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Coccoon Obsession

15 Dec

"The ashtray, this paddle game, and the remote control, and the lamp, and that's all I need."

In the early days, when Seabass was an infant hell bent on systematically whittling my endurance down to a quivering nub, I would have done anything to get him hooked on a “lovey.”  Unfamiliar with lovies?  Think Linus and his blanket.  Or Maggie and her pacifier.   Basically any tangible item that makes a child feel comforted and secure, other than MOM or BOOB.

While BabySleepSite.com suggests that a lovey “should ideally not be larger than [a baby’s] head nor have things that can fall off that he can choke on,” I was so desperate to calm our colicky Seabass down that I would have given him a chef’s knife if it might’ve helped.  When it came to settling him down, no suggestion went untried, from stroking his eyebrows (while he screamed) to dancing with him to Björk (while he screamed) to squirting breastmilk in his face (straight from the tap, I might add…while he screamed).

Little did we know that the source of Seabass’ comfort would come in the form of a circular blanket that my mom knitted – a coccoon, if you will. (For all you wild and crazy knitters out there, here’s a link to the pattern.) It all started when he started busting out of his swaddle blanket.  Afraid that he would get cold while he slept unswaddled, we used the coccoon from my mom to keep him warm.  Think of it as a baby sleeping bag.  Or a big blue sock. Or a Rastafarian beanie in which lengthy dredlocks make their home.

We used the coccoon consistently through last winter and into the spring, though eventually it became too small for wearing and was instead used for clutching.  Pretty soon we noticed that Seabass had formed a real attachment to the coccoon, trailing it behind him as he tromped around the house, in the backyard, wherever.  It was getting harder to wash because whenever I had time to chuck it in the washing machine, it was more than likely being snuggled during a nap.  Thus, a distinctive “aroma” has settled on the coccoon – one that is specific to Seabass’ needs in moments of uncertainty, exhaustion, or plain old fashioned fussiness.  I know this because he often takes deep hits off of it, smothering his face with what is becoming a ratty – and gamey – oversized sock.

Growing up, I never had a lovey, but I sucked the first and second fingers on my right hand until I was old enough to know better.  (Truth be told, I sometimes sniff those knuckles if I can’t fall asleep.  Don’t tell Jake.)  While it’s sometimes a nuisance to pick dead leaves, burrs, and God-knows-what-else out of Seabass’ coccoon after he wanders in with it from outside, I know what it is to be comforted by something as simple as a blanket.  Much as I may mock the smell wafting off his coccoon, it probably smells a lot like me: It squishes between us as I rock my little boy to sleep each night and as we greet each morning.  For that, I take his obsession as a compliment.

Nest pendant winner…and a Miracle Blanket giveaway

5 Nov

Note: Before you go zooming to the middle of the page to see who won, please be warned that there is yet ANOTHER giveaway challenge at the bottom of the page.  Don’t miss out.  Okay, that is all.

There’s a beautiful little term I like to use for getting more than you bargained for: unintended consequences. 

This term aptly describes what happened with the little nest pendant giveaway for which I’m supposed to announce the winner today.  I never really planned what the question would be to enter the challenge – I sort of came up with it off the cuff, on a whim, on the fly.  The unintended consequence was that you all responded so beautifully and with such emotion-inducing responses that I’ve been dreading this day.  So well done, you amazing bunch of tough-as-nails parents.  Sheesh.

Before I announce the winner, I need to make a few shout-outs:

  • To Caroline, whose comment was the most artfully written, and whose sentiment resonated with me profoundly.  The only reason she’s not winning the pendant is that she’s my best friend and it would look weird if I awarded it to her.  So I’m giving her a pendant for Christmas instead.  Win-win.
  • To Judi, whose breezy comment imparted long-term perspective on what it means not only to be a mother, but to be a liver of life.
  • To Monica, who is quite simply the hardest-corest mom of all time.
  • To Jen in SLO for the hilarious tale of being a stand-in mommy.
  • And to Harry, for taking the plunge, giving his daughter away in marriage, and being the sole male to respond to my challenge.

And now, the winner of the nest pendant is…

KIMBERLY MASSE!

Kim, you won our hearts and prayers with your story.  Thank you for sharing your ordeal, and I hope that the addition of a little bling to your life brings you some much-deserved joy.

And thank you to EVERYONE for participating.  What a treat to hear your stories and be humbled by your courage.

 —————–

Now, for something completely different.  The good people at Miracle Blanket have offered me a new blanket to give to one lucky winner!  Do you remember how I feel about this product?  That it helped Seabass to sleep so well that I considered buying stock in the company?  That it kept me from putting him up for adoption?  (That’s a joke, now – c’mon people.)  If you are an expectant parent, know an expectant parent, have a newborn or know someone with a newborn, this is the giveaway for you.  Here’s how it works:

  • First, you need to FAVORITE Miracle Blanket on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/MiracleBlanket.
  • Then, you need to LIKE Miracle Blanket on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/MiracleBlanket.
  • Last, you need to coerce a new person into subscribing to my blog, www.higherhighslowerlows.com.  Whether that’s you or a friend, I don’t care.  But if it’s a friend, make sure they comment on the blog and mention you by name so you both get a chance to win.  See the comments below for an example I’ve posted.

All this business needs to happen by midnight CST Monday.  I’ll send my winner’s name to Miracle Blanket the next morning.  The winner will be posted Tuesday afternoon after 2pm CST on Miracle Blanket’s Twitter and Facebook sites. Each winner will have 24 hours to respond. The only way they will know if they won is to watch our Facebook and Twitter sites. If they do not respond they lose the prize.  The contest is open to the U.S. and Canada.  (Sorry international folks – their rules, not mine.)

Good luck, and happy subscribing!

Apology Thursday: I WAS WRONG

21 Oct

One of the things that destroys my faith in politicians the fastest is their frequent inability to admit they were wrong.  My skin crawls when the evidence is stacked against them but they still refuse to confess the error of their ways. 

These are the thoughts that run through my head on this Thursday morning following a long, painful Wednesday. 

The moment I clicked “PUBLISH” on yesterday’s post, I knew I was making a whopper of a mistake – long before any of the dissenting comments showed up.  But when they inevitably did, they only served to reinforce what I’d already been feeling about my harsh, abrasive words.  So please, dear blogosphere, allow me to apologize.  I was wrong.

The only people I know better than anyone else on the planet are 1) Jake, and 2) Seabass.  Aside from them, there is no one I know well enough to advise on any facet of life.  Especially unsolicited.  Remember when I said I didn’t want unsolicited advice from anyone?  Yeah.  Bit of my own medicine, that.

I have no right to claim that my way is any better than anyone else’s.  No really, I mean it.  Furthermore, I have no “authority” to make broad, generalized claims about anyone’s parenting.  So what if I taught piano lessons for 17 years?  (Though I would like to say that some of my students WERE “horrible, miserable burdens to society,” and I would prefer that Seabass, well…doesn’t turn out like them.  Nuff said.)  I am the mother of a 5 1/2-month-old child, not God.  Big difference.

The purpose of this blog was never to rile parents up or cause division; It was meant to bring us together over the highs and lows of bringing up little human beings.  I don’t know why it changed.  Maybe because we’re all so different and it’s hard not to take note of our diverse styles?  Or because I’ve felt attacked for my style and feel the need to retaliate?  Or because I’m bored and need more drama in my life?  Not sure.

In any case, I hope you’ll find my apology sincere and forgive me for the obnoxious way I’ve thrown my opinions around.  As penance, I’d like to publish this photo that Jake took of me when I first woke up one morning. 

My olive branch.

 

Yup.  That ought to make up for whatever harm I’ve done.

Controversy Wednesday: CRYING IT OUT

20 Oct

Does this child look maladjusted to you?

Type the words “cry it out” into Google and you’ll find a dizzying array of opinions.  Applications such as the Ferber Method (aka “ferberizing” – a horrible, kinda dirty-sounding verbization), and Babywise are both lauded and demonized for their approach to babies’ inevitable bouts of crying.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of making such difficult decisions, “crying it out” is letting an infant cry alone until they fall asleep, usually starting some time between four to six months of age.  Some folks appreciate this method as it tends to nip baby’s nightwaking in the bud.  But there is a large and very vocal cross-section of the public for whom crying it out is akin to child abuse. 

Witness this excerpt from an article written for BabyCenter.com, a clearing-house of information and authority on the subject of infant parenting:

Anyone who advises you to let your baby cry until he gives up and falls asleep is focusing on the baby’s behavior (going to sleep all alone) and not on how the baby feels in the process. The problem is that when infants are left to cry themselves to sleep, they are forced to conclude that they are not lovable enough to engage their parents’ desires to comfort them. If they actually stop crying, it is because they have abandoned all hope that help will come.

Then later on:

Once you see that you were right to worry about leaving your baby to cry and that the interruptions to your sleep caused by tending to him are both beneficial to him and time-limited, then, even though you are tired, you will have more reason to make the effort to go to your baby and try to help him to sleep comfortably.

Now, to be fair to BabyCenter.com, I should share that this article is written by guest authors Martha and William Pieper, who are identified as “emotional health and well-being experts” on the site.  That’s a pretty broad title.  So I decided to look further into their creds.  Turns out they’re both psycotherapists with more degrees than Farenheit.  And they’ve written a book called Smart Love: The Compassionate Alternative to Discipline That Will Make You a Better Parent and Your Child a Better Person.

As if you couldn’t already tell from the title, this book argues that “‘tough love’ doesn’t work, and that parents will get more cooperation if they focus on their child’s inner happiness and ‘avoid unnecessary confrontations with children about behavior for which they will eventually assume responsibility.'”

Here comes the part where I opine.  Remember: it’s Controversy Wednesday!

To begin with, let me cover my bases.  It wouldn’t be fair for me to assume that everyone who is against crying it out is in the same camp as the Piepers.  Nor would it be fair for me to state that every child who isn’t left to cry it out will become a little terror.  But the truth is that there are parents in the same camp as the Piepers whose children will become horrible, miserable burdens to society.

How do I know this?  I know because I’ve met them.  Having taught piano lessons to a wide spectrum of little people for over 17 years, I can say with authority that the children of parents who subscribe to the approach outlined in books like Smart Love tend to be reckless, insensitive to everything and everyone else around them, maniacal, loud, self-involved, and wild.  They throw atomic fits wherever – the grocery store, other people’s homes, the doctor’s office, the middle of the street – while their parents speak in soft voices attempting to appease them.  Out of a fear of crushing their spirit or squelching their soul, these parents allow their children to do just about anything they want at just about anyone’s expense

And what changes when these kids grow up?  Not much, unfortunately.  A total lack of discipline and negative consequences during childhood leads to an adulthood of entitlement and chronic unrest. I am acquainted with some of these adults.  And I can guarantee that I would have been one of them if it were not for the discipline and structure I was provided as a young, feverishly selfish child.

Now, what does this have to do with crying it out? 

First, I’ll say that crying it out was the method we used for our dear, sweet Seabass.  I say “was” the method because we only had to use it for about three days when he turned four months old.  (Any younger than that is considered too young by many authorities.)  After that?  No more crying.  Only sleeping.  Our baby sleeps like a little champion and wakes up rested, refreshed, and full of smiles – not morose and feeling “unloved” as the Piepers would have me believe.  (I honestly don’t know how he could feel unloved.  I am head-over-heels for that boy.)

I am not an expert on this.  I only know what I’ve seen, and I’ve seen that crying it out has made Seabass’ life, my life, Jake’s life – heck, even the dog’s life – so much better.  I like how Dr. Weissbluth, author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, describes a child’s need for sleep as equally important to a child’s need for any other sort of care.  Seabass can’t feed himself – I have to help him.  He also couldn’t fall asleep himself (remember the swing post?) – so I helped him.  I didn’t refrain from going into him as he cried because I wanted to sleep.  (How could I have slept through that?!?)  I refrained because I believed that allowing Seabass this temporary discomfort would provide him with a lifetime of good rest.  In other words, I decided that crying it out would yield a better return on my investment than constantly giving Seabass what he wanted.

And that’s what parenting is, isn’t it? Making loving (and often self-sacrificial) decisions that protect a child from harm despite their short-sighted desires for instant gratification.  Those children I described at the top of the page?  The ones who never see negative consequences to their actions?  Yeah, they were given everything they wanted, and then some.  Pretty soon, they’ll be the same people cutting you off on the freeway, teaching your grandkids and running for office. 

But enough outta me.  What do you think?

He’s rolling over. Yippee?

23 Sep

Suited-up and ready for roll-training.

About a month ago, I went to my mom’s group and marveled at how many of the babies were already rolling over.  I came home and told Jake.

“Huh,” he mused.  “Are any of them not rolling over?” he asked nervously.

“Yes, just one,” I answered.  “Our son.”

This was my first mistake.  Developmentally, Seabass was right on track; it can take anywhere from two to six months for the average baby to roll over.  But the fact that ours was the only non-rolling baby didn’t sit well with Jake.  No, not at all.  And thus began roll-training.

In preparation for this exercise, Jake would spread a play blanket down on the floor and then lay little Seabass on his back surrounded by plenty of toys to reach for.  At the beginning, the poor dude just lay there staring at Jake as if to say, “Now what do you want?”  But soon the building blocks for rolling started to fall into place and we were thrilled at our wee one’s progress.

That is, until we put two and two together.  Seabass+rolling over=laying on tummy=end of the world.  Allow me to explain.

Despite our attempts to acclimatize Seabass to laying on his stomach during “tummy time” (a practice that is meant to strengthen baby’s neck and back muscles), the little fish hates hates hates to be face down.  In a matter of mere seconds he unravels.  He grunts.  He wheezes.  He plants his face in the floor and lets out painful, muffled shreiks.  Worst of all, he never seems to get used to it.  “Tummy time” may as well be called “Pit of hell baby torture time,” because that’s exactly how it looks.

But no, it never occurred to us that this was where the roll-training would eventually lead.  Ergo when Seabass howled frantically in his bed last week, I could not for the life of me imagine what was wrong.  And then I saw him: face down, arms swimming and feet kicking.  “Oh my goodness, he did it!” I whispered to myself, elated.  “And he’s furious.”

Try as we might to get Seabass to enjoy his pit of hell baby torture time, he just doesn’t.  Interestingly, though, he absolutely loves the whole rolling-over bit.  There has been many a nap in which I’ve rescued a face-down screaming Seabass only to watch him  roll back over the moment he’s left to himself.  The desire to move forward developmentally is stronger than the desire not to cry, apparently.  Or maybe he’s just not thinking.

Whatever the reason, I can’t take it anymore.  Yesterday’s naps where toast due to the roll-and-freak-out scenario, which meant that nighttime sleep was fragmented and weird.  After weeks of waking only once in 12 hours to feed Seabass, last night I had to wake up four – count ’em: FOUR – times.  Not surprisingly, I find myself longing for the days when all this kid could do was blink.

But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy seeing Seabass’ little tush in the air when I walk into the nursery.  It’s a funny thing, baby development.  One moment you’re wishing he could reach the next big milestone, and the next moment you’re wishing he would just stay put.

In This Episode, Sleep Consultants Restore Mommy’s Will to Live

12 Aug

Seabass in his Jersey Shore costume.

Seasoned blog writers advise never to open a post with “Sorry I haven’t posted anything lately.”  So, I’m not gonna be the chump who says that.

But if I were to say that, believe you me, there is a very good reason.  Two words: SLEEP TRAINING.

As I mentioned before, the itty-bitty Seabass is quite a good sleeper.  From the time he was just four weeks old he took a monster nap of three hours in the afternoon, with catnaps here and there in the morning.  It was great because I could plan to wash the dishes, take a nap, or prepare dinner all in that three-hour span.  That is, until two weeks ago.

I started noticing that Seabass was waking up after only 45 minutes of his so-called monster nap and NOT going back to sleep.  Not cool when mommy’s in the middle of triangle pose and trying to regain her sense of serenity.  If only that were the extent of the problem.  No, the worst part was that our little guy became – all over again – an outright, one-hundred percent, take-no-prisoners pain in the butt from sun-up to sun-down due to lack of sleep.  And I was on the brink.

A good friend recommended Dr. Weissbluth’s Healthy Sleep Habit, Happy Child, and I had found it to be an excellent resource in the early weeks of Seabass’ life.  But when I went to this helpful reference for solutions to the current issues of short naps and an all-around unhappy son, the writing just didn’t compute for me.  This is no fault of Dr. Weissbluth’s, mind you.  My brain, I believe, had officially turned into mush.

I’d had so much success with consultants in the area of lactation that I kept thinking If only there were sleep consultants, too.  On one especially difficult day, I decided to Google “Dr. Weissbluth sleep consultation” and what should I find but a sleep consultancy based out of Stamford, Connecticut, that uses Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child as its bible.  Eureka.

I set up a one-hour long phone discussion with Deborah Pedrick, founder of FamilySleep.com last Thursday, not without some skepticism but desperate for help.  The conversation cost $100 and a day of follow-up emails would be $35.  When I asked Jake if our budget could withstand a $100 phone call, he looked into my bloodshot, teary eyes and declared, “We’ll take out a loan if we have to.”

The baby was rocking happily in his swing where I knew I wouldn’t hear from him for at least an hour, so I sat down with pen, paper, and a pitiful little lunch to eat while listening to Deb’s wisdom.  And here’s what she told me:

Big Shocker #1: Motionless sleep is best. In other words, get rid of the swing.  Gulp.

Big Shocker #2: Seabass can only really handle one hour awake before he needs to be soothed back to sleep.  That is all the little guy can take before erupting.

Big Shocker #3: You can’t force the length of Seabass’ naps.  He is his own fish, and everyone else just needs to deal.

Big Shocker #4: Around four months of age, Seabass will (fingers, toes and everything else crossed) start to sleep longer and stay awake happily for longer.

I am tempted to ask for a money-back guarantee on that last one, but I think I can trust Deborah because (drumroll, please!) I am happy to report that for the past week, the consultation has absolutely paid off.  No more swing, no more swaddled naps (he’s still swaddled for night sleep – we’re working on that one), and no more fuss-fuss-fuss-crash, fuss-fuss-fuss-crash.  Don’t get me wrong: it isn’t easy.  In fact, it takes a buttload of work.  Seabass’ soothing routine can sometimes drag on for 30 minutes for a measly 30-minute nap, and we do that upwards of four times a day.

Moreover, Deborah instructs me to “catch the wave” of sleepiness before it crashes.  To do that, I need to look for a tell-tale sign that Seabass is tired, but not overtired.  For me, that signal is a yawn.  Once the kid yawns, I’d better be within arm’s length of his crib, or else.  So suffice it to say we’ve been home an awful lot for the last week.

But guess what?  He’s sleeping nine hours at a stretch each night.  That’s right: NINE.  (I know I’m not supposed to brag because it’s rude.  Did I mention that my boy now sleeps NINE HOURS every night?)  So what if I don’t have a life outside of my little house?  At least I’m well-rested.  And so is my baby!  Nothing makes me happier than to walk into Seabass’ room to find him happily chirping away instead of wailing.  That is priceless, priceless.

This phenomenon has impressed me so much that I’ve been proselytizing the benefits of sleep consultation all over town.  And why?  Because Deborah gave me a plan I could implement with confidence. As a new parent, I’ve second-guessed every decision I made on my own.  I know everyone says “just trust your instincts” but my instincts have been known to tell me to lock the screaming Seabass in a closet and hitchhike to Mexico.  So I tend to disregard them.

Maybe it’s the fact that I had to spend money to get the plan.  Maybe it’s the fact that Deborah touted herself as an infant sleep expert – a pretty gutsy move in my opinion.  I don’t know where the faith and persistence came from.  But I do know one thing.

My boy’s sleeping nine hours straight through the night, and I’m a happy mama.

Good Stuff #4: Swing aka Welcome to the Machine

2 Aug

Looks a little like something from The Matrix.

Years ago, long before the thought of having children was anything less than distantly ludicrous to me, a friend told me how much she enjoyed it when her little boy had a low-grade fever.  It sounded vaguely cruel to me until she explained why: “Because then he lets me hold him.”

Ahh, the un-cuddle-able child.  Now I can identify.  Having a baby who doesn’t enjoy being held is one of the most difficult things I’ve had to come to terms with as a new mom.  In the first few weeks of C’s little life, I heard complaints from other moms along the lines of,  “My arms are going to fall off” or, “If I put the baby down, she cries until I pick her up again.”   Hearing this aroused an insane jealousy in me.  Maybe it’s my fault, I thought.  Maybe Seabass just doesn’t like meHis own mother.

Why would I think such crazy thoughts? Because more often than not, when Seabass cries it’s because he wants desperately to be put down, not picked up.  But he doesn’t want to be put down into something motionless.  No, no, it has to be moving, always moving, majorly moving, gotta move, let’s move move MOVE OR ELSE I’LL SCREAM AND YELL AND SHRIEK AND MAKE ONLOOKERS THINK IT’S JUST A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES KNOCKS ON YOUR DOOR, LADY.

So, to keep Mr. C happy and moving up until the last moments of consciousness every night, I swaddle him up like a mummy, nurse him, and then place him in a cradle swing made by Fisher-Price called the “Starlight Papasan” (whose name kind of creeps me out, but I’ll leave Fisher-Price to deal with any vernacular confusion on that one).  Sure, I’d rather cuddle and rock him to sleep in my arms, but that just ain’t in the cards.

Pre-baby, I’d heard many of the so-called experts preach that swings are evil machines because they lull babies to sleep unnaturally.  Well, after unnaturally lulling Seabass to sleep with success for 12 weeks now, all I have to say is bring on the evil machines. (I swear, if we discovered that feeding Dran-o to Seabass was even marginally safe for calming him down, we’d give it some thought.)

Thank goodness that despite his irrational colicky craziness, our precious boy is actually a very good sleeper once he’s down.  There have been mornings into afternoons into evenings of constant struggle and pain, but they always end with little C asleep and at peace with the world, at least for three hours at a time.  In fact, for the last two nights the little tyke has slept seven and a half hours straight.  Glory be!  (I can hear the mocking laughter of you parents out there who know this will not last.  But please, allow me my moment of vain hope.)

Good question: What happens when the motor can no longer support Seabass’ heft?  The manual says the Starlight Papasan can handle anything up to 22 lbs, but it’s already creaking along with a good amount of effort at 15+ lbs.  Better question: What happens when Seabass decides he doesn’t like the swing anymore?  I literally do not know what I’ll do when and if that happens.

Panic, I guess.  And probably cry a lot.