The “Fussy” Baby

It’s been 5 1/2 years since I had my first child, my “fussy” baby. And it’s taken me that long to get my thoughts together for this blog.

When my first was born, most people saw a thousand pictures like this…DSC_0283 DSC_0034 (2)

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This was our first child and as such we took pictures all the time. I even bought my DSLR just to take the thousands of pictures I wanted of her. Everyone online thought she was the sweetest baby ever! However…

She was also a “fussy” baby. What is a “fussy” baby? It is a baby who mostly eats, sleeps…and cries. And being a first-time mom, I was so positive that I was doing everything wrong and that her general unhappiness with life was completely my fault. Couple first-time-mom jitters with a fussy baby, moving to a new place 1000 miles away from everyone I knew, and throw in some postpartum depression and you have a recipe for a pretty rough year.

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I remember 2012 as being completely different from what these photos suggest. I remember being more tired than I’ve ever been in my life, and consumed with the thoughts that this was hopeless. I loved this little fussy thing with every ounce of my being, but having a baby was far from what I had pictured. There were few if any sweet moments like what Johnson and Johnson had suggested. Instead there was almost constant screaming, constant jiggling and rocking, constant holding and consoling. I wondered if I had made a humungous mistake in becoming a mother. I wondered if this was what the rest of my life would entail. I wondered if I would ever be able to do the things I loved prior to becoming a mother.

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Car rides were horrific since there was no where to hide from the screaming…the best that I could do was to turn up the music as loud as possible to try to drown out the screaming. I rocked out some KLOVE during this time like you wouldn’t believe. Shopping trips were even worse. I always felt like I was in such a hurry to get somewhere and get done with my errand so I could get home and try to nurse her back to sleep. I read books and blogs. At first I thought it might be colic and tried gripe water. Nothing. Then maybe she had thrush so we treated her with antifungals. Nothing changed. Then maybe she wasn’t getting enough milk so I started going crazy with supplements to up my supply. As it turns out I had the opposite problem…too much milk and a heavy let-down that was choking her every time she nursed. It eventually evened out and I got help for it…but still, nothing changed. Then I tried elimination diets thinking that maybe there was something in my milk that she was reactive to. Nothing. Then I thought maybe feeding her solids would be the answer at 6 months, but alas she seemed hardly interested in them.

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When I was pregnant with her, the only things I read about the postpartum period was on how to loose the baby weight. In fact that was my biggest goal during pregnancy…to get my body back. However, after having a fussy baby, it became absolutely last on my list. The jogging stroller was used maybe 5 times before it was abandoned…she hated it and I couldn’t go jogging in a neighborhood with a baby screaming at the top of her lungs. What would my neighbors think? I was already failing at mothering….I didn’t need dirty looks on top of that.

I’m pretty sure that the majority of 2012 was spent binge-watching Netflix. My brother’s gift of a flat-screen TV was priceless, as I felt that was my only salvation from the harsh loneliness that having a fussy baby brought. I found it impossible to relax, impossible to cook or clean or exercise or do anything that had encompassed me as a person the year prior. All sense of independence was gone, as she was dependent on me, and I was dependent on my husband to do just about everything.

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Even as I write this, I find it difficult to find pictures of her crying. Because I didn’t take pictures of her crying. I only took happy pictures, smiling pictures. And perhaps the worst part of having a fussy baby was when I would lament to someone and they would accuse me of not having a fussy baby. Maybe because of all the pictures I would post of her being happy, or because they had a “real” fussy baby. This of course was like a knife to the heart. I was a first-time-mom, and I was obviously failing. If she was a “normal” baby, then I was just a crappy mom.

I write this all to hopefully give hope to someone out there with a “fussy” baby. My hope during that whole year came in 3 forms…Dr. Sears’s book on The Fussy Baby, Attachment parenting techniques, and a mom group. I became an “attachment parent” out of survival. My daughter never slept in the crib that I bought for her, though I tried and tried and tried. “They’ll cry themselves to sleep after about 15-20 minutes” the books said. 3 hours later, she was still crying. This wasn’t a one-time thing. I tried day after day. So I brought her into bed with me and nixed the crib. I never got another one. I traded in the carrying car seat and stroller for a grow-with-me car seat and sling. I nursed on demand, which was almost all the time. And twice a week, I passed her off to a childcare worker at church, who usually called me back after about 15 minutes because she was screaming so much that she would vomit. She even developed the nickname “the screamer”. But oh, how I lived in those 15 minute increments! For 15 minutes I didn’t have to hold or nurse or listen to screaming…and it was heavenly!

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It was Dr. Sears’s book that really gave me hope that I wasn’t a terrible mom, and that I didn’t have a terrible kid. I had a “more” kid. She needed more love, more nursing, more support, more hugs, more attention…just more.

My mom’s group was my restoration. Even if I couldn’t put her in childcare, I could count on my fellow mothers to pass her around, at least relieving my arms for a while. I could also count on them to listen to my wailing with loving hearts, free of the judgement that so often accompanies motherhood. In that group I formed some lasting friendships that will forever be written on my heart.

So if you’re reading this and you know of someone who is going through a hard time with their baby, please be a kind ear. Listen without judgement. Offer sincere help…cooking, cleaning, errands, or childcare are lifesavers, with childcare being at the top. I recall feeling like I was on vacation if I had the ability to fold laundry in peace and quiet. And offer that help for a while…like for a year or 18 months. Often, it seems, there is a community of help immediately after a baby is born, and then they are gone by about 6 weeks postpartum. The mom of the fussy baby needs help for months, not weeks.

You cannot pour from an empty cup.

If you have a fussy baby, please know that it does get easier, though it may take quite a while. It was around her first birthday that I really noticed a significant change. She has transformed from a “fussy baby” into a “spirited child”, one who still needs “more” and constantly challenges me to be “more”. I have become more loving and more patient because of her. And I can speak from the experience of being a mom to 3, that 1 fussy baby is SOOOOO much harder than 3 small children combined! Co-sleep, baby wear, and nurse on demand if that helps…or do the opposite if that helps. But most importantly of all, take care of yourself.

The days are so long but the years fly by

These moments will be nothing but pictures before you know it.

 

 

 

Why we never, ever, ever eat out as a family

It amazes me that people with children eat out. I see it all the time, at restaurants and on Facebook, but it just amazes me. It really does. Because every single time we have ever eaten out with kids, it has usually resulted in a stress-filled emotionally-draining evening.
But today’s the hubby’s birthday, so this weekend we dared it. We chose a very loud restaurant with lots of TVs….anything to distract our children. We arrived at 4:30p so that we were sure to beat the crowd, and for some reason we still had to wait 25 minutes. But it was Saturday night, so I guess that should be expected.
We were finally seated and totally out of snacks (the snacks Grans brought, because I have never been that “on-top-of-it-mommy”). Grans also brought crayons, thank goodness, because I just assumed at this point that ever restaurant would naturally have them. I was wrong. I brought the cell phone with access to Caillou on YouTube, so you know, kudos for me I guess.
Now I was a waitress for an entire month back in my teen years, and let me tell you I was the worst waitress ever! EVER! I actually had a guy ask my manager for his tip back! Yup. That bad. So I have a deep appreciation for people in the service industry. Any type of service industry, but especially waiting tables, since people tend to get boiling mad about food more than anything else. It’s like they turn into caged animals if their food is not delivered in a reasonable time. Or worse….

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But for whatever reason, our very kind waitress was overwhelmed and just couldn’t help us on anything. So after 40 minutes we finally went to get our own drinks, as our children were about to turn into those caged animals mentioned above. The bartender told the manager, and soon a different waitress was bringing us our long-awaited drinks…blueberry lemonades for the girls.
It wasn’t long after that that the kind manager came over to apologize profusely and present us with these wonderful fried cheese things and assured us a nice discount on the meal. Score!
That’s when things really went south. My children chugged the very sugary blueberry-lemonade (a treat from their usual order of water) and then started on those fried cheese things. Then the toddler started to choke. At first it was fine (we’re used to a little choking every now and then), then she let out an Elf-sized burp that had every head in the restaurant turn our way.
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We were dying laughing, until of course the blueberry-lemonade came back up all over the table. And the booth. And the floor. And of course our poor waitress had not brought over a single paper towel.
I scooped her up and ran to the bathroom, which of course was out of paper towels.
Now, remember how I’m not that “on-top-of-it-mommy”? Well, I’m not. I had not a single change of anything. No wipes. No towels. No diaper bag. Nothing. So I did my best to give my toddler a quick bath in the sink and blow dry her as best as possible. She still reeked. But, being that it was the hubby’s birthday and we had now been there an hour and a half, I was willing to sit next to the stinky toddler and try to have some sort of decent birthday celebration. Thank goodness he was done. When we emerged from the restroom (after about a 1/2 dozen women fled from there in sheer terror), he had already asked that they just box up our meal to go. I went straight for the van and waited another 20 minutes for the food to come out. The waitress and manager were super-nice about the whole thing and comped the meal. We then went to Grans’ house where the toddler went straight into the bath. It was then that we opened up our to-go order to realize that my meal was missing, which was fine by that point because I had quite a bit of puke on me still and wasn’t really feeling too hungry.
We managed to eat our dinner and laughed about the whole experience, knowing that we must be the only ones in the world that this happens to. Of course our night wasn’t over yet, because we still had 1 child who had not thrown up yet. But don’t worry, because after cake and ice cream it was her turn to cover the bathroom with regurgitated blueberry-lemonade.
And that, my friends, is how you celebrate your birthday once you become a parent.

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Happy Birthday Hubby!!

Snow Day!!

Finally! It has taken for-ev-er to snow this season!!

Snow play with little ones: Basically an hour of prep work is require. There’s layers of clothing, lots of tugging and pulling. And sometimes the kids are difficult to get dressed as well 😀

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This would be my threenager explaining to me how I’m not playing snow right.

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Then we go outside. There’s a lot of entranced looking around while mom and dad make snowballs, snowmen, and all other things snow-related (mostly dad while mom tries desperately to capture the fleeting moments on camera) . There’s some running around. Then there’s that first touch of snow which can really go either way. Either this joyous, enchanted expression of complete awe…or the screaming that entails because the snow is on their glove and it won’t get off.

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About 5 minutes later, the cold has set in and the promised popcorn, Sofia the First, and hot chocolate is now collectable.

It doesn’t last long, but it is sure to be a beautiful time for all. What is it about the softness of the falling snow and the white countryside that is so mesmerizing?

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My faithful dog seems to be the only one willing to sit still enough these days for a photo op.

In other news, I’m happy to say that I think I’m doing pretty good my New Year Resolutions! I haven’t written them down or anything, but they pretty much just involve pampering myself more. Years ago, before the beginning of motherhood, I remember talking to a mother about a point in her life in which she felt she had kind of lost herself. It was late in the morning when the UPS guy arrived, and she had to answer the door in her bathrobe because she had still not gotten dressed for the day. She vowed then and there to not let that happen again.

I’ve thought about her story numerous times as I’m sitting in my pajamas at lunchtime. There’s nothing wrong with that by any means, but I think I finally understand her story a little more. It wasn’t that she was lazy and chose to not get dressed, but perhaps more to the point was that she put everyone and everything else in the house ahead of herself. Teethe were brushed, breakfast was made, lunch was packed, schedules were made, bills were paid, appointments were scheduled, reading time and play time had happened, diapers had been changed, toilets had been cleaned, laundry had been done…but as for herself (myself), hair had not been brushed, nor teeth, nor clothes put on let alone makeup!

So this year my goal is to put me first a little more. I love what Jada Smith had to say about it. It is such a difficult concept to grasp and apply, but the truth is if my cup is empty, I cannot pour out myself to others.

Happy belated New Years! May your cup runneth over this year!

Preschool Week 2: Friendship Week

Week two of preschool was supposed to be farm week, but my local farmer (who is a genius) politely explained to me that unless I want my kids eaten up with ticks, I might want to postpone farm week until October sometime. He’s smart. He’s really really smart.

As I am teaching her how to have emotional intelligence, I am also learning boatloads myself. We are both students at this school.

So we did friendship week instead, which turned out to be perfect.My preschooler possesses a preschooler brain and preschool-sized emotions….a lot of them. And while I’m often quick to try to get her to behave a certain way, it is much more important to me that she understand the meaning behind behavior…and for me to understand that meaning as well.

This is after telling her not to put her feet on the table. So she didn't put her feet on the table....arrrggg....
This is after telling her not to put her feet on the table. So she didn’t put her feet on the table….arrrggg….

So I pulled some different children faces off the internet and attached emotions to them. I then put them on cardboard, cut, and laminated them into emotion cards. We went through the cards, and she pointed out what she thought each child was feeling. We name of scenarios of why they might be feeling that way, and related those experiences to recent play dates. We learned a few ASL signs this week, including friends, alike, and different, so we incorporated that into our discussion. Who looked alike? Who looked different? Who felt the same? Who felt different?

We did this for 30 minutes. And then a miracle happened! She wanted to share her new toy!

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I found this gem at a local store for $2 this past week (I grabbed 3 of them, of course), and thought it would be great to make friendship bracelets with our friends. After our lesson on day 1, she grabbed her new kit and went to her friend’s house to share! It was amazing!

Our field trip of the week was going to Mommy and Me (And Daddy Too). This place is crazy busy with children everywhere! I love it! Vendors come and bring crayons and markers and crafts and bubbles. There’s always some free toy for the kids and live entertainment. Though I’m pretty sure the kids would be just fine with each other and the train playground set.

IMG_0197 IMG_0194I got this great book off craigslist for virtually nothing on face painting and decided to start prepping for Halloween. That turned out to be a bad idea when my kids decided it was their turn to paint my face…

IMG_0201Aldi has become one of my favorite places to grocery shop, and this past week I was able to pick up a preschool workbook for $5! It is now my go-to for when the printer isn’t working or I didn’t have time to prepare for a lesson. The first part is simply trying to draw a straight line. I think she really enjoyed the challenge!

IMG_0218The thing I love about Montessori teaching is how easy it is. The toddler can participate as well in her own way. This past week she found a new game of putting money into different parts of a lunch container. I think it kept her occupied for at least 10 minutes, maybe 20!

IMG_0226We ended our school week with a friendship chain, adding all our friends’ names to it and uniting us all together. My Dancing Diva thought it was beautiful!

IMG_0235Hope you guys have a wonderful weekend!
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Sometimes I Just Stop

Sometimes I just stop and stare at their faces, small and precious, with chubby cheeks and innocent eyes, and I think about how boring life was before them.

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As of late, I’ve been praying the prayer they tell you to never pray. Oh yes, I’ve been praying for patience. They say to never pray for patience because God will consistently give you the opportunity to practice this noble virtue….maybe by putting you in a line somewhere, or behind stand-still traffic, or giving you a colicky baby. But I recognize the need for patience now more than ever before in my life. Having become accustomed to a life of instant gratification, I have found it difficult to put aside my demands for those I love most. My schedule often revolves around what I have to do, with playtime being a distant second or third or seventh place. Time is precious, and it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve truly embraced that playing groceries is just as important to them as checking the bank account is to me. That having them “help” me clean is just as important to them as actually cleaning is to me. That they can’t just stop doing what they’re doing to hop in the car to go…because they’re in the middle of something and it’s important. It’s important to them, so it needs to be important to me, regardless of whatever it is.

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My determined diva made me realize this today. She was coloring at the table and I asked her to do something, I don’t remember what. But she replied that she couldn’t right then because she was “working”. It’s true, she was. Though part of me wanted to tell her to do it right now because she is a child and should do as I say, the other patient side prevailed to make me realize that she was working. She was doing the work of childhood, and my request could wait a few minutes until she was done. Her time is just as finite as mine, and when this one precious irreplaceable day is done I still won’t remember what I asked her to do, but I will share this memory with her of respecting her very important work.

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Patience is really teaching me a lot lately.