Monday, September 29, 2008

The slow conversion to motherhood. It's not just a job, it's an identity.

Baby Blues by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott

BG is 2 months, 3 weeks and 1 day old.

Tip of the Day: Baby socks are the cutest things. They are so tiny and they come in all assortments. For easy laundering, put a small plastic bin next to your baby’s hamper and put them in a mesh underwear bag to wash. Baby toe jam isn’t quite as fun but can keep you occupied while breastfeeding.

My husband says that BG is not taking to the bottle during her late night feeding and is waking up twice nightly instead of once a night. I think it’s how he’s feeding her. If BG is like me, she’s not going to pass on delicious eats and cuddles so this morning since I woke up to the baby monitor chatter, I changed BG’s diaper and fed her.

It’s too early to tell but I don’t think she balked at the bottle at all. She woke me with a low cry. I went to the room and told her I’d be right there and went to the bathroom. I know she is too young to understand the meanings of my words but while I was in the bathroom, she stopped crying. I thought my husband woke up and was soothing her. When I went back to the door, it was quiet. I was about to walk away when I heard tiny sucking sounds. BG was soothing herself with her fist. I beamed with pride but knew that she would be hungry as the last time she ate was before she went to bed at 8pm so I went to heat up a bottle of EBM.

I came back to hear her low cry again. I changed her diaper without any fussing. She kept her eyes closed as I quietly changed her diaper and spoke to her in a quiet voice. I grabbed the bottle and a bib and we went to the chair and a half and sat down. It seemed as if both of us knew to get down to business. There is no time to chit chat in the wee morning. I gave her the bottle and she quietly drank 2.5 ounces rather quickly. I didn’t put her on the Boppy or prop her up with any pillows. I used my arms and my legs to let her feel the closeness of her parent in the darkness of the room.

As she began to slow down and become drowsy with sleep again, I swaddled her and then offered her the rest of the bottle (0.5 ounces). She didn’t seem to want it so we just sat together on the chair and a half, me with my left leg up to help prop her on an incline. I have a theory that after her late night bottle feed, it’s a good idea to keep her semi-upright to aid in reflux prevention. I hold her close to me and keep her upright for ten minutes or so.

BG had a diaper change, a bottle, a swaddle and some cuddling and went back to bed within 30 minutes with minimal crying. It could be a fluke but I’m going to pat myself on the back and say BG and I were able to communicate needs and we together satisfied them.

Now, I’m sitting here pumping away hoping to get a few hours of shut-eye before my little alarm clock wakes up at 7am. She’s fairly consistent with her 7am morning breakfast request. Isn’t it amazing how babies learn and develop a circadian rhythm?

All this talk about bottle or no bottle has me thinking about my husband and BG and wondering, how will DH do when it’s just the two of them? Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a great dad but there are just some things that I believe he will easily pass back to me to handle. I believe at least for this lady and her knight, it is a guy thing. For example, I believe the bottle issue DH has with BG is a mixture of several things: him not waking up to attend to her before she goes into full on red alert ‘I’m frustrated’ mode, him groggily fumbling for diapers, bibs and blankets, a little impatience, a little cranky tiredness and , most importantly how he holds her when he feeds her. Because she’s not getting what she needs, her sleep is not as sound and thus she wakes up more frequently which frustrates DH who wakes up PG to give BG the breast.

For the first two, I try to wake him up and I prepare everything so it’s easily accessible at night. I have little control over the next two and as for the last item, I’ve told him my concerns about propping her on the Boppy instead of using it as support but he thinks I’m being overly cautious and ridiculous.

One, a baby needs to feel secure and safe. She feels the safest, hopefully, in the arms of loved ones. Especially in the darkness of the night, after being rudely awoken, wouldn’t you want to be held a bit? Secondly, studies have shown that children who are fed a bottle while lying horizontally have higher incidences of ear infections so it is advisable to raise their head and upper body during feedings. Third, yes the bottle nipple is not like the breast but the action of cradling close to the body and with her body pressed against the feeder will help her understand this is food.

Then there is DH's theory that it's always about food. Sometimes, she isn't hungry. If I fed her at 12 and it's 1 and she's crying and she's not going through a growth spurt, I am fairly certain that giving her a breast or a bottle isn't the answer. If her diaper is clean, he thinks otherwise. There are other items on the checklist, most importantly together time. Sometimes, I believe she just needs to be held or be stimulated. She's at a time when she's exploring and learning. She may not be able to hold her attention for too long but she is processing whatever she can and needs to be exposed to 'new' things and 'routine' things. I think if you offer her food all the time, 1. she's not happy because she's not getting what she desires and 2. she's going to associate food as a soothing item which will lead to trouble down the line.

It’s hard to suggest or discuss these theories again to my husband without him taking them as a comments on his parenting skills. He was offended the last time I offered similar advice. I’m trying to find a different approach but in the recent past, I’ve found that it may be best to keep quiet until he asks me. I may have to wait until he asks me again or has another frustrating night.

I don’t know what’s more frustrating for me, watching my husband frustrated or watching my husband work his way up to frustration. When my husband is frustrated, I know I have to keep quiet and just deal with the clean up and aftermath. When he’s working himself up, it’s like watching a kettle boil. I know if I do small things here and there, it may help him simmer down but if I get too close to the flame or try too hard to reach for the dial, I either burn myself or add fuel to the fire. Therefore the only thing I can do is sit back and get out of his way and wait to clean up the aftermath.

With the night time feeding, that means trying to tune out the cries and letting him work through it. That’s not as easy as DH thinks it is for me. “You didn’t wake up at all. You were out cold.” Actually, I woke up long before you woke up to her cries but knew that your frustration levels would kick in leading me to have to get up earlier to soothe a husband and child who had a bit of a trying night. If I don’t take this opportunity to get an extra hour of sleep and if I don’t allow you two to work out communication, I’m going to end up one very tired mom. So I lie in bed trying to tune out the crying and the frustrated words coming from the baby monitor. I try to bite my tongue and not offer suggestions or an extra hand. All of this not for my own vanity but for preservation of self and familial relationships. Oh man am I becoming a mom. Next thing I know I'll be saying, "I told you so but you needed to figure it out for yourself."