Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Monday, March 1, 2010
Friday, February 12, 2010
We are in her room right now, for her late morning milk snack which preludes a nap of sorts, generally in my arms. Sitting here in the corner glider, rocking her as she drinks, I'm admiring her room. The sun is pouring in under the partially lowered shades, extra sparkly
from all the snow we've had this week. The few items I put up on the walls - framed photos, memory board, fairy print - add such a level of visual warmth that the beauty & peace of this moment is washing over me, filling the room.
The world is a chaotic place, full of suffering and hardships: wars are being fought, earthquakes are rumbling the ground, nations are arguing over developing nuclear weapons, battles are being waged over property, money, power. But inside this little house, in this little room, babe in my arms & at my breast I can't help but feel Life is Beautiful.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Monday, July 6, 2009
I once had a car whose 'check engine' light went on one night and never went off. I took it to the mechanic more than once to discover the reason behind this light going on and was told repeatedly that they could not find anything wrong with the car. According to the mechanics there was 'no reason for the light to go on,' a declaration that annoyed me to no end. There might not have been anything mechanically wrong with my car but there was most definitely a reason for the light to go on - perhaps a short in the wire, a loose sensor, etc. There had to be a 'reason' for the light to go on as it did not magically go on by itself.
This is how I feel about colic. When a baby cries incessantly there is a reason for it. The baby is obviously uncomfortable. The cause of this discomfort may not be easily ascertained but it exists nonetheless. When it gets labeled as colic to me that is an indication of giving up on the investigation. Babies are unable to articulate their feelings, they do not yet have words to describe their emotions and states-of-being. All they have to communicate is their wordless voice. So they cry. Regardless of the cause, an uncomfortable baby will cry. In their first weeks this crying can be largely the same. Sam screamed if she was hungry, wet, cold, hot, gassy, etc. She had two states of being - comfortable and uncomfortable. The former was indicated by silence, the latter by crying.
As she has matured she has expanded her repertoire of emotions to include happy, bored, hungry, lonely, and several levels of discomfort relating to either tummy or diaper issues. When she was six weeks old we were at the doctor for her one-month check up (I failed to make the appointment in a timely manner) and we hadn't yet worked out all of her tummy issues. By that time I had discovered if I consumed gassy foods or dairy Sam would get gas, but there was still something I was missing. We still went through hours of crying at night and couldn't figure out what the problem was. I brought this up to the pediatrician and was told she was probably colicky. Excuse me? That was it? Colicky? This did not sit well with me.
The next week Sam and I were at the Midwives' office for my six-week post-partum check-up. The midwife asked me how we were doing and I described the issues we were still dealing with. She asked about the foods I was eating and I described last night's dinner -- spaghetti, with fresh cherries for dessert. Both foods are highly acidic, and Sam had been miserable. I started reviewing past nights and realized that I regularly ate acidic food. So I cut it all out. Now I am off gassy foods, dairy, acidic foods, and raw fruits and veggies (all being either gassy and/or acidic). The difference is remarkable. Sam is a new baby, happy and comfortable. We no longer suffer through hours of crying a night, every night. I am no longer crying every night, wondering what I am doing wrong and why my baby is so miserable. Eating is now challenging, to be sure, but it is worth it. I occasionally make a bad dietary choice, such as the night we had popcorn, but these nights are rare and the problematic foods are easily identified.
Had I accepted the doctor's - and my neighbor's - diagnosis of colic I would have resigned myself to my fate and given up looking for the cause. But I didn't. I knew there had to be some catalyst to Sam's crying and would not give up looking until I found it.
It wasn't a solitary journey by any means. We had input from friends, family and the midwife, all listening to our problems and giving suggestions. My husband was instrumental in discovering the source of the problem - gas versus acid reflux. My solution to Sam's crying was always to offer a breast to nurse her. It often worked, providing her with comfort even if she wasn't actually hungry. Without this magic tool J had to rely on his skills - observation and analysis. He could tell by her behavior if Sam had gas or some other problem, and then discovered what position brought her comfort when she was gassy. Together we solved the mystery to our baby's 'colic.'
Food isn't the answer to every baby's colic although it is probably a frequent factor. A newborn's digestive system takes several months to mature and become fully functional so a nursing mom's diet choices can have great affect on her baby. However, sometimes the answer isn't that simple. There could be a medical reason behind a baby's constant crying, a problem that could be missed if the parents accept the colic label and stop searching for the real cause. Telling parents that their child is colicky and the problem should work itself out by four months of age is a terrible answer to the colic problem. This response robs both the child and parents of months of potential happiness.
We used to spend our evenings pounding on Sam's back to relieve her gas or walking her around the house while she cried and cried and cried. Now our evenings are spent playing, as Sam is learning to reach and grab at objects. The music of our nights are coos and giggles instead of cries and sobs. Sam is a different baby now, a happy baby, and my limited diet is a small price to pay for this happiness.
I can't imagine coping with a colicky baby for months on end. I couldn't deal with it for a few weeks, and my desperation is what fueled my investigation. We were lucky to find the answer in food, for had we not I am not sure what our next step would have been. I do know there would have been further steps, though, for colic was not a diagnosis I was willing to accept. It is a non-diagnosis at best. Crying takes a great deal of effort and I refuse to believe that any baby will cry for no reason. There is always a reason. It may be physical pain or it may just be loneliness, but there is always a reason. There just has to be.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
The reality of parenting is far different from what is presented in books. For one thing, newborns are unable to sit up on their own so unless you leave them in cribs, car seats, bouncy seats, etc, all day long you are holding them. Little Sam had a tough time adjusting to the harshness of life outside the womb, and was very fussy. To calm her we would hold her, rocking her, bouncing her, soothing her any way we could think of or was suggested. And once she was calm, it was natural to continue holding her, reveling in her sweetness, the wonder that is life, feeling the love flowing from our every pore for and to this tiny being. I was frequently nursing her through our own meals and thus we would put her down only for diaper changes and to sleep. Not that we were against putting her down in her bassinet at other times, but she objected to that rather loudly and we couldn't bear for her to be upset. Thus we end up holding her most of our waking hours.
The feeding-on-demand was easy and encouraged in the hospital. When you are breastfeeding and your baby is crying, it is the most natural thing in the world to offer her a meal and see if that is the balm to her discomfort. In addition to nourishing, breastfeeding is very comforting to babies. There were days and nights that she was otherwise unconsolable and I would nurse her for hours - she would erupt into screams if I removed her from my breast. I don't know if she was hungry and I wasn't producing enough or if she was just upset at life and found comfort in this act. Regardless of the reason, I fed her whenever she wanted me to and continue to do so. It can be difficult to schedule activities, or to leave the house, for that matter, but after a while I began to see her eatting pattern. As she gets older it is easier for her to wait a few minutes for a meal, allowing me time to leave a store and find a place to nurse her without her screaming hyserically until the meal is provided.
The co-sleeping took a little longer, and again happened accidentally. We had set up the pack & play in our bedroom, with the bassinet insert attached and ready for sleeping. It was right next to my side of the bed and with our platform bed the height worked out quite well -- the edge of the pack & play is the same height as our bed. I could sleep with one hand on her, so she could feel my nearness without the danger of her sharing our bed. The perfect set-up, or so I thought. To feed her in the night I just had to reach over, pick her up and feed her. We even had the changing table attachment set up so there was no need to leave the room to change her diaper.
Our second or third night home from the hospital found me dead tired during one of those late-night feedings, and I started nodding off. Fearing that I would fall alseep and drop her I laid down to feed her. And promptly fell asleep. When I woke up I put her back in her bassinet, but of course at that point it was time for her next feeding and so I picked her back up and laid down to feed her, again falling alseep. After that I couldn't get her to sleep on her own. Why would she? She spent the first nine and a half months of her existence sleeping next to me and now that she was born, no longer held, fed and kept warm automatically I was asking her to sleep alone, on top of all of the other adjustments she was forced to make. Our little girl has a strong mind and she wasn't having any part of that.
Fast-forward two months to the present day. Sam and I are always together. Always. I have left the house once in her lifetime without her, and that was for a trip to the supermarket. She was sleeping when I left so her daddy stayed home with her. While that trip was quite glorious in its freedom, I miss her terribly when we are apart. She often naps in her swing in the afternoon, which is set up in whichever room I am in, and will sleep for hours in it. I get a lot done during those naps but am always glad when she wakes up and I am holding her once again.
Her bouncy seat is another source of pleasure for her. It is a sling-type chair that vibrates and has an activity bar attachment that plays music and lights up when the dangling toys are moved. This occupies her for about 10 minutes, sometimes longer, and gives me the time to bathe and sometimes prepare dinner, two activities for which I need both hands.
I've done a little online research on the subject of attachment parenting and co-sleeping since Sam's birth and many people feel that the constant companionship and immediate addressing of a baby's needs makes for happier, more secure children. By never making your baby wait for comfort or pushing them to be independent before they are ready they grow up confident in your love and support, and are then free to explore the world without fear or insecurity. Perhaps that is true, perhaps not. I do feel that it can only be beneficial to a child to feel her parents' love and acceptance continually.
I don't hold my baby constantly or feed her when she says she is hungry for the future security some experts say it will provide. I do it because I want to. I hold her because she is the most precious gift I have ever been blessed with and I cherish her very existence. I feed her because she is hungry, no matter that she last ate a few minutes ago. Her body is still developing, her digestive system hasn't learned how to store food yet so she is frequently hungry. As for sleeping with her, it makes for a crowded bed, true, but I miss her when we are apart and don't wish to be parted for the night. I sleep better with her lying against me. I can hear and feel her breathing and it comforts me. I wake up when she is distressed and sleep when she is calm. She was a part of my body for nine and a half months and I am not ready to be separated from her. Not yet.
The day she leaves our bed is coming soon. Once she learns to roll over she will have to sleep in her own bed, for her own safety. We cannot put a rail on our platform bed so have no way of preventing her from rolling out of bed. It will be a tough transition, one I am not looking forward to. My husband would prefer to move her out of our bed sooner, for it is quite crowded with the three of us and the cat, but yields to my desire to keep her with us. In truth, I am paranoid for her safety and worry that she will stop breathing if I cannot hear/see/feel her doing so, and this paranoia fuels my conviction to keep her sleeping with us. I will have to get over it, as she will have to deal with sleeping by herself. It will be difficult for both of us, but necessary for our healthy development as mother and child.
I find my reluctance to remove her from our bed humorous when I recall my original stance on bed-sharing, just as I scoffed at people who spoke of attachment parenting. Thankfully I scoffed silently, to myself, for here I am now happily ignoring my own parenting plans. I've been wrong before, I just hate to admit it.