Nov 20, 2011

Another move, but this time with a baby

I'm really not a stranger to moving. I know that I've done it more than 20 times in my life ... that's an average of every 2 years or so. Some have been little, like the university student moving from one hall of residence to another. Some have been massive, like the move from the U.K. to Singapore or from Switzerland to South Korea. 

In every case, I've always made it a point to get my new home in order as quickly as possible. I think this is partly due to my "Monica (from friends)" Personality to have a neat and tidy space, and partly due to the lack of any place I can truly call "home", and so "home" is where I lay my hat. That means whenever I have a new home, I make it as nice, comfortable and homie as quickly as possible. Usually, that means a maximum of two days from the moment the movers have dumped all my boxes in the space, to the last picture hanging on the walls. I know: I'm an over-achiever.

This time, it has been a new experience. Moving with a recently mobile baby is no joke. I started packing boxes about 2 weeks before the date. I normally would have some men come into the house and pack the boxes for me. But this time, we were paying for our own move. I figured we could save about a thousand dollars by simply packing our own stuff. Plus, it meant that I could really sort through everything, be selective, and throw a bunch of stuff out. I.e. if we never use it, don't pack it but pass it on.

We were mostly successful in the passing it on. I told my hubby that if we don't really love it, it goes. So I made a bunch of people in the facebook mommy group I'm part of very happy with free or cheap things. Even the dog lost her cage, which was substituted with a nice pillow (we figure that at nearly 8, she's old enough to hang out in the house without destroying everything).

Of course, packing while watching a baby isn't easy. I leaned on lots of friends to help watch him while I packed. They were great, although baby-boy is getting stuck on separation anxiety, and for a while it was difficult for me to even step out of his sight for a second. But I found that one of my girlfriends, who's a mom to two and an auntie/nanny to dozens more, was able to keep baby-boy happy and entertained. So I got some stuff done.

Even after the move, it really has only taken us three days to get somewhat settled. There remain only two small boxes to be unpacked, labelled "junk to sort". These are the tricky things we hold on to like a deck of Tarot cards. Never use them, but reminds me of my teenage years. Hard to let go. We also still have some furniture and baby things earmarked to pass on but the new owners either couldn't take it now, or the products haven't found new owners yet. I can always give them to the Salvation Army, but for now, they're safely in my storage area.

The baby room, as of today, is entirely finished, and I think baby-boy really appreciated it. We even bought him a horrible PVC roll-down blind for this week while we wait on our nice wood blinds to arrive. Just to make it dark enough in his room that he knows it's night and ought to be sleeping. The rest of the house is mostly done. We bought a new bookcase from Ikea (our old one lasted some 10+ years! Not bad for 150 bucks). All that remains is a towel rail for our bathroom, and the pictures to be hung on the walls.

The baby-boy is doing well today, after about two weeks of a horrendous cough and sniffles. I think the move threw him off on top of it all, and he spent the first two nights in our new home screaming at the top of his lungs at 1 a.m. The first night it took us two hours to settle him down. Yesterday, I managed in about 15 minutes, although it did take me getting up several times for the next hour. Tonight, he refused to go to bed by himself (usually not a problem). I'm hoping that it gets better soon, since I'm not a fan of sleep training. Mostly, I am trying to be there for him as much as possible now that the bulk of the move is done. The last few boxes can wait. It's more important that baby-boy is happy.

For the rest: I'm at least two weeks behind on my paper - my co-author even asked me if I was doing ok. I hope to get it done next week. Hubby promised me some down time.

Nov 11, 2011

Guilty, as charged

OK, guilty. I haven't even looked at my blog since the last post. And yes, it's almost 2 months. What happened? Just a baby. And travel. And a house purchase. And another revise-and-resubmit for a journal. That's what.

Important stuff first. Baby-boy is doing fantastic. Apart from a nasty cough at the moment. And his persistence in waking up all through the night. But during the day, he's an absolute angel. He's happy, funny, engaged, exploring, looking for me ... just a cutie. It seems he's taking life by the horns and taming it. It took him forever to learn how to sit up without falling over. Even at 7.5 months, when I was visiting family in Europe, he could still reliably fall backwards and bonk his head. The only way to cope was to surround him by cushions and sit him on 2 layers of oma's quilts. But during that week, he also started to show that he could pull up. And in fact he used his uncle to do so. He fell over shortly after, but it must have given him a taste for things. In the next week, he learned to crawl, and then pull himself up on furniture, and now cruise along it. He was always able to walk with us holding him (never lost his walk reflex since we stimulated it and he always showed an interest to be standing up rather than sitting). But now he can run holding on to our hands, and walk fairly well by himself along the boxes that occupy our house. He's even transition from one piece of furniture to another. Won't be long, methinks, before he walks.

Of course, this has been great to observe, but also a bit stressful. Until this week, there was every chance that he would connect with a wall, a chair or the floor at any moment. Thankfully, he seems to have gotten a better sense of balance and I can sort of leave him to explore from about 4 feet away, rather than having to hover constantly like a traffic helicopter. Unfortunately, he shows no fear. He launches himself from pillar to post, without thought of what might happen if he misses. Mostly I'm there to catch him, but I often catch him deliberately late, so that he will hopefully get a sense of wrongness about random body flinging. 

But perhaps the fearlessness is fortunate for him. He's progressing fast. Not at all bad for an 8.5 month old. I'm a proud mommy. Of course, ask him to wave bye-bye and he stares at me as if I've gone mad.

Baby-boy's personality seems particular. He has a small amount of separation anxiety. But it seems not with everyone. Or, perhaps, he got over it super quickly. It might have been all the travel that temporarily threw him off. We also joined a baby gym (I know, I know, Western mother). He loves the free-range stuff, but he is really not into all the singing and clapping and rattle shaking. He complains and pushes against me as if to say that the music is too loud and can we go do something else now. Maybe he takes after his mom's dislike of large crowds and loud spaces, and his dad's anti-group-ness in general.

The nights. Yes, well. By now, I hate it when people ask me if he's "sleeping through the night yet?". There seems to be some myth that babies sleep 12 hours at night, like little angels, and then wake up sunny and bright. Perfect. Of course, no human being is perfect, and aiming for perfection is pointless. In scientific studies (yes, I read them, LOTS of them), "sleeping through the night" is defined as 5 solid hours. Baby-boy does this. From 7pm to midnight. The part of the night when I'm usually awake. After that, it's a progressively shorter period of wakings. Or, sometimes just a random pattern: the night starts with a 4 hour stretch, followed by 3, then by 4 (a good night!); or perhaps 3 hours, followed by 1, then 2, then 1, then 1.5, etc (a bad night). 

Mostly, he wakes only for a few moments. The moment I provide comfort in the form of his pacifier, he's instantly asleep. Even right now, when I suspect he's going through a 9-month sleep regression period. I find him crying and rocking on all fours, while still seemingly asleep. I pop in a suce and wham, he face plants into the mattress and goes back to sleep. 

Unlike "sleep problem" babies (as defined in all those stupid books I've read), baby-boy has absolutely no trouble falling asleep. And even the "staying asleep" isn't really an issue, since it takes less than 5 seconds usually to get him to go back. It's just that I've got to get up for those 5 seconds to night-time-parent him.

I'm fervently against any kind of sleep training that requires him to cry-it-out. From the beginning I was uncomfortable with this notion. We once tried to wean him off his pacifier that way. I lasted 20 minutes, during which time, his cries went from mild complaints to an absolute shit-fit. To the point where I thought he was going to do his brain some damage, and I was going to leave him with permanent emotional scars. That was the last time I considered any kind of crying-it-out. When he's old enough to understand will be soon enough to wean him off a pacifier (that, by the way, he only uses to help him get to sleep and then spits out).

So while I was on vacation in Europe, I looked for books that didn't involve crying-it-out. I found two. A well-known one by Dr. Sears (Nighttime Parenting), and one by a less well known Australian woman named Pinky McKay (Sleeping Like a Baby). Both talk about how unrealistic it is to expect babies to sleep 12 hour stretches. Especially breast-fed babies who digest their meals at least twice as fast as bottle fed babies. Both also talk about how the "controlled crying" method is really not good for babies: it breaks an important bond of trust and comfort, causing many long-term problems later on, in the favor for a short term fix for the parent - not the baby necessarily ... it's normal for babies to wake every 90 minutes as a natural part of the sleep cycle.

Long story short. Their advice is basically to manage your nights and "parent" your way through them as you would your days. So I've mentally and emotionally accepted that this will be the way things are for a while. Of course, I try different things to help him learn to sleep a little longer, so long as it doesn't stress him out. I now use a rain sound (thanks to a gift from a friend), and this seems to help him go to sleep very quickly, and is also helping him stay asleep longer for naps. As an added bonus, the near-white-noise (via the baby monitor) is also helpful me to go to sleep! 

So here I am. Somewhat sleep deprived and exhausted, but coping by taking naps when the baby naps. Having gotten zero work done in weeks, because of a super-active baby who has learned to sit, crawl, stand up and cruise all within a 3 week time span. And having bought a house, that we need to move into next week. That means lots of packing (I started 10 days ago and still have a fair way to go). And lots of selling and clearing out of stuff. And lots of paperwork. A perfect time for the immigration people to contact us and let us know it's time to do our medical checks and fill in more paperwork. And for journal deadline to revise one of my papers. And for a new Masters student to be brought under my wing. Etc.

When it rains, it pours. Or should I say when it snows, it storms. So please forgive my lack of blogging. I'll try to be a bit more regular.