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One year old

14 Jul

40 weeks.

Yesterday, Chris and I kept looking at the clock. “At this time last year, we were checking into the hospital.” “Now we’re deciding whether to take the Cervadil or not.” “Now we’re switching rooms.” “Now you’re going out for a beer and a sandwich.” (That one was Chris.) Abby was born at 3.37 in the morning on July 14th, and all I could feel was relief: it was over. According to books and movies, I was supposed to have a moment when everything changed. I was supposed to take one look at the tiny, screaming bundle lying on my chest and suddenly realize that the world was full of danger, that my life counted for nothing in comparison with this little life that I now had to keep safe, I was supposed to be blindsided by love for this stranger that I had just met. I felt none of those things. I felt relief, but I also felt recognition. When she was lying on my chest moving her head from side to side with those so-familiar jerky, stretching movements like she couldn’t figure out where she was and what had changed, I recognized her. I recognized the way she moved because that’s how she moved when she was inside of me. I knew her tiny limbs already. I didn’t need to meet her, because I already knew her.

About 7 hours old.

As those hours changed into days, I lost some of that feeling. She was a difficult baby at first, and when I was holding her at three in the morning as she screamed unconsolably, as I desperately, ineffectually tried to get to her nurse, I felt completely alien from the creature who needed me so intensely without even knowing it, who knew only that something was wrong. The first night we were home from the hospital, I wandered the downstairs with her all night as Chris slept upstairs to rest for an interview for a job that he didn’t get. She cried and cried, and I cried. I looked at our table filled with flowers and cards from our loving family and friends and I sobbed, because those cards and flowers were full of hope and congratulations, and I hadn’t slept in three days and I just knew, from the bottom of my heart, that I couldn’t do it. And I had to. I had never experienced that feeling so profoundly, that lethal “and” rather than “but”: I could not do it, and I had to.

Crying, as usual.

Little by little, of course, imperceptibly, it changed. We figured out how to get her arms through her onesies. Nursing became routine and comfortable. She started enjoying her baths. She smiled, and then laughed. She sat up, and then stood. She reached for toys, then learned to drop them, and bang them. She ate a banana, and then a mango, and then lentils, cheese, meatballs, crackers, strawberries, blueberries, hummus, and quesadillas. She figured out how to take things out, and then put them back in. She scooted and then crawled. She said “Dada” and “Dog.” She took a step and then a few more. She slept through the night. She waved when we said “Bye-bye.” She learned to hug her doll and then us. She gave kisses. And now when she nurses, she smiles and pats my face.

Before she was born, I resented a little that she would have Chris’s name, since after all the work of carrying and bearing her, I hated to think that she would take another name and lose her connection with me, in name becoming part of a different family. We even thought about giving her both our last names (I didn’t change my name), but decided in the end that she would just have Chris’s. I wanted her to have that connection with her father, of course, but I also realized that it was because I bore her that she didn’t need my name. Even now, she doesn’t like to be too far away from me; she doesn’t say “Mama” because, to her, she and I are still hardly two separate people. I look at her sometimes, when her face is very close to mine, and I recognize that I will never know another person as intimately as I know her. Next year will change that. She’ll grow up and away from me, from both of us, and while I can’t wait to see that happen and to see her day by day become even more herself, I am so grateful for this year. I grew her in my womb and on my breast; she is the child of my body and my heart. And this year, she was mine.

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Didymos knock-off, and a tutorial!

23 Jun

A while ago at the library, I admired another woman’s long wrap, which she told me was a Didymos sling. If you follow that link, you’ll find out, as I did, that they are hideously expensive. After briefly considering making my own, I decided just to make do with what I had, which you may remember from my lengthy babywearing post–until we were in New York a couple of weekends ago, and it became abundantly clear that Abby had outgrown all the options I had at hand. I tried carrying her in the Ergo (front carry), and, while it worked, I wanted to keel over after about three blocks. I tried the back carry, but the weight was too low and I hated the way the belt strap dug into my not-as-sleek-as-it-used-to-be midsection.

After a rather humiliating experience at Joann’s, when I discovered that I could not, in fact, use a 40% off coupon on some lovely sale linen, I ordered six yards of linen from fabric.com and came up with this:


Yes, blurry iPhone pic, but it makes the point. I love it! Abby likes it too. I can’t say that she likes it better than the stroller, but getting her on my back and lugging the stroller down the steps and out the door actually take about the same amount of time. Would you like to make your own? I feel a little silly posting a tutorial for this since it’s so easy, but here goes!

1. Order yerself some fabric. I used six yards, but the Didymos measurements for a size 6, which is the largest that an average sized woman would need to wrap all the carries, is about 5 yards. I may end up chopping a bit off of mine, because it’s very long. The fabric should be lightweight and firm; no knits. I really like the linen, but you could also use a loosely woven but sturdy cotton.

2. Wash and dry.

Weird lighting picture. The color is much closer to the other pictures.

3. Rrrrrrrrip. The Didymos slings are between 27 and 28 inches wide. Since my fabric was a 60″, ripping in half worked perfectly and gave me two inches for hemming. If you have 44″, you’ll need to do a little measuring and cut so that your piece is 30 inches wide. Ripping is really the easiest option here, and it’ll give you a nice straight edge. Make a small cut on a non-selvedge side and just rip it in half.

4. Iron. I didn’t bother ironing any but the ripped edge, because I knew it would just get wrinkled again right away and, anyway, linen never looks really pressed. So, iron a few inches in from the cut edge.

5. Cut. The Didymos slings are cut in the shape of a parallelogram to make the knots easier to tie and to hang more nicely. So get out your scissors and cut. I estimated by marking fifteen inches in from the top edge on the left side, and fifteen inches in from the bottom edge on the right side. Then, I cut diagonally from my mark to the edge of the fabric. I should have taken a picture of this, but I didn’t. Here’s a picture of the remnants.

6. Baste. Sew a line of basting stitches about a half inch in or so in from the long ripped edge.

7. Fold and Iron. Using the line of basting stitches as a guide, fold the raw edge over an inch, and then over an inch again. Press!

8. Sew. Using a medium stitch length–about a 3 out of 4 on my cheap machine–hem close to the edge of where you folded over.

This one comes with a dog hair and wobbly stitching!

9. Sew some more. To make the folded edge sturdier, sew another line down really near the edge of the fold. If you have the time and the patience, I think a few more rows of stitching would also help. What makes the Didymos slings expensive (I think) is partly that their looms make the fabric just the right size, so there’s a selvedge on both sides. The selvedge is nice and firm to make the wrapping tight. So, anything you can do to make the edge of your wrap nice and sturdy is great!


10. Fix up the short ends (the parallelogram ends). I decided to let mine ravel, since I’m working with linen. If you want to do that too, sew two lines of basting stitches about an inch or so in. Otherwise, fold and hem as for the long edge.

Action shot!

11. Watch one of these youtube videos, and wrap your baby!

Double hammock carry:

Rucksack carry:

Alma Mater

6 Jun

Here I am on my old college campus, sitting outside my very first dorm. If you had told me as a freshman that a decade later I’d be nursing my baby on that same bench where (sorry, parents) I used to sit and smoke, I’d never have believed it. But there I was.

The No-Method Method to Getting Your Baby From Place to Place

12 May

I try really hard not to be judgy. When people push giant strollers into library storytime, I tell myself that a) maybe they have back problems, or b) maybe they live close by and walked. I do, however, have a general preference for baby carriers, both for convenience and because I’m sold on the benefits. In fact after we stopped using the frame stroller and infant car seat, we didn’t even have a stroller for a while. (I love my baby; why would I want to push her away from me?)

Anyway, the result is that I’ve used a wide variety of baby carriers in the past ten months–although not nearly as many as people who are really committed to the cause–and I’ve developed some strong preferences. Here they are, in order of my encounter with them:

Infant carseat

Pros: If the baby falls asleep, she can be transferred easily back to the car. Some babies sleep better in a slightly upright position. Can be placed on shopping cart (not a recommended use).

Cons: Pretty much everything else: flat head syndrome, lack of adult interaction, turns baby into furniture, leaves baby exposed to germy fingers, heavy and awkward. Ugh, I really don’t like these things.

Moby wrap

I chopped my face off because this is about seven days pp and I look JACKED. You can still see the tape and bruise on my arm from the IV.

Pros: Lots of carrying options. Can be used by parents of any size. Baby feels very secure in it. Comes in many exciting colors and patterns. Doesn’t bind your arms.

Cons: A little hard to wrap–not really spontaneous, unless you get really good at it. Hard to manage after baby hits 15 pounds or so (for me). Abby was not a fan at first. Continue reading

Parenting Through the Debates: The Aware Baby

1 May

Title: The Aware Baby, revised edition (2001)
Author: Aletha J. Solter,, Ph.D
Credentials: Solter has an MA in biology and Ph.D. in psychology. She leads workshops for parents and founded the Aware Parenting Institute. She has two grown children.
Genre: Parenting handbook; philosophy of parenting
Audience: “Attachment” parents; those interested in psychology

No-Method Method Summary:

Solter’s mission is to change the world through “aware” parenting. She believes that the majority of violence in the world is caused by a lack of compassionate parenting. Her major contribution to the debates is the idea that babies–and adults–need to cry to release their emotions, work out stress, and heal from trauma. In many situations, she recommends providing a loving environment for children to cry. She strongly advises against leaving a baby to cry alone. She offers some support for the idea that parenting is culturally determined and provides examples from many cultures to show a variety of parenting styles. She believes that, since babies in developed countries are no longer at immediate risk of death or malnourishment, parents should turn their focus to the best practices for raising compassionate, non-violent, emotionally attuned adults. Every chapter has a list of exercises for you to do in three categories: Exploring your childhood; Expressing your feelings about your baby; Nurturing yourself.

Verdict:

I started off by hating this book. The idea that children need to cry is counterintuitive, especially since I spent the first four months of my daughter’s life desperately trying to get her to stop crying. Thinking about it, however, I realized that I like to cry sometimes, so it’s quite possible that a baby might, too. Still, the notion that babies need to work out the trauma of their birth sounds preposterous to me. She seems to think of life as a perpetual trauma, an idea that I know has some currency with certain psychologists that that I think is perfect nonsense. Many of her ideas are commonsense and easy to put into practice, but parents on both sides of the spectrum will resist her suggestions. The book is not easy to read; the style is academic and a bit off-putting.

One major objection I had: according to her, if you get angry or frustrated while trying to let your baby cry, you have unresolved trauma from being let cry alone or from not being permitted to cry. By saying that, she effectively silences any opponents: if you don’t like her suggestions, you are a traumatized individual who needs healing.

To her credit, she really does think that her advice can change the world. She’s not just trying to make money by becoming a household name.

Recommended only if you’re particularly interested in this summary.

Related Books:
Sears, The Baby Book
Cohen, Lawrence, Playful Parenting

Gerber, Dear Parent: Caring For Infants With Respect
Leo, Pam, Connection Parenting

***

Introduction:

Parents raise children to fit into their specific cultures–cooperation, obedience, dependence, independence, conformity, pride, humility; Continue reading

Grad school parenting

20 Apr

Are you in grad school? Are you thinking about having a baby? Before I had a baby, here was a typical day on fellowship:

9.00: Wake up. Have a leisurely breakfast, coffee, internet-checking hour or hour and a half. Maybe go for a run or to the gym.
10.30: Start working. Work in a desultory fashion for a few hours. Maybe throw in a load of laundry once a week.
1.00: Lunchtime! Watch some TV.
2.00: Back to work … or not. Maybe shower, maybe take a nap, maybe do a little crafting, maybe take the dog to the dog park.
3.30: Leave for tutoring. Tutor.
6.00: Hang out, watch some TV, knit.
7.30: Make dinner. Eat dinner. Watch TV or play guitar hero.
11.00: Bed

Sure, my schedule wasn’t always like this. When I was taking classes AND working AND tutoring AND teaching, I worked like a demon from 6AM to 9PM most days. But fellowship years were pretty sweet, and even with only working a few hours a day I was ahead of a lot of my cohort in terms of progress to the degree. But then I got married and had a baby, and then my husband (thank god!) got a full-time job. And now my days look like this:

4.30: Eyes open. Why am I awake? [Baby cries]. Oh. Maybe she’ll go back to sleep. More insistent crying. Nope.. Get out of bed, stumble to nursery, nurse baby. Pee. Get back in bed and lie awake for half an hour.

7.10: Eyes open. Why am I awake? [Baby cries]. Five minutes later, husband’s alarm goes off. Drag self out of bed, get baby, come back to bed with baby. Baby latches while I desperately try to fall back asleep for a few minutes. Husband is asleep again.

7.24: Alarm. Baby coos and sticks her hand in my mouth, trying to separate my jaw from the rest of my skull. Husband gets up and feeds the dog, starts the water for coffee, and gets in the shower. Change baby’s diaper. Prepare breakfast for baby. Grind and pour coffee. Start folding laundry while keeping an eye on baby to make sure she doesn’t choke. Smell milk: milk is bad. Black coffee today.

7.45: Husband can’t find pants or undershirt. Undershirts have mysteriously gotten mixed in with baby’s laundry, which I have not put away in days. Pants are also located. No time to iron a shirt today.

8.00: Wipe down strawberry-covered baby. Dress her. Husband leaves. Feed dog and cat. Set diapers to soak. Notice that I am still not dressed and I have not brushed my teeth. Put baby in baby jail to prevent her from ingesting anything and everything left on floor. Dress and brush teeth.

8.30: Shove a few bags of milk and a change of clothing in baby’s go-bag. Collect baby and bag; get to door and realize tactical error: baby is now outside and dog is inside. Go back inside and put baby in baby jail. She screams. In order to stop screaming, take baby back to car and buckle in carseat. Rush back inside to collect dog. Cat gets out. Collect cat while hanging on to dog’s collar with pinky finger. Shove cat inside, lock door, get leash fastened on dog. Put dog in car.

8.35: Drop baby off with my mom. My dad follows me to the car place to drop the car off to get its brake pads replaced and then drives me home.

9.00: Stick week-old oatmeal in microwave. Start dryer and washing machine. Load dishwasher.

9.05: Sit down at computer with cold coffee and oatmeal. Check internet, then start writing.

12.30: Eat last night’s popcorn and an apple for lunch. Pump.

2.00: Realize that I still have not showered. Debate taking a quick nap versus showering. Pump and then shower.

2.30: Walk over to parents’ to pick up their car, since mine is still in the shop.

3.00: Pick up tutee from school. [This is unusual–a favor for the parents.] Drive to library. Tutor.

4.30: Retrieve baby from parents. Visit for a few minutes. Head home. Put baby in jail, straighten up. Prep dinner. Play with baby.

5.30: Husband is home. Hand baby to husband, finish dinner prep.

6.00: Dinner. Most of it ends up in baby instead of on the floor. Success.

6.30: Give baby a bath. Try to keep her from using the hot water faucet to pull herself up. Diaper baby on floor, because baby now hates changing pad. Husband studies.

7.00: Playtime and reading time for baby. Husband reads her White Noise while I clean up dinner.

7.20: Nurse baby.

7.35: Read Goodnight Moon for the nth time. Put baby down. Baby goes right to sleep, thank goodness.

7.45: Evening! Best time of day! Watch movie and knit. Make popcorn.

10.00: Baby cries. Wait a few minutes. Floss, brush, wash face. Crying escalates. Go in, pick baby up, rock. Put baby down. Leave. Baby cries. Wait a few minutes. Crying escalates. Go in, nurse baby. Baby falls asleep. Put baby down. Leave. Baby cries. Husband goes in and gives baby tylenol–maybe she’s teething. Husband rocks baby and checks diaper. Baby, now wide awake, cries. Go in, take baby from husband, rock baby, put baby down, leave. Baby cries. Give up, get baby, take baby in bed, turn out light. Baby seems to fall asleep. Baby suddenly realizes she’s in bed with her two favorite people and gets REALLY EXCITED. Starts babbling, rolling around, grabbing noses, eyes, faces. Starts kicking excitedly. Get up, restore baby to crib. She stays down.

11.20: Sleep.

4.30: Why am I awake?

The thing is, this actually isn’t so bad. I do have time to write because we moved to be near my parents, who babysit at least a few hours every day. If it weren’t for them, I’d be taking care of Abby all day and working at night. And I love having a family, and I adore my daughter and my husband. But the change from Miss Independent to Adult Lady is pretty dramatic. And involves a lot of laundry.

Parenting Through the Debates: Nurtureshock

12 Apr

Author(s): Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
Credentials: Writers
Genre: Evidence-based Parenting
Directed at: High-achieving parents; nerdy types
Thesis: “Instinct” is not necessarily the best rationale for making parenting decisions.

Happy meal version: The basic premise of Nurtureshock is that everything you thought you knew about parenting has been disproven or refined by scientific studies over the past twenty years. This book takes on a number of different parenting hot-points and raises questions about the prevailing wisdom. It does not exactly offer a “way” of parenting, but it does provide suggestions. The attentive reader will be able to modify her parenting based on the information in the book, but it isn’t prescriptive. More specifically:

Praise: Turns out, general praise for a child’s intelligence backfires and can make smart kids underperform. Specific, situational praise that focuses on effort is better. Bad: “You are so smart!” Good: “You must have tried really hard to get an A on that test.”

Sleep: Children need more of it than they’re getting, and a lack of sleep could be contributing to a lot of the so-called teenage problems of depression and defiance.

Authority: Children are most resistant to authority right before they become teenagers, and most teenagers actually get along well with their families. Teenagers see arguing with the parents as a positive sign that their parents are willing to listen to them. Negotiating within reason can actually strengthen a parents’ authority. Example: A child’s curfew is 11, but he is allowed to stay out later for a special occasion.

Race: Many families don’t draw attention to race because that’s the liberal, progressive thing to do. It backfires. Children who talk openly about race tend to have more interracial friendships.

Gifted Testing: It’s done way too early. Gifted programs are terrible at identifying gifted children. Intelligence is highly fluid and develops at different rates. If gifted testing is done at all, it shouldn’t be done until around third grade.

Siblings: Siblings don’t automatically teach children how to share and get along. A child’s relationship with his friends is a better indicator of how he will treat a sibling than the other way around. To get along, siblings need to think of each other like friends–because a friend can be lost.

Lying: All children lie. They start lying to make adults happy and they keep lying because they see adults doing it. Lying is an advanced skill and shows an ability to think abstractly. To keep kids from lying, emphasize that it will make you happy to know the truth.

Self-Control: Self-control is probably the best indicator of future academic and life success. Self-control can be taught through various means: check out the Tools of the Mind program.

Bullying: Bullying is a sign of social success, not marginality. The most popular kids bully the most. Educational children’s programs can actually increase bullying, because they focus a lot on undesirable behaviors only spend only a few minutes wrapping up and teaching a moral lesson. Little kids aren’t sophisticated enoguh to know that they’re supposed to ignore the bullying and take away the lesson.

Language: What matters for language development is what comes out of the child’s mouth, not what goes in. Pouring language into a child’s ears doesn’t aid her language development. Parents have to respond to noises that a child makes, either by verbally responding or, even better, by touching the child.

Verdict: This book presented some thought-provoking findings. It was highly readable and engaging. I came away convinced enough to alter some of my parenting behavior and to pay closer attention to my interactions with my daughter. However, the book does not always explore the possible slippage between correlation and causation in some of the studies it cites. It’s also worth noting that parenting books come out every few years or so that claim to change everything you thought you knew. On the whole, this book is highly recommended if you are interested in the latest research about children’s social and behavioral development. If you are looking for a parenting manual, you will have to keep looking.

Related books:

Brain Rules for Baby, John Medina
Mind in the Making, Ellen Galinsky
Tools of the Mind, Elena Bodrova
What’s Going on in There?, Lise Eliot
Bright from the Start, Jill Stamm

Parenting Through the Debates: I read the books, so you don’t have to.

New Camera! New Pants

11 Apr

After deciding that we’d be sad if, twenty years from now, all we have of Abby is blurry iPhone pics, Chris and I splurged on a fancy camera. We’re going to have to be extra-thrifty to make up for it (for like, YEARS), so I’ve been mining the nearest Goodwill for “fabric.” Abby and I happened to be matching yesterday: the perfect time for a pants-into-pants photoshoot. I know the photos aren’t great for showing off the pants–we’re both new to this photography thing. But they show off the baby just fine!

The pants Abby is wearing used to be from H&M. I repurposed the lace on the waistband into a butt-panel:

Lace panel on the butt

And then the front seemed a little plain, so I cut out a flower from some patterned linen in the stash and zig-zagged it on:

The side seams were supposed to be the pant’s original seams, since the pattern I used (from the genius Made by Rae) doesn’t use a side seam. Unfortunately, I’m a spatial idiot and cut out one pants leg backwards so that the seam was on the outside. I ripped and re-stitched, and I must say the new seam looks pretty nice!

They garnered two unsolicited compliments at the library this morning, and Abby seems to like them, too: