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September 2016

    Illustrations

    Illustration: Strolling

    stroller-style

    If you ask most people, they’ll say the weather is one of Chicago’s biggest negatives. They usually mean the winter and the cold, which I don’t hate as much as most people do. I love having seasons, and I’m a Christmas freak so 1/3 of the winter is basically my happiest time of the year. What does get to me, though, is rain. My coworkers joked that they noticed a pattern of my working from home days lining up with rainy days… which turned out not to be a joke at all, because it was totally true.

    Today’s been rainy or forecasting rain every. single. hour. In the interest of not soaking my infant, we’re staying indoors, but I’m already looking forward to heading out for a walk or two with Hudson tomorrow. Since we’re not going anywhere, I had some (nap) time on my hands and drew this girl pushing her little one around.

    Living in the city for 14 (!) years now, walking is my primary mode of transportation.  J and I don’t even own a car. We can both walk to work and our neighborhood, Streeterville, is particularly easy for the car-less: we’re within blocks of the grocery store, Target, Michigan Avenue shopping, a tiny and weird Ace Hardware, the doctor’s office, and I even walked home from the hospital after I had Hudson. (I think I was still drugged, by the way. Not sure I would recommend that!)

    But beyond just being a convenient way to get from A to Z, I LOVE walking, especially along the lakefront. You can probably still see my footprints along the path from the miles I walked along the lake in the long, long weeks before Hudson was born. It’s great exercise, but I’m really walking more for the mental benefits: when I’m out there, I do some of my best thinking and always come home feeling de-stressed and relaxed. Now that Hudson’s usually with me in the stroller,  walks are more relaxing than ever since my hands are not exactly free to flip between songs or podcasts on my phone.

    In the last few weeks, walks have become a big part of our days. We’re out at least once, but usually twice: once in the middle of the day to break it up and run a few errands at the end, and once in the early evening when there’s no nap to be had and we’re a few hours from Dad getting home for relief 🙂 Luckily, Hudson seems to love walking as much as I do — or that’s what I’m choosing to believe he means to communicate by passing out almost immediately every time we start rolling.

    I hear this winter is going to be a mild one (thanks, global warming!) so I’m hoping even then we’ll be able to get out often. And hey, there’s always Nordstrom walking when it’s really chilly 🙂

    Cheers friends, hope you’re having a great Wednesday.

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    Baby, Deep Thoughts

    How to Make Hudson Laugh

     

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    Tell him your plans.

    Get it? That’s a bad variation on the one-liner: “how do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans.”

    Anyway. I would like to go back in time to two Fridays ago, when I thought we were out of the woods with the crappy naps and inform myself I had a wayyyyyyy to go on that front.

    When I was pregnant, I read a bunch of books about the merits for both baby and parents of getting on a schedule. I liked these books for their theories about helping your baby foster independence, and about fitting the baby into our lives instead of letting him rule the roost. So when Hudson was born, this was my goal: work towards the coveted schedule.

    For the first weeks, we just fed him and let him sleep on his own terms. But I followed some tips about focusing on full feedings and putting Hudson down in his own bed to sleep. And for a while there, it sort of seemed like we nailed it. After a week or so, Hudson easily transitioned to a three hour routine on his own and rarely if ever fussed when going down. And we saw the glory of what it can be: predictable, two-hour naps, at least three times a day and a very happy baby. I was able to make plans with a reasonable degree of confidence that Hudson would be in good baby shape – i.e. having eaten and with a ton of sleep under his little belt.

    And then, somewhere between week 5 and 6, Hudson took my schedule and threw it out the window. He’s very strong for his age.

    The crux of it is that he seems completely unable to sleep during the day for longer than 45 minutes and wakes up crying. The 45-minute thing is apparently really common and there’s even an amazing name for it: The 45 Minute Intruder. Babies’ sleep cycles at about 45 minutes so basically, they stir themselves up around that time and then are unable to fall back to sleep on their own.

    In Hudson’s case, that’s usually the end of the nap and we’re not able to get him back to sleep after that. Sometimes, we can coax him back to sleep with a pacifier and some rocking, but most often he is just not going to fall back asleep despite our best efforts.

    The difference between quiet, two hour naps and 45 minute naps is HUGE. (“Yuuuuge!” even.) It’s the difference between eating AND showering versus eating OR showering.

    After attending my mom’s group class last week and polling all of the women there, most confirmed, as did the guest speaker for the day, that weeks 6-8ish were ROUGH. The guest speaker (a baby expert from the Fussy Baby Network, coincidentally!) also mentioned that this period of fussiness usually resolves itself by 6 months, which I’m totally ignoring and choosing to listen to the girls in class who said that it was really only a few weeks. A lot of the women also referenced the Wonder Weeks app as being helpful in navigating this time, which I mentioned in this post as I suspected his nap-skipping and sometimes weird eats were tied to a developmental leap.

    The app is an abbreviated version of a book by the same name that explains all about babies mental development through the first year. When I got home, I downloaded the book and read the first half in an hour or so, and confirmed that I really do believe his short naps (after five weeks of great daytime sleep) are thanks to major changes happening with his perception, vision, and cognition. Basically, if I woke up and had to process the world in a new way every time, I’d freak out too. Understanding what’s going on really helps me find the patience and grace to just roll with whatever Hudson needs to make him feel safe and secure in what’s probably a really overwhelming time.

    But interestingly, there was another part of the book that stuck with me. Most parenting books are of two camps. On one hand, we have put them on a schedule, babies need structure, help them be independent, which I’ve been reading up on and had ascribed to 100%. But the Wonder Weeks book had a lot of language that clued me in to it being on the OTHER side of the tracks: you can’t spoil a newborn, feed on demand, constant physical contact breeds security. 

    Their primary advice during this time was to let the baby sleep on you. Which by the way, is pretty much the exact opposite of what all of the books I’d read earlier advised.

    I’m not sure whether it was even a conscious decision to take that advice, but in the latter half of last week, I stopped stressing out about keeping us on the three hour routine and having Hudson sleep in his own bed. It was way easier for him to just pass out on me, in his carrier, or even just next to me on his boppy throne, and if it was a 45 minute nap… well, that’s 45 minutes better than zero.

    We carried that into the weekend and Hudson spent basically all of Saturday snoozing on his aunt and uncle at a patio while we ate lunch, and all of Sunday crashed out on J, watching football. The end result was a really well-rested baby and some of the biggest smiles we’ve gotten yet.

    It was definitely WAY easier than the struggle to get him to nap and stay down in his own bed. But I don’t mean to imply that “easy” is better. On the contrary, the last two weeks have proven that the effort that goes into a little bit of stability and routine are worth it for us.

    However, I did come to realize that I need to get comfortable living in the gray. It’s not as black and white as any book makes it sound — we needed to give our little dude some extra love, so we did. I have no clue if we’re over the hump, but today, we’re all recharged to start fresh. And I’m reasonably sure that we haven’t ruined his ability to sleep independently by letting him nap on us for a few days to get through a rough patch. (Stay tuned.) Hopefully we’ll end this week back on a more predictable schedule, but maybe I’ll be right back to eating lunch over Hudson’s head while he sleeps in the carrier and praying that a spinach leaf doesn’t land on his cute little head.

    Babies don’t come with instruction manuals and any book that prescribes a sure-fire method is likely totally full of it, or is at least failing to acknowledge variances for personalities, growth spurts, etc. As first time parents, it’s hard for Jason and I (emphasis on the I) to trust our own instincts, but I think this weekend was a big win doing just that.

    So now it’s Monday morning and I’m saying yay for balance, for Hudson’s second long-ish (60 minutes! That’s 15 more than 45.) nap in his own crib for the day, and for what I hope is a nice long baby snooze on my shoulder this evening.

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    Baby, Resources

    Advice for New Moms That I Actually Used

    There’s nothing like new motherhood to bring on waves of advice and tips. I’m lucky to have a lot of amazing women around to answer questions like, “is projectile vomit normal?”, “how do you get poop out of a boppy?” and “did Honest diapers leak EVERY TIME for you, too?” (Answers: yes, throw it in the washer and no. Apparently that’s just us.)

    Motherhood is like a secret club that you have no idea exists until you’re suddenly a part of it. Over the past 11 months, I’ve reconnected with old friends, made new connections with associates that I’ve never been close to, and found commonalities with complete strangers.

    I think it’s such a crazy ride that everyone that’s been through it wants to share their experience and tips. While you can drown in things you “should” be doing or “have” to buy, it’s ultimately up to you to take what works for you and leave the rest. Babies are tiny, quirky little individuals, after all — so there’s no advice that works for everyone.

    That said, there are a few things that have stuck with me and that I’ve found true time and time again in the last 6 weeks. Here’s what’s working for us:

     

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    A friend told me this while I was pregnant and I remember thinking, surely I’ll be able to do both! And honestly, most days I’m fine on both fronts. But on the days that are a little hairier, taking a shower makes me feel refreshed and more human. Chances are, I’ll be tired no matter what. So if naptime is looking at risk and I only have 30 minutes — I’d rather spend the rest of the day NOT covered in spit-up. It’s better for my mental health!

     

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    Our cleaning lady offered up this advice when she asked how Hudson was doing in the early days and I said fine, but that he woke up often from naps. She said that with her babies, she always had to burp them THREE times to be sure they were gas-free and good to go for a nap. I can rarely get Hudson to burp three times, but this has stuck with me — a little extra effort never hurt anyone, and it can mean the difference between a 45 minute nap and a 1.5 hour nap.

    (And on the unsolicited feedback front: she also casually mentioned that he may be eating too much based on the size of his baby rolls. Eye roll! A prime example of take it or leave it — I’m leaving that one riiiiight there.)

     

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    Jason and I both like to be prepared and took four baby classes before Hudson showed up. In one of the classes, the instructor said: “remember that it’s tough to be a baby!” We are SO lucky that Hudson is not much of a crier, but when he does cry for seemingly no reason, this advice always comes back to me. Imagine not being able to communicate how you’re feeling or what you need! Keeping this in mind always helps me find extra patience and empathy for our little dude.

     

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    My friend Raechelle is like my sister from another mother, and has been a godsend with new mom advice and tips in these early days. When Hudson was born, she texted asking how I was doing, and I responded how crazy I found it that 2 weeks had gone by and I’d barely left the house. She replied: “get dressed, put on some makeup and do your hair, even if you’re just at home!” The point here is obviously not looking good for your baby, (as much as I’m sure Hudson would have appreciated a little concealer for the dark circles that he was staring at all day) and not everyone is into makeup. The point was that she knows me, and she knows that feeling a little more like my pre-baby self would help ease the transition from just Laura to new-mom-Laura in the disorienting early days.

     

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    A family friend shared this one with me after her daughter purchased some really nice nursing gear but ended up loving the inexpensive Target stuff the most.

    I’m glad she said that and I didn’t go crazy buying a bunch of nice things. Babies are sticky, pukey little creatures. Lovable, but sticky. So, Target bras all the way. I’d rather save my money for things that look good on the outside, because the only criteria for good nursing bras for me at the moment is machine-washability.

     

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    This one came out of nowhere and makes me tear up just at the thought. I’ve been attending a weekly new moms group and last week the topic was postpartum depression and mental health. The conversation got pretty deep as the group shared their struggles adjusting to new parenthood. One woman comforted another by saying, “remember that everything is temporary. The things that you want to change quickly will seem to take forever, and the things that you want to hold on to will eventually slip away.”

    This is so heartbreakingly true. I am SO impatient for a full night’s sleep and I have no idea how far off that is… but eventually, I’ll sleep through the night again — it’s just temporary. On the flip side, Jason and I look at Hudson and say that we’d give anything to stay in this time with our little baby forever… but this stage is just temporary, and he’s growing and changing every day.

    Remembering that everything is temporary helps in the hard times and makes the good moments even sweeter.


    These six tips (and others!) helped us get through the last six weeks. What new mom advice have you found to be true?

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