Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sleepless in Chicago

As per my Instagram,  the 4-month sleep regression is not only REAL - it is a real motherfucker.

Sorry for my lack of presence. I have about 10 half-written blogs in my drafts, but have just been busy with work, life and being a mom, that  I haven't gotten a chance to finish them or write anythign new. But, as writing is my therapy, I need to visit my corner of the world today to get some things out.

Before we went home to Iowa for Easter (which I have yet to blog about. SLACKER!), Liam was sleeping from 9pm -5am, at which point he ate briefly, and went back to sleep until 7:15-7:30am. For the most part, he was sleeping in his crib. We usually had to go into his room to give him back his paci, but for the most part...we weren't complaining.

Since we got home...things have changed DRASTICALLY.

I've heard and read horror stories about a 4-month sleep regression. Not wanting to create a self-fulfilling prophecy, I had it in the back of my mind, but again - just wanted to "wait and see."

It started with a couple nights of Liam waking up around 11pm-12am in his crib, inconsolable, and we'd usually end up putting him in his rock 'n play. We'd have some intense rounds of Paci Pong, but just figured he needed some time to re-adjust to his crib and being in his own room, (the transition was new, and while traveling, he was in his rock 'n play, in our room). It has since become multiple wakings, every few hours, always starting after a few hours in his crib. We went from being able to soothe him by returning his paci or rubbing his belly, to nursing, having to rock him, walk him, bounce him...or any other tactic to get him back tot sleep. He falls asleep during said soothing measure, but the second we put him back in his RNP or crib...eyes open, not having it, rinse and repeat. We went from 7-8 hour stretches, to 5-6, to 3-4 and now we have been sitting pretty at about 2 hours. THAT IS NEWBORN STATUS.

Last night, Liam woke went down at 8pm, and was up 9:45pm-10pm, 11:15pm-11:30pm, 1:25am-3:30am, and up for the day at 6am. My hubby has also been out of town, so it was just me.

I have said many times, there is a reason sleep deprivation is a form of torture. You become desperate. In the past two weeks, due to our lack of sleep, I have done nothing but read about this "regression," research "remedies" and stress myself out about all the things we're doing right and wrong, healthy and unhealthy.

Here's the thing about children and sleep: It is one of those polarizing parenting topics, where there are so many schools of thought. You just want to SLEEP and your baby to SLEEP and so you try anything an everything.

Today, after soliciting advice from my best friends, family and fellow mama's, I came to this conclusion: Parenting is a mind-fuck. It's so ridiculous that I feel guilty for nearly every moment of the past couple of weeks. I feel guilty for wanting him to spend so many hours asleep, when I miss him and long for him so many hours of the day. Then I feel guilty for putting him down earlier in the night, even though all I've been asking him to do is sleep. And then, I feel guilty for wanting him to stay up late. I feel guilty for telling him to go the f to sleep. I feel guilty for making him cry it out, I feel guilty for nursing when he wakes, I feel guilty for not nursing when he wakes, I feel guilty for getting upset when he wakes up during the night. I feel guilty for taking his pacifier. I feel guilty for wanting sleep, I feel guilty for not "enjoying this time." The list goes on.

So, after an afternoon of crying in my office, guess what: I am retreating to the parenting school of thought of "Do what's best for you." I am going to try to reinforce/continue the healthy sleep habits we've established. I'm going to try and not stress out about creating or reinforcing unhealthy sleep habits or crutches during this difficult time. I'm going to change my perspective: Instead of hoping for sleep, I'm going to expect to wake up. I'm going to take things one day at a time, and try to I'm going to remember my Mommy Mantra of, "This too shall pass." Most of all, I'm going to give myself grace, because I'm doing the best I can. 

And now, I'm going to sleep.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Was the Psychic Right About Baby Farrell?

If you're new here, or just don't remember, when I was pregnant, I had a psychic reading done to shed some light on labor, our baby's personality and any obstacles we might face as new parents. I thought it'd be fun to go back and see if she was right about anything.

I do believe in this type of stuff, but looking back on some of her answers, I can admit that she probably gave me a canned answer. Some of the stuff though, I think is spot on. Again, that doesn't mean she's "real," but it is kind of fun to think about:

What kind of personality will our baby boy have?
What the psychic said: He looks like a little leader, that’s for sure. The baby is a perfect combination of the two of you, but very different. This is an independent child. He’s not going to be super clingy, like “Mommy, mommy.” A lot of times, people with this yellow aura, they’re very logical and they over-think things. This child is not going to be one to just sit in the corner. He'll be the one telling everyone to follow him around the playground. You’re not going to have to worry about him; he’s very strong. He's not going to be the kind of kid who gets picked on, he’ll be able to handle himself.

I see someone who might bottle up his feelings, so you might have to coerce him to talk about stuff sometimes. He’s very strong willed and his strength isn't with intuition and sensitivities, he’s more logical and science-brained. He'll probably do really good in science and math.

I see is someone who’s really funny, charismatic and persuasive. He’ll be kind of like the life of the party, cracking jokes and being funny.

Truth:  Liam actually means strong-willed warrior, so when she said this about him when he was in utero, I got a kick out of it. (I didn't tell her what we were naming him.) Some of this stuff with his personality we won't see until later in his life, but I'll tell you what: Liam is the life of our party! He is funny, charismatic and as persuasive as a 3-month-old can be, haha. We can already see that is independent, as he is content to play on his own and doesn't demand to be held all the time, but he has his days. Overall, I think this one will be interesting to come back to after his personality has developed even more.

Will I have the baby early or late?
What the psychic said: I actually think you might be a little early! You'll be pretty close to the due date, about 2.5 days early. I’d say around December 16 your little guy will be born.

Truth: I was indeed a little early. I was due on December 19 and he joined us on December 18.

How long will I be in labor?
What the psychic said: Looks like about 14 hours, which is kind of long, but actually pretty average for a first child. I think it will be a full two hours of pushing, almost 2.5 hours. I don't see you needing pitocin or anything to progress your labor. He will be around 7 pounds. I don’t see anything weird happening where you’ll have to have a C-section.

Truth: She was pretty accurate with this one. From the time active labor started til I delivered, was about 13 hours. Liam was born at 7:25am, after 2.5 hours of pushing, and weighed 7lbs, 1oz.

Will I be able to breastfeed easily?
What the psychic said: It will be a struggle at first. I’m getting that it will be fine, but it’s not a strong yes. It's going to take some time for him to figure out how to latch on.

Truth: The only struggle we had was that I couldn't do it right away, since Liam was in the NICU and couldn't have anything except sugar water at the beginning. I pumped for the first few days to help my milk come in and store some for him to have, and I started nursing him after a couple of days. It came really naturally to both of us, thankfully!

Will he be a good sleeper?
What the psychic said: I don’t think he’s going to be that great of a sleeper. It’s barely a yes, so it might be a challenge for you. The sleeping patterns will be challenging, so you might have to pull out some tricks to get him to sleep. He’s got this personality where he doesn't want to miss out on anything. He’s very aware and observant and he wants to see what’s going on, so he won't want to sleep. He’s just an active baby.

Truth: Liam is absolutely aware, observant and active. I've said from the get-go that he was never the sleepy newborn; he has been alert from day one. Sleeping was a struggle for a few weeks, but once we started establishing good sleep habits, he has been awesome. He takes 3-4 naps a day, two of which are usually 2 hours, the others maybe 30 minutes to an hour. He gave us good stretches of sleep in the early days, 3-4 hours at times, and now will give us 6-8 hour stretches. Just last night he slept 10.5 hours IN HIS CRIB. A miracle!

What will our family dynamic be like?
What the psychic said: He takes after mommy more than daddy from what I can see. He’s very strong willed, he’s not going to be super easy-going like Dad. You and the baby might butt heads sometimes, because you’re both very strong willed. Bryan will calm both of you down. Bryan is more laid back, so he’ll help calm this child down, they’ll be very good for each other. Very balancing.

You’re going to be a little bit of a worrier and your husband is going to be super chill. He’s super thoughtful and he’ll be a very attentive dad, but he’s way more laid back than you. You tend to obsess, so it’s hard for you be laid back because you worry. Bryan is going to calm both of you guys down. He’s the calming, grounding energy in your family.

Truth: Yes, yes and yes. I am definitely a worry wart with Liam and Bryan is definitely more "whatever" (in a loving and caring way, of course!). Liam is strong-willed, but we don't butt heads yet :). Bryan has calmed me down every day since Liam was born and he is great at soothing our little man!

How will his health be?
What the psychic said: Good and normal. No allergies or weird tendencies.

Truth: Aside from early issues in the NICU, Liam has been in perfect health, thank goodness.

Will I struggle with Post-Partum Depression?
What the psychic said: You’re going to have a lack of sleep, but I don’t see depression being the case with you.

Truth: Right on. Everyone has a lack of sleep and the effect it has on you can often be misconstrued as PP, but I never struggled with that. Definitely had Baby Blues for a while, though. 

How will I be as a mom?
What the psychic said: Oh, you’re gonna be an awesome mom. You’re very nurturing. I can see in your aura, you've got a lot of green, so you’re very grounded and very reliable – you've got great Mama Bear energy. I think you’re going to love being a mom. You’re kind of like a healer. You’re here to help people and serve people. You’re going to be a natural mom, seriously.

You love helping people, so it’s going to give you a lot of purpose in your life. You’re a good judge of people, like you can go in a room and think, 'I’m not sure about that person' and you’re usually right. You can read people really well. This kid isn't going to be able to pull crap on you. You’re like the mom that kids are like, “How does she know what I’m up to?” You’re going to be really good in that way. You're very in tune and you have a strong mama’s intuition.

Truth: Not to toot my own but, TOOT TOOT! (Just kidding.) I'd like to think I'm a good mommy. Lord knows I love being a mom and doting on my son. It has most definitely given me a new purpose in life.

How will having a baby affect our marriage?
What the psychic said: You give your partner a lot of inner strength and confidence. You really balance each other well, you’re perfect for each other. So it’s good you’re having a baby together.

Having a baby will bring you closer together. Sleeping is going to be hard for you guys for a little while, but this baby is going to be the glue between you guys. I don’t see any issues there.

Truth: Having a baby is hard on a marriage at first, in my opinion. I'll save that for a later post, but it is definitely an adjustment to any relationship - that was probably the one thing I was least prepared for. We have definitely grown closer through having Liam, and while it's a challenge to find a new "normal" that is fair and balanced for everyone, I think we've done a good job of that so far.

Are we going to have any more children? 
What the psychic said: I see another one. I’m getting the number two. It looks like they’re going to be about three years apart. A boy and a girl!

Truth: Right again - I'm pregnant! (JUST KIDDING. April Fools, remember? OMG...too soon to even joke about.)

Monday, March 30, 2015

12 Must-Have Baby Products for Newborns

If I've learned one thing since being pregnant, giving birth and now parenting, it's this: Everyone has an opinion.

For every person you find that suggests co-sleeping, there are 10 more that say no way. This person says breast is best, while that person says formula is A-OK, and another says it's actually best when you mix the two. This OBGYN says a glass of wine per night is fine when expecting, that one says once a week is a better frequency ,and your friend's doc says no wine is ever OK, not even a sip. And don't even think about deli meat, even though your OBGYN said it's totally cool.

It's just.too.much.

And it doesn't stop at differing opinions on how to parent or what to do (or not to do) while expecting. The opinions, research and experiences extend into what you actually need for the baby. Many people reside in the school of thought that all babies really need is love, clean diapers and a few pairs of pajamas, while others are in the market for any item that will make their lives easier. 

I think we can all agree that there is A LOT of stuff on the market for babies. A LOT. As a first time parent, how the hell are you supposed to know which brand, which model, how many or what size? 
The baby registry experience is fun, in theory...until you start it and are overwhelmed by the number of choices you have with EVERYTHING. 

I was completely consumed with making the best choice for our baby (whatever that even means) when it came to our "stuff". I've learned something about myself over the years: I'm impressionable. And by that, I mean that I tend to take other's experiences close to heart; I trust them and value them, especially when it's in a realm where I have no experience or knowledge. I also know that I am extremely indecisive, so I look to these people to basically make decisions for me. 

For the registry process, I did extensive research, asking friends and family, reading books (Baby Bargains was the best) and consulting what I consider to be the Holy Bible: Lucie's List. (Sidenote: Meg, who runs the site, has awesome info on everything from registry to pregnancy to postpartum. I highly recommend signing up for her emails if you are expecting - she gives you a no-holds-bar rundown of what to expect/advice for each week and it continues after you've had the baby, including sleep tips and feeding pointers.) Anyway, for the registry stuff, she goes through each major category of stuff, and gives you three options based on your budget. She's also pretty frank in "Don't waste your money on this." Check it out here.

In any case, I will be the first to admit that we registered for and received several items that we just "had to have", and that have gone unopened or unused. I also am guilty of buying several items that I can safely say were unnecessary.

One prime example: Clothes. Don't register for clothes. People will buy you clothes, whether you register for them or not. While I was pregnant, I bought several outfits that were so cute I couldn't resist: think chunky cardigans, blue jeans and shoes. While no one can resist a baby in blue jeans, here's the reality: It's very likely that your baby won't wear any of those adorable items in his/her first months of life, despite your best intentions. 

For one thing: babies spit up a lot. They also poop a lot. Sometimes the poop is not contained to the diaper, and sometimes, the spit up is so plentiful that you can't just wipe it off with a rag and go about your day. You will put your baby into an adorable 5-piece outfit and I promise you, that baby will ruin the outfit before you can even take his photo in it! For another thing, these outfits just aren't practical. Sure, they're nice to have for special occasions, like holidays or even meeting people for the first time, but when you're at home all day with a newborn whose diaper you are changing approximately 15 times/day, the last thing you will want to do is take his shoes, socks, pants and shirt off each and every time. And finally, babies grow so fast. I can't tell you the number of items in Liam's wardrobe that were only worn once or not at all because he outgrew it before I could find a time for him to wear it. *tears*

See exhibits A, B, C. He wore each of these ONCE.

Onesies are where it's at.

In any case, that was a long way of saying, it is crazy overwhelming knowing what to register for. And I want to add my opinion to the 6.983497891283 billion others out there on what items are truly "must haves" for your baby. Here are 12 things that I've found to be lifesavers in the past few months:

Goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: Every baby is different and you may have to try different items until you find something that works for you.

Newborn Must Haves

  1. Little Castle Glider: Invest in a good glider. We have this one from Little Castle, purchased at BuyBuyBaby. We use every day to rock, feed and read with Liam. I've also slept in it several nights (intentionally and otherwise). Plus, when it's not being used in a baby's room, we can use it as furniture in our home.
  2. Summer Infant SwaddleMe: Swaddles are one of those products you might have to try a bunch of. Liam is a Swaddle Houdini and gets out of blanket swaddles, so we invested in some other brands. SwaddleMe is our favorite, but we also saw success with the Miracle Blanket and Woombie. (We now have about 10 Aden + Anais blankets, which are great just to have for the diaper bag, walks, etc. I'd get at least a pack of those, too!)
  3. Baby K'Tan: This is great for a fabric carrier (I also suggest getting a structured carrier for when the baby is bigger). There are only two pieces of fabric and moms can get it on without any assistance (a must when you're home alone with the baby). We've used this for everything from walking the dog to walking around the house to traveling on an airplane. It comes in tons of colors and is affordable. Plus, you can wear in several different positions as baby grows.
  4. Medela Breast PumpHands-Free Pumping Bra + Quick Clean Wipes: I have the Medela Pump In-Style Advanced, which I got with the Metro Messenger bag (I got this through my insurance by paying a little extra). I love this model because you can plug it into a wall OR use batteries. You must also get a hands-free pumping bra, and I love the quick-clean wipes, especially now that I'm at work!
  5. Nursing Tanks: If you plan to breastfeed, get a lot of nursing tanks. I still wear them to bed every night, even though Liam only eats once. At the beginning though when you're nursing around the clock and most likely have a screaming baby in your arms, you want something with easy access.
  6. Wubbanub Pacifier: I love these for a few reasons: First, the animals on the end are cute and also serve a purpose: they help weight the pacifier down. It's hard for those little babes to be able to keep the paci in his/her mouth at first and I thought this helped. As Liam has gotten older, he also now holds on to the animal, which aids in his development in learning to grasp. Plus, the pacifier itself is a soothie, which we used int the hospital and Liam took to well. We have the elephant and giraffe!
  7. Bobby Newborn Lounger: Probably the most used product in our house. This little pillow is great for so many things. We used it as a napping spot when Liam was itty bitty. We use it at bathtime by laying his towel across it, so we're able just to lay him in the lounger wrap him in his towel, rather than the hard floor. Plus you can set this thing anywhere if you need baby in your eyeline - on the bed, floor, counter, wherever. It also travels great! 
  8. Fisher-Price Rock 'N Play: On second thought, this is probably the most used item! Liam slept in this next to our bed for the first 10 weeks or so. He still sleeps in this at night, only now in his room. It's great to move from room to room, or to set baby in while you're getting ready, making dinner, etc. 
  9. Earth Mama Nipple Butter: A lifesaver for your nipples, whether breastfeeding or pumping. A little goes a long way and it's lanolin/GMO free! 
  10. Onesies: See note above re: clothes. I'm not partial to any brand in particular, but I do recommend zippers over buttons!
  11. Fisher Price Cradle 'N Swing: We received the 4Moms Mamaroo as a gift after hearing that it was basically a miracle swing. While Liam liked it enough in the beginning, he soon began to cry any time we put him in it! Now that he's a little older, he likes it a *little* better, but still, I bet we've used that thing maybe 10 times. 
HOWEVER, once while visiting my sister, I put Liam in her Fisher Price Cradle 'N Swing. Nothin' fancy about it..just a regular old, affordable swing. Liam LOVED it. There's a mirror and mobile for him to look at when he's awake (we call the mobile peeps his "friends," as he tends to chat with them frequently). This is also where Liam would sleep for long stretches! The first time Liam slept 6 hours straight, it was in this swing. We ended up borrowing from my sister-in-law, as her son didn't like it. I think some come with little bouncy seats, too -- another good investment for when baby is older and needs to be entertained and you have stuff to do!

Other Must-Haves

Don't bother
  • Bottle warmers: We have found it to be just as easy to run bottles under hot water and it does the trick just fine. We also give him cold bottles sometime, the idea being so he can eat whenever, and he takes those, too.
  • Bottle sterilizers: Hot water and soap, or the dishwasher are totally fine.
  • Wipe warmers: A good idea in theory, but here's something to consider: What if you have to wipe your babe's toosh in public and don't have your wipe warmer? Then you might have a screaming child on your hands, angry because he used to warm wipes. While we did get one of these as a gift and found it useful when we were still doing middle-of-the-night changes (warm=less likely to wake baby), but also found it worked to just hold the wipe in our hand for a few seconds and let it warm up. Most of the time though, it's cold and Liam is cool with it.
Hope you found this helpful!