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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Norah Grows: 12 Months

My baby, you are no longer the scrunchy, pudgy little newborn that I brought home one year ago, but a long, lean, strong toddler with a will and the determination to follow it.  You no longer have the cry that every single parent knows belongs to a brand new human being, but it has been replaced by words and laughter, shrieks and chatter.  You no longer need your mama to nurse you around the clock, but you still need me for lots of other things, and for that I love you even more.  We have put away your rattles, your bouncer, your swing, and have replaced them with musical instruments you pick up and play, with accessories like purses and necklaces and toy cell phones and keys. In just 12 months, 365 days, one short year that felt like a hiccup in time, you have changed immeasurably from a completely helpless newborn infant to a much more independent, strong-willed, amusing little lady. We could not be more in love with you.

You have a light in your eyes from the moment you wake up until you finally give in to bedtime every single day. You are just such a joyous little girl, and your energy and your smile are contagious, both to those who love you and see you often, and to those who meet you in public, or those who rarely see you but follow up with you on here. You have a newfound way of making yourself laugh, maybe for attention, but once you get yourself going it is impossible not to laugh along with you. It brings such joy to our home, and your Daddy and I are so lucky to live in a space filled with laughter. We smile and laugh with you every single day.

You still love Lainey more and more all the time. You have taken to sharing her pillow with her, and the two of you can often be found snuggling when things get quiet. When Lainey shakes and her collar jingles, you recognize the sound and immediately say "Puppy" and head off to find where she is. In fact, "Puppy" is often the first word you say every morning. You are going to be a lover of dogs for your entire life I would imagine, and you will always look back on Lainey as your childhood best pal. I love that.

You are talking up a storm lately, and we can definitely understand Mama, Daddy, Puppy, Baby, Hi, and you sign "More".  You have many conversations with yourself and anyone who happens to be nearby, but none of us can understand much of it still. It sure doesn't stop you from constantly chattering away to your "babies" or to Lainey, and sometimes you seem so sure that you have just said the most important thing ever and how could we possibly not understand or even think of disagreeing?  Again, just another way that you keep us laughing every day. 

Speaking of your independence, you are no longer interested in your monthly chair photo, so I guess starting next month Mama will have to come up with another place to try and snag a semi-consistent shot of you! We wrangled Daddy in for this month so that we could at least give it our best shot, but you weren't even having that for long! Always on the move...maybe a little bit like your Mama there. 

While this day in 2012 is really all about you, I spent a lot of time reflecting on this day in 2011, when so much of it was also inherently about me, too. I remember the days and weeks leading up to that day with such anticipation of what you would be like, how you were going to enter our world, who you might look like, what your voice would sound like when you first cried. I remember so much about the details of your birthday, of my "Birth Day".  I remember the intensity of my labor and the work it took to bring you from inside my body to join us in this world.  I remember how heart wrenchingly terrifying it was to be wheeled away from you just minutes after I welcomed you into my arms, not knowing anything about what was about to come, and not letting myself believe that I wouldn't see you or Daddy again, but not being 100% sure, either. I was so scared of what I would miss. I knew that you and Daddy had each other, and that's how you both got through those next hours, but I was so afraid I wouldn't ever get to know more about you than the tiniest taste of you I had just been given.  I was afraid that I might wake up and hear that you would be an only child, because my uterus wasn't able to be saved. Luckily, those worst nightmares were no more than a few moments of panic, and our world didn't come crashing down.  But that experience, the very real fear that it all might have just vanished as quickly as it came into being, was enough to show me that I cannot take any days with you for granted. I must find quiet moments to cherish the very "you-ness" of you, every day, because it changes so quickly and before I can blink you're turning a corner and learning and growing before my very eyes.  And instead of being sad about the baby you aren't anymore, I know that I must be the luckiest mama alive to have such a perfectly wonderful little girl in her place.  Happy Birthday, Sweetest Norah Annabel. I am the luckiest.

All the Love in my Heart,

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Good Enough

One of the things that always seems to catch me off guard the most about being a mama is when I have moments (or entire days) of doubt about whether I am really doing this whole thing right. I mean, I love my girl. Love her, love her, love her.  And that right there is enough, I know it is. In my heart, I know it is. But sometimes, my head goes round and round, and I get little cracks in my usually solid foundation that allow thoughts of "Maybe I'm not doing it right". "Maybe what I think is the best I can do, just isn't enough."

I worry, but not always just about things I would formerly have thought to be the "scary" parts of parenting; accidents, illness, phsyical harm (don't get me wrong, I spend my share of worry on those, too, whooboy). But I find that I am equally, and probably more rationally, worried about things that are harder to prevent, and maybe harder to heal. I worry about her heart; I mean, I worry about someday when her world will really stop being full of only love and protection and joy. That she will, as we all have, endure sadness and fear and frustration and guilt and anger.  I can already feel that letting go of being able to hold her emotions softly cupped in the palms of my hands is going to sting, and the first time she experiences real hard emotions will probably sear my own heart just as much.

And just like other mamas I have talked with, I worry that the choices I am making for now, and for our future, aren't always the right ones. I know we are all doing the best we can with what is in front of us, and that has to be "good enough".  I know that there's no sense in comparing what one person does to another, because we really are all dealing with unique circumstances.  But, sometimes it's hard not to compare to others who seem to be doing it all right, all the time. I've read a few things lately about a newly refueled "Mommy Wars" - my understanding of the whole thing is that it is essentially arguing about who "works" more: Mamas who stay home versus Mamas who work outside the home. I do not disagree that all of us are "working".  Hard.  It's just that we are working differently. I have been a full time nanny. I know what it is like to care for little people all day long. I always felt I was underpaid for the amount of work and stress it could be some days! And there's no tangible "payment" for raising children, and when you are home with your own, your investment is SO much more than if you are just watching someone else's for the day.  But now I also know that it is a whole different kind of diffcult to work away from my family all week, and then still have the work of being Mama at home. And I think, really, when I feel those pangs of defensive Mama Bear rise up in me when talking about which is harder - "SAHM" or "Working Mom", I'm really just feeling so deeply insecure that what I am doing for our family isn't the Very Best Thing for my child. I know that some would say I made a choice to have a child and I should stay home and raise her, and if I can't do that I shouldn't have had a child. And that makes me

Norah gets to spend two days a week with her Daddy, two days a week with her Grandpa, one day a week with her Grandma, sometimes a day with her Auntie. She is surrounded with love, attention, laughter, joy, and family who gets all of those things back in return just from sharing days with her. I have never, ever resented the fact that when I am away, family is there for her. But that doesn't mean I don't miss her fiercely, almost all day, every day (I say almost, because, you know, there are those moments when any parent can understand why some species are inclined to eat their young).  It's the classic "Working Mother Guilt" syndrome that is not a novel or unique concept to mamas around the globe, but I am feeling that it very deeply describes where I am some days.

I write these words, because someday I want to be able to tell her that every single decision I have made since I knew we would be sharing our lives with her has been for her, and because of her. I know she won't fully understand, probably until she's almost 30 and maybe not unless she's ever a Mama herself.  But I want her to know that no matter what decisions I make, how much I find out I have screwed up and back-step to figure it out all over again, I Love Her. And I hope she will think that I am Good Enough.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Details, details...

I love planning details for events, and I am really enjoying getting things together for Norah's first birthday party! I decided to go with a somewhat "vintage ABC" theme, because she loves the alphabet song so much when we sing it to her, and I figured all of the ABC details could be things that she would use in play later anyway, plus they would be educational! Win :) But, because the special lady is only going to be one, and not likely to remember this event at all other than the photos from it, I didn't want to spend a ton of money on details, but still wanted it to be adorable and memorable for us!

I am going to keep some of the details under wraps until after the party, but here are a few things I've got planned:

Using these free alphabet flash card printables as a garland over the main food table.

Using classic ABC blocks as table top decor (these are by Melissa and Doug, picked ours up at Joann's for $9 after a 40% off coupon!) 

Mini chalkboard plant markers similar to these - I picked ours up at Target's Dollar section for $1.00 a piece.  I also picked up 3 tiny galvanized tin pails in the Dollar section as well for $1.00 each.  The place markers will be labeled with different menu items.  

I worked on a design for the invitations by combining a few ideas I found online (primary layout inspiration from Sarah at Pewter and Sage, free graphic at the top from Pretty Little Studio), and this is what I came up with:

I've finished making her birthday girl outfit, but that will have to wait until the party to debut. I will say she has one cutie little booty in a tutu! 

More details to come later, but I am getting excited for someone's first birthday party, can't you tell?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sleep Progress, and Some Thoughts on Weaning

Most of you who know us, or read this blog at all, know that Norah has never been a super sleeper. It was expected and reasonable in the early months when she was up nursing several times a night. I even expected to wake up and nurse once or maaaaybe twice for the length of time I nursed her, which I had thought would be at least until she was 12 months, and it was seeming like it would probably be more like 18 months by the time I was really ready to wean her myself.

Well...sister had other plans. For the past few months we've been struggling to get her to spend more of the night in her own crib, because we had become increasingly aware that she just wasn't sleeping well between us anymore. We loved (still do!) having her there with us at night, but we started to realize that none of us was getting good sleep together anymore. She tossed, she turned, she woke and "nursed" which usually ended with biting me, she woke up fully sometimes and wanted to play, pinch faces/arms, kicked us in the sides, rolled about and generally wreaked havoc on our peaceful (ha) sleeping space.  Needless to say, the nights were the opposite of restful, for all three of us.

So, we started to reign in the bedtime routine, stuck to a bedtime give or take 20 minutes or so, and the beginning stretch of the night was getting better. But then, the waking started. She would wake anywhere from 2-4 times between 11 PM and 5 AM, and it was time to make some more changes.

One night last week, after being asleep only about 2 hours, she woke up around 10:30 and just would.not.fall.back.asleep. We rocked, we sang songs, we read a book, we swayed back and forth, Matt took over and we thought maybe she had a tummy ache/earache/ we brought her into our bed to cuddle and hopefully sleep. She cried and carried on there, too, and then, stopped, looked back and forth between us, as if to see if we were paying attention, and started up again! We realized that she was absolutely playing us, and it was decided that it was time to dig in our heels and try to let her "cry it out".

Now, you all probably know how much I HATED the idea of letting her cry. It felt against all of the knowledge I have about child development, attachment, nighttime parenting, and mama intuition, and yet, I felt as though all of the things that did feel right just were not working for Norah. So, Matt and I looked each other in the eyes, said we were in it together, and would stick it out, and that we loved each other and loved her and this was the right thing to do. I took her to her crib, laid her down with a hug and kiss, and went to sit in the chair in her room while she worked it out.

And. She. Screamed. and Screamed. I occasionally reminded her that I was there, I loved her, and would try to pat her or give her hugs, but she was ever-loving pissed and none of my soothing helped any at that point. For an hour and 15 minutes, she screamed, until she dissolved into a pathetic lump of hiccuping exhaustion in the corner of her crib. That was the moment in the whole debacle when I finally cried, because I felt so terrible that I had just let her go through that in order to fall asleep.  I tiptoed out of the room, and she slept from about midnight until 3 am, and then we started the whole thing all over. It was a long night.

But the next night went slightly better, and the night after that was better still. The past 3 nights, she has slept in her own crib without any wake-ups from 8ish-5ish! I'd call that progress! There are still occasionally times she will wake up and cry out once or twice, but she settles herself quickly and is out again before we would even go in.  As much as I hate that this was the way we had to do it and I still hate any minutes she has to cry without us there comforting her, her sleep and ours is so much better now than it has ever been.

The other thing is that just prior to this decision, Norah weaned herself entirely. She just stopped wanting to nurse, during the day, during the night, at bedtime. If I offered, she bit me, and hard. So, I stopped offering unless she was practically asleep, and tried to continue pumping, but that was pretty pointless pretty quickly.  I even tried offering after a few days without, and she couldn't have been bothered to even consider it! It was really a lot harder on me to be done than I had anticipated, and maybe it's because she made the decision for herself. It wasn't something I chose to do when I thought we were both ready. I'm glad she did it herself, because I'm sure it was MUCH easier (physically, at least) that way, but a little part of me stings with the notion that my baby no longer needs me in that very physical way anymore.  I had intended to nurse her until at least her first birthday, but we are pretty darn close and I know that she has benefitted from every day we did nurse.  Still, those pangs of "my baby, where have you gone?" still rise up and bite me more often than I thought they would.  I love every minute of watching her grow, but it's so hard to let go of those things that signify babyhood, too. And in fact, just as I am writing this, I read this post, which tells me I am far from alone with feeling this way, so there's that.

So, that's where we are with sleep.  I'm hoping that things stay stable here for a little while, but I know that there is always going to be something that throws things off just as soon as you strike a rhythm with kids, so I won't get toooo comfortable here just yet ;)