An update on sleep

I’ve kind of settled into this life of little sleep. It has been 9 months and 1 week since I slept through the night. No, that’s not true. There was a while there when Avery was 5-6 months old that I demanded we bed share because the dreaded 4 month sleep regression had destroyed any possibility of putting my baby down, anywhere, without my body next to hers. During those weeks I slept a lot more back-to-back hours, but she was also waking up for the day at 4:30am. 
Here’s where we are now, at 9 months and 1 week, in a nutshell. 

7/7:30pm. Bedtime routine, then I nurse her to sleep (with a lullaby) on the floor of her room, on her crib mattress. 

8:30-9:30pm. At her first wake up of the night, about an hour to two hours later, I lift her mattress into her crib with one hand while holding her and Benny (her chosen Lovie) in the other, and I nurse her back to sleep in the chair before putting her down in the crib. 

We start the night on the floor because she is a lot more sensitive to wake ups early in the evening. By the time she has been sleeping for an hour or two, her wake ups are a lot quicker to manage and she settles in the crib a lot easier. I feed her at her first wake up even if it’s only an hour later because she wants it. It seems like her body wants to stock up for the night ahead. 

So by around 9:30-10 I am done my shift, and I am free to go to sleep (free does not equal able). My wife handles most wake ups from 10 – 1 by rocking. These wake ups are usually easy to deal with. She wakes crying but it’s only a couple of minutes of reassuring snuggles before she’ll stay asleep for the crib transfer. 

Of course, every time she wakes for my wife, usually 1 to 3 times between 10pm and 1am, I wake up. Occasionally my wife calls me in because Avery tries to nurse on my wife’s shoulder and we offer her milk. It’s usually just that she wants me to hold her, though. 

At 1:30am she wakes for milk. 

At 2:30am she wakes and I try rocking her but my legs are too weak from the tiredness and I feel nauseous and I have to sit. She is asleep on me and I fall asleep before I can get back up to put her in the crib. 

3:30am rolls around and she wakes again, this time in my arms in the chair. Oh fuck, I’m still in the chair. I rock her and put her in the crib and go back to bed where I find the cats have stolen my side of the bed and I am too tired to move them so I teeter on the edge of the bed, usually with no blankets. It’s so silly what the sleepy brain makes you do. Why can’t I think to just move them? 

4:30am she wakes and I waste no time bringing her into our bed with me for the best 1.5 hours of sleep I will have all night. I lock the cats out of the room so they won’t wake her by begging for breakfast. She sleeps next to me until her natural wake up time of 6am. 

Ocassionally we get a 3 hour stretch that happens totally out of the blue, always in the very middle of the night. The other night she slept from 11:30pm until 3:30am. 

I try to really pay attention to the progress we’ve made rather than focusing on how far we have yet to go. Although she still wakes a lot, there was a time when we COULD NOT put her down in the crib. No matter how long she had been sleeping for in our arms, a transfer would lead to SCREAMING. Now she responds well to crib transfers most of the time, and even pushes off of us at least once a night asking to be put down while still awake. On these rare but hopeful occasions, she rolls over and goes to sleep with a light back rub. That’s amazing progress. 

Although I would still love to bring back bed sharing, I’m kind of sneakily integrating bedsharing into the 4:30am wakeup when I’m just too tired to be up with her. That’s good enough for me right now. It’s nice to have our bed to ourselves for the first half of the night so we can watch tv and talk (and even have sex, TWICE, for the first time since part way through my pregnancy).  

I can see her growing up before my very eyes, and I can see her sleep abilities maturing, if I look really, really closely. Or rather, if I look at the big picture. I’m confident that another sleep update post a few months from now will look even better. 

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Our First Mothers’ Day

This child is my pure joy, my light, my sustenance. I am so thankful to be her mother. I am so thankful that my wife and I get to share the experience of being her mother. This little girl is going to continue to shape our lives in amazing and unexpected ways, and that makes us so, so lucky. 

This is our first Mothers’ Day. We didn’t plan anything in particular, besides making sure we were doing nothing in particular. Sometimes the best moments evolve when you’re doing nothing at all. We just wanted to spend time together as a family. 

Today, unfortunately, my wife is going in to work. But we made the most of yesterday. We had a pancake breakfast, and then worked in the yard pretty much all day. Avery’s Mothers’ Day gift to us was her patience and willingness to sit around in her pack’n’play for hours while I worked in the garden and my wife worked on the chicken coop. She watched us intently and even helped me pull some weeds. Her other gift to us was mastering the 3-2 nap transition! We are now comfortably into a new routine (nap from 9:30-11 and 2:30-4) that gives us more time to play together. 

Thank you Avery, for being our daughter  ❤️

Weekend Update

On Saturday we took Avery to her first Pride event! She slept through the whole thing but what matters is that she was there. The not-for-profit I chair is host to my city’s Pride Week (although a subcommittee does all the Pride planning – I’m not at all hands on with that). Every year we go to the rainbow flag raising at city hall, and every year we have lingered at the Family Pride BBQ afterwards, just our little family of two adults… This year we were finally the members of the Community whom the event was thrown for  ❤️  Of course we spent the whole time in the beer garden, but we were there with two other families and their babies so it was still very family centred. 

I was supposed to go to this month’s parenting book club meeting on Saturday morning, but I have been feeling so overwhelmed with STUFF I have to do – silly little errands, mostly, but it really takes away from my time to just enjoy my daughter. Lately we’ve been driving around from store to store, home only to eat and nap, and then as soon as she wakes, it’s back in the car seat. So I skipped this month’s book club. I still read the book, and I’ll still be putting out a review. 

When we got home from the Pride Flag Raising, my wife got to work on the chicken coop while Avery and I puttered in the house. We also had a back yard cleanup bonfire, but it was too cold to spend much time outside with the baby. 

Sunday we Organized, Purged, Tidied, Cleaned, Baby-Proofed… Avery’s “crawling” backwards now, and I found her next to an electrical outlet on Friday, so we got to work adding these handy do-dads to every outlet she can reach. Of course now I can’t plug anything in anymore because I can’t get the damn things off, but safety first. 

We’re planning to let Avery show us what needs baby proofed (or removed) as she starts moving around more, but cupboards with cleaning supplies and electrical outlets aren’t things we want to think about AFTER she has had an encounter. We also strapped down top-heavy furniture. Otherwise, corners on coffee tables and books on shelves are free game until she shows us she can’t safely handle them. 

On Photographing your Birth

I’ve written about this before in a post on regrets. I wanted a birth photographer, but in the end it was going to be too expensive to hire a professional and we didn’t know anyone I was comfortable enough letting into the delivery room (I’m weird that way… the closer someone is to me, the less comfortable I am showing them my vulnerability). We brought our nice camera to the hospital with us, but of course everyone in the room was too busy, you know, delivering a baby, to remember to snap pictures. There are 4 or 5 photos of all of us in the delivery room, and most of those have nip slips in them so I don’t even want to show them off.

I’m also a person who takes A. LOT. OF. PHOTOS. My wife teases me about it and asks why I can’t just settle for making a memory in my brain, rather than trying to capture everything in photos and live the actual experience from the other side of a lens. I take so many photos that both my laptop and my phone ran out of space after 6 months of having a baby. I was able to store some pictures in the cloud for a while, but then that too ran out of space. We finally bought a huge external hard drive and I’m now moving everything over to it (and forcing myself to pare down the photos I kept, from ~300 a month, to under 100 per month). 

In my photo sorting, I came across a folder from my nephew’s birth. My wife brought her fancy camera to that too, but this time was free to get creative and play the role of professional photographer. There are more photos of my nephew’s birth (actually the afternoon after he was born – we weren’t in the room for the gory stuff) than there are of Avery’s first 4 months combined (after paring down). There are beautiful shots of the clock on the wall, the contraction monitor, the little “it’s a boy” card, the baby with each and every one of his new extended family members, and about 50 of the new mom with baby, so she could pick the few that she looked best in.

I’m jealous. I’m disappointed for Avery’s sake that we didn’t plan to capture more of her special day. It only happens once in a person’s life, and the changes from that day forward are monumental, taking you away from the wrinkled, vernix-covered innocence to the round, chubby baby days in the blink of an eye. And birth itself is such an intense experience for the person birthing that photos would really help jog the memory when the dust settles and you find yourself wanting to reflect.

So if you are reading this and you are pregnant, I highly, highly, highly recommend having a birth photographer. Don’t lose out on the chance to capture those fleeting memories in all the raw, beautiful detail.

Weekend Update: crawling practice 

This weekend was nice. Saturday was a spring projects day where my wife worked on the chicken coop and I worked on deep cleaning the house, one wall of one room at a time. Baby steps. Avery was feeling good (finally 100% over her cold) and super into independent play on Saturday, so we were really productive. My dad also visited for a few hours – he’s moving back to our province and was apartment hunting. Avery hasn’t let him get close to her since she was 1 month old (bad case of stranger danger that was heartbreaking for my dad), and this weekend she seemed to have completely gotten over that. They played and cuddled and it was great. Just took some patience and gentle encouragement. 
Sunday I had a board meeting and Avery was more clingy, so I didn’t get anything done. I felt pretty shitty about life by the end of the day. I also hadn’t had a break all weekend because I was watching Avery and cleaning and working 24/7 so my wife could get good coop building time in. But it paid off:

*this is the base of the coop, insulated and sturdy as hell. Walls and roof will go on top, run will be attached to the side, and underneath the coop is an extended run area. My wife drew up the design herself and sourced pretty much all materials either for free from hoarder family members, or for cheap from the Habitat for Humanity Restore. Note the classy faux hardwood vinyl flooring that will be the floor of the coop. 
The big update from this weekend:

Avery is so close to crawling! She gets up on all fours and rocks back and forth. I rarely did Tummy Time with her because she hated it. There was definitely some pressure to do it more so she would build upper body strength and learn to crawl. But I believe babies will learn things when they are ready regardless of how you push them toward opportunities. They might learn faster with pushing, but I’m not concerned with having her grow up any faster. Anyway, she got there on her own. Just a little more practice and she’ll be mobile. Hopefully independent sleep will start to develop when she reaches this new independence milestone!

On having a second child

My wife and I always knew we wanted one child. Even when we wavered on having any children at all, we knew that if we did, we’d want an only child. We both loved the idea of the one-child lifestyle, the extra resources, traveling more, getting back to restful sleeps and feeling like ourselves again sooner. It was set in stone.

And then we had one.

We certainly have not decided to have another child, but the conversation is starting to happen. It started when people asked us if we wanted more and our answer changed from a unanimous “NO” to “never say never.” 

One day we were talking to a friend who said she felt her ovaries screaming as soon as her friends started having kids and my wife and I unanimously said “babies are addictive.” We looked at each other like, “oh, you feel that way too?” And then there was the time I expressed some nervousness about babysitting a friend’s kid while taking care of Avery and my wife said “it’ll be good practice.” “For what?” I asked. We left the answer unspoken. We’ve also casually dropped baby names that would sound good with Avery. A big 2nd baby trigger came when our donor family had their baby over the weekend. We haven’t met her yet, but the pictures were TO DIE FOR. The picture of the older sister holding her new baby sister made our hearts melt into a puddle on the floor.  

We really have no idea what the future will bring, but the fact that we’re subtly exposing to each other that we’ve thought about it is a big development. And as I deal with every big decision, I’ve started thinking about this in terms of a pros/cons list. 

Cons To Having A Second Child

  • IT’S HARD! Holy shit is it hard to be a parent of a baby. I don’t know how much easier it gets, if it gets easier at all, and there are moments with Avery where I even vocalize how I couldn’t go through this again (e.g. sleep deprivation). 
  • I’ll likely just be starting to build my career when we would try for another because I have a couple of years left on my PhD and we would want kids close-ish in age if we had another. Even if my wife took the parental leave (I’d be carrying again), I’ve learned that having a baby DESTROYS my mental acuity and motivation for brain-work.
  • If I didn’t have a job yet or if I were just starting to build a client base as a self-employed consultant, we’d be just as broke as we are this time. A 12 month maternity leave would be SWEET, but I’m so far from that.
  • I’m afraid that our life would be completely overtaken by “the kids this and “the kids that“… I’m still 90% mom, 5% student and 5% wife, and I’m really hoping this ratio balances a little better as Avery gets a little older. I don’t know where the extra percents would come from if we had a second baby.
  • Even part time childcare for one child is going to be tough on us financially. 

Pros To Having a Second Child

  • Although it’s hard, it’s also the most amazing experience we’ve ever had, and Avery is the most wonderful and beautiful thing in our lives. Another child would add more amazingness, wonder, and beauty into our lives. 
  • I would love another crack at my dream home water birth experience. 
  • I LOVE being a mom. I feel like it’s my calling in life. 
  • Every exciting milestone, every heart melting smile, every laugh, every hug, every new personality characteristic… times 2

A Sunday Funday at the Butterfly Conservatory

We had an empty weekend. That is so rare and so sweet an occurrence for me, the homebody. Besides Avery’s early Saturday morning swimming lesson (my wife wore the bathing suit this week so I didn’t even have to shave my legs) we had nothing scheduled. We spent Saturday lazing around the house, cooking, and running a few small errands. Sunday was wide open, so I started some of my seeds for the garden, cleaned a little, and with time to spare we decided to do something fun as a family. There’s a butterfly conservatory just a 15 minute drive from our house that we’ve always loved going to in the winter for a brief dose of warmth and humidity. This was Avery’s first time seeing butterflies. She didn’t really notice them unless they fluttered right in her face – she was more interested in all the other kids running around. She’s my social butterfly (where’d she get that??). Nonetheless, we got some cute pictures ☺

There was a stick insect making the rounds on a nature educator’s arm, and Avery definitely locked eyes with it and definitely wanted to eat it. 

She loves Mo’s shoulder rides (she uses your hair as a handle).

And finally, now that we have a kid, we see gift shops in a whole new way. Now they’re a fun place to find adorable souvenier-type toys for our kid. 

This outing was probably one of the last “winter” outings we’ll do. Very soon, the air outside will be a little more like the air in the conservatory, and we’ll be able to do actual outdoor activities. I. Can’t. Wait.