Wasting away?

I had an interesting conversation with an older friend a few weeks back.

Acquaintance: How’s work going?
Adria: Oh, I’m a stay-at-home mom now, remember?
Acquaintance: Yes, that’s right. I’d forgotten. So, when are you going back?
Adria: I’m not sure I am, actually. I’m thinking about becoming a yoga teacher. I really love it!
Acquaintance: . . . what a waste! Of your brain, I mean.

The friend, who is almost 35 years older, didn’t mean to be rude or to insult me. He worked his whole life in a corporation, largely because that was what was expected of him in his generation, and he just couldn’t wrap his head around the idea that I would do something “impractical” with my credentials. This all leads me to wonder: is following your passion frivolous or brave?

Is it daring to say, “the heck with a conventional paycheck, give me a job I love”, or is it indulgent? Few of us are lucky enough to find that “perfect job” that both pays the bills and fills you with a “I-can’t-wait-to-get-to-work-today” satisfaction.  Even fewer of us are lucky enough to have the choice to spit in the eye of a well-paying job while searching for greener pastures. I can say without a doubt the bravest of us all are the ones who go to a job they hate because they have no other choice.

I am the first to admit that I’m lucky. I am thankful every single day that I have the means to stay at home full time with my child. I’ll also admit that I – and the hubby of course – worked hard (and saved hard) to get here. Luck helps, but hard work pays off too.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked my old job. It challenged me every day and pushed me to be more, to be better. However, it fanned the flames of my “type-A” personality, and I’m not sure I liked the “Corporate America Adria”. Today I take the time to appreciate the little moments – to soak in life rather than rush to the finish line. I’m less critical of myself in particular. In truth I’m just happy, something I wasn’t always before.

All of this to say, if you had the choice to do something you love for a small amount of compensation, would you take the chance, or would you take the more conventional (and better paying) route? The answer is clear for me. I’ve found that the conventional path turns me into a ladder-climbing ogre. Even if I don’t really want the carrot, I’ll chase after it – it’s just an innate drive within me. The best version of me is off the beaten path. I’m kinder these days. I’m more patient these days. Above all, I’m happier these days. If finding and being a better version of me means that the world at large views me as a “waste”, well, so be it, right?

Surely you can’t be serious? I am serious… and don’t call me Shirley.

One of the things I hear the most about Vivian is, “she’s so serious“.

Why, yes. Yes, she is.

Listen, we all know every baby is different, but on some level, it seems most people expect one prototype: the giggly, drooling baby who smiles at strangers and beats a spoon on the floor. Not that there’s anything wrong with that baby – I love that baby too! I just don’t have that particular baby,  but the baby I do have is pretty darn special.

From day one Vivian has been a very smart and ladylike gal. She’s incredibly observant; even in the delivery room on her birth day, Vivi watched all the action quietly and with wide eyes. She tends to “eyeball” things – watching, learning, listening – before reacting.

Bright eyed baby, 5 minutes old

For example, when we recently took a stroll to visit our neighborhood duck pond for the first time, the uninitiated might have thought Vivian was unimpressed. She simply leaned forward in her stroller and stared – not a sound, not an expression on her face. At home a little while later I pulled out her stuffed duck and “quacked” at her; she burst into giggles and hugged the little duck to her chest. She clearly remembered, and in her “safe place” at home, she felt comfortable enough to be silly.

That’s the thing about Vivian; even at 9.5 months, she’s analytical. If she’s not sure about something, if she’s nervous or overwhelmed in a new situation, she tends to keep a straight face and take it all in. It doesn’t mean that she’s not a happy baby, but she certainly isn’t the little one who grins at strangers at the grocery store. It takes some time for Vivian to warm up and feel comfortable.

Her “I’m thinking it over” face

She’s an old soul, my kiddo. I mean, how many babies do you know that look up at their mommy for the okay before touching something new? Cautious could be Vivian’s middle name. I smiled as I watched her learning to pull up this week. She does this sort of tripod stance, carefully ensuring that she can get down from her pull-up. Vivi did an army crawl/belly flop for months, even though I felt sure she could easily hands-and-knees crawl based on how well she could rock with her belly high off the ground. Then one day, she just started hands-and-knees crawling, like she always knew how. On some level, I think she was just waiting, gathering her courage, and taking the plunge when she felt sure she’d succeed.

I got this, Mom!

In short, she’s a type A, Little Adria clone. Imagine me, many moons ago, watching my little sister glide across the monkey bars at the park while I stood by wearily, shaking my head. Cautious could have been my middle name too.

Because I’m type A, I worry – surprise surprise – that she’ll be a perfectionist like me. I guess there are worse things in the world, but I want her to feel the release that I don’t often feel – the freedom to let go and dive in without looking first. I probably overindex on trying to balance out “the serious”. I sing a lot of silly songs these days; for some reason, I find that the tune to La Cucaracha lends itself to so many lyrical combinations. I tickle her (yes, there’s a creature called The Tickle Monster involved), and I blow raspberries on her tummy. I encourage her to get applesauce on her hands and smear it on the high chair.

Vivi’s beauty secret: green bean mask – apply often!

The thing is, Vivian is Vivian. She’s her own little person already, and I don’t want to change her. She’s a joyful, sweet, cuddly baby; she’s my smart, observant, and yes – serious – little treasure. In my eyes, she’ll always be perfect – whether she grows into an adventurous little crusader or a serious little lady – or maybe some delightful combination of both.

Bras and Africa

Don’t you just love autocorrect? On a regular basis I mistype (well, mis-text) Brad’s name, and my phone autocorrects it to “Bras”. Even better in my opinion: when I mistype my name, it turns into “Africa”. Bras and Africa Ray, what a pair.

Ol’ Bras and I are getting excited to go out to see a movie this weekend  – not just any old movie, THE movie we’ve been dying to see for the last couple years, The Dark Knight Rises. We are both super excited! We don’t go out alone together very much anymore (go figure, right?), but ever since Vivian started a regular bedtime, we do have a lot more time together. It’s nice just to watch a TV show together and snuggle in the evenings. Thank goodness for DVR.

Speaking of evenings, I go to a yoga class in the evening on Monday and Wednesday, so Brad has started doing Vivian’s bathtime and now even bedtime without me. They do the normal routine: bath, jammies, milk, then “goodnight house”. She apparently takes the bottle with no problem at all, and Brad says that she usually goes down without any fuss (which is her norm when I put her to sleep). This is a BIG improvement as nursing used to be an integral part of her “soothe-to-sleep” routine. It’s nice to know that she is becoming less dependent on me, but I have to say, I don’t know what to do with myself on those days. I come home to a quiet house – so weird but wonderful too! Brad’s about to start Tuesday/Thursday evening classes at his gym, so we will basically just rotate bathtime/bedtime responsibilities. It’s really amazing to have such a strong parenting partner. I know that not every dad is so involved, and I count my lucky stars. We both think that getting away and doing something for yourself – especially getting exercise – is so important.

Alright, enough random thoughts; the reason I started writing this post was to share a video. Vivian has a new trick!

It’s not all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows.

Let’s be honest: being a parent isn’t easy. No, I don’t take back what I said in my post earlier this week: I love being a mom, and I especially love being a stay-at-home mom. But like any full-time job – because who are we kidding, parenting is a job if there ever was one – there are good days and bad days.

Today just so happens to be a bad day.

Vivian is a remarkably easy baby. I honestly can’t think of a time when she has cried in public. Sure, she gets cranky, but she is usually easy to please. Even as early as six weeks old, she slept six hour stretches at night. She’s never been colicky. Besides for one stuffy nose, she’s never been sick (knock on wood). Like I said, a remarkably easy baby!

Except for – enter ominous music – napping. Oh, how this child hates to nap! The only way I could get Vivi to sleep as an infant was to hold her, and even then, she rarely napped for more than 30 or 40 minutes. Around 3 months, my back started to protest during her sleep-in-Mommy’s-lap sessions. I turned to the swing, and what a lifesaver it was! Vivian would even occasionally cruise past her usual 35 minute wake-up time and sleep for – gasp – a whole hour.

These days Vivi is sleeping solely in her crib. Nine times out of ten, nighttime is a piece of cake. She has fun in her bath, nurses for one last time, and goes down into her crib like a little angel.

That same little angel seems to think her crib is made of hot lava in the daylight. Today, for example, she woke up around 8AM and played for 2 hours. She started giving me sleepy signs, and when she nursed, she started dozing. I thought to myself, it’s definitely time for a nap! I put her into her crib, and HOLY HOT LAVA BATMAN, she’s awake and mad! Vivi cried for a full 30 minutes before I called it and got her out of her crib. I kept her awake for another hour, and let me tell you, she was not in the cheeriest of moods. Finally, she seemed ready to go to sleep. Hold onto your hats, she cried for another 25 minutes, but finally she went down. She slept for… wait for it… a whole 30 minutes.

Can I just say how demoralizing it is to struggle all morning for one measly 30 minute nap?

After Vivi woke up, I took the opportunity to get out of the house, hoping I could run an errand and make it back before the dangerous awake-for-two-hours sleepy phase hit. Why the rush? If Vivi catches even 10 minutes of sleep in the car, there’s no chance she’ll go down for a nap for at least another two hours. I hope you never have to deal with a baby who has slept only 10 minutes. Grumpy doesn’t begin to describe it. Long story short, car naps are only good for long trips. Otherwise, avoid them like the plague.

Back to today. You guessed it; I didn’t make it home in time. Despite my loud and obnoxious singing, Vivi caught about 20 minutes of snoozetime in the car. I even managed to get her into the house in her carseat without waking her. She snoozed for another 10 minutes before hollaring at me to get her out of her carseat.

Let’s review: since 8AM, Vivi had slept a grand total of an hour and five minutes, and it was now 3:30 in the afternoon. Don’t get me wrong, if she was a little bundle of giggles or even if she was sullen but happy to play, that’d be one thing. If she was happy and seemed to be getting enough sleep, I could deal with only an hour and five minutes. Instead she is quite obviously still tired. She gets frustrated easily and isn’t as easy to please as usual. I know she needs more sleep, but I don’t have a clue how to help her.

The good news is, I did get her to go back to sleep at 5:30 with only 5 minutes of crying. I’m hoping a third cat nap will lift her spirits (and mine). Luckily, I have great friends and fellow Mommy Warriors to talk to (well, text with) in moments of desperation. My friend Kristi recommended stretching awake time from 2 hours to 3, and my friend Shannon recommended music played throughout sleeptime.

Armed with these new”tricks”, I hope to defeat – or at the very least subdue – the Nap-time Monster tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Tips welcome!

A case of the . . .

You’ve heard the phrase, “…a case of the Mondays”, right? That sense of dread that the weekend is over, that grumpy feeling you get on Monday morning when the work week begins.

I’ve had a chronic case of the Mondays for years. Sunday night would roll around, and I’d find myself dreading the end of the weekend, but even more so, I’d dread the beginning of another week. There were times that I would lie awake in bed, mentally flipping through the days ahead, compiling my worries. Usually – in hindsight – my worries were trifles, but of course at the time, they kept me awake.

I wish I could tell you that I wasn’t always like that, but I was. Even in elementary school, I can remember being anxious. I have a distinct memory of spending the night at my Grandma’s – I couldn’t have been more than six – and being unable to sleep. Grandma sat on the side of the bed and asked me what was wrong. The only way I could describe what I was feeling was a “tummy ache”. The next morning I had a swimming lesson. My class was learning something called “the dead man’s float”; you float facedown in the water for several seconds. I know now that my little six-year-old self was consumed with dread about that poorly named “dead man’s float” – and that the dread reared its ugly head as a tummy ache. (In my defense, who puts the words “dead man” in a child’s swimming class? C’mon now.)

It’s funny to remember that night now and to realize that I’ve always been an anxious sort. You mix together a couple factors – “first child syndrome”, type A personality, perfectionist – and you get the always-striving-to-be-better worrywart that is me. Not surprisingly, I still get that anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach more than 20 years later. Luckily, as I’ve grown, I have learned to recognize it and deal with it. I’ve become better and better at seeing my worries for what they are – largely useless. Now when I find myself feeling anxious, I take a minute to think through what’s bothering me, and then I either let it go, or I figure out a way to make it better. My “case of the Mondays” is still around; it’s just not as persistent as it used to be.

I was getting ready for bed tonight… you know, the usual routine. I tucked Vivian into her crib, tidied up the house, took a shower, and kissed Brad goodnight. Then it hit me. Something was missing . . . no case of the Mondays! In fact, ever since I’ve been a stay-at-home mom, my anxiety levels have really dropped. Sure, I do worry about Vivi on occasion – what parent doesn’t worry about their child? What’s missing is the worry over silly little things… worrying about whether an email I sent offended a co-worker, if I was ready for a presentation, if I’d pass a test, if I’d sink or swim.

I don’t dread anymore. I go to bed happy, and I wake up happy. That might not be remarkable for everyone, but for someone who has always considered worry to be a regular bedmate, it’s a whole new world.

I thought to myself tonight, what’s different? I think for me, I’m finally doing what I love. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed other things – being a student, working in the marketing industry – but I never felt satisfied. I always felt like I was reaching for the proverbial carrot. I don’t feel that way anymore. I feel peaceful; I feel joyful.

More than ever before, I’m thankful for every moment.

The Terrible Awful. Sleep training – Part 1.

For the last week Brad and I have been sleep training Vivian, and let me tell you, “terrible awful” doesn’t begin to describe it. With a full seven days behind us, though, I’m finally to a place where I would also describe it as “effective” and “successful”.

Honestly, I never thought I’d use a “cry it out” method. It just doesn’t seem to jive with my parenting style; I veer to the attachment parenting side of the street (breastfeeding, babywearing, and the like). I feel like a good, healthy fuss is enough practice at self-soothing.

In the past three weeks, though, my attachment parenting approach was working less and less for bedtime. For the first 5 months of her life, Vivi was pretty easy to put to sleep for the night. I’d usually nurse her into a deep sleep, then I would put her in her bouncy, or if that didn’t work, Brad or I would walk and rock her to sleep. Sure, there were times when the “go to sleep” process took an hour, but in the end, she slept 9-10 hours a night, so it didn’t seem so bad. Other than a few times when I just wanted time for myself, I was happy to nurse or rock her to sleep; it was relaxing for us both, and I loved the cuddles. If she woke in the middle of the night (which she usually did 2-3 times a week), I’d nurse her right back to sleep without any issues.

In the last three weeks, though, something changed. [Enter ominous music.] Vivi slowly began to resist falling asleep on the breast. Rocking her to sleep became increasingly difficult. Once Vivi went to sleep, she often only slept an hour or two before stirring; she just didn’t seem comfortable in the bouncy anymore. I decided to try moving Vivi into her crib, but no matter how deeply she was sleeping, the minute she got horizontal in the crib, BAM! She was awake, and she wasn’t happy about it! Once crying, I’d pick her up and start the nursing and rocking dance all over again.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came last Wednesday night. After five hours – yes, five hours! – of nursing, rocking, walking, car riding, and lots of fussing – Brad and I finally got her to sleep. Thursday night was just as rough as Wednesday night. Vivi just couldn’t fall asleep in our arms anymore, and the longer she stayed awake, the more miserable and exhausted we all were.

On Friday night, Brad and I weren’t sure what else to do, so we let her cry. After 15 minutes of crying in her crib, she got so frustrated and upset that she threw up! We were mortified and ended up snuggling her to sleep again that night.

As soon as she fell asleep, we started researching. One of my favorite parenting books, Baby 411, had highly recommended Dr. Ferber’s sleep training technique. After reading up on Ferberizing, we decided that we liked the approach and thought it handled “cry it out” in a more tender way than most. You don’t leave your baby crying alone for hours on end; you’re able to reassure them and tell them that you love them, that you’re still nearby, that they’re safe. Brad and I both reviewed the approach and agreed – on Saturday morning, we would start Ferberizing, otherwise known as “progressive waiting”.

The basic tenets of progressive waiting for nighttime are:

  • You have a regular nighttime routine for your child, something like bath, nurse, book, bed. The nighttime routine should be loving and relaxing.
  • After goodnight kisses, you put your drowsy baby into his or her crib awake.
  • You leave. Baby cries…. or screams.
  • After 3 minutes, you return to your baby’s room and reassure them that you are nearby but that it’s time to go to sleep. You can pat them, but you can’t pick them up (even if the baby is screaming and giving you the saddest look ever).
  • After no more than a minute or two of soothing, you leave the room. Baby cries.
  • After 5 minutes, you return to soothe. Baby will likely cry harder while you are in the room, but do your best to reassure him or her. Again, no more than 2 minutes of soothing, then out you go.
  • If the baby is still crying after 10 more minutes, you return to soothe… and then again every 10 minutes after that until the baby goes to sleep.

[Quick note: the 3/5/10 waiting progression is for the first night; each day adds additional waiting time. We modified the waiting times; we ended up using the 3/5/10 progression for the first 3 days, then we moved to a 5/7/12 progression on Day 4. On Day 7 we are still using a 7/10 schedule, though Ferber recommends a much longer progression (something like 20/25/30). My opinion on the waiting progressions: go with what feels right for you.]

So, the research was done, and the plan was in place. Now the hard work begins!

To get the play-by-play of our first week, check out Part Two here.

Not interested in the nitty gritty? You can find out what I learned and my tips for sleep training here.

What I learned. Sleep training: Part 3.

I’m not an expert by any means, but I did learn a few things along the way while sleep training Vivian. Here are a few of my tips for anyone starting a “progressive waiting” approach.

  • Make sure you are committed, but be flexible.
    • If you are going to sleep train your baby, make a plan, but remember that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with flexibilty. Change it up if something really isn’t working.
  • Get your significant other on board.
    • There’s nothing like having a partner to remind you that you aren’t cruel, that it’s all going to be okay,  and that your baby is OKAY!
  • Set aside time to sleep train.
    • If at all possible start on a weekend or take a little vacation time to devote to sleep training. The first three to four days can be especially brutal. Brad was with me on Day 1 and 2, but I really missed his support on Day 3 and 4 while he was at work.
  • Be prepared to listen to some crying.
    • Your little sugar will cry. Probably scream too. It’s horrible, especially if you’ve really only heard that level of crying a couple of times before, like during shots at the doctor’s office. I cried along with her. Seriously, Brad and I both looked like we were sucking lemons for the first two days.
  • Wait until your baby is old enough to handle it.
    • I can’t imagine sleep training before 5 months old, personally. I don’t think most babies are emotionally able to cope before that age, but let’s face facts: sometimes you just have to sleep train earlier. Maybe you are going back to work and desperately need sleep. Maybe your baby is cranky all day long because they aren’t getting good sleep. So I understand sleep training earlier, but I’m glad that I was able to wait until Vivi was 6 months old. I don’t regret nursing Vivi to sleep for the first 6 months, and honestly, if it still worked, I probably still be doing it, but that’s just me!
  • Stick with sleep training for at least 7 days!
    • If I had given up on the worst day (Day 4 for me), I would have missed out on several very successful days.
  • Don’t be afraid to modify.
    • I struggled with “following the rules” to the tee, but once I gave myself leeway to follow my gut, Vivi and I were both happier. Listen – your baby is special! No book can plan for your little sweetling’s personality and needs. If the approach doesn’t feel right, make tweaks and get it right for you and your baby.
  • Nurse to drowsy, not to sleep!
    • Ferber doesn’t recommend nursing to sleep, and I have to agree based on my experiences. When I nursed to “drowsy”, Vivi went down easily. When I nursed her until she was asleep, she woke up shocked and distressed when I put her down into the crib. I can relate- I would probably be distressed too if  I woke up in a different place than I fell asleep.
  • Keep living your life!
    • Don’t let sleep training make your home a prison. If you need to run an errand or want to grab lunch with a friend but it’s Baby’s naptime, go anyway. Life is short!
  • Offer extra snuggles during waking hours.
    • Crying is tough for both you and Baby! Offer snuggles while Baby is awake. I use the baby sling around the house more often now. I’m not saying you should overcompensate by holding your baby all day long – no need to feel guilty – but a little extra love while sleep training is sure to make both you and Baby feel better.
  • Have a baby that won’t sleep anywhere but your arms? Use the swing before you start Ferberizing!
    • Vivi loooooved to nap on me when she was younger. Around three or four months I started using the swing for naptimes, and it worked great! If you have a cuddler too, start by letting your baby nap in a swing for a few weeks. They will get used to falling asleep, albeit assisted, out of your arms. Once used to sleeping away from you, the transition to the crib is easier.

Anyway, I’m sure to learn more as this little journey continues. I hope what I’ve learned helps someone out there in BlogLand! Good luck!