Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Year In: How Are We?

As you may have noticed ;), the last year of this blog... ok the last year and oh... 9 or so months, have been largely BABY BABY BABY. I thought I'd write a bit about how Steven and I are doing, especially since I've written a lot about what a hard adjustment I/we had to parenthood. A year later, I'm happy to report, I almost feel like we're doing better than ever. There was a lot of struggle and hard work to get to this place, but I am so happy we're in it, and I'm going to enjoy it as long as it lasts (read: probably until next pregnancy/baby lol). 

Our initial struggles, as expected, revolved around adjusting to being parents and lack of sleep. We were snippy, exhausted, and learning way more than we were capable of retaining in our dazed states. Not to say we couldn't use more sleep still, but we are getting a LOT more sleep now and it makes us much more rational and forgiving of each other. Later, we struggled financially. We were dealing with the loss of about 40% of our income (since I quit my job to stay home) and going through our savings very quickly. I began to search for babysitting jobs and for months it seemed as not much panned out. I began praying about it (I really suck at that sometimes), and more babysitting jobs than I could handle began falling into my lap. Between that income and our tax return, we've been able to replenish our savings a bit as well as stay afloat of those things that don't fit into our budget (medical bills, etc). And we've mostly figured out how to actually meet our budget after lots of hard work and cutting out as much as we could. We went from feeling deprived and frustrated to realizing just how much we have and how lucky we are we can make this work, and that attitude shift has really raised our happiness level! It will require constant hard work and attention, but it's a great team building activity because neither of us can do it alone (we both have to be on board). When we do poorly, we have to work together to figure out what to improve and how, and when we do well we get to celebrate that together. 

We've brought faith back to the forefront of our life, which somewhat got put on a back burner when we were just merely surviving. We're back to praying the rosary, novenas occasionally, praying before meals, and encouraging each other to stay connected to our faith in whatever way is best for us right now. We figured out a month or two ago that Felicity is much less of a beast if we wear her during Mass and, though I still have to focus on her a lot of the time, that has really helped me to catch snippets of Mass. Luckily the grace is there whether I can pay attention or not! When my parents visit, we leave her with my mom during Mass and that gives us a chance to absorb and enjoy; a nice treat! Our faith lives look different still than they did a year ago and I imagine they will for quite some time, but we're at least focusing on it now and that feels really refreshing!



Probably the hardest thing for us was feeling like we lost "us"; the things that we enjoyed as a couple basically stopped for a while. We didn't have time for cooking fun meals, or energy for hobby dates (me scrapbooking, him working on a game), I couldn't stay awake through shows or movies, Steven was getting home too late for family walks, on Steven's days off we were focused on the baby or on catching up on things that needed to be done... the list goes on. For quite a while, we didn't go on dates, which we did probably weekly until Felicity was born. We did go on a date when Felicity was about 3.5 months old because we were on a family vacation and my parents watched her. That was lovely and SO needed. When she got older, closer to 7 or so months, we began switching date nights with our neighbor, which is the only way we can afford a date night! That has been so amazing for us because it makes for a cheap night out and we fully trust them to watch her, plus their house and family is really familiar to Felicity. It is seriously a dream come true, and the time for ourselves once a month or so is wonderful! We've slowly added back in things that we used to do pre-baby, like board game nights. We haven't had a chance to go to the movies at all since she was born, but we've had some fun movie nights at home where we go to Target for the popped popcorn, grab a red box, and watch a movie after she goes to bed. It's not the same, but it's special and helps us reconnect as best friends and spouses, rather than as parents. We are currently reading a book about remaining spouses after baby and, though it's geared towards couples during pregnancy, it's brought up some good discussion for us about what we are doing well at and ways we can improve. 

All the little things that were identifiers of us as a couple changed- even the things we were adamant wouldn't change. Steven and I are huge cuddlers. My love language is physical touch and his is quality time, so cuddling meets both those needs perfectly. We used to lie in bed for hours cuddling and talking. Every night when we went to bed, we'd cuddle, sometimes talking and sometimes silent, until we got comfortable to go to sleep. When we watched shows on the couch, we'd cuddle. Anyways, this was one thing we talked about during pregnancy that we didn't want to change. But that was when we thought our baby would sleep in the cosleeper. Once she joined us in bed, a decision we both thought was best, our cuddling quickly went to almost 0. During the times where she was on the outside of me and Steven would try to cuddle, I was just too touched out. Imagine that- physical touch as a love language and still I was touched out. Once we picked out a few new shows on Netflix, we were able to add some couch cuddling back into our lives. After Felicity moved to her bedroom a little over a month ago, our cuddling quota has been and continues to be filled. It's amazing what a good hug can do for your marriage! 

So here we are, a year later, and though "us" has changed, we both feel very content and like we've gotten each other back. It's been a wonderful and also trying year, and we've grown so much as a couple through all of it. I feel like we're stronger than we were, that we understand each other and our needs more, and that we love each other and respect each other so much more than we did just a year ago. There were times I thought we might never feel like we used to. And in a way, we don't, but this really is better. The dynamic of coparenting is so different when you're used to just being spouses, but it can also be really enriching once you come out of the trenches of the newborn and infant days. There's always room for improvement, though! Next on our list is taking an overnight trip at some point- just one night probably, but mommy's not quite ready for that yet ;). 


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sleep

Sleep..... ah, elusive sleep! I feel like this is one of those blog posts that needs a gigantic disclaimer from the first sentence.

Disclaimer: This post is for me to read in the future as a reminder and encouragement in the style of parenting we've chosen. It is not directed towards any of my readers nor is it meant to be a judgement of anyone. 

Carry on :).

Steven and I knew from before our baby was born that we would not practice the "cry it out" method, nor any of its cousin-methods (graduated cry it out, etc). It feels wrong to our core, being that we really believe in gentle and attachment parenting. We also read all the research (which I will not link here because, again, persuading isn't the intent of my post) which confirmed what felt right to us. However, as much as we knew we would not use cry it out, we didn't particularly know what we would use. I was later introduced to a group called the Wait It Out method which is pretty much what it sounds like- waiting out whatever the baby is dealing with be it sleep regressions, developmental milestones, sickness, teeth, all the things that affect sleep, the vast majority completely out of baby's control. It introduced me, and therefore Steven, into gentle ways to handle sleep experiences. I don't say issues or problems because how our baby sleeps is how our baby sleeps. We don't expect her to be convenient, nor do we feel the need to train her. What we do is help her along when we feel she's ready for another step or something different.



But I'm getting ahead of myself! I basically want to document what her first year of sleep was like in one place (though of course I can't go through all the details) so that I can look back on this for the next baby, because there are definitely moments where you think it won't end, and you wonder if you're doing it all wrong, but I feel completely and peace with and happy with where our line of thought has taken us as we completed her first year. 

In the newborn days and up through a few months old, I never tried to put Felicity on any type of schedule. I did form a routine, but she basically just slept when she was tired. She figured out night vs day at about week 5 and I would say those 5 weeks were the hardest of all. But everything I read said she would likely have it down by 6 weeks and I did the things it suggested, like lots of outdoor time during the day, and dim lighting in the evening. She developed her own sleep schedule, which has always been flexible, but I could generally predict about when she would be tired based on when she woke up. And it worked and she was an amazing sleeper at night and decent through the day (with lots of car naps which we both enjoyed!)... until the 4 month sleep regression. For quite a few months after that, she would wake more and more. This is how we ended up going from cosleeping (same room) to bed sharing (same bed). It made our lives SO MUCH EASIER. Once I was past the point of pumping at night/Steven giving her a bottle, no one had to get out of bed, and I barely had to wake. I'd latch her on and go back to sleep any time she woke up. (Of course I have to stop and mention that there are safety guidelines to adhere to when bedsharing. Google them!) Her day time naps were pretty short, but I just followed her lead. 



When she was 6 or 7 months old, I decided to see if she was ready to move to her room for naps. She was not ready. I know some people would suggest that if you want them to sleep in their room, you make that happen, but there was no gentle way to go about that for her. I tried the ways I knew, they did not work, and that's how I knew she wasn't ready. So back to our bed full time she went. Honestly, we were ok with that. A minor inconvenience as far as cleaning our room/putting away laundry/etc went? Sure. But not a huge deal. 

As Felicity got closer to a year, she was waking up quite a bit. Here is where I add that spousal support is not just helpful, but necessary. We had a routine where I put her down, Steven helped her back to sleep any time between her bed time and ours, and then he'd help during the night if I requested. I knew that it wasn't all hunger based, so we decided to see if she was open to Steven comforting her some of the time. Sometimes she was and sometimes she wasn't. So we took turns comforting her/getting her back to sleep and also sleeping in when both of us were home. This is what kept us sane and having the other person on board (especially on the really tough nights!) is what made it work. If one of us was particularly frustrated, a simple reminder that she's a baby, that it won't last forever, and of why we were doing what we were doing was all we needed to get back on board. 



Shortly before Felicity's birthday, I sensed she might be ready to try her own room again. She was beginning to wake at new times- when we came to bed, when Steven got up for work (4:30 or 5am) and when he would leave (6-6;30am). She also quit nursing completely to sleep all on her own. She would nurse, then unlatch and either play a bit and go to sleep or roll over and go to sleep. That led me to believe that she might be ready for her own space where she wouldn't have disturbances and no longer needed the comfort of nursing all the way to sleep. I knew from mini trials in between 6-7 months and now that she wasn't open to being put in a crib because she's never been lowered in before so that sensation was totally weird for her. So I turned the crib into a toddler bed for my 11 month old. I was a bit nervous but we rolled some blankets under the sheet as a bit of a block from rolling out and put padding on the floor. Felicity did wonderfully at night but it was horrible during the day. She was so upset and fought it pretty hard. So I figured she wasn't quite ready for naps to take place there yet and went back to putting her down in our bed. After she had night time mastered (about a week), I started doing naps there again and she took right to it. I nurse her before naps and bed, give her a kiss and hug (she hugs me back every time!) and tell her I'm going to lay her in her big girl bed. There are times where Felicity cries when it's time to take a nap or go to sleep and I rub her back and comfort her through it. But there's a huge difference in her cry because she's sad she has to go to sleep/stop playing and being distraught at sleeping in a different place or not ready for a transition. I've gotten pretty good at distinguishing those sounds over the past year and know which ones mean "back off; I'm not ready!" and which ones I can love and comfort her through.  She's always slept about a total of 12 hours (7-7), but many nights now she is sleeping 8-10 of those straight through. She comes to our bed around 5am, which is fine with us because we miss her! :) 



We are really, really happy with our decision to let her needs guide what we did regarding sleep. There were times that it was really tough, but the incredibly smooth transitions help us to know that we did what was right for her and us. We listened to her needs, met them, and she let us know when she was ready for the next step. There were times where one of us would say "the next baby is at least going to nap in the crib!"- and maybe they will! All babies are different- but overall our gut feeling is that the baby is going to let us know what she or he needs, that we will survive, that parenthood isn't supposed to be easy or convenient, that we can take turns sleeping in or napping on the really rough days, and that, like with Felicity, transitions will not be an epic battle if we follow his or her cues. 



Things aren't perfect now and probably will never be (well, until she's past the age of needing us after nightmares, wetting the bed, etc... but then we'll be up waiting for her to get home at night!) as she goes through more milestones, gets more teeth, wakes up because she has to poop :P, and the tons of other things that can disturb sleep, but we feel like we're on a good path and definitely want to stay on it for the next baby. I know there will be the added complexities of having a toddler/preschooler (well, God willing anyway she won't be much older than that) and a baby with a whole new personality, and THAT is why I want to have this blog post to read back on, remember how we let our instincts and our baby guide us, and how happy I felt after a year of doing that! 


Friday, February 20, 2015

A Letter to My One Year Old

My baby girl,

You are 1. YOU ARE ONE! What a year it has been. Do you know what song was playing when you came into the world? I brought my Matt Maher cd to the hospital, and Daddy gave it to the nurse at one point when labor was getting particularly rough. She put it on and it was on track 10 "Christ Is Risen" when you came into this world. The lyrics were not lost on me. Well, they were at the time, but not when I was reflecting on everything later. Here's one part of the song:

"Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave

Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with him again
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave

Oh death! Where is your sting?
Oh hell! Where is your victory?
Oh Church! Come stand in the light!
The glory of God has defeated the night!

Oh death! Where is your sting?
Oh hell! Where is your victory?
Oh Church! Come stand in the light!
Our God is not dead, he's alive! he's alive!"




You were born into this world completely quiet and still. You had an apgar of 1 initially and gave us quite a scare. I remember laying there as the nurses were suctioning you and giving you oxygen, trying to get you to respond, thinking "God, please don't take this baby away from me after all the work we put into getting her here" and calling out to you "Baby, mommy wants to hear you cry!" over and over, trying to keep it together. The doula was rubbing my shoulder, looking really concerned, and Daddy was standing towards the foot of the bed (since he helped deliver you) looking petrified and staring at the nurses and the doctor who had rushed in. But a few minutes later, you let out a cry and didn't stop for an hour! It was the sweetest sound! And you have been vivacious and full of life since that first cry. You "came awake" and a fire was lit within you that is still blazing! 


Felicity, you are confident, determined, and go after what you want until you get it. You are alert and have been since you were just a few weeks old. You don't miss much! You are the best kind of challenge :). I have to work hard to keep up with you, both physically and mentally, because you love to be on the go! It may be infuriating some days (right now as I type this, you are insistent on pressing computer keys!), but it will serve you well in life. You live life so beautifully, doing everything with your all. What lessons most of us could learn from watching you play or attempt a new skill!


You are also a very sensitive and deeply feeling baby. As painful as this can be sometimes, I hope it's a trait you never lose. Things that other babies don't blink at are heart breaking for you. It causes you to "check in" with Mommy often. You crawl into my lap for a quick snuggle and then you're back to whatever you were doing. The combination of your determination and your sensitivity is going to be a lot for you to shoulder, but will turn you into the most amazing person as you grow. I hope one day your sensitivity turns into compassion for others, and I have no doubt that it will. 



You give the SWEETEST kisses. All I have to say is "can I have a kissy?" and you pelt my face with open mouth kisses over and over and over. I will be so sad the day you grow out of that. When you're trying to avoid going to sleep, you tilt your chin up at me for a kiss and do it about 10 times before finally realizing it won't get you out of bedtime :). You reach your arms up for me to hold you or pick you up, which is so heart melting. When you first wake up, I get calm, quiet snuggles that I know I likely won't get the rest of the day when you're wiggling and crawling around. When I nurse you to sleep, you usually kick, turn, or try to play with my bellybutton (so awkward!) as you wind down, but then you cuddle against me, tummy to tummy, for the best snuggles and your eyes drift closed. It's still one of my favorite parts of the day. 



I haven't taken to motherhood as easily or as gracefully as I would have wished. Sometimes I think "maybe I'm better with school aged kids?". I think about how easy life was before you. But you know the thought that prevails? How amazing my life is now that you're in it, and how much love I have for you. I've never known this kind of love before and it is joyfully overwhelming. Some days after I've already spent hours upon hours with you, no doubt many of them with you clinging to my legs refusing to entertain yourself for even 10 minutes, you do something cute and my heart melts to mush as I fawn over the sweet little person that you are. Sometimes in the grocery store, you keep clapping or 'dancing' as we shop and I have to stop right there in the aisle and kiss your little rosy cheeks and your sweet little lips. Daddy can take you out for a few hours to give Mommy some "me time", and 30 minutes in I'm anxiously waiting for him to bring my baby girl back. My life will never be the same, nor would I ever want it to be. You're the person who has taught me to become a mother. You will continue to teach me how to be patient, how to put others before myself, and you will show me the things about myself that I want to improve upon. You teach me, day after day, to die to self and live for another. I'm a different person, a better person, because of you. 


I can't wait to see what you'll do in your second year, and who you'll become. I'll know you'll be even more busy this year as you continue to learn new skills, but don't count on me kissing you or hugging you any less :). 



Love, Mommy