Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Simple Plan: Revisited.

I woke this morning, less than an hour after having finally fallen back to sleep close to 5:00am, from a dream where Opal was home with a babysitter and I wasn't able, for the life of me, to make my way back to her. It was an epic journey through the minutes of this obstacle-ridden day, and hours passed by as I was in a holding pattern, unable even to call and make sure the sitter could stay until I got there. At one point, after hours of this, I stopped of at a diner to take a breather and figure out my plan of action, when I spotted the babysitter eating in an adjacent booth. You are supposed to be watching my daughter! I yelled. And promptly woke to the sounds of my real-life daughter gently calling for me from the other room.

Morning, mama, she said. Time to get up. Time for some boob.

And as I nursed her after having gone nearly 12 hours without seeing her, smelling her, touching her, another night of restless, dream-ridden sleep, I collapsed into our rocking chair, arms wrapped like twine around her and her bunny, and fell into a deeply blissful sleep as she nursed.


I recently looked back over a blog entry entitled "The Simple Plan," written nearly three months ago about my (fleeting) efforts to get Opal to sleep through the night by not rescuing her with breast-milk every time she made a peep. I wont go into a detailed recapping, but let's just say that I quickly discovered it was harder for me to let go of the night-time feedings than it was for her.

Much has happened since that fateful, inspired evening I reported back on June 1st. We spent much of June traveling, being in different time zones and foreign beds, we attended to many out of town guests and joined many occasions worth keeping Opal out a little later then usual. These things all mess with sleep patterns. Not to mention the fact that she spent much of July learning to crawl, using her body and her mind in ways she was entirely unaccustomed to, thus making it more challenging to settle into sleep at night.

For those reasons, we let the sleeping thing go. And because I sought comfort in the fact that if I got up to feed her, I'd be up for a bit but at least I'd eventually be able to go to sleep, knowing that my daughter was tucked backed into bed with a full belly and warm body. And I always had my morning nap to supplement what sleep was lost during the night.

But lately, this has simply not been the case. Even when I was getting up to feed her, which had increased to two or three times per night, I was unable to get back to sleep. And in spite of a morning nap, I was feeling recked during the day.

Time for a change.

The plan this time around was for Jesse to be the one to go in when she fussed for more than 10 minutes, speak softly and lie her back down nestled between her favorite stuffed animals. The idea here being that if I went in and didn't feed her, it would be even more puzzling and upsetting. This plan was to take action on a weekend, but never wound up being necessary.

A few nights prior to the weekend-in-mention, when Opal called out as usual, I felt like I was unable to play out the habit of feeding her for comfort, when she had just eaten a few hours earlier. What was fine and ordinary the night before simply ceased to be so. So I decided to see what would happen if I went in and comforted her without getting her out of her crib, without milk. I sang softly, lied my hands on her chest and said "time for sleep, honey" and left. A thunderous explosion of sobs ensued as I closed the door behind me and then, within moments, total silence.

She slept until 6:30am.

I only needed to go in for one more night to comfort her . Beyond that, her night-time peeps have been short (under 10 minutes) and un-agitated.

Piece of cake on her end. I even got the sense that she was a bit relieved at the prospect of no longer having her little sleep-abyss be disturbed to commute all the way to the rocking chair to nurse.

It seems, as with the last attempt at all-night sleeping, that it's me who requires the re-adjustment period. I still sleep with an ear-to-the-monitor, as if it's a piece of medical equipment I'm hooked up to. Not to mention that fact that my boobs require some adjustment time, as well. Having been used to feeding her in the night all these months, I've woken up on in a milk-puddle more than once and am required to get up and pump. Then I'm left lying awake for hours after the rigamarole of bottles and tubes. Also, 12 hours is a long time to go without checking on Opal—because checking on her inevitably wakes her up— and there have been a few mornings when she's kicked off her blanket and has popsicle-toes.

But the state of the (sleeping) union is good. Excellent. Border-line remarkable.
With the tiniest bit of effort, Opal has adapted swiftly and without resistance to sleeping through the night, from 7pm to, roughly, 6am without relying on milk to do so.
Mama (along with mama's boobs) is still— happily, willingly—in the process of adapting.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


It was one of those perfectly gorgeous summer days.
The sun gently toasted any exposed and vulnerable bits, arms and cheeks, dangling legs, the sky was perfectly polished and pockets of confetti-flowers bloomed on every corner.

We had just left the Shambhala Center where we'd gathered for a Children's Blessing, having mingled with kids of all ages, dispositions, demeanors.
My mother-in-law and I crossed the street, with Opal strapped to my belly, facing out, when I noticed what was happening behind the windshield of the car that'd stopped for us.

The driver was throwing a tantrum.

He shook his head fitfully and threw his upper-body against the steering wheel while grunting audibly through the open window. By the time we reached the other side, clearly at a pace not to his liking, he sped forward like a drunken drag-racer.

Watching a grown man throw a fit like that is quite a sight to behold. Very different from watching my almost-ten month old daughter, who is currently embarking on her own phase of tantrum-throwing, do the same.

When things don't go as she anticipates, or when she'd just plain rather be doing something else, —which is much of the time, frankly— she lets us know her opinion by intensely protesting. Getting in the carseat, for example, when she had it in her mind to stay on the floor and play with the farm-animal puzzle is met with arched-back squirming and wailing. Removing something from her little hands that she was interested in or moving her away from something of intrigue are actions that are met with the same response.

Clearly, her little mind it able to hold on to ideas and mental pictures like it hadn't before. Life is expanding from the exclusivity of simply here and now. She recognizes her little friends when we have play-dates. She shrieks when the dog-leash comes out with the expectancy of going out for a walk. (The leash renders a pavlovian response in both the baby and the dog, as a matter of fact.) She identifies her Ohio-family on the computer screen when we Skype and smiles a silly, tooth-flaunting grin when their 2-dimensional faces appear before her.

This new capacity for recognition and remembering is astounding.

Diaper changing is currently the most upsetting of all the daily rituals and the opposition begins before her booty even hits the table. The endearing squirms of a newly-mobile baby have recently shifted to animated distress; screaming, kicking, red-faced scowling, thigh-smacking and pushing herself over. Using every ounce of her baby-power to resist. A few rounds of this—ahem, especially when poop is involved— and I was beginning to wonder just how long I could put off the next diaper change.
Clearly something needed to change or else mommy would promptly commence to losing her mind.

Aside from occasionally needing to re-direct her from putting shoes in her mouth and pulling on electrical chords, discipline has simply not been a needed skill until now. But surmounting new territory—and making it up on the spot according to what a situation calls for—is nothing new.
In the case of diapering, a firm hand on the chest accompanied by a deep no with a head-shake seems to get the point across. She may continue to cry and throw anything she can grab against the wall, but she stops the wild swiveling, at least for long enough to accomplish the mission-at-hand. She may even settle completely, seeming relieved and even grateful, to let go of the depleting struggle.

Then we're all done.
We move on to the next thing and she sees the dog and screeches with glee and crawls towards her as fast as her little legs and arms will proceed, breathing heavily and preciously through her two front teeth..
Again, the world is wonderful, simple, accommodating place to be and there is no residue.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Baby-Proofing the World, In Real Time.

There she goes, crawls right passed me and, oops, she finds the basket of dog leashes and collars, tips it into a heap on the ground and waves a jingly handful in the air like a success story. I move her to a different spot which is met—predictably— with kicks, squirms and screams; her way of unmistakably letting me know how insulting the ordinary, already-plaid-with toys seem when juxtaposed against the myriad of forbidden fruit and untouched items. Like dog leashes. Dirty shoes. Keys. Love those keys.

Moments later she finds my basket of magazines and has the cover ripped from a current issue of the New Yorker before I am able to reach for it.

Then on to an area of upmost intrigue: an electrical outlet.
Electrical outlets are seductive in and of themselves, with their tiny nostril-holes that lead to seemingly nowhere, and the fact that they are often coupled with a chord only makes matters more appealing.

But let's back up a bit.

Opal flipped from back-to-front for the first time back in early June. Right away, I pulled out my Dr. Sear's bible, read through and dog-eared the pages on baby-proofing and commenced dutifully to Target to buy the largest combo-pack of baby-proofing items they sold (plug inserts, cabinet locks and door-knob covers). Though it took her nearly another two months to be able to travel on hands-and-knees with any sort of fervor, we were ready with our tiny arsenal of supplies—which, incidentally, helps to stave off at least some of the anxiety in anticipating the unknown.

Flash forward to Thursday, five days ago, when she executed her first real hands-and-knees crawl to Grammy, clunky and uncertain and so exciting that Grammy called me on the spot ( I was getting my hair cut). In the weeks leading up to that, she'd walk her arms forward and leave the knees behind until she wound up flat on her belly, where she'd stay for only moments before pushing herself back up to seated, scooting backwards for a while—because that's what worked—and trying again.

In the five days since her maiden shuffle, she's gone from tentative and wobbly to semi-confident power-crawler. Miraculously no longer unsure of her body's capabilities, she's able to pour her attention into targets and missions and how exactly to get there and complete the task at hand (read: examine and destroy).

Back to the electrical outlets. During breakfast with some friends, the day before yesterday, Opal crawled right up to the outlet, as all of us watched, and plucked out the outlet safety-cover as effortlessly as a golf tee from soft ground, holding it in the air with baby-pride as I swooped over to pick her up and re-locate.

Everyone gasped.
"New puzzle." Said Toby, good friend and baby-whisperer, in his usual unvarnished frankness and driveway-gravel voice. "We give them all these toys to play with that are essentially figure-it-out puzzles and then they find puzzles in the world around them and we say 'no way.'"

Too true.
Jesse and I had been playing a wonderful little game with her where we put something light on her head and then when she knocked it off, we'd tickle her. So eventually she anticipated the tickle and laughed just as, and then even before, she knocked the thing off her head. A totally adorable game, until she began pulling off her sun-hats, expecting a chuckle.
Ahem... no sweetie, you want to knock this thing off your head but not that thing. I reckon that might be a bit confusing for a little bambino.

I ran out that afternoon and bought a different brand of outlet-plugs, which she also had absolutely no trouble removing.
So the electrical plugs didn't get us very far.

(On the back of Outlet Plug #2 packaging, it says the following, and I quote: Children are curious and tempted to play with anything within their reach. These outlet covers are to be used only as a deterrent. These covers are not a substitute for proper adult supervision. Makes one wonder exactly what had to occur to compel a company to print such a thing directly on their packaging.)

Our dog's vet was just telling me how she paid some guy $100/hour to come and baby-proof her house for her daughter, who is 6 weeks younger than Opal. And that didn't include materials. She thought it was a worthwhile investment.

So...the report from Babyland is that everything has changed yet again.

Gone are the days of making breakfast while Opal sits on the floor with her basket of books, playing contentedly in one spot while I peek around the corner every minute simply to reassure her that I'm there. Gone are the days of setting her on the middle of the bed, where I can still see her from the bathroom, while I brush my teeth or do my business.
Sleeping has also become a very different beast since her newly blossomed skills have emerged. She paces the length of her crib like a tiny jailbird regardless of how exhausted she is. Last night at 2am, after a half hour of audible shuffling, I found her sobbing while sitting cross-legged in the corner of her crib as if she just couldn't quite figure out how to get back to being horizontal. I laid her back down between her bunny and gorilla and she was back to sleep in moments.

The unfamiliarity of it all and the knew level of required focus has me feeling a bit like I'm training for an athletic event that is totally out of my league.

But our little marvel is a sight worth saluting, her wide-fingered, boxy shuffle with the focus of a bird of prey inspires me to keep the video camera within arm's reach at all times. Just as it seemed as if she was born into a new-baby body when she went from a lying-down baby to a sitting-up baby, she now has hatched afresh as a quad-pedal being with the wits and curiosity of a feline with opposable thumbs.