Tag Archives: essays

On birthdays, on Wednesdays

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As I kid, birthdays were just for me. It was the day when everybody was nice to me, noticed me, made the dinner I liked, sang to me before cake. It was my day – just mine.

As a mom, birthdays are just for me, too.

My son turns 29 months next week. For a long time after he was born, I marked not every month, but every week of his life. He was born on a Wednesday afternoon, and every Wednesday I would think, “He’s this many weeks today!” Every single week, I thought about how many Wednesdays I had lived without him before he was born, and how much his birth had changed my life.

My daughter turned 6 months-old just last week. She decided to be born on a Wednesday too, and since she came just 20 minutes after midnight after a very short labor, I rather believe it was intentional on her part. I can’t say I’ve had the mental space to dedicate quite as much time to deep thought every week now that I have two babies, but I still notice Wednesdays. They are the days that my life changes.

My children are still very little. Their birthdays are just like every other day to them, though they may notice more friends and relatives gathered around, more colorful balloons, more cake than a normal day. As they grow, their birthdays will become more important to them, a day they look forward to every year, a day to celebrate who they are as individuals. Their birthdays will be just for them.

But their birthdays will always be just for me, too. They will always be the occasion for me to celebrate the day I became a mother, a parent, a person who grew another person in my body, brought them out into this world, and guided them through their life with care and attention. Their birthdays will always be my birthdays, too.

Sleep regressions are the worst.

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I have been a little absent this week, and I might be a little absent for the next month or so (we’ll see!), because my daughter has run head first into the 4 month sleep regression. My daughter is a much more adaptable baby than my son was, and I had tricked myself into thinking that maybe her journey through this sleep regression would just be a little blip on the sleep radar, but gentle readers, I was wrong. Oh, so wrong!

Sleep regressions are a normal part of a baby’s development through the first few years of life, and are characterized by a baby suddenly refusing naps and bedtime, waking a lot at night, taking very short naps, and generally turning into a fussbutt. You think you’re going crazy, because what happened to your adorable, smiling, happy baby? Where did she go? It’s not you, though! It’s totally just a sleep regression.

The 4 month sleep regression has the dubious honor of being the only sleep regression that is permanent. What I mean by that is, the 4 month sleep regression is caused by a permanent change in the way your baby sleeps, and the associated miserable-ness is really your baby doing her darnedness to re-learn how to sleep under new conditions. I am not a sleep scientist, but from what I understand, babies under 4 months-old are almost always in deep sleep. Around 4 months, this changes, and babies start to sleep more like adults, cycling between light sleep and deep sleep continuously. A lot of the symptoms of the 4 month regression are your baby going, “What the heck is this light sleep thing, and how do I make it go away?!”

Although I have met many parents who swear that their baby has been sleeping well since they were 6 weeks-old, I have met many more who hit 4 months-old and started to fall apart. You’ve been getting up a minimum of twice a night to feed the baby for four months, and maybe you weren’t sleeping well during the later stages of the pregnancy, and maybe you are the rare adult like me who needs 9 hours of sleep to be a happy person. You think you’re finally getting the hang of this exhaustion thing, and then, BOOM! Your baby is suddenly not napping and waking up 10 times a night! Awesome, right?

The 4 month regression is a time for self-care if there ever was one. This is the time to call in all favors, to pay all the babysitters, to get a night nurse for even one night if you can. Get the teenager across the street to hold the baby for an hour so you can take a nap. Order pizza for dinner so you can veg out in front of the TV with your baby who will suddenly only sleep if you hold her. Find other people to worry about the crumbs on the floor and the dishes in the sink. The regression can last anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks, and you will make it through, but you need to pace yourself. And above all, you need to sleep, as much as you possibly can.

There is some good news associated with the sleep regression! Once it’s over, your baby is mature enough to learn how to fall asleep by herself, and to fall back asleep on her own if she wakes up at night and it’s not time to eat yet. She might not *want* to do that, and you might not feel ready to teach her, but after the 4 month regression, you *can* teach her if you want to. In my opinion, there is ZERO point in sleep training of any kind before 4 months. I know lots of people disagree, and you can certainly get to 4 months in better or worse shape, considering, but I think a lot of new parents work way to hard on sleep in the first few months, see it all fall apart during the regression, and then are just too exhausted to make any real strides after the regression ends. And that’s honestly a shame, because after the regression is the best time to start sleep training – your baby is finally ready! You could probably all use some good sleep!

Anyway, I’m going to try to keep posting a few times a week, but if I completely disappear, now you know where I am. I am frantically bouncing/rocking/climbing stairs trying to get this baby to sleep.

Working together

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I became pregnant with my first child the summer before my last semester of grad school, the summer I was supposed to be writing my Masters thesis. It wasn’t a hard pregnancy as pregnancies go, but that doesn’t mean it was easy. I was working part-time at a bed and breakfast and had to be on the bus to work by 5:30 in the morning. I was nauseous, I was exhausted, I was behind on everything, and it ended up taking me an extra semester to push my thesis through. I graduated four weeks to the day after my son was born, and standing up there with my baby and my degree was one of the proudest moments I’ve ever had.