Real Holidays

I spend hours looking at my baby in disbelief. Somehow I forgot what was like to be pregnant and the whole birth ordeal. It’s been 8 weeks since she’s been on this side of the womb, and it still feels like we’re playing house. But this is not the first time some major change in my life comes and I feel like I’m watching a movie. It always takes me a while to really believe something is actually happening, my mind is skeptical by nature so it takes some convincing before it accepts both good and bad things. I remember telling my husband that our relationship wasn’t real enough; eight years later he still asks me (joking) ‘is it real enough now?’

So, it’s taken me a while to accept that we live in Seattle. It’s been three years since we moved here, well, two – the first year was mostly spent n I5 between Portland and here — and as obnoxious made-up New Yorkers that we are, we complain endlessly about the weather, the holes in the streets, the lack of public transportation, the fleece, and mostly about how little Seattlelites complain about Seattle, a highly suspicious behavior in our book. We spent many days discussing where would we move next. But here we are, we survived a couple of tough economic years on one salary and bought our first home; we both are doing incredibly well in our careers and we are finally blessed with a healthy, beautiful child. We see a lot more of our families and have made some really good friends that have been incredibly supportive through thick and thin. At some point I stopped reading the event section of The New Yorker and religiously started checking MyBallard.com instead. I find myself marveling at the sight of the mountains (when they are visible) and boasting about how healthy life is here.

So now when I think of moving again, I not only feel utterly unmotivated to embark on such an adventure, but I start thinking about how much  I will miss the fabulous gardens, the mountains, the clean air, the salmon and the crab, Puget Sound, the coffee and most of all, the non-complaining Seattlelites I’ve met. I think what I’m getting at is that, life here is wonderfully real.

Perhaps this is what roots actually feel like.

Happy holidays!

Baby book craze


The two first weeks of a mother were one of the most scariest and anxiety driven weeks of my life. Not knowing what to do with a newborn (and the hormones!),  I did what I always do when I face new situations; I studied. I bought lots of books and with 2-3 hours of sleep I read through as fast as I could — yes, I had read some books before the baby arrived, but I didn’t understand what they were talking about.

My conclusion is that you can read books and drive yourself crazy. The thing is that that the more books you read, the more confusing it is…they all contradict each other, or say the same things in many different ways that they ‘seem’ to be saying different things because their approach is ‘unique’. Don’t get me wrong, they contain good information, but you have to be ready to consume this information and then decide what to do for yourself and just feel OK that you trying to find out what’s right for you. Easier said than done, as I’m still plagued with doubts, but as days go by I discover the little things that work for Alma and us. I borrow a little from here a little from there. So here is my take on some of the popular baby books:

Basic info here. Good for quick reference but nothing in depth. Month-to-month format is easy to follow, especially if you read the What to Expect when you are Expecting version, which I bet you did.  Not a lot of troubleshooting help, but good when you are wondering, what the heck  is that? I.e. diverse poop situations.

Sears has this approach called, “attachment parenting,” which just sounded bad to me from the get-go.  Is the opposite then called “detachment parenting?”  As I read I felt even worse, as the authors are highly opinionated, and I immediately react poorly to being lectured by a book. Oh yeah, they also call fussy babies, “high-need babies,” because that is more ‘positive’. Honestly, it sounded like a bunch of overly-compensatory parenting to me that made me feel guilty if I was anything short of holding my child 18 hours a day.

Karp’s book explains the 5-S approach. A voodoo-like technique to calm babies: Swaddle, Sideways, Swing, Shoosh and Suck. You are basically trying to imitate the womb environment. Why? Because according to Karp, humans are born a trimester early, compared to our primate relatives, because we walk – or something like that. Sleep deprived as I was (note, was, ’cause my baby is sleeping 4-5 hour stretches at night!)  I found the explanation utterly insane, but we routinely use this method and so far it works pretty well. Many friends, my pediatrician and even the nurses that taught childcare classes are fans of this.

Gina Ford’s method is British. Wickedly rigid. I love to bash this book, from its all-white baby cloth that you must boil to the “change her nappy, feed her 25 minutes from one breast and put her back in her cot, this should not take more than an hour” – hmmm, yeah, what about burping?!  But as much I love to complain about it is a) written concisely and b) it actually gives you a schedule, and while I don’t follow it it gave me a general idea on what to do with a baby through out the day and I have to say that while we have many fussy days, for the most part it has given me somewhat of a routine that makes me feel a bit more in control.

Weissbluth has some good scientific explanation of baby sleeping habits, but the format is really hard to follow when you are tired. He criticizes Ferber and Sears as profoundly ignorant books because they have no scientific base. That’s great, but I’ve read portions of it several times and still don’t get what am I supposed to do. It freaked me out that at six weeks is when I can mess up her sleeping habits and scar her for life. He compares sleeping on parents arms, strollers etc as junk sleep like junk food, which prompt me to rule out any sleep other than her crib, As a result I panicked for 2 days that I was giving my baby ‘McDonalds sleep’, but then I read another book and felt better.

This was a helpful book with many tips about breastfeeding. Most of it’s in the Baby book, but it was nice to have a book dedicated to the subject that concerned me the most in the first month. Still when it comes to breastfeeding the advice of a lactation consultant has been by far more helpful and reassuring.

Pansley’s The No Cry Baby Solution book is one of the few alternatives to the let it cry solution and boy, she’s persistent about it. She says she’s writing for the exhausted parent and doesn’t want to go on on and on…and then she does. Very few of these book get to the point quickly. However, I use some of the techniques suggested and feel good about not letting her cry at this stage.

By far the book that has made me the happiest these days is the Sleepeasy Solution. Why? Because it told me not to worry about bad sleeping habits until 4 months. Phew! It’s OK to rock her and I can even wait to start a bedtime routine (I was stressing about this). So, while I didn’t read the whole thing, those 4 pages that said do whatever you can to soothe your baby, were the best 4 pages period.

Anyway, books or not, I’m sure I’ll find ways to freak myself out. The truth is loving family and friends are the best support groups. They share their experiences and are they just as full of conflicting advice as the books, but they will listen patiently to your trials and they all say lovingly, “you’re doing a great job,” and for me that’s all I need to hear (everyday). So, to all my support group of friends and family, THANK YOU.

First few weeks with Alma, discovering parenthood.

Our little treasure, Alma Lucia, was born on October 30, 2010 after 28 hours of labor! She came out healthy, beautiful and hungry!

It’s been three weeks since we welcomed her and I can’t believe how much our lives have changed and how many feelings she’s stirred up in us; everything from extreme anxiety, to sheer panic and complete elation. I also discovered how little I was prepared for this, I realize now that I spent most of the time obsessing over the pregnancy and birth experience and didn’t quite understand how to take care of a newborn. For example, many friends told us about the lack of sleep, but I didn’t get that you really DON’T sleep. My expectation was that babies sleep most of the time and therefore we would have a few nights to recover. I know… delusional.

I have reacted with compulsive reading,  ingesting a baby book per day and testing  different baby techniques, including disregarding everything I’ve been told and letting everything go.  I’m just starting to figure out what works for us, it’s all so new. I keep wondering what kind of mother I am, but whatever mom type I am, I have discovered a few things:

Accepting no sleep and lack of control requires daily meditation
I have to learn  how to nap during the day — I used to never nap!
I can accomplish ONE thing before the next feeding, so I choose: bathing, eating, sleeping or communicating, reading, TV or outing.
Baby may not need a routine, but I do
I’m discovering which friend to call, as I now see them as mom buddies
Everything takes full attention, one task at a time
I’m all up for easy things, specially her clothing. Side snaps are the best invention.
There’s only today

We’re exhausted and happier than ever and cannot ceased to be amazed by our daughter and our new identities as parents.

5 ways to kill time while you wait for your newborn

Oh yes, I’m in that time where the clock seems to go backwards and I’m too tired to do much to entertain myself while I slowly drag through endless nights of no sleep and irregular false labor contractions. Truly this is is a hellish time for a type A, impatient controlling lady like me.  If you or someone you know are in a similar situation, here are a few things that have kept me sane:

  1. Get into a TV series that you can rent, but only if you can stream it: You need a new loooong series that keeps you on your edge of your seat and can watch many episodes in one sitting. Waiting for a regular on-air TV show that you have to wait a week for a meager episode won’t work, we’re talking about killing hours or days so short intervals are best. Now, Netflix DVDs take way too long (two days to arrive), going to the store… well who does that any more? SO bets option is to stream it and have instant gratification that can help you get through hours day or night. Mine: Battelstar Galactica. There’s like a million episodes. Yay! But warinig watching sci-fi series for extended time causes some pretty bizarre dreams.
  2. Work from home with deadlines: I’m too freaked out to be in the office with my contractions, fortunately my job is flexible enough to be tended form home and every day I log in thinking it may be my last day so everything I start needs to be done THAT day. This is true miracle these days. Sure it’s hard to concentrate but time goes flying when I’m on a deadline.
  3. Light Cooking: I’m surrounded by my parents and husband constantly asking me if I’m ok and if I think today is the day (yes, it’s getting annoying) so I decided to take over the easy and fast meals and leave the lengthy ones to them. It’s relaxing but I can t over do it so I keep it simple. Making sandwiches for lunch has become my latest obsession it’s easy and rewarding because I’m getting creative. I also made a tortilla and quesadillas. Again trying to add a new spin to simple meals is the trick.
  4. Short walks: I’m scheduling walks with a different person, only ONE person at time. I realize a short walk is a perfect way to have 1:1 time with my husband and chat or with my dad or my mom (we are all at home now) and I’m thinking to extend this to friends. Thatw ay I can catch up and at the same time get some air. Also helps with the deadline thing knwoing I have an appointment.
  5. Blog: Just decided to this today to see if it helps.

Things NOT to do: read more baby books, at this point they cause nothing but anxiety, read about birthing also causes tremendous anxiety, worry too much about timing contractions, calling family too much, trying to keep everyone updated (you will hear when it’s time I promise!), buying more crap for the baby, going over your birth plan (useless at this point), recalculating your due date, researching schools… yes I’ve tried them all and no good.

The insane mind of the pregnant woman

36 weeks and I have decided to convert our garage into an office. There was a perfectly logical explanation to this endeavor.

I have no desk since my home office is now the baby room, and with my parents and due day approaching I thought I should be prepared and plan to have a quiet place where I can work from home in the last few days. Plus, we don’t use our garage to park, nor we have enough storage for all the new baby crap we have and it we may as well invest a bit in some home improvement for future value. Great idea, right?

The hammering started last Friday at 7am as the electrician opened the wall to install the heater and recessed can lights in the ceiling. The noise woke me up and when I descended from our bedroom I was surrounded by a chaotic mess of boxes, books, pictures, old clothes, garden boots, coolers, suitcases and TWO cat litter boxes!!!  I forgot that we had to get everything OUT of the garage in order to build IN the garage.  So, my neatly organized nursery that was so ready for prime-time is now filled with all kinds of stuff that one forgets one has because…well, that’s what garages are for.

Instead of facing the consequences of my decision, because, I have no one to blame but myself (my husband has not uttered the word ‘no’ since we found out I was pregnant) I decided to check my email craving the chronological, well classified, order of my inbox. But, there it was, Baby Center reminding me  I’m starting my 36th week, and therefore I’m only four weeks from my due date.

Four weeks.

My parents arrive in two weeks.

Hammering. Boxes. Hammering. More boxes. Some paint and voila!

I swear I heard those stuffed animals on the shelf say, “hey lady, you are completely nuts!”

Super dad to be paints the primed walls
Finished walls look nice!