Wednesday, March 28, 2018

1y1m18d : When do you feel like a mom?

One thing that I have noticed since MJ has arrived, is how much I still feel very much like myself.  I am somewhat intrigued by people who say things like, 'Motherhood completes me.' or 'I've always wanted to be a mom'. I mean, I've always thought I would have a child (and now I do) but what does that mean to BE a mom?

I had MJ later in life, when I was already 42 (my Douglas Adam year). In preparation for MJ and just in general, I had shaped my life into something that made me pretty happy.  I have a job I love, I am solvent, I own a home (although I currently rent it out and live in another, but hey ho). I've dealt with a lot of my demons and baggage.  I am probably one of the best versions of myself now, then I have ever been.  But if MJ had not come along, this would still be true. My life, and who I am, is very independent of MJ.  I am a whole and fulfilled person who happens to have wanted, and then had, a child.  But if MJ had not happened, then I would have found something else meaningful to fill that spot.

So then what does it mean to feel like a mom? I am a mom for sure.  I put MJ's needs first (for the most part, when reasonable, I mean, her needs can't ALWAYS be first, mommy needs to pee). I have merged my caring for her into my life and routine, without giving up or particularly changing who I am. I have changed what I DO, because I have had to. You can't suddenly add a child to the mix and do everything like you used to do it.  But that was part of what I signed up to. It's no hardship, because I expected my life to change to accommodate this little person.  I just do it. And so I just AM a mother, but I'm not sure I FEEL like a mother.

I honestly am not even sure what that means. I love her in a way that is unique. But is that enough, does love make a parent?  Recently I had to travel to London for work which is about an hour by train away from Cambridge. MJ was at nursery for the day and so that was all taken care of. Yet as the train got further and further away from Cambridge I felt this pull on my heart, I could literally feel the distance between us. That if she needed me, I couldn't be there quickly for her. This felt extremely uncomfortable.  The closest thing I could think of what it felt like was the description of the connection to soul daemons in the Phillip Pullman books. I didn't like it. I then went on to think about how although I have had to come home late on occasion, we have never spent a night apart. And the thought of doing so, is equally uncomfortable.

I'm still not sure though that this feeling is, can, or should be the definition of feeling like a mother? Or maybe I'm looking for something that just isn't there. What I feel like is myself. A good version of myself. And I happen to be a mother.  Maybe that's just it.

Friday, March 16, 2018

1y1m5d : No Sleep Monster

First let me say that I truly believe that babies are meant to sleep like shit. Do you know why there are so many books and consultants and methods? Because babies are doing EXACTLY what babies are supposed to do. It's us crazy adults who expect them to do something other than there nature.

So generally I'm pretty tolerant of MJs sleep shenanigans. From 6 weeks to 4 months my little angel slept through the night and it was a dream come true. Then we hit the four month brain development change, and it all went to shit. Since then, she's slept through the entire night three whole times. We've gone through phases of waking every 1-2 hours, which was total shit, and waking once in the middle of the night, which is manageable.  Recently, we've been on the wake up once pattern and also wake up in the morning really early (around 5am). It's not great, but it's okay.

But this past week or so, it's all change again. For starters, the boob is not the magic potion it used to be. As I mentioned, I'm cutting back on breastfeeding so it's really just an evening activity for us. Well, MJ used to fall asleep very happily with a boob in her mouth. Now she has one, then the other, then would like to scream about it for a half an hour to an hour. I can't console her, cuddle her, rock her, put her down, pick her up, or do anything because what she really needs is to just go to sleep. But she doesn't want to. So after 45 minutes I usually revert to controlled crying (exit room for 5 minutes, come back sooth, exit, repeat) and it usually only takes 1-3 five minute cycles for her to settle. But it makes me feel like shit because I don't like walking out on my screaming baby. On the other hand, I don't like holding my thrashing screaming baby either where it's obvious nothing I'm doing is helping.

I don't know why we've suddenly kicked off on this new phase of sleep misery. But like all things sleep, the one thing I'm sure of is that it will not last and will change.  Teething? Maybe. Sore throat like mommy has? Who knows! It's been so long I just can't imagine what a whole night sleep is like anymore.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

1y0m25d : Weaning

I'm not sure that I had very strong opinions about breastfeeding or bottle feeding before I had a baby. Sure I thought, "I'll give breastfeeding a go. If it doesn't work I'll bottle feed. It doesn't matter." And the reality is, when it comes to feeding your baby, it DOESN'T matter. But I was able to breastfeed, and I enjoyed it, so that's what we've done.

I'm not sure that I had very strong opinions about how long a woman should breastfeed before I had a baby that I was breastfeeding. But I do know that I sort of had the idea that once they were on food and more mobile, it was probably time to stop breastfeeding. Well, that thinking is pretty much out the window. MJ is almost 13 months and although I am very much limiting our breastfeeding time now, I am not giving it up.

Basically, I'm moving us to a position where I do not breastfeed during the day. Up until this week, when I arrived at nurser, the first thing I would do was to get MJ, sit in the chair in the corner specifically for this purpose and breastfeed her.  But I'm a little bit tired of doing this, and I realize that she's not going to give it up voluntarily. She doesn't NEED that feed, she just enjoys it whereas I find it makes our going home journey just that much longer and move involved. I can leave nurser quicker if we are not feeding.

And so the past few days this week, when I've gone to nursery, I've grabbed her stuff, talked to her key worker about how her day was, and we've left. We get home, we do dinner, and then we do her bedtime which now involves a slightly longer feed then she's been getting- because I let her feed off both breasts (she only ever did one at a time) for up to 10 minutes each and then I put her in her crib.

At night, I'm trying to get her to give up wake ups and night feeds, so I'm reducing the 10 minute feed to 8 minutes (and when she gets used to that, it will drop to 7, then 6, etc.). But in the morning, provided she wakes up at a semi-reasonable time, I give her both breasts again for a nice feed. My goal would be for us to do morning and night, and for her to drop those of her own accord.

Although this is all thought through in a logical sort of way, I haven't been prepared for this twang I get about reducing the breastfeeding. We're not even giving it up!! But it makes me feel sad and wistful. It's interesting, because if you bottle feed your baby, you can keep doing that. You form a bond around a bottle which could become a cup, which makes that special relationship perhaps last longer. When we're done with breast, then we're going to be done and that's just over. If MJ sits on my lap for a cuddle in the future and drinks from a cup, it won't be the same or even close to the same.

It will be lovely of course, but different.  Ah, growing babies. It goes so fast!!

Monday, March 5, 2018

1y0m23d : Ignoring milestones

It is impossible not to compare your child to other children.  MJ is completely developmentally normal. She has not excelled in any particular area, but she is also not behind. She pulls to stand and cruises, but she is not walking yet. She makes an assortment of noises, and some are very close to being words for things (pretty sure we have 'quack quack' going for ducks and birds) but doesn't really have words or sounds that are clearly specific. And she is otherwise an engaging, curious, and regular toddler.

Of course then I see on some forum that someone's doctor said that by one year their child should have 3-4 words. And on this bog standard site that if your child isn't standing independently by 11 months they'll perform worse at age 4 than those that do. It's hard not to let little concerns creep in, although I'm generally good at ignoring them. I get why we need milestones, but maybe they should be 'if your child hasn't done x,y,z by this date, you need to see your doctor' which would remove the average from the discussion. Because an average is exactly that, an average!

Of course then there's research like this which suggests its the later social-emotional skills of your 4 year old that have a greater impact on their adult well being.

In my NCT of 8, where all the babies were born within 6 weeks of each other, we currently have 3 walkers. None of which are the oldest two (of which MJ is one) and I think only one with clear words, although I could be wrong there. So, as I said, developmentally normal. Not ahead, not behind. Sometimes for your own sanity, I think it's important to ignore the milestones.