four months

Sweet Molly at four months weighed 14 lbs, 11 oz. and was happily drooling massive quantities all over her 3-6 month clothes.

She stopped taking glorious 1.5-3 hour naps and started taking 40-45 minute naps.  She stopped sleeping through the night and started waking 1-3 times a night.  She fussed intensely every time I put her down.  She was in the midst of a classic "wonder weeks" leap, it would seem, and she made it known!

She continued to make it a goal to shove her entire hand in her mouth, with the wrist as an acceptable substitute when she miscalculated.

Her smiles could light up a room -- and she generously bestowed them on nearly anyone who would pause to chat with her or smile in her direction.

She drooled so much she made a mockery of any bib we put on her, and laughed in the face of the burp cloths we'd use to keep her chin wiped clean.  She got a rash in the folds of her sweet little neck, cried when I'd wipe it clean, and then just kept on drooling.

"who, me?"
She started grabbing onto things placed in her hands and could hold a few toys, with a little help getting started.

Her little legs got stronger and stronger, and she'd stand on my lap for long periods of time holding onto my thumbs as I held her wrists.  She decided she didn't mind riding in a baby carrier after all, as long as she could look around and not miss a thing until she was good and ready for a nap.

Molly even had a few weeks of a quasi-nursing strike during this past month -- not a full-on strike, but still, enough screaming and refusing to nurse that I was nearly at my wits' end on more than one occasion!

Molly adores her Daddy, and there have been a few times when I absolutely couldn't help her stop fussing; then I'd hand her over to Daddy, and she'd immediately beam at him and sit quietly in his lap.  I could imagine her saying, "Ugh, Mom, stop trying so hard.  I just wanted to watch the Sox game with Dad."

* * *

 "Tic, Tac, Toe, three in a row," I like to say to these three girlies.

Molly's not sure how she feels about being the "toe," perhaps.

Smothered with love, and shrieks of affectionate, high-pitched utterances of love from her big sisters, while Molly may be sometimes overwhelmed, she is usually delighted by their attentions.

And she's already practicing to join in on the silly faces her big sisters love to do.

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.