Monday, February 25, 2013

All in good time.

We get little lessons in this all the time. Most recently, as it pertains to sleep. We are re-entering the land of sleeping, here. Our little guy is sleeping longer and waking less frequently, though we still have "bad" days where he wakes up 4 or 5 times a night. But the most recent victory pertains to falling asleep.

We have all heard the maxim from pediatricians to put your baby down drowsy but awake. That has never been feasible in our house. One: because we don't "cry it out" and two: because he cries if he's put down to bed awake. At first I fretted over it. Worried it around in my mind and in my conversations like a dog with a bone. Then I embraced it. I nurse my son to sleep. It doesn't seem all that unreasonable. He tops off his belly for the long haul and get soothing comfort at the same time, and I get a quiet half hour to revel in the miracle that is my growing baby. Win-win. Sometimes the transfer from arms to crib gets a little dicey, and I botch the landing pretty often (necessitating a start-from-scratch), but overall, it works for us.

But in the past week, something amazing has happened. Baby Guy nurses like usual, but then sits up and seems fairly awake. I put him down in his crib on his belly (his preferred sleeping position) and... No crying. He's awake, occasionally talks to himself or kicks his legs, and I walk out of the room. A few minutes later, he's asleep. All by himself. We didn't "train" this behavior, he came to it naturally, in his own good time.

Babies are amazing little creatures. I'm not sure if this is a sign of deep attachment or just plain old growing up, or what, but I am, well, amazed by the transformation. I guess it's most gratifying because it re-affirms my belief that you don't have to force behaviors on babies. This is not to say babies (and children) don't need structure and discipline - they do - but rather to say that with patience, anything is possible. It's a lesson my son teaches me every day.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Football.

I was raised in north central Florida, and I am a Gator fan. A huge, unrelenting Gator fan. A Gator football fan. I wear my Gator jersey every game day in the Fall, whether I can watch the game or not. I tried to get on my high school team as the kicker (I played soccer). The coach laughed me out of his office. (I was 5'7" and about 120 at the time. He said I needed to gain 50 lbs to carry the pads alone.) I went to grad school at Clemson, a school known for its football team and devoted fans. I considered becoming a donor so I could get box seats at Death Valley. I am certainly not the biggest or most rabid football fan, but I love college ball.

Amendment: I loved college ball.

My relationship with violent sports has changed dramatically since I became a mother. The sport has become too violent and too amoral. By amoral, I mean that we allow criminals to play football for our amusement, and pay them millions of dollars for it. We don't seem to care what their crimes were, as long as they can run or throw or block a tackle. (Michael Vick, anyone? And he's just the tip of the iceberg.) The sport also incentivises young men to play when they shouldn't. Concussions, ligament damage, sprains and strains. The explicit message is "Get back on the field. Now." Colleges don't care about the student part of "student-athlete". That term is a joke. They violate NCAA rules about recruiting and paying college players, but honestly, they should be paying those kids. A decent football program brings in literally millions of dollars to a school and pays for almost every other sport at the top schools, all earned on the blood, sweat and tears of young men who get no education for their trouble. Only a small number go to the NFL where the real money is made, but even those men are trading their health and longevity for a paycheck. Studies have been coming out for years now about the dramatic incidence of traumatic brain injuries among football players. Much higher than the national average among people who don't wear helmets for a living.

When I was younger, I thought it would be so great to have a football player for a son. How much I would enjoy going to the stadium every game day and cheering him on. How I would proudly point him out to people. But now that I actually have a son? That thought terrifies me. I feel, deep in my soul, that I need to give up watching the sport because if my son fondly recalls watching football with his parents, then maybe he will want to play. And how can I tell him it's okay for us to watch other people's sons risk life and limb for our entertainment but I can't allow him to do the same?

I saw a game last Fall where a player got hit, went down and didn't get back up. I don't remember the details save one: his neck was broken and he was air lifted to a hospital in critical condition. I spent a lot of time thinking about his family. How they saw that on TV when they were cheering on their son, brother, nephew, grandson. I can't, in good conscience, participate in the spectacle any more. It's not just the violence, though that's a large part of it. It's the society that tells our young men that in order to be men, they must participate in violent sports for our amusement. They can't be kind or gentle or feminists. The have to be hard and mean and remorseless. I want my son to be the former, not the latter.

I barely watched football this past Fall. I didn't watch the Superbowl tonight. I don't know if I ever will again.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A happy ending.

I'm not sure if I ranted about this at the time... I was so furious and upset about the whole thing that I may have just buried it and refused to talk about it. I know that's what I did in real life, at least.

The short story is this: I saw a combo changing table/dresser at our midwife's offices when I was pregnant and fell in love. I scoured the Internet to find it, and finally found it on Craig's List. Now, we've been burned by CL before, but it seemed okay. The exact changing table I wanted and a crib, all for $250. I was pretty excited. The crib wasn't exactly what I had envisioned, but it would do and matched the changing table. We met the people, saw the changing table, it was perfect. The crib was broken down, but they had the hardware with it, so no big deal. I asked if we could just buy the changing table, they said no, it was a set. I asked it the crib was a drop side, they said no. Turns out the crib was a drop side and they didn't even have all the pieces needed to put it together, which we didn't find out until we got home. After a series of increasingly ugly phone calls and reports to the federal agency that enforces the ban on sales of drop side cribs, we had to let the whole thing go. The take away is that I would never, in a million years, have paid $250 for just a changing table, no matter how awesome. But, that was the reality we were left with. I was so upset that I couldn't even look at my awesome changing table for months. I wanted to get rid of it and put the whole experience behind me, but Allen wisely kept it and let me cool off. In the whole pregnancy process, there have only been two sour notes: my OB and this. Every once in a while I still get a bad taste in my mouth about it, but I've put it behind me.

Fast forward to this weekend.

BG has been sleeping in a Pack n' Play and he is outgrowing it. Allen and I both came to the conclusion that he needed a proper crib, and I got a flyer from Babies R Us for a trade in special. Bring in your old crib and get 25% off a new one. We took a chance and popped the hated drop side crib parts in the car. When we got to BRU, they took it, carted it away and gave us a 25% off coupon! It was the perfect karmic return on our terrible experience. We ordered a new crib and saved almost $100 by bringing in the Hated Crib. I had to wait over a year, but now I can look at our changing table and smile. Perfect.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Meatless Monday: special interests and law making.

This could easily turn into a rant. I'm going to try really hard to not rant, but fair warning: it could happen.

I was listening to NPR the other day - the Diane Reams show - and the topic was Occupy Wall Street. One of the guests, a professor of economics at George Mason University, made the argument that in order to have less corruption in government, you needed less government. That the way to insure that corporations and wealthy individuals paid their fair share and were generous to the rest of us was to limit the ability of government to interfere in their business. Less regulation equals more income for everyone.

...

This has been outed again and again as a blatant and outright lie. Having less government regulation is what got us into this mess in the first place, so I have no idea why people keep insisting that continuing down that path will fix everything. Banking regulations disappeared or were severely curtailed in the past decade, which led to increasing predatory behavior, bad lending policies and generally douche-baggery on the part of large finance-based corporations. So how will even less regulation fix that? I'm digressing a bit, but it's coming full-circle, I promise.

The way this relates to Meatless Monday is the following article from the Washington Post. It showed up on other news outlets, as well. The story is that Congress is trying to pass a bill that would count school lunch room pizza as a vegetable, because it has some tomato sauce on it. I'm not kidding. Remember Reagan and "ketchup is a vegetable"? Yeah, like that only worse. This is a good example of Congress bowing to special interests at the expense of our children's health and safety. The USDA and FDA are trying to insure that kids who eat school lunches are getting good nutrition. It's an uphill battle considering those two agencies are also operating at the whims of some pretty powerful groups - meat and diary industries, etc. But the bottom line is that your senators and congressmen (and women) are selling out to lobbyists and special interests, and any child in the public school system is the sacrificial lamb on the alter. (I'm mixing metaphors here a bit, I realize. I'm just so mad about this that I can't seem to keep them straight.) This is, in part, what the Occupy Wall Street movement is all about. Corruption in our government that has a direct impact on the people who rely on that same government to keep them safe.

Let's not beat around the bush about this. If you do even a tiny bit of investigation into what passes for nutrition in a public school cafeteria, you will be appalled. This information isn't even hard to come by! You can just watch any episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. They're free on Hulu. Go ahead - look them up! I won't quote statistics, because I don't have any at my fingertips, but there are many children - I'd venture to say millions - who rely on the public school they attend for at least one meal a day. So feeding them pizza and calling it a "full serving of vegetables" is borderline criminal.

You pay taxes, I pay taxes, we all pay for these services. The public school system is certainly underfunded, but we all have a stake in it if we pay taxes. So why aren't we demanding better? Why aren't we raising more of an outcry about this kind of abusive treatment? This isn't just an issue of corruption in our government, though that's certainly a huge issue here. This is also an issue of public health - we are allowing these children to be fed foods that will turn a large number of them into obese, or diabetic, or heart disease, patients who rely on our crumbling health care infrastructure. This will cost hundreds, thousands, millions more to the taxpayers than just insuring that they get a healthy lunch! This is also a social justice issue. Some of the poorest kids in our communities are relying on the school meals as their source of food. "Bring your lunch from home" isn't an option for a lot of these kids because there is no food at home. And instead of providing them with a full meal that will feed their brains and bodies, we are feeding them to death. And our governing leaders are aiding and abetting the people who are profiting off of our children's health and well-being.

So where is the outcry? Why is this story not being ridiculed in the public sphere? It is, sort of, but on such a small scale compared to the "ketchup is a vegetable" incident. I was alive then. I remember how ridiculous everyone thought it was. I remember how much backpedaling had to be done over it, and the outrage that something that stupid could even be considered by our great government. So where is that same outcry now? Maybe it's slipping under the radar because we have some many other problems confronting us? Maybe it's outrage overload? Maybe a combination?

Okay, I admit it, this totally turned into a rant. But how can we call ourselves civilized, how can we call ourselves "the greatest nation" if we can't provide good, nutritious food to all of our citizens? If we let special interests and profit margins dictate how we feed and raise our children? I just really don't think we can.

Okay, now I'm just mad.

Has there been a week of full moons? Is the Earth suddenly reversing its polarity? Something in our water supply? I ask because my baby has woken up in the middle of the night three times in the past week and decided that it is time to be awake and play. For 2 or 3 hours. At 2 am. And then woke up again at 7 am, ready to go. This has to stop. For my sanity.

Maybe he was just super excited about Obama being inaugurated again.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

I spoke too soon.

It took three long hours to get Baby Guy to sleep last night. And us parents are taking turns throwing up. (Thanks Norovirus!) Then, a 30 minute nap that he refused to take until the time when he normally wakes up from naps! I had to put him in the Beco and walk around with him (crying because he was so tired) for a freaking hour before he would fall back asleep. It's going to be a very, very long weekend.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sleeping purgatory.

It sounds better than sleeping hell because hell is forever and purgatory is only for 10,000 years. And though 10,000 years sounds daunting, it is less than forever, so I'm clinging to hope with what remains of my sanity.

Around 8 months old, BG started sleeping through the night. It was a process to get there since we are not "crying it out". We put him down to sleep and Allen would go up and console him and/or hold him until he fell asleep again when he woke up. He was waking up maybe once or twice between bedtime at 7 pm and when we went to bed at midnight or so. Then he had a solid two weeks of either sleeping through the night completely (waking up anywhere between 4-7 am for a nurse and falling back asleep), or sleeping until at least 2 or 3 am before waking up to nurse. It was miraculous. We were so pleased with him and ourselves for getting to that point without crying it out.

Then he stopped. I don't know why, but I suspect it was a combo of teething and growth spurt. And it kept going and going. Teething and growth spurt was replaced by travel, then illness. He slept through the night for 2 weeks and then stopped for 2 months.

Here's the thing with baby sleep: you expect to be sleep deprived with newborns. But when I went off narcotic painkillers and BG started sleeping next to me, we were getting miraculous amounts of sleep because he would just roll over and latch on and nurse himself to sleep again. I wasn't necessarily sleeping as deeply, as I was always peripherally aware of the baby next to me, but every little bit helps when you have a young infant. Then as he got older and more mobile and moved into the crib, getting long, uninterrupted stretches of sleep became harder. We still got time to ourselves in the evening because he goes to bed before we do, but after we went to bed, if he cries, he comes into our bed. It's just easier on everyone, but he's so much bigger that he is more disruptive to our sleep. When he started sleeping through the night, it was like the clouds parted and the angels sang. And when he stopped, it was like we had been snatched from the arms of heaven. You know in Star Trek: Generations, when Guinan gets taken out of the Nexus and explains that you'd do anything to get back there because it's so perfect? It's like that.

So losing a full nights rest, even after only 2 weeks, seemed pretty devastating. Was it something we did? Was it something we didn't do? Will he ever sleep through the night again or are we going to be the only parents in history with a 40 year old son who still nurses to sleep and won't sleep through the night? These are the thoughts that go through your head.

After a few weeks, I borrowed a friend's copy of "The No Cry Sleep Solution". I was hopeful when I opened it, thinking it would give us some new tricks to try. After I finished it, my reaction was, "Crap! We already do all that stuff!" Kind of like when you read the article about how to save money every month, but it's all stuff you already do. One the one hand, I was peeved because we were getting desperate, but once I let it all sink in, I realized that it meant we were already on the right track and just had to stay the course. If we keep doing what we're doing, eventually, he'll sleep again. She made several great points in the book, but the one that stuck with me was that sleep training requires either crying or time. Since we would prefer to avoid crying, we choose time.

So, after all of that, Monday night, BG made it until 2 am only waking up once or twice. Unfortunately, he was wide awake and wanted to play between 2 and 4 am. Not. Fun. Then Tuesday night, he made it to 2 or 3 am without waking. Then last, clouds parted, angels sang and he slept from 8:30 pm to 5:45 am! Hallelujah! And the only reason he was awake so late is because we all have stupid Norovirus and he threw up as he was falling asleep.

When I started writing this post a few days ago, I thought we'd never sleep again. But it looks like we're seeing the light at the end of a long tunnel!