Saturday, December 31, 2011

Letter to Greta: 2 Months


Dear Littlest One,

You are two months old, and such a roly-poly sweetie that you’re already filling out three-month outfits and stretching to the end of your three-month sleepers. You are smiling now, small, pleased, toothless grins, and staring intently on whoever is holding you. You are sweet and adorable and my favorite part of my day is when I bring you into bed with me for a half hour or hour in the morning, where you sleep in the crook of my arm until your sister wakes up.

And yet you are a restless baby, often unable to settle yourself; you are still snorting and grunting and straining, though not as badly as before, and it often seems that you are just uncomfortable. This may be just a baby thing, but I’ll of course ask your doctor about it. Just like your diaper rash—that you had for days and days before your checkup, and which actually required a prescription—I sometimes feel like a first-time parent with you, fumbling and not doing everything I should.

For the most part, you are doing some good sleeping: 7 or 7:30 until 12 or 1am, then 4 or 5 and then up at 6:30 or 7. This is not a guarantee, of course; some nights you can’t settle yourself and we are up rocking you for hours. And sometimes you cry off and on all evening. But we are on a path to feeling rested, more or less, or at least as “rested” we can feel with two babies.

I wish sometimes that we could spend more time just the two of us so you could have my undivided attention. But as it is, you have to accept divided attention much of the time, nursing peacefully while I talk to Lucia (or, more often these days, warn her to stop throwing or screaming etc.—you’ve inspired some jealousy, finally). It will be nice when you are a bit older and you can join in while we play, or at least sit on a blanket near us so we can talk to you.

But even if you do sometimes feel overlooked, I hope you always know that you and I have a special bond of our own: it was just the two of us in that hospital for four weeks. We got through that together. We might not ever have so much alone time but for that month, littlest one, it was just you and me.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hours in a Day

It’s amazing how many hours there are in a day when you really need them. My agent has asked for revisions to my novel, hoping to turn the current trend of editors saying It’s great, it’s lovely, but no, into It’s great, it’s lovely, here’s an offer. And she wants those changes by January 10. When she asked what my schedule was like, I just told her I’d make it work.

The truth? I have no time. Days, evenings, and nights are occupied with caring for one or both children. Even naptime, a measly one hour each day, has been decimated by my cherished new child who often stays awake while my cherished older child is asleep. Evenings, once my own after 7:30 when Lucia was asleep, are now usually Greta’s fussy time. And then I go to bed, where I alternate sleeping and nursing until I get up and do it all over again the next day.

And yet—this project has forced me to find time. I quickly revised my laissez-faire attitude of letting Greta sleep whenever and however long she wanted to during the day; I now make sure she has at least an hour of awake time before Lucia’s nap, and, more often than not, I can get her to sleep at the same time. A blessed hour—or more!—is then mine. Of course, Greta is often sleeping in my lap, but I prefer writing longhand, so I just balance my notebook on top of her. We’ve also found that Greta’s fussy time at night was mostly caused by her simply wanting to be asleep, so right after Lucia’s bedtime I swaddle, nurse, and rock Greta until she sleeps. So the evenings are ours again as well. Precious child that she is, she’s been sleeping for the past week or so from 7:30 or 8 until midnight or 1am, then nursing and then sleeping again until around 5am, then nursing and then sleeping again till Lucia wakes up at 7.

I’ve also been stealing time: high-tailing it out of the house every weekend morning, making it to my favorite café before it gets crowded even though it sometimes means leaving Lucia in her pjs, breakfast uneaten, Andrew without his contacts yet in. But with two babies, if I don’t go when I have the chance, I won’t go at all, so I am up and dressed and out the door by 8. We introduced a bottle to Greta a couple of weeks ago with no problem, so I know I'm not leaving her to starve.

And I’ve been buying time. We’ve had our sitter back a couple of times each week, and I made the somewhat obvious but also thrilling discovery that I can actually use that time as work time despite my unwillingness to leave both babies with the sitter at once. I just put Greta in the Bjorn and walk outside until she falls asleep, and then go to a café and write. Greta is none the wiser, and I sometimes even feel like I’m in grad school again, sipping coffee and writing in a notebook, out in the city in the middle of the day with all the time in the world—and then Greta stirs, or my milk lets down, and I remember I’m a mom of two and I’d better focus while I can.

It’s amazing how much I can get done when I absolutely have to do it, and I’ve been pretty productive in all my eeked-out hours. But much work remains.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Letter to Lucia: 26 Months



Dear Little One,

A quick letter this month—it’s late and I need to get to bed. For once it’s not you who’s exhausting me. You’re pretty easy these days, though you certainly have your moments: refusing to have your diaper changed, refusing to lie still during said changing, insisting “Own. Own.” to put your own shoes on when we’re in a hurry to leave the house (this one’s cute, of course, despite the frustration).

You are starting to show signs of realizing that Greta is here to stay, and that Greta tends to take up quite a bit of my time. Though you’re unfailingly gentle and sweet with her, in the past couple of days you’ve often come up to me when I’m holding her and said, “Baby office.” This means I should go put the baby in her bouncy chair in the office, which is where she takes her naps. When the baby is sleeping in the office, you have all my attention. Sometimes you also say “No milk” when you don’t want the baby to nurse. The other morning when Daddy was holding Greta you chanted simply, “Baby no. Baby no.” You’re too young to realize it, dear one, but it’s hard on me, too, not to be able to give you the attention you need.

At 26 months you’re becoming shyer again, after a month or two of increased outgoingness. We went to two holiday parties last weekend and you definitely were not happy about it. At the first, the naturally exuberant hosts and their large, exuberant dog scared you immediately, and I had to hike you up on my hip (Greta was on my chest in the Bjorn) and carry you into another room, where we sat and ate a gingerbread man cookie until you were ready to emerge. At the second, you watched with interest as several older children played; but you ventured into the room with the toys only once you could have it all to yourself. At our playgroup this week, you sat near the window while three other children played with your toys. You didn’t cling to me, but you weren’t about to join in. And all I can say is, sorry, little one, but you are me. I truly hope you ultimately exhibit more of your daddy’s garrulousness and social ease; life is just easier that way. For now, though, you are happiest when you are here at home, with just us around, when you feel free to be your own chatty, funny, exuberant self.

Current favorite toys/activities: Play-Doh, stickers, drawing, Mardi Gras beads (still!), stuffed animals, Little People farm, cooking soup in your toy kitchen, books, toy stroller, collecting leaves and sticks in your bucket, Olivia, Elmo.

And with that I’ll bring this letter to a close.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bits

Little time to blog these days. I often find myself composing posts in my head, or noting something that should be a post, but then the day ends, and another day, and the posts don’t get written. So here are a few brief bits, more for my own desire to make sure things get written down than for any interesting reading for you all:

You

Lucia’s language acquisition is just careening forward these days. Today she took out some blocks and said, “I have blocks. I’m making a stack.” Just insane. What she’s having trouble with, however, are the pronouns me and you. Whenever a picture of her surfaces, we always point it out and say to her, “That’s you!” So now when she sees a picture of herself, she says, “That’s you!” I think she understands that it’s a picture of her, but she doesn’t understand that she should say “That’s me.” She does the same thing with the word “yourself.” “Do you want to do it yourself?” Andrew asked today, and then she kept saying, “Yourself” when she wanted to indicate that she wanted to do it on her own. She also sometimes just says, “Own” when she wants to do something by herself. “No, own,” she’ll say, pushing our hands away when we try to help Velcro her shoes.

Last Week

Last week marked my first few experiences of taking both girls out of the house by myself. Monday, we met a friend and her daughter at the playground, then they came over for lunch. Tuesday, I took the girls to the drugstore to fill a prescription. Wednesday, I took them both to Music Together (Greta slept the whole time in the Bjorn; Lucia danced with the teacher and hugged him, unprompted, at the end of class). Thursday I took the girls to a friend’s house for a morning playdate. Friday we went to the playground. The Bjorn and the warm fleece bunting I bought for it really are a godsend. I feel so empowered being able to just pop Greta onto my chest, and off we go.

Greta’s Checkup

Tuesday, Greta had a six-week checkup, and she has grown splendidly. She’s 9 pounds, 8 ounces, and 22 inches long—that’s 50th percentile for weight and 75th for height! These are numbers the likes of which we’ve never seen before. She’s about two to three weeks ahead of Lucia weight-wise; Lucia didn’t get to 10 pounds until she was eight weeks. In any case, those fat little cheeks aren’t just my imagination.

Christmas Sightings

There are still a few pumpkins in our neighborhood for Lucia to spot, but we’re turning our sights now to wreaths and Christmas trees on our walks. She gets very excited when she sees Christmas lights, and she is extremely excited to have such lights in our very own house. We got a Christmas tree this weekend, and though the tree-buying process vexed her—“No tree! No tree!” she said, refusing to cooperate and engage in photo-worthy tree selection activities as Andrew had hoped—she was happy once it was set up. She loves looking at the ornaments (I put lots of unbreakable ones at her level). And we wound some colored lights around the bookshelf just for fun.

Sleep

We’re getting some. Sort of. Greta gives us some good nights, some not so good. Maddeningly, she does a really long stretch of sleep in the evening—sometimes four or even five hours—but once we’re into the wee hours, it’s more like three hours. Her grunting is still an issue. The doctor said she might be eating too much (I could probably nurse another baby with my milk production), so I’ve been trying to cut her off a little, but this seems to have had a negligible effect. Each feeding is a roll of the dice. Sometimes she goes right back to sleep; sometimes she can’t settle for an hour. By 6 or 6:30 she’s usually done with her nighttime sleeping.

Our Days

Our days have been okay. When Greta takes long naps, it’s great. When she doesn’t, it’s hard. Lucia continues to be flexible and adaptable, but she’s started to get frustrated when Greta monopolizes too much of my time. “Baby chair,” she orders, telling me to put Greta in her chair; or, “No milk,” if she doesn’t want me to sit and nurse Greta. Sometimes she says firmly, “Mama sit right here,” patting the floor beside her when I’m nursing or rocking Greta. But she accepts my explanations that I’ll come over soon. And we’re having our sitter, Kate, come in a couple of days a week again for a couple of hours, which is great. Great for me to have an extra pair of hands, and I think great for Lucia to have someone play with her with undivided attention for a couple of hours.

And that’s all the bits for now. More soon.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Newborn Report

Friday morning, I woke up in a pool of milk. The front of my shirt was as soaked as it would have been had I dunked it in the bathtub. My sleeve was wet. The sheets, top and bottom, were wet. Then I sat up to nurse Greta and sat in the milk so my pajama bottoms were wet. It was not the best way to start the day.

I recount this as an illustration of why it isn’t easy returning to Infantland. I thought this time around would be easier, since we’d done it all before and knew what to expect. And in some ways it is easier: I’m worried less about details, mostly because I don’t have time to worry about them, and I don’t have any time at all to read baby books and wonder if I’m doing things “right.” What’s harder is the return itself. With baby #1, I expected things to change, even welcomed those changes as we entered A New Phase of Our Lives. I expected and looked forward to milk-soaked sheets and all the rest of it because it was all part of Having a Baby. With baby #2, it’s harder to welcome those changes with such Zen-like calm because, well, haven’t we been through this already? The sleepless nights, the endless laundry, the spitting up, the red-eyed infant who will not, despite all manner of soothing, give in to a nap? I thought I’d crossed those off my list. Yet here we are again.

And there are new challenges too—like figuring out nap and sleep schedules, which will be difficult with a toddler around. I hear first-time moms discussing how they have a forty-five-minute routine to get their infant to take an afternoon nap—ha, ha. I remember long stretches of rocking Lucia to sleep and religiously implementing a two-nap routine at around three months, and I know this time will be different. Greta’s “routine” is going to have to involve being nursed and then put down in her bouncy chair. Or napping on the go. Such is life for the second-born.

Last week, Greta looked calmly into my face with just the hint of a smile, then spit up down my shirt. The day before that, she seemed unaware that I was wearing real pants for the first time—not yoga pants, not leggings—and spit up all over those. She continues to be a sound, silent sleeper until the exact second we try to remove her from our laps/shoulders/arms. Then she either wakes up screaming or launches her award-winning barnyard imitation. (Is it a sty full of angry, ill-humored pigs, or is it Greta? I challenge you to decide.) (Also, I joke about this, but we’ll check with our doctor next week to make sure those noises aren’t a sign of a problem.)

Of course, Greta is adorable and we love love love her. She’s started giving tiny smiles, and her gaze is lengthening enough so that she gives us long, studious looks. She makes cute faces in her sleep. And she is getting cute little fat rolls at her wrists and knuckles (the benefit of the endless, endless nursing). She is great in the Bjorn, falling asleep and staying asleep long enough for a walk to the farmer’s market and some good playing in the park with Lucia.

So these are not meant to be complaints, just observations on our return to this well-trodden territory.