Three Months

Well, I kept telling myself, “Just wait until the three month mark. By then it will be easier. By then you will know him better, his habits, his communication. By then the world won’t be quite so new for him and you can think about creating a rough schedule instead of just putting out fires all the time, madly googling and facebooking and trying to figure out what the hell’s going on and what the hell you’re doing. By then maybe you’ll even be getting a bit of sleep.”

And… so far, so good. I have no illusions that it’s all roses from here, but we are feeling more like competent parents, and he is certainly a more competent baby. He can amuse himself for minutes at a time, he can reach his little arms up against gravity, he can soothe himself by sucking on his fingers, and — wonder of wonders — he can put himself to sleep after I gently rock his little body in the crib, taking care to keep his kicking feet still, and giving him a pacifier for a while if he otherwise can’t be pacified. I no longer feel so helpless when he cries and can’t be consoled and won’t sleep (although yesterday was particularly difficult — more on that later). I have faith we’ll figure it out together.

It’s not as easy to amuse him on his back, though. He gets bored with his play gym quicker and quicker, even with the kick keyboard. He wants to be up — sitting up, standing up, even walking (with our help, of course). He’s so ready to go! Just needs to keep building up that strength, though tummy time bores him more easily now, too. He seems to be trying to claw his way forward more than lift himself up into the crawling position, though he can definitely get his head to 90 degrees and even use his arms to prop himself up for brief periods. Especially when the World Cup is on. (Though we are going to seriously limit his screen time once the World Cup is over.)

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He’s still napping reasonably well. It’s not always as simple as five minutes in, five minutes out, five minutes in, and then he’s down. But often it is. Sometimes, of course, he still just catnaps, waking up after 20 or 30 or 40 minutes, in which case I try to rock and shush him back to sleep, with success fairly often. Otherwise I just reset the clock and try to put him down again in an hour and a half (or a little earlier if he seems tired).

This weekend, after my wild success with the new naptime regime, I got overzealous and decided to also cut out one of his night feeds. Physiologically, unless he’s going through a growth spurt or something, he doesn’t really need it (at least according to some sources — other sources, naturally, disagree), and a bigger stretch of sleep for me would make a big difference. So I fed him with his first wake, around midnight, then let Ahmed try to shush him back to sleep without food at 3:10 or so. But Ali was kind of freaked out about it. My memory of the whole thing is already hazy, but suffice to say, it was a bad night and everyone was miserable. I apologized to him and told him I’d feed him whenever he wanted for at least another month, then we can reassess if need be. And no more trying to make two big changes at the same time.

That was Saturday night, then Sunday was pretty normal, but on Monday I was way behind on sleep, and after about 2:20pm, the boy absolutely refused to nap again for the entire rest of the day. Nothing worked, not even tried-and-true things like folding him up in a pillow and rocking him back and forth in my lap. (This is Ahmed’s signature move.) He just got more and more manic and miserable, and so did I. Finally Ahmed came home and I handed Ali over, and Ahmed couldn’t get him to sleep, either, until about 9pm.

But then, to everyone’s surprise, he slept until 2:30 and then again until 6:20. (And actually fell nicely asleep again after that until my stupid doctor’s office decided to text my phone at 7:30am to remind me of my appointment, even after I asked them last time they did that not to do that anymore. I’ve never missed a doctor’s appointment in my life. Needless to say, that number is now blocked. Who knows how much sleep my son and I were robbed of. I was in the middle of a really interesting dream, too.)

So yeah, it’s definitely a new adventure every day, haha. There’s still nothing I’d rather be doing. All these World Cup games are the cherry on top, and once the final is over, we plan to start having an official bedtime routine, now that we have more than *just* enough energy to rock him to sleep and call it good. I’m looking forward to a little baby massage and reading my stash of kids’ books to him before bed every night. It’ll be a nice wind-down for me, too. Now that I’m not as frenzied trying to drain the last dregs of google for baby advice and info, trying to figure out how to wash cloth diapers, and so on, maybe I’ll be able to just relax, unplug, and enjoy the hour or three after he’s down.

Here’s my big boy at three months:

I’ve been surprised, by the way, by how little I worry about Ali. It’s as if something happening to him is so unthinkable, I literally just can’t think it. I do everything I can to keep him safe, of course, and now and then some scenario will flash through my mind of a car accident or falling down the stairs with him in my arms, etc, but it just flashes and then goes away again. I don’t dwell on these things. I’ve always known anxiety isn’t a particularly useful emotion. But with Ali, it’s like this knowledge has suddenly become embodied. There’s too much to do and enjoy (including staying present in order to keep him safe) to wallow in worries.

He’s no longer an inscrutable newborn. He’s more aware and alert and human all the time. He’s a regular old infant, now, just as he should be. That has definitely been a nice side effect of being a parent — I don’t feel any need to slow or rush time. I’m not thinking much about who Ali will be in the future or feeling (too) sad he’s no longer the same baby he was a month and two (and three) ago.

A part of me does wish I could go back in time and know how much my love for him would grow and feel that the whole time, even from conception. Especially on the day he was born, when all I could feel was exhausted, relieved, and in awe. And kind of giddy that we had really done it. That instant, all-consuming love didn’t happen for me. It built over time, as I predicted it would, and continues to build. Ah, sometimes it takes my breath away.

But in general, I’m not looking forward or back. I’m just with him right now, totally caught in the present moment. The way life should be. And I love love love how happy all this makes my husband. He takes a good chunk of the “evening shift” while I have the full day and night shifts, and of course he works full time during working hours. It takes a bit out of us, but it’s manageable and so often really enjoyable. And more so day by day.

I feel so happy, in fact, that the writer in me gets nervous sometimes. Isn’t this the part in the movie where everything’s moving along so smoothly that some awful “conflict” is just around the corner to make things “interesting”?

Ha — this is one problem with being too familiar with narrative structure. I have to remind myself that life isn’t really like that. It doesn’t flow in stories unless you look backwards and fit it into one. There aren’t well-defined “episodes” with predictable happy or tragic endings. Hell, humans write stories to try to pretend life makes sense. To draw the sense out of the chaos. It’s an adaptation, like religion, to help us feel like if we’re not in control, at least someone is. Fate, God, narrative structure.

Of course, I had to believe in a “happy ending” to our journey to our first child, but there wasn’t any narrative way to predict that. It just happened when it happened. (And odds were, it would eventually, though it was also hard to put faith in the odds sometimes!)

It’s the same now. Though there’s a kind of “narrative tension” with everything going so well (in a novel you’d need a twist pretty soon or risk losing your readers — Hi, blog readers!), it doesn’t actually mean anything in real life.

So. The gods of stories do not exist and are not waiting to mete out their wrath. Things may actually just be good for a while. Sometimes it happens! And if no one wants to read about it, that’s fine with me. 🙂

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Transfer-versary

It’s been one year since these two embryos were transferred.

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I don’t know which one passed on around 8 weeks and which one became our beautiful son, but I couldn’t be more grateful for all the help and support on the rough road to our firstborn. And I couldn’t be more delighted by how it all turned out. At so many points I had so little hope, but we knew we were in it until we found our child(ren) (or they found us). What a difference a year can make.

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Ali Julian, you are my sunshine ❤

Hold the Phone

Stop the presses. Record scratch. Brake screech.

What is happening?

Ali was in his little play gym, lying on his back, about an hour and fifteen minutes after he woke up this morning. He was starting to get this glazed look in his eyes and looking off to the side, ignoring his toys. Nap time.

Just for a lark, I put him in his new crib, not expecting much. I dug out the white noise machine (it got misplaced when we installed the crib and moved things around), turned it on, and patted Ali a few times. He smiled and pulled his legs up toward his chest and flopped back down and generally acted cute. He started meeting my eyes, and I figured the jig was up, but I patted him a little more anyway and left.

He was quiet for a little bit but then started fussing. I went back in, patted and smiled and rocked him gently back and forth for a few minutes (with my hand on his ribcage), and he acted a little more unfocused, chewing on his hand or staring at the wall. I left again. Again there was a bit of quiet then a bit of fussing. I waited a little while and was about to go back in when I realized it was quiet again. My eyes widened. Hardly daring to hope, I crept back toward the bedroom and peeked around the door.

HE WAS ASLEEP.

Asleep! Just like that! No 25 minutes of bouncing and shushing. No 20 minutes of swinging and holding. Just five minutes in, five minutes out, five minutes in again, and five minutes later he was out! It’s a kind of miracle.

Now, I’m not naive enough to think all our daytime sleep struggles are over. It might just be because he’s still completely exhausted from his first Fourth of July. He napped twice yesterday, and the second time he napped, after I “managed” his sleep (in his swing) after he woke early, he just kept sleeping and ended up with a 3 hour nap before we had to wake him up to take him to visit one of my (genetically half-)brother’s step brothers in Broken Arrow. (I have two siblings and my brother has eight. Yeah, you need a detailed map to figure out how everyone is related — or just “family anyway” — in my family.)

A whole bunch of my brother’s side of the family meets up there for the Fourth, and they have a big backyard and an above ground pool and shoot fireworks and have burgers and hot dogs and chips and homemade ice cream and brownies and cake and chili and it’s just as American as you can imagine. And it’s just good to see everyone, and nice to introduce Ali to everyone. They also get together for river float trips in the summer, and we hope to take Ali along next year.

The boy was delightful on the half-hour car ride over there, but as soon as we got in the house and changed his poopy diaper and then everyone wanted to pet and hold him, he lost his little marbles. Even when my sister-in-law, the baby whisperer, took him so we could eat dinner, he could not be consoled. They took him outside to try to calm him that way, but every time the door would open, we’d hear him wailing.

I couldn’t stand it for long, and I took him back until Ahmed wolfed down his meal, then I handed him over and Ahmed walked him around the back yard far from the madding crowds and he calmed down and turned back into the cool guy we know. Until someone would approach, and his little lip would tremble. Not sure why he was like that, but hey, if you don’t feel like socializing, you don’t feel like it.

A few people did manage to hold and pet him to some extent without him crying, but he was unusually fragile.

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So anyway. We get in the car to come home, and he animatedly talked to me for about five minutes then passed out cold in his car seat until we got home. We thought we’d take the whole seat inside so as not to disturb him, but he woke up as soon as we pulled in our parking spot at almost 8pm. Tried to put him down for a nap again before the fireworks, but he was having none of it.

So at 9:15 we walked down the river trail toward the casino where there was a good view of the biggest fireworks display in Tulsa over the Jenks bridge. Ali was completely exhausted and just staring up at Ahmed (who was holding him) unblinking, like a little zombie or someone dumbstruck with infatuation. We arrived at the bend in the river outside the casino right at 9:45, when the fireworks started. Ali stared at them with the same glazed look, occasionally making little noises.

By the time we got home and gave him his bath, it was almost 11pm, and it was no trick to get him to sleep. Then he woke up this morning at 8:30am ready to go. But then, yeah, exhausted again by 9:40 and asleep by 9:55.

And here we are. It’s 10:44, and I just came back in from patting and shushing him back to sleep after he woke up around 10:36. Hoping he can sleep until 11:30 or so for a nice 1.5 hour stretch of sleep.

I hardly dare hope this will be a trend, but I’m amazed to know it’s a possibility!

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In other news, someone from the California Conceptions Facebook group remarked that my son looks a bit like Ben Kingsley — “Those eyes that are full of light” — and I can totally see it! Sir Kingsley is half-Indian, too, born and raised far from India.

On a totally unrelated note, I’ve had a thought lately and I’m not sure where else to put it. Basically, the power of being a parent is absolutely terrifying. Not for me right now, since I’m completely committed to making my son’s childhood as secure and happy and healthy as possible. But it could so easily go the other way. I’m alone all day with a being who is completely helpless and completely dependent on my good will and mental and physical health.

If I wanted to abuse or neglect him, there would be nothing to stop me unless I was so shameless or so stupid that I attracted attention and the authorities were called. Or if I was just depressed and didn’t know what to do and didn’t have enough interest or resources to find out, I could simply do the bare minimum to help the kid survive and wait out his protests until he was too exhausted or cowed or unhealthy himself to make a fuss anymore. Or if I hated myself and saw him as an extension of myself, I could transfer my hatred onto a helpless and innocent being.

The thought of it — of so many people not necessarily prepared to be parents in charge of so many perfect innocent babies who need not just food and shelter but also attunement so desperately to be healthy themselves — can overwhelm me sometimes. I wish I could somehow be there for them all. I wish our society treated parenthood with more respect. I wish women who didn’t want to be mothers had more readily available options, and I wish women who are mothers had more time and more resources to find their footing as new parents. I wish our society weren’t so geared to make women hate themselves.

A Facebook friend of mine was recently put in charge of a newborn whose parents are substance abusers, and they don’t even visit the sweet little girl. It breaks my friend’s heart, and it breaks my heart. At the same time, I’m so glad and grateful my friend is there to nurture that wonderful child, who doesn’t yet know the difference. She just knows she’s loved. And God I hope that love isn’t yanked away from her at some point. Oh God how can I live in a world where innocent babies just as perfect and open and sweet as my Ali are abused?

UPDATE: Holy sneezeballs. So I put him down again for a nap as soon as I could after driving my husband back to work. (He came home at lunch to give me the car so I can go to rehab this afternoon.) He was about an hour overdue for a nap and a bit over-tired, but I fed him and put him down, and he went down pretty easy. Just about five minutes. He woke up again 25 minutes later, and I went in and patted and shushed him again, and he smiled and bunched up his legs at his chest and flopped out again, drowsy but happy. (This made my heart so happy, by the way.) But he didn’t go back to sleep after about five minutes. So I just quietly left. Again, just for a lark. I had no expectations.

But again, he was quiet a little, fussed a little, and then PUT HIMSELF BACK TO SLEEP.

When people talked about babies doing this, I was like, “Yeah, right.” But it’s true! Or at least truly possible. I saw it with my own eyes!

I can’t help but suspect this is possible for our happy, alert boy because we’ve striven to meet his every need and whim in these early months. He feels secure enough — rather than resigned enough — to put himself to sleep, without any tears or harsh sleep training methods.

I know I’m getting way ahead of myself, and he could completely revert tomorrow, or this could just be his temperament and it has nothing to do with us. But I can’t help but wonder, and have my own suspicions.

Ah, this parenting, it is far more art that science. A kind of never ending witchcraft.

What’s your Style?

I never had an interest in attaching a label to my parenting “style.” For each different element of raising a baby, I decided to go with some combination of what the latest research shows (though God knows that changes with every generation), what my gut instinct tells me, what seems to make everyone happiest, what seems healthiest, what seems most natural, and what the baby seems to prefer.

1. Feeding. For this, I’ve simply fed on demand. I recently started toying with a rough daily schedule (three-hour cycles of feed, play, sleep), emphasis on “rough.” But that’s more for getting his daily naps on track as much as I can. He tends to fall asleep on the boob and be hungry again every 2.5 to 4 hours or so, but I don’t watch the clock. If he’s hungry, I feed him. Now that he’s so good at latching and suckling, and I’ve figured out ways to do it that aren’t particularly tiring, it’s no big deal. And if I need to delay feeding for some reason, he’s content to be distracted for a little while, maybe because he knows I’m good for it. He could go probably four hours between feeds physiologically, but there’s no hurry to get there at the moment. I’m also happy to feed him for comfort or to help him calm down and sleep.

2. Sleeping. At first we just let the baby lead the way, but I finally figured out he’s not the kind of baby that goes down easy for naps. He’s way too alert. He was just going most of the day without any nap at all and ending up crazy over-tired by night time, and melting down more often than one would hope during the day. Literally yesterday I’ve started trying to get him on a decent nap schedule, and pretty strictly enforcing it, and results so far have been good.

As for the night, for a while he slept a good six-hour chunk most nights, but now he’s back to maybe four or five hours after he’s first put down (8 or 9pm to 1am, which doesn’t do me a lot of good since I’m not good at sleeping until his first wake-up) followed by getting up at 2.5-hour intervals. It’s not ideal, but since he’s in the crib right next to the bed, and I nurse side-lying, and I know how to safely co-sleep in case we both fall asleep, it’s not so bad. I’m not a zombie or anything. But a six-hour stretch of sleep would be heaven.

I’m considering trying to gently wean him off at least one of those feedings, but probably not before four months. But I don’t think I could risk elevating his cortisol levels or making him feel unimportant, scared, or neglected via hard-core “cry it out” methods. Though I do understand even babies need to learn at some point that they simply can’t get EVERYTHING they want INSTANTLY for all time. Other people exist in their family, too, and have valid needs and wants as well. But three months seems way too young for them to understand this.

3. Baby wearing. I do this sometimes if we go on a hike or to the grocery story, but I do not wear him around the house like I expected I would. For one thing it’s summer, and he’s a little furnace. It makes both of us hot. He’s also not one of those passive babies who’ll sit still while you jack with a sling or wrap and get everything adjusted right. He gets impatient quickly, and he doesn’t seem to like being so “tied down” during his awake hours unless we’re doing something really interesting like going outside. As far as sleep, I just don’t see myself wearing him for an hour or more at a time (it’s not good for my prolapse issue, for one thing), or wearing him to sleep and then trying to put him down. For sure it would wake him up. So other than my Lillebaby for wearing him outside the house, that’s kind of been a bust.

4. Pacifier. We tried a few. He didn’t seem to like them much. They’re still sitting around the house and we never think to try to use them. I should probably put one in the car, though. It might help when he’s melting down.

5. Sleep place. He started out mostly co-sleeping in our bed because he just didn’t like the bassinet and fought out of swaddles almost immediately. It was the only way to save everyone’s sanity. And it was insanely sweet. When we got him a Love to Dream swaddle that keeps his arms by his head, we were able to put him in the bassinet after feeding him to sleep. But we still keep him in our bed sometimes because it’s sweet or because I just fall asleep while breastfeeding. When we travel, he sleeps between us. Now he has a crib, and he seems to like it just as fine as the bassinet. It’s good to have options.

6. Stimulation / learning. We don’t think it offers any benefit to buy baby genius DVDs or try to teach him letters this young. For babies its all about real world sensory stimulation. So we have a little play mat with toys suspended above him to bat at and then start grabbing, and we have a quilt for tummy time (and little animal rattles to amuse him with while he’s on his tummy — today he pushed himself up with his arms for the first time!), and we take him on walks outside, and we let him just stare at blinds or at the cat or whatever if he seems absorbed in it. He watches me cook sometimes. We put different things in his hands and talk to him pretty often about what we’re doing or what’s going on. Ahmed talks to him in Turkish sometimes.

In general I hope to avoid plastic toys with lots of flashing lights and things, as I remember these were quite boring to me as a kid. I preferred things like building blocks, Play-Doh, stuffed animals, puppets, animal figurines, or puzzles for more open-ended, imaginative play. Or even just plastic measuring cups and wooden spoons from the kitchen. There are also some neat sensory ideas I found on Youtube, like wooden bowls full of smooth river rocks and plastic bottles full of water, glitter, and beads (for older kids, and only to be used with supervision). Right now I have my eye on that Lovevery play mat that costs like $140 but looks amazing. I might ask Grandma for that for his 3 month birthday! And I’m excited to try to teach him some sign language before too long.

7. Screen time. OK, so we haven’t been so good with this one. The World Cup has been on, and if he wanted to watch the giant colorful flickering screen with us, we let him. He also spends some time curled up in my lap watching whatever I’m doing on the computer. I don’t plan to get him his own iPad or, God forbid, smart phone any time soon (I don’t even have a smart phone, by choice — I need SOME time away from the world wide web!), though the pressure will probably be on before I know it.

Maybe I’m just being an old Luddite about this, but I didn’t have those kinds of things as a kid, and I’m even grateful my mom didn’t allow me to watch TV until after dark. It forced me to read, play, explore, learn to tolerate boredom and solitude, and generally be a more interesting person than if I’d spent all that time plopped in front of a screen. And Lord knows I spend too much time in front of a screen now. I’m afraid I’m already instilling this bad habit in him. Hopefully I can work on this for myself before too much longer.

8. Solid foods / snacks. I understand the general recommendation is not to start solid foods until 6 months, but a source I don’t trust quoted a source I may trust saying that new research may show benefits for starting a bit earlier. As of now, though, the plan is to start at six months with vegetables and fruits and occasional whole grains and very tender pieces of meat, the way the French do. I don’t want to feed him Cheerios and yogurt bites and all that bland, processed, sugary stuff, and I hope to keep solid food feedings to meal times plus one afternoon snack rather than grazing all day. I may change my tune with time, but that’s my hope.

I also understand that solid food is “just for fun” until age one (though I think they do need to get iron from their diet by then), and I think it’s likely I’ll keep breastfeeding until at least 18 months. Though we may start trying to conceive again when he’s around 1 year old, and that may complicate things. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

9. Diapering. I got a bunch of second-hand cloth diaper supplies, mostly two-in-ones with a waterproof shell and cloth insert, and a couple of cloth diapers from my registry. I planned to start trying them right after he stopped having meconium diapers. But I was so shagged out and trying to learn so many things at that time, I didn’t bother much. Ahmed actually tried more than I did, but then I was often left dealing with the crappy aftermath. I think we bought a total of maybe 5 packs of 28 Pampers newborn swaddlers at Walgreens for $10 each plus used up whatever diapers we’d gotten at the baby shower.

But now we’re running out of those, plus he’s growing fast and the cloth diapers aren’t so comically huge on him. So we’ve started trying to get more serious about the cloth. I bought some Shout to get stains out, and for the last couple of days we’ve used disposables only to leave the house or for overnight. It’s working well so far, and he tends to give a lot of warning — sometimes literally for hours — before pooping, but either way we haven’t had any leaks yet. Here’s hoping. I also hope to attempt Elimination Communication in the not-too-distant future. I held him up on his baby toilet seat once just to see if he’d poop (he was kind of grunting and straining, and he loves sitting up with assistance), but no dice. He did seem to enjoy the “throne” feeling, though 😉

10. Discipline. Obviously, for a baby, there’s no punishment. For anything. They just aren’t ready to understand things at that level, even if punishment were an effective method of raising the kind of child we want to raise. As a friend of mine put it, when a baby is making you crazy, “He’s not giving you a hard time. He’s having a hard time.” It’s our job, as adults with tremendous faculties and physical and emotional power and resources, to ease their lives, not the other way around. As time goes on, I’ll learn much more about this (including through first-hand experience, no doubt), but in general, the principles of How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen so Kids will Talk made a lot of sense to me. Perhaps I’m naive, but I hope a great deal of genuine attunement and respect will go a long way through Ali’s childhood and beyond.

11. Vaccines. Duh. Sorry, but it’s really hard for me to take “anti-vaxxers” seriously. They’re like flat-earthers but more dangerous. They’re the liberal version of global warming deniers. There’s room for nuance when it comes to vaccine usage, but there’s no room for child-endangering, specious scaremongering based on misunderstandings of basic science and straight-up lies. But that’s a post for another day.

Of course, many of these methods are to some extent situational to the fact that I’m able to stay at home, the baby is incredibly healthy, I’ve never had a milk supply issue, and so on. I’m also a horrible sleeper — I need things like a pillow, covers, and lots of space to sleep well — or I’d probably have the baby in our bed more often. Every baby and every situation is different. I don’t have any illusions that I have “the answers.” This is just how things have shaken out for us and a few things I hope for in the future. I don’t think there’s a handy label to put on it, but it works for us 🙂

Ode to Breastfeeding (and Sleep)

I didn’t expect I would enjoy lactating so much. The first time a little river of milk erupted from my nipple like a tiny pink fairy volcano after Ahmed lightly ran his finger across my breast, we were both mesmerized. The fact that this magically appearing liquid nourishes our son so perfectly—and so portably, and for free—is nothing short of astounding.

Leaking can be annoying, but between sleeping with a waterproof changing pad under my chest and using bamboo breast pads during the day, it’s not a big worry. Certainly not something I’d be embarrassed about. It’s not an excretory function. I’m making food! Glorious beautiful liquid food that helps a human grow. Leaking milk should be a point of pride, like spilling a few crumbs of exquisite homemade cookies.

I sometimes feel a tingle with letdown; when I get too misty-eyed about how lucky I am to have my son or just read a beautiful breastfeeding scene, I can feel my breasts weep with joy and solidarity, like a profligate fountain so rich it can afford to waste liquid gold. Feeling the warmth of my son against me, taking in energy like I’m a great battery, an electrical wire, the sun, it’s hard to believe it’s real—and, once we found our rhythm, so beautifully simple. Then when he pops off the boob and looks up at me with his sunny, impish little grin, the sweetness is almost unbearable.

Of course, feeding every 2-4 hours around the clock can be exhausting and limiting, and I’m glad not to be doing it for life. But for this short season, it’s a beautiful thing, and I try not to take it for granted.

Obviously fed is best, and also obviously breastfeeding is not always glitter and unicorns! But this is me looking on the bright side 🙂

Our biggest issue lately has been Ali being a terrible napper during the day. It’s nearly impossible to get him to sleep without feeding him to sleep, and then he’s on top of me and wakes too quickly even if I don’t try to put him down somewhere and get on with my day — but even worse if I do. He basically goes down (finally) enough to recharge his little iPhone battery up to 7%, and he’s delightful for a few minutes, then he’s instantly over-tired but still doesn’t want to sleep.

I think it’s not so much a “regression” as him making so many cognitive leaps and becoming more aware and not wanting to miss anything. And I get that. But the boy needs that sleep to integrate everything he’s learning and do it all cheerfully.

Finally yesterday something clicked when I realized Ahmed ALWAYS gets the boy to sleep at night, eventually. It’s somehow become his job to rock the boy to sleep on a pillow on his lap every night. In part, I suppose, because he’s really good at it! Here’s Ali asleep on his daddy’s lap:

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I decided to treat every nap like a mini-night. So today I closed the shades a bit, put him in his night time sleep sack (his Love to Dream “squirrel suit”), and then tied his arms close to his body with a muslin swaddle. (Using it in the usual swaddle way doesn’t work at all, he fights out of that in no time.) I did this to mimic my husband either holding his arms or folding the pillow up to pin his arms against his body while he rocks him to sleep.

And then I didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. I bounced him in the bouncy chair (then for the next nap, rocked him in the swing), and when he grumbled and fussed, I just kept talking gently / singing / shushing. Finally, when he was just about to drop off, I left him alone until he fell asleep.

Today’s stats: Woke up at 8:30, fed at 9, slept around 10:30, woke up around noon, fed then, played for an hour and a half, then put him down again around 1:30. It took about 20 minutes to get him to fall asleep. But then I had to wake him at 3:30 to feed him before heading out for my yearly dermatologist check-up.

It was like magic.

I still have to “manage” his sleep, because he wakes frequently and needs to be patted and shushed back to sleep. So it’s not like I’m “off the clock” while he’s asleep. But it’s progress. And it’s so much easier to get him to drop off when he’s merely tired, not over-tired to the point of sometimes looking desperate or manic, unable to meet my eyes or hold himself together for more than a few minutes at a time.

Of course, between the doctor’s appointment, picking my husband up, and picking up dinner, it was 6:30 before we got home — half an hour later than he’d normally be fed and two hours late for his nap. He lost it in the car again, crying inconsolably, and I couldn’t get him to sleep in his car seat until we were half a mile from home. Brought him in, fed him, and my husband rocked him to sleep. (He was far too over-tired for my methods to work.)

So those are my new day nap methods, fitted into a new loose structure. Now that he’s almost 3 months, I’m trying to edge us toward a kind of schedule, roughly: wake and feed at 9am, play until 10:30am, nap until noon, and repeat that 3-hour cycle until bedtime. He already seemed so much happier and more “together” just having that nice long nap this morning. At least until he missed his 4:30 nap by two hours… He just woke up again on Ahmed’s lap and he’s acting miserable and unfocused. Poor guy.

And then tomorrow the big fireworks are at 9:45pm not far from our apartment, and we’ll probably drag him out for a walk around that time. And there will be scary booms. It’s just not easy being a baby. (He may love it, though, the way he loves the vacuum noise. One way to find out.)

He’s still waking up 3 times per night, at roughly 1am, 3:30, and 6. Thankfully he passes out cold after feedings, and it’s not hard to get him into his bassinet, though sometimes I just happily doze with him beside me. It’s the sweetest thing in the world to have our little guy in bed with us. But sometimes it doesn’t let us enter into deep sleep, so it’s nice to be able to put him in his own space (right next to us) most of the time.

And he just got a new space last night. My Uncle Terry and Aunt Mindi brought over the crib they had been using for one of their grandkids. (Yeah, my three-years-younger cousin has three kids older than my Ali. So it goes.) It’s a lovely dark wood piece, and they kindly delivered and assembled it. We already had crib sheets from the baby shower, so it was all ready to go, and he went right down in it (unconsious) and woke up just like always, not seeming to know the difference. But, just in case he woke up and didn’t know where he was, we left him a helpful map:

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I know we’re not supposed to use crib bumpers, as they’re not considered completely safe, but he can’t yet even get to them or roll over or anything, and I was trying to recreate the bassinet vibe a little. As he gets used to it, I’ll take it off, not least so I can see him through the slats!

I’m still happy to feed on demand and just be whatever he wants or needs as much as possible since I have the luxury of being home now, and I can, and it makes sense that it’ll help him be more secure later in life.

Plus I think becoming a better sleeper has everything to do with feeling secure enough to fall asleep — secure that we’ll be there when he wakes up and meet his needs in a timely manner. (I’m still not a good sleeper myself — I’ve almost never been able to nap unless I’m practically dead with exhaustion — and I wouldn’t wish that on my son.) He trusts us and he trusts the world to be a warm, nourishing, fair, loving place. God knows it’s not always thus, but it seems like life will be easier coming from a foundation of security, of feeling fundamentally worthwhile and innately important and lovable.

Of course there are times when I have to let him grumble or even cry for a couple of minutes while I use the bathroom or make myself some cream of wheat with bananas, blueberries, cinnamon, peanut butter, and chocolate chips. (A lovely breakfast — no sugar other than what’s in half a dozen dark chocolate chips, and it tastes like a melted blueberry muffin.) But I think without help that’s just inevitable, and he seems quite happy and secure over all. Even when he’s over-tired he can pull himself together for minutes at a time.

So yeah, I’m happy to do whatever he needs, but it would be nice to get more than three hours of sleep at a stretch. According to Bringing up Bébé, French babies start to “do their nights” around three months. Could it be that he’ll at least get down to only two wake-ups per night, or even (dare I say it?) one?

I can’t say I hope for zero yet, as there is something sweet about the late night meals, just him and me. But 2 or 1 would be lovely. And it might be better for him, too, and I’m wondering if there’s anything I can do to nudge him in that direction.

Nudging him toward a schedule and getting better at nudging him toward a nap (more like shoving him) has certainly seemed to do some good, and I’m wondering about the next steps for the night? Thoughts are welcome.

Meanwhile, I noticed a while back that my son has a heart in the center of the palm of his hand, like a little Care Bear:

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Dozens of Cousins

Finally took Ali to my small home town, where he was swarmed by 5 of his 11 cousins! He melted down a few times but overall did great, and everyone is madly in love with him. I just don’t understand how we got so lucky…

The boys constantly fought over who got to hold him next.

He also has a bunch of “great grandkids” to meet (kids of my cousins) and “cousins-in-law-kinda” (kids of my half-brother’s half-brothers and sisters and step-siblings and whatnot), Turkish aunts and uncles, and so on. This boy was born into a lotta love!

Here he is with his next youngest cousin Levi. I would have had a baby that age if I hadn’t lost my first one. But then I wouldn’t have Ali.

Here’s a “four generations” pic with my grandmother and mother:

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He met several other friends of the family as well, and everyone says he looks like us. I take it as a high compliment. 😉 (Close friends / family know his whole story. Other people can learn it when he wants to tell it.)

All was well until the car ride home. Then he melted down for about an hour straight, even though we stopped the car and got out twice, trying to calm him down. That was pretty agonizing. He just needed to recharge, I guess, after a lot of socializing… just like his mom and daddy do, haha. There was nothing to do but get on home and try not to lose our marbles. (The next time he had trouble in the car, we blasted music and I put my pinky in his mouth. That seemed to help a bit.)

It’s a 14 hour flight to Istanbul when he finally gets a chance to meet his Turkish family. Not hugely looking forward to those 14 hours…

Anyway. Some time ago I asked Ahmed what two words he’d use to describe our son. He said “cute” and “someone who enjoys life.” My two were “sweetheart” and “goofball.” Oh man, we are just so smitten. I still can’t believe we get to keep him…

My main nickname for him has turned out to be “honey bunny.” His skin is the color of honey and he’s soft as a bunny, but I only thought of that after I started calling him that. I shorten it sometimes to honey bun. I also call him Cutie Booty. I remember calling my nephews Jacker Snacker and Jaker Baker when they were babies. I guess I gravitate toward two-syllable rhyming nicknames. But I also use Buddy Boy more often than I would have expected.

Considering how many things rhyme with Ali, I haven’t come up with any good nicknames there. Ali Lolly? Ali Jolly? I do call him Ali Boy sometimes. I thought I might call him Ali Jules (his middle name is Julian), but it hasn’t really come up. That might be more of a big boy nickname. Right now he’s just my honey bunny.

In his Grasp

It’s not just ring toys our boy is gripping these days. He hangs on to everything, including our shirts when we hold him. It’s so amazing to watch his humanity develop slowly, like a Polaroid photo. And so sweet to feel him hanging onto us as we hang onto him. Plus he’s not scratching his face so much.

His hair is starting to grow back on top of his head, fine and black. He’s not sleeping quite as well as he was at his best, and it’s hard for me to sleep before his first (approximately 1am) wake-up. I don’t know why. Even if I go to bed at 10pm, I just toss and turn and wait for him to wake up.

Last night I finally got up and put him in bed next to me, hoping he’d go ahead and feed, but he was too dead asleep. So he had his usual approximate wake-ups around 1am, 3am, 5:30am, and 8. And this mama is getting further and further and further behind on sleep. (I’m an even worse napper than my son is. I basically can’t nap during the day unless I’m practically dead from exhaustion. So that doesn’t really help anything, even if he did nap enough that I could sleep while he slept.)

It’s also been a little frustrating that suddenly he’s so distractible while breastfeeding. He’ll act hungry, and I’ll get myself all situated to feed him, and he’ll suckle for a minute and then pop off and look around or just stare at something, and he does this over and over until I get fed up (no pun intended) and get up to do something else instead.

Then sometimes he’ll be a little grumbly because he’s kind of hungry, and I’ll try to get him to nap, and he won’t nap, so we’ll play a bit, and he’ll be a bit grumpy, and then finally I feed him again, and then maybe he catnaps, and then I try to entertain him for a while, but he’s grumpy again, so I take him for a walk outside, and FINALLY he passes out from exhaustion. Until when? Who knows? I’m sitting here writing on the floor next to him, too scared to even get up and sit on the couch in case he sense my absence…

Yeah, it’s a bit of an exhausting stretch. But he is so much more alert and aware, and I know these big leaps can be overwhelming for these little beings. He seems sometimes so wise and ready for anything, but it’s still the fourth trimester, after all. He’s still a wee newborn, no matter how much he acts sometimes like he’s practically ready for college. So he’s still the center of everything, as much as possible / practical.

I’m so glad I’m able to stay home with him. I don’t know how I’d handle if it I had to send him to daycare soon, much less if I’d already had to do so. America is cruel the way it so often separates children from their mothers so early. Even before the gratuitous cruelty at the border.

Ahmed did teach me a way to get him to nap that sometimes works. You have to rock him pretty hard in his bouncy chair (or in a pillow in your lap, as Ahmed often does it) and making loud shushing or hissing or humming sounds in a certain slow rhythm. It takes some patience, but if the gentleman is willing, it can put him right out. I guess that’s what dads are for — the mom can rely on the breast to put the little ones to sleep, but dad has to figure out something else. Necessity is the father of invention, right?

There have definitely been some awesome World Cup games (and upsets and dramas), and it’s such a lovely cap to these five endless years to be sitting here with my little guy watching the world play.

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Ahmed’s first Father’s Day was delightful. I got him a travel mug from Shutterfly with pictures of Ali on it (and one pic of his wife holding Ali, why not), and I also put Ali in our bed all night the night before and fed him every time he stirred so that Ahmed could get some really good sleep. He’d been getting up a lot at night when Ali fussed with gas or whatever and he was running even further behind on sleep than I was, given that occasionally the baby lets me sleep in a little and Ahmed never has that luxury on weekdays. (Ahmed is also more likely to get up for early games than I am.)

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We worked together to put together a picture frame we got at the baby shower that had places for his hand and footprints. Let me tell you — it’s not easy to get a newborn’s hand print. It would have been almost impossible a few weeks ago, but we were just barely able to do it, even though it was a slightly sloppy job. (This was the best out of four attempts.)

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I made an impromptu dessert after cooking up a salmon dinner using leftover ganache I had from a chocolate truffle recipe I tried a while back. (I put in too much coconut milk and ended up with ganache instead of truffles. I froze the ganache and tried to form it into frozen patties and coat them with toasted coconut. Whatever. It was chocolate.) I put little mounds of ganache on each strawberry half and sprinkled them with chocolate sprinkles and toasted coconut. Turned out well, like non-messy chocolate-covered strawberries.

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One thing that is making my life a little easier is side-lying feeding Ali at night on the top boob instead of the bottom boob using a wedge pillow. This way I can stack my hips and relax instead of being at an awkward, painful leaning-out angle. It makes a world of difference, and Ali doesn’t seem to mind either way.

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Since two weeks after the birth, I’ve been hanging out at 135 pounds, which is 10 pounds over my baseline weight, which is fine with me. With my physical therapy, I’m getting stronger at the core, even if I can’t do a lot of cardio yet, and I’m just not worrying about anything else. This is a time to rest, recuperate, and be present with the little guy. Not to mention it’s evolutionarily smart to have some extra fat while you’re breastfeeding in case there’s a famine or something (or the baby just won’t give you a minute to feed yourself!)

It’s nice not to feel pressured to do anything but these simple, subtle but tough exercises targeting the deep muscles that stabilize everything else. It’s long overdue anyway. The foundation I’m laying now will serve me well for life, and I’m grateful for it.