Her Bad Mother

Saturday, February 4, 2006

If you're still in school, plug your ears...

Sometimes, kids, you don't have to read the book.

What this means for my one or two regular listeners - disregard my last blog IN ITS ENTIRETY. I take it all back.

Once I removed my head from the wall that I was banging it against, I went out immediately to hunt down and purchase Harvey Karp's The Happiest Baby on the Block. Found it at my local giant chain bookstore, where a bookstore grunt with the biggest braces on the biggest teeth I have ever seen located it for me in about 5 seconds. It's apparently in high demand.

So as I'm waiting in line to pay for my precious, precious purchase, I decide to peek inside the book to see what precious, precious wisdom awaits me. Thumb through the chapters - it's pretty much what's in the DVD, spelled out. But I KNOW that the information that I, the DVD-watcher, have missed is in the book somewhere, and I've gotta find it. I've gotta know how to get Baby off of the 5-S crack, because, at 3 months of age she is leaving the 'fourth trimester' (during which, Karp claims, the 5 S's are most effective) and she is already demonstrating - to my tremendous frustration - that the effects of that crack slowly begin to wear off the bigger and stronger a baby gets (see past posts).

And then I find it, the elusive sub-section of the 5th chapter, which promises to explain "how to wean your baby off of the 5 S's." Sucking, swinging, shh-ing - easy, easy, easy - and then, finally, swaddling.

And it's, like, 3 SENTENCES LONG. "After about the fourth month (aren't trimesters three months? isn't this supposed to be a 'fourth trimester' kind of deal? you mean I didn't have to freak out for a whole 'nother MONTH?)... after about the fourth month, you might try swaddling baby with one arm free, and then gradually progressing to two arms, etc, etc." Or something like that. Whatever. THAT WAS IT.

Shit. I already know that one. I WORKED IT OUT MYSELF. It's kind of a no-brainer. I was not paying twenty-some-odd-dollars for that.

I turfed the book on a nearby paperback rack, bought this month's Junior magazine and got out of there. (If you don't know Junior Magazine - or its counterpart, Junior Pregnancy and Baby - it's British and it's, like, kiddie Vogue. It is full of references to Silver Cross prams and mom & baby spas and has layouts of toddlers in Dolce and Gabbana outfits. It makes me feel inferior in the most superficial way. The way Vogue does. But I still buy both Junior and Vogue. And read them cover to cover.)

So, yeah, about the reading? Didn't do it. Did not read this book. Only saw the movie and am quite confident that I know all that I need to know about what Dr. Harvey Karp has to say.

'Cause, people? He's not Plato. (I don't need to say that the comparison borders on the heretical, do I?) His book is not philosophy, or literature, or even an Oprah's Book Club selection. His advice is really, really good - I'm still sticking by it - but you do not have to read it.

So I'm going on record as stating that you sometimes - sometimes - do not have to read the book.

There. Now you will never hear that from me again.

But what the above all means is, you will hear more about the swaddling. Sorry.

Friday, February 3, 2006

Why you should always read the book

I've been in school for, like, forever. So I know a thing or two about books. And I've been in school so long that they let me teach people who haven't been in school as long as I have, and so I know a thing or two about telling people that they must read books.

It is, some would say, one of my more irritating qualities - pestering my students, and sometimes members of the general population, including my husband, with the admonition that they must always, always read the book. No getting around it. No, I don't care that you heard that The Matrix is, basically, Plato's Republic in a cinematic nutshell (Gah! It's not!) You must read the book.

Say it with me. You. Must. Read. The. Book.

If you like, you can join me in whacking my head against the wall as I repeat this. Over and over. Or, maybe you could go look up 'irony' in the dictionary and read the definition aloud to me.

I finally looked up Harvey Karp's book, The Happiest Baby on the Block. I figured, might as well. I've been pushing it on everybody. Hadn't read it though. Saw the movie. (Which I highly recommend, BTW. I really did see it, so you can trust me on this.)

But I did not read the book. Why does this matter, apart from the issue of intellectual and pedagogical integrity? Because I've been polluting the blogoverse (blogiverse? blogverse?) with my manic rants about how swaddling (which I learned about from the Dr. Karp movie) is becoming less effective as Baby gets older, how she keeps busting out, how I'm totally anxiety-ridden about how I'm going to wean her from the swaddling, blah, blah blah. And because having polluted the blogverse (?) with this crap I finally follow MY OWN LINK to the site for the book and discover that it has a chapter with a sub-section that addresses "how to wean your baby off the 5 S's" (swaddling is, if I have to explain this to you, one of the S's). That's right. The goddamned book has a goddamned how-to.

That sound you hear is me continuing to whack my head against that wall.

'Cause while I love this girl, to, like, infinity and beyond (the Husband hates when I say stuff like this, BTW. Says it's so extreme as to defy comprehension and so meaning. He prefers 'completely.' Nice and straightforward.) So, although I love her COMPLETELY...

... (how could one not?!?! Look at her!!!) when the swaddle ends up tangled around her I go a little bit crazy. (OK, she doesn't get quite so far out of it on her own. But close.)

Four times in one night!

This is not (sadly) what it sounds like.

What it is - four times BUSTING OUT OF SWADDLE. Or rather, as I discovered in the dark hours of the dawn this morning, wriggling out of swaddle.

The night actually started out really well. Baby went down at her usual hour and then slept 7 hours straight. Seven! She hadn't done this in a couple of weeks, and I was beginning to fear that her early practice of sleeping long stretches at night (tho' not at all during the day) was a freak glitch in her newborn system, or that I had, somehow, screwed something up along the way (I was tending to the latter explanation.) I was stoked on this seven hours - and still buzzing from the super-successful day we'd had (see yesterday's post - takin' down the boys! Still stoked about that) - and in my mommy-fog euphoria only barely registered that she was out of her swaddle.

Let me rephrase that - I registered that she was out of her swaddle but this somehow, in my euphoric state, became a good thing. How much longer would she have slept if she hadn't gotten out? Hours longer? I was giddy with the thought that she might have slept all night, were it not for the swaddle. Conveniently ignoring the were it not for the swaddle part.

So I reswaddled and fed her and lay her back down. She remained more or less asleep through the whole process, and so I lay back down, abuzz with the super-duper-success I was having with her, and full of anticipation for the doubtlessly excessive number of hours I would now be sleeping. I was so buzzed that it didn't phase me when I heard her wriggling and realised that she had gotten out again. And I was still riding that buzz - tho' the ride was getting a little rocky - when she did it a third time a half-hour later. But by the time she had grunted and tugged her way out the FOURTH time the buzz was gone. With a baby hangover setting in.

Were it not for that goddamned swaddle, it seems, I might have slept all night. It seems. Obviously, if she could sleep unswaddled, this wouldn't be an issue. Herein lies the dilemma: without the swaddle, she won't sleep. With the swaddle, she won't stay asleep.

The realization that I had in the dark hours of the dawn was that she gets out of the swaddle because of the very problem that necessitates the swaddle - she's a wriggler. She's not intentionally punching her way out with the fancy Kill Bill ninja moves (tho' she does have those moves, and then some). She's accidentally getting out as a result of the wriggling and squirming - the swaddle fabric loosens and her arms get free and then she punches herself in the head or pokes herself in the eye and then it's all over.

But maybe I'm just being greedy. The swaddling stops the wriggling that prevents her from sleeping. Shouldn't I just be grateful that the swaddle effectively provides Baby (and, theoretically, me) with a decent number of hours of uninterrupted sleep? Shouldn't I? Sadly, I am greedy. And competitive (other babies sleep through the night!) And obsessive (see all posts). So it's not easy for me to let this go.

No matter what, tho', I'm still fully committed to swaddling in principle - it's fulfilled, like, 99.9% of its promise (the promises came from Harvey Karp, FYI. Happiest Baby on the Block guy. He rocks. In the spirit of Jezer's 'Really Good Stuff' post, I figured I should give him his props.) It has reliably soothed her, put her to sleep and prolonged her sleep. So, yeah, I'll be sticking with it, even as I continue to obsess about it. I'll try to spare you the prolonged rants.

(BTW, in the same spirit, I still stand steadfastly behind the Miracle Blanket, our swaddle of choice. Yeah, she's getting out of it, but it took her a respectably long time to develop this ability. And, still, the blanket keeps her swaddled more often than not, whereas other blankets fail utterly to keep her swaddled for any useful length of time. It's just that you only get to hear about the nots from me, 'cause it's the 'nots' rather than the 'more oftens' that are driving me crazy.)

Maybe I'll start using duct tape. I'm kidding. Sort of.

Thursday, February 2, 2006

That's my grrl!

My Baby rocks.

I know, I'm supposed to say that (or something like it), 'cause I'm her mother, but seriously. She. Rocks.

We went to our first 'activity' today, a baby-toddler drop-in program at a nearby library, which is basically just like a support group for babies (who tend not to have a tremendous amount of peer support and interaction. Seeing as they can't speak and all.) So, yeah, baby support group. With singing. And puppets.

(The unspoken truth here, about to be spoken - it's also basically speed-dating for mommies, whose opportunities for cruising each other in the park are more limited in a Canadian winter. That's really why we go to these things. You all know it's true, too. You've got your pick-up lines. Mine is, "how old is your baby?" I know. Banal. But it always works.)

So, Baby LOVED the playgroup. There was circle time - where some hyperactive woman put big puppets on her hands and danced and sang and tried to lure the babies into responding - and Baby TOTALLY grooved on it. She held a rattle (that's a big deal, trust me) and shook it (bigger deal). She smiled and bounced and shook and basically just GOT DOWN while many of the other, older babies just, like, drooled and stared into space. Mommy was very, very proud. (Yes, it does matter that my baby be better than other babies. Sorry. Oh yeah, and also that she was having fun. Being better than other babies.)

Then there was playtime. Which is just what it sounds like - everybody retreats from the circle to the various playmats and playstations (the baby kind, not the lame-alternative-to-XBox-kind) and the mommies get down to the business of cruising each other.

Well, I won't bore you with the details of the mommy-cruising. Trust me, it's not remotely dirty and therefore not very interesting. (I will say, however, that the words "do you come here often" were actually spoken. More than once. But yeah, I scored. Got new mommy friends.)

The REALLY cool part had to do with Baby.

Now, the whole playmat scene (for the babies) is one of either sitting up or laying on tummies. All of the other babies (all boy babies) on the mat were somewhere between 5 and 8 months, so their sitting and tummy techniques were pretty solid. Baby is not quite 3 months old, and although she sits up really well in her Bumbo, she still requires my assistance otherwise. And as for the tummy skills? Well, let's just say that Baby hates tummy-time. With a passion. I'm lucky if I can get a minute out of the recommended 20 per day from her. (Her neck, however, is really strong. This, we think, because she's always been super arch-y and because she likes to fly. Not real flying, duh, but Daddy-assisted flying, which involves holding her face-forward and moving her through the air. Makes Mommy nervous, but Baby clearly likes it, and there's the whole let-the-dad-have-his-own-style-of-parenting thing that all the books admonish about.)

ANYWAY. So I'm getting the vibe that the other moms are maybe being just a teensy bit condescending when they say, "aaw, she's so small!" and "it'll be more fun for her when she's bigger." Or maybe I'm just sensitive. But Baby - dear, dear Baby - did Mommy right.

She wasn't gonna just sit by and let the boys work the moves. She started squirming up a storm watching the boys play on their tummies, so I, just for the hell of it (and because my arms were sore), put her down. On her tummy. AND SHE TOTALLY GOT INTO IT. Pushed herself up on her little arms and craned her neck and looked around as if to say, "this is SO no big deal." And when the two 6-month old boys next her finally did their face plants, I could swear that she, with her comparatively little munchy baby head still proudly aloft, was going "HAH!"

That's my girl. Anything the boys can do she's gonna do better.

She stayed there on the mat, on her tummy, for longer than any of the other babies. Made faces at herself in the floor mirrors, played with balls, did the whole floor circuit. So, the way I figure it, the key to her development is gonna be to constantly expose her to what bigger boy babies are doing and she'll do those things too - faster and better - just to spite them. She'll be building rockets by pre-school.

She's so cool.

Momma said knock you out.

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Why I love my husband

The Husband was a total prince this morning - as he always is, but especially so whenever schedule and circumstance allow him to linger around home at high-baby-traffic times - and took over breakfast duty with Baby so as to allow me to steal some much-needed sleep. He brought her downstairs, changed her, played with her and then brought her back up, re-swaddled her, and put her down for her mid-morning nap. Then he went to work, late.

Some time later, after she wakes up, I go to unpeel her from her swaddle and I find her dressed very nattily - tho' suprisingly - in a dressy blouse-style onesie (the kind with puffy sleeves and a scalloped princess collar), purple pants with satin trim, and ducky rattle socks. All dressed up, she was, with nowhere to go. The swaddling blanket, needless to say, did not go with the outfit.

So why do I love my husband?

1) Because he let me get more sleep. Duh.

2) Because he dressed his daughter up in what amounts to baby party clothes (excepting the socks, although I grant that there would be something wrong with him if he'd swaddled her in shoes) at 8am on a Wednesday morning, and then put her to bed in those clothes.

3) Because I know, without having to ask, that it took him at least two attempts to get those clothes on. That blouse would have gone on backward the first time.

4) Because I know that he was pleased to be letting me rest, and that he was happy to be changing and dressing his daughter, and that he thought to himself that his daughter looked pretty ridiculous but goddamned CUTE in that outfit.

5) Because he's a prince.

Toyz in tha 'hood part II

Further to yesterday's post...

1) Why Notorious C.O.W.? Because, hell, look at him. Just one big rockin' head. He's clearly the heavy of the bunch.

And because Notorious P.I.G. would just have been too obvious, you know?

2) Yes, that is a FISHER-PRICE infant-toddler rocker that the barnyard posse hangs out on and that Baby visits frequently. And yes, my home is becoming over-run with garish baby toys. My well-laid plan to have only sleek, design-friendly baby stuff in my home lasted about 5 minutes. 'Cause it's all about what Baby wants. And Baby's finely-tuned aesthetic sensibilities have not yet been honed (assuming that they have not been and will not be corrupted by the current stock of gear) - Baby likes bright colours (have another gander at the Whoozit) and a variety of textures, among which (gah!), plastic. (And not cool look-what-I-got-at-the-MOMA-giftshop plastic, either - pink plastic. And blue. With rattles.)

But bright colours and varied textures are good for Baby's brain development - or so all of the toy propagandists tell me - and her IQ takes the front seat here. So, for the betterment of Baby's precious, precious brain, the garish gear is tolerated. That, and a) FP is cheaper than Oeuf, which she would just reject anyway (she rejected a wide variety of bouncers, baby papasans and swings before deciding that the FP rocker would be her throne), b) the rejection factor that applies to bouncer chairs also applies to playmats, mobiles, and all manner of 'developmental' toys (thank god for hand-me-downs and generous return policies or I'd be more broke than can be tolerated) and c) I'm going for anything - anything - that buys me 15 more minutes of time to brush my teeth/pee/eat/sleep/blog (not necessarily in that order.) Which means that, yes, there is going to be an Exersaucer - and probably the biggest, most pimped-out Exersaucer I can find.

3) Whoozit came off yesterday like the mac-daddy of all the toys, and Number One Deputy of Her Royal Highness the Baby of Poopsalot. This is mostly true. Whoozit is the mac-daddy of toys. But he's only head of security on the toy detail. Chief of military security is this person...

... Georgie, aka Doob (don't ask, not because it's bad, but because we can't remember. Insert pot joke here), now self-designated Security Chief in the court of Poopsalot and going by the name NanaDoob. The NanaDoob holds court beside the bassinet for the duration of Baby's naps, and assists in the putting down of Baby for naps, which consists of monitoring the procedure to ensure that Baby does not cry and to bite me on the knee if she does.

The NanaDoob does not police the toys. Perhaps because she figures that they pose no real threat; more probably because she hangs with them when Baby isn't around.

4) The Bumbo. The Bumbo rocks. It lets Baby really see what's going on around her feet. But what most rocks about the Bumbo is that it has revealed to Baby the choicest toys of all...

... her feet.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Toyz in tha 'hood

Baby's got a new best friend.

Ok, well, she's got a lot of best friends, all in a rotating cycle of preference. The top dog best friend of the moment, however, is Whoozit.

Whoozit is like this reject from the Muppet factory. Or Animal's alien cousin from the planet Zork. Or how I would have seen Animal had my pre-pubescent self been on acid while watching the Muppets. (I of course would never take acid while watching the Muppets as an adult - which, by the way, I am totally up for. The Muppets, that is. Not the acid. You don't need acid with the Muppets. Besides, it would just corrupt the purity of the Rainbow Connection.)

Anyway. Baby LOVES Whoozit. Or, at least, is fascinated by him. (Someday she'll need to learn to distinguish between these two emotional experiences. But for now it's fine.) Which is exactly what the Whoozit's publicist promised - on the propaganda that comes attached to Whoozit's arm - "Nothing engages babies quite like Whoozit." It also informs that Whoozit is "Baby's favourite friend," and that "When you're discovering the world, it's good to have friends like Whoozit along."

I'll say. 'Cause that world has got some rough 'hoods and bad crowds.

For example...

This is the barnyard posse. These dudes are bad, yo.

They lurk near - OK, on - Baby's rocker-bouncer chair. Every time, it starts out nicely - they're all like, "Hey, Baby, whazzup?" and Notorious C.O.W. riffs on Old MacDonald and everybody's down. But before long it gets real ugly - they start giving her the stare-down stink-eye and, I think, mocking her outfits - and it ends in tears.

So that's where Whoozit comes in. Pull crying Baby away from the Barn Gang and sit her down next to Whoozit and everything's fine. I think it's a My Bodyguard kind of thing. Whoozit is way bigger and scarier looking than C.O.W., Lil' Pig and Sheepie, but that's the point. Whoozit could so take them.

So Baby says,"... and then they came at me like this!" And Whoozit goes and kicks some barnyard ass.

"Baby's favourite friend." Don't leave the nursery without him.

Monday, January 30, 2006

'Cause motherhood's gonna require some hard drinkin'...

Bust out of the swaddle twice last night. I wasn't going to start the blog this way again, but couldn't help myself. It's driving me crazy.

I've seriously got to let this issue go. 'Cause if I was following this blog, I'd be like, "dude, set your baby free or get over it."

So I'll shut up about the swaddling. For the moment. It's not like there aren't, oh, ten thousand other things about Baby and her universe and my role in it to obsess about.


That was a short moment. That is, two baby-cycles (eat-awake-sleep) of a moment.

Nap attempt Number One: put sleepy Baby in bassinet unswaddled. Disaster. She looks at me with a look of utter shock and betrayal. Like I'm about to pitch her afloat down the River Nile (this simile would work better if I were putting her down in a Moses basket. But whatever.) Then the SCREAM.

Backtrack! One-two-three speed swaddle; a couple of gasping sobs, quickly corked with a soother, and we're back on track.

40 minutes down. Not a long nap, but beggars can't be choosers (napping is not, let's say, her preferred way to spend her time.)

Nap attempt Number Two: partial swaddle; screaming. Loose swaddle; better. Baby goes down, reluctantly. But 30 minutes later, she's out and yelling.

So I give up. Nap Number Three is currently in progress (20 minutes in and counting). Yep, she's swaddled. Good and tight.


This has been one of those days during which I feel, for a moment or two, here and there (or maybe more) that motherhood is going to defeat me entirely.

But would I turn back the clock, have things any different? No way. This is super-tough, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

(Okay - I would maybe have it with a full-time housekeeper and a baby expert on retainer. But that's it!)

What's crazy about all this is that I've called the Husband twice trying to lure him home from work early to spot me off on baby duty, but the minute he gets here and says "OK let me take her" I just know that I will turn away, cuddle her closer to me and say, "just give me one more minute..."

Because when you've got this...

... how can you not just cling on?

Still, the Husband is bringing me some wine. And I will - after one more good cuddle - hand her off in exchange for a glass of it.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The swaddle diaries

Day 77...

Night before last, swaddle intact. Last night, busted out once. I think that the score is just about even.

Ha. Who am I kidding? I lost the battle of wills with my daughter about 10 seconds after she was born. But I soldier on, as I must. She at least has to THINK that I'm in charge.

Did some research on swaddle-weaning. Turns out that most swaddlers never wean - they just keep on swaddling 'til they lose the battle, 'til, presumably, Baby's will to be unswaddled defeats her own dependence on the swaddle (and, presumably, Mommy's will to swaddle.)

This baby still needs the swaddle. Despite her determination to free herself, it is absolutely essential to her sleeping comfort. The minute she frees herself, she's miserable - she's like an escaped convict who's hit the other side of the wall and immediately collapses in fear, sobbing until the guards come shackle her up again. (I know that that doesn't happen in real life. I think. At least, it's not going to happen on Prison Break.)

Yes, I'm the guard in that analogy. Note that I'm not even the warden. I don't know who that would be. Not my husband. Maybe one of the cats.

Anyway. The swaddle - her prison - is necessary to her sleepy well-being. But she clearly doesn't appreciate it (as with all good/necessary things in childhood/adolescence, I suppose.) I can hear myself already - and it's shrill - "It's for your own good!!!

Other things I can hear myself say:

"I carried you for over 10 months!" (41 weeks. That last week was a whole new circle of hell. Or so I thought, until I went into labour...)

"I was in labour 36 hours with you!" (And the experience will still defy description 16 years from now. Lucky her.)

"I breastfed you for --- months!" (Still counting on that one. I'll probably exaggerate this number. I won't exaggerate the numbers above - in the first case, because if she's half as clever as I think she'll be she'll never believe that I carried her for, say, 16 months. And in the second case, because 36 hours stills seems perfectly respectably hellish to me.)

"I was up all day and all night with you when you were a baby!" (See previous postings. This is maybe something of an exaggeration. She's a good sleeper. If I'm up all night it's because I'm obsessive about her breathing, her spitting up, her swaddle, her future, etc, etc...)

"I changed your diaper!" (Oh did I ever. And believe me she is going to hear about the turbo-poo. As will all of her boyfriends. Yes, I know that I'm going to mess her up. My mother did me. Fair is fair.)

And so on. All of which will be followed by - "and this is the thanks I get!?!?"


Do not...

... be fooled by the very adorable, peaceful, unswaddled frog-pose here. Moments after this picture was taken, her arms and legs flailed out into sky-diver pose, and then immediately retracted into a spectacular head-punch. Scored a 9.8 from the Canadian judge.