Monday, July 14, 2008

I am a pretty realistic person (to a fault, some might say).

I don't believe I ever let my intense desire to have a child with my husband cloud the idea that parenting would not be challenging. The thing is, even with my realistic outlook, there was no way I could have been prepared for how.

As usual I have left too much time pass between posts, and I find that there is so much that I want to say. When I sat down to write this post I thought about which topic to write about. I realized the common theme with all of them: what a hard time I am having with this mother thing. How I so often think that I am just not a good mother.

I love Sacha with all my heart and I am thankful for being able to carry him and give birth to him. And I am honoured to be his mama. I am told that he is an easy baby (I don't know babies, so I couldn't say so myself!). He is a delight, he is delicious. It is amazing to watch him grow and change.

However, none of the above make the role of being a mother easier. There is so much that I am struggling with... Can I share a bit?

I constantly worry that Sacha isn't eating enough. I feed him 5 times a day and one time during the night when he wakes up. I would say that on average he eats for about 10 minutes. I was told from the beginning that I shouldn't watch the clock when breastfeeding, that the baby will eat what he needs to eat. But I couldn't help it. As a newborn he could eat for nearly an hour. By month 2 we had mastered the feeding and Sacha would eat for 20 minutes or so. In the past month we have dropped to 10 minutes, and I find that at some feeds it is even less. Often I have to burp him in the middle (unusual for breastfed babies, from what I understand), and he almost always spits up. His pee and poop is not cause for alarm (he fills his diapers plenty), and he doesn't seem to be lacking in the weight department. I also know that after some time babies suck more efficiently. But less than 10 minutes? That just doesn't seem like enough. When do I worry about this?

Closely related to feeding is, of course, sleeping. I can't seem to get the little guy into any type of routine. Being an easy baby he isn't too too fussy. I find that he doesn't wake up at the same time every day, he doesn't nap at them same times every, or for the same amount of time at each nap. (And as a result he doesn't nurse at the same times.) We do get him to be between 8-9 every night, but he hardly ever wakes in the night at the same time. And he has only slept through the night on a handful of random occasions. He's pretty easygoing: He can be awake for up to 5 hours without getting unhappy. What I am unsure about is this: should I just go with his flow? Is my concern about his lack of routine an issue for me because I like routine? Am I trying to impose something on my child that he doesn't really need? If I don't start him on a routine now is it going to be a problem in 3 months, 6 months or a year from now? Am I not teaching him good habits??

You see, I don't know. And not knowing makes me feel incompetent. Which in turn doesn't help with the feeling like a good mother thing.

Here's another thing that I am struggling with. As I've written before, I am self employed and work at home. While I was able to scale down my work for the arrival of the baby, I have not been able to stop working completely. I don't work every day. But I have been working from the day we have gotten home from the hospital (no work means no money coming in- I don't have any maternity benefits.) I really really really wish that I hadn't had to work for the last three months, and that I could have been able to spend every moment with Sacha. That just not a possibility. And neither is "sleeping when he sleeps", because that is time that I have to take to work. (Or blog! And that's why I don't blog so much! I then I end up with post the length of the Bible.) Adding to this is issue, is, with his lack of routine and unreliable nap length, I have been having to work while he is awake. Which means leaving him "alone" (on his play mat, vibrating chair or playing in the crib.) The other day his leg got stuck between the crib bars and he screamed bloody murder. This morning I found him with his arm hanging out. I am worried that I am leaving him too much and that he is going to get injured. (Please do not call child services on me!) I don't know if I should put the bumper pad on his crib for fear of SIDS. Some people tell me that it is ok to leave the baby, that he should learn to play independently. Which is good advice... but how much independence?

Couple this with my sometimes feelings that as much as I want to it is really difficult to entertain a baby all day long. So I leave him to play because I feel I am going to go bonkers. And that makes me feel bad.

All this is just making me into a stressed-out ball of nerves. I know it's not good for me or for Sacha. I read "the books". And then I feel I can't do what the books are telling me to do. Which in turn makes me feel even worse. Like I'm not doing the best for my baby.

I, of course, have other concerns. How will I ever get him to drop the middle of the night feeding. I am reading that babies should be starting to sleep through the night by now. I don't see this happening, no matter how much of an angel Sacha is. But I feel the pressure. What if I'm not doing something right?

Worse is that people seem to think that I am crazy. (I am neurotic. Those of you who have been her for the past 2 years may recall...) It doesn't help that Sacha is all smiles when The C comes home at night, and I just can't seem to get him to comprehend why I feel the way I do. The women who are my support (my mother, my aunt, my grandmother), tell me that Sacha doesn't seem to complain much, so I should not be so worried.

This post is not meant to be whiny or complain-y. The fact of the matter is that I just don't know what to do. At some point on most days I tend to work myself into being so upset that I think how am I going to do this?.

Please don't go telling me after you read this post that I should just be thankful for what I have. I know that. That's part of the problem.

(I also know that this post is a bit all over the place. Thanks for reading, I hope it make a little bit of sense, at least.)


Ann said...

Not having a newborn in the house yet, I don't speak from experience. However, I do speak from hearing what others tell new moms.

There is no "norm." There is no "should." Just like in pregnancy, when someone tells us we "should" be feeling like x, y and z by now, and we're not, and we feel alarm, I understand it's the same way with babies. I think that by the time people get to their second and third babies, they come to understand that there's only so much you can do; it's just the baby's personality.

Maybe one day he'll stop needing a feeding at night. Or maybe not. But it's not abnormal; it just is.

From what I understand, the hardest part about being a mom is forgiving yourself for not being perfect and all-knowing. I wish you all the self-forgiveness in the world. :)

Fertilized said...

THANK YOU .. no really THANK YOU for this post. I feel pretty much just like you describe and I only have a 1 month old. I am not breastfeeding so I cannot offer any help/assvice for that - except you can consult a lataction consultant and see if theyhave any advice for you or your pediatrician maybe

I bought this kind of bumper - you can check it out if you want:

I am so focused and worried about "the routine" thing as well. I posted about it a few days ago- All the books press "routine, routine, routine" but never indicate when realistically. I am so sorry you are struggling with it all. I am not that far along and I can completely relate ... I am coming back to read more comments!

Rachel said...

I really have no wisdom or advice to offer except to say that it sounds to me like you are doing really well.

Of course you can put the baby down for an hour or two - what do you think happens to babies in daycare when there are 6-8 infants and 1-2 adults in the room? And what do you think other fertile myrtles do when they have 2 or even 3 kids at home? (And this is not a criticism of daycares or other women at all - I have great memories of my daycare as does my mother and I fully plan on using a daycare when I find one with an opening. It's just that most of the parenting books seem to be written for SAHM full-time mothers with no work, distractions, or other children).

I'm wondering if you can try to devote an hour or two to work in the evening or on Sunday when your husband is home? Would that make you less stressed about fitting everything in during the day?

But in the meantime if Sacha is gaining weight, sleeping sometimes, and you're actually getting work done - great job.

Samantha said...

I think the other ladies commenting have really hit the nail on the head: there is not one "right" way of doing everything. I think Ann is right too when she says so much depends on personality. It sounds like you do have a bit of routine with Sacha: bed between 8-9, but a lot is left up to him. You can't force him to wake up a certain time to eat or to sleep through the night. If he seems happy and healthy, it sounds like everything is working out well.

I know you're worried that maybe he's so easy going that he wouldn't indicate to you if something is wrong, but perhaps it's that he's so easy-going because he's just thriving in the care you're giving him!

And I think Rachel also has a good point to see if you get The C to give you a hand with childcare so you can concentrate a bit more on work during his off-hours.

sky girl said...

My friend, I am plagued with bad mother thoughts at least once a day if not more.

First: I would worry about Sacha not eating enough only if he isn't gaining at a good rate. You didn't mention otherwise so I would think things are fine. The only other problem I can see short feedings being a problem is if he's doing it often therefore treating you like a snack bar. You want meals, not snacks. (Also, burping is still common when breastfeeding just not as "mandatory" as bottle fed babies. If he needs to burp, that's fine. I always burped Chicka.)

Sleeping: I used to let Chicka sleep whenever it was possible because she has never been big on sleep but once she got to a certain age I started getting her up at a consistent time in the mornings. That's about all you have control over. But that little bit of routine may help the rest of your day flow into a routine as well.

Nightime feeding: I know people who still feed their 1 yo every 4 hours, even at night! You're doing it once and I think he'll grow out of that. Soon it'll just be longer and longer stretches of time. With Chicka it happened fast when it happened.

Independent time: I'm a firm believer. I often let Chicka "play" on the floor or sit in her chair for long periods of time. The people that need to be concerned are the ones that leave their babies ALL the time. Be kind to yourself. He's fine.

Okay. Perhaps I should have just written you an email. This is getting long. :) Email me anytime. I often feel like you do and now I wonder how I'll ever manage with another on the way.

Aurelia said...

Well, I do have a little bit of assvice, which is no bumper, at all, he'll start to climb up on it soon and that will be worse.

He shouldn't drop the nightfeed for a good long time yet, he shouldn't go longer than 8 hours between feeds at this point.

He'll get into a schedule soon, with a little coaxing from you, like offer him the breast at set times and not just when he's hungry, or put him down for a nap at the same time every day. He might just be the kind of baby who won't squawk about it but would do it if you asked.

As for the times or frequency don't worry about that...the diapers and weight gain should be your key.

As for getting work done? At this point, you will need to start thinking about child care, probably part-time, in fact, I bet that you can find some teens in your neighbourhood who could watch him while he is awake after school.

It would be cheap that way and since you are at home to watch you don't need someone licensed.

And you would likely get a lot more done.

Heather said...

All I know is what I learned from my one child so I don't know if it will help you or not but here goes.

Do you pump? Ever? I thought my son wasn't eating enough and then I pumped for a little while and discovered that I had a REALLY fast let down. My breasts were empty in 10 minutes which is why he was only eating for 10 minutes. It would just sort of flow really quick and he apparently sucked it down that quick. If he's having plenty of wets and dirties I wouldn't worry about it.

Secondly, we had NO routine. He was, what they call a self directed feeder, sleeper, etc. He ate when he wanted went to sleep when he wanted and he lived and thrived. If you need a schedule then by all means try to get him on one but if you don't NEED one than don't stress yourself out about it.

Finally as for the waking up, Zack slept through the night at 4 months. I got him to do so through a method that some don't agree with. I knew he wasn't waking up because he was hungry just because he wanted to be with me so I would pick him up and lay him next to me. He would snuggle in and go back to sleep. If he fussed I would feed him but 99% of the time he just laid with me and then went to sleep. After awhile he learned that he wasn't going to eat so why wake up.

In the end, I think every parent has thoughts that they are not doing it right but don't worry too much. Babies do not need you to entertian them 24/7. It is good for him to play alone some times.

I'm sure you are doing just fine. Hang in there!!

Kate said...

If he is meeting his diaper requirements and gaining weight, you shouldn't worry. All of the other stuff is the same stuff that I worry about. I sort of had to come to the conclusion that schedules were going to have to be flexible for a while. After I stopped fighting it, it got better. I know that's hard, though. It sounds like you are a wonderful mother. Keep sharing - it really helps us all to hear that we aren't the only ones, you know?

Heather said...

I don't have any experience. I am curious though - how do your breasts feel after a feeding? Do they feel empty or do they still feel full?

It is my understanding that you can't really put a baby on a schedule. Some babies have one on their own but most don't. And if he has good bowel movements and is gaining weight - I would say you are doing a wonderful job.

robin said...

Yesterday I was exhausted and moody and wanted to leave Auden in bed and go bury my head in the sand. Then I felt really bad about it. So, in other words, to echo the other comments: you are not alone!

I find myself thinking, there's no easing in to this having-a-baby thing... it's just BAM and then no turning back. Whew. I think we're allowed to be overwhelmed sometimes.

It sounds like Sacha is doing wonderfully (and if he's not, then maybe I need to start worrying more about Auden...). We have a similarly fast feeding style, an utter lack of sleep schedules, and plenty of play-on-the-floor-alone time.

I stay away from "the books"... They may be well-meaning and written by impressively credentialled doctors and nannies and Baby Whisperers, but I want to develop a good hearty faith in my intuition and, okay, scratch that, I just don't want to add extra work and extra expectations for myself -- and enforcing sleep schedules sound like just that!

Here's my two cents: get yourself to a breastfeeding/new-mama support group. I've been going to one every week and it's AWESOME. It's the place to ask exactly these questions & get lots of support (in real time, with real live mamas & babes). Plus it's super fun and you can also vent frustrations and curse like a sailor and be heartily understood. I've found it to be invaluable.

You're doing great!

Geohde said...

I don't have any assvice, but I think you're doing really really well. Newborns are tough.


Beth & Steven said...

I enjoy reading your blog (can't remember who referred me to it, though!)... I appreciate your honesty. You are a wonderful writer with a beautiful son. :)

My son is now 15 months old and the first six months were so so so difficult. I wasn't able to nurse so A took only bottles. He had horrible reflux so he refused to eat most of the time. His weight never reached above the 5 - 20th%ile range (it still hasn't). The Dr. always told me/continue to tell me not to worry but it's hard. If Sascha is gaining weight consistently and has enough wet diapers, he is probably getting what he needs. I would recommend discussing your concerns with his peed, though, so you feel better.

Regarding a routine.... my son was NOT on a consistent routine until he was 9 months old. Before then, like your son, he woke up at different times each day, napped at different times/lengths, etc... mostly just "cat naps" of 30 minutes. I fed him every 3 hours.... that was the only constant. I truly did not get stressed that he was not on a schedule. Once he began to consistently sleep through the night -- for me that was 8 hours straight (around 9 months)-- I could put him on a routine. He very easily fell into one then. I am a HUGE WORRIER but I really was laid-back about the routine. I also asked my peed a TON of questions. Make sure you have a kind and very patient peed who you are comfortable talking to... that really helped me.

Once my son started sitting up (around 6.5 months), his reflux decreased which really helped. He started crawling at 8 months and time has seriously flown by since then, as cliche as that is. It DOES get easier... and much more fun. Especially when you're not sleep deprived.

Hang in there. You sound like you are doing a phenomenal job and that Sascha is thriving. Believe it or not, you will (probably) look back at these days and wish he was a little guy again. The funny thing is, my husband and I don't remember any of the "bad moments" now... we now look back on the days so fondly and with so much nostalgia. Also, just take it day by day... try not to focus too much on the weeks and months ahead or it can get very overwhelming. All the best to you and your adorable little guy!

Caro said...

You have just articulated a lot of what I'm feeling. Is he eating for long enough? Should I be talking to him/entertaining him more? and all the other stuff you mention. But you know T is sleeping and gaining weight and smiling so I guess I'm doing ok.

es said...

I feel like I could have written this post- I worry about all those things as well.

One of my twins has been sleeping through the night since 4 months (6:30- 6:30), my other one juuuust started now (they're 6 months old)- he did it on his own- probably when Sascha is ready, he will also.

And I'm obssessed with getting them on a schedule but it's been hard. They still wake up at different times in the morning, hence, they nap at different times and eat at different times each day. But we're getting there.

Anonymous said...

My 3-month old does the same thing with respect to breastfeeding--she only nurses for about 5 minutes during each feeding. I was really worried but after several discussions with our pediatrician and a lactation consultant, the consensus is that I just have a very fast let down and she's a very efficient eater. Bottom line from our doctor was that as long as she's gaining weight appropriately, has enough wet diapers a day (she said not to worry about dirty ones because there is so much variability, it's normal for breastfed babies to have one dirty diaper a week, it's also normal to have 4 every day), and isn't acting cranky/hungry/upset (i.e., crying most of the time), then she's getting enough to eat and is fine. Her best words to me were just to "trust my milk supply."

She's also still waking up at least 2-3 times a night to nurse and we have no schedule at all yet.

Good luck!


serenity said...

You've gotten a lot of good advice, but I figure it can't hurt to put some more out there. :)

1. Feeding - I thought the same way you did - that no way was Baby O getting enough from me. But then I started pumping in addition to feeding him. And I'm not worried. Babies get better about being more efficient at getting the milk they need from you. Thus the reason why you go from an hour to 10 minutes. And I'll tell you - when I pump, I get everything I'm going to within 7 minutes. 4-5 oz usually. So he's probably getting enough.

2. Schedule. I am NO GOOD at a schedule, therefore Baby O does not really have one. I have more of a routine, let's call it. Some days he naps twice in the morning and three times in the afternoon. Some days he naps once all day. He cries when he wants to eat, and I feed him. He fusses when he needs to sleep, and I put him down. Other than that, we have no schedule. You're not alone there. I just go with the flow, and he seems to be doing really well.

3. The work thing - I only have my own experience to work with here. But I do know that I can.NOT.GET.ANYTHING.DONE when I'm hanging out with Baby O. How about hiring someone part time to look after Sacha while you work? That way you can assuage your worry that you're leaving him alone for too long, AND you can focus on work.

(As an aside, the bumper and SIDS thing? Baby O sleeps with his teddy blanket OVER HIS FACE. If you're more worried about him getting hurt in the slats, then I'd say put the crib bumpers in. It's worth the stress relief if that's the case.)

4. The night feeding - hon, you keep feeding him at night if he wants it. But I'll tell you. Baby O slept one night from 9pm through 7am. So the next time he woke up at 4am? I gave him his pacifier in the hopes that it would soothe him back to sleep. And it did. If Sacha does one night where he sleeps 7 hours fully, then you know he can do it. Try the pacifier trick the next time he wants a feed 4 hours into his sleep.

If he hasn't done that yet? Then he's not ready for it.

*HUG* You are so not alone. Not a day goes by when I don't have at least one bad mother thought.


kbreints said...

It sounds like youa re doing great-- really. He is getting what he needs from you-- if he were hungry, he would continue to eat.

And as far as sleeping... It is hell sometimes to get them into a routine, and then you will get them into one and then he will change it....

Take it day by day-- naturally you will get it. I promise!

Anonymous said...

SIDS deaths in the U.S. decreased from 4,895 in 1992 to 2,247 in 2004. But, during a similar time period, 1989 to 2004, SIDS being listed as the cause of death for sudden infant death (SID) decreased from 80% to 55%. According to Dr. John Kattwinkel, chairman of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Special Task Force on SIDS "A lot of us are concerned that the rate (of SIDS) isn't decreasing significantly, but that a lot of it is just code shifting”.

In a 2006 letter to the editor in the Journal of Pediatrics Dr. Rafael Pelayo, Dr. Judith Owens, Dr. Jodi Mindell, and Dr. Stephen Sheldon asked the following question of the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome after their Pacifier and Co-sleeping report was published:
"...from the perspective of the field of pediatric sleep medicine, the policy statement's laudable but narrow focus on SIDS prevention raises a number of important issues that need to be addressed. In particular, the revised recommendations regarding cosleeping and pacifier use have the potential to lead to unintended consequences on both the sleep and the health of the infant. The potential implications of a SIDS risk-reduction strategy that is based on a combination of maintaining a low arousal threshold and reducing quiet (equivalent to Delta or slow-wave sleep) in infants must be considered. Because slow-wave sleep is considered the most restorative form of sleep and is believed to have a significant role in neurocognitive processes and learning, as well as in growth, what might be the neurodevelopmental consequences of chronically reducing deep sleep in the first critical 12 months of life?"

In a currently utilized model that explains the process in which slow wave sleep is involved in memory consolidation the hippocampus acts as a temporary storage facility for new memories which are then transferred to the neocortex during slow wave sleep (SWS) [8]. In this model, acetylcholine acts a feedback loop inhibitor inside the hippocampus during REM sleep and wakefulness. The activity during the high cholinergic wakefulness period is believed to provide an environment which allows for the encoding within the hippocampus of new declarative memories. The low cholinergic environment during SWS is thought to then allow these memories to be transferred from the temporary storage of the hippocampus to their permanent storage environment in the neocortex and for memory consolidation [9, 10].
A significant way of decreasing slow wave sleep in infants is by changing their sleeping position from prone to supine. It has been shown in studies of preterm infants [11, 12], full-term infants [13, 14], and older infants [15], that they have greater time periods of quiet sleep and also decreased time awake when they are positioned to sleep in the prone position.

8. Hasselmo, M.E. 1999. Neuromodulation: Acetylcholine and memory consolidation. Trends Cogn. Sci. 3: 351–359.
9. Buzs├íki, G. 1989. Two-stage model of memory trace formation: A role for “noisy” brain states. Neuroscience 31: 551–570.
10. Hasselmo, M.E. 1999. Neuromodulation: Acetylcholine and memory consolidation. Trends Cogn. Sci. 3: 351–359.
11. Myers MM, Fifer WP, Schaeffer L, et al. Effects of sleeping position and time after feeding on the organization of sleep/wake states in prematurely born infants. Sleep 1998;21:343–9.
12. Sahni R, Saluja D, Schulze KF, et al. Quality of diet, body position, and time after feeding influence behavioral states in low birth weight infants. Pediatr Res 2002;52:399–404.
13. Brackbill Y, Douthitt TC, West H. Psychophysiologic effects in the neonate of prone versus supine placement. J Pediatr 1973;82:82–4.
14. Amemiya F, Vos JE, Prechtl HF. Effects of prone and supine position on heart rate, respiratory rate and motor activity in full term infants. Brain Dev 1991;3:148–54.
15. Kahn A, Rebuffat E, Sottiaux M, et al. Arousal induced by proximal esophageal reflux in infants. Sleep 1991;14:39–42.