Saturday, March 10, 2012

Enjoying the Little Things

Willow loves to eat her baby food and to try new finger foods. She just can't get enough of whatever we're giving her!
I walked in the room to see Adam giving Willow sips of water from this gigantic cup. She doesn't mind at all.

I think it was bedtime at this point. She was a little out-of-sorts by this point in the evening and ready to get some rest.

It was a relatively peaceful Saturday. We planned on going out to shop and eat, but ended upstaying home to play and relax with baby Willow. At this point in our day, Adam changed herdiaper and decided to not dress Willow afterwards. This was probably Willow's favorite part ofthe day. She loves to be naked and free! She played for a while in just her diaper until I saidthat it was too cold to be going about her day without any clothes. She was pretty upset abouthaving to put her outfit back on and let me know her feelings.

Willow is obsessed with this ribbon. It is supposed to go on the head of her dolly, but she likesto take it off and chews on it.

Uh oh! The ribbon got stuck on her tooth--she thought that was hysterical!

So sweet. Willow is learning to like books. She likes to play with her board books by pickingthem up, kissing them, patting their pages. Willow lets me read several books to her everyday.I really enjoy her reactions (although sometimes she is more engaged than other times), andher willingness to interact with the pictures.

Of schedules and stuff. Before I was a mom, I used to wonder if I would be able to know how to manage a baby's schedule. I had confidence in that I could care for a baby, but how do you know what to do and when to do it exactly? This was a point of unspoken insecurity, mixed with a little fear of the unknown. So, of course I did some good old fashioned research about what to do with a newborn/growing baby and the various view points related to the whens and hows of raising an infant. I had a fairly open mind, and since nothing really convinced me during my pre-baby research phase, I decided to just sit back and see what happened once Willow arrived. I also had the mindset of knowing jet lag was going to be a frequent factor and so lowered my expectations for sleep/routine/schedules. Here are some insights that I have realized over the past several months since becoming a mom:

1. A mother's instinct is a resource that I didn't expect to come by so naturally. Certain aspects that I thought would be tricky, actually were not at all.
2. Baby's schedules change so much as they grow. Naps become less frequent, play becomes more active, and eating habits develop too. Don't fall in love with a certain schedule, because it's going to evolve in a few weeks anyway.
3. Flexibility needs to be balanced with structure. Life happens, and babies can start to learning how to go-with-the-flow.
4. Sleeping through the night and sleeping in are a thing of the past. Even if you have the ability to sleep through the night (because your baby is sleeping well), you will probably still wake up. Either in a panic (why hasn't my baby cried yet?), or some deep instinct to make sure your baby is covered, breathing, and comfy.
5. Expect to become a morning person. Even if it takes a good 2 hours to get out of that groggy state, you will be relatively happy to be up and about in the early morning because that's when your baby will most likely be the happiest and most playful.
6. Listen to your baby's cues and trust your parental instincts. I think God blessed parents with a special ability to tune into their kids' needs--especially early on when they aren't able to communicate through words. I think some parents (like myself), doubt that they will be able to decipher the 'code'. While others, suppress, ignore, or neglect it.

Willow went through the newborn phase, where she was sleeping, eating, sleeping, eating--it felt like a never-ending, tiring cycle where I was on constant demand to meet her basic needs. Of course, I had lots of help from family and friends, but I was still exhausted and a little insane. I had to keep reminding myself to try to enjoy those moments, because I knew they would be over soon. And they are.

Then, she became a four nap baby. It was great! She was sleeping in the early morning, late morning, afternoon, evening, and then for the night. She started sleeping through the night at 8 weeks old, without any 'training' from me. She just started doing it--sleeping up to eleven glorious hours without waking up.

All good things must come to an end. She went down to three naps a day, and started waking up several times a night. This change was concurrent with her ability to roll over. She was constantly wiggling and rolling herself into impossible situations in her crib--and would wake up in panic-mode. She was also going through an insane growth spurt (I mean, it was insane how much she grew), and teething. I found myself missing sleep again, and resented all the late night crying fests. Yet, I reminded myself again--"enjoy these moments, this too will pass". And it did.

We were on jet lag. She was sort of sleeping through the night and napping, but every day was different from the last and I never knew what to expect. Just when things started to even out a little, we were on jet lag again. However, due to a long lay over which caused us to stay in a hotel, we were able to adjust amazingly well to the time change and were over jet lag in less than a week.

Then she was a two nap baby. She was waking up every night, an hour after bedtime so that she could scream for an hour...every...night. And as I would hold her and rock her, I would remind myself--"enjoy this moment--someday you wont get to hold her like this anymore". I would sing soothing songs--more for myself than for her--because I'm severely lacking in patience. Enjoy this. Enjoy this. ENJOY THIS!!! I would demand it of myself. Enjoy her cuddly body, her willingness to let you hold her, her chubby cheek on your shoulder, her sweaty head by your nose....Enjoy this, Julie. You can do it. And then when I couldn't do it anymore, I told Adam in desperation, "your turn". Because, let's face another truth, I'm not a perfect mom. I'm probably not even a good mom. But I'm learning how, and I try not to beat myself up over all my failures. Recently, I read a proposed schedule as the 'ideal' schedule for a breastfed baby who was 8 months old, oldest child, with a stay at home mom. I was surprised to find that Willow and I were following a very similar routine. It surprised me because I don't really adhere to any proposed schedules--just do what feels natural--and it really spoke to my insecurities. I thought, 'hmmm, I must be doing something right'.

Tonight was the third night in a row that Willow hasn't woken up an hour after her bedtime to scream like a banshee. I'm thrilled, but also a little sad. Because with each new change in her habits, I know she's getting older and she's one day farther away from being the little baby I held last July for the first time.

So, a year ago when I was trying to figure out how baby schedules worked, I never would have dreamed it would be this easy--or this difficult. I never would have realized how deep a superficial thing like 'schedules' goes, or how formulated my opinions about them would become. Before, I had an open mind about different methods that are floating around out there--any one of them could have been the 'right' one. Now, I'm pretty convinced that the baby led routine is amazing and has worked really well for how our family operates. We intersperse it with a few parent-led practices too (for instance, bed time is now a pretty structured event). It has made jet lag easier to get over, and it has encouraged me to watch for my baby's cues for when she's hungry or tired. It has helped me to bond with Willow so much, and given my personal schedule (which changes a lot from day to day) more flexibility. I enjoy nursing her to sleep. I like rocking her when she cries. It's a special time that won't last for much longer.

That was a lot about schedules, but I don't want to get wrapped up in HOW a day should look that I forget to LOOK at the day itself. If I could talk to myself last year at this time, I would encourage the younger me to take it easy: be flexible with your time, with your method, with your baby, and with your own expectations. Be ready to sacrifice your own wants and needs for the sake of another. Be ready to confront the most selfish person you've ever met on a daily basis--and realize that it isn't your baby, it's you. When you are ready to throw the towel in because your baby wont stop crying and you're tired beyond words, frustrated at the world, and disappointed at yourself--remember that you are influencing a little life and their ability to adhere to your wants is irrelevant. Live in the moment by focusing on the big picture. I don't claim to have any of this down to an art, and I'm far from perfect--but I'm enjoying this learning process. I'm very aware that I'm a young mom, still figuring things out.



  1. Wow, Julie! Thanks for posting this. Even though we don't have a little one yet, it was so encouraging to read your words of wisdom! This will be a frequent read for us once we have our own.

  2. I really, REALLY wish we didn't live on different continents. Because, oh momma, I feel like you and I just have so much in common with raising these crazy children of ours.
    You inspire me, living in a country where you don't speak much of the language and are at home with Willow all the time--I don't know how you get out without having a panic attack. I still panic if I'm taking Jameson out somewhere that is unfamiliar by myself.
    You are a great mom, especially for doing what Willow needs you to do. Sleep is the bane of my existence (and the thing I long for the most), and I can relate to trying to force yourself to enjoy it as much as possible. And sometimes you just cannot bring yourself to do it any longer. Ugh.
    Anyway, this is so ramble-y, but as I'm catching up on your blog I just couldn't help but let you know that I identify with you so strongly and wish that we could be doing this motherhood thing in a closer proximity than we are now!

    1. Am I finally responding to your sweet comment after all these months? Why, yes I am! You get that, though. I know we always say this, but it deserves to be repeated--I identify with your writing so strongly as well. In my ideal little neighborhood, we would be neighbors and would enjoy all sorts of conversations while our kids played together. People might think they are siblings--and we would just laugh.