Saturday, November 29, 2014

Hallmark Truths

The baby is sleeping. The house mutters the sounds of evening. My husband's slightly dirty feet are propped tiredly on the couch. The dogs wander aimlessly and settle in heaps of quiet. I sip my wine.



The dishwasher is half loaded. The family room is strewn with dog bones, train tracks, tiny loafers, and a miniature radio flyer. A giant teddy bear slumps in defeat next to some building blocks and a soccer ball. Tissues that were used to wipe a tiny nose sit in a discarded pile screaming to be thrown away.

I wonder if I should get up. Clean something. Straighten something. Have a meaningful conversation with my husband for the first time all day. Pet my dogs who are brushed aside in importance by a ball of running, laughing, demanding toddler. I contemplate opening a second bottle of wine. The dregs of the week-old bottle on the kitchen counter aren't quite satisfying enough.

I picture a Hallmark aisle of greeting cards. My imaginary hands open a pastel card. Italic letters say, "My Life is Full." I have no idea where this image comes from. What kind of greeting card would this be? But the cheesy, sappy words float through my head all day long.

I sit in my backyard, watching the leaves in the sunlight. My eyes are eased by the brilliant green grass and the patches of lavendar across stone. I take a sip of my coffee. Then I jump up, remembering. I chase this little being across the grass. Rescuing him from a million life-threatening "almosts." I corral the dogs in their puppyhood. I try to be creative with my son, when I really just want to read a book without interruption. I think, My Life is Full.

It's dinner time. I try to feed him healthy, delicious food and fail miserably and give him graham crackers and cheese. I eat my own food without tasting it and remember three hour meals where each bite is savored and discussed. I am amazed by his tiny hand balancing food on a tiny spoon. I catch my husband's eye. We don't really talk to each other. After the meal, I rinse the tray and think about dirty dishes. My Life is Full.

Bedtime. Little hands. Little mouth. Touching. Sucking. Entwined with me. I am mixed with overwhelming love and a burst of tenderness and the desire to escape into a moment of separation. I sing, I soothe him. I sit in the darkness and touch his hair. I want to scream in exasperation at the unfairness of mothers whose babies go to sleep without an hour long ordeal. He sleeps. I sit with him for a few more minutes. Just because. My Life is Full.

And now here I sit. I think I will open up that new bottle of wine. There is a tiny shovel sitting next to me, incongruous on the living room carpet, speckled with bits of sand. The room smells thick. That soccer ball, the one next to the teddy bear? He kicked it around the house today while we followed in amazement. And so, I am tired. But. My mental greeting card got it right. My Life is So Goddamn Full.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The "Art" of Weaning

Nursing. Breastfeeding. Feeding your baby from your body.

We got off to a rocky start. I cried. I hated it. I dreaded it. I didn't think I'd make it. But I got through it. (For those of you still in those difficult first weeks, I wrote a post about the things that helped me in the beginning). After I made it through the first six weeks, I set my goal at a year. But inwardly I knew I'd be ok with going only six months. At six months, I laughed at the idea of stopping right when we had a beautiful rhythm and I was in love with the ease and simplicity of breastfeeding (as a stay at home those of you who pump, I applaud you!). So I confirmed that I would breastfeed for a year. Then I would take a year off to "have my body back," before planning the second pregnancy.

Great. Wonderful. Now here we are. I have a one-year-old who still nurses day and night. It's time...right?

I'm going back to work for just two days a week. Whether I want to think about it or not, even those two days a week bring up the clear question of weaning. Weaning your baby is such a complicated thing. The meaning it has for each mother is intimate and unique to her. In fact, I'd go as far as to say it's private and should not be questioned. The why behind your choice to wean belongs to you. So, then, why do I not know my own feelings on this?

I used to crave the moment when I would have my "body back to myself." I always used that phrase. Like there was some part of my body I had given up. I don't feel that way anymore. Instead I feel that when I wean I am giving up a part of my body that is connected to him. A shared part of me.

But the coincidence of this with me going back to work is symbolic. Because being a stay at home mom has changed me. When I wrote a post about the Old Me, there was some wistfulness and yearning for that person. Have I simply buried her? Does she deserve a voice in this too? If I wean him, will I have a whiff of the old freedom that came with being a separate individual?

As always, I am a "middle ground" kinda girl. My plan in this is to night-wean sometime in the next month (yes, we co-sleep and he still nurses through the night) and to continue following his lead during the day. Already he is decreasing his day nursing to the point that my breasts are full and painful by the end of the day. He usually nurses before nap and before bedtime and maybe once in the late afternoon. Am I okay with that amount for another...six months? Another year? Maybe.

But then I think about our trip planned to Paso and Napa this January and I wonder, "Do I want to do that trip as a nursing mom? Where I weigh every drop of wine against my analytical, guilty conscience? Or do I want to do that trip as a separated person?"

I know at this stage that whatever choice I make will be okay for him. Is it good for him to continue getting breastmilk in the second year? Sure. But is it necessary? No, not really. He'll be fine physically and emotionally if I wean him. So then, this decision is not a rational one, but a relational, emotional decision. It's about me. It's about him. It's about us.

As I re-read this post all I see are rational, analytical words. Wasted words. Because I'm no closer to knowing what I want. So. I guess we will just see where this next stage takes us. And slowly, oh so slowly, begin to separate.

Any advice? Thoughts? When did you wean? What is your nursing goal? What will be your goal?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Here We Are, One Year Later

We made it to one year.

For the past 365 days I have been thinking about his First Year of life. I have thought in terms of weeks, months and This Year. But I haven't thought beyond today. I just wanted to get this far. Because, honestly, when he was born, getting through this first year seemed insurmountable. I couldn't imagine being an accomplished mother to this walking, laughing, joking, one-year-old toddler boy.

But here we are.

This post could be about Owen and all the marvelous things he can do. Because he is - marvelous. And he does a lot of amazing things. But that's not what this post is about.

Or it could be about his party and all of the adorable and creative touches I put into it. And it was - beautiful and perfect. I am so proud of him and the party and all that it symbolized. But that's not what this post is about either.

This post even could be about me and how I've changed as a woman and a mother and a human being. Because I have - he has changed me in so many deep and intrinsic ways. But this post is not even about that.

Instead this post is about those first few moments of his life. Because the way he was brought into this world was so traumatic, so intense, that I can feel the memory gripping my muscles as I write this. I spent today telling him how loved he is and how excited I was to meet him one year ago. And then I nursed my baby to sleep and kissed him good night and whispered Happy Birthday. Thirty minutes later, at 8:39, was the exact moment of his birth one year ago. And I felt myself rushed back to that moment. The moments before when I was absolutely sure I was going to die. The doctors and nurses yelling, my husband crying, me feeling oddly detached and just a strange acceptance. And then...the doctor cutting me, his heartbeat dropping, the unbearable pain of the vacuum being forced in...and then the amazing, shocking feeling of him sliding out of me.

I had no idea.

I had no idea.

I want to go back and shake myself and say, Savor this. Take this all in. Look at him. Hold in. No, don't put him down even for an instant. Enjoy these first few days with him. Just the three of you, alone in that hospital room. That quiet sanctuary where you spent the first few moments with him. Because I didn't understand. I was overwhelmed, traumatized, literally in shock and shaking from the the trauma of his birth. And that makes me angry with myself for not fully savoring every second of the resounding emotion of his newborn-ness. I miss it. I want to go back and relive it.

But how could I know? How could I know that this little tiny, beautiful baby with those deep eyes would become... everything? How could I know what a year with him would do to me? How could I understand in a hospital room filled with bright lights what motherhood really is? I just...didn't know.

And so here I am, at the anniversary of his birth, remembering. Paying homage to that moment. Being grateful for the blood and the pain and the emotion that was put forth so he could come out of me and into this world. Because I didn't get it then. I didn't understand.

But now I do.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Day In Our Life

I've wanted to do one of these for awhile. Not sure why, because I don't know if anyone else really cares about the minute details of my day, but I always enjoy reading about others', so I decided it would be fun to try it out. I chose a day when we were home all day, nothing special planned, so you could get a sense of what it's like in the glamorous life of staying home with Owen. So here goes:

6:38 - The puppies downstairs wake up all three of us an hour before Owen usually gets up. In desperation, I tried to nurse Owen back to sleep. Failure. I lie in bed while Owen plays with the cat, in complete denial that I need to get up.

7:01 - I give up. Get out of bed.

7:10 - After getting myself dressed, I carry Owen downstairs to his room and change his diaper. He screams and fights me. I give him one of the letters from his name train, which he throws on the ground. This must be why his train now only says "Ow." I put his pjs back on over his clean diaper. Then I realize we have a playdate at our house today, so the house needs to be clean. Damn.

7:14 - I plop myself onto the couch in the playroom while Owen "plays Xbox" and I check FB. I'm probably winning some Lazy Mother of the Year Award here, but I figure he's up an hour early, so what the hell.

7:36 - I peel myself off the couch and give Owen some breakfast in his high chair while I frantically clean the kitchen.

7:47- Owen is done with his blueberry waffles and bananas, so I give him a fruit puree pouch so I can quickly finish up the kitchen. Again, really Desperate Parenting here. Owen, who isn't hungry any more and doesn't like pouches, makes modern art on his high chair tray.

8:01 - I start in on folding the three loads of laundry dumped all over the couch. Owen plays happily by himself. I am repeatedly interrupted to rescue the 8 week old puppy from the 4 month old puppy. The cat cries incessantly for no reason at all.

8:13 - I give River (the bigger puppy) a bone that smells awfully like a dead animal to keep her from tormenting tiny puppy and stop stealing all of Owen's toys. I give Owen a quick hug, then contemplate giving up on the damn laundry. Cat still crying for no reason.

8:16 - I am distracted by sheer adorableness as Owen tries to catch sunbeams on the wood floor.

8:20 - Owen is fussy and bored. Probably because he got up too damn early! I ask him if he wants to fold laundry. He declines by arching his back and falling to the floor.

8:21 - B comes out and gives me the tiny puppy (Red) in exchange for taking Owen. I take Red outside to go potty, then finish laundry super quick while B has O. I briefly feel excited, then discouraged when I realize I now have to put all of the folded laundry away.

8:26 - I bring the puppy in from outside. Immediately River starts harassing him. I am ravenously hungry, so I make B and I some breakfast while he plays with Owen in the office.

8:40 - I take Owen into his nursery to play while I eat my toast. Owen immediately steals some of mommy's toast. I watch him pull a piece out of his mouth, look at it, then put it back in. I wish this were acceptable behavior for adults.

8:44 - my mom calls on the phone.

8:50 - 2nd poopy diaper of the day. I finally get the baby dressed. He cries whole time in extreme protest.

8:57- I step in puppy poop on the floor and then almost fall on water River spilled from her water dish while going to clean up the poop. I drop Owen with B for a second so I can run to the bathroom. I realize this downstairs bathroom is out of toilet paper. I hear Owen fussing through the door. Grrr...woke up too early!

9:10 - We go play in the playroom. Exciting games like, "Let's take the necklace on and off over and over again!" Owen and River then play nicely together with a cat toy. I am amazed to see that Owen can correctly point to "Mickey's eyes" and "Mickey's nose" at least 80% of the time. He is a genius!

9:41 - I decide to give up on our one-nap schedule and take Owen up for an early "first nap" because he is so fussy.

9:54 - After a brief nursing session, Owen seems completely revived by breastmilk and boobtime. Give up on naptime. Back to playroom. The puppies are playing nicely together for once.

10:11 - The highlight of my sister arrives with Starbucks! No pic. I drank it.

10:30 - The dog trainer from the Invisible Fence company shows up to train River on "How Not To Be Shocked By the Invisible Fence."

11:15 - I contact my business partner and make final decisions about our logo and business cards. Yay!

11:30 The mail arrives. I unpack one of Owen's birthday presents. He notices, points, and says "Ooooo!!" I crumble, and give him his present a month early. I cry watching him play with such a grown up toy. A toy that is for his 1st birthday. A toy I picked out for him and he is now obsessed with.

11:50 - Ok, damnit, it's nap time. I have to wrestle the toy away from him. All out tantrum ensues.

12:00 - I turn on soft music, get in bed with him, and read him stories while we cuddle. The tantrum moment turned into a sweet moment. He is asleep ten minutes later.

1:27 - I waste the whole nap time on relaxing things like eating lunch, playing on my phone, and reading my book. I feel happy and content and the cat sits and purrs on my feet. In other words, I get nothing done.

2:00 - Owen wakes up. I put him in his highchair and feed him lunch while I frantically (again) finish cleaning.

2:30 - Mom friend and her baby arrive for playdate.

4:09 - Guests leave and Owen goes to socialize with his daddy and auntie in the office.

4:28 - Snack time.

4:54 - It's cooled off enough to go outside. Owen, River and I go out and enjoy the backyard. We play with the water table, play with sticks, and all around get dirty. I vacillate between feeling so happy my son is playing in nature and being on alert for all possible dangers (snakes! sharp rocks! little rocks to eat!).

5:26 - Our furniture gets delivered from Ethan Allen!

5:57 - Owen briefly nurses. He's really ready to drop feedings.

6:10 - I start chopping garlic for dinner.

6:15 - B comes out and asks if I want to go on a walk. We load up baby and puppies for a short neighborhood walk.

6:42 - Back to chopping veggies.

7:10 - Dinner time. Owen avoids everything but fruit. As usual.

7:36 - B takes Owen for a bath. The pets are fed, dinner is put away, I have nothing to do but relax.

8:03 - I nurse Owen in his nursery.

8:15 - He's asleep.

8:29 - The best part of my evening. I have a big glass of wine, Grey's Anatomy, a bag of candy corn, puppy in lap, and a husband to cuddle with. Heaven.

10:00 - I get into bed to put this blog post together.

10:41 - Good night!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Just A Kid

Before I had a baby I had all sorts of thoughts about parenthood that I would never say out loud. Things like, "Oh well, she's just a stay at home mom..." or "He's just a kid, nothing special..." I didn't mean anything hurtful, I just didn't put a whole lot of stock into pictures of other people's kids or the importance of "little things," like a toddler learning how to run. No big deal if your children just learned how to do a cute little dance....'Cus you know, he's "just a kid."

I knew I would love my child and I knew I would love being a mom. But I had NO idea how much it would take my silly, stupid little thoughts and crush them into a million pieces. There is no such thing as "just a kid." Because for every kid, there is a mom. A mom who loves the curve of his neck. A mom who watches him sleep. A mom who devours every little thought he has. He cannot possibly be "just a kid." He is so much more. His eyelashes tell her stories. His smiles gift her his happiness. His tiny hands paint beauty into her tired face. His nonchalance as he plops into her lap teaches her contented stillness.

This is not "just a kid." At least, not to her.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Slow Learner Mom

A few months back, my Dad said something to me that I just couldn't get out of my head.

"You know, you've really become comfortable in your role as a mother. In the beginning, I wasn't sure, but now I see how comfortable you are in that role."

I realize he meant this as a kind observation, but my analytical, negative mind just couldn't avoid noting the connotation that, in the beginning, he wasn't sure. So I asked my sister: what did she think? She said, "Well, you know, the beginning is hard for everyone..." Hmm. That sounds like an elusive way of saying I was a hot mess. I asked my husband, who said, "Well you always knew the baby-stage would be hard for you. I just think it was harder on you than on me. But now you're doing awesome."

Wait. What? So did everyone think I was a complete failure during the first months of my baby's life?

I think back on those first six weeks. To say they were "a blur" sounds cliche, but it's true. I don't remember what I thought, what I did, what I wore, what the baby wore, what the weather was was a blur. I had just had an extremely traumatic birth and then was struggling intensely with breastfeeding. I was in tears more often than not and was doing my best to suddenly be a mom. Was I doing the best job I could do? If I'm honest, no...not really. I was just getting through it. I was holding him. I was changing him. I was talking to him. I was nursing him through bleeding nipples. So, yeah, I kept him alive. And I loved him. I loved him because he was our baby and he was a miracle and his little eyes pierced into my soul. But was I doing the BEST JOB I could do? Was I cooing over him in amazement every second? Was I overwhelmed with happiness from everything that he did? Was I delighting in hold him every single second?

Deep breath. I'm going to be totally honest. The answer to these questions is No. In the first six weeks, I was just getting through. Getting through by the skin of my teeth. Nursing him with my teeth gritted in pain and then passing him off to sleep in his swing so I could...I don't know, breathe? Try to process what had just happened to my life? And typing these words makes me want to instantly delete them because doesn't that mean I'm not a Good Mother? But I'm not going to delete them. It's what I felt. I look back on his newborn pictures and I am amazed by him and I melt in love and adoration, but deep down, there is a guilty feeling because...I hardly remember those days. Like I said, it's a goddamn blur.

After the first six weeks, it got better. The pain of breastfeeding subsided. The trauma of the birth faded somewhat. And I fell more and more in love with him. Now I did cherish every second of holding of him. I stroked his head in amazement while he napped on my chest. All of that new-baby-stuff that for the first six weeks didn't happen as much as it should have in the first six weeks because I was a catatonic invalid.

But was I a Good Mother in the first six months? Well the truth is, back then, I was still resenting the role somewhat. I had decided to be a stay at home mom. I was lonely. I hated housecleaning. I hated not getting dressed in real clothes or not having the time to take a shower. I felt jealous of people who could have "time to themselves." So even though I was completely in love with my baby and I was giving him everything he needed and more, I still couldn't wear the Mother Role with ease.

After those first six months, the shoe fit. Now, a month away from one year, the shoe is like a second skin. So ask me now if I'm a Good Mother? The answer is HELL YES.

But in the beginning? Truth be told? I was just doing the goddamn best I could. I think what my family was gently trying to say is, the role didn't come as easily to me as it does to some. I wasn't able to jump in selflessly. Instead I blearily had to find my way around and then figure out how to be this new person without feeling angry about the things I was giving up. And don't get me wrong. I wasn't resenting my baby. I wasn't doing anything wrong and he wasn't lacking in any way. In fact, if you were watching from the outside, you would say I was doing it all right. But, that little elusive thing that my family all noticed was...I think I just had a bit of a slower learning curve than some.

So, to all you Slow Learner Mom's out there - It's ok. Do the best you can. Love your babies. Love yourself. Give them what they need. And ask for what you need too. Figure out how to be the Mom you are. And don't hate yourself if it doesn't come to you immediately.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Introducing the New to the Old

Out of the is a random post from me to you:

We went to Los Angeles last week and stayed the night. We stayed only a few blocks from our old house. We've been gone six months now and I was shaken by that brush with the Old Me. Before we moved to San Diego, I was still straddling two worlds. I was reeling from the shift to mommyhood and the introduction of this entirely new being into our world. BUT I was prepared to go back to work and try to integrate. Instead, we up and moved and I completely left the Old Me behind. When we drove into LA, I didn't expect to miss her so much.

The Old Me worked hard - 60+ hours a week - and loved it. She was a Psychologist. That was first and foremost in her identity. Followed closely by Wife. She lived mostly for herself, then husband, then family, then friends. That order. She was "put together." Each morning she would slide into her Range Rover, check her makeup, hair and outfit in the mirror, throw her expensive bag on the (clean!) seat beside her, flip on NPR, sip her coffee and take off for her hour commute to work. Once arrived at work, she would slide into her "Doctor" role and feel happy with where she was in life. On the evenings and weekends she would enjoy good wine and expensive restaurants. Peppered vacations and gorgeous hotels. But oh my god, it was a lot of work. Literally. Work, work, work, GASP for air, more work. FUN, fun, fun and then more work. I felt like I was waiting. I was always dreaming about what Life Would Be in the future. Planning and dreaming about something else.

I didn't expect to miss some of this. But I did. I missed feeling pretty and put together. I missed being a therapist/teacher/mentor/doctor. I miss helping my clients and their families. I missed long dinners and enjoying bottles of wine. Or hours spent talking with friends. I guess, to be honest, I missed life being about Me.

I also missed the excitement. The hoping and waiting and planning. I remember when we lived at our house in Venice that I spent most of the time there either being excited about my job or being excited about getting pregnant or being excited about Baby coming. Always living in the possibilities of the future. Planning my career. Planning how to become a mother. Planning the nursery. Planning, dreaming, waiting... It was exciting!

But now? The New Me is (obviously) different. The New Me lives for Baby, Husband, Me, family, and sometimes friends. The New Me slides into the same Range Rover that is covered now in a layer of dirt from the dusty roads we live on. I drop my new bag (anniversary gift) that is a slightly less expensive purse/diaper bag onto a seat littered with diapers, puffs, and old coffee lids. I am usually heading to a playdate, grocery store, or park. I have nowhere specific to be. I don't check myself in the mirror because...why would I? I am not a doctor/teacher/mentor to students, but I am a mommy/teacher/guide to my son. I have finally figured out how to wear this role with no awkwardness, resentment, or frustration. My sidekick comes with me in life and he keeps me grounded in the Now.

I don't plan anymore. I am living my dreams. Literally. We bought a house. A beautiful, Spanish-style home with dark floors, white walls, and Mexican tile touches. We have two acres of land, fencing for horses in my future, beautiful oak trees, a wonderful neighborhood and a beautiful pool surrounded by palm trees. We have our cat, a new German Shepherd Puppy, and another puppy on the way. We take our family for walks in the evening when the heat melts into warmth and I don't worry or stress. I just live this moment.

So yes. I am happy. I am settled. I am content. I am no longer living in a desperate race to work hard and get ahead and get to the next step. But that doesn't mean I don't miss it sometimes. That doesn't mean I don't miss having my hair styled and my eyebrows waxed and my toenails painted and....well, the Old Me. But I know that the Old Me was really just rushing to meet New Me. So, Hello New Me. Introduce yourself to the world.

And how do I know she's around to stay? Well because, as Owen approaches one year (Ahhh!), I am working to integrate in small bits of the Old Me that I miss. I have started horseback riding again and now know that I will own my own horses when the time is right. I have found a business partner, rented a space in a medical complex, and am going to open my own small therapy and assessment practice part time. They say that we shouldn't rush the return from postpartum. With all the pressure to "bounce back in six weeks," I think we forget that this is not just about a physical recovery or even an adjustment to motherhood. I believe it will take me a year to completely figure out who I want to be now. Who I can be within the realm of this new life. And also, it has taken me almost a year and a bit of retrospection to appreciate all that the New Me has to offer. I guess sometimes you need a brush with the Old just to say Hello.

And that's my update. Hope you all are well!

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Other Side

I just realized I’m guilty. I’m guilty of posting about the “good things.” I’m one of those moms who posts the adorable pictures and the precious moments and paints the bland picture of happiness to my readers. So tonight I’m posting just a few sentences to say -

Being a parent is hard. It leeches you of your energy and your freedom and your sense of control and spits you back out gasping for air. Being a stay at home mom is hard. It steals away the identity you spent years molding and leaves you feeling lost. All of this is hard. You try to retain some semblance of you by showering every few days or trying to remember to put on some moisturizer; but frankly, it’s a bit of a façade.

It just is. Really fucking hard. Really exhausting. Really shattering.

Each day, each week, each month. I am tired, I am lonely, I am sad.

And I am in love, in love, in love.

So that’s that. Just wanted to point out the other side.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Babywearing: From A Beginner's Perspective

Time for a purely informational post. If you’re not interested in the topic, pass on by. I’m writing it because little ol’ pregnant me stumbled across a few random blog posts on Babywearing and they were helpful, so maybe someone will find this helpful as well.

When I was about five months pregnant I went to Disneyland with a mom of a two month old baby. I had no idea what she would do at DL with a two month old baby. But when we got there, I hardly ever saw her. She was wrapped up in a Moby Wrap the entire day. I was impressed. I was intrigued. I was a bit intimidated. But I knew I needed one.

Little did I know, I would become obsessed with Babywearing. There are lots of reasons people fall in love with Babywearing. Skin to skin contact, nursing, chasing older children around, comforting a sick or teething baby, helping your baby to sleep, or just…getting some stuff done around the house! For me, I was “blessed” with a very active, mobile baby. A baby who is not easily entertained and was never happy with sitting in a swing, staring at a mobile, or just…chilling. He also is not a cuddly baby. He loves people and is very social, but cuddles require him to sit still and…well, you get the idea. Unless, I found, I was wearing him. When wearing my baby, he is soft and warm and cuddly and still and content. And lately, during his phase of trying to cruise around the furniture, when I am wearing him, he is safe.. And so, I am in love. I have bought way too many baby carriers and am a bit embarrassed by my obsession, but it is what it is. I am sold.

Oh, I should also mention that Owen never loved being in the stroller. I remember many walks where I would be pushing the stroller and carrying a crying baby. Not fun. Later we progressed to pushing a stroller and wearing a baby. Improvement? Now that he is older, he will sit in the stroller because he is able to sit up and look around, or entertain himself with a toy. But in the beginning…babywearing saved me.

It didn’t start out as love. Remember my friend with the Moby Wrap? I originally had a Moby Wrap and a Beco Gemini on my Registry. The first time I tried the Moby was a disaster. Screaming baby and all. And the Beco? Well, I look back at early pictures and realize I was wearing him much too low, in an awkward, dangly position. In fact, when looking for photos for this post I found early photos of how I wrapped him that made me cringe in embarrassment. But hey, we all start somewhere.

So I am going to take you on a short journey of what I have learned. I am by no means an expert. What I have learned I have learned through a million Youtube videos, a bunch of Babywearing Meetups, and hours of practice. I still would call myself a beginner compared to a lot of Mamas out there. But here goes….

I will start with a basic run down of safety and how-to’s and then run you through my experience with each type of carrier.


First, I should say, there is a lot of controversy regarding “good” or “safe” babywearing and the “not ergonomically correct” babywearing. I think we need to distinguish between which rules are really about “safety” and which are more about comfort. As long as your baby is really “safe,” then you can get all of the benefits of babywearing in a $20 carrier that you can get in a $500 carrier (or $1000…or $2000…yes they exist!). So, let’s not get carried away here…That being said, here are some good rules of thumb to follow.

First, you should always follow the TICKS rules. 1) Wrap baby tightly against your body. And yes, I mean tightly. It honestly feels better for you and baby if he is wrapped tightly against you. You will often find your baby will stop crying or fussing if you just tighten your carrier. 2) Keeping baby in view comes from those “bag style” baby pouches in which the fabric wraps up around baby like a cocoon. Not safe. 3) Close enough to kiss is one that I really messed up on in the beginning. My baby would be dangling down near my waist. This is because I wasn’t tightening enough to get him high enough. Not as comfy, believe me. 4) Keep chin off chest. This is extremely important. You don’t want your baby’s chin to be compressed or pointed down to his chest. It should be tilted up to allow him a clear airway. 5) Supported back. An ergonomic baby carrier allows baby’s back to round naturally, yet be supported comfortably.

Finally, you hear a lot about “the seat” in a good baby carrier. There is some research to back this up, but I am not sure it is really as serious as some fanatics will tell you. In other words, some people will tell you if you don’t have the right seat, your baby can develop hip dysplasia. Actually, based on what I’ve read, this isn’t the case as much as, if your baby is already at risk for hip problems, then a good seat is critical. Otherwise, we’re really talking about comfort here. SO…what is a good seat? A good seat is visually represented by an “M” position, meaning baby’s knees should be higher than his bottom and his bottom actually sinks down into the fabric. The fabric should extend from one knee to the other, fully supporting his bottom.

Other than that, just make sure the carriers you buy are bought from a safe source, so that you know the seams are reinforced and strong, etc, etc. Be sure if you are trying something new that you always have a spotter and always ask questions if something doesn’t feel right!

Ok, safety out of the way, let me tell you about the carriers!

Stretchy Wraps

This is where I started. A Moby Wrap is a typical example of a Stretchy Wrap, as is a K-Tan or a Boba. I think a lot of people end up buying these and then having absolutely no idea what to do with them. As in, what do I do with all of this material?? I think I would have given up if not for witnessing the babywearing magic at Disneyland. Stretchy wraps are known for being excellent for newborns. They are soft, t-shirt like cotton that allows you to pre-wrap your fabric and then slide your baby in. Once I got the hang of the stretchy wrap, I used it a lot with Owen. I especially loved nursing him in it back when he was a constant nurser in the newborn stage. My biggest mistake with the Moby was not wrapping it tight enough or high enough, meaning he usually ended up much too low. Stretchy wraps are noted for not being good as babies grow bigger because, well, they stretch. This contributed to Owen being too low as he got closer to 15 lbs. I think I stopped using it right around 15 lbs or so.

Soft Structured Carriers

Soft Structured Carriers are what most people think of when they think of baby carriers or baby backpacks. They do not have any metal or frames as you would find in a hiking backpack, making them soft, but structured. Typical SSCs include Ergo, Beco, Boba, etc. Baby Bjorns also fall into this category, but they don’t allow for the proper M-shaped seat, so some babywearers won’t buy a Bjorn.

I started with the Beco Gemini. I picked it because it allows you to face inward, face forward, put baby on your hip, or on your back. Also, it doesn’t need an infant insert like the Ergo, so you can use it right away. I loved my Beco. It was great. I used it for front facing (facing in toward me) and on my back. It was easy to use and my “go-to” for walks or when I needed something easier than the Moby. For a while, putting Owen in the Beco was my go-to for getting him down for naps as well.

Just a month or so ago, I decided Owen had outgrown the Beco. It probably would have been just fine for quite some time still (he was around 18 lbs), but with his long legs, they had begun to dangle somewhat as the carrier didn’t reach to his knees anymore. Again, just fine…but not as comfy or supported.

Conveniently, this coincided with me wanting to buy another SSC – go figure, huh? After moving to San Diego, I discovered Tula Carriers (made here in San Diego) and fell in love after trying one on. What can I say? They really are so, so much more comfortable! Owen just seems to mold into my body (either on front or back) and I hardly feel him at all, even when hiking up a mountain with 19 lbs of him on my back. The canvas is soft and moldable, supporting him, but not clunky. Plus, it’s super cute!

Tula also makes carriers that are constructed out of hand woven wrap material, which I would die for, but they are highly sought after, super expensive, and hard to get your hands on. Imagine thousands of mommies trying to vie for a chance to buy a $500 carrier. Seriously.

Ring Slings

After the Moby and the Beco Gemini, I then decided to buy a Ring Sling. I wanted something easy to just pop him into when going from the car to the store or just a quick walk to the coffee shop. I also liked the idea that I could wear him facing outward (kangaroo or Buddha carry) as he always wanted to be looking around. So I bought a Maya Wrap Ring Sling. I still use mine today. It is on the “cheaper” end of things as Ring Slings go and I may someday invest in a more expensive one (softer, stronger fabric), but for now the Maya works really well. Ring Slings are known to be good for newborns or older babies. Not so much in between. For newborns, they allow for an easy, close carry that allows you to pop baby in and out and snuggle them close. For older babies (like Owen’s age up to age 2), you can wear them on your hip. You know, like we carry our babies anyhow, but with added support. The “in between” stage where your baby is not quite a newborn but doesn’t have enough back support to sit on your hip isn’t the best stage for a wiggly baby to sit in a ring sling. We’re just getting back to where I love using it for running errands because he can sit in the sling, but still be involved in grabbing things and socializing with people as we walk about.

Woven Wraps

Ahhhh woven wraps. There could be multiple blog posts about wrapping and so I will just barely scratch the surface here. Let me just say that I love my wraps, but am definitely still a beginner so I will not try to give advice in this area. Let me just tell you my experience…

When the Moby began to get too stretchy, I had just begun to really enjoy wrapping Owen. I had also learned about hand woven wraps and saw how absolutely beautiful they were. Because of the way they are woven, these wraps are stronger and allow you to do more types of carries (i.e., back carries) and carry bigger children (up to preschoolers). There is a huge range in terms of price, quality, and fabric choices. I won’t even begin to get into allow of this. If you’re interested, start googling…

I ended up with two Wraps. I chose in terms of availability (some wraps are extremely hard to find because so few were ever made), price (I wanted to stay under $150 per wrap) and beauty (I love the vibrant blues). I ended up with two made by the same company (Girasol) and both are 100% cotton. Now, these wraps are said to not carry bigger babies as well, so there is a chance I may need to invest in a stronger fabric (linen blend perhaps) if I want to keep wrapping Owen as he grows.

But for now, I love them. Both are super soft and beautiful. I have a size 6 and a size 4, as you can do different carries with different sizes. Here are some of the carries I have learned (or am still working on!)

There really is so much you can do with a wrap. And, if you are good, you really shouldn’t need any other type of carrier. Experts wrap so quickly and efficiently and there is a different carry for every need. Need something quick and easy? Pop them on your hip? Need to cuddle a teething baby? Wrap them on your front. Need them out of your way? Slide them on your back.

For me, I usually only wrap when I’m at home, or if I want him to take a nap when we’re out in public. A wrap is guaranteed to put him to sleep. Note: This can be a good thing or a bad thing if you are trying to train a baby to sleep in his crib on a schedule!! I’ve just gotten to the point where I am learning different back carries, and believe me, they are hard. But, when he is wrapped correctly, a back carry is oh-so-neat. He feels weightless, yet close. High up enough to look over your shoulder at everything you are doing, and get out of the way so you are hands free. Plus, it just looks SO cool!

Mei Tais

Mei tais are Asian-style carriers that are sort of a cross between a structured carrier and a wrap. I bought one (I told you I am addicted!) when I was deciding whether or not to get another wrap or not. Instead, I bought a Mei Tai that is made from wrap fabric, giving you the best of both worlds. I really like my Mei Tai. It is easier than a wrap, yet softer and more adjustable than a SSC. Plus, it is pretty like a wrap! But, to be honest, I have to remind myself to use it. It is not as easy as a Ring Sling or a SSC when you are out running errands, and not as cuddly and soft as a wrap for a fussy baby. Also, I find it just as hard as wrapping a back-carry, so usually ask a spotter for help for getting him up on my back. That being said, I use it most for things like house cleaning or gardening.

And…there you have it. If you’ve read this far it’s because you probably have some interest or curiosity about babywearing. Or you are just amazed by my obsession. Believe me, it can be an addiction. I think whether or not you fall off the deep end (like me) depends on your type of baby. For Owen and I, it just “fit.” Given that I could never put him down and he’d be content in a swing/jumper/crib/etc, this allowed me snuggly time and time to get things done. The need and purpose of wearing your baby changes over time. You hear people say, “Oh, my baby hates being worn,” but I think that is also something that changes over time. If you get them used to it (may take a few times out on a walk) early on, then as they grow they also are used to being worn as part of routine. Babies who are used to being on mommy’s back can actually be worn up till around age 3 (yes, really!). Also, don’t feel overwhelmed by this post. Babywearing doesn’t have to be complicated. Just buy yourself an Ergo (or Tula!!) and try it out.

Happy Babywearing!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Nice to Be Needed

You know the expression, "It's nice to be needed?"

Well, I am Needed all day long. Unfortunately, I am also Needed many times throughout the night. It would be nice to be forgotten for just a moment or two, so that nobody needs me at all. In fact, sometimes I find myself chafing against it and getting on edge for no reason at all. I feel gritty and removed from the moment and then that makes me all the more frustrated. Today was one of those days.

So I went to the park.

It's a nice park. Perched on the edge of a hill. The right ratio of trees to sunshine. Just enough baby-sized swings and toys to keep us happy. Parks in the middle of the day are strange places. A mixture of stay at home moms and nannies who are getting paid to do this difficult job.

While we were there, I felt the minor buzz of annoyance that had been clinging to me all day start to drift away. It was nice to let Owen crawl on the grass with no fear of him getting into something dangerous or falling down and bumping his head yet again. Owen had his first time in a swing. A big Firsts among Firsts. And its pretty hard to be annoyed when your baby is cooing in a swing.

Later, when we were sitting in the shade contemplating state of mind and colorful teething toys, two boys appeared on mini-motorized-motorcycles. Owen was mesmorized by them. I smiled at my baby and "what a boy" he is and then suddenly I realized that my "tough little boy" had crept into my lap, sat down, wrapped his arms around mine, and was watching the motorcycles from the safety of mommy's arms. Guys, this is a Big Deal. My baby never Needs me in this way. Even when he falls down and bumps his head - yes, even when he fell down and cut the inside of his lip! - he doesn't need me. I mean, yes, he wants me to pick him up, bounce him, shhh him, but then damnit, I better put him back down in 1.6 seconds so he can get back to whatever super dangerous thing he was doing. But he needed me to make him feel safe and secure while he watched the world.

Later, I took him over to the playground where two little one year old twins were tottering around. Owen was entranced by the boy twin who was running around like a wild animal and I'm sure he took some notes for his future self. I struck up a conversation with the nanny. In Spanish, just to challenge myself. Once she discovered what I do (did) for a living, she started to share her story of how her husband is on disability and her oldest son was just incarcerated and her younger son is reacting badly and...and...and... It was, sadly, just like the many stories I used to hear every single day. I felt like I was sitting in my office at the hospital, instead of sitting crossed legged and barefoot at the park. Without thinking, I began getting her the numbers for Legal Aid and the 211 Access Line for services. I coached her through talking to her son's teachers, asking for help, etc. All the while I drew the firm line that no, I couldn't be her son's therapist.

When I left, she gave me her phone number and asked me to call her if I found any other services. I took her number, knowing I was likely never going to call, and wished her luck sincerely. When I got home, I nursed my sleepy baby, who fell asleep for his nap while touching my cheek.

So, I guess, there are some times where it is really nice to be needed.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Let's give this another try...

Well, I'm still here. But my blog sits neglected and dusty in a corner somewhere. I didn't even dust it off to reminisce and ponder the fact that my baby has now been alive for half of a year. And if I couldn't be bothered to write about that, well then, it's possible this blog is done. But then, a night creeps in like tonight, when everything is quiet and I wonder...what is going on in the blogosphere? What is going on with those wonderful women who saw me through my pregnancy and those first oh so difficult weeks of Owen's life?

So, I'm going to write a bit, and see what happens.

Tonight is quiet. B is up in LA, staying overnight for work. Owen went to bed early. So I am listening to the emptiness of the air conditioning. There is so much to say and all will seem mundane if I type it into words. You can't describe chubby thighs wobbling as they quiver to standing. Or how intently he tries to learn each piece of the world. Or the way he melts into my neck when I pick him up in the middle of the night. How do I tell you these things? How do I tell you about him laughing in the pool today, or him crying when he falls down, or his giggles as he touches my neck while he nurses to sleep? Either you know...and you get it...or it is just mine. My little mundane moments of motherhood.

I am rambling. Maybe this is why I don't blog anymore. I'm not the same, systematic person I was before. During my pregnancy, I diligently categorized each symptom, trimester, and important event. I explained it in linear, detailed form. And now, while there is so much to report, my brain seems to not work that way any more. Instead, I think in moments. Owen crawling across the floor at five and a half months. Owen sick with a cold, sleeping on my chest. Owen pulling himself to standing for the first time. Owen taking his first tentative steps, cruising along the couch. Owen, Owen, Owen.

I live in these moments. I live in yoga pants. I live sitting on the floor. I live watching. Watching him.

How did this happen? Where am I? Where is the person who worked so hard at her career and took so much pride in her identity as an intellectual, driven woman? Where is the woman with a sexual, feminine side? Where is the person who brushed her hair and painted her toenails? Where is the person who thought about things other than...him?

I could take this post into a long commentary on being a stay at home mom. But...the cat just settled down on my lap and I smiled. I smiled and realized I don't really care enough to write about it. Why not? Because I am just happy. Happy in this moment. Happy in these moments. For the first time that I can remember since being a little girl, I don't...yearn for things, worry about things, agonize over things, dread things...I just am. Just happy. How amazing is that?

Not saying life isn't hard. Because I am ridiculously exhausted, physically and emotionally. I crave time to myself. I miss things. But...for now, this is where I am. And I know it's not forever. I know I will go back to having multiple facets to my identity. But for now, this is It.

One Week to Six Months

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Fighting the Losing Battle With Sleep: My Sleep-Deprived Ramblings

Right around three months post-partum, things were going good. I had a rhythm to my days. I had the right balance of outings and sweet time spent at home with baby. I felt in synchronicity with my baby. I felt rested (well, rested for a new mom). I felt like I could do this forever.

In Mommy Group, when people talked about sleep problems, napping, or putting baby on a schedule, I just naively tuned it out. I felt like we didn’t need a schedule. I was so “in tune” with my baby that I just followed his lead and when he started to get tired I put him down for a nap. And by “put him down,” I mean literally all I had to do was PUT HIM DOWN and he would sleep. Sigh. Oh, the beautiful naiveté. Also, I bristled against schedules because, well, it’s a schedule. I wanted to be spontaneous and free and able to go out and socialize. My baby was so adaptable that he would “nap wherever” and then wake up happy and refreshed. Oh and the whole idea of the Four Month Sleep Regression? Pish Posh. I was sure that wouldn’t happen to us. Seriously. I have no idea why I thought this, but I thought it was just some made up thing that people said to label their ongoing sleep difficulties.

Wow. That all makes me sound like a bitch, doesn’t it? Let me stop and clarify. I didn’t judge other people. In fact, I told everyone that you need to do “what works for you” in order to feel sane and happy. It just so happened that I thought “what worked” for us was to be flexible and relaxed and in tune with the moment. I thought if I just responded to what my baby needed, that we would be happy and I would never get stuck in “oh, we can’t go right now, because he naps from 11:02-12:35.”

Also, Sleep Training. I thought this was overrated as well. I mean, as a psychologist, I understand that the behavioral principles of gradual exposure and extinction work, but I also thought if you just used common sense and perseverance, you wouldn’t need to be so regimented about it. Are you seeing any themes here? First, clear avoidance of any type of structure or regimented schedule. Second, an exorbitant dose of big-headed ignorance.

So…what happened? Four Months. Yes, it appeared whether I believed in it or not. Literally, the weekend that Owen turned four months we moved to a new city and through off our routine. Owen also began teething. AND he learned to roll over both ways (a new fun skill to try out all night long in his crib). Ohhh and we thought it would be a good time to start having him sleep at night in his big crib (still in our room). So all of these things added up and….guess what? Four Month Sleep Regression.

And now here I am. One month later and still not sleeping. And by not sleeping I mean seriously. Not Sleeping. Naps have turned into 30 minute affairs and nighttime is on Newborn Schedule of waking every 1-3 hours. I am exhausted. Exhausted, emotional and bitchy. Oh, and vulnerable. Vulnerable enough to let doubt pierce my earlier blissful confidence. When a friend of mine, a 2nd time mom, started lecturing me about exactly how many naps Owen should have per day and how long he should sleep and what time he should go to bed, I listened. Listened when a month ago I would have smiled, nodded, and brushed it off as I kept going with what felt right for me. This time, I listened, then fell into a spiral of self-doubt and desperation and “What am I doing wrong???” It’s amazing how a little bit of lost sleep will shatter your confidence/cockiness.

So. I’ve been thinking. Thinking and reading. I’ve been approaching this from both an intuitive, emotional perspective as well as the analytical research side of me who just happens to be a child psychologist. In other words, I’ve spent some time getting “in tune” with myself and with Owen. I’ve also spent some time with my textbooks and journal articles.

Here is what I’ve come up with.

Now, these are just my Thoughts for This Week. They are subject to change at any time when Owen catapults into a new developmental stage and completely rocks my reality again. Also, I may be a child psychologist, but I am not an expert in infant mental health, and I am not talking in the capacity of a psychologist right now, just a mom who is tired. But, here goes…

Being a new mom is hard. Especially a first time mom. Put sleep deprivation in the mix and it’s harder than hard. According to psychological researching, behavioral methods (sleep training), do work, but only when used effectively and not with any consistent efficacy prior to six months. And so, we are left fumbling in the dark (literally and metaphorically). What parents want is a method for dealing with this new reality. Which is why people will may hundreds to Sleep Trainers to put their life back in order.

But who is right? The old me who believed in intuitively following baby’s lead and flexibly adapting each day? The burnt out me who is considering regimenting everything from naps to diaper changes if it will just make him SLEEP?



Because I’ve decided it’s not about what you do, it’s about why you do it. In order to get through this, you need to be able to have some sense of control and belief that you are, to some degree, in charge of what is happening to your life. Now, don’t get me wrong…I also believe you need a healthy acceptance that your life is not your own during this time and that nothing is permanent during this first year (years?). But, for your own mental health and sanity, I think you need to find something that gives you the sense (whether real or imagined) that you have a bit of control. If that means putting your baby on a schedule, then by all means do so. If that means, wearing your baby around for every single nap…go for it. If that means co-sleeping with baby perma-attached to your boob, ok! As long as what you are doing is healthy for you and baby…sounds great!

In other words, I don’t think there is a one, Correct Way to approach this, but I think we each need to find our Own Way. Otherwise, you end up like me, knocked off my pedestal, lost, and doubting every decision I’m making. As long as you have a plan and feel you are doing your best to be the Parent, rather than feeling like the baby is running the world and you’re simply Forest Gump’s Feather, then you’re doing good. Right?? Oh, who knows.

I also think that your method should come from being thoughtful and aware. When I’m just blindly trying to react to each thing that comes up without planning or preparing or consciously responding, I tend to feel more lost. When I don’t know why I’m doing something, it tends to be less effective and I feel more desperate. What I mean is, if the baby is crying and my plan is, say, to bounce him to sleep on the ball, but then his cries get louder and I give up…I feel lost. If I were to step back, think, and remember “Oh right, he always cries a bit louder before he falls asleep, so I’m going to stick with this a few minutes and see if he quiets down,” then I’d probably have more success. Also, on a grander scale, I think we need to know why we make big decisions such as, whether to follow a set schedule or whether to use a Sleep Training method. If your answer is – because it makes me feel better or because it works for my baby or because it makes sense based on my research, then good for you. My problem was, I was just starting to let other people tell me what to do without checking in with what I thought.

Anyhow, that’s all I’ve come up with so far. My little pearls of wisdom that, if you read between the lines, don’t really tell you anything at all. Also, my philosophical ramblings haven’t gotten me anywhere in the real world. We’re still not sleeping at night. Philosophy and analysis are no match for teeth piercing through gums.

What I can say is, I’ve changed my attitude a bit. I’ve started paying more attention to Owen’s needs again. And when I did, I realized he’s no longer on a newborn schedule, even though I was half-heartedly trying to stick to it. He doesn’t need to nap every 90 minutes, but rather every 2 hours or so. As a result, he’s napping better. Which helps my sanity because I get some time to myself to rest or get things done. But, at the same time, I’m trying to keep enough of my old self to know that this too will change depending on the day and as he grows older. In the meantime, I’m just trying to pay attention, be rationale, and not get swept up in the current of exhaustion so I once again begin to doubt myself and become an ineffective mess.

Update - I wrote this post a month ago and then didn’t post it. I suppose because it seemed silly to post an entire post about sleep in which I admit I really don’t believe there is An Answer to the Problem. But, maybe it will help others to read it, so here goes…I’m posting. And, you may wonder…have we made any progress? No, not really. Owen is transitioning from 3 naps to 2 and he’s going down much easier for naps because I’m watching to see when he’s tired and ready. So that’s nice. Nighttimes? We’re getting 3-4 hour stretches now. I still haven’t sleep trained or anything close. It’s just so much easier to feed him (takes about 7 minutes and then he’s back to sleep!). But I may have to try something soon. Six Months is this week and it feels like a big milestone and might be time to start fighting the battle. Props to Sunny at Cease and Decyst for winning hers!

Oh, and just's a few pics....:)